How Does “Cracking” My Back Help to Relieve My Back Pain?

Spinal manipulation is the primary treatment utilized by chiropractors. The “cracking” sound is most often associated with spinal manipulation. Joints and muscles are supposed to move through their full range of motion. When they do not this can cause pain and muscle spasm, and eventually lead to the breakdown of the joint. This breakdown of the joint is arthritis. Manipulation restores the normal movement to the joint. After the motion is restored to the joint you can strengthen the muscles around the joint.

A common misnomer is “your back is out of alignment.” The only way for your back to be out of alignment is to fracture (break) your spine. A chiropractor would not be able to help you.

A simple analogy to understand the concept of spinal manipulation is a door hinge and a door. If the door hinge is lubricated and moving properly, then the door open and closes normally. The door hinge can be thought of as a spinal joint and the door as spinal muscles attaching to that joint. Manipulation is like lubricating the door hinge, and exercise is like opening and closing the door. Manipulation and exercise are complimentary.

Some of the benefits of spinal manipulation to your back condition are reduced muscle spasm, decreased pain, and increased range of motion. In my opinion most spinal conditions can be rehabilitated through manipulation and exercise in four to eight weeks.
Spinal manipulation and exercise has been shown in clinical studies to be a very effective treatment for back pain.

~Dr. Dave

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What is Sciatica?

Sciatica is defined as leg pain. If you complain of pain in your leg and ask your doctor what is causing your pain, he may answer, “you have sciatica.” With this answer, all he did was tell you in another language that you have pain in your leg. Sciatica is a symptom, like chest pain. There are many different causes of sciatica.

The sciatic nerve is a large nerve that is made up of 4 smaller nerves that leave your spine in the lower back. The sciatic nerve runs deep in the buttocks and goes to the muscles in the back of the thigh and most of the muscles below the knee.

If you have pain in the front of your thigh, you do not have “true sciatica” because the sciatic nerve does not go there. The most common cause of sciatica is disc problems, but there are many other causes of sciatica. Some of these are tumors, misplaced injections in the buttocks, and trauma.

If your doctor tells you that you have sciatica, ask him what is causing your leg pain.

~Dr. Dave


What is Brain Plasticity?

Your brain has plasticity. What does that mean? Your brain can “rewire.” If you learn new things or have new experiences, your brain will take that new information in and make new pathways. If you suffered a brain insult, it has been shown that your brain can “rewire” and compensate for the damage.

People that have had strokes, for example, have regained use of their “bad” arm by strapping down their “good” arm and thus using or “retraining” their “bad” arm. Researchers looked at their functional mri’s, which showed their brain had actually “rewired!” Some cases were after 10 years! If these people can “rewire” their brain after a traumatic insult, is it possible for you, too, to “rewire” your brain? To “rewire” your brain you have to first decide you want to. Some of the best things for your brain are learning a new language or instrument, exercise, and eating a healthy diet.

Too often in middle age we get stuck in bad habits. We do not learn new things or have new experiences. This is horrible for your brain and body. This can lead to depression, anxiety, and chronic pain. To create a healthy brain and body, you have to learn new things and have new experiences.

~Dr. Dave

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Will Chiropractic Adjustments Hurt?

Chiropractic adjustments, also known as spinal manipulations, are a procedure in which a joint is moved past its usual range of motion in daily life. The purpose of chiropractic adjustment is to improve your body’s functioning and alleviate pain.

Adjustments are most commonly made to joints in your back, but also to joints of the neck or other parts of the body, such as the shoulders. You may be treated by a chiropractor in order to correct such conditions as:

• Neck, back, shoulder, arm, hand, chest, leg, or foot pain and stiffness
• Headaches
• Sciatica
• Arthritis
• Trauma, such as whiplash
• Scoliosis
• Sports injuries
• Repetitive strain disorders such as carpal tunnel syndrome
• Fibromyalgia

Moving the joint beyond its range of motion sounds painful, doesn’t it? However, the joint is not moved beyond the range of motion it is naturally designed to move in the body. You may feel pressure or mild discomfort, and the discomfort may be greater if there is significant inflammation or tension around the joint being treated. However, chiropractic adjustments should not be painful.

If you are new to chiropractic medicine, you may have a harder time relaxing during the procedure than more experienced patients. If you stiffen or resist the adjustment, you may feel some discomfort. However as you get used to the procedures you should find not only that the discomfort decreases, but that you may feel relief and a sense of well-being after the adjustment I completed.

During the procedure, you will be placed in a certain position to treat the affected areas. Usually you will be lying face down on a padded table. There may be popping or cracking noises during the adjustment, as the joint is moved. These noises are the result of the release of tiny pockets of gas during the procedure, which is completely normal. In fact, it’s the same thing that occurs when someone cracks their knuckles.

After the procedure, you may feel some soreness or aching in the muscles or spinal joints. If it occurs, this kind of discomfort usually happens within the first few hours of treatment. It should not last longer than 24 hours (and if it does, be sure to contact your chiropractor for assistance). If you like, you can place an ice pack on the affected area which should help reduce the symptoms and help you recover more quickly.

In order to be sure you have as pain-free a treatment as possible, be sure you choose a board-certified chiropractor with good patient references. An experienced, competent practitioner will be able to give you the most effective treatment possible with the least amount of discomfort.

References
Chiropractic Adjustment: What you can Expect. http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/chiropractic-adjustment/MY01107
Reactions Following a Chiropractic Adjustment. http://www.spine-health.com/treatment/chiropractic/reactions-following-a-chiropractic-adjustment

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Do I Really Need to Stretch?

Stretching is the part of our workout regimen many of us tend to skip. We might say it is because of lack of time, impatience or a feeling that stretching is “pointless.” However it is important that our joints are able to move in various directions with a certain degree of freedom. As our bodies age, we become stiffer and lose the flexibility we had when we were young. Chances are unless you’re a dancer or a gymnast, you’ll have lost that fluid flexibility you had as a child even in your twenties. However, it is never too late to regain enough flexibility to remain youthful and limber by training through stretching. Proper stretching allows us to continue doing our daily tasks into old age, such as reaching that high shelf, bending to pick up a dropped object, or accessing that hidden switch behind an awkward kitchen cabinet.

One reason it’s really important to stretch before working out is that we are likely to use muscles and tendons that are normally inactive. Without flexibility to those muscles, the risk of injury or of tearing those muscles and tendons when used, is higher. If stretching is done correctly before working out, it’s a good prevention against injury, and can also be used to treat injuries as well. Finally, when done properly, stretching simply feels good. It can be a great way to gently start the day or to wind down after work.

Preparing the body for exercise by warming up the muscles by stretching is easy and need not take up much of your time. This will increase the blood flow to your muscles and loosen them up allowing you to exercise without having to worry about injury or being overly sore the next day. Simply warm up the various muscle groups with slow stretches of the joints towards the end of their range of motion; this should cause the feeling of a gentle “pull” being felt in the muscles. Hold the position for up to half a minute and then alternate side or muscle groups. Not only does stretching prevent injury, but it also improves the mechanical efficiency of your body. Stretching prior to exercise means the muscles are stretched and warmed up, allowing them to undergo the full range of motion with less effort when exercising – this means the body’s overall performance is improved.

Other added benefits to stretching include improved circulation to the muscles and joints, alleviating the pains felt post-workout, and stretching can also help to improve your posture. If you find at the end of the day stiff and achy from sitting at a desk all day – try stretching. You might find that you’ll feel instantly better. Regular stretching in your shoulders and neck may help you to maintain a better posture. As a result, this may help to prevent the onset of lower back pain.

References Used:
[1] http://www.spineuniverse.com/wellness/exercise/incorporating-stretching-your-exercise-routine Accessed October 2011
[2] http://www.healthnewengland.com/newsletters/LivingWell/LW/Livewell13.pdf Accessed October 2011

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How to Avoid Injuring Your Back During Fall Yard Work

With summer at an end, the leaves are turning brown and falling, cluttering up your yard and garden – so it’s only natural you’ll want to get the rake out. However, as with all physical tasks about the house and garden, it is very important you take the necessary precautions against accident and injury.

Fall yard work, leaf raking and other outdoor maintenance activities carry numerous risks such as: upper and lower back strain, neck strain and shoulder pain. Just like with sports, if your body isn’t prepared for physical activity this can increase your chances of injury. You can avoid straining yourself by taking simple precautions, such as: doing warm ups, stretches and maintaining good posture.

Athletes are able to reduce the risk of strain and injury by doing warm ups. The American Chiropractic Association (ACA) recommends 10-15 minutes of stretching exercises: from trunk rotations, side-bends and knee-to-chest pulls. When these are also combined with a short walk, which helps to stimulate circulation, and with additional stretches at the end, this prepares the body for manual labor associated with raking and yard work.

While raking your garden or yard, good posture can also prevent back problems – make sure you keep your back straight and your head up. Use common sense while working: lift with your legs and bend with your knees, taking care you don’t strain your back while picking up bundles of leaves and grass. If you’re likely to carry heavy items, hold them close to your body to help prevent back strain. In order to take the pressure off your back, rake using the “scissors” stance: put your right foot forward and the left one back, then reverse after a few minutes. When using a lawn mower, try to use your body weight to move it as opposed to your arms and back.

It is vitally important to take breaks. Pace yourself, and whenever your body feels tired take a respite – this is particularly important if the weather is hot, so drink lots of water and wear sun-protection such as a hat, sun block and protective glasses. Investing in extra protective gear, such as gloves to prevent blisters, a mask if you’re prone to allergies and protective eyewear, can make life easier while taking on outdoor chores.

Ergonomic tools with extra padding, larger or curved handles are less strenuous to use over a long-time period. Changing tasks regularly helps to prevent repetitive strain injury of certain muscle groups – change positions, or simply move onto another task for a short period of time before returning to the previous one. Make plans for your gardening tasks; make sure they’re realistic and unlikely to cause strain or exhaust you too much.

If you’re unaccustomed to physical labor, chances are you will feel sore and stiff the next day – in this case, use ice to soothe the discomfort, but if there is no improvement in your aches and pains, then see your chiropractor.


Surgery or Chiropractic for Chronic Sciatica Sufferers?

Pain coming from compression or irritation of the sciatic nerve is called sciatica. Sciatica – which can include pain, tingling, numbness and muscle weakness – is really a symptom indicating an underlying problem, not a diagnosis in and of itself.

This article will explore in detail the findings of a recent controlled study comparing spinal manipulation (chiropractic) and surgery for people whose sciatica did not respond to traditional medical treatment approaches.

The study discussed here was conducted by the National Spine Center in Alberta Canada and published in October of 2010 in the Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics[1]. The 40 study participants all had sciatica lasting over 3 months which had not responded to treatment with pain medications, lifestyle modifications, physical therapy, massage therapy or acupuncture. They had all been referred by their primary care physicians to spinal surgeons who had deemed them appropriate surgery candidates.

Instead of having all the patient proceed with surgery, they were split into two groups – one group to undergo a surgical microdiscectomy and the other group to be treated with standardized chiropractic spinal manipulation by a single chiropractor. (If not satisfied with the results they obtained from their assigned method, the patients were allowed to switch to the other treatment plan after 3 months.)

So what happened? Both groups made significant improvements over baseline scores – meaning that they saw noticeable improvements whereas previous approaches had failed. A full 60% of the study participants benefitted from chiropractic spinal manipulation to the SAME degree as if they underwent surgery. And, after 1 year there was no difference in outcome success based on the treatment method. That means that a full 60% of people referred for surgery by their primary care physicians and accepted as surgical candidates by the neurosurgeon could actually get similar results with chiropractic. That is a lot of potentially unnecessary cutting, anesthesia and ER time.

There is one paragraph in the results section of this study that is easy to overlook, but incredibly important. There were originally 120 candidates of which 60 met the study criteria and were asked to participate. Of these 60, 20 refused. Why? Because they had never been offered spinal manipulation as an alternative to surgery! They didn’t want to participate in the study and be randomly placed in the surgery group without first trying the spinal manipulation! This is incredibly telling. Not only does it demonstrate that there is still a lot of education about chiropractic that needs to happen among the public and among primary care providers, it also demonstrates that people understand the risks and costs of surgery and want to exhaust other possibilities first.

This was the first study to ever look at people who had failed traditional medical management of sciatica. Currently most patients that fail ‘conservative care’ are referred for a surgical evaluation. Now we know that 60% of these folks could avoid surgery and get similar long-term outcomes with chiropractic.

Please share this article with anyone considering surgery for sciatica.

[1] McMorland G, Suter E, Casha S, du Plessis SJ, Hurlbert RJ., Manipulation or microdiskectomy for sciatica? A prospective randomized clinical study. J Manipulative Physiol Ther. 2010; Oct;33(8):576-84.

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A Vacation from Back Pain | Tips for the Pain-free Summer Traveler

For many of us, summer is the season to burn some vacation time and hit the road. The longer days and warmer weather may make it easier to get away, but summer travel often includes cramped flights and seemingly-endless road trips. And that can take a real toll on your back—even if you don’t have a history of pain.To fully enjoy your summer destination, you need to know how to protect your back during the journey.Below are some simple ways you can take care of your back on the road—and in the air.

Car Trips

Car travel is back on the rise—the economy has forced many summer vacationers to accessible, domestic locales. But sitting in a car for hours on end can put a lot of pressure on your back. Fortunately, there are ways to alleviate the strain long car rides can place on your low back:

If your car seat doesn’t offer enough support for your low back, there are a variety of seat cushions, pillows, and other car aids on the market that are designed to make your car trip much more comfortable. If you don’t want to spend the money, simply roll up a towel and create a makeshift cushion between your back and the seat.
Take time to stop at rest stops and towns along the way to stretch and move around. Staying in the same position for hours at a time will only exacerbate your back pain. Even spending just a few minutes doing some back stretches may make a big difference in preventing pain.

Make sure you’re not sitting on anything (such as a wallet, money clip, or cell phone). If you are, it can aggravate back pain. Bring a cooler packed with ice packs to relieve pain on the road. If you need to ice your back, do so for no longer than 15 minutes at a time. Also, make sure there is a barrier, such as a towel, between the ice and your skin.

Air Travel

With the struggling economy, the comfy, roomy first-class airline seats are an unattainable luxury for most of us. Unfortunately, coach seats are often cramped, restrictive, and offer little support for your back. In fact, a 2008 SpineUniverse survey found that 88% of people who had flown in North America in the last year reported that they had back or neck pain—or both—after their flight.If you want to arrive at your gate pain free, you should follow the guidelines below:

Request an aisle seat—it will allow you easy access to get up and move around. On a similar note, take advantage if your airline offers special deals on seats with extra legroom. Focusing on your posture is essential if you want your flight to be a bearable experience. Keep both feet on the floor and sit upright. Most airlines also offer pillows to passengers, and you can place one behind your lower back for extra support. However, firmer pillows are the best option, especially for long-haul flights.

Use rolling luggage and pack light. At the luggage carousel, don’t be afraid to ask for help in picking up your bags. If you are confident handling your own bags, take your time and don’t bend your spine as you lift. If you need more tips on how lifting and reaching to avoid back pain, read this article.

When it comes to pain-free traveling, the journey is just as important as the destination. Summer vacation should be something to look forward to, but it can be anything but enjoyable if you have back pain. Taking these precautions will help prevent pain, letting you truly enjoy your time away.

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Stress on the Job

Stress has been called the spice of life, the common cold of the psyche, and even a socially acceptable form of mental illness. No doubt, stress can be beneficial—for example, a deadline can help us focus and become more alert and efficient. Persistent or excessive stress, however, can undermine performance and make us vulnerable to health problems, from cancer and heart disease to substance abuse and obesity.

Stress is a physical and mental response to the difference between our expectations and our personal experience, real or imaginary. While reacting to stress, the body goes through alarm, resistance, and exhaustion. Released hormone epinephrine, or adrenaline, prepares the body for physical action (“fight or flight”) by increasing heart rate, blood pressure, and blood glucose levels. Then, the body releases glucocorticoid cortisol, or hydrocortisone, producing anti-inflammatory and immunosuppressing effects.

Consequences of Chronic Stress
Although occasional stress can be of benefit, too much stress is taxing on the body. Excessive levels of glucocorticoids can hinder growth, delay wound healing, and increase risk of infection. Chronic stressors—or their constant anticipation—can make us believe that we must always be on guard, leading to anxiety. Feelings of hopelessness or avoiding solving our problems can spark depression.

Past or present psychological distress can also lead to pain, particularly low-back pain, which often comes with leg pain, headaches, sleep problems, anxiety, and depression. Stress may even be a more powerful pain generator than strenuous physical activity or repetitive motion. Research shows, for example, that pain in adolescents is associated with depression and stress, but not with computer use or physical activity.

Stress is highly individual and depends on our circumstances. For example, we react to stress better if we can vent our frustrations, feel in control, hope that things will change for the better, and get social support.

Gender also determines how we handle stress. Women are easily stressed by household problems, conflicts with people, or illness in people they know. Men get more significantly affected by job loss, legal problems, and work-related issues. Men are also more likely to get depressed over divorce or separation and work problems. Depression in women, however, is more likely to spring from interpersonal conflicts or low social support, particularly from family.

Stress on the Job
The workplace has become a major stressor, contributing to the risk of hypertension and heart disease. Recent studies have shown, however, that what stresses us out is not so much the job demands, but our attitude toward them. For example, people who react with anger to their high job strain or who are worried about their chronic work overload have much higher morning corsisol levels. Lack of a sense of control over a job is also associated with higher blood pressure, especially in women and in people with higher socioeconomic status.

Stress Relief Is Important

No matter what stresses you out, consider taking active steps to change your attitude toward stress and to reduce stress in your life.

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Conservative Pain Management: A First-Line Defense Against Prescription Drug Abuse Crisis

May 5, 2011 — The American Chiropractic Association (ACA) applauds federal efforts to curb prescription drug abuse following the U.S. government’s announcement in late April that the problem has reached crisis level.

ACA encourages patients and healthcare providers to explore drug-free, conservative approaches to pain management as a first-line defense against painkiller abuse.

The government’s report, “Epidemic: Responding to America’s Prescription Drug Abuse Crisis,” notes that while the use of some illegal drugs has diminished, the abuse of prescription medications has sharply increased, particularly prescription opioid pain relievers such as Oxycontin and Vicodin. It points out unintentional opioid overdoses — once almost exclusively the fate of heroin abusers — are today increasingly caused by prescription painkiller abuse.

“This new report shows that while sometimes the use of these powerful drugs may be necessary, their overuse and abuse can lead to deadly consequences. The chiropractic profession offers non-drug interventions for pain relief,” said ACA President Dr. Rick McMichael. “We urge healthcare providers, whenever possible, to recommend drug-free conservative care interventions for their patients before prescribing medications that may be associated with harmful side effects. It’s critical that patients know their options.”

The government report outlines a four-part strategy to reduce the incidence of overdose caused by painkiller abuse, including increased education; monitoring of “doctor-shoppers” who obtain multiple prescriptions; the safe disposal of prescription medications; and cracking down on “pill mill” clinics that dispense hundreds of pills per patient. ACA believes prevention is also key and that increased use of conservative approaches for pain management may curb the need for painkillers and thereby reduce the likelihood of patient dependency, overuse and possible overdose.

Chiropractic care is best known for its effectiveness in treating painful conditions such as back pain, neck pain, and headaches — which are serious causes of disability in the United States. According to the U.S. Bone and Joint Decade, the number of prescription medications has increased in the past 10 years.

Chiropractic care may lessen or eliminate the need for medications in some cases and help patients avoid unnecessary surgery. Chiropractic physicians treat the whole person, promote wellness and strive to address the underlying cause of patients’ ailments, not just their symptoms.

Current evidence-based guidelines support the use of conservative care such as chiropractic for conditions such as chronic lower back pain. In 2007, the Annals of Internal Medicine published low back pain guidelines developed by the American Pain Society and the American College of Physicians recommending that, for patients who do not improve with self-care, doctors should consider non-pharmacologic therapies such as chiropractic care, massage therapy and acupuncture.

Source: American Chiropractic Association, www.acatoday.org

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