Wellness Wednesday: Backpack Ergonomics Ensure Spinal Health

Each school year millions of children walk to, from, and around school carrying backpacks filled with books and materials. Parents should be aware that overly stressing the back with a heavy backpack could cause back pain in their child.

Following a few guidelines and using common sense can help avoid this type of back pain.

How Kids’ Backs Respond to Backpacks

Using a backpack allows a child to carry a number of schoolbooks and items in a practical way, distributing the heavy load across the strong back and shoulder muscles. The risk, however, is overload, which can strain the back, neck, or shoulders.

The back will compensate for any load applied to it for an extended period of time. A heavy weight carried in backpacks can:

  • Distort the natural curves in the middle and lower backs, causing muscle strain and irritation to the spine joints and the rib cage
  • Lead to rounding of the shoulders
  • Cause a person to lean forward, reducing balance and making it easier to fall

Habitually carrying backpacks over one shoulder will make muscles strain to compensate for the uneven weight. The spine leans to the opposite side, stressing the middle back, ribs, and lower back more on one side than the other. This type of muscle imbalance can cause muscle strain, muscle spasm, and back pain in the short term and speed the development of back problems later in life if not corrected.

A heavy backpack can pull on the neck muscles, contributing to headache, shoulder pain, lower back pain, and/or neck and arm pain.

Medical Research on Backpacks:

While the medical literature on backpacks is often inconclusive, and sometimes contradictory, a review of current medical literature suggests several general conclusions:

  • Carrying heavy backpacks, or carrying them in a way that strains the back, is a frequent cause of back pain in children and adolescents
  • The back pain caused by back packs is short term (e.g. muscle strain) and alleviated with a short period of rest or reduced activity; any type of back pain that persists is uncommon and should be evaluated by a medical professional
  • Several authors suggest limiting the backpack weight to 10-15% of the child’s body weight is reasonable.

Look for backpack design features that help reduce the chance of back pain:

  • Lightweight material (canvas as opposed to leather)
  • Two padded, wide (2-inches), adjustable shoulder straps on the backpack
  • Padded back
  • Individualized compartments
  • Hip strap, waist belt, or frame to redistribute the weight of the backpack from the shoulders and back to the pelvis
  • Wheels so that the backpack can be pulled rather than carried
  • Consider using a separate bag for the child’s laptop or other heavier electronic items

Teach your child how to properly load and wear the backpack to avoid back pain:

  • Always use both shoulder straps and wear the backpack on the back rather than over one shoulder
  • Pack heaviest objects into the backpack first so they are carried lower and closest to the body
  • Fill compartments so that the load is evenly distributed throughout the backpack and items do not shift during movement
  • Pack sharp or bulky objects in the backpack so they do not contact the back
  • Adjust the straps to fit the backpack snugly to the child’s body, holding the bottom of the backpack 2 inches above the waist and keeping the top just below the base of the skull; do not carry the backpack low near the buttocks
  • Lift the backpack by using the leg muscles and keeping it close to the body, not by bending over with arms extended
  • Do not lean forward when walking; if this is necessary, there is too much weight in the backpack

Maintain a mindset to watch the weight carried in the backpack to reduce back pain:

  • If the child complains of discomfort, reduce the weight in the backpack immediately
  • Consider applying a guideline backpack weight limit as a percent of the child’s body weight. The American Physical Therapy Association suggests 15-20%; the American Chiropractic Association advises 5-10%
  • Coach your child to carry only those books needed in the backpack, leaving unnecessary items at home and making frequent trips to his/her locker during the day
  • Teach your child to clean out the backpack at least once a week

Become a Proactive Parent on the Issue of Backpacks and Back Pain:

  • Ask your child if they feel any back aches or pain
  • Help your child choose the smallest backpack that will meet his/her needs
  • Talk to teachers about how to minimize the need for children to transport heavy books back and forth daily in their backpacks; keep one set of books in the classroom for daily work while leaving heavy books at home; make photocopies of homework chapters and assignments that are easily carried
  • Attend PTA meetings and discuss any proposal by school administrators to remove lockers or to reduce time between classes making it difficult to store unneeded books and materials

Finally, there are a number of alternatives to traditional backpacks on the market. These include saddle bags, rollerbags, backpacks with inflatable lumbar support and straps, totally inflatable backpacks, and molded backpacks.

Sources: http://www.spine-health.com/wellness/ergonomics/backpacks-and-back-pain-children

Curvesday Thursday: The Gut and Spine Connection

Problems with digestion can result within any of the organs involved with this complicated process. Most commonly, the stomach, gall bladder, and large intestine demonstrate the highest degree of incidence of gastrointestinal disturbance; however, the pancreas, liver, and the small intestine also play important roles in the digestive process and can also cause pain and discomfort when malfunctioning.

All of the organs in our body are connected to two different nervous systems. One is called the sympathetic and the other, the parasympathetic. The nerves of the sympathetic system run from the lower cervical spine (neck) to the upper lumbar spine (lower back.) The parasympathetic nerves are found in the middle and upper regions of the cervical spine and the lower lumbar spine and sacrum (the bone between the pelvis).

Together, these two nervous systems help to control digestion by sending signals to the organs (efferent pathways) and returning signals from the organs (afferent pathways.) If an organ is in trouble, it may send excessive signals back through the afferent pathways, to the spine, and up to the brain. This can cause a sensation of discomfort in either the area near the organ or in one of the pain referral areas associated with that organ. A well-known organ that refers pain is gallbladder. People with a history of gallbladder trouble often complain of felling a colic-like (on-again off-again grabbing) pain between the shoulder-blades

The connection of a GI problem to your spine comes from the existence of these two nervous systems through a response known as the viscerosomatic reflex. Chiropractors believe that the irritation at the level of the spine that corresponds to the involved organ can cause the muscles around the vertebra above and below the nerve to become hyperactive. This increased activity to the muscles is a result of the shared nerve supply between these muscles and the sympathetic supply to the organ. If the muscle spasm exerts enough force to create a subluxation (a misalignment between the vertebrae) or creates enough congestion to the blood supply, more nerve interference is experienced. This inhibitory action results in a decreased ability of  organ function.

Conversely, chiropractors also believe that problems with the organs of digestion may have started because of spinal subluxations. An interesting study that took place at the Harvard Medical School demonstrated this theory. Researchers at Harvard discovered that many people who suffered from Chron’s Disease (A severe bowel disorder) had marked (sever) subluxations of the second cervical vertebra. Chiropractors believe that the Vagus nerve (the parasympathetic nerve supply to every digestive organ in the body) may be irritated when a severe second cervical subluxation is present. Although the Vagus nerve is one of the twelve cranial nerves that come directly from the brain) the Vagus nerve passes closely enough to the structures between the first and second vertebra that subluxation at these levels may create enough irritation to the nerve to create problems with digestion.

According to a recent study, researchers in Japan also found a link between Crohn’s disease and interference to the nervous system from spinal misalignments.The research was published in the Journal of Vertebral Subluxation Research and grew out of a previous study involving more than 3,000 patients with allergic diseases and over 1,000 non-allergic patients. It focused on the relationship between immune function, spinal displacements called vertebral subluxations, and how reducing those displacements resulted in improvement, and in some cases complete remission, of symptoms of Crohn’s disease.

There are many theories about what causes Crohn’s disease but none has been proven. The most popular theory is that the body’s immune system reacts to a virus or a bacterium by causing ongoing inflammation in the intestine. Treatment for Crohn’s disease includes corticosteroids to control inflammation but while these drugs are considered the most effective for active Crohn’s disease, they can cause serious side effects, including greater susceptibility to infection. Immune suppressing drugs are also used to treat Crohn’s disease.

According to Dr. Yasuhiko Takeda, a chiropractor and lead author of the study: “This is why it is so important to develop other means of dealing with this terrible disease. If we can find treatments that enhance the function of the immune and nervous systems perhaps we can help millions of people with this disease without the harmful side effects of drugs.”

Beginning in 1992, the focus of Takeda’s research has been on the relationship between subluxation, allergic disease, asthma, Crohn’s disease, irritable bowel disorder and ulcerative colitis. He became interested in this after observing common patterns of spinal distortions and subluxation in patients presenting with these problems. He observed that many of these people got better following chiropractic care. This convinced him that chiropractic care was the answer to these health problems and that he needed to look into it in more detail.

There are other digestive disorders linked to the spine as well. A growing body of evidence is linking inflammatory back pain (IBP) and inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). Additionally, several autoimmune conditions, such as ankylosing spondylitis (AS), affect both the gut and the spine, with up to 60 percent of AS patients suffering from colon and ileum inflammation. Even aside from inflammatory disease, back pain and gut pain have a strong association. Not only are there instances where gut problems refer pain to the spine; there are times when the spine is the source of gut disorders. A chiropractic practice is able to identify back pain of visceral origin: Gastric ulcers, pancreatic disease and irritable bowel syndrome are all known to cause back pain.

In turn, the treatment of spinal injuries can cause digestive disorders. GI doctors and chiropractors are both keenly aware of the severe consequences of long-term use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). Patients with NSAID-induced gastric bleeding almost always end up in a GI clinic. GI doctors often tell their patients that they can no longer take NSAIDs, leaving those patients to find an effective medical treatment for their musculoskeletal conditions.  A non-medical provider, such as a doctor of chiropractic, specializes in drug-free pain management techniques that prevent gastrointestinal issues.

Chiropractic can also help you if you suffer from a digestive disorder by reducing  your level of stress. Patient’s who receive chiropractic care will readily comment on this. Your digestive systems works best when the mind and body are in a relaxed state and manipulation, massage, acupressure, and moist heat therapies are just some of the many ways your chiropractor can help you obtain a healthier working digestive system.

Many chiropractors also include nutritional consoling as part of their practices. Your chiropractor  may recommend vitamin and mineral supplements, digestive aids, healing herbs, or simply recommend a proper diet with an emphasis on what foods to eat and what foods to avoid to improve your digestion.

Dr. Chambers offers a multi-faceted approach to treating digestive disorders through chiropractic, acupuncture, specialized diets, and all natural supplements. To schedule a consultation, please contact our office at (304) 263-4927.

Sources: http://www.godiscoverhealth.com/digestive-problems/

http://www.acatoday.org/content_css.cfm?CID=3420

http://www.acatoday.org/content_css.cfm?CID=3420

Curvesday Thursday: Sciatica and Alternative Medicine

The term sciatica describes the symptoms of leg pain—and possibly tingling, numbness or weakness—that originate in the lower back and travel through the buttock and down the large sciatic nerve in the back of the leg. Sciatica (pronounced sigh-at-ih-kah) is not a medical diagnosis in and of itself—it is a symptom of an underlying medical condition, such as a lumbar herniated disc, degenerative disc disease, or spinal stenosis.

Sciatica is often characterized by one or a combination of the following symptoms:

  • Constant pain in only one side of the buttock or leg (rarely can occur in both legs)
  • Pain that is worse when sitting
  • Leg pain that is often described as burning, tingling or searing (vs. a dull ache)
  • Weakness, numbness or difficulty moving the leg or foot
  • A sharp pain that may make it difficult to stand up or to walk
Sciatic pain can vary from infrequent and irritating to constant and incapacitating. Specific sciatica symptoms can be different in location and severity, depending upon the condition causing the sciatica (such as a lumbar herniated disc ). While symptoms can be painful and potentially debilitating, it is rare that permanent sciatic nerve damage (tissue damage) will result.

Sciatica symptoms occur when the large sciatic nerve is irritated or compressed in the lumbar spine.

The sciatic nerve is the largest single nerve in the body and is composed of individual nerve roots that start by branching out from the spine in the lower back and combine to form the “sciatic nerve.”

  • The sciatic nerve starts in the lower back at lumbar segment 3 (L3).
  • At each level of the lower spine a nerve root exits from the inside of the spine, and these respective nerve roots then come together to form the large sciatic nerve.
  • The sciatic nerve runs from the lower back, through the buttock, and down the back of each leg
  • Portions of the sciatic nerve then branch out in each leg to innervate certain parts of the leg – the thigh, calf, foot, toes.

The specific sciatica symptoms – the leg pain, numbness, tingling, weakness, and possibly symptoms that radiate into the foot – largely depend on where the nerve is pinched. For example, a lumbar segment 5 (L5) nerve impingement can cause weakness in extension of the big toe and potentially in the ankle.

The incidence of sciatica increases in middle age. Rarely occurring before age 20, the probability of experiencing sciatic pain peaks in the 50s and then declines.1

Often, a particular event or injury does not cause sciatica, but rather it tends to develop over time. The vast majority of people who experience sciatica get better within a few weeks or months and find pain relief with non-surgical sciatica treatment. For others, however, the leg pain from a pinched nerve can be severe and debilitating.

Because sciatica is caused by an underlying medical condition, treatment is focused on addressing the underlying causes of symptoms, such as spinal stenosis or a herniated disc. The goals of non-surgical sciatica treatments are to relieve pain and any neurological symptoms caused by a compressed nerve root. There is a broad range of options available for sciatica treatment. One or some combination of the treatments below are usually recommended in conjunction with specific exercises.

For acute sciatic pain, heat and/or ice packs are readily available and can help alleviate the leg pain, especially in the initial phase. Usually ice or heat is applied for approximately 20 minutes, and repeated every two hours. Most people use ice first, but some people find more relief with heat. The two may be alternated. It is best to apply ice with a cloth or towel placed between the ice and skin to avoid an ice burn.

Spinal adjustments and manual manipulation performed by appropriately trained health professionals, such as chiropractors and osteopathic physicians , are focused on providing better spinal column alignment, which in turn should help to address a number of underlying conditions that can cause sciatic nerve pain. Manual manipulation done to address the right indications by appropriately trained health professionals can create a better healing environment and should not be painful.

Another practice, acupuncture, is centered on the philosophy of achieving or maintaining well being through the open flow of energy via specific pathways in the body. Hair-thin needles (that are usually not felt) are inserted into the skin near the area of pain. Acupuncture has been approved by the U.S. FDA as a treatment for back pain, and the National Institutes of Health has recognized acupuncture as effective in relieving back pain, including sciatica.

Physical therapy exercises incorporating a combination of strengthening, stretching, and aerobic conditioning are a central component of almost any sciatica treatment plan. When patients engage in a regular program of gentle exercises, they can recover more quickly from sciatica pain and are less likely to have future episodes of pain.

If you have pain that may be caused by sciatica, please call our office at (304) 63-4927 for an appointment today. Dr. Chambers specializes in a multi-faceted alternative medicine treatment plan, consisting of chiropractic, acupuncture and physical therapy, personalized for each patient’s diagnosis.

Source: http://www.spine-health.com/conditions/sciatica/what-you-need-know-about-sciatica

Curvesday Thursday: Tips to Improve or Maintain Spinal Health

#Chiropractic #Swannchiropractic #wellness #spine #chattanooga #health

A healthy spine is an often overlooked and essential part of a healthy lifestyle. People who suffer from back pain, particularly if it is long-term, are generally less healthy than those who do not. In fact, back pain costs are staggering not only financially, but also in terms of lost time from work and because of psychosocial problems that arise during the healing process associated with long-term back pain.

Unfortunately, approximately 80-90% of the population suffers from spinal pain at some point. People who are overweight or obese, and who smoke, lift heavy objects, or had a previous episode of back pain, are more likely to experience back pain.

Because so many people suffer from spine pain, it’s important for you to try to keep your spine as healthy as possible. Following simple posture, lifting, and healthy lifestyle guidelines can help you keep your back in good shape.

The American Chiropractic Association recommends the following spinal health tips:

Standing

  • When standing, keep one foot slightly in front of the other, with your knees slightly bent. This position helps to take the pressure off your low back.
  • Do not stand bent forward at the waist for prolonged periods of time. The muscles in your low back become de-conditioned in this position, which may lead to pain.

Lifting

  • At all times, avoid twisting while lifting. Twisting is one of the most dangerous movements for your spine, especially while lifting.
  • If the item is too heavy to lift, pushing it is easier on your back than pulling it. Whenever possible, use your legs, not your back or upper body, to push the item.
  • If you must lift a heavy item, get someone to help you.

Sitting

  • Keep your knees slightly higher than your hips, with your head up and back straight.
  • Avoid rolling your shoulders forward (slouching).
  • Try to maintain the natural curve in your low back.

Reaching and Bending

  • When reaching for something above shoulder level, stand on a stool. Straining to reach such objects may not only hurt your mid-back and neck, but it can also bring on shoulder problems.
  • Do NOT bend over at the waist to pick up items from the floor or a table.
  • Instead, kneel down on one knee, as close as possible to the item you are lifting, with the other foot flat on the floor and pick the item up.
  • Or bend at the knees, keep the item close to your body, and lift with your legs, not your back.

Carrying

  • When carrying objects, particularly if they are heavy, keep them as close to your body as possible.
  • Carrying two small objects—one in each hand—is often easier to handle than one large one.

Healthy Diet and Exercise

  • While the proverbial jury is still out, we suspect that extra weight puts undue strain on your spine. Keep within 10 lbs. of your ideal weight for a healthier back.
  • “Beer belly” is likely the worst culprit, as it puts unwanted pressure on the muscles, ligaments and tendons in your low back.
  • The most efficient and effective way to reduce weight is by eating a sensible diet and exercising regularly.
  • Consult with your doctor before beginning any exercise program, particularly if you have a health condition.

Sleeping

  • Sleeping on your back puts approximately 50 pounds of pressure on your spine. Other positions may be better.
  • Placing a pillow under your knees while lying on your back cuts the pressure on your spine roughly in half.
  • Lying on your side with a pillow between your knees may also reduce the pressure on your back.
  • Never sleep in a position that causes a portion of your spine to hurt. Most often, your body will tell you what position is best.

Quit Smoking

Smokers have more spine pain than nonsmokers, and they also heal more slowly when they have an episode of back pain because the chemicals in tobacco smoke restrict the flow of blood to the tissues in and around your spine.

For a detailed info-graphic covering each of these points, please click here.

While following these instructions is no guarantee that you’ll be free from back pain for your entire life, it can certainly reduce your risk of developing it. These simple steps will help you keep your spine in good shape, making you a healthier, happier person.

Sources: http://www.acatoday.org/content_css.cfm?CID=1458

http://greatist.com/health/ultimate-guide-good-posture

Get Moving Monday: Yoga Improves Overall Health

Yoga is fast becoming popular all over the United States.  First developed in India, Yoga incorporates breathing exercises, meditation, and asana or postures that flexes and stretches muscle groups.  Its purpose is to create a sense of awareness, strength and harmony in mind and body. The benefits of yoga provide both instant gratification and lasting transformation. In the fitness world, both are extremely important. Too much time with too few results can be incredibly discouraging, and monotonous routines week after week can lead to stagnation.Yoga can change your physical and mental capacity quickly, while preparing the mind and body for long-term health. At any level of yoga, you’ll probably start to notice benefits soon. In one study, people improved their flexibility by up to 35% after only 8 weeks of yoga.

Yoga is a great way to work on your flexibility and strength. Just about everyone can do it, too — it’s not just for people who can touch their toes or want to meditate. Most yoga studios and local gyms offer yoga classes that are open to all generations and fitness levels. It’s exciting to enter a room full of young teens, athletes, middle-aged moms, older gentlemen and even fitness buffs and body builders. Everyone can feel accepted and included and, unlike other sports or classes that focus on niche clients, yoga tends to have open arms. Whether you like to say “Om” or you can’t stand the word “yogi;” whether you are 92, 53, or even 12, yoga can help you.

Yoga poses work by stretching your muscles. They can help you move better and feel less stiff or tired.  Yoga is not just about working out, it’s about a healthy lifestyle. The practice of yoga allows students to be still in a world consumed with chaos. Peace and tranquility achieved through focused training appeals to everyone. Yoga’s deep breathing and meditation practices help foster an inner shift from to-do lists, kids and spouse’s needs, financial concerns and relational struggles to something a little bit bigger than the issues you face. Yoga helps relieve stress and unclutter the mind, and helps you get more focused.

One of the benefis of yoga is that you can choose a yoga style that is tailored to your lifestyle, such as hot yoga, power yoga, relaxation yoga, prenatal yoga, etc. Whether you prefer you’re at home, in a private session, at a studio or gym, there are a huge variety of options available to suit your goals and needs.

Some styles of yoga, such as ashtanga and power yoga, are very physical. Practicing one of these styles will help you improve muscle tone. But even less vigorous styles of yoga, such as Iyengar or hatha, can provide strength and endurance benefits. If you are a yoga beginner, Hatha yoga, which focuses on basic postures at a comfortable pace, would be great for you.If you want to increase strength through using more of your own body’s resistance, power yoga may be right for you.If you are ready for a deeper practice, Advanced Yoga, or Bikram, also called “hot yoga,” may be just what you are looking for. In Bikram yoga, the room temperature is set to around 100 degrees Fahrenheit, resulting in greater elimination of toxins from the body through the increased production of sweat. No matter your fitness level, fat percentage, or health history, yoga has a place for you.

Yoga’s focus on strength training and flexibility is an incredible benefit to your body. The postures are meant to strengthen your body from the inside-out, so you don’t just look good, you feel good too. Each of the yoga poses is built to reinforce the muscles around the spine, the very center of your body, which is the core from which everything else operates. When the core is working properly, posture is improved, thus alleviating back, shoulder and neck pain.

The digestive system gets back on track when the stretching in yoga is coupled with a healthy, organic diet, which can relieve constipation, irritable bowl syndrome (IBS) and acid reflux. Another one of the benefits of yoga is that stretching and holding of postures also causes muscles to lengthen, which gives the body a longer, leaner look.

Yoga usually involves paying attention to your breath, which can help you relax. It may also call for specific breathing techniques. But yoga typically isn’t aerobic, like running or cycling, unless it’s an intense type of yoga or you’re doing it in a heated room. You may feel less stressed and more relaxed after doing some yoga. Some yoga styles use meditation techniques that help calm the mind. Focusing on your breathing during yoga can do that, too.

Yoga has long been known to lower blood pressure and slow the heart rate. A slower heart rate can benefit people with high blood pressure or heart disease, and people who’ve had a stroke. Yoga has also been linked to lower cholesterol and triglyceride levels, and better immune system function.

In addition to that, some of the known benefits of yoga are:

  • Increased physical flexibility
  • Increase in muscle strength
  • Improved muscle tone
  • Reduction in weight
  • Improved circulatory and cardio health
  • Balanced metabolism
  • Improved respiration
  • Increased energy and vitality
  • Greatly improved athletic performance
  • Beats stress

There are some yoga exercises that are more strenuous than others.  Some beginners suffer injuries for lack of physical preparation.  To avoid this when starting yoga, it is crucial that you inform your yoga instructor of certain illnesses and physical limitations that you may have.  If some positions are simply too painful for you, tell your instructor immediately.

It is also best that you tell your yoga instructor of certain mental health issues that are bothering you, whether they are stress, anxiety, and sleeplessness.  In this way, your instructor can formulate yoga exercises especially tailored to counter your mental health issues.

Sources:

http://www.webmd.com/balance/guide/the-health-benefits-of-yoga

http://healthandwellnessreviews.com/

http://life.gaiam.com/article/benefits-yoga

Curvesday Thursday: Multi-Faceted Treatment Plan May Alleivate Symptoms of Osteoarthritis

While there is currently no proven treatment to stop or slow the progression of osteoarthritis in the spine, there are treatments to alleviate the pain and other associated symptoms, and for most people the condition will not become debilitating. Some patients with osteoarthritis have minimal or no pain, and may not need treatment. Most people who require treatment will benefit from a combination of lifestyle changes such as exercise, weight reduction, and smoking cessation. Most treatment plans for osteoarthritis focus on controlling the pain and improving the patient’s ability to function. In only the most severe cases will surgery be necessary to treat pain and disability from osteoarthritis.

Medical practitioners often refer to osteoarthritis in the spine as spinal arthritis, degenerative joint disease, or arthritis of the facet joints. Spinal arthritis is relatively common and is most likely to occur in people over age fifty. It represents an ongoing, degenerative process in the spine, and may be associated with a number of other degenerative spinal conditions. In particular, osteoarthritis is associated with degenerative discs in the spine.

Degenerative discs and osteoarthritis often occur hand in hand because the disc and facet joints (the joints in the back affected by osteoarthritis) are both part of the same three-joint complex. It is thought that degenerating discs can place undue stress on the facet joints, thus over time leading to degeneration and formation of osteoarthritis in the facet joints (also called zygapophyseal joints). This may be why the two degenerative conditions are so often seen together.

If the disc as well as the facet joints become painful as a result of degenerative changes in the spine, the condition is often called spondylosis. However, degenerative disc disease and osteoarthritis are different conditions and can occur separately: One can have degenerative discs without any facet osteoarthritis; or one can have facet osteoarthritis without degenerative discs. Osteoarthritis of the spine is unlike arthritis of the hip, knee and other joints, as the pain, aches, tiredness and stiffness does not come from just the facet joints but often also from the degenerated discs and inhibition of the spinal extensor muscles.

Most treatment plans will include a combination of non-surgical options, based on assessing several factors for the individual patient, such as: severity of the osteoarthritis, which joints are affected, nature of the symptoms, other existing medical conditions, age, occupation, lifestyle factors, and everyday activities. In cases where the patient’s osteoarthritis is causing significant pain, it is imperative to address the arthritis pain and bring it down to a manageable level in order for the patient to continue with daily activities and preferably be able to participate in a reasonable level of rehabilitation and exercise.

People with osteoarthritis often find that warmth, through warm towels or hot packs applied to the joint, or a warm bath or shower, can relieve pain and stiffness. Heat is known to help reduce inflammation and swelling in the joints and can help improve circulation. Water therapy in a heated pool or whirlpool may also help. In some cases, cold, through cold packs or a bag of ice or frozen vegetables wrapped in a towel, can relieve pain or numb the sore area. Often, applying heat for 20 minutes before doing an exercise routine or activity, and following up with applying cold to the affected area afterwards, will help alleviate activity and exercise related pain in the joints. A physican or physical therapist should be consulted to determine if heat, cold, or a combination of the two is the best treatment.

Many people with arthritis have found substantial relief from their symptoms through physical therapy and exercise. In fact, exercise is thought to be the most effective non-drug treatment for reducing pain and improving movement for people with osteoarthritis. For those with osteoarthritis, the exercises need to be done correctly to avoid causing joint pain. Specific exercises help strengthen the muscles around the joints (removing some stress from the joints), improve joint mobility and reduce joint stiffness and pain.

It has been demonstrated that back and/or neck pain inhibits extensor muscle function, and thus exercises should be focused on those particular muscles. Regular exercise also has a wide range of side benefits, as it typically improves attitude, promotes a healthy level of blood circulation, helps individuals maintain an appropriate weight, promotes endurance, provides more energy, improves sleep, and can even decrease depression.

The patient may be referred to a physical therapist or exercise trainer by his/her doctor in order to determine the appropriate amount and types of exercise. For most, it is very important to work with an appropriately trained physical therapist in order to learn how to do the exercises correctly.

For chronic symptoms or to provide relief from severe episodes of pain from osteoarthritis in the neck or lower back, manipulation (such as chiropractic or osteopathic manipulation) is recommended. The philosophy for manipulations is that joint dysfunction in the spine can produce pain, and mobilizing the spine joints through manipulations (also called adjustments) can decrease that pain.

Since osteoarthritis is a joint dysfunction, it may respond well to mobilization. Manipulation is most often performed by a chiropractor, doctor of osteopathic medicine or a properly trained and licensed physical therapist. A less forceful kind of manipulation, called traction, may also be used, e.g., gravity traction using adjusting blocks.

TENS or Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation type of therapy uses small amounts of electricity to reduce sensitivity of nerves around the spine. The treatment has few side effects and is non-invasive; however not all patients receive pain relief. Typically, a physical therapist or a physiatrist will prescribe TENS units and instruct that patient on the proper use.

Acupuncture involves inserting ultra-fine needles at specific points on the skin. Most people report a tingling sensation, feeling relaxed or even energized. Some people have found acupuncture helpful for their osteoarthritis pain, and the NIH has found it useful as a treatment for low back pain and many other conditions including osteoarthritis.

Acupuncture is considered a safe medical treatment. For this reason, many physicians and practitioners believe that acupuncture is a beneficial treatment as an adjunct to other medical treatments, and/or as an alternative to medical treatments. In certain situations, acupuncture may be used in combination with conventional painkillers, or to replace them all together.

Patients with osteoarthritis of the spine who are overweight or obese will benefit from losing excess weight. When appropriate, weight loss can greatly reduce stress on weight-bearing joints and limit further joint injury. Weight control during middle age years can also help prevent the onset of osteoarthritis in later years. A healthy diet and regular exercise are needed to help reduce weight. A dietitian can help patients develop a healthy eating program that will help them lose excess weight and maintain the appropriate weight and mix of nutrients needed over the long term. Active exercise, which burns more calories, also assists with weight loss.

One of the most important things a patient can do is take care of oneself and adopt overall healthy lifestyle habits. Examples of specific healthy lifestyle habits include: getting proper amounts of rest, limiting alcohol and caffeine, not smoking, managing stress, and using good body mechanics for everyday activities (such as carrying a backpack instead of a purse and lifting with the legs instead of the back).

It is advisable to consult a doctor about lifestyle habits and recommendations and about programs designed to develop and reinforce these good habits. If you are experiencing back pain that might be caused by osteoarthritis, please call our office at (304) 263-4927 to schedule a consultation and begin a mufti-faceted treatment plan.

Sources: http://www.spine-health.com/conditions/arthritis/osteoarthritis-complete-treatment-guide

Our Office Operations: Work Related Injury Assessment and Treatment Available

The Worker’s Compensation Process

Unfortunately, work related injures are more common than you think. They are also well known for being a complicated process. We are here to help you return to your pre-injury status as well as assist with the policies and procedures needed throughout your worker’s compensation journey. At Chambers Chiropractic and Acupuncture we have set some standards and guidelines to follow that we have learned through years of working with worker’s compensation claims. You, as a patient, are required to follow these as long as we are considered your treating physician.

Compliance

Compliance is a big issue that is not only important to us but also to your worker’s compensation carrier. It is required that you stay consistent with your treatment plan and keep in close contact with your employer and treating physician throughout the entire claim process. If you are unable to attend an appointment, there must be a valid excuse. You must call the office to inform them of the cancellation and to reschedule the appointment.

Work Status

Occasionally it will be necessary to restrict or limit your current job duties. These restrictions, ordered by the treating physician, are to be forwarded to your employer for review. If your employer cannot accommodate these restrictions, you may have to be placed on temporary leave until the physician feels you are healthy enough to return to gainful employment. If you have been placed on temporary leave, a form must be signed by you and turned into your employer. Our office will forward a copy of the form to the worker’s compensation carrier.

Travel

Most worker’s compensation carriers will reimburse your traveling expenses. A travel voucher can be obtained from your claim adjustor. Fill out the voucher and return it to our office for verification and a signature. We can even fax it to the adjustor for you.

Why Choose a Chiropractor as Your Treating Physician?

A Florida study examined over 10,000 patients who sustained back related injuries while on the job. Their findings revealed that individuals who received chiropractic care compared with standard medical care for a similar diagnosis experienced 51.3% shorter temporary total disability duration, 58.8% lower treatment cost ($558 vs. $1,100 per case) and 30% less chance of being hospitalized for treatment.

An Oregon study found that individuals with worker’s compensation claims returned to work significantly faster while under chiropractic care. In fact, 82% of those under chiropractic care were able to return to work after one week of treatment compared with only 41% of those who received standard medical care.

An Australian study of 1,996 worker’s compensation claims revealed that individuals who received chiropractic care for back injuries returned to work four times faster and at a quarter of the cost compared with standard medical care (6.26 days and $392 vs. 25.56 days and $1,569). Also, those patients who received chiropractic care were significantly less likely to progress to a chronic lower back pain status.

Why Choose Chambers Chiropractic and Acupuncture?

Dr. Chambers has over 30 years experience in treating work related injuries and filing claims properly.  He is professional and courteous while working with your employer and claims adjustor to ensure all the proper protocols are being followed.  Also, all of our treatment options are under one roof. X-rays, adjustments, settings and castings, as well as physical therapy, moist heat therapy and TENS are all in one convenient location.

If you have been injured on the job and need the help of a professional treating physician, please call (304) 263-4927 to make an appointment.

Sources: Mechanical Low-Back Pain: A Comparison of Medical and Chiropractic Management Within the Victorian Work Care Scheme. Ebrall, PS. Chiropractic Journal of Australia – 1992;22:47-53.

A Study of Time Loss Back Claims. Portland, OR. Workers’ Compensation Board, State of Oregon, March 1971

An Analysis of Florida Workers’ Compensation Medical Claims for Back Related Injuries. Wolk S. Foundation for Chiropractic Education and Research, Arlington, VA. – 1988

Curvesday Thursday: Headaches can be a pain in the neck!

In today’s post, Dr. Zinovy Meyler talks exclusively about  how chiropractic adjustments can help alleviate pain and pressure of a  cervicogenic headache.

A headache can be caused by a problem in the neck. What we call that is cervicogenic headache. Most of headaches do not come from the neck, most of headaches have a different source, but there is a very specific type of a headache that is called cervicogenic headache stemming from the cervical spine – or in other words, the neck.

Cervicogenic headache usually starts in what we call the suboccipital area, which is that muscular area that is just under the occiput of the head. That pain starts there – it can be on one or both sides – and it tends to radiate up into the head and around the head. The easiest way to visualize it is to actually take the palm of your hand and place it on the back of the head and that really is where the pain spreads. More rarely, the pain can travel to the front of the head and behind the eye. Once again, that’s not common and it is even less common for it to just appear in the front of the head or behind the eye, but it does happen.

What causes a Cervicogenic Headache?

In order to discuss the causes of cervicogenic headache, I need to take a step back for a second and talk about the anatomy. What we’re looking at here is the back of the head, the neck or cervical spine, and specifically what we’re looking at is these little joints. Now these are facet joints – or zygapophysial joints – the hinge-like joints in the spine. Now, these joints are true joints – in other words, they have the synovial fluid, synovial capsule, cartilage – and they can react like any other joint; in other words, they can get irritated, inflamed, and can become painful. Now, what’s important in this context is that the innervations for these joints comes from a very small branch – called medial branch – that comes around here and goes into the joint. At times, that branch continues on and becomes another nerve. The nerve we’re concerned about specifically is called the third occipital nerve. This nerve crosses the C2-3 facet joints and the facet joints are named for the different vertebral bodies that are interfacing and forming that joint, so this is a C2 and C3. So a C2-3 is crossed by the third occipital nerve, then continues onto the occiput and around the scalp. If there is irritation at this joint, this nerve tends to transmit pain and cause the pain that we’re discussing – the pain that actually encompasses the occiput and the back of the head.

Now, the causes of this, there are many to discuss. If we are to group them together, the most common cause is really similar to a whiplash injury. If you think about the joint itself as a hinge-like joint that provides the sliding motion. Whiplash is essentially an acceleration-deceleration injury grinding that joint. That usually is the first step to precipitating this cervicogenic headache because it irritates the joint, then the irritation drives the whole process.

Now, whiplash or acceleration-deceleration injury through that joint can mean motor vehicle accidents, can mean just falls – commonly falls on ice – that cause this motion of the head and that’s usually more common in the younger population. When we talk about the older population and when arthritis becomes more of a problem, that arthritis in that same joint can also cause irritation, inflammation, and irritation to that nerve, causing that cervicogenic headaches. Of course, anything that would cause irritation to that nerve would cause the headaches and muscle spasms, grinding that joints, irritation to the joint from other causes, from the laxity of the joint, in different conditions that really predispose the hypermobility or increased mobility of that joint can also predispose to inflammation and irritation of that nerve, once again predisposing one to cervicogenic headaches.

How is a Cervicogenic Headache Diagnosed?

Diagnosing cervicogenic headache can be somewhat tricky because the headaches resemble a number of different headaches and to complicate the matter, they can trigger other headaches. So, for instance, patients can have cervicogenic headaches as another trigger for a migraine. Cervicogenic headache in itself can cause tension types of headache. But if there is suspicion for cervicogenic headache, the studies have shown that a very precise diagnostic procedure can be very accurate in diagnosing it.

The way this procedure is done is under controlled conditions and the guidance of an x-ray or fluoroscopy. A needle is actually placed at the joint at three separate spots – at the most likely places of this nerve – and anesthetic is placed very precisely at the location of the nerve. If this eliminates the pain, then that’s a very positive indication that that’s the source of the pain.

How is a Cervicogenic Headache Treated?

In discussing treatments for cervicogenic headaches, it’s important to remember that we have to look at it as constellation of symptoms, even though we know that there is a third occipital nerve that gets irritated and that’s what we have to treat, that resolves a part of the problem – a very important part of the problem – but from literature we know that we see the best outcomes by approaching it from several different directions. What I mean by that is: one of the main treatments for cervicogenic headaches is addressing the pain generator. So, reducing the inflammation at the joint and reducing the inflammation at that third occipital nerve is one of the first things to do. That can be done by placing medication right at the source of the inflammation and irritation. Another way to do this – and this is a very well-studied approach – is to use radiofrequency rhizotomy. Radiofrequency rhizotomy essentially eliminates those feeding nerve fibers and the way this is approached is a probe is placed along the path of this nerve and then radiofrequency energy is used in order to treat this area to eliminate those nerve fibers.

Besides using these techniques, what’s important to remember is that cervical manipulations in a gentile manner are addressing the actual myofascial component (muscles, connective tissue of the neck) is very important as well. So, it is important to address this from a point of controlling the pain because, as we know, pain really drives a lot of the muscle spasms and prevents one from doing the exercises and manipulations that are necessary in order to get better. And at the same time, it is important once that is taken care of, it is important to have the patient follow up in a very structured physical therapy that addresses strengthening, postural adjustments, as well as manipulations of myofascial structures and really addressing the muscle tension that is around the head. Once everything comes together and all of the components of the biomechanical chain are treated, the myofascial component is treated, the irritation and inflammation is eliminated, and if necessary those offending nerve fibers are eliminated, most patients tend to recover very well, especially those that had this cervicogenic headache as a trigger for other types of headaches that are really debilitating.

Watch the video here!

Source: http://www.spine-health.com/video/cervicogenic-headache-video

Wellness Wednesday: Low Impact Aerobics Can Relieve Back Pain

A typical response to experiencing back pain is to take it easy – either staying in bed or at least stopping any activity that is at all strenuous. While this approach is understandable and may even be recommended in the short term, when done for more than a day or two it can actually undermine healing. Instead, active forms of back exercises are almost always necessary to rehabilitate the spine and help alleviate back pain.

When done in a controlled, gradual, and progressive manner, active back exercises distribute nutrients into the disc space and soft tissues in the back to keep the discs, muscles, ligaments, and joints healthy. Consequently, a regular routine of lower back exercises helps patients avoid stiffness and weakness, minimize recurrences of lower back pain, and reduce the severity and duration of possible future episodes of low back pain.

Depending upon the patient’s specific diagnosis and level of pain, the back pain exercises and rehabilitation programs will be very different, so it is important for patients to see a spine specialist trained to develop an individualized program of back exercises and to provide instruction on using the correct form and technique.

Just like reinforced steel can bear more weight than sheet aluminum, a strong, well-conditioned back can withstand more stress, and protect the spine better, than a back that has not been conditioned through exercise. Conditioning through flexibility and strengthening back exercises not only helps the back avoid injury, or minimize the severity of injury if the spine is traumatized, it also can help relieve the pain of many back conditions.

Many back exercises can help strengthen the spinal column and the supporting muscles, ligaments, and tendons. Most of these back exercises focus not only on the back, but also the abdominal (stomach) muscles and gluteus (buttocks) and hip muscles. Taken together, these strong ‘core’ muscles can provide back pain relief because they provide strong support for the spine, keeping it in alignment and facilitating movements that extend or twist the spine.

Two of the most well-known back strengthening exercises are: McKenzie exercises and Dynamic Lumbar Stabilization. These back exercises are generally first learned by working with a physical therapist who can demonstrate the exercises and correct a patient’s form to ensure strengthening and/or back pain relief is achieved. Although McKenzie exercises and dynamic lumbar stabilization exercises tend to be used for specific conditions, the two forms of physical therapy exercise may also be combined when appropriate.

Along with specific back exercises, aerobic exercise that increases the heart rate for a sustained period is very beneficial for helping back problems. Aerobic exercise increases the flow of blood and nutrients to back structures which supports healing, and can decrease the stiffness in the back and joints that lead to back pain. While many patients with back pain are able to participate in vigorous exercise like running or step aerobics, others find it easier to engage in low-impact exercise, which does not jar the spine.

Reconditioning through aerobic exercise is very useful for both rehabilitation and maintenance of the lower back. Patients who regularly undertake aerobic exercise to condition the back will benefit in several ways:

  • They have fewer episodes of low back pain, and will experience less pain when an episode occurs.
  • They are also more likely to stay functional (e.g. continue working and carry on with recreational activities), whereas those patients with chronic low back pain who do not engage in aerobic exercise are more likely to experience the gradual loss of functional capabilities.
  • It is easier to control weight or lose weight, decreasing the stress placed on the spine structures and joints.
  • An increased production of endorphins after 30 or 40 minutes of exercise can combat pain. These bio-chemicals are the body’s natural painkiller, and frequent release of them can help patients reduce their reliance on pain medication.
  • Endorphins can elevate mood and relieve symptoms of depression, a condition common in those with back pain or a back injury.

Here are several types of aerobic exercise that are gentle on the back and, when done on a regular basis, highly effective in providing conditioning.

  • Walking. In general, walking for exercise is very gentle on the back, and walking two to three miles three times per week is very helpful for patients. Walking also has the advantage of not requiring special equipment (except a good pair of shoes suitable for walking) and it can be done inside or outside, in almost any location, including at home on a treadmill.
  • Elliptical trainer or step machine. These machines provide a low-impact workout because the participant is using pedals suspended above the ground to move in a continuous oval motion, as opposed to continuously stepping on a hard surface. The motor on the machine facilitates a smoother step or forward glide motion, which is less jarring than walking. The benefit of these machines is that they provide an aerobic workout as well as strengthening or resistance training because the arms of most cross-training machines can be pushed and pulled, thus working the upper body, and the resistance of the pedaling motion increased to require greater muscle exertion to maintain the movement.
  • Water therapy. Doing exercise in the water provides for effective conditioning while minimizing stress on the back because the buoyancy of water counteracts the gravitational pull that can compress the spine. When ‘unweighted’ in water, a patient becomes more mobile, and stretching and strengthening exercises are less painful. Exercises such as hip abduction lifts, bicep curls, arm circles to exercise deltoids and shoulders, and tricep kickbacks are all easier done water for most people. All these muscles build strength in the low back or neck, and reduce back pain. Water therapy exercise is especially useful for patients in too much pain to tolerate land exercises on a mat or hard floor, or for elderly patients.
  • Stationary bicycling. For those patients who are more comfortable seated rather than standing, biking or stationary biking may be preferable. Bicycling or ‘spinning’ classes have grown in popularity over the last decade as more people realize the benefits of this lower impact form of exercise. There are several upright and recumbent (reclining) bikes that can be purchased for home use, and many come with programs preloaded so that patients have a good variety of sessions from which to choose.Whatever low-impact exercise is used, the exercise should be vigorous enough to increase the heart rate to the target zone (which is scaled to the age of the patient) and keep it elevated. Elevating the heart rate for at least 20 minutes is required to improve cardiovascular strength, burn excess calories, and make noticeable strides in fitness.

Note: If you are experiencing chronic back pain, please seek a specialist. A professional can give you a proper diagnosis and assign the proper physical therapy regimen to alleviate the pain. For more information or to make an appointment with Dr Chambers, please call (304) 263-4927.

Source: Full article and additional links can be seen here http://www.spine-health.com/wellness/exercise/low-impact-aerobic-exercise.

Who’s Got Your Back? Tips to Protect Yourself

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One of the most common pain complaints is back pain. According to the American Chiropractic Association, more than 31 million Americans will suffer from low-back pain at any given time. It one of the most common reasons for missing work. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics in 2012, of the 443,560 cases reported for work related injury, 36% were back-related.

Chiropractic Care
Chiropractic spinal manipulation is a safe and effective back pain treatment. It reduces pain, decreases medication, rapidly advances physical therapy, and requires very few passive forms of treatment, such as bed rest.

Chiropractic is also a great wellness treatment to prevent chronic pain should an injury occur.

Tips for Preventing Back Pain

  • Maintain a healthy diet and weight.
  • Remain active—under the supervision of your doctor of chiropractic.
  • Avoid prolonged inactivity or bed rest.
  • Warm up or stretch before exercising or other physical activities, such as gardening.
  • Maintain proper posture.
  • Wear comfortable, lower-heeled shoes.
  • Sleep on a mattress of medium firmness to minimize any curve in your spine.
  • Lift with your knees, keep the object close to your body, and do not twist when lifting.
  • Quit smoking. Smoking impairs blood flow, resulting in oxygen and nutrient deprivation to spinal tissues.
  • Work with your doctor of chiropractic to ensure that your computer workstation is ergonomically correct.

If you are suffering from back pain, whether from injury or disease, contact a trained chiropractor to learn about your options. For more information about Chambers Chiropractic & Acupuncture, visit our website here.