All Posts tagged pain

Backpack Use Leads to Chronic Back Pain

schoolkids-2I was watching a morning news show over Labor Day weekend and they quoted a study that 60 percent of children complain of back pain from their backpacks, some of which continue to have back problems long after they stopped carrying the packs.  Back pain is pervasive among American adults, but now it’s becoming disturbingly more prevalent among young children.  More and more children are suffering from back pain much earlier than previous generations, and the use of overweight backpacks is a contributing factor.  In fact, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission reports that backpack-related injuries sent more than 21,000 people to the emergency room, doctor’s offices, and clinics in 2003 alone.

This new back pain trend among youngsters isn’t surprising when you consider the disproportionate amounts of weight they carry in their backpacks – often slung over just one shoulder.   In many cases these students are carrying 30-40% of their body weight.  In fact, studies being conducted in France show that the longer a child wears a backpack, the longer it takes for a curvature or deformity of the spine to correct itself.  Ultimately, what needs to be considered is whether the deformity will ever return to normal.   

The results of these types of studies are especially important as more and more school districts are not letting their students keep their books in lockers, forcing the students to carry their books with them all day long.  The problem has become so widespread, in fact, that the California State Assembly passed legislation that would force school districts to develop ways of reducing the weight of students’ backpacks. Similar legislation is being considered in New Jersey as well.  

In our next blog post we will discuss what can be done to help prevent pain from using a backpack.

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The Primary Causes of Low Back Pain

Acute pain in a woman backHaving treated many cases of low back pain over the years, I have heard lots of explanations of how their back pain began.  I have heard everything from falling down stairs to sleeping on a bad mattress to sneezing.  But at the end of the day, most cases of low back pain originate from only 5 causes. 

1. An acute accident or injury.  For this type of case the diagnosis is typically very straightforward. A slip and fall, muscle strain, vehicle accident, sprain from lifting or similar event often causes immediate pain or pain within 24 hours of the event.

2. Sub-acute accident or injury. This type of case can be a little more difficult because the patient cannot often recall a specific reason for the pain.  It usually stems from a mild injury that went unnoticed by the patient sometime before the pain began. 

3. Chronic pain from ongoing mechanical stress. An example of this type of problem might be a patient that has a desk job that involves hours of sitting each day. Even if they have ergonomic furniture, the prolonged sitting causes back pain.

4. Degenerative discs or joints. These conditions can affect a wide range of patients. This is usually the result of disc and joint deterioration as a result of an injury long ago. Or in some cases, a patient is simply more prone to early spinal degeneration as a result of genetics.

Degenerative joint conditions often develop silently for years and are not revealed until the patient realizes that their back pain is getting worse over time.  Degenerative disc processes also include bulging or herniated discs that can result in pinched nerves.

5. Other disease processes such as arthritis. Although patients are often told that their condition is the result of “arthritis”, but in many cases patients with degenerative disc conditions are misdiagnosed as having arthritis. 

Effective treatment for back pain is dependent on getting the diagnosis right.

If the pain is solely the result of a recent injury or tight muscles, rest and cold packs may be effective.

Many doctors will prescribe pain killers. However, for conditions that have been present for more than a few days, these drugs are likely to bring about temporary relief at best. When the pills wear off, the pain returns. That is because the underlying condition that is causing the pain is not being addressed.

If a patient fails to respond to the first round of drugs, another more powerful selection might be offered. Physical therapy may also be recommended. Physical therapists usually provide treatments such as ultrasound or electric stimulation. These therapies can be helpful for many patients. In addition the patients will often be taught how to do specific exercises at home. This is beneficial for many patients.

If a patient has a disc injury, they may be referred to a spinal surgeon. In extreme cases spinal surgery may be the only reasonable solution. However, spinal surgery necessarily damages healthy tissue while gaining access to the damaged tissue, and should be considered a last resort.

Often patients choose to bypass the traditional medical route and seek alternative solutions for their back pain. Preferred options may include massage, acupuncture and chiropractic care.

Chiropractors are spinal specialists. Chiropractic training includes more time spent studying spinal function in detail than any other medical provider. It make sense that chiropractors will typically have successful treatments for a wide range of spinal issues.

Spinal manipulation is one of the most familiar treatments offered by chiropractors. Many people are surprised to learn that chiropractic care involves much more than spinal manipulation. In our office for example, we provide detailed examinations, therapies such as electrical stimulation, rehab training in corrective exercises, an incredibly wide range of manipulative procedures including very gentle approaches.

Regardless of the cause for back pain, there is likely an effective treatment available. The key is matching the treatment to the correct diagnosis.

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Chiropractic Treatment of Upper Back Pain

Most of us spend a good deal of our time on computers, tablets, smart phones or other such devices.  In our free time, to get away from technology, we may craft, do woodworking, read a good book or workout.  We live and work in a world that sets us up for having poor posture.  A lot of the time our heads jut forward, our shoulders are rolled forward, and our spines are hunched back.  This puts a lot of stress on the muscles and joints of the upper back (also known as the thoracic spine). 

While the neck and lower back are designed more for mobility, the thoracic spine is designed to be very strong and stable to allow us to stand upright and to protect the vital internal organs of the chest. Because this section of the spine has a great deal of stability and limited movement, it generally is not injured as often as the other areas of the spine.  With that being said, postural stress on a daily basis tends to have a cumulative effect.  Over time, persistent poor posture can put compressive loads on the upper thoracic vertebrae which can lead to the development of an Upper Thoracic Hump, which can devolve into a Dowager Hump if the vertebrae develop compression fractures.  Ultimately, this can put stress on your internal organs and even lead to a decrease in lung capacity.  In fact, a recent study found that this “hyperkyphotic posture”, as it is called, was associated with a 1.44 greater rate of mortality in seniors.

As chiropractors, we can help correct these problems before they become permanent.  Chiropractors specialize in reversing the lack of normal movement in joints and restoring normal muscle balance.  Postural issues, such as what I have been describing, lead to tightening of some muscles and weakening of others.  The muscles in between your shoulder blades can become like over-used rubber bands.  Through the use of exercises and other therapies, normal muscle balance and joint function can be restored.  So if you are experiencing upper back pain, you may want to consult a chiropractor.

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Chiropractic Treatment of Neck Pain or Stiffness

In this world of high stress, long hours spent in front of the computer, and busy days, it seems like everyone has experienced some form of neck and shoulder pain/stiffness.  The good news is there is an answer to your pain.  Chiropractic is one of the most commonly used treatments for neck and shoulder pain.  Stress or bad posture cause the muscles in your neck and upper back to get tight.  Those muscles are the major muscles that attach to your cervical spine (your neck) and are responsible for moving your head and neck.  When those muscles are tight, the vertebrae in your cervical spine cannot move normally.  As a result, you start to develop pain and stiffness in your neck. Through chiropractic adjustments, normal motion can be restored to your neck.  This, in turn, helps to relax the tight muscles and eliminate the pain.  The doctor can also recommend simple exercises and stretches that will help to speed up the recovery process and return your posture and muscles to normal. These can be done long after treatment has stopped to prevent future flare-ups of neck pain.

Signs that you may need treatment for your neck pain include:

  • decreased range of motion (can’t turn far enough to look back when driving)
  • aching in the upper shoulder region
  • aching below the skull at the top of your neck
  • frequent headaches
  • forward head carriage (head protrudes forward from the body)
  • neck pain

If you have been suffering from neck and shoulder pain and want relief, you may want to consider seeing a chiropractor.  Chiropractic treatment for the cervical spine (neck) is both safe and effective.

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Chiropractic Treatment of Low Back Pain and Sciatica

Low back pain is one of the leading reasons why people seek chiropractic care. Numerous research studies have found that chiropractic care is one of the most effective forms of treating low back pain.  In 1990, the British Medical Research Council performed a 10-year government study finding that chiropractic care was twice as effective as medical care for the long-term relief from low back pain.  In 1991, an exhaustive study of chiropractic was conducted by neurologists, medical orthopedists, and chiropractors on behalf of the RAND Corporation, an internationally recognized non-profit research organization.  They found that spinal manipulation (as used by chiropractors) to be an effective and appropriate treatment for low back disorders. These researchers discovered that patients treated by manipulation improved significantly faster as compared to those treated by medical care or having no treatment at all.

So how exactly does chiropractic relieve back pain and sciatica (pain shooting down the back of the leg)?  Your lumbar spine (your low back) and pelvis are made up of a number of different bones.  Your lumbar spine is composed of vertebrae that sit on top of each other and are separated by a spongy material called discs.  Your pelvis is composed of your sacrum (your tailbone) and 2 pelvic bones that attach on either side of your sacrum.  Chiropractors believe that abnormal stress put on the spine and pelvic bones can cause those bones to become stuck in an abnormal position.  This can cause pressure to be put on the nerves in the low back causing the symptom of sciatica.  When the bones in the low back become out of their natural alignment, their joints cannot move the way they normally should.  As a result, muscle spasm, pain, and inflammation can develop in the area. By restoring the spinal vertebrae and pelvic bones to their normal position and motion through the use of chiropractic adjustments, pressure is released from the spinal nerves and the pain, inflammation, and muscle spasms decrease.

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