Most of us have suffered from back pain at one time or another. It often occurs after over-doing a physical task, like fall yard work, winter snow shoveling, working on the car, cleaning the house, and so on. But there are times when identifying the cause of back pain can be difficult or impossible. Let’s take a deeper look at where back pain can come from…
Though activity-related back pain is common, many times a direct link to over-use is not clear. Micro-traumatic events can accumulate and become painful when a certain threshold is exceeded. (Think of the old adage “The straw that broke the camel’s back.”)
There are other less well-identified causes of back pain. One is called referred pain. This can be caused by an irritated joint or soft tissue not necessarily located in the immediate area of the perceived pain. For example, pain in the leg can result from an injured facet joint, sacroiliac joint, and/or a disk tear (without nerve root pinch). This is called “sclertogenous pain.”
Internal organs can also cause back pain. This is called a “viscerosomatic response” (VSR). A classic example of this is when the right shoulder blade seems to be the source of pain when the gall bladder is inflamed. This pain can be located at or below the scapula next to the spine and the muscles in the area are in spasm and sensitive or painful to the touch. Also, VSR is often not worsened or changed by bending in different directions (unlike musculoskeletal / MSK pain). Without further testing, it’s easy to confuse this with a MSK or a “typical” back ache. Ultimately, a final diagnosis may require an abdominal ultrasound (CT, MRI scan, and other diagnostics are less frequently used).
Visceral pathology in the back pain patient presenting to chiropractors is reportedly rare, and according to one survey, only 5.3% of patients present with non-musculoskeletal complaints. Other common VSR pain patterns are as follows: Heart – left chest to left arm, mid-upper back, left jaw; Liver – right upper shoulder (front and back), right middle to low back, and just below the sternum; Appendix – right lower abdomen (may start as stomach pain); Small intestine – either side of the umbilicus and/or between it and the breast bone; Kidney – small of the back, upper tailbone, and/or groin area; Bladder – just above the pubic bone and/or bilateral buttocks; Ovaries – groin and/or umbilical area; and Colon – mid-abdominal and/or lower quadrants.
Another challenge to diagnosis is cancer in the spine, which can be primary or metastatic (from a different location). Thankfully, this is very rare. A history of unexplained weight loss, a past history of cancer, over age 50, nighttime sleep interruptions, and no response to usual back care may lead a doctor to recommend tests to determine if cancer is present in the spine.
Bottom line: When patients present with back pain, chiropractors have been trained to look for these less common but important causes of back pain. They get “suspicious” when the “usual” orthopedic tests do not convey the usual responses seen with mechanical back pain. In these cases, they work with primary care doctors to coordinate care to obtain prompt diagnostic testing and treatment.
We realize you have a choice in whom you consider for your health care provision and we sincerely appreciate your trust in choosing our service for those needs. If you, a friend, or family member requires care for back pain, we would be honored to render our services.
Headaches come in several different sizes, shapes, and colors, so to speak. In fact, if you search “headache classification,” you will find the IHS (International Headache Society) 152-page manual (PDF) lists MANY different types of headaches! Last month, we discussed migraine headaches. This month, we’ll talk about the other headache types. So WHY is this important? Very simply, if we know the type of headache you have, we will be able to provide you with the proper treatment.
Headaches are classified into two main groups: “primary” and “secondary” headaches. The “Primary” headache list includes: 1) Migraine; 2) Tension-type; 3) Cluster; 4) “Other primary headaches,” of which eight are listed. One might think that with this simple breakdown of the different types of headaches it should be easy to diagnose a type of headache. Unfortunately, that’s NOT true! In fact, a 2004 study published that 80% of people with a recent history of either self- or doctor-diagnosed sinus headache had NO signs of sinus infection and actually met the criteria for migraine headaches! So, the more we can learn about the different types of headaches, the more likely that we will arrive at an accurate diagnosis.
Tension-Type Headaches: This is the most common type affecting between 30-78% of the general population. It is usually described as a constant ache or pressure either around the head, in the temples, or the back of the head and/or neck. There is typically NO nausea/vomiting, and tension-type headaches rarely stop you from performing normal activities. These headaches usually respond well to chiropractic adjustments and to over-the-counter pain relief medications, though we’d prefer you first reach for an anti-inflammatory herb like ginger, turmeric, bioflavonoid, and the like as these have less stomach, liver, and/or kidney related side-effects. These headaches are typically caused by contraction of the neck and scalp muscles, which can be result of stress, trauma, lack of sleep, eyestrain, and more.
Cluster Headaches: These are less common, typically affect men more than women, and occur in groups or cycles. These are VERY DISABLING and usually arise suddenly and create severe, debilitating pain usually on only one side of the head. Other characteristics include: a watery eye, sinus congestion, or runny nose on the same side of the face as the headache. An “attack” often includes restlessness and difficulty finding a pain-reducing, comfortable position. There is no known cause of cluster headaches, though a genetic or hereditary link has been proposed. The good news is that chiropractic adjustments can reduce the intensity, frequency, and duration of cluster headaches!
Sinus Headaches: Sinusitis (inflamed sinuses) can be due to allergies or an infection that results in a headache. This may or may not include a fever, but the main distinguishing feature here is pain over the infected sinus. There are four sets of sinuses. Many people know about the frontal (above the eyes on the forehead) and maxillary (under the eyes in our cheeks) but the two sinuses deep in head (ethmoid and sphenoid sinuses) are much less known or talked about. These two deep sinuses refer pain to the back of the head, and when infected, it feels like the back of the head could explode. Lying flat is too painful so sitting up is necessary. Chiropractic adjustments applied to the sinuses, upper neck, and lymphatic drainage techniques work GREAT in these cases!
Content Courtesy of Chiro-Trust.org. All Rights Reserved.
Let’s first look at the anatomy of the neck in order to better understand the structures of the cervical spine that can generate pain.
Starting at the back of the spine, the facet joints allow us to move our neck and head in all directions, and each facet joint is surrounded by a joint capsule that is rich with nerve endings and when swollen, can generate pain both locally and radiating.
One study of volunteers with existing neck pain looked at the various pathways that pain travels when investigators injected each individual facet joint capsule with normal saline solution. Interestingly, the subjects felt pain in parts of the body other than just the neck. For example, injecting the C6 facet joint capsule consistently reproduced radiating pain down the arm into the thumb side of the forearm and hand, similar to when a disk herniates and a nerve root is pinched. The primary difference was that a deep aching pain occurred in this area, as opposed to a more geographically well-defined pathway when a disk ruptures and pinches a specific nerve root.
The intervertebral disks are small shock absorbers that lie between each vertebral body. These disks are sort of like a jelly doughnut, which can sometimes leak out and pinch a nerve root producing pain (as well as numbness, tingling, and even weakness) that radiates along the course of the nerve.
Poor posture is perhaps one of the most common causes of neck pain. The muscles in the chest tend to be stronger than those in the upper back and pull the shoulders forward resulting in forward head carriage with protracted shoulders. For each inch of forward head shift, an additional ten pounds is added to the weight of the head, which already weights around ten to twelve pounds. Hence, a five-inch forward head carriage places an additional 50 pound load on the upper back and neck just to hold the head upright!
Doctors of chiropractic are trained to identify these faulty postures and track down the pain generator(s) when a patients presents with neck pain. Through patient education, spinal manipulation, mobilization, exercise training, modalities, and more, chiropractors can greatly help those struggling with neck pain!
Content Courtesy of Chiro-Trust.org. All Rights Reserved.
Have you ever had neck or back pain and considered Chiropractic but feared you’d be required to commit to a long term plan?
You are not alone.
Even though there is plenty of research backing up Chiropractic, some patients just can’t afford the time or expense of long-term, corrective care.
That is why we now offer “pay per visit” Chiropractic for your neck pain or back pain.
This means you can call and come in on the same day and provided that there are no contraindications, get exactly what you want; an adjustment without pressure to keep coming back over and over again.
As a matter of fact, this mainstream approach is featured on www.Chiro-Trust.org… one of the most visited online back pain information websites in the country.
So, if you, your spouse, or a friend is complaining of aches and pains,
rest assured that you can come in and get the care you want and can afford.
Give us a call at 772-286-5277. We’ll take good care of you.
Between 80% and 90% of the general population will experience an episode of lower back pain (LBP) at least once during their lives. When it affects the young to middle-aged, we often use the term “non-specific LBP” to describe the condition. The geriatric population suffers from the “aging effects” of the spine—things like degenerative joint disease, degenerative disk disease, and spinal stenosis. Fractures caused by osteoporosis can also result in back pain.
The “good news” is that there are rare times when your doctor must consider a serious cause of LBP. That’s why he or she will ask about or check the following during your initial consultation: 1) Have you had bowel or bladder control problems? (This is to make sure a patient doesn’t have “cauda equina syndrome”—a very severely pinched nerve.) 2) Take a patient’s temperature and ask about any recent urinary or respiratory tract infections to rule out spinal infections. 3) To rule out cancer, a doctor may ask about a family or personal history of cancer, recent unexplained weight loss, LBP that won’t go away with time, or sleep interruptions that are out of the ordinary. 4) To rule out fractures, a doctor may also take x-rays if a patient is over age 70 regardless of trauma due to osteoporosis, over age 50 with minor trauma, and at any age with major trauma.
Once our Stuart, Fl doctor of chiropractic can rule out the “dangerous” causes of LBP, the “KEY” form of treatment is giving reassurance that LBP is manageable and advise LBP sufferers of ALL ages (especially the elderly) to KEEP MOVING! Of course, the speed at which we move depends on many things—first is safety, but perhaps more importantly is to NOT BECOME AFRAID to do things! As we age, we gradually fall out of shape and end up blaming our age for the inability to do simple normal activities. Regardless of age, we must GRADUALLY increase our activities to avoid the trap of sedentary habits resulting in deconditioning followed “fear avoidant behavior!”
Here are a few “surprising” reasons your back may be “killing you”: 1) You’re feeling down – That’s right, having “the blues” and more serious mood disorders, like depression, can make it more difficult to cope with pain. Also, depression often reduces the drive to exercise, may disturb sleep, and can affect dietary decisions—all of which are LBP contributors. 2) Your phone – Poor posture caused by holding a phone between your bent head and shoulder (get a headset!) or prolonged mobile phone use can increase your risk for spinal pain. 3) Your feet hurt, which makes you walk with an altered gait pattern, forcing compensatory movements up the “kinetic chain” leading to LBP. 4) Core muscle weakness, especially if you add to that a “pendulous abdomen” from being overweight—this is a recipe for disaster for LBP. 5) Tight short muscles such as hamstrings, hip rotator muscles, and/or tight hip joint capsules are common problems that contribute to LBP. Stretching exercises can REALLY help!
In 2016, researchers at Curtin University in Perth examined the seated posture and health data of 1,108 17-year olds in an effort to determine if any particular posture increased the risk of headaches/neck pain among late adolescents.
Among four posture subgroups—upright, intermediate, slumped thorax, and forward head—the researchers observed the following: participants who were slumped in their thoracic spine (mid-back region) and had their head forward when they sat were at higher odds of having mild, moderate, or severe depression; participants classified as having a more upright posture exercised more frequently, females were more likely to sit more upright than males; those who were overweight were more likely to sit with a forward neck posture; and taller people were more likely to sit upright.
While they found biopsychosocial factors like exercise frequency, depression, and body mass index (BMI) ARE associated with headaches and neck pain, their data did not suggest any one particular posture increased the risk of neck pain or headaches more than any other posture among the teenagers involved in the study.
This is noteworthy as studies with adults do indicate the risk for neck pain and headaches is greater in individuals with poor neck posture. In particular, postures such as forward head carriage, pinching a phone between the ear and shoulder, and prolonged neck/head rotation outside of neutral can all increase the risk of cervical disorders. This suggests that in younger bodies, the cause of neck pain and headaches may be multi-factoral and not limited to just poor posture and that treatment must address all issues that may increase one’s risk for neck pain/headaches in order to reach a desired outcome.
The good news is that chiropractic has long embraced the biopsychosocial model of healthcare, looking at ALL factors that affect back and neck pain and quality of life. Through patient education, spinal manipulation, mobilization, exercise training, the use of modalities, and more, chiropractors can greatly help those struggling with neck pain and headaches!
Content Courtesy of Chiro-Trust.org. All Rights Reserved.
Low back pain (LBP) can arise from disks, nerves, joints, and the surrounding soft tissues. To simplify the task of determining “What is causing my LBP?” the Quebec Task Force recommends that LBP be divided into three main categories: 1) Mechanical LBP; 2) Nerve root related back pain; and 3) Pathology or fracture. We will address the first two, as they are most commonly managed by our chiropractor at Coastal Medical and Wellness Center.
Making the proper diagnosis points your doctor in the right direction regarding treatment. It avoids time wasted by treating an unrelated condition, which runs the risk of increased chances of a poor and/or prolonged recovery. Low back pain is no exception! The “correct” diagnosis allows treatment to be focused and specific so that it will yield the best results.
Mechanical low back pain is the most commonly seen type of back pain, and it encompasses pain that arises from sprains, strains, facet and sacroiliac (SI) syndromes, and more. The main difference between this and nerve root-related LBP is the ABSENCE of a pinched nerve. Hence, pain typically does NOT radiate, and if it does, it rarely goes beyond the knee and normally does not cause weakness in the leg.
The mechanism of injury for both types of LBP can occur when a person does too much, maintains an awkward position for too long, or over bends, lifts, and/or twists. However, LBP can also occur “insidiously” or for seemingly no reason at all. However, in most cases, if one thinks hard enough, they can identify an event or a series of “micro-traumas” extending back in time that may be the “cause” of their current low back pain issues.
Nerve root-related LBP is less common but it is often more severe—as the pain associated with a pinched nerve is often very sharp, can radiate down a leg often to the foot, and cause numbness, tingling, and muscle weakness. The location of the weakness depends on which nerve is pinched. Think of the nerve as a wire to a light and the switch of the nerve is located in the back where it exits the spine. When the switch is turned on (the nerve is pinched), and the “light” turns on—possibly in the outer foot, middle foot, inner foot, or front, back or side of the thigh. In fact, there are seven nerves that innervate or “run” into our leg, so usually, a very specific location “lights up” in the limb.
Determining the cause of your low back pain helps your Stuart, FL Doctor of Chiropractic determine which treatments may work best to alleviate your pain as well as where such treatments can be focused.
Headaches (HA) play a significant role in a person’s quality of life and are one of the most common complaints that our Stuart FL chiropractor sees. This comes as no surprise, as one survey reported 16.6% of adults (18 years and older) suffered from migraines or other severe headaches during the last three months of 2011. Another study reported that head pain was the fifth LEADING CAUSE of emergency department (ED) visits in the United States and accounted for 1.2% of all outpatient visits. These statistics are even worse for females (18-44 years old), where the three-month occurrence rate was 26.1% and the third leading cause for ED visits! Because of the significant potential side effects of medications, many headache sufferers turn to non-medication treatment approaches, of which chiropractic is one of the most commonly utilized forms of “complementary and alternative approaches” in the management of tension-type headaches. So, why are headaches so common? Let’s talk about posture!
Posture plays a KEY ROLE in the onset and persistence of cervicogenic (originate in the neck) headaches. If there is such a thing as “perfect posture,” it might “look” something like this: viewing a person from the front (starting at the feet), the feet would flair slightly outwards symmetrically, the medial longitudinal (inside) arch of the feet would allow enough space for an index finger to creep under to the first joint (and NOT flat like so many), the ankles would line up with the shin bones (and NOT roll inwards), the knees would slightly “knock” inwards and hips would line up squarely with the pelvis. The shoulders would be level, the arms would hang freely and not be pronated (rolled) inwards, and head would be level (not tilted). From the side view, the knees would not be hyperextended nor flexed, the shoulders would not be forward (protracted) and MOST IMPORTANT (at least for headaches), the head would NOT be forward and be able to have a perpendicular line drawn from the floor through the shoulder, as this line should pass through the outer opening of the ear. As the head “translates” or shifts forwards, for every inch of “anterior head translation” (AHT), it essentially gains 10 pounds in weight, which the upper back and neck muscles have to counter balance!
A leading University of California medical author, Dr. Rene Calliet, wrote that this altered posture can add up to 30 pounds of abnormal weight to the neck and can “…pull the entire spine out of alignment.” It can also reduce the lung’s vital capacity by 30%, which can contribute to all sorts of breathing-impaired health problems! Think of carrying a 30-pound watermelon around your neck all day—the muscle pain from fatigue would be tremendous! If this is left uncorrected, chronic neck pain and headaches from pinching off the top three nerves in the neck is likely. The combination of AHT and shoulder protraction may also lead to the development of an upper thoracic “hump” and potentially into a “Dowager Hump” if the mid back vertebrae become compressed (wedged). An increased rate of mortality of 1.44 is reportedly associated with this faulty posture!
Between chiropractic adjustments, posture retraining exercises, other postural corrective care, and strength exercise training, your doctor of chiropractic WILL help you correct your faulty posture so that neck pain and headaches STOP and don’t progress into a chronic, permanent condition.
Content Courtesy of Chiro-Trust.org. All Rights Reserved.
For patients with chronic low back pain (cLBP), treatment guidelines recommend a non-surgical approach as the FIRST-LINE treatment. Ideally, the goal would be to avoid an initial surgery unless it’s absolutely indicated. That means, unless there is loss of bowel or bladder control or retention (which represents a medical emergency) or if there is progressive neurological motor and sensory loss, one can safely avoid surgery and conservatively manage the condition.
Interestingly enough, a systematic review of the results from three randomized controlled studies carried out in Norway and the United Kingdom found the outcomes or results between the surgical fusion vs. non-surgical treatment of patients with cLBP showed NO DIFFERENCE at an 11-year follow-up!
Studies have shown chiropractic to be highly beneficial for acute and chronic low back pain cases. In one study, researchers reviewed data on 72,326 cLBP patients in the Medicare system who received one of four possible treatment combinations between 2006 and 2012: 1) chiropractic only; 2) chiropractic followed by conventional medical care (CMC); 3) CMC followed by chiropractic; 4) CMC alone.
The research team found that chiropractic care alone (group 1) resulted in the lowest costs, and these patients had lower rates of back surgery and shorter episodes of care.
The group receiving CMC alone (group 4) had the highest costs, with the second and third groups being similar—both costing less and being more effective than CMC alone.
The conclusion of the study reads, “These findings support initial CMT [chiropractic manipulative therapy] use in the treatment of, and possibly broader chiropractic management of, older multiply-comorbid cLBP patients.”
Can Chiropractic Help The Post Surgical Patient
Low back pain (LBP) accounts for over 3 million emergency department visits per year in the United States alone. Worldwide, LBP affects approximately 84% of the general population, so eventually almost EVERYONE will have lower back pain that requires treatment! There is evidence dating back to the early Roman and Greek eras that indicates back pain was also very prevalent, and that really hasn’t changed. Some feel it’s because we are bipedal (walk on two legs) rather than quadrupedal (walk on four limbs). When comparing the two, degenerative disk disease and spinal osteoarthritis are postponed in the four-legged species by approximately two (equivalent) decades. But regardless of the reason, back pain is “the rule,” NOT the exception when it comes to patient visits to chiropractors and medical doctors. Previously, we looked at the surgical rate of low back pain by comparing patients who initially went to spinal surgeons vs. to chiropractors, and we were amazed! Remember?
Approximately 43% of workers who first saw a surgeon had surgery compared to ONLY 1.5% of those who first saw a chiropractor! So, the questions this month are: How successful IS spinal surgery? What about all those patients who have had surgery but still have problems – can chiropractic still help them?
A review of the literature published in the Journal of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons showed that in most cases of degenerative disk disease (DDD), non-surgical approaches (like chiropractic care) are the most effective treatment choice. They report the success rate of spinal fusions for DDD is only 50-60%. The advent of artificial disks, which originally proposed to be a “cure” for symptomatic disk disease, has fared no better with possible worse long-term problems that are not yet fully understood. The authors of the review wrote, “Surgery should be the last option, but too often patients think of surgery as a cure-all and are eager to embark on it… Also, surgeons should pay close attention to the list of contraindications, and recommend surgery only for those patients who are truly likely to benefit from it.” Another study reported that, when followed for ten years following artificial disk surgery, a similar 40% of the patients treated failed and had a second surgery within three years! Similar findings are reported for post-surgical spinal stenosis as well as other spinal conditions.
So what about the success rate of chiropractic management for patients who have had low back surgery? In a 2012 article, three patients who had prior lumbar spinal fusions at least two years previous were treated with spinal manipulation (three treatments over three consecutive days) followed by rehabilitation for eight weeks. At the completion of care, all three (100%) had clinical improvement that were still maintained a year later. Another study reported 32 cases of post-surgical low back pain patients undergoing chiropractic care resulted in an average drop in pain from 6.4/10 to 2.3/10 (that means pain was reduced by 4.1 points out of 10 or 64%). An even larger drop was reported when dividing up those who had a combination of spinal surgeries (diskectomy, fusion, and/or laminectomy) with a pain drop of 5.7 out of 10 points!
Typically, spinal surgery SHOULD be the last resort, but we now know that is not always practiced. IF a patient has had more than one surgery and still has pain, the term “failed back syndrome” is applied and carries many symptoms and disability. Again, to NOT utilize chiropractic post-surgically seems almost as foolish as not utilizing it pre-surgically!
Cliff Atwell, B.S., D.C.