Saturday, August 28, 2010

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Is Back Pain Caused By A Lack Of Exercise?

Many people seem to want to know if you can just exercise lower back pain away. Is it only about exercise? That is, did you end up with lower back pain due to a lack of exercise? Or could it be something else?

Your back pain is not necessarily caused by a lack of exercise, but it's probably a good place to start looking. When I ask patients if they exercise, most are still saying "no." Those that do exercise tend to stick with the same machine or routine for their entire program. (And almost none of their "routine" exercises focus on improving their back muscles.)

So on one hand, we have those that don't exercise and have lower back pain. It's easy to take a guess and see that their spine is having problems due to a lack of muscular support. While their spine may need more work at this point (check with your healthcare professional), eventually they'll exercise lower back pain away by creating a muscular back support around their spine with regular exercise.

Those that do exercise, but are not performing a variety of movements are causing a different problem; muscular imbalance. They are likely only developing certain muscle groups while largely ignoring others. Worse, they may be performing activities that are alarmingly similar to what they already do all day.

They are strengthening muscles that are already overworked (muscles in the front of the body) and not strengthening muscles that are typically ignored (back muscles). This is a standard recipe for developing lower back pain problems and should be avoided.

Overall, maintaining a variety of activities that includes exercises to enhance cardiovascular health, strengthening and stretching will help exercise lower back pain away for good. The same formula works for almost everyone. First, due some exercise regularly. Next, make sure you take some time to strengthen your back muscles (especially if you already know you need it!).

Friday, April 9, 2010

Can Chiropractic Help Neck Pain?

Your neck consists of seven very small vertebrae and supports the entire weight of your head. The average weight of the human head is 10 to 12 pounds, which isn't very light when you consider the neck is constantly supporting it!

Add in how much neck strain is incurred when you sit for long periods in front of the computer and you steadily increase the amount of work and strain you are expecting of your neck.

The neck also allows your head in nearly all directions which adds even more stress to your neck. With all of this responsibility, the neck is subject a great deal of stress, which often results in chronic pain and stiffness.

Once neck pain has been persistent for any period of time, you may begin to develop neurological symptoms. These may include numbness, tingling, or a "pins and needles" feeling. Usually these complaints are in the neck at all, but can be felt in the fingertips or up and down the arm.

If you begin to experience any of the neurological symptoms, this is usually an indicator that the neck problem is becoming worse. The early phase of pain is just stiffness, then it moves to real pain that can be sharp in nature. The pain will continue to get worse until the radiating symptoms begin.

Many people have neck pain and it is often extremely bothersome. Medical doctors cannot do a whole lot to permanently relieve neck pain. They can prescribe medications to mask your neck pain and they can do x-rays and other tests to see where the pain is coming from.

When they do find something wrong with the neck they will probably want to schedule surgery, which can prove to be a painful procedure with a long recovery. Surgery, while sometimes necessary, really should be considered a treatment of last resort. You can always do the surgery, but if you do the surgery first, you eliminate many other effective and conservative options.

If you have neck pain it may be wise to consult with a chiropractor before going to the extent of something much more serious such as surgery. Some of the first things that a chiropractor will do on your first visit will be to ask you questions about your neck pain.

Some questions they may ask are:

- When did your neck pain start
- What have you done to try to ease your neck pain
- Are there any other parts of your body that your neck pain stems to or from?

These are a few questions that your Chiropractor will most likely ask. After the initial consultation they will then perform a physical examination. The examination will consist of chiropractic tests, orthopedic tests, and a neurological examination.

This entire process will allow the chiropractor to get to the root of your problem and allow him or her to come up with a solution to your pain.

A common practice of chiropractors is to perform a neck adjustment. A neck adjustment is a form of spinal manipulation, and is very specific in nature. This is a very precise technique and is usually very effective in alleviating neck pain.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Does Chiropractic Help With Shoulder Pain?

Chiropractors are known for their abilities in helping people with neck and back pain. The most common reason why someone even considers seeing a chiropractor is for back pain, specifically low back pain. Research and studies and the general consensus is that we can help in this area. What about shoulder pain? Is there anything a chiropractor can do to help shoulder pain?

You can certainly have a chiropractor take a look at and evaluate your shoulder problem. While the spine is most commonly adjusted, the chiropractic adjustment can be performed at any joint. A joint is anywhere two bones meet. In the case of the shoulder, we’ll be looking at three different areas; the clavicle (collarbone), the humerus (upper arm), and the scapula (the shoulder blade).

Any of these joints can move out of their normal position with extended use in the wrong way. Stress and poor posture in the upper back can lead the shoulder blade to become stuck and fixated in the wrong position. The chiropractor can adjust this area and work with the muscles to get things moving again.

The same principles apply to the humerus and the clavicle. There are certain movements in which each bone will take on a more primary role. The chiropractor can feel with his hand if the right areas are moving or not. If the joint is not moving, this means it is likely not functioning correctly. This is where the chiropractor’s expertise can be of most use.

The first evaluation of the shoulder is really to see if any of the muscles, ligaments, or tendons have torn. Depending on the severity of the tear, you may need an immediate referral for an MRI and a visit to an orthopedic specialist. You don’t want someone moving your bones around if you have a tear, and the chiropractor doesn’t want to do that either.

If you haven’t had any trauma to the shoulder joint and the pain has just come on gradually over the years. The chiropractor can take a look and provide adjustments and work to the muscles that can make a world of difference.

How Much Do Your Activities Cause Your Pain?

Uh oh, it’s happened again. You can feel the initial “twinge.” That is, you can feel the early warning sign that you low back pain problem is about to come back again. You knew you should have been keeping up with your chiropractic visits and the exercises your doctor gave you, but you just haven’t done it.

You feel great most of the time, but you’ve learned that when you get this feeling, things are about to go downhill…fast. Sometimes you get off easy, just a few over-the-counter remedies and you can get back to work. Sometimes you’re going to be spending the weekend putting ice on your back and waiting for the doctor to open up first thing Monday morning.

Worse case is that you’ll spend the next couple of weeks trying to get yourself back to feeling not just pain-free, but to the point where you don’t feel like things are about to go bad at any point. That’s the worse feeling.

So it’s somewhere in one of these episodes that you begin to ask yourself, “Why does this keep happening? Is it something I’m doing or not doing?” Most of the time, the answer is “yes!” Now, our bodies are not made out of concrete, and no one can make sure that your back pain will never, ever return again. However, there’s plenty that you can do to keep the episodes at bay and keep from feeling bad more often than not.

Let’s not even get into some of the preventative measures like regular chiropractic care. Let’s just realize that your daily activities are usually what is contributing to your problem. If you sit all day on the computer, then get in your car and sit, and then go home and sit, and then go to sleep and do the whole thing all over again… you’re going to have problems.

Some people will do some exercises, but that seems to be primarily made up of sit-ups, walking, and riding their bike. None of these activities will strengthen the spine to any noticeable degree. Certainly nothing that is going to keep that “feeling” from coming back again. Your normal daily activities have a focus on actions that occur in front of you with almost no engaging of the back muscles for anything other than keeping you upright.

If you’re going to keep a back problem away, you’re going to need to strengthen your back. Taking some time out to follow your doctor’s recommendations and perform some regular activity for the sake of your spine will go a long way in keeping things together. Keep the weight down, the stress away, some regular general exercise, and some regular exercise focused on strengthening your spine and you should do okay.

Just Do One Thing At A Time.

If you’ve started to notice that your health is declining and it’s time to do something about it, you’re probably wondering where to start. You know you don’t feel good, you know you’re not doing enough healthy things for yourself, but it can all be a bit overwhelming. Even if your primary goal is to drop a few pounds and just feel better… which action should you take first?

One school of thought is to take massive action. This is certainly a good thing and has helped many overcome great obstacles. Taking massive action should lead to massive results. However, when it comes to changing your health, which massive action should you take? Go and buy every vitamin in the store? Run laps around your block until your legs won’t move? Schedule appointments with a chiropractor, personal trainer, massage therapist, and psychologist?

My suggestion is to take massive action… on one thing at a time. Pick something. It doesn’t have to be anything other than something that will move you closer to a long term goal of being healthy. To me, that would mean that I’m an appropriate weight, I’m generally free of pain, I have lots of energy, and my moods are pretty consistent in a positive way.

The major categories are going to be eating better and exercise.

Eating right can start with eliminating the things that you know are bad for you that you regularly eat. Too many sodas? Trips to the vending machine? Double frappacinos with whip? Something just popped into your head and you know it’s been slowing leading to a decline in your health. Pick one and let it go.

Bring your lunch to work a couple of days per week or find something healthy that you can eat at least once per day. Start taking a decent multi-vitamin if you’re not doing so already and drink a lot more water. Just do something healthy.

Once you’ve got this habit formed and are starting to feel pretty good about your results, time to reassess and eliminate something bad and add in something good. Keep this up until you get where you want to go.

What about exercise? I have to admit, doing this regularly is not always the easiest thing for me. I say it’s about spending the time and effort, but I think it’s more about not spending the time finding something that I really enjoy doing. You don’t have to start an exercise program by planning to run a marathon (unless that helps you get motivated).

Walking 1 mile and running 1 mile burn about the same amount of calories since it takes longer to walk that same distance. Find ways to walk more, even if it just means parking your car further away from the building at work. You can do it, but you have to start somewhere and that means taking action towards your goal.

You can get healthy, really! It’s possible for those that are willing to make the effort. If your health has declined to such a degree that you need professionals to help you heal and feel better, then by all means do that too. Take massive action… just do it on one thing a time.