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Can Exercise Prevent Low Back Pain?

5 Nov

While it’s not possible to totally prevent low back pain (LBP), individuals who regularly exercise appear to have a reduced risk for LBP. Additionally, fit adults who develop back pain may experience it less often, at a reduced intensity, and for a shorter duration than those who lead a more sedentary lifestyle.

Which type of exercise is the best? A general rule is to keep trying different activities, starting with those MOST appealing to you. After all, you should enjoy exercise, so start with your favorites: walking (one of the best), walk/run combinations, running/jogging, bicycling, swimming/water aerobics, yoga, Pilates, core strengthening, balance exercises, tennis, basketball, golfing, etc.

Specific exercises for the low back can be individualized by determining your “position preference”, or the position that feels best to your low back. For example, bend forward as if to touch your toes. How does that feel? Do you feel a good stretch or pain? Does it shoot pain down your leg? If it feels good, then that might be your preferred position and the one to emphasize with exercise. Examples of exercises that fit this scenario include (but are not limited to): posterior pelvic tilts (flatten your low back by rocking your pelvis forward); single and double knee to chest; and bending forward from a chair (as if to touch the floor).

If bending backward feels good (better than flexion and especially if the presence of leg pain lessens or disappears), then “extension-biased” exercises fit that scenario. Examples include standing back extensions (place your hands behind the low back and bend backward); prone “press-ups” (lift the chest off the floor while keeping the pelvis down); and laying back-first over a Bosu- or Gym-ball.

Pelvic dysfunction and core weakness can also increase the risk for LBP. Try these exercises: abdominal crunches (bend one knee, place your hands behind your low back, and raise the breast bone toward the ceiling only a few inches and hold); front and side planks (start from the knees if necessary); supine bridges (supine, knees bent, lift the buttocks off the floor); “bird-dog” (kneel on all fours and raise the opposite leg and arm, keep good form, and alternate); and the “dead-bug” (on your back, bend the hips and knees at 90 degrees with your arms reaching toward the ceiling; slowly lower your right arm and left leg and return them to their starting position; repeat with the other arm/leg).

When lifting, bend the knees and hips but NOT your low back; keep weights close to you and lift with your legs. Don’t attempt lifts that you know are too heavy.

If you have a history of low back pain, research shows that receiving maintenance chiropractic care can help reduce the number of days in which low back pain may hinder your activities.

 

This information should not be substituted for medical or chiropractic advice. Any and all healthcare concerns, decisions, and actions must be done through the advice and counsel of a healthcare professional who is familiar with your updated medical history.
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The “Red Flags” of Low Back Pain

15 Oct

Treatment guidelines published around the world note that ruling out “red flags” is a healthcare provider’s number one responsibility, which is in line with the decree exhorted by all healthcare professionals when first entering practice to do no harm. When detected, red flags prompt a doctor to stop and immediately send the patient to the appropriate healthcare provider or emergency department to avoid a catastrophic outcome, which may include death.

The four main red flags cited for low back pain include: cancer, fracture, cauda equine syndrome, and infection. In 1992, Dr. Richard Deyo reported that the patient’s history is more important for identifying red flags than a routine physical exam, especially in the early stages of these conditions. This is partially why new patients need to fill out so much paperwork on their initial visit. These are the factors that suggest red flags when it comes to low back pain:

Cancer: a past history of cancer, unexplained weight loss, failure to improve with a month of therapy, no relief with bed rest, and duration of pain over one month. However, when the combination of age over 50 years, past history of cancer, unexplained weight loss, and failure to improve with one month of therapy exists, the sensitivity or “true-positive” reaches 100%—in other words, IT IS CANCER until proven otherwise!

Cauda equine syndrome: acute onset of urinary retention or overflow incontinence, loss of anal sphincter tone or fecal incontinence, “saddle” anesthesia, and global or progressive motor weakness in the lower limbs.

Infection: prolonged use of corticosteroids (such as organ transplant recipients); intravenous drug use; urinary tract, respiratory tract, or other infection; and immunosuppressant medication and/or condition.

Spinal fracture: history of significant trauma at any age; minor trauma in persons over 50 years of age; patient over 70 years of age with a history of osteoporosis (with or without trauma); and prolonged use of corticosteroids.  A checklist that includes these important historical questions can be easily applied in any practice, which is highly recommended.

All healthcare providers—including chiropractors—managing patients in a primary care setting are obligated to rule out red flags in order to ensure patient safely when rendering treatment for LBP. The good news is that most cases of low back pain aren’t caused by these red flags and respond well to conservative chiropractic care!

This information should not be substituted for medical or chiropractic advice. Any and all healthcare concerns, decisions, and actions must be done through the advice and counsel of a healthcare professional who is familiar with your updated medical history.

Low Back Pain: Is It Your Feet?

6 Sep

The foot and ankle are unique in that their range of motion includes not only the front-to-back, hinge-like motion we associate with walking but also the lateral or side-to-side movement needed to change directions quickly. A problem in the foot can have a “domino effect’ that alters the biomechanics or the ankles, knees, hips, pelvis, low back, and even the neck—potentially increasing the risk of injury in each these areas.

Back in 1995, Rothbart and colleagues reported that hyperpronation—or excessive rolling inwards of the foot and ankle—is a leading cause of pelvic repositioning and mechanical LBP. Just watch people from behind as they walk in a mall, airport, or grocery store and you’ll notice almost everyone’s ankle rolls inwards as they step downward. To maintain proper foot posture, the use of foot orthotics is the most practical approach— coupled with wearing well-fitted, comfortable shoes, of course.

In a 2017 study, researchers recruited 225 adults with chronic LBP (more than three months) and randomly assigned them into one of three treatment groups: shoe orthotic (SO)-only, a “plus” group (SO + chiropractic manipulation/CM), or a waitlist group. The research team measured each participant’s pain and function/disability initially, after six weeks (the length of the treatment period), and then three, six, and twelve months later.

After six weeks, only members in the intervention groups reported any improvement in function. When comparing the waitlist and SO-only groups, the SO-only group demonstrated significantly greater improvements in both pain and function. The researchers also noted that members of the SO+CM group experienced even greater levels of clinically significant functional improvement.

This large-scale study supports the importance of examining the whole patient to identify and treat all factors that may contribute to a patient’s chief complaint.

 

This information should not be substituted for medical or chiropractic advice. Any and all healthcare concerns, decisions, and actions must be done through the advice and counsel of a healthcare professional who is familiar with your updated medical history.

Low Back Pain: What Can I Do for It?

2 Aug

Low back pain (LBP) is the second most common reason for doctor visits in the United States and it is a condition that most of us will at some point in our lives. Last month, we reviewed the wide acceptance of spinal manipulation as the treatment of choice for both acute and chronic LBP.  This month, let’s take a look at what you can do outside the doctor’s office to self-manage acute and chronic low back pain.

One of the best self-management protocols for LBP is exercise that targets the lower back. It appears that the optimal time to engage in exercises for the lower back is during the work day since doing so may help alleviate some of the overuse and repetitive strain contributing to one’s LBP. Let’s focus on exercises you can perform from either a sitting or standing position during short work breaks…

RULES: Perform slowly to a full/firm stretch without pain; take three slow deep breaths for each; only do exercises that “fit” your job and time limits—this might be only one every fifteen minutes; make it work!

SITTING EXERCISES: 1) Sitting Forward Bends – bend forward and reach for the floor (as far as reasonably tolerated). 2) Sitting trunk rotations – twist slowly left, then right. 3) Cross Leg Stretch – cross one leg over the other; grasp and pull the crossed leg knee to the opposite shoulder while arching the back to its maximum until a firm stretch is felt in the buttocks.

STANDING EXERCISES: 1) Hamstring Stretch – place one foot on an elevated surface (like a chair seat, foot stool, or guard rail); perform an anterior pelvic tilt by arching your low back until you feel a firm stretch in the hamstrings. Switch sides and repeat. 2) Groin Stretch – do exactly the same steps as the hamstring stretch but this time, rotate your trunk to the side of the standing leg (away from the stretched leg) until you feel the stretch in the inner thigh or groin muscles. 3) Backward Bends – place your fists behind your low back and slowly bend backwards to a maximum tolerated point.

These “portable” exercises can be performed frequently throughout the work day, whenever you can spare 30-60 seconds. The most important point is to do these exercises on a regular basis. It may help keep your LBP from worsening during your workday.

 

This information should not be substituted for medical or chiropractic advice. Any and all healthcare concerns, decisions, and actions must be done through the advice and counsel of a healthcare professional who is familiar with your updated medical history.

Low Back Pain: Spinal Manipulation vs. NSAIDs

2 Jul

Low back pain (LBP) is the single greatest cause of disability worldwide and the second most common reason for doctor visits. Overall, LBP costs society more than $100 billion annually when factoring in lost wages, reduced productivity, and legal and insurance overhead expenses.

Studies regarding the use of spinal manipulation(SM)—a form of treatment offered by doctors of chiropractic—for LBP are plentiful and have led to the strong recommendation that SM should be considered as a FIRST course of care for LBP. The American College of Physicians and the American Pain Society both recommend SM for patients with LBP who don’t improve with self-care.

In 2010, the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) reported that SM is an effective treatment option for LBP – EQUALLY effective as medication in reducing LBP and neck pain.

A 2013 study compared SM and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and found that SM was MORE effective than diclofenac, a commonly prescribed NSAID, for the treatment of LBP. Patients in the SM group also reported NO adverse side effects. More importantly, a 2015 study found that NSAID use can actually slow the healing process and even accelerate osteoarthritis and joint deterioration!

Doctors of chiropractic utilize SM as many conditions, including LBP— more than any other healthcare profession including osteopathy, physical therapy, medical doctors, and others. Chiropractors also combine other synergistic forms of care, such as patient-specific exercise training, to help patients learn how to self-manage their LBP, as recurrence is such a common issue.

This information should not be substituted for medical or chiropractic advice. Any and all healthcare concerns, decisions, and actions must be done through the advice and counsel of a healthcare professional who is familiar with your updated medical history.

Low Back Pain: Who Will Respond Best to Care?

4 Jun

Is it possible to identify which low back pain patients might experience the most benefit from spinal manipulation combined with exercise? In a 2011 study, researchers identified which patients might respond best to this combination of care and which patients might need a more aggressive approach.

Directional preference (DP) describes a situation in which it feels better for the patient to move in one direction versus another. For example, if a patient feels worse bending forwards (which is quite common) and feels better bending backwards, then “extension-biased exercises” are preferred.

If leg pain is present, the DP that reduces or eliminates the leg pain (called centralization, or CEN) is the exercise-biased direction, and it’s important to avoid any exercise that increases leg pain (peripheralization).

In the study, which involved 584 patients with low back pain, the researchers found that 60% of the participants had a DP and of those patients, 60% had CEN. The researchers found that the patients with a DP that reduced CEN responded the best to care (in this case, spinal manipulation combined with exercise) in regards to improved pain and function. On the other hand, the patients who had no DP experienced the least overall improvement.

The value of using a classification system like this allows a doctor of chiropractic to determine which exercises will help each individual LBP patient the most.  It also provides them with the ability to identify those most likely to respond favorably and those patients who may need a more comprehensive treatment.

So, if you feel best bending backwards and/or leg pain lessens, the preferred exercises include bending backwards (extension) from standing, prone press-ups (“saggy” push-ups) or hugging a gym ball, and/or extending your back over a gym ball or a stack of large pillows. Of course, there are many additional exercises but ANY position that reduces LBP and/or leg pain will help.

This information should not be substituted for medical or chiropractic advice. Any and all healthcare concerns, decisions, and actions must be done through the advice and counsel of a healthcare professional who is familiar with your updated medical history.