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Can Chiropractic Help Dysmenorrhea?

7 Mar

Primary dysmenorrhea (PD) is a very common gynecological disorder affecting 84.1% of women during childbearing age. The most common symptoms of PD include lower abdominal pain that can radiate to both thighs and/or to the low back. Other symptoms include tiredness, headache, nausea, constipation, and diarrhea. The condition precedes menstruation (in the absence of any organic pathology) and lasts approximately 48-72 hours. Primary dysmenorrhea is the most common reason for absenteeism from work or school, thus interfering with quality of daily life, which is associated with many direct and indirect costs.

There have been MANY proposed interventions for PD reported in the scientific literature. Most common are non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and oral contraceptives, as both work similarly—they affect the cause of pelvic pain, which is reportedly mediated by the hormone-like fatty acid called prostaglandin factor 2x. However, both approaches carry negative side effects such as bleeding in the gut and hormone issues such as bloating and edema, respectively. Thus, the demand for new and alternative approaches with less associated risks has increased.

Spinal manipulative (SM) techniques for PD has been previously studied and proven to have positive benefits on pain perception and menstrual cramps, as well as affecting plasma (blood) levels of some chemical pain mediators. However, there appears to be a lack of agreement on where spinal manipulation should be applied. One study recommended that SM should be applied to the lumbosacral region (L5-S1) for symptom reduction in dysmenorrhea.

A more recent study found that “global pelvic manipulation” (GPM) performed on both sides of the pelvis to mobilize the sacroiliac joint (SIJ) and L5-S1 facet joint resulted in improvements related to low back pain and pressure pain thresholds in the SIJ, with a significant increase in serotonin.

Doctors of chiropractic specialize in the use of spinal manipulation therapy and are trained in many different techniques of lumbo-pelvic manipulation. For those struggling with PD, including a chiropractor as a member in your healthcare “team” makes perfect sense!

 

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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What is the Best Treatment for Chronic Low Back Pain?

7 Feb

When it comes to treating patients with chronic low back pain (cLBP), doctors of chiropractic commonly use a multi-modal approach that involves manual therapies, like spinal manipulation and mobilization, combined with supervised and/or home-based exercises. Why is that?

In many cases, the superficial paraspinal muscles of patients with back pain will tighten as a reflex in an effort to restrict movement and protect the area from further injury. Unfortunately, such a restriction can result in altered movement patterns that raise the risk for further injury (and pain) elsewhere in the lower back (or even in other areas of the body). On top of that, because the superficial back muscles have abnormally assumed the job of maintaining posture, the deep muscles in the back can become deconditioned and weak, which only raises the risk for further back issues.

So, when it comes to chronic back pain, the job of a chiropractor is two-fold: restore proper joint motion to “turn off” this abnormal reflex muscle spasm and to strengthen the deep muscles so the superficial muscles can return to their normal function.

In a 2011 study, researchers randomly assigned 301 cLBP patients (adults over 65 years old with a five or more year history of chronic low back pain) to one of three treatment groups: supervised exercise therapy (SET); spinal manipulative therapy (SMT), or home exercise and advice (HEA).

Researchers monitored each participant’s progress for over a year and found that members of each group achieved similar short- and long-term improvements with respect to pain, disability, global improvement, general health status, and medication use. Though the patients in the SET group experienced greater gains with respect to trunk muscle strength, endurance, and range of motion in comparison with the home-based exercise group, the difference in results is understandable as the SET protocol was much more intensive.

Though this study did not specifically look at the effect of combining exercise and spinal manipulation for the treatment of cLBP, several guidelines that have looked at the available evidence recommend using such a multi-pronged approach for this group of patients. For example, in 2018, the Canadian Chiropractic Guideline Initiative wrote, “A multimodal approach including SMT, other commonly used active interventions, self-management advice, and exercise is an effective treatment strategy for acute and chronic back pain, with or without leg pain.”

 

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.

A Less Obvious Cause of Back Pain?

3 Jan

Multiple studies have shown that hyper-pronation (HP), or too much rolling-inwards of the ankle, can have effects on the body far beyond the foot. For example, abnormal motion of the ankle can lead to slight changes in how the knees and pelvis move as you carry out your normal daily activities, placing added strain on these structures and increasing the risk of injury in both the short and long term. These faulty movement patterns can also lead to improper motion and a higher risk for injury above the hips, including in the lower back.

In one study that involved patients with low back pain (LBP), researchers found that improving both ankle pronation (with foot orthotics) and lower limb weakness (with exercise) resulted in improvements in knee, hip, and low back function.

Foot orthotics often include a lateral heel wedge to correct the rolling-in effect of the ankle. One study measured the effects that a 5º heel wedge had on the lower limb up to the thorax, noting significant 3-dimensional kinematic changes occurred on the hip, pelvis, and thorax. However, over-correction (at 10º), had detrimental effects on proper motion elsewhere in the body, which underscores the importance of getting an accurate prescription when fitting foot orthotics. Likewise, other studies have demonstrated that a forefoot orthotic may also be required to ensure proper biomechanics while walking.

A study that included 213 high school and college cross country runners (107 male, 106 female) found that 37 (17.4%) wore foot orthotics. Of the 37 orthotic users, 17 (54.8%) wore them for exercise-related leg pain, of which 15 of the 17 reported benefits. Another study compared the load on the Achilles tendon during running both with and without foot orthotics and reported that running with foot orthotics was associated with significant reductions in Achilles tendon loading compared to running without orthotics.

These studies clearly support the MANY benefits foot orthotics have on the whole body or structure, which facilitate both the short- and long-term management of conditions like low back pain! Doctors of chiropractic frequently fit foot orthotics for lower extremity complaints, as well as LBP.

 

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.

Back Pain: Does Maintenance Care Work?

3 Dec

Non-specific low back pain (nsLBP) is one of the most common and costly healthcare problems affecting society, and it is also the leading cause of activity limitation and work absence around the world.

Following a course of treatment to reduce pain and improve function for patients with a musculoskeletal complaint—such as back pain—doctors of chiropractic commonly make recommendations to reduce the risk of a future episode (or at least minimize its severity should one occur). These recommendations may include adopting a fitness routine, dietary modifications, specific exercises, foot orthotics, and/or routine “maintenance” chiropractic adjustments, such as once a month or every six weeks.

Though further research is necessary to more clearly understand precisely how maintenance care (MC) works to reduce the risk of future episodes of back pain, researchers currently hypothesize that such treatments may improve any biomechanical or neuromuscular dysfunctions before they become symptomatic.

Studies published in both 2004 and 2011 note that patients with chronic low back pain who received maintenance care for nine months reported less pain and disability than participants who did not receiving ongoing care.

In a 2018 study that included 328 nsLBP patients, researchers found that those who received ongoing maintenance care following their initial course of treatment experienced 12.8 fewer days with LBP over the following year. Compared with patients who were advised to return for further care on an as-needed basis, the participants in the MC group only made an average of 1.7 additional chiropractic visits during the study.

The authors of this study concluded, “For selected patients with recurrent or persistent non-specific LBP who respond well to an initial course of chiropractic care, MC should be considered an option for tertiary prevention.”

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.

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.

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.