By Dennis Lopez, D.C., Faculty Clinician, Palmer Chiropractic Clinics
If you’ve ever had neck pain or low back pain then you know that it can vary in duration and intensity. Some people have minor aches that subside after a few days of rest, while others have severe or chronic back pain. Whether the neck and back pain comes from an injury or feels like it just started one morning, you want relief.
Chiropractic is a proven and effective treatment for musculoskeletal conditions including neck and low back pain. Millions of people suffer from neck and low back pain every year and they seek several different types of treatment. Chiropractic offers an alternative that has been proven safe and effective without the use of drugs or surgery.
Chiropractic uses orthopedic and neurological exams to develop an individualized care plan based on each patient’s needs. During the examination, the doctor will discover any decreased range of motion with or without pain. The neurological exams help the doctor to find any loss of function, sensation or numbness. After determining the cause of a patient’s low back pain, chiropractors can instruct and guide each patient through a plan that includes chiropractic techniques or co-management with a specialist or physical therapist. The chiropractic profession has numerous techniques that offer different approaches for neck and back pain patients.
Pain is often the first symptom a patient notices, but what most patients don’t know is that neck and back pain starts with muscle imbalances that lead to dysfunction of the spinal joints. Spinal dysfunction can lead to greater conditions such as a herniated disc or degeneration of the vertebral bones of the spine. Pain can occur at any point during this cycle, but it isn’t uncommon to start having pain after a more serious condition has developed. Chiropractic looks to treat and prevent the underlying causes of neck and back pain through specific adjustments of the spinal bones.
During a specific chiropractic adjustment there may be a release of nitrogen gas when a spinal joint is gapped. This “pop” or “crack” is a normal response to chiropractic adjustments.
In the early 1960s, James Cox. D.C., developed a technique that combines chiropractic principles and osteopathic principles by Allan Stoddard, D.O. The Cox Technic uses a specially designed chiropractic table that performs specific flexion and traction of the spine. This technique decompresses the spine and restores motion to the vertebral joints.
There are many ways to treat neck pain and back pain, from low force instrument adjustments to
mechanically assisted adjustments with a drop tables or the flexion-traction table for individuals
who are concerned about the” pop” or “crack.” Chiropractic is a safe and effective option in
today’s health care environment.
The ABCs of Preventing Low Back Pain
By Misty Stick, D.C., Faculty Clinician, Palmer Chiropractic Clinics
It has been estimated that between 70-85 percent of U.S. adults suffer from back pain at some point in their lives, and it’s one of the most common reasons for visiting a health care professional. Chiropractic is a proven treatment option for relief of low back pain. Along with chiropractic adjustments to provide relief, doctors of chiropractic consider factors that may affect your overall health as well as your back pain, including exercise, nutrition, workplace ergonomics, sleep habits, environment and heredity. Here are some tips to help improve posture and ward off unwanted aches and pains.
Low heeled, comfortable shoes-High heels can cause the low back to curve inward more than necessary, adding strain to the low back muscles.
Own the right equipment-Do you sit a lot at work? Chairs should be appropriate height for the job you are doing and should swivel.
Watch what you eat-Keeping the excess pounds off will keep stress off the low back.
Bend at the knees for proper lifting-Keep the object close to your body and keep your back straight as you lift straight up.
Activity-Regular exercise can keep all of the muscles of the body strong and healthy.
Core muscles-Weak stomach muscles cause poor posture and result in the low back muscles having to pick up the slack, leading to low back pain and strain.
Keep it loose-Whether you are an avid exerciser or a couch potato, your low back can benefit greatly from gentle daily stretching of the low back.
Put it out- Are you a smoker? If so, put it out. Smoking can lead to degeneration of the spinal discs by cutting off vital oxygen supply.
Avoid bed rest-When your low back hurts, bed rest is no longer recommended as it can actually make the problem worse! Get up and take short walks often to keep the structures moving.
Invest in good sleep- Get the right mattress for your back. Sleeping on too hard or too soft of a mattress can lead to low back pain
Never ignore the pain-Low back pain could be a simple ache or a sign that something else is wrong. See a chiropractor for evaluation and treatment of your low back pain.
Is there anything better than a massage? It just plain feels good. But at the same time, it can be a very effective treatment for muscle and joint pain. The effects of massage therapy are both physiological and psychological. Massage therapy can increase circulation and flexibility, promote relaxation, and decrease stress. The purpose of massage therapy is to maintain, rehabilitate, or augment physical function or to relieve pain.1
Massage may be even more important today because we don’t really have a lot of physical touch in our society. In a world of emails, instant messaging, and cell phones, we spend less time in physical contact with people. This could be related to an increase in stress and depression in our society.
Human touch alone sets off a release of hormones under the skin that make us feel happier and better. Think of a time when you were patted on the back for a job well done, or received a hug from a loved one or friend. Touch feels good. The receptionist in my clinic often remarks how the massage clients are always so happy and relaxed when they are finished their treatments.
Humans have probably been performing massage since the dawn of time. We rub a sore muscle when it hurts. It’s an instinctive practice to massage our own sore muscles or to get someone else to rub our backs when we feel tension. Clients often remark that the self-massage and stretches that I teach them are very similar to what they had already been doing by themselves. The fact that massage is an intuitive reaction to muscle pain is a testimonial that massage therapy is a natural, safe and effective way to treat soft tissue pain.
Although there are claims that date back to 2500 B.C., one of the earliest documented references to massage comes from a Chinese medical book dated 1000 B.C. Other texts consist of works by Hippocrates (460-375 B.C.) and Galen (129-199 B.C.). There are stories of Kings and Queens using massage to relax as well as massage being used in WWI field hospitals. Today’s North American version of massage therapy is based on Swedish techniques, but also combines the practices of many ancient cultures. Despite its well-storied history, the massage industry is still considered a growing one in Canada. It is estimated that 35% of the population in Ontario uses massage therapy.2
In Ontario, Massage Therapists or Registered Massage Therapists are regulated under the College of Massage Therapists of Ontario (CMTO). The CMTO is a government body that protects the public and the therapists by setting quality and safety standards that all members must adhere to. Only members of the CMTO are permitted to use the title Massage Therapist or Registered Massage Therapist and use the letters MT or RMT with their names. When you see one of these titles, you can be confident that you are getting a highly trained professional. If they don’t use the MT or RMT name, they are not a registered massage therapist. Also, if you intend to use your extended health benefits, the therapist must be registered with the CMTO.
Massage therapists have completed a 2-3 years diploma program from a recognized massage therapy school before passing a provincial exam and are required to further their study with continuing education courses as part of the Quality Assurance Program of the CMTO. Through their schooling, they study the types of massage, the effects on various health conditions and how to treat them. They also study how to assess a client’s condition and focus heavily on related sciences that include the study of illnesses and diseases. One of the most important applications of the education is to know whether or not massage therapy is actually indicated for a client. There are many conditions in which massage may not be safe or recommended. The massage therapist’s ultimate goal must be to deliver a safe and effective treatment.
Clients often ask prior to treatment if it will be painful. The truth is that most of the techniques used are not supposed to be painful. There are a few manoeuvres where pain cannot be avoided, but these are only used when they are called for. That being said, it is not uncommon to see a client whose muscles are so tender that even light to moderate pressure can cause discomfort. In this case, the therapist must modify the pressure applied. The therapist should always work within the pain tolerance of the client and always check with the client to make sure the pressure is okay; especially when applying a technique that will be more likely to be painful or over an area that the therapist suspects may be sensitive to pain. If you experience discomfort during your massage, it is your right and responsibility to alert the therapist that you are not comfortable with what is happening. It’s your body, you are in control.
When you go to see a massage therapist, he or she will take a health history, ask several questions to try and determine what the problem could be, determine if you have any contraindications, or if any modifications need to be made during the treatment. The therapist will then perform an assessment. This could be as simple as asking you to perform simple movements progressing to more complex tests that are designed to pinpoint the specific reason for the pain. The purpose of this is to try and determine the root cause of the symptoms that you are experiencing.
Quite often, pain in one part of the body can be caused by something in a completely different area: for example, a client came to me who was seeing a physiotherapist for wrist pain. The physiotherapist was treating the wrist, but with no success. During the health history interview, I asked him many specific questions about his pain. I realized when he was describing his symptoms that the source may have been referred pain from a muscle in the shoulder. By applying a simple trigger point therapy to the suspected muscle, his pain completely disappeared – in one treatment. Needless to say, he is now a loyal client.
Once the therapist has formulated a clinical impression, he will discuss a treatment plan and obtain consent from you before starting the treatment. The therapy you receive will vary greatly from therapist to therapist. This will depend on what other modalities the therapist has studied and the experience that he has with treating that particular condition. Therapists will tend to incorporate techniques from all of the complementary modalities that they have studied. There is really no wrong way, and what works for one client may not work for another. Therapists are diverse, intuitive people who can and do use several approaches to the same problem.
People often ask how many treatments they will need. There is really no specific answer to this question. Remember the client with the wrist problem? His symptoms disappeared after the first treatment; however, most people require multiple treatments. I usually tell my clients that they should attend for a few weeks in a row and then we’ll reassess the situation and go from there. Some conditions will take longer to heal, such as a sprain. Ultimately, your body will tell you what to do. If it starts to feel better, you can cut back on your treatments. If it is still hurting, you probably need to keep going. As long as you are progressing towards a favourable outcome, the treatment plan will continue to be implemented. There are times when a treatment has been ineffective. It is important for you to communicate this to the therapist so that he can modify the approach to treatment. Each case is unique and the goal is to return you back to a state of pain-free living.
Do you need a massage? Pay attention to your body and it will tell you. Do you have any joint or muscle pain or tightness anywhere? Do you feel stressed out, or have trouble relaxing or sleeping? Do you have some type of injury or illness affecting your muscles or joints? Do you work at a computer? Practically anyone can benefit from massage therapy, even if it’s just to help you relax. If you are not sure, call a massage therapist, tell him your situation, and get some advice. Ask your doctor or another health professional. Ask someone you know who may have already used massage therapy. By choosing to see a registered massage therapist, you are choosing a trained health professional, but more importantly, you are choosing to be proactive about your health, and that is never a bad choice.
A small new study excuses us all from the guilt: Massage therapy isn’t just a way to relax, it’s also a way to alleviate muscle soreness after exercise and improve blood flow, according to the recent research.
Other benefits of massage have long been touted, but research is usually limited. Still, we think there are some pretty good reasons to book an appointment ASAP.
Massage can reduce pain.
A 2011 study found that massage helped people with low back pain to feel and function better, compared to people who didn’t get a rubdown. That’s good news for the eight in 10 Americans who will experience debilitating back pain at least once in their lives, reported.
“We found the benefits of massage are about as strong as those reported for other effective treatments: medications, acupuncture, exercise and yoga,” Dan Cherkin, Ph.D., lead author of the study, said in a press release.
Massage also seems to lessen pain among people with osteoarthritis.
It can help you sleep.
The calming treatment can also help you spend more time asleep, according to research from Miami University’s Touch Research Institute. “Massage helps people spend more time in deep sleep, the restorative stage in which your body barely moves,” the Institute’s founder Tiffany Field, Ph.D., told More magazine in 2012.
In one study of people with fibromyalgia, 30-minute massages three times a week for five weeks resulted in nearly an hour more of sleep, plus deeper sleep, she said.
Massage may ward off colds.
There’s a small body of research that suggests massages boost immune function. A 2010 study, believed to be the largest study on massage’s effects on the immune system, found that 45 minutes of Swedish massage resulted in significant changes in white blood cells and lymphocytes, which help protect the body from bugs and germs.
It could make you more alert.
At least one study has linked massage to better brainpower. In a 1996 study, a group of adults completed a series of math problems faster and with more accuracy after a 15-minute chair massage than a group of adults who were told to just sit in a chair and relax during those 15 minutes.
Massage may ease cancer treatment.
Among patients receiving care for cancer, studies have noted multiple benefits of massage, including improved relaxation, sleep and immune system function as well as decreased fatigue, pain, anxiety and nausea.
It may alleviate depression symptoms.
A 2010 review of the existing studies examining massage in people with depression found that all 17 pieces of research noted positive effects. However, the authors recommended additional research into standardizing massage as treatment and the populations who would most benefit from it.
Massage could help with headaches.
The power of touch seems to help limit headache pain. A 2002 study found that massage therapy reduced the frequency of chronic tension headaches. And in a very small 2012 study, 10 male patients with migraine headaches noted significant pain reduction after neck and upper back massage and manipulation. You may even be able to reap the benefits without seeing a professional: Start by applying gentle pressure with your fingertips to your temples, then move them in a circular motion along the hairline until they meet in the middle of your forehead, WebMD reported.
The stress reduction is scientific.
Between the dim lights, soothing music and healing touch, it certainly feels like stress melts away during a massage, but research suggests a very literal reduction of cortisol, a major stress hormone. Chronically high levels of cortisol can contribute to serious health issues, like high blood pressure and blood sugar, suppressed immune system function and obesity.