An Open Letter to our Medical friends.

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In the past year, many trusted medical establishments including the FDA (1), CDC (2), Joint Commission (3,4), JAMA (5), and The American College of Physicians/ Annals of Internal Medicine (6) have encouraged medical providers to prescribe spinal manipulation as a first line treatment for acute, subacute, and chronic low back pain.

Most recently, The Lancet echoed that endorsement, and provided a unique perspective:

The reduced emphasis on pharmacological care recommends nonpharmacological care as the first treatment option and reserves pharmacological care for patients for whom nonpharmacological care has not worked. These guidelines endorse the use of exercise and a range of other non- pharmacological therapies, including massage, spinal manipulation, and acupuncture.

Gaps between evidence and practice exist, with limited use of recommended first- line treatments and inappropriately high use of imaging, rest, opioids, spinal injections, and surgery. Doing more of the same will not reduce back-related disability or its long-term consequences. The advances with the greatest potential are arguably those that align practice with the evidence. (7)

Unfortunately, personal experience skews our perception of each other’s merit, i.e., we primarily see each other’s failures since the successes don’t need to seek additional care. Regardless of our professional degree, we all have failed cases mixed into our many clinical successes. We must not lose sight of the evidence supporting each other’s overwhelming proven value for a given diagnosis. If we judge each other by our successes rather than our failures, we will work toward an integrated model where the patient wins. Together, we will help more patients than either working alone.

We are honored for the opportunity to co-manage your patients.

 

References
1. FDA Education Blueprint for Health Care Providers Involved in the Management or Support of Patients with Pain. May 2017. Accessed on May 12, 2017
2. Dowell D, Haegerich TM, Chou R. CDC Guideline for Prescribing Opioids for Chronic Pain- United States, 2016. MMWR Recomm Rep 2016;65(No. RR-1):1–49.
3. The Official Newsletter of The Joint Commission. Joint Commission Enhances Pain Assessment and Management Requirements for Accredited Hospitals. July 2017 Volume 37 Number 7. Ahead of print in
2018 Comprehensive Accreditation Manual for Hospitals.
4. Joint Commission Online. Revision to Pain Management Standards. http://www.jointcommission.org/assets/1/23/jconline_november_12_14.pdf
5. Paige NM, Miake-Lye IM, Booth MS, et al. Association of Spinal Manipulative Therapy With Clinical Benefit and Harm for Acute Low Back Pain; Systematic Review and Meta-analysis. JAMA. 2017;317(14):1451-1460.
6. Qaseem A, et al. for the Clinical Guidelines Committee of the American College of Physicians. Noninvasive Treatments for Acute, Subacute, and Chronic Low Back Pain: A Clinical Practice Guideline From the American College of Physicians. Ann Intern Med. 2017;166(7):514-530.
7. Foster, Nadine EBuchbinder, Rachelle et al. Prevention and treatment of low back pain: evidence, challenges, and promising directions. The Lancet, Published Online March 21, 2018 http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/ S0140-6736(18)30489-6

Trigger points in the Rectus Abdominis muscle.

The rectus abdominis is you “six pack” muscle. It originates on the pubic bone and inserts on the costal cartilage of ribs 5-7, and the xiphoid process of the sternum. It’s main actions are to flex and rotate the spine, as well as increase the intra-abdominal pressure. Trigger points in this muscle refer pain into the mid and lower back. This muscle is tight in people who slouch and have a posteriorly rotated pelvis. An anteriorly rotated pelvis can be corrected by strengthening this muscle.

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Hip or LB? Which is it?

Technically, the hip is the ball-and-socket joint between the long bone of the thigh and the pelvis; but more often than not, many people will point to a number of different places on their back or pelvis and say, “My hip is killing me” when it’s not really “the hip” at all!
Hip pain can be located in the front (groin area), the side, the back, or in the buttocks. The “classic sign” of hip pain is reproduced most consistently when you try to cross your legs—put your ankle on the far end of the thigh and then push down on your knee. This may feel tight and cause pain in the groin area. For many people, hip pain is also reproduced when they cross their legs and then pull their knee towards the opposite shoulder.
The hip is a VERY strong joint due to the deep receiving cup of the pelvis and the round ball that fits nicely into it. Because it’s a freely moving joint, there is a joint capsule. The capsule is lined with tissue that produces an oily substance that lubricates the joint (called synovial fluid), and when hip pain occurs, this can be caused by a capsulitis (inflammation of the capsule) with a buildup of synovial fluid (called synovitis).
When the smooth, shiny surface of the ball starts to wear thin (which can eventually wear away down to the bone), that’s a condition called “osteoarthritis.” This occurs over time for many and may eventually result in the need for a hip replacement. This usually isn’t needed until an individual is in their late 60s or older (if at all), but for those who injure a hip earlier in life, the “wearing out” process may accelerate and a hip replacement may be needed well before old age.
There are many studies that report low back and hip arthritis often occur together, and differentiating between the two can sometimes be a challenge. For example, pain can radiate from the hip to the knee, which many doctors will diagnose as “sciatic nerve.” But hip pain can present exactly the same, making it hard to determine if it’s low back-generated pain or hip-generated pain.
This is why it’s SO IMPORTANT that your doctor of chiropractic conduct a careful history and examination. There are specific tests that he or she will perform that help determine which of the two is causing the pain. There are times when they may find BOTH problems co-existing together, making it necessary to manage two problems, rather than just one.
There are many mobilization, manipulation, soft tissue therapies, modalities, and exercises available to patients with both hip and low back pain. So if you’re not sure what is bothering you and you don’t know what to do, visit your doctor of chiropractic and he or she will help you through this.

What Is Facet Syndrome?

facet joint

As stated in previous articles, low back pain (LBP) can arise from many different structures. Lumbar facet syndrome is one that involves the facet joint and includes both acute (new) and chronic (old) varieties. The facet joint is synonymous with the zygapophyseal joint, so if you hear that word, don’t let it throw you off! Approximately 45% of patients with chronic low back pain suffer from “facet syndrome” (FS) in which the facets are the low back pain generator.
There are many conditions that give rise to FS. Some of these include the straining of the surrounding joint capsule (the capsule holds the joint securely together), joint hypomobility (reduced motion in the joint), a synovial cyst (similar to a ganglion on the back of the wrist but its located inside the joint), and degeneration (also called osteoarthritis—the wearing out type of arthritis).
Because facet syndrome can accompany other conditions, a doctor of chiropractic must evaluate each patient individually and manage each person appropriately. In “pure” facet syndrome, pain rarely ever passes the level of the knee and does not cause neurological loss (weakness, loss of reflex, etc.). It can create numbness but usually NOT beyond the knee. Pain is usually not worsened by hip movements such as straight leg raise or hip rotation.
The facet joint’s “job” (at least in part) is to limit or guard twisting movements in the upper lumbar/low back region, and the lower lumbar facets are shaped to limit motion when bending forwards and backwards. Facet joints are unique because they are innervated by specific nerves that can be blocked by injecting an anesthetic agent to determine if the facet (and its innervating nerve) is the main source of pain. The surrounding capsule around the facet joint contains mechanoreceptors (cells that detect movement) and nociceptors (cells that detect pain) that fire when the facet joint is compressed/jammed or over-stretched. These nociceptors can become “hypersensitized” (very irritable) when they remain inflamed over time.
In many patients, injury to a facet joint is the result of many microtraumas over a period of time and not one single isolated event. For example, repeatedly bending backwards, twisting, and leaning to one side can stretch the joint capsule and fatigue it until some capsular tissues finally “give” and it inflames which generates pain.
These joints commonly become arthritic with age, which is one reason people over 50-60 years old commonly present with FS. Osteoarthritis results in a narrowing of the joint space and causes a more permanently “jammed” joint. This is one reason many elderly people walk partially bent over—as bending forwards opens the facet joints and “feels good!”
The good news is that chiropractic manipulation is a highly effective treatment for facet syndrome, and most patients feel much better within the first or second week of care (often within three to five visits).

What is causing my LBP?

ResezrchLow 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 chiropractors.
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 doctor of chiropractic determine which treatments may work best to alleviate your pain as well as where such treatments can be focused.

Those “other” causes of back pain

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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 a 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!

10 tricks to help LBP

Fat
Low back pain (LBP) is VERY likely to affect all of us at some point in life. The question is, do you control IT or does IT control you? Here are ten “tricks” for staying in control of “IT!”
1)  STRETCH: When you’re in one position for a long time (like sitting at your desk), SET your cell phone timer to remind yourself to get moving and stretch every 30-60 minutes! Mornings are a great time to stretch.
2)  BE SMART: Do NOT place your computer monitor anywhere other than directly in front of you. Shop carefully for a GOOD supportive office chair that is comfortable and a good fit.
3)  POSTURE: For sitting, sit as upright as comfortably possible keeping your chin tucked in so the head stays back over the shoulders.
4)  SHOE WEAR: Avoid wearing heels greater than one inch high (2.54 cm). A supportive shoe that can be worn COMFORTABLY for several hours is ideal! Generally, the “skimpier” the shoe, the worse the support, so don’t “skimp” on shoe wear!
5)  SMOKING: Carbon monoxide from cigarette smoke competes with oxygen at each cell in the body literally suffocating them, which makes the healing process more difficult.
6)  WEIGHT: Your body mass index (BMI) should be between 18.5 and 25. Search the internet for “BMI Calculator” and plug in your height and weight to figure out yours.  BMI is a reliable indicator of body fatness and a great way to determine where you are at for goal setting.
7)  ANTI-INFLAMMATION: Common over the counter (OTC) medications include ibuprofen and naproxen. However, recent studies show these types of medications (NSAIDS) may delay the healing process. A healthier choice is ginger, turmeric, and bioflavonoids, which are commonly bundled together in a supplement. Eat fresh fruits, veggies, lean meats, and food rich in omega-3 fatty acids. Vitamin D, magnesium, and coenzyme Q10 are also smart choices. AVOID FAST FOOD as they tent to be rich in omega-6 fatty acids, which can promote inflammation.
8)  ICE: This could be included in #7 but deserves its own space. Ice reduces swelling while heat promotes it. Try rotations of ice every 15-20 minutes for about an hour three times a day to “pump” out the swelling!
9)  STAY ACTIVE: Balance rest with physical activity like exercise or simply going for a walk. The most important thing is to move your body around.
10)  STRENGTHEN: Core stabilizing exercises (sit-ups, planks, quadruped) and BALANCE exercises are VERY important!

Where does back pain come from?

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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.