Wednesday, August 27, 2014
Headaches are a common complaint at chiropractic clinics. There are many causes of headaches, some of which are “idiopathic” or, unknown. Some headaches arise from “vascular” (blood vessels) causes such as migraine and cluster headaches. These often include nausea and/or vomiting and can be quite disabling and require rest in a dark, quiet place sometimes for a half or a whole day. Another type of headaches can be categorized as “tension” headaches. These usually result from tightness in the muscles in the neck and upper back caused from stress, work, lack of sleep, sinusitis, trauma such as whiplash, and others.
So “how does chiropractic work?” To answer this, let’s first discuss what we do when the headache patient comes in. First, the history is very important! Here, we’ll ask “how/when did the headaches start. This may glean the actual cause of headaches such as a car accident or injury of some sort.
Next, we’ll ask about activities that increase or create the headache, which gives us ideas of how we might help manage the headache patient. For example, when certain activities precipitate the onset of a headache, we will modify the work station and/or give specific exercises on a regular schedule to keep the neck tension under control. When information gathered about what decreases or helps the neck pain and headaches, we will recommend treatments often that can be done at home such as a home traction unit. This would be suggested if we are told that “…pulling on my neck feels great!” The quality of pain (throbbing = vascular, ache and tightness = neck), intensity of pain (0-10 pain scale), and timing (worse in the morning vs. evening) help us track change after treatment is rendered, usually gathered once a month.
The examination includes blood pressure which can in itself create headaches when high, looking in the eyes to view the blood vessels in the back of the eye to make sure there is no evidence of increased pressure against the brain, ears – to see if there is an infection or wax blockage. This can help if there is dizziness and/or balance loss. We will sometimes listen to the throat as well as the heart to see if there may be a blockage, a valve problem, or other issues. Neck muscle tightness (spasm) will be evaluated along with the range of motion, paying particular attention to the positions/directions that increases and decreases pain, especially those that decrease pain. Nerve function by checking reflexes, sensation and muscle strength as well as correlating information like positions that decrease arm or leg pain will be included as any position that reduces pain in the arm or leg must be incorporated into an exercise. X-rays may include bending “stress” views so that ligaments (that hold bones together) can be evaluated for “laxity” (torn and unstable). When this is found, we avoid adjustments to these vertebrae.
As you can see, if is very important do a thorough evaluation so headache patients can be properly managed. Treatment approaches include: 1. Adjustments; 2. Soft tissue therapy (trigger point stimulation, myofascial release); 3. Posture correction exercises and other exercises; 4. Education about job modifications; 5. Co-management with other health care providers, if medication or injection therapy is needed.
Wednesday, August 13, 2014
This question has plagued all of us, including researchers for a long time! Could it be because we’re all inherently lazy and don’t exercise enough? Or maybe it’s because we have a job that’s too demanding on our back? To properly address this question, here are some interesting facts:
1. The prevalence of low back pain (LBP) is common, as 70-85% of ALL PEOPLE have back pain that requires treatment of some sort at some time in life.
2. On a yearly basis, the annual prevalence of back pain averages 30% and once you have back pain, the likelihood of recurrence is high.
3. Back pain is the most common cause of activity limitation in people less than 45 years of age.
4. Back pain is the 2nd most frequent reason for physician visits, the 5th ranking reason for hospital admissions, and is the 3rd most common cause for surgical procedures.
5. About 2% of the US workforce receives compensation for back injuries annually.
6. Similar statistics exist for other countries, including the UK and Sweden.
So, what are the common links as to why back pain is so common? One reason has to do with the biomechanics of the biped – that is, the two legged animal. When compared to the 4-legged species, the vertically loaded spine carries more weight in the low back, shows disk and joint deterioration and/or arthritis much sooner, and we overload the back more frequently because, well, we can! We have 2 free arms to lift and carry items that often weigh way too much for our back to be able to safely handle. We also lift and carry using poor technique. Another reason is anatomical as the blood supply to our disks is poor at best, and becomes virtually non-existent after age 30. That makes healing of disk tears or cracks nearly impossible. Risk factors for increased back injury include heavy manual lifting requirements, poor or low control of the work environment, and prior incidence of low back pain.
Other risk factors include psychosocial issues such as fear of injury, beliefs that pain means one should not work, beliefs that treatment or time will not help resolve a back episode, the inability to control the condition, high anxiety and/or depression levels, and more. Because there are so many reasons back problems exist, since the early 1990’s, it has been strongly encouraged that we as health care providers utilize a “biopsychosocial model” of managing those suffering with low back pain, which requires not only treatment but proper patient education putting to rest unnecessary fears about back pain.