Introducing our Back to Basics series

 

This is the first in a series of videos that we will be posting to introduce you to some simple spine-sparing strategies. These are designed to be used by those who are recovering from back pain, neck pain, headaches, or other ailments. In reality, though, these are basic skills to be used to form a foundation for a healthy spine and pain-free living.

The first step in the recovery process and one of my first goals when I first meet with a patient is to identify what is causing the pain. Sometimes it is a traumatic injury, other times it is due to repetitive stress, but no matter what the cause, your body needs the best chance it can get to heal correctly. In order to facilitate that, you need to learn which movements and positions to avoid  and which ones to adopt to take stress off of injured joints and tissues. I like using this explanation: Pretend your back injury has a scab, and try to avoid “picking” at that scab so that it can heal as quickly as possible. To avoid picking the scab, it is important to be able to learn how to maintain a “neutral” spinal alignment as you perform certain movements during your daily activities. As you well know if you have thrown your back out, even the simplest of movements can be extremely challenging .

The first basic movement covered in this video is getting into and out of a chair. This is perhaps the most common complaint I get from people with low back pain – that it hurts when getting up out of a chair. To make this movement less threatening, it is important to “preserve the curve.” In other words, don’t lose track of that little backwards curve in the small of your back. If you let it flatten out or flex it forward, that’s when you get into trouble. As the video shows, scoot forward to the edge of your seat, and stand straight up when getting out of the chair, and reverse the process when sitting down.

Stay tuned for more basic spine care tips from Dr. Kip Thompson at Catalyst Chiropractic and Rehabilitation. If you are reading this because you are in pain, don’t hesitate to contact us to schedule your first assessment with Dr. Thompson.

Quick posture fixes

As a chiropractor in Beaverton, Oregon, I see patients all day long with sedentary desk jobs. Without exception, all of them would agree that their posture has something to do with their back pain. I am very sensitive to negative self talk and try to encourage my patients that it isn’t all their fault and there is something they can do about it.

Contrary to popular belief, having good posture isn’t just about sitting up straight all day long. In fact according to Pr. Stuart McGill, a leading spine researcher, even sitting in an upright position that we would consider a “good posture” can be taxing on the spine if it is done for prolonged periods of time (see “Ultimate Back Fitness and Performance”) . His suggestion is to vary your posture throughout the day so that different muscles and spinal joints are stressed at different times to more evenly distribute the cumulative stress that prolonged sitting (or standing) places on your back.

Various seated postures both good and bad
Any of these postures are acceptable, as long as they are not sustained for too long, although the one on the right is not advisable.
(Photo source and license info)
 

Another strategy to decrease stress on the spine is to increase your back’s capacity to bear the burden of repetitive stress. A sedentary lifestyle and prolonged stationary postures will sap the strength of the muscles in your back and abdomen (your “core”), effectively leaving your spine with no support other than tissues called ligaments to keep it from buckling. If ligaments have to support the spine for too long, they will become stretched out and then they can be both a source of pain themselves or leave your back unstable and susceptible to injury. For a quick, easy way to break the monotony of sitting all day, try using the follow stretch intermittently throughout the day. This is called Brugger’s relief posture and can be done at any type of workstation. I also included a simple strengthening exercise to help you start to increase your capacity to deal with repetitive postural stress.

 

 

For additional core exercises, I would suggest starting with McGill’s “Big 3” exercises for core strength and low back stability, seen in the following video (plus an extra one called “Stir the Pot”). These exercises are simple, don’t take much time, and will give you a great bang for your back…I mean buck.

 

 

Research update – Chiropractic care for spinal stenosis

Stenosis research summary

Stenosis is a word that a lot of people have heard of and might even relate it to some sort of spinal condition, but it is not often well understood. In short, the word stenosis means “narrowing.” In the lumbar spine, it implies the narrowing of a canal where either the spinal cord itself runs or where the spinal nerve exits the spine to travel down into the leg. The canals that these neural structures run through can become narrowed either by overgrowth of the bone that makes up the canal or by a nearby bulging disc. It is not the stenosis itself that causes symptoms, but the pressure that the narrowed canal puts on the nerves. That pressure can cause pain, numbness, tingling, or weakness in the back and legs, or disturbed bowel or bladder function. Symptoms often worsen with prolonged standing or walking and may improve when sitting or bending forward. It occurs most often in people over the age of 50 and can have a significant impact on the quality of life.

In my practice stenosis is a particularly concerning finding, because it often discourages people from being active since they can’t walk or be on their feet for any significant length of time. It engenders inactivity, which further perpetuates poor health and physical fitness, which in turn lead to more back problems. The beauty of this study is that it gives hope to those who suffer from lumbar spinal stenosis. What I like about it is that it advocates a multimodal approach, attacking the problem from multiple directions to produce a long term, effective solution. It is similar to the way we approach each of our patients’ concerns – through education , simple, progressive home care stretches and exercises, and effective chiropractic adjustments and manual therapies. We believe that the best results are achieved when both the healthcare provider and the patient take appropriate action to treat pain and prevent further injury and disability and this study is a fantastic example of this approach.