Category Archives: Prevention

How to prevent back pain

Personal Injury Back Pain (2)

Around 80% of people will have a significant back pain episode at some point in their life. Once you have an episode of back pain, it is likely to recur, oftentimes within 1 year of first onset. What a horrible thing! It’s no wonder that billions of dollars are spent on back pain treatment every year, and that professions such as chiropractors have a good outlook for job growth in the near future – everybody is getting back pain and not getting rid of it very effectively. So, what about those billions of dollars? Are they being well spent? Are they curing the pain with the expensive drugs, surgeries, and devices they are paying for? In general, no. The rising costs of back pain treatment have not been directly associated with lower occurrences of back pain. On the contrary, the problem just keeps getting worse. Thus the need for studies such as this one, which investigates the usefulness of several methods of back pain prevention. It compared exercise, education, back belts, and shoe insoles and found that the only decent evidence of ability to reduce risk of low back pain episodes came from exercise combined with education. By education, I mean in-office education from the healthcare provider about what causes low back pain and strategies to avoid re-injuring the spine.

Knowledge is power. When you come to our office, our goal is not to just deliver expert, personalized treatment, but to give you tools through proper education to avoid what harms your back and help it to heal properly. I will not just put you on a table, adjust you, and send you on your way, because if I don’t tell you how to take care of your spine you will be right back in my office for the same reason wondering why treatment isn’t helping. I will help empower you to make better choices and start better habits to help you stay out of my office and stay feeling well. You’ll also notice that I don’t push a lot of products on my patients, or prescribe back belts and insoles very often. That is because they have limited utility in preventing back pain. We only use them when absolutely necessary. If you continue to injure your back time and time again and are looking for more answers, contact us to set up an appointment.

 

Photo credit: www.sandiegopersonalinjuryattorney.net 

Is there a movement professional in the house?!

Caution sign | Consult your chiropractor

We’ve all seen the disclaimer on the exercise videos or the newest home gym that more or less reads: “Consult your healthcare provider before beginning this or any other kind of workout…” It’s your run-of-the-mill liability disclaimer and is usually suggesting that there is risk involved in physical activity and you should be checked for any medical indication that you shouldn’t be participating in this activity. Does anyone really ever consult their doctor before beginning a workout plan? Ok, I’m sure some do. If you did, you would surely be checked for any cardiovascular complications that could limit your activity and the doctor might perform a brief physical exam to check for range of motion and any pain in the extremities. Barring anything too serious, you’d be given a clean bill of health to begin your high intensity home exercise videos, your Bun-master, a Zumba class, etc.
Let’s say you get your clean bill of health, begin your workout, and somewhere along the way develop back pain, or shoulder pain. Did your doctor’s exam give you any indication that this might happen? Probably not, and here’s why. Your general medicine doc or internist are experts at the physical exam – as taught at medical school. You can trust them to pick up on potential cardiovascular issues, but if you are going from sedentary to exercising at a moderate intensity, you will be moving your body in ways it hasn’t moved in a long time. Your body doesn’t move like it used to, and as a result of a sedentary lifestyle, previous injuries, deconditioning, excess weight, poor posture, etc, your body has learned to compensate in order to get through your daily routine. When you go to the gym or do your home workout with your limited range of motion, poor movement patterns and compensations, your body will do what it takes to get the job done, but it might be at the cost of safety of the muscles and joints that are asked to do the job.
Here’s an example of what I’m trying to explain. Let’s say you go to a group exercise class and the instructor has you put a bar on your back and start squatting. The squat is a very good exercise and an important movement to master. It is something toddlers are great at, yet as we get older and more sedentary we lose the ability to squat safely and efficiently. If your glutes aren’t firing well, your knees will cave in. If your hips are stiff, or hamstrings tight, your low back will bend when your hips hit their limit. If your ankles are stiff, your heels will come off the floor or you’ll turn your feet out. These are all compensations, and possible ways to develop knee pain or low back pain while squatting. The devil is in the details, and these are details that might not be caught by your general practitioner.
 For that reason I believe that the medical disclaimers that come with workout equipment and exercise routines should encourage you to consult with a movement specialist as well. What is a movement specialist, you ask? A number of people can serve as a movement specialist to identify your inefficiencies and injury potential: Chiropractors (of course!), physical therapists, and personal trainers. These are all professionals who have been trained to spot poor movement patterns and prescribe exercises and stretches to improve how you move and help prevent injury as you begin your exercise plan. If you have questions about what kind of exercises you should or should not be doing and want to learn more about how to move better and safer, contact us at (503) 526-8782. Dr. Thompson has undergone post-graduate training in movement assessment and corrective exercise prescription and would be glad to help you on your way to a healthier you!

How to Support Your Back Every Day

Bad posture

When you’re living with chronic back or neck pain, your daily routine can get complex – appointments, insurance paperwork, time off work, treatment regimens to follow, etc. While these are important aspects of managing your pain and recovery process, there are simple things you can do (or stop doing) on a daily basis to help your condition.

Good posture and body mechanics (the way you perform your activities all day, everyday) can substantially improve the way you feel at the end of your day.

Support your spine while sitting at your desk or in your car

Sitting for prolonged periods of time can be a major cause of back pain. Sitting is a static posture, which can add a tremendous amount of pressure to the back muscles and spinal discs. Additionally, sitting in a slouched-over or slouched-down position can overstretch the spinal ligaments and increase the pressure on your spinal discs.

Sitting with your back relatively straight and with good support is essential to minimize the load (strain) on your back. Especially when you sit for prolonged periods of time, you need to provide your lower back with support for the inward curve of the lumbar spine (lordosis). Here are a few tips for good posture and support for your lower spine while sitting at a desk or while driving:

  • Make sure your chair is set up so your knees are bent at about a 90 degree angle. Two fingers should slip easily between the bottom of your thigh and the chair.
  • The backrest of your chair should push your lower back forward slightly. Place a small pillow, rolled up towel, or orthopedic support on your chair to accomplish this or get a new office chair that provides support if you can.
  • Your buttocks should be pressed against the back of the chair, and your back should be straight.
  • It’s a good idea to have arm rests on your office chair that place your elbows at a 90-degree angle.
  • Place some support under your feet to elevate them slightly and take some of the load off of your lower spine. Sit with your knees slightly higher than your hips to eliminate much of the pressure on your lumbar spine.
  • Don’t sit on anything that would throw your spine out of alignment (i.e., a wallet in your back pocket).
  • Don’t slouch or slump in your office or car seat; this puts extra pressure on your spine and stress on the lumbar discs. Use the back of the chair to provide support for your back.
  • Sit up straight and keep your chin pulled in (avoid keeping your chin and head thrust forward).
  • Sit as close to your desk as possible.
  • Your computer screen or reading materials should be at eye level.

Some people prefer furniture that promotes more muscle activity, such as a Swedish kneeling chair, standing desk, or a Swiss exercise ball, rather than a chair that provides complete support. Purchasing a good ergonomic office chair that provides optimal back support may also be helpful.

On the phone a lot?  Consider investing in a headset to take the strain off your neck, or try using the speakerphone. Avoid cradling the phone on your shoulder.

If you are in a great deal of pain, try to avoid driving. If possible, have someone else drive, and lie down in the back seat with your knees slightly bent. You can place a blanket or pillow under your knees to support them, as well as a small pillow under your head.

Move about during the day

A healthy body can only tolerate staying in one position for relatively short periods of time. You may have noticed this on an airplane, at your desk, or at a movie theater when sitting is uncomfortable after just a short time. Even with correct posture, holding the same position slowly takes the elasticity out of the tissues, and stress builds up and causes discomfort.

Keep your joints, ligaments, muscles, and tendons loose by moving about and stretching on a regular basis throughout the day:

  • Stand up while talking on the phone. Be sure to stand with one foot slightly in front of the other, or place one foot on something a few inches off the ground; avoid standing straight with your knees locked.
  • Stretch your hamstrings twice each day. To help you remember to do this on a regular basis, link the stretching to a part of your daily routine, such as when you brush your teeth in the morning and evening, or when you first get to work and before you head home. Flexible hamstrings will significantly reduce the stress on your lower back.
  • When you return to your seat after moving around, use an alternate posture for just a few moments and some of the tissue elasticity needed to protect your joints will return.

Paying attention to your posture and movement throughout the day and while sleeping at night will help you manage your pain and maintain good spine health.

Learn more about supporting your back, both day and night. Visit http://www.spine-health.com/blog/new-health-epidemic-sitting-disease

For a personal chiropractic consultation to review your ergonomics and learn about solutions for your back pain, contact us at (503) 526-8782

 

 

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.

My spinal hygiene

In case you wonder what a chiropractor does to keep his spine healthy, here are a few habits I’ve adopted to stay out of the chiropractor’s office 😉

  1. Avoid early morning spinal flexion: As you sleep, the discs between your vertebrae become saturated with water. This causes your spine to become slightly unstable first thing in the morning. That’s why I avoid much bending for the first 30 minutes after I wake up.
  2. I move my car seat up: I realized a while back that looking cool while I drive is not worth the neck pain that slouching causes me. Moving my seat closer to the steering wheel helps me sit up straight.
  3. Good form: I use the same form when bending and lifting, whether I’m doing deadlifts at the gym or taking out the trash at home.
  4. Keep it at eye level: To keep from running into things while I walk and to ease tension in my neck, I bring my phone and tablet up to eye level when texting or playing Flappy Bird.
  5. Laptop? More like Tabletop: Whoever named it a laptop should be punished. DON’T PUT YOUR COMPUTER ON YOUR LAP!! When working at home, I sit at the table with my computer instead of the couch.
  6. Take a load off: I’m not perfect. I get back pain just like you. When my back is sore at the end of the day, I’ll use the 90/90 position to relax and relieve pressure on my lower back.
  7. Get adjusted! I get adjusted at least once per month to maintain the health of my spine and avoid major pain.

How To Lift A Child Correctly


Welcome to Spine Hacks. Today’s segment is about how to lift your child correctly. I’ll show you two ways to safely lift your kid. Children are so much closer to the floor than we are that we must bend a lot throughout the daily course of activities to take care of them. Therefore, we are going to talk about how to do that safely, as to prevent back injuries.

In the video above, I use a stick and a 20lb kettle bell for demonstration. When we are bending, the goal is to keep our spine in a neutral alignment, as demonstrated with the stick in the video. The stick should maintain contact with your head, midback, and sacrum as you bend. If it comes off of your back , you know that your form is not correct. Most of us will choose to bend the quick and easy way, which can have negative consequences if done repeatedly.

In the next section of the video,using a kettle bell,  I demonstrate how to bend to pick up your child, as well as an alternative by using a lunge. Both actions are much safer on your spine when compared to the traditional way that many of us will pick up our kids.

I hope you enjoyed today’s Spine Hack about how to lift your child correctly. For more information about how we can help you through Beaverton chiropractic care, contact our office today at (503) 526-8782.