Total Back Newsletter

10 Things That Might Be Causing Your Back Pain

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Surprising causes of Back Pain

 

Your diet – The more weight we put on, the more stress we put on the back.backpain1

Not exercising – Exercise helps strengthen muscles and ligaments which help support the spine. It also helps keep weight off by burning more calories.

Slouching – You can refer to our ergonomics articles for more details on this, but studies have shown that slouching can increase stress on your back by up to 25%.

Your chair – Don’t skimp on a cheap chair or one that is ill suited for the tasks you are doing. Make sure you get the right chair for what you are doing, your back will appreciate it.

Your shoes – Ask an architect if they would put a structure up on a poor foundation! So many people wear shoes far beyond their ability to provide proper support. If they are worn, replace them.

Your mattress – Don’t wait for the springs to poke you. If the mattress is over 10 years old and you have back pain, consider getting a new mattress.

Your car – Many people spend a few hours a day in their vehicle. Making sure the seat is adjusted for you is important to making it a comfortable driving experience. Consider your seat when buying the next car if you spend a lot of time on the road.

Your shoulder bag – This could be a purse, carrying case, or laptop bag. Most people place the bag over the same shoulder every time which can lead to back pain. Either get into a habit of swapping shoulders, lighten the bag by getting rid of un-necessary items, or get a backpack to evenly distribute the weight.

Smoking – A smoker is twice as likely to develop back pain as a non-smoker. Smoking weaken joints and tissues which can lead to an injury


Sciatic Pain, It may be Piriformis Syndrome

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piriformis musclePiriformis Syndrome

The Center for Total Back Care treats many conditions including Piriformis Syndrome.  Sometimes the Piriformis muscle can be the culprit when it comes to pain related to the Sciatic nerve.  The piriformis muscle is a flat, band-like muscle located in the buttocks near the top of the hip joint. It is important in stabilizing the hip and balance with weight shifts.

As you can see by the diagram to the right, the Sciatic nerve travels through or just beside the Piriformis muscle.  The Sciatic pain associated with Piriformis Syndrome is related to compression applied to the Sciatic nerve.  Many events can trigger Piriformis syndrome but pain can be increased by sitting for prolonged periods, running or stair climbing.

The good news is that even though its symptoms are similar to that of a herniated disc the treatment is usually less aggressive.  Patients will often see improvement within a few appointments.

How to Prevent Piriformis Syndrome

  • If you are very active change your shoes out.  Even when your shoes show little external wear, the cushion and support wear out about every 6 months (sooner if you are using them to exercise).  Worn out shoes put extra stress on all the joints, including the hips.
  • Avoid running long distance on uneven surfaces, which will put extra stress on your balance and hip stabilizers, like the Piriformis muscle.
  • Use proper form when squatting.  Form encourages proper joint motion and alignment, which reduces stress on the leg joints, including the hip.
  • Stretch, utilize the Piriformis stretch to target the Piriformis muscle.
  • Rest when you feel the symptoms coming on.

Please contact us at 480-633-8293 if you have questions about Piriformis Syndrome and other conditions of the Back and Neck.

 


What is the difference between a bulging and herniated disc in the spine?

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Treating a bulging or herniated disc is one of our specialties at The Center for Total Back Care.  Often we get asked, “What is the difference?”.  While they may seem similar they are very different conditions that require very specific approaches to physical therapy and chiropractic care.

To explain this, it is important to define what the disc is made of and its purpose.  The disc acts as cushions between the vertebrae in your spine. They’re outer layer of tough cartilage that surrounds softer cartilage in the center. Its design allows for mobility and protection against forces applied to the spine.

bulging disc

Disc outer cartilage(grey) and inner cartilage(blue)

Disc outer cartilage(grey) and inner cartilage(blue)

A bulging disc extends outside its normal position in the vertabrae. The bulge is created by the outer cartilage layers stretching or breaking down.  It looks similar to a hamburger(disk) in a small hamburger bun(vertebrae).  Bulging usually is considered part of the normal aging process of the disc.

A herniated disc, on the other hand, results when the fibers in the tough outer layer of cartilage break and/or rupture, allowing some of the softer inner cartilage to protrude out of the disc. Herniated discs are sometimes called slipped discs.

If you have been diagnosed or suspect you have one of these conditions, contact us at 480-633-8293 to find out what treatment options are available to you!

 


What you may not know about scoliosis!

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Did you know this about scoliosis?

scoliosis

Scoliosis

Scoliosis is a common condition that we treat at The Center for Total Back Care. Our goal is to decrease pain and increase spinal stability with people affected by this condition.  Here are some things you may not know about scoliosis.

  1. Scoliosis affects about 3% of the population.  You may have scoliosis and not be aware of it!
  2. Women are more likely to have scoliosis than men.
  3. Scoliosis often doesn’t require surgery and can be treated by a physical therapist or chiropractor that specializes in spinal conditions
  4. The position and spine curve size doesn’t determine the severity of the condition.  Often people with the most severe spinal curvatures may experience little or no symptoms, while people with mild scoliosis may have very pronounced symptoms.
  5. There are 2 types of scoliosis.  One is degenerative scoliosis and the other is idiopathic scoliosis.  Degenerative scoliosis usually occurs as one ages and progresses based on normal wear and tear.  Idiopathic scoliosis develops at an earlier age and can get progressively worse as one ages.
  6. Smoking can contribute to scoliosis progression.  Recent studies suggest that smoking has a very negative impact on the spine by increasing the rate of disc degeneration.
  7. Keep exercising.  It is important to maintain a proper exercise and core stabilization program to improve symptoms and potentially reduce the degeneration of the spine related to scoliosis.  Make sure you consult with a spine care specialist before you start exercising.

The Center for Total Back Care specializes in the treatment of many spinal conditions including scoliosis.  Contact us today for more information about how we can help you treat scoliosis!

 


Top Low Back Stretches: Piriformis Stretch

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Top Low Back Stretches: Piriformis Stretch

The piriformis stretch is one of the best stretches you can do to protect yourself from a low back injury and to help relieve pain during the rehabilitation from a low back injury.  When people injure their low back, the muscles surrounding the area of the injury will tighten to guard the area from further injury.  The problem is that this constant tension in these muscle groups, can increase pain when a nerve is involved and decreases blood flow to this area.  Decreased blood flow increases the time for healing.  So stretching the muscles in this area help break this cycle and allow for the body to heal.  The piriformis muscle is one of the muscles that commonly tightens to guard the affected area.

There are many ways to perform the piriformis stretch, so the best thing to do is to find the most reasonable and comfortable way you can perform the stretch. When performing this stretch you should feel the stretch across the back of the leg being stretched.   You may feel increased tension in the buttocks or back of the knee area.  It is important that when performing stretches that the individual does not have pain or numbness, but a mild stretching sensation in the muscles of the targeted area.  Please consult with a doctor if you have any questions about this exercise.  Below are 2 examples of how you can perform this stretch.

Less Aggressive Piriformis Stretch

Perform this stretch when in significant low back pain and you cannot perform the more Aggressive Piriformis Stretch

piriformis stretch pain-First lie on your back and bend both knees keeping feet flat on floor

-Take one leg and lift it so the ankle is crossing the other leg at the knee (refer to picture)

-Gently apply pressure on the “crossed” leg’s knee, pushing away from the body (refer to picture)

-Hold stretch for 30 seconds and repeat 3 times, then switch legs and repeat.

-Perform stretch 2-3 times daily as needed.

 

More Aggressive Piriformis Stretch

Perform this stretch when low back pain is less or back is healthy.  This more aggressive version of the stretch will allow you to get a deeper stretch for the piriformis muscle.

Active piriformis stretch-First lie on your back and bend both knees keeping feet flat on floor

-Take one leg and lift it so the ankle is crossing the other leg at the knee (refer to picture)

-Reach behind leg that is supporting the crossed leg and gently pull towards chest (refer to picture)

-Hold stretch for 30 seconds and repeat 3 times, then switch legs and repeat.

-Perform stretch 2-3 times daily as needed.

FAQ
When should I perform the Piriformis Stretch?

The Piriformis Stretch can be performed prior to or after any workout program, especially with back loading is involved.  This will help prevent injury.  Performing this stretch after injury will help expedite the healing process.

When should I avoid performing the Piriformis Stretch?

The piriformis stretch needs to be approached with caution if you are dealing with back pain.  If you feel an increase in pain or numbness, stop and contact your doctor.

 


Top Low Back Stretches: Hamstring Stretches

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Top Low Back Stretches: Hamstring Stretches

The hamstring stretches are some of the best stretches you can do to protect yourself from a low back injury.  Most low back injuries happen when our posture is not set up to take the load that one is lifting.  People with tight hamstring muscles have a difficult time maintaining proper spinal alignment during the lift which can minimally cause a strain in the muscles of the lower back, but potentially it can cause a more serious disc injury and lead to a lifetime of pain.

There are many ways to perform the hamstring stretch, so the best thing to do is to find the most reasonable and comfortable way you can perform the stretch. When performing this stretch you should feel the stretch across the back of the leg being stretched.   You may feel increased tension in the buttocks or back of the knee area.  It is important that when performing stretches that the individual does not have pain or numbness, but a mild stretching sensation in the muscles of the targeted area.  Please consult with a doctor if you have any questions about this exercise.

Back Lying Hamstring Stretch

The back lying hamstring stretch is most often comfortable for people experiencing back pain.  This position decreases pressure on the spine when compared to the other positions.

Hamstring Stretch Supine– Lie on back and bend one leg placing hand behind the knee

-Slowly raise the knee perpendicular to the ground

-Extend lower part of leg you are stretching until you feel a stretch (pull the toes towards the knee to increase stretch)

-Hold stretch for 30 seconds and repeat 3 times, then switch leg.

 

 

Seated Hamstring Stretch

Best when in an office environment.

seated hamstring stretch-Carefully sit on the edge of a chair

-With one leg extended fully, place heal into the ground

-Maintain a straight back posture and slowly lean forward until you feel the stretch

-Hold stretch for 30 seconds and repeat 3 times, then switch leg.

 

 

 

Standing Hamstring Stretch

Best when you cannot sit or lie down.  Make sure you have something to hold onto to maintain balance

Standing Hamstring Stretch-In standing position, extend one leg forward putting heel into ground and pull toes toward knee

-Staying balanced, keep back straight and lean forward slowly until you feel a stretch.

-Hold stretch for 30 seconds and repeat 3 times, then switch leg.

 

 

 

 

FAQ
When should I perform the hamstring stretch?

The hamstring stretch is good to use when you are feeling tension in the back of the legs, or have difficulty touching toes in a standing position.  Perform after working out or if you are sitting for long periods of the day

When should I not perform the hamstring stretch?

The hamstring stretch needs to be approached with caution if you are dealing with back pain.  If you feel an increase in pain or numbness, stop and contact your doctor.

 


Get an accurate diagnosis before you treat back pain

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Middle Back PainGet your physical therapy on track with an accurate diagnosis first

Not all back pain is alike and definitely shouldn’t be treated the same way.  This is why it is important to get an accurate diagnosis of what is going on in order to effectively treat the problem.  The pain you are experiencing is just a symptom and just treating the symptom results in continued recurrence of the problem.  Back pain can be related to joint integrity issues, disc issues, nerve issues, strength imbalance issues, strain injuries, etc.  The list can go on and on.  As a specialized neck and back pain treatment facility, we create an individualized back pain treatment program to meet your individual needs.  A recent article on lohud.com, interviews a physiatrist on the importance of getting the right diagnosis.  Check out this article at Back Pain:  Correct diagnosis is vital.


How a back injury can redefine your life

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tiger woods

Just Google “Back Injury” in the news and you will see a long list of athletes that are dealing with back pain.  Often these types of injuries redefine the athletes career as pre and post-back injury.  One of the most notable examples is Tiger Woods.  While Tiger has been plagued with knee injuries over the years, he was still able to win multiple tournaments and majors while dealing with some considerable knee issues.  But this past year Tiger has been dealing with back issues that have contributed to him posting some of his worst scores as a professional and at times has literally brought him to his knees.   Will his career be defined as pre and post-back injury?  That is still to be seen.

A majority of people will deal with back pain of some kind in their lifetime.  Back pain is often a result of overexertion, repetitive motion, or slip/fall, but often you can limit the impact of these types of injuries by addressing them immediately with the right kind of treatment.  Tiger Woods is known to try to push through his injuries to achieve his goals, but he recently began heading his medical professionals to take his back injury seriously.  Make sure you do too, listen to your body and seek professionals that specialize in treating back pain.  How are you going to let your back injury define you?

 


Acetaminophen may not help with back pain

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A recent Australian finds that acetaminophen may not help treat back pain.  The researchers found the drug was no more effective than a dummy pill for more than 1,600 people suffering from acute lower back pain.  Besides showing no effect in easing discomfort, the study also found the drug was no help in improving sleep woes tied to back pain, nor did it improve patients’ overall quality of life.  For more details about this check out WebMD’s article “Acetaminophen May Not Help Against Back Pain, Study Contends“.


9 words you don’t say to your insurance company

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Over the years of working with patients that are processing reimbursement for auto accidents we have to agree, in order to process your insurance claim there are right and wrong words to say to your insurance carrier.  This is good advice provided by Ed Leefedt at Insure.com.

1. Sorry- You may say “I’m sorry” out of habit or embarrassment after a car crash, but hold your tongue at the scene of an accident. There’s no need to admit fault or assign blame – let a police officer determine fault. You don’t want your words to cause confusion about your role in an accident, especially if you weren’t at fault.

2. Whiplash- Say “whiplash” and the insurance adjuster will probably speed-dial the in-house counsel. Whiplash claims are the bane of insurance companies, which are on constant alert against bogus medical claims. Don’t self-diagnose your injuries from an accident. If you suspect trauma, see a doctor and get the medical report. After a car accident, never speak to the other party’s insurer before you speak to your own.

3. Intentional- Insurance will cover bad luck and bad judgment, like driving too fast on ice and crashing, but it won’t cover intentional acts. If your wife took a bat to your car hood during an argument, or you broke your car window in order to get your keys, get ready to pay for damage yourself.

4. Customized- Your souped-up car might be your pride and joy, but auto insurers are not interested in covering drivers who are careening around in modified vehicles trying to look cool. Remember that customizing and upgrades to your car may not be covered by insurance — or only up to $2,000, warns Insure.com’s consumer analyst Penny Gusner. In fact, some modifications can void your auto insurance policy.

5. Breakdown- Your car won’t start in the morning. Your axle snaps while you’re turning a corner. You don’t have an insurance claim; you have a mechanical breakdown. And breakdowns aren’t covered by auto insurance unless you specifically added mechanical breakdown coverage to your policy. If your insurer offers it, make sure you understand the details. Does it include roadside assistance and a rental car? What is the coverage limit for repairs and what is excluded?

6. Fine- Many people have a misplaced tendency to assure everyone they’re fine after an accident, says Gusner, even when they can barely crawl out of the wreck. Let the doctor say you’re fine before you give this information to your insurer — or anyone else.

7. Ride-share- Ride-sharing services are flourishing in urban areas, but that doesn’t mean they’re a smart choice. If your car is used for a purpose other than that for which the policy was issued, you may not be covered. Renting out your car as a taxi service could void coverage. So don’t turn your car into a side business unless you’ve checked with your agent.

8. Off-premises- “Off-premises” could indicate that your problem isn’t covered by your policy. Amy Bach, executive director of United Policyholders, a non-profit group that helps consumers, tells of a man who told his insurer that his water damage may have been caused by a backup from an outside sewer rather than a problem inside his property. The insurer told him that the damage had to originate on-premises or it wasn’t covered. The case went to court, but the owner lost.

9. Coincidence- Insurance companies cast a wary eye on anyone who insists an unusual situation was just “coincidence,” according to Jim Quiggle, director of communications for the Coalition Against Insurance Fraud.  “It’s just a coincidence that my car was in that vacant lot on the other side of town and the driver’s seat mysteriously caught fire,” says Quiggle as an example. Insurers will suspect your car fire was on purpose rather than coincidence.


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