Back Pain

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Category Archives: Back Pain

Another Reason to Quit Smoking: Prevent Lower Back Pain

The last 10 years have seen an inexplicable increase in functional disability caused by lower back pain. Despite improved treatments, pain and physical function in these patients is worsening in around 100 million U.S. patients. A simple symptom frequently devolves into a complicated condition affecting the entire central nervous system.

Several studies have drawn a link between smoking and lower back pain. A 50-year 2001 John Hopkins survey proposed a link, but at the time, the finding remained unproven and even unexplained. Researchers have since painted a fuller picture of the link. Smoking impacts upon knee, rotator cuff, and disc injuries because it:

  • Increases inflammation
  • Prevents healing
  • Reduces blood supply to wounds
  • Demineralizes bone
  • Impedes the supply of nutrients
  • Reduces bone metabolism
  • Increases the risk of postoperative infection

Lower back pain is associated with a sedentary lifestyle and high body mass index, but surveys are limited in that they use samples from hospital records. They consist of more surgical patients, which means they have higher rates of disability. This limits the survey to only the severest conditions. Those with mild back pain haven’t been covered quite as well.

Even so, smoking’s effect on wound healing is well understood, impacting upon everything from dental surgeries to burns. Nicotine and carbon monoxide constrict veins, limiting red blood cell transport and the macrophages needed for recovery. Oxygen transport to cells is also reduced by the hydrogen cyanide found in cigarettes.

Smokers also recover poorly from surgeries, which severely limits their treatment options.

The progress researchers have made in understanding smoking’s effects on back pain raises an important question. Should smokers be given an entirely different care strategy than nonsmokers? Doctors have wrestled with this problem for decades, but it can only be confronted on a case by case basis.

In any case, if you needed another reason to quit smoking in 2018, pain management makes the list.

Diets for Chronic Back Pain

Chronic back conditions are known to be more burdensome than any other syndrome, but many patients feel they have little control over their symptoms. People who suffer back pain need a balanced diet that supports bone strength, healthy cells, and good collagen formation. You have a new year ahead of you, so make it a pain-free one by choosing a diet to improve chronic pain.

Water

The spine is made almost entirely of water, which offers the flexibility needed to keep your vertebrae protected against shock.

Collagen

Collagen accounts for 30% of dry bone weight, and it needs a constant supply of amino acids and vitamin C. Glucosamine is an important component in connective tissues, so keep your protein levels where they should be with almonds, meat, broccoli, and quinoa.

Calcium and Magnesium

If you have poor bone density, calcium and magnesium should be core parts of your diet. You need a synergy of minerals to absorb these nutrients well. Keep your levels up with bok choy, dairy products, tofu, and green leafy vegetables. Vitamin K distributes calcium, so you also need to include cheeses, egg yolks, and kale in your diet.

Vitamin D aids calcium absorption and is found in salmon and egg yolks. Some cereals and dairy products are fortified with it, too.

 

Protein

Omega-3-rich foods combat inflammation, so flax, chia seeds, and oily fish could improve your symptoms.

Alcohol and Soda

A daily cola habit can impede your absorption of important nutrients, while alcohol interferes with calcium absorption. Alcohol also suppresses the central nervous system. Combined with certain medications, it can cause breathing difficulties and impaired motor function.

Your diet is the building block of your medical care. Without wholesome food, even the most potent medications and therapies cannot bring their best benefits. Food has a profound effect on our short-term and long-term health outcomes, so fill your plate with nutrients that help your body recover from pain conditions.

Great Gifts For Pain Management

If a loved one suffers from chronic pain, a soothing care package could offer much needed support. Chocolate cures just about every ill, of course, but a more evidence-based gift would be appreciated just as much.

Gifts for Migraine Sufferers

Migraines are a neuropathic and vascular condition that can last days. Their cause isn’t well understood, but their triggers are. Light, noise, flashing, and certain food products are common triggers. Give a migraine sufferer:

  • a pair of tinted glasses.
  • total blackout blinds.
  • ice packs or an adjustable ice wrap.

Tension Headaches and Back Pain

When muscle tension causes pain, targeted heat therapy can relieve symptoms and make them feel tolerable. Give your muscle pain patient:

  • heated mattress pads with dual side control.
  • an infrared heat therapy pad for deeper heat delivery.
  • a deep tissue massage or spa voucher for serious spoiling.

Diabetes-Related Nerve Damage

Sensory diabetic neuropathy and ulcers are often worsened by poor circulation. Dry heat is needed, as soaking can prevent healing. Avoid heating pads, which can cause burns when used on numb feet. Give your diabetic family member:

  • podiatrist-recommended flexible slippers.
  • memory foam insets.
  • insoles designed specifically for those with plantar fasciitis.

Spasms

Many pain conditions are caused by spasms and are highly responsive to massage. Give your chronic pain sufferer:

  • a massage stick roller with comfortable handles.
  • an electric massage device or pillow.
  • an ergonomic chair.
  • a massage ball.

Better yet, take your loved one to Pain Stop Clinics for proactive medical support. Resist the temptation to offer miracle cures or solutions that worked for a completely different person with a completely different condition, as well-meaning gestures can create frustration.

Remember that the most valuable gift you can give is yourself. Pain can make life challenging, so offer your friend a shopping trip, frozen meals, or your baby-sitting services. Comfort is often in short supply when you’re not feeling well, and friendship is the warmest cure.

Healthy Spine Tips to Prevent Back and Neck Pain

Lower back pain is responsible for more global disabilities than any other problem. It affects 80% of people at some point in their lives. Up to 90% will also suffer from tension headaches at least once, and posture, neck spasms, and stress can all contribute. The evolution of the human spine has been slow and, at times, painful. It’s simply not ideal for upright walking, so getting your pain under control requires a little effort and support. Causes include:

  • Osteoporosis
  • Muscle strain from overstretching or carrying heavy objects incorrectly
  • Poor posture and badly designed work stations
  • Sports injuries
  • Herniated discs
  • Curvature

A typical strain creates swelling, sets your posture off balance, and causes spasms that create even more pronounced posture problems and swelling. Sports injuries, curvature, and even herniation can create a similar cycle, so two of the most important ways to bring healing are through stretching and spasm release. Physiotherapy, yoga, and stretching achieve this.

You can prevent back pain by

  • Maintaining a healthy weight
  • Lifting with your knees bent and your back upright
  • Taking walking or stretching breaks when you do desk work
  • Using ergonomic furniture
  • Sleeping on your side
  • Quitting smoking. Smokers have more spine problems than nonsmokers and recover from surgery more slowly.

Back Pain Associated with Aging

Osteoporosis, disk degeneration, and spinal arthritis often require more invasive solutions, but your lifestyle can greatly improve your symptoms. Solutions include:

  • Keeping calcium and magnesium levels optimal
  • Strengthening core muscles to support your spine better
  • Stretching and loosening your back muscles
  • Treating strains with ice and compression

The health of your spine is a core contributor to quality of life, and a little loving care can have powerful effects. Want to learn more about ways to relieve back pain? Ready for personalized care? Find a Pain Stop Clinic near you.

How Heavy Bags Cause Back Pain

The average sixth grader carries 18.4 pounds in his backpack, and the average handbag carries 6.27 pounds’ worth of lipstick and keys. Nobody seems to have done any research about the weight of the average briefcase, but man bags have done more than merely embarrass the fashion police—they’ve caused an increase in back and shoulder pain. That’s apart from the luggage you carry to the airport and the heavy lifting you do during your work day.

Back pain has become the norm rather than the exception throughout the world, and luggage is adding to the burden. It’s children’s spinal health that’s most at risk because bad back habits are easily entrenched, and young shoulders are prone to neurological damage, which can eventually affect finger dexterity.

Studies on Heavy Bags and Spine Health

A 2014 Spine study found that heavy backpacks cause disc compression that can have repercussions in adulthood. Pre-adolescents often carry as much as 30% of their body weight. The suggested upper limit is 10%, and this should be carried in a way that distributes weight evenly across both sides of the body. The core muscles should be doing most of that work, and for those with spinal curvature, even perfect carrying technique cannot prevent spasms and pain.

Offloading school backpacks can certainly help, but the problem has less to do with weight as it does off-axis loading. Ergonomic backpacks help children to carry their weight on their vertical axis while encouraging better posture. High seated, close fitting backpacks prevent the slouching traditional backpacks cause.

Adults can prevent baggage woes by developing core muscle strength, but the best solution is a simple one: carry less. Choose small briefcases and purses to remove the temptation of carrying too much weight. Make a habit of clearing your bags of clutter. As any backpacker can tell you, every little bit of weight removed helps.

 

Steroid Injections for Back Pain

Back pain is notoriously challenging to treat, but steroid injections could give you weeks of relief without drugs. The risks are rare, but significant, so your physician will try more conservative approaches before recommending them. They’re an invasive option given the sight of the epidural, but if you’re waiting for surgery or are struggling to cope with short-term pain, they may bring much-needed freedom.

Conditions Treated with Steroid Injections

Back pain isn’t a single diagnosis, but a symptom of a titanic collection of conditions. Epidural injections have proven themselves effective in two conditions: inflammation or nerve damage and spinal stenosis. The former usually affects the lower back and neck, with shooting pain that radiates into the limbs. A herniated disc is frequently the cause. If your spine has narrowed, whether from a herniated disc, misplaced bone spur, or tumor, steroid infections might ease your symptoms, too.

What to Expect from Steroid Injections

Your epidural should be effective for a few weeks. If your first one does its job well, you may be prescribed up to three a year, which means they can’t be a constant source of support. They’re also no substitute if surgery is needed. It’s important to approach this form of treatment from the right angle. Studies haven’t turned up any long term benefits, so they’re largely symptomatic.

Your injection will be given as near as possible to the source of your pain, which is why epidurals are only an option if your condition is highly concentrated to one area. Dispersed pain demands a more general approach.

Cortisone and steroids may be used as anti-inflammatories. Lidocaine or bupivacaine are often included, not only for their anaesthetic powers, but their tendency to flush inflammatory agents out of the area, too.

As always, to determine which treatment might be best for you, work with a caring medical team. If your back pain is affecting your quality of life, contact Pain Stop Clinics for a consultation.

Does Pilates Improve Posture?

You’d be hard pressed to find a fitness guru more obsessed with posture than your average Pilates instructor (perhaps a classical ballet instructor? We digress). Both forms of exercise focus on moving efficiently, and that requires core strength. If you’re relying on your superficial muscles to support you, you probably suffer from at least a little pain. Headaches, pinched nerves, and hip pain can all happen as the result of slouching, and Pilates will address the problem from a few different angles.

Why is Good Posture Important?

If your spine is poorly aligned as you work and play, some muscles must compensate while others become knotted and contracted. Your range of motion will be limited and some of your organs will be compressed. Inflammation can result from nerve compression, too.

Pilates teaches balance, which requires you to rely on core strength while teaching you to balance your weight onto the middle of your foot. You’ll learn a neutral spine position, which keeps your curvature relaxed and natural. If you overcompensate by opening your chest too widely and pushing your shoulders too far back, you will lose your balance, so the process teaches you good habits intuitively.

Pilates for Back Pain

Core strength is an obvious support for back pain, but flexibility has a role, too. By stretching out the muscles around the spine, it releases contractions while reinforcing a healthy curvature. Pilates is so effective at its job that trials have demonstrated improved endurance, flexibility, and posture within only 12 weeks. You needn’t turn your exercise into an obsession to enjoy results. Even mild Pilates routines, when performed twice weekly, have an impact.

Pilates specifically targets the hunched kyphotic lordotic posture, which brings hip spasms, neck tension, and weak abs. Your back pain deserves a proactive solution, and Pain Stop Clinics can help you design a treatment plan.

How Evolution Causes Back Pain

Mankind might be at the top of the food chain, but it’s not because we have perfectly adapted bodies. Evolution has done a fair job of providing opposable thumbs and an efficient brain, but perhaps the back could use some improvements.

A Body Made of Paperclips

Jeremy DeSilva said, “Evolution works with duct tape and paperclips,” and that applies more to the spine than most other body parts. It evolved to suit four-legged movement, and it’s not yet developed to suit bipedal postures perfectly. Richard Dawkins says the human spine is so similar to a gorilla spine that it’s barely adapted to a bipedal gate.

The back was built to arch like a bow so that it would carry the weight of organs in the undercarriage. Standing up threw the structure out of balance, curving the back in the other direction. This places pressure on the lower back, leading to pain.

The curvature of a normal human spine tends to cause a lesion between discs in the lower back. At its worst, it’s prone to scoliosis and sciatica. The spinal cord is also unable to heal fully if damaged because its neurons are too specialized.

Coping with Pain

The back is the most common region for chronic pain. Ergonomic living is an excellent preventative tool, but when the damage has already been done, more work is required. A pain management specialist may be needed to put together a treatment team for your unique problem. Stretches and other exercises may be used to release tight muscles, and specialized treatments such as low impact water therapy and neurological care may be indicated. Your Pain Stop Clinic will take a multi-disciplinary approach to your pain, giving you the best chance at relief.

Evolutionary Biologists Puzzled Over Pain

Painful tissue damage and inflammation tell you that they are there and need care, but even Richard Dawkins can’t find the evolutionary advantage of agony over a more tolerable, subtle ache or other signal. Without pain, you wouldn’t know that fire is dangerous or that your aching back needs treatment. Soreness is one of the crowning achievements of natural selection, but the body takes it to unnecessary heights.

Maybe the brain needs to tell us which sensations to prioritise. If you’ve not taken in fluids for two days, for example, your thirst is more important than your slightly bruised foot. If you’ve put your hand in a fire, though, it’s best to rescue your limb before you go hunting for the nearest stream. Varying intensities tell you what requires urgent action.

Neurology’s Viewpoint

People with disorders that prevent pain “usually come to a bad end,” says Dawkins. These patients must learn how to identify signs of harmful burns and breakages, but they often fail to adjust. They tend to suffer serious disabilities as a result.

It’s doubtful you’d take a more tolerable signal seriously, which lends credibility to the Darwinian explanation, but that doesn’t tell us the point of migraines and other painful disorders. Neuroscientist Vincenzo Bonavita believes that these seemingly useless pain signals force you to disengage from active life and get the necessary rest. In other words, even when that backache or headache isn’t pointing to tissue damage, you should take it seriously.

Pain is an important part of your health. Your nerves’ signals are as precise as a Geiger Counter. If you’re hurting, your body is telling you to hunt for a cause and some relief, so you need a pain specialist who takes your symptoms seriously. Pain Stop Clinics will do precisely that.

7 Bad Back Habits to Avoid

Back pain may result from a recent or past injury. It can develop gradually over time from repetitive motion, or from lack thereof. While seeking out assistance in diagnosing and treating your back can help clear up the problem, you can help yourself by avoiding these seven bad habits that cause back pain.

Not Exercising

Exercise prevents injury throughout your body by strengthening the muscles. Yoga, pilates and other core workouts strengthen the back and ease strain by also strengthening the abdominal muscles.

Poor Posture

Bad posture causes muscle strain and increases the level of stress on your spine. To improve posture, keep your shoulders back (to avoid slouching), sit against the back of your chair, and stand with a slight bend in your knees.

Improper Lifting

When lifting heavy items, bend your knees and use your leg strength to reduce strain on your back. Make sure you don’t curve your back over the object you’re lifting.

Baggage

As Erykah Badu soulfully reminds us, “Bag lady/ You gon’ hurt your back.” Remember that bags, briefcases and purses count as lifting. If you regularly carry a lot of stuff, consider a wheeled briefcase, a properly adjusted backpack or a downsized purse.

Smoking

There isn’t much good that comes out of smoking, and you can add back pain to your list of reasons to quit. Smoking cuts down blood flow to your disks, increasing back pain.

Calcium and Vitamin D Deficiency

These nutrients develop and strengthen your bones. Discuss increasing your daily intake with your doctor, because there is such a thing as too much of a good thing. Too much calcium, for example, could result in kidney stones, which entirely defeats the purpose of reducing back pain.

Weight

The more weight you carry, the more your muscles and joints strain to support you. Of course, pain makes exercise more challenging. Set realistic exercise goals, eat a balanced diet, and discuss any issues you are having with your physician or professional.

Not Moving

If your back hurts, you might want to settle into the couch, but unless you have a serious injury, rest may be counterproductive. Stretch out and get the blood flowing instead.

Back pain can make everyday tasks difficult to perform. Although there may be deeper causes or complicated symptoms, improving your habits can reduce pain and improve your quality of life.

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