MONTHLY HEALTH UPDATE
Is Your Foot Causing Your Knee Pain?
Chad Abramson, D.C.
Low Back Pain
What Many Back Pain Sufferers Can Do at Home
Low back pain (LBP) is a very common problem that affects most of us at some point in life and
for some, it’s a daily issue. Through education and research, researchers have found low back-specific
exercises can not only help get rid of LBP but can also prevent future exacerbations or episodes. Like
brushing our teeth, low back exercises are equally important in order to maintain, preserve, and optimize
function. But because there are SO MANY exercise options available, it’s hard to know which ones are
best, especially for each specific person.
There are different methods for determining the right low back exercises for the patient. One of the most common is to try different exercises to determine individual tolerance, but this is not very specific, as it only determines whether or not the patient is comfortable with an exercise. Another is using physical performance tests (PPTs) that measure the strength and endurance of specific muscle groups, muscle shortness, balance, aerobic capacity, and spinal range of motion.
Physical performance tests are much more specific because they address each patient’s differences. Also, many PPTs include normative data to compare against the patient’s own performance, so repeat use of the abnormal PPTs on a monthly interval can gauge their progress (or the lack thereof), which is motivating to the patient and serves as a great outcome measure!
PPTs are typically done two to four weeks after an initial presentation or at a time when the condition is stable so as not to irritate the condition. Initially, the decision as to which exercise is best is often made by something called “directional preference” or positional bias. This simply means if a patient feels best by bending over, we initially give “flexion-biased” exercises.
Flexion-biased exercises include (partial list): pulling the knees to the chest (single then double), posterior pelvic tilts (flattening the low back into the floor), sitting and/or standing bend overs, hamstring stretches, and more. If a person’s low back feels best bending backwards, their doctor of chiropractic may give extension-biased exercises, which include (partial list): standing back bends, saggy push-ups (prone press-ups), and/or laying on pillows or a gym ball on their back, arching over the ball.
Chiropractors generally add exercises gradually once they’ve determined tolerance and will recheck to make sure the patient is doing them correctly. Studies show that spinal manipulation achieves great short-term results, but when exercise is added to the treatment plan, the patient can achieve a more satisfying long-term result. Unfortunately, other studies have shown that ONLY 4% of patients continue their exercises after pain is satisfactorily managed and they fall back into old habits of not exercising.
Is Your Foot Causing Your Knee Pain?
Due to bipedal locomotion (walking around on two legs), foot and ankle problems have
the potential to affect EVERYTHING above the feet—even the knees!
When analyzing the way we walk (also known as our gait), we find when the heel strike takes place, the heel and foot motion causes “supination” or the rolling OUT of the ankle. As the unloaded leg begins to swing forwards, there is a quick transition to pronation where the heel and ankle roll inwards and the medial longitudinal arch (MLA) of the foot flattens and pronates NORMALLY!
During the transition from supination to pronation, the flattening of the MLA acts like a spring to propel us forwards followed by the “toe off”, the last phase, as we push off with our big toe and the cycle starts with the other leg. However, if you watch people walk from behind, you will see MANY ankles roll inwards too much. This is call “hyperpronation” and that is NOT NORMAL!
So at what point does this normal pronation become hyperpronation? The answer is NOT black and white, as there is no specific “cut-off” point but rather, a range of abnormal. Hence, we use the terms mild, moderate, and severe hyperpronation to describe the variance or the degrees of abnormality. Hyperpronation can lead to the development of bunions and foot/ankle instability that can cause and/or contribute to knee, hip, pelvis, and spinal problems—even neck and head complaints can result (the “domino effect”)!
One study looked at the incidence of hyperpronation in 50 subjects who had an anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) rupture vs. 50 without a history of knee / ACL injury. They found the ACL-injured subjects had greater pronation than the noninjured subjects suggesting that the presence of hyperpronation increases the risk of ACL injury.
Doctors of chiropractic are trained to evaluate and treat knee conditions of all kinds. Often this may include prescribing exercises or utilizing foot orthotics in an effort to restore the biomechanics of the foot, which can have positive effects not only on the knees but also further up the body.
Study Reveals Link Between Whiplash and Injury to the Brain
In a 2010 study, researchers examined MRIs taken from 1,200 patients (600 whiplash and 600
non-whiplash neck pain patients) and noted that those who had sustained whiplash were more likely to
have a brain injury than non-whiplash neck pain patients.
The specific type of brain injury found is a form of herniation called Chiari malformation, where the bottom part of the brain (the cerebellum) drops through the opening in the base of the skull called the foramen magnum. Their findings showed an alarming 23% of the whiplash cases studied had this anatomical abnormality.
Dr. Michael Freeman, Dr. Ezriel Kormel, and colleagues collaborated in this effort and evaluated the patients using MRI in both recumbent (laying down) AND upright positions. Interestingly, they found 5.7% and 5.3% of those in the non-whiplash neck pain group and 9.8% and 23.3% in the whiplash group had the Chiari malformation using the recumbent vs. upright MRI positions, respectfully.
Dr. Kormel stated, “This condition can be quite painful and endanger the patient’s health, with symptoms that may include headaches, neck pain, upper extremity numbness and tingling, and weakness. In a few cases, there can also be lower extremity weakness and brain dysfunction.” In a radio interview, he added the advice that ANYONE suffering from whiplash should see a healthcare provider immediately.
This study is important for a number of reasons. First, it revealed that there is often a more serious injury when whiplash occurs than what is initially found. Second, psychological findings like depression, anxiety, and difficulty coping with the decreased ability or inability to be productive at home or work may suggest the presence of an anatomical injury which simply has not yet been found. Third, MRI is frequently ONLY performed in a laying down position. This study didn’t find much difference between laying vs. weight-bearing MRI positions in the non-whiplash neck pain patients but not so in the whiplash neck pain group! In this group, the ability for MRI to detect Chiari malformation/brain injury more than doubled using weight-bearing MRI.
Expanding the last point, since one out of five whiplash patients had a brain injury that is more likely to be detected using a non-traditional upright MRI position, a “new” standard” for the use of MRI in the evaluation of the whiplash patient should be considered. This is especially important in those cases that are non-responsive to quality care or if their doctor had only ordered a recumbent MRI previously.
Doctors of all disciplines should be aware of this study and the need for a more thorough evaluation, especially when a whiplash patient is not responding as one might expect.
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome… In a Nutshell
Here it is: carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) in a nutshell!
WHAT: CTS is caused by an injury to the median nerve (MN) as it travels through the wrist.
WHERE: The eight small carpal bones and a ligament form a tunnel in which tendons and nerves pass through to reach the hand.
HOW: The MN gets pinched/irritated from repetitive stress.
WHY: The tunnel is tight as it includes the MN and nine rapidly moving muscle tendons!
PROGRESS: CTS usually starts slow and often progresses over weeks, months, even years.
SYMPTOMS: Pain, numbness, tingling, and/or weakness of the hand, sparing the little finger.
PROGNOSIS: CTS is easier to treat shortly after it starts, and waiting too long to seek care may lead to worse outcomes.
RISK FACTORS: 1) family history (genetics); 2) women are more likely to suffer from CTS than men; 3) age over 50; 4) manual jobs; 5) pregnancy; 6) conditions like diabetes, hypothyroid, rheumatoid arthritis (RA), osteoarthritis, autoimmune diseases (includes RA, certain types of thyroid disease), gout, kidney disease (especially dialysis patients), Down syndrome, amyloidosis, acromegaly, tumors on the median nerve; 7) medications (those that affect the immune system such as interleukin-2, possibly corticosteroids), anti-clotting drugs such as warfarin, hormone replacement, BCPs; 8) obesity; 9) smoking; 10) alcohol abuse; and 11) trauma/injuries (fractures, tendonitis).
TREATMENT: Ideally, treatment should begin as soon as possible after symptoms first start, but this RARELY occurs due its slow and gradual onset. Non-surgical care includes anti-inflammatory care (ice, anti-inflammatory nutrients—ginger, turmeric, bioflavonoids; NSAIDs like ibuprofen), wrist splinting (primarily at night), corticosteroid injections, job/ergonomic modifications, exercises (yoga, stretching, strengthening, and aerobic fitness), low level laser therapy, ice, acupuncture, and chiropractic care. Chiropractic care includes MANY of the above PLUS manual therapies applied to the neck, shoulder, arm, wrist, and hand.
Neck Pain / Headaches
When Teenagers Get Headaches…
In 2016, researchers at Curtin University in Perth examined the seated posture and health
data of 1,108 17-year olds in an effort to determine if any particular posture increased the risk of
headaches/neck pain among late adolescents.
Among four posture subgroups—upright, intermediate, slumped thorax, and forward head—the researchers observed the following: participants who were slumped in their thoracic spine (mid-back region) and had their head forward when they sat were at higher odds of having mild, moderate, or severe depression; participants classified as having a more upright posture exercised more frequently, females were more likely to sit more upright than males; those who were overweight were more likely to sit with a forward neck posture; and taller people were more likely to sit upright.
While they found biopsychosocial factors like exercise frequency, depression, and body mass index (BMI) ARE associated with headaches and neck pain, their data did not suggest any one particular posture increased the risk of neck pain or headaches more than any other posture among the teenagers involved in the study.
This is noteworthy as studies with adults do indicate the risk for neck pain and headaches is greater in individuals with poor neck posture. In particular, postures such as forward head carriage, pinching a phone between the ear and shoulder, and prolonged neck/head rotation outside of neutral can all increase the risk of cervical disorders. This suggests that in younger bodies, the cause of neck pain and headaches may be multifactoral and not limited to just poor posture and that treatment must address all issues that may increase one's risk for neck pain/headaches in order to reach a desired outcome.
The good news is that chiropractic has long embraced the biopsychosocial model of healthcare, looking at ALL factors that affect back and neck pain and quality of life. Through patient education, spinal manipulation, mobilization, exercise training, the use of modalities, and more, chiropractors can greatly help those struggling with neck pain and headaches!
Whole Body Health
Are Daily Cold Showers Good for You?
Since ancient times, as far back as the days of Hippocrates (the father of
medicine), people have taken cold baths in the belief it could both treat serious illness and
maintain one's good health.
In a 2016 study conducted by a team of Dutch researchers, a group of roughly 2,800 participants were split into four groups: three of which were asked to take a 30, 60, or 90 second shower every day for a month while the last group avoided cold showers to serve as a control group.
Nearly 80% of participants completed the study, of which two-thirds continued to take regular cold showers after their initial 30-day commitment had ended. Outcome assessments revealed those in the experimental groups experienced an increase in quality of life as well as a 29% reduction in sick days from work that researchers did not observe in the control group. Some participants even noted their cold showers increased their energy in a manner similar to drinking a caffeinated beverage. Of note, the results were consistent across all three groups, suggesting a 30-second cold shower was just as beneficial as a 60- or 90-second cold shower.
Presently, the authors of the study can only speculate on why the study participants benefited from cold showers. Possible explanations include: the shivering induced by cold exposure increases hormones in the body that can affect the immune system; cold exposure creates some type of neurological benefit; or the effect among participants was entirely psychological, as they had volunteered for a study about how cold showers might improve one's health.
Lastly, the researchers even speculate that routine cold showers may affect the body in the same manner as engaging in regular physical activity, thus improving the participants' fitness levels. They write, "In the present trial, reduction of sickness absence of a routine cold shower (29%) was comparable to the effect of regular physical activity (35%)." Of course, more research is necessary to understand why frequent cold exposure has been historically observed as having healthy benefits.
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This information should not be substituted for medical or chiropractic advice. Any and all health care concerns, decisions, and actions must be done through the advice and counsel of a health care professional who is familiar with your updated medical history.