Archive for the ‘back pain’ Category


Your Posture and Your Emotions

June 10, 2011

depressed posture

Want to try an experiment? Slump down right now, wherever you are, into a hunched posture with your back bent and your spine collapsed.

Once you’re all hunched and slumped, try to do some challenging task. Multiple studies have found that people who are placed in a slumped posture are less likely to succeed in challenging tasks. In fact, they’re likely to exhibit signs of “helplessness” and “defeat.”

Some studies have found that observers are also likely to decide that someone with poor posture is depressed. Worse yet, people who have been asked to assume a slumped posture are more likely to report that they feel sad, depressed, or defeated.

We’re talking here about people with normal posture and normal emotional conditions who are asked to slump or hunch. They’re not asked to think about sad things or to pretend to be depressed, but they end up feeling and behaving as though they were sad.

It goes the other way, too. Depressed people are more likely to walk in a slumped posture with side to side movement. Playing sad music causes people to change their gait to this sad way of walking.

What happens outside of experimental situations? Sad people are more likely to exhibit poor posture. People with poor posture are more likely to feel sad. We may have a vicious circle here.

Poor posture has physical consequences as well, leading to back pain and stress.

Call Innovative Spine Rehab at (501) 221-6009 to schedule a consultation where you can learn solutions to your posture problems.


On Your Feet? What It Does to Your Spine

April 22, 2011

There are lots of reasons for being on your feet for hours at a time: parties or clubbing that goes on till late, singing in choir, working in retail or a factory line.

However it happens, the result is likely to be the same. Your back is killing you!

If you know you’ll be standing for a long time, choose comfortable shoes. Put one foot up on a step occasionally to rest. Stretch your legs and feet. Move as much as possible, even if only from one foot to another.

When you get home, your inclination may be to plop down on the sofa. Go ahead, but be sure to take some time to stretch out, too.

Above all, remember that just about everything that affects your body affects your spine. Your weight, your exercise routine, your sleeping habits — the spine is so integral to your body functioning that everything you do has an effect on your spine health. That means that taking care of your overall health will help when you have to be on your feet all day (or night).


Pulled Your Back?

April 14, 2011

back health

It’s spring, we’re out enjoying some beautiful Arkansas weather, and it’s easy to end up with a minor injury. One of the most common is a pulled back, or back strain. Lifting something too heavy or lifting in the wrong way, twisting or otherwise making an ill-judged movement, and just asking too much of the back muscles can lead to pulled muscles and resulting pain.

Most pulled back pain goes away within a few weeks by itself. The problem is that responding to a pulled back in the wrong way can increase the time it takes to heal.

First, use ice to reduce inflammation. Heat might feel good, but can actually increase inflammation if it’s used too soon. Once any swelling goes down, heat can relax the muscles and make them feel better.

Second, don’t rush to exercise. Stretching may be okay, and swimming can be a good choice to strengthen the muscle without strain, but you really should get professional advice and supervision to exercise a pulled back. On the other hand, don’t give up strengthening work for weeks or months — there will be consequences. Come to Innovative Spine Rehab if you’re in the Little Rock area, or visit your local physical therapist or back pain center.

Third, while you’re healing, pay attention to your posture to avoid making things worse. Slumping puts strain on your back, even if it feels like resting. Instead, sit in a supportive chair, lie flat on your back, or sit on an exercise ball to keep your core engaged.

In three to six weeks, you should be back outside enjoying your favorite sports.


The Muscles to Work on for Back Health

April 1, 2011


We talk a lot about how to cope with back pain and how to avoid back injury, but when you take the long view of back health, you have to think lower. Lower back pain is the most common form of spine and back suffering, with nearly 80% of adults experiencing at least some lower back pain during their lives, but you really have to think even lower than that.

Glutes. The gluteus maximus muscles are the ones that support the lower back. Strong glutes will make it far less likely that you’ll experience pain in the lower back — you can be part of the lucky 20% who never do.

Strengthen the glutes with these exercises:

  • squats
  • lunges
  • deadlifts

It’s important to follow correct form with these exercises, so we recommend visiting a physical therapist to learn the correct (and therefore effective) way to do these moves. Your physical therapist can develop a complete workout for you which takes into account your medical history, any current pain, and your goals for the future.

Weak abdominal muscles put extra strain on the lower back, especially if there is extra weight to support, so spend some time training those muscles as well. A balanced workout incorporating strength training, flexibility, and cardiovascular workouts is always your best bet.


Do You Need That MRI?

February 11, 2011


Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) shows information about soft tissues of the body as X-rays show information about bones. A magnetic field and radio waves combine to produce three dimensional images that provide your medical professionals with useful information that helps with diagnosis.

An MRI is painless and there are no known health risks in the correct use of an MRI. Sometimes a dye is used, and it is possible for people to have allergies to this substance. There are questions about the safety of the dye, called a “contrast agent,” for people with liver or kidney problems. It is possible for metal objects on the body to be moved when they are drawn to the magnet, and this could certainly cause damage; bits of metal moving at high speed, such as a bullet shot from a gun, are dangerous. There are also concerns about pacemakers and MRIs.

However, an MRI is generally considered safe, so it has been customary to check back pain with MRIs as a routine part of diagnosis.

New guidelines from the American College of Physicians have changed this. The new guidelines recommend MRIs only for patients whose back pain is likely to be the result of cancer, infection, or nerve damage.  For people suffering back pain as the result of strain, trauma, or other causes, MRIs are no longer recommended.

The “why not?” attitude toward MRIs for back sufferers has led to problems in spite of the safety of the tests, according to surgeons. Some studies suggest that 90% of people over 60 have bulging disks, and seeing this on an MRI, even in the absence of pain from those disks, can lead to surgery which may not be the best course of action.

Further, an MRI of the spine costs thousands of dollars. Instead of beginning treatment with an expensive and possibly unnecessary test, physicians now suggest starting with treatment for the pain. Only if pain doesn’t respond to treatment does it make sense to continue to an MRI.


Back Surgery vs. Conservative Measures

February 4, 2011

spine surgery

Things are tough for back surgeons. This is because insurers are increasingly asking doctors to keep back surgery as a last resort. Fewer patients are receiving back surgery, and yet overall costs are increasing as makers of the devices used, and sometimes the surgeons themselves, raise prices to make up for the loss in revenue.

It’s a matter of controversy, of course. But the current research suggests that surgeries like spinal fusion offer no better long term outcomes than more conservative measures like exercise and physical therapy. Particularly for older patients, aggressive treatments that don’t produce better outcomes are a hard sell.

Insurance companies are saying “No.”

Last year, the average cost for the most aggressive type of back surgery was over $72,000. With patients in their 80s and 90s having these procedures performed, major insurance companies began requiring a variety of other treatments first.

Some medical professionals resent this requirement, feeling that they should be able to make decisions based on their experience rather than being forced to put patients through multiple treatments, perhaps ending up with the surgery that they had recommended in the first place.

In response, insurance companies point again to the statistics: studies within the past decade repeatedly found that spinal fusions don’t show better results than physical therapy. The studies compare groups of patients who receive spinal fusion surgeries with comparable groups of patients who stick with physical therapy.  There is no statistically significant difference in long-term outcomes.

The wild card in the deck is the newer minimally-invasive back surgeries. These procedures haven’t been around long enough to allow comparison in long-term results.

What does this mean to you? At the very least, you should ask your doctor about physical therapy before you decide to have surgery.


Pregnancy and Back Comfort

January 21, 2011


A lot of pregnant women experience back pain. Not severe pain that sends you to the doctor, but the kind of nagging discomfort that makes it harder to get normal jobs done, let alone that prenatal walking group your doctor told you to join.

Part of this is the additional weight women carry during pregnancy. Especially since most of it is poking out into the air in front of you without any other means of support, this puts added strain on the lower back.

Bad posture compounds the problem, if you lean back to compensate for the change in your center of gravity.  That familiar pregnancy waddle puts even more pressure on the lower back.

Relaxin, a hormone that softens the joints around the pelvis to make childbirth easier, also causes backache.

With all this working against back comfort, does a mom-to-be have any chance of beating back pain? Here are some things that can help:

  • Regular exercise. Pregnant women need about 150 minutes a week of exercise — just like the rest of us. Walking is easiest to fit in for many mums, but a prenatal yoga class can be supportive for your back if walking is too uncomfortable. Swimming is another soothing exercise for mothers-to-be. Regular exercise helps keep your stomach muscles strong and weight gain under control, too, and both those things help limit back pain. A special regimen is a good idea, and Innovative Spine Rehab or your local physical therapy center can help you determine exactly the right exercise for your needs.
  • The right clothes and gear. Low heels, supportive clothing (no research supports any claims for pregnancy girdles or support bands, but some women feel that they help), and a cushion for the back can all help keep you comfortable during pregnancy.
  • If you suffer from backache, don’t take chances. A warm bath or a hot water bottle can soothe sore muscles; don’t rely on over the counter medications or more aggressive therapies without discussing it with your doctor.

At Innovative Spine Rehab, we help women remain healthy and comfortable throughout their pregnancies. Contact us to discuss your needs.