We all get headaches from time to time, but figuring out why we’re suffering or how to get rid of them isn’t always easy. Millions of Americans take daily or near-daily doses of pain relief medications to combat headaches, often providing only temporary relief and causing a variety of unpleasant side effects.
A number of clinical studies note the effectiveness of chiropractic manipulation in relieving headache symptoms, an observation confirmed by a recent literature review that provided evidence of a potential spinal cord connection. Specifically, the authors¹ search of previous research revealed that dysfunction in the upper part of the cervical spine has the potential to create cranial pain ‹ headaches.
Evidence points to a variety of possible causes of headache pain, including stress, muscle tension, nutritional deficiencies, and hormonal imbalances, but most headache sufferers turn to over-the-counter drugs as their only form of relief. You don’t have to be one of the millions dependent on pain medications. If you suffer from headaches, schedule a comprehensive evaluation with your doctor of chiropractic. If neck and spine dysfunction is causing your pain, regular adjustments might be an effective solution.
Alix ME, Bates DK. A proposed etiology of cervicogenic headache: the neurophysiological basis and anatomic relationship between the dura mater and the rectus posterior capitis minor muscle. Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics, Oct. 1999: Vol. 22, No. 8, pp534-39.
Neck pain can be acute (short term) or chronic (recurring or persisting for months and even years), but regardless, when you’re in pain, relief is the first thing on your mind. Just as important as relief, of course, is finding the cause and ensuring you avoid the behavior / action that brought the pain on in the first place. Here are five common causes of neck pain – and why doctors of chiropractic are well-suited to relieve the pain and determine the underlying cause.
1. Poor Posture: Leaning over a desk all day or slouching in your office chair? You’re bound to develop neck pain eventually, if you haven’t already. Do this quick test: In an upright or seated position, round your shoulders and back (poor posture). Does it impact your neck as well? Exactly!
2. Monitor Madness: Staring at the computer screen for hours at a time? That’s not good for your health (or sanity), but from a neck pain perspective, it’s madness, particularly if the screen height forces you to crane your neck up (too high) or extend it down (too low).
3. Sleep Issues: Ideally, we spend a third of our day sleeping, so your sleep habits – for better or worse – can have a dramatic effect on your health. With regard to neck pain, anytime you sleep in an uncomfortable position, particularly one that stresses your neck musculature (think about side-sleeping while grabbing your pillow tightly, sleeping on your stomach with your arms out in front of you, or even sleeping on your back, but with a pillow that doesn’t adequately support your neck), you risk neck pain.
4. Technology Overload: We may spend a third of our day sleeping, but we increasingly spend the other 16 hours typing, texting, tapping and otherwise interacting with our smartphones, tablets, etc. Bottom line: bad for your neck. One doctor has even coined the phrase, “text neck,” to describe the neck pain that can result from this constant technology interaction.
5. The Wrong Movement: Twisting, turning, stretching and stressing your neck is an easy way to cause neck pain. While the muscles in the neck are strong, they can be strained, sprained and even torn, just like any other muscle.
It’s important to note that beyond these common causes, various other health issues can also contribute to or directly cause neck pain, including fibromyalgia, cervical arthritis or spondylosis (essentially spinal arthritis), spinal stenosis (narrowing of the spinal canal), infection of the spine, and even cancer. The good news is that a doctor of chiropractic can help identify which of these or the above causes is to blame.
When neck pain strikes, most people turn to a temporary solution first: pain-relieving medication. But that’s not a permanent solution, of course, and it doesn’t address the cause of the pain at all, which could be something relatively minor – or more serious. What’s more, research suggests chiropractic spinal manipulation is actually more effective than over-the-counter and prescription medication for relieving both acute and subacute neck pain.
Suffering from neck pain? Then give your doctor of chiropractic a call. They’ll help you relieve your pain and determine the cause so it doesn’t return.
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Watch a toddler pick up a ball and then ask an adult to do the same task. What’s the most obvious difference you notice? The toddler hinges at the hips, sitting back and down into a deep squat to grasp the ball, pulling it close to the body. The toddler powers through the hips, glutes and thighs in returning to the starting position. It’s all in the hips!
The adult flexes forward at the waist and lumbar spine with little to no involvement of the hips, glutes and thighs. The altered mechanics of bending at the waist, as opposed to the hips, places extreme vector loads on the lumbar spine, leading to microtrauma, dysfunctional movement patterning, and eventually pain.
Optimal movement patterning and proper lifting techniques never had to be taught to the toddler. They simply lifted without thinking. Functional movement is innate to the nervous system in pre-programmed stages of development. So, what happens during the time frame from toddler to adulthood that contributes to lifting technique going horribly wrong? Quite simply: We forget how to move. Add to that the laziness factor and countless hours people spend sitting in our culture, and you have a recipe for inefficient movement. Essentially, our rear-ends have now become our feet!
Toddlers have to yet experience these outside contributors to movement dysfunction, otherwise known as life, and therefore move efficiently. The problem is adults don’t’ know they move wrong! They have crossed over to subconscious dysfunction; their brain perceives the abnormal movement patterning as normal. This inefficient movement leads to microtrauma, pain and injury.
The Hip Hinge
The hip hinge is a fundamental part of this reprogramming. The hip hinge, generally speaking, is any flexion / extension movement originating at the hips where there is a posterior weight shift. The hip hinge allows a person to maintain a neutral spine by moving at their hips instead of their low back.
Most people will find it difficult to do the hip hinge correctly. Using a dowel rod for neural feedback during the hinge allows you to “feel” the movement and re-establish proper patterning without overloading the nervous system. Here’s how to do it:
Stand with feet shoulder-width apart and a dowel running along the spine.
One hand should be holding the dowel on the neck while the other hand holds the opposite end on the low back. (Alternate hand positions between sets.)
Flex forward at the hip with slight knee bend. The dowel must remain in contact with the head, thoracic spine, and sacrum.
Stretch should be felt in the hamstrings. Stop movement as soon as the rod leaves contact with head, thoracic spine or sacrum.
Assistance may be added to “regress” the movement by placing a 1-2-inch block under the heels. This forces forward weight shift of the body so the client must sit back into the hips to prevent falling. Ankle support also removes the barrier of possible mobility issues in ankle dorsiflexion, which may prevent the squat patterning.
Research has shown that previous injury is the number-one risk factor for future injury. Motor control limitations such as balance, stabilization and basic coordination, right-to-left asymmetries in muscle activity and flexibility are the next highest indicators associated with risk of future injury. Since previous injury is unavoidable, we should focus on motor-control limitations and asymmetries as priorities for prevention or reduction of risk factors. Assume you move poorly and take steps to help master fundamental movements like the hip hinge; then watch the magic start to happen.
By Perry Nickelston, DC, FMS, SFMA
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Ever try balancing a book on your head (for more than a second)? To do it, you need more than just patience; you need ideal posture.
One hundred and thirty thousand years ago, when residents of the planet possessed complete Neanderthalic characteristics, posture wasn’t really that high on the list of health priorities, to say the least. At the time, we assume finding food, surviving the seasons and avoiding death by all manner of creatures were considerably more important. But this is 2011 and we can stand upright, walk upright and consider our health a precious asset. And yet, like the Neanderthals, our apparent disinterest in good posture remains.
Why is good posture so important? It’s pretty simple. When the spine is properly aligned with its natural curvature and the entire body – from the ears to the shoulders to the hips, knees and down to the ankles and feet – is in balance, we maximize spine health and avoid poor posture-related pain and dysfunction. Ideal posture creates ideal balance; it also optimizes breathing and circulation. And shouldn’t we all want to achieve that?
May is National Correct Posture Month, so we thought it was high time to get you out of your slumped, bent-back, round-shoulders position that is likely all too common if you work at a computer, spend considerable time texting or checking e-mail on your cell phone (who doesn’t these days?), or engage in any of the countless activities that put your back, neck and spine at risk courtesy of poor posture. It’s time to stand tall, walk tall and improve your spinal health, all at the same time!
For tips on the best ways to perfect your posture, look no further than Straighten Up America, a health promotion initiative developed in 2005 with an admirable vision: to educate the public about the importance of good posture and spinal health, to the point that “every American will take two or three minutes every day to care for their spinal health, just as they care for their dental health.” Straighten Up, which partners in promoting the nation’s health with the President’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sports, is designed to get children and adults up and moving while they improve their posture and spinal health. The Straighten Up program also includes healthy lifestyle recommendations congruent with the goals and objectives of Healthy People 2010, America on the Move, Steps to a Healthier US and the 5 A Day programs.
One of the earliest tests of this program proved quite encouraging: After five weeks of daily practice of “Straighten Up” exercises, more than 80 percent of participants reported improved posture; just under 80 percent said they had strengthened their core muscles; and 80 percent reported that after performing the exercises, they now sat and stood more upright, and their backs felt more comfortable in that position.
Are you and your family ready to perfect your posture? Here are a few Straighten Up exercises; to download the complete list and for more information, visit www.straightenupamerica.org.
The Butterfly: Standing and with head held high, belly button in, place your arms behind your head and gently pull your elbows backward. Slowly and gently press your head against your hands while counting to two. Relax, breathe, and repeat three times.
Tilting Star: With head high and belly button in, spread your arms and legs into a star. Breathe in and slowly stretch one arm over your head and slide your opposite arm down your leg. Slowly tilt your star to the opposite side. Relax. Repeat two times.
Twirling Star: In the star position (hands and legs forming a star; see Tilting Star description), turn your head to look at one hand. Slowly twist your entire spine to watch your hand as it goes behind you. Relax and repeat (each side) two times. Keep your head high, belly button in.
The Hummingbird: With head high and belly button in, put your arms out to the sides with your hands up and pull your shoulders together in the back. Now make small, backward circles with your hands and arms. Bend at your waist from side to side, keeping the circles going as you count to 10.
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Safe Exercise Strategies for Adolescents and Teens
These days, if your child is interested in or already involved in competitive sports, or even if they’re just looking to “shape up” for summer, weight-lifting and other forms of training may be an everyday routine. But wait – they’re only kids and their bodies are still growing. It’s important to understand the right (and wrong) way to exercise so your children can avoid injury and burnout.
Exercise, fitness, and sport-specific training are more popular than ever, and interest and participation aren’t limited to the adult crowd. Gyms and health facilities are flooded with parents wanting to give their kids the competitive advantage. There is increasing societal pressure for kids to look a certain way physically or perform a certain way on the playing field. The desire to be number one can set the stage for improper training, overtraining and injury.
Kids pick up the latest fitness magazine and start training like their favorite athletes do, thinking they can be just like them if they push hard enough. Unfortunately, their bodies are usually not ready for this level of training, and they can easily develop abnormal patterns of muscle movement and function. These abnormal patterns inhibit athletic performance and, if left uncorrected, may cause permanent injury. Let’s review the five biggest exercise mistakes youngsters can make, along with some safe and effective alternatives.
Mistake #1: Starting Weight Training Too Soon
The Wrong Way: The number-one cause of injuries and poor performance (by far) is improper weight training. Introducing weight resistance training too soon causes abnormal vector stresses on the growth plates in bones, elevating injury risk significantly. Although injuries can occur at any age, youngsters in their preteen and early teen years are particularly vulnerable, especially to vigorous, repetitive movement, because of the way their bones grow. Ligaments and tendons are also prone to irritation and tearing when muscles shorten, causing lack of mobility and stability.
According to Mike Silva, a personal trainer (and owner/director of Edge Fitness in Ramsey, N.J.) who specializes in training young athletes, “The most commonly injured joint in youngsters is the shoulder rotator cuff. Because of all of the pressing and pushing movements involved with weight training on still-developing tissues, the rotator cuff can’t stabilize properly.
“There is always a sacrifice of exercise quality for more quantity in weight training. Kids are so programmed to reach a certain number of repetitions or sets that they neglect proper form. Weight training should always be under the supervision of a personal trainer skilled in working with youth.”
The Right Way: So, what is a safer and more effective way of getting stronger without weight training? The answer is so simple, yet so effective and easy to do anywhere: body-weight training, which is a fundamental way to build stamina, strength, power and speed. Examples of body-weight training include the basics: push-ups, sit-ups, pull-ups, squats, lunges and sprints.
Mistake #2: Ignoring Flexibility and Stability
The Wrong Way: Lack of proper stretching before and after physical exercise is a primary cause of unnecessary injury. Adults are even guilty of ignoring this important component of any exercise routine, but kids are even worse. The body must be properly warmed up and primed for maximum physical performance and recovery. Without proper blood flow and joint lubrication, the risk of injury is drastically increased. Too often, people who do stretch use static stretch-and-hold techniques; if they go beyond comfortable limits, this type of stretching can actually put the muscle at risk of tearing due to the body’s inherent self-protective guarding mechanism.
The Right Way: The most effective stretching techniques for athletes of any age are called myofascial release and active isolated stretching. These are the “secret weapons” of professional athletes looking to increase performance and reduce injury risk. While you may not have heard of these techniques by name, you’ve probably seen them in action at the gym or on fitness-oriented TV shows.
Myofascial release involves rolling muscles over a cylindrical foam tube to increase blood flow and tissue flexibility. Active stretching uses ropes or bands to elongate muscles and prevent over-lengthening and tearing. I have used this effective combination of massage and stretching for years with all of my athlete patients and cannot recommend it highly enough. Taking just five minutes before exercise or competition to perform these techniques may prevent a life-altering injury from occurring.
Mistake #3: Overtraining
The Wrong Way: The body grows and recovers with rest, not from exercise itself. In this fast-paced, on-the-go world, youngsters are always on the move, hardly taking a moment to rest. They go from one activity to the next and get increasingly less sleep and time for true relaxation. Add the stresses of intense exercise, and you push the body to the brink of breakdown.
Hard training breaks you down and makes you weaker. Rest makes you stronger. Physiologic improvement only occurs during the rest period following hard training. If sufficient rest is not included in a training program, regeneration cannot occur and performance plateaus. If this imbalance between excess training and inadequate rest persists, performance will decline. “Overtraining syndrome” is the name given to the collection of chronic (persisting for weeks, months or even longer) emotional, behavioral, and physical symptoms due to overtraining. Athletes know it as “burnout.” Overtraining is marked by cumulative exhaustion that persists even after recovery periods, and makes the body more prone to injury.
The Right Way: Ensuring adequate rest and recovery is the best way to avoid overtraining syndrome and its consequences. The longer the overtraining takes place, the more rest is required. Therefore, early detection is very important. No matter how interested your child is in exercise and fitness, you have to help them temper that enthusiasm to avoid burnout and injury. As with all things, exercise-related and otherwise, moderation is the key.
If the overtraining has only occurred for a short period of time (e.g., 3- 4 weeks) then interrupting training for 3-5 days is usually sufficient rest. After this, workouts can be resumed on an every-other-day basis. The intensity of the training can be maintained, but the total volume should be lower. It is also important that the factors which led to overtraining be identified and corrected. Otherwise, the overtraining syndrome is likely to recur. An alternate form of exercise can be substituted to help prevent the exercise withdrawal syndrome. You do not need to eliminate all forms of exercise; simply reduce the intensity and allow for proper recovery.
Mistake #4: Unsupervised Group Training
The Wrong Way: The biggest rage in gyms and sports performance facilities is to have a group of kids working out together under the direction of one trainer. Although this can be motivational and inspiring for the kids, not to mention financially successful for the trainer, it may foster injury and poor performance. How? Many trainers will coach and train up to the level of the highest performance potential of the group leader (strongest athlete), while trying to inspire the “weakest” member. Not wanting to disappoint the trainer (or as a response to peer pressure), the weaker members of the group push themselves beyond what their body is ready for, leading to injury.
The Right Way: Proper assessments must be done by the training facility to ensure that groups have a combination of equal fitness ability. It’s OK to be inspired to improve, but not at the expense of proper technique and training strategies. If your child exercises in a group setting, makes sure the trainer includes a “breakout routine” with one-on-one sessions to assess your child’s progress and share the results with you.
Mistake #5: Lack of Agility and Coordination Training
The Wrong Way: Agility is important in sport and daily life to enhance body control, increase foot speed and prevent injury. Agility forces you to quickly move your body in all dynamic ranges of human movement. Without proper agility training, young athletes in particular can have problems with proper function and support in the knee and hip structures. The knee and hip are extremely vulnerable in activities requiring lateral (side to side) movements such as “cutting” and running. Agility training enhances the natural joint proprioceptors in ligaments, which give your body a sense of position. This is critical to ensure all the muscles of the body work together as a functioning unit, as opposed to working against each other.
Coordination, the ability to move the arms, legs and other parts of the body smoothly and in unison, is another important element of proper exercise training. Without proper coordination and balance, children will perform more poorly in sports and increase their risk of injury due to an unnecessary slip, trip or fall.
The Right Way: Agility training involves moving forward, sideways, diagonal, rotational and backward. Examples include: agility ladders, step hurdles (mini), slide boards, agility rings, running stairs, and cross step-over drills. Coordination improves as a result of learning and mastering new movements. Young athletes should start off early with coordination-based exercises that challenge their abilities (within reason). Some youngsters have good balance while others display good rhythm. The key to successful training is to uncover what elements of coordination are required and develop drills/exercises that best target their weaknesses.
Make It Safe and Fun
Like adults, children and teens often experience some discomfort with athletic activity. Their level of physical activity may increase with a sudden, intense interest in sports and fitness, so some aches and pains can be expected. Regardless, their complaints always deserve prompt attention. Some injuries, if left untreated, can cause permanent damage and interfere with proper physical growth.
Never ignore a symptom of pain that lasts more than 48 hours. Whether an injury is acute or chronic, a child who develops a symptom that persists or that affects their athletic performance should be examined by a doctor. They should never be allowed or expected to “work through the pain.” (This is good advice for adults, too.) Specific signs that warrant a closer look include the inability to play or exercise following an acute or sudden injury; decreased ability to exercise because of pain (limiting performance); and severe pain from acute injuries which prevent the use of an arm or leg, or otherwise restrict normal motion
Youth fitness should always be fun. The “win at all costs” attitude of many parents, trainers, coaches, professional athletes and peers can lead to injuries and burnout. A young athlete striving to meet the unrealistic expectations of others may ignore the warning signs of injury and continue to exercise with pain. In short, injuries can be prevented by cultivating an atmosphere of healthy competition that emphasizes self-reliance, confidence, cooperation and a positive self-image, rather than just winning.
By Perry Nickelston, DC
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Think a visit to your medical doctor will be just as effective as going to a doctor of chiropractic when you’re suffering from low back pain? Hmmm. Your medical doctor will likely recommend over-the-counter pain medication or even prescribe something for the pain. (The latter is a primary reason for the opioid crisis that still accounts for countless deaths every day due to abuse / overuse.) On the other hand, a chiropractor will determine the cause of the pain – not mask it with pain relievers – and use safe, effective spinal adjustments and other nondrug, nonsurgical tools to address the problem and help ensure it doesn’t return.
OK, so you’re still not convinced. Perhaps standard medical care for your low back pain is your preference. But don’t forget about chiropractic, because research suggests even people who receive medical treatment for their LBP benefit more from concurrent chiropractic care than those who receive medical care only.
Case in point: a study published in the American Medical Association’s open-access journal, JAMA Network Open, that evaluated strategies for the management of low back pain in active-duty military personnel. “Usual medical care” included self-care, medication, physical therapy and referral to a pain clinic. Chiropractic care included spinal manipulation to the low back and adjacent areas of the body, as well as therapies such as rehabilitative exercise, cryotherapy (ice), superficial heat and other manual therapies.
When added to medical care, chiropractic care resulted in moderate improvements in patients’ pain and their disability caused by the pain. In other words, they hurt less and were able to function better compared to patients who received medical care only. Now that’s a win-win, no doubt about it.
It’s important to note that in the wake of the opioid crisis, countless health care organizations have issued guidelines that recommend spinal manipulation as one of the primary tools to manage low back pain – before using pain medication. Research also suggests that not only are current medical treatments for LBP ineffective, but that nondrug therapies – such as spinal manipulation – are a wise alternative. Talk to your doctor to learn more.
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With all the talk these days about losing weight and burning fat, it’s easy to forget about the importance of building muscle. Whether you’re looking to maximize your metabolism or just look better in front of the mirror, you need muscle to do it. Here are five simple strategies, whether you’re looking to stay lean while losing weight or get pumped up and gain a few pounds of muscle:
1. Contain the Cardio: Exercise that gets your heart pumping, particularly in the fat-burning zone, is great if you’re looking to slim down and lean out. But too much cardio can burn muscle along with the fat (the classic example is the long-distance runner; they may be lean and in great shape, but they generally can’t pack on pounds of muscle). That doesn’t mean you should ignore cardiovascular exercise, because it’s an important part of a healthy lifestyle. Just limit it to three 30-minute sessions a week and spend the rest of your workout time doing muscle-building exercises (with free weights, balls and bands, or your own body weight).
2. Don’t Overdo It: The number-one mistake exercisers make, whether they’re trying to build muscle, burn fat, lose weight or do all of the above, is overtrain. You might think that more is better, but in general, it’s a recipe for disaster. One or both of two things can happen if you overtrain: you can get injured or you can get burned out. If either happens, you won’t be able to – or won’t want to – work out, and of course, if you’re not working out, it’s difficult to build muscle, particularly over time. So work out every other day for a maximum of 45 minutes, and work within the limits of your body. That means if you can only bench press 200 pounds, don’t get greedy and try for a 300-lb lift.
3. Mix Things Up: Life is all about mixing things up. Variety is what keeps people from getting complacent and bored. Your muscles operate under a similar principle. Once they get comfortable with how they’re being used, they stop growing. They key to continual muscle gains is to mix your workouts up every 4-6 weeks; doing so will keep your muscles engaged in fresh, new ways. Instead of sitting back and getting comfortable with the same old workouts, your muscles will jump to attention and keep working hard. The result: they’ll keep growing and you’ll keep building muscle.
4. Keep Eating: In the endless pursuit of weight loss, many people incorrectly focus on calorie restriction as the way to lose weight and get lean. Not only will that not particularly work (your body actually needs more calories, especially if you’re working out; and too few will shut down your metabolism and store fat), but it also will cost you and chances at muscle growth. The reason is twofold: First, the more you eat, especially a blend of protein, complex carbohydrates and essential fats, the more your metabolism increases. The more effective your metabolism is, the more energy your body expends, even when you’re sedentary. Second, if your muscles don’t have enough food, they can’t grow, pure and simple. Starve them and they’ll wither away.
5. Take a Break: Even if you’re mixing your muscle-building workouts up, you – and your body – need the occasional rest. In fact, you’ll often find that your greatest muscle gains take place when you aren’t working out. That’s because muscle growth operates on a simple principle: Exercise tears the muscle down, while rest, recovery and proper nourishment builds it back up. If you’re always working out, your muscle is always being worked – it never has time to grow. So schedule a few breaks during the year of at least a week; you’ll be amazed at the effect it has on your body – and your state of mind. You’ll be ready to get back to the gym, and your body will be ready and raring to go!
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Are you suffering from back or neck pain? You’re definitely not alone, and we mean on a global scale. A series of studies emerging from the Global Burden of Disease 2010 Project, a massive collaboration between the World Health Organization, the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, the University of Queensland School of Population Health, Harvard School of Public Health, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, and the University of Tokyo, Imperial College London, clarifies the worldwide health burden of musculoskeletal conditions, particularly back and neck pain, in crystal-clear fashion, with low back pain identified as the number-one cause of disability worldwide and neck pain the number-four cause. Overall, musculoskeletal conditions represent the second leading cause of global disability.
Findings emphasize the shift in global health that has resulted from disability making an increasingly larger footprint on the burden of disease compared to a mere 20-30 years ago. In addition, while more people are living longer, the flip side is that they do so with an increasing risk of living with the burden of pain, disability and disease compared to generations past.
Dr. Scott Haldeman, a neurologist and doctor of chiropractic, provides a summary of the project’s findings that should make it abundantly clear that conditions many people may consider relatively harmless actually have tremendous potential for long-term health consequences:
Musculoskeletal conditions such as low back pain, neck pain and arthritis affect more than 1.7 billion people worldwide and have a greater impact on the health of the world population (death and disability) than HIV/AIDS, tropical diseases including malaria, the forces of war and nature, and all neurological conditions combined.
When considering death and disability in the health equation, musculoskeletal disorders cause 21.3 percent of all years lived with disability (YLDs), second only to mental and behavioral disorders, which account for 22.7 percent of YLDs.
Musculoskeletal conditions represent the sixth leading cause of death and disability, with only cardiovascular and circulatory diseases, neonatal diseases, neoplasms, and mental and behavorial disorders accounting for more death and disability worldwide.
Low back pain is the most dominant musculoskeletal condition, accounting for nearly one-half of all musculoskeletal YLDs. Neck pain accounts for one-fifth of musculoskeletal YLDs.
Low back pain is the sixth most important contributor to the global disease burden (death and disability), and has a greater impact on global health than malaria, preterm birth complications, COPD, tuberculosis, diabetes or lung cancer.
When combined with neck pain (21st most important contributor to the global disease burden – death and disability), painful spinal disorders are second only to ischemic heart disease in terms of their impact on the global burden of disease. Spinal disorders have a greater impact than HIV/AIDS, malaria, lower respiratory infections, stroke, breast and lung cancer combined, Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes, depression or traffic injuries.
Current estimates suggest that 632.045 million people worldwide suffer from low back pain and 332.049 million people worldwide suffer from neck pain.
“The Global Burden of Disease Study provides indisputable evidence that musculoskeletal conditions are an enormous and emerging problem in all parts of the world and need to be given the same priority for policy and resources as other major conditions like cancer, mental health and cardiovascular disease,” said Dr. Haldeman.
The seven studies from Global Burden of Disease 2010, as well as accompanying commentaries, appear in The Lancet. To review the studies and all relevant material, click here. And by the way, when it comes to preventing and treating musculoskeletal issues, particularly back and neck pain, chiropractic care has been shown in numerous research studies to be an effective conservative option.
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Your spine is the backbone of your entire body – literally and figuratively. That means poor spine health can negatively impact you from head to toe. How can you keep your spine in shape? Let’s learn more about this critical anatomical structure and take a look at some of the simple strategies you can employ to ensure a healthy spine and a healthy body.
Exercises (to Do and Not to Do): Since we’re talking shape here, let’s start with a few exercises that help promote spinal health in the form of proper posture – along with a few that promote poor posture and put the spine at risk. First, a strong core supports the spine, whereas a weak core can lead to pain and injury. To build the core, think planks, bent-leg knee raises, stability ball exercises, ab curls, medicine ball slams and other exercises that strengthen the core muscles (remembering to keep your spine protected at all times by avoiding rounding the back / neck). On the other hand, avoid exercises / movements that unduly stress the spine: slumping while sitting and bending forward immediately after sitting come to mind, as do exercises that make you prone to rounding your back (traditional sit-ups, toe-touches, etc.).
Sleep Matters: Your sleep position and the overall quality of your sleep play a big role in spinal health. The ideal position for the spine during sleep places you on your back with a pillow between your legs. As you might imagine, lying on your stomach is the worse position. Your pillow and mattress also matter, so make sure you choose the right ones for you, or your spine will let you know with neck and/or back pain. (Talk to your chiropractor for suggestions.)
Nutrition Essentials: Believe it or not, certain foods promote a healthy spine (and vice versa). For example, adequate water intake is necessary to nourish not only the body’s cells, but also the spinal intervertebral discs, which consist primarily of water at birth. As you might imagine, water helps keep the discs (and thus the spine) from getting stiff and subject to injury. In addition, an anti-inflammatory diet is key to preventing back pain and other spine problems due to inflammation. Think foods such as omega-3 fish and lean proteins, fresh produce, avocado, olive oil, and various spices while reducing intake of pro-inflammatory foods (most fast foods and processed foods, sugar-laden sweets, etc.).
Chiropractic Care: No conversation about spine health would be complete without mentioning chiropractic, an entire health care profession founded on the principle that a healthy, properly aligned spine has far-reaching effects on the entire body. Research asserts chiropractic’s effectiveness in treating back pain, neck pain and various other musculoskeletal conditions, and the goal of periodic chiropractic care is to maintain spinal health, optimize the body’s self-healing capacities, and thus prevent pain from returning. If you haven’t been to a chiropractor yet, what are you waiting for? If you’ve visited one, but haven’t returned in awhile, remember: your spine – and your entire body – deserve it.
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When you’re suffering low back pain, shoulder pain or any number of similar musculoskeletalconditions, who gets the call: your medical doctor or your doctor of chiropractic? Your choice of health care provider in those situations could make a big difference, and research is continuing to prove it.According to the latest study, chiropractic care is at least as effective as medical care for certain musculoskeletal conditions, while reducing health care costs and leaving patients more satisfied with the results.
The authors of the study, published in theJournal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics (JMPT), went so far as to state that for certain musculoskeletal conditions, visiting an MD first instead of a DC may actually be a mistake:
“The findings of this study support first-contact care provided by DCs as an alternative to first-contact care provided by MDs for a select number of musculoskeletal conditions. Restrictive models of care in which patients are required to contact a medical provider before consulting a chiropractic provider may be counterproductive for patients experiencing the musculoskeletal conditions investigated and possibly others.”
The study sample included 403 patients who saw medical doctors and 316 patients who saw doctors of chiropractic as the initial health care providers for their spinal, hip or shoulder pain complaint. Four months following care, all patients completed a questionnaire that evaluated pain on that day and four months earlier (11-point scale); satisfaction with care received and the results of that care (5-point scale from “very satisfied” to “very unsatisfied”); and other variables. The researchers evaluated related costs of care by reviewing an insurance claims database.
“Patients initially consulting MDs had significantly less reduction in their numerical pain rating score and were significantly less likely to be satisfied with the care received and the outcome of care.” What’s more average per-patient costs over the four-month period were significantly lower in patients who initially consulted DCs ($368 difference compared to MD care).
JMPT Editor-in-Chief Claire Johnson, DC, MEd, emphasized the importance of the latest findings: “Comparative studies – in other words, research that compares the outcomes between two different providers or modalities – are rare for chiropractic care,” she said. “Thus, this study … is especially important if payers and policy-makers are to better understand the ‘triple aim’ as it relates to chiropractic. Specifically, this study helps us better understand what type of care provides better patient satisfaction, is more cost effective, and improves population health.”