Month: December 2013

Chiropractic Yields Significant Improvement in MRI-confirmed neck pain

Fifty patients with neck and arm pain caused by an MRI-confirmed cervical disk herniation received chiropractic adjustments over a 90-day period. After two weeks, 55.3% of patients reported their pain had significantly improved. This number rose to 68.9% after one month and 85.7% after three months of care. No adverse events were reported.
Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics, October 2013

Carpal Tunnel

Last month, we covered what Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS) is, its symptoms, causes, who is at risk, and how it’s diagnosed. This month, we’ll center our focus on CTS treatment.

How is CTS treated? For the best success, treatment should begin as early as possible. Unfortunately, most people wait a long time before they get to the point where the symptoms interfere with daily activity enough to prompt them to act quickly and make an appointment. Once the cause or causes of CTS are determined, treatment can address ALL the presenting contributing conditions. The FIRST course of care should be NON-SURGICAL, though this is not always practiced – so be aware! Non-surgical care includes the following:

Chiropractic:
Manipulation: This usually includes adjusting the small bones of the hand, the wrist, the forearm, elbow, shoulder, and/or the neck.
Active Release Techniques: This includes loosening up the overly tight forearm muscles where the median nerve runs through (on the palm side of the forearm).

Nutritional: Nutrients such as vitamin B6 have been shown in studies to be effective in some cases. Also, anti-inflammatory herbs (ginger, turmeric, bioflavinoids) and / or digestive enzymes (bromelain, papain, and others) taken between meals are quite effective.
Anti-inflammatory: The first important distinction is that ice can be very effective depending on how long the CTS has been present. In particular, ice cupping or rubbing ice directly on the skin over the carpal tunnel is the most effective way to use ice as an anti-inflammatory agent. When doing so, you will experience four stages of cooling: Cold, Burning, Achy, Numb or, “C-BAN.” It’s important to remember this as you are REALLY going to want to quit in the burning/achy stages when it feels uncomfortable. Once the skin over the wrist / carpal tunnel gets numb (which takes about four to five minutes) QUIT as the next “stage” of cooling is FROST BITE! Most medical practitioners promote the use of NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) like Advil, aspirin, or Aleve. However, these carry negative side effects including gastritis (burning in the stomach that can lead to ulcers), or liver and/or kidney damage. Try the nutritional anti-inflammatory approach FIRST as they are extremely helpful without the bad side effect potential!
Diet: An ant-inflammatory diet, like the Paleo-diet or gluten free diet, serves as a great tool in reducing the inflammatory markers in the body. Though only 7-10% of the population has celiac disease (gluten intolerance), it’s been estimated that over 80% of us are gluten “sensitive.” Reducing systemic inflammation can make a BIG DIFFERENCE in the management of many conditions including CTS!
Mechanical: Wrist “cock-up” splints can also be REALLY HELPFUL, especially for nighttime use. The reason for this is because when our wrist is bent forwards or backwards, which frequently occurs when sleeping, the pressure inside the carpal tunnel increases, and over time (minutes to hours), the increased pressure in the tunnel exerts compression on the median nerve which then creates numbness into the thumb, index, third and half of the fourth finger, which can wake you up out of a sound sleep. Keeping the wrist straight at night prevents you from curling your wrist under your jaw while sleeping.
Ergonomic Modifications: Changing your work station (computer station, line position, machine controls, pace or rate of repetitive movements, and more) is VERY effective.

WE have a great track record with Carpal Tunnel Syndrome at Denver Chiropractic Center. Call us 303.300.0424.

Whiplash – Can We Predict Long-Term Problems?

Whiplash (or the rapid acceleration forwards followed by deceleration or sudden stopping of the moving head during the whiplash event) occurs at a speed that is so fast, we can’t prepare for it. In other words, by the time it takes us to voluntarily contract a muscle to guard ourselves against injury, that rapid forward/backwards “whipping” of the head and neck is already over! When considering the details of the injury event, sometimes we lose focus on what REALLY matters. Is there a way to reduce the chances for a long-term chronic, disabling, neck pain / headache result? Last month, we found out that the long-term use of a cervical collar is NOT a good idea. What are some other ways to prevent long-term disability?

A very interesting study investigated the first 14 days of treatment during the acute stage of whiplash neck sprain injuries following a car accident. The researchers wanted to determine what long-term consequences resulted from two different treatment approaches. In one group (201 patients, 47% of the total group), the patients were encouraged to, “…act as usual,” and continue in their normal daily, pre-injury activities. The patients in the second group were given time off from work and were immobilized in a soft cervical collar during the first 14 days after the car crash. At the end of the 14 days, there was a significant reduction of symptoms between the first visit to the fifteenth day (24 hours after the 14 day initial treatment time frame in both groups). However, when evaluated at the six-month point, the group that continued their normal daily routine, did not take time off work, and did not wear a collar had, “…a significantly better outcome,” compared to the other group. This study supports that over-treatment with a collar and time off from work “sets people up” for adopting a “sick role” where the patient is overly-focused on their problem. This study parallels what we discussed last month and embraces the chiropractic philosophy to staying active, exercise, don’t use a collar, and the use of manipulation which exercises joints and keeps them from stiffening up, thus reducing pain and the fear of doing activity!

Another study looked at different presenting physical factors that might be involved in the development of long-term handicaps after an acute whiplash injury in a group of 688 patients. They measured these physical factors at three, six, and twelve month intervals and found the relative risk for a disability a year after injury increased with the following: 1) A 3.5 times disability increase with initial high pain intensity of neck pain and headaches; 2) A 4.6 times increase with initial reduced neck movement or ranges of motion; and 3) A 4 times greater chance with initial multiple non-painful complaints (such as balance disturbance, dizziness, concentration loss, etc.). In yet another study, both physical and psychological factors were found to predict long-term disability. These included initial high levels of reported pain and poor activity tolerance, older age, cold sensitivity, altered circulation, and moderate post-traumatic stress.

The “bottom line” is that as chiropractors who also use Active Release Techniques, we are in the BEST position to treat and manage whiplash injured patients based on the type of care we perform and offer. We promote exercise of muscles and joints, encourage activity not rest, and minimize dependence on medication, collars, and other negative treatment approaches.

The many types of headaches: chiropractic can help

Headaches come in MANY different sizes, shapes, and colors. In fact, if you search “headache classification,” you will find the IHS (International Headache Society) 152 page manual (PDF) lists MANY different types of headaches! Last month, we discussed migraine headaches. This month, we’ll talk about the other headache types. So WHY is this important? Very simply, if we know the type of headache you have, we will be able to provide you with the proper treatment. Headaches are classified into two main groups: “primary” and “secondary” headaches. The “Primary” headache list includes: 1) Migraine; 2) Tension-type; 3) Cluster; 4) “Other primary headaches,” of which eight are listed. One might think that with this simple breakdown of the different types of headaches it should be easy to diagnose a type of headache. Unfortunately, that’s NOT true! In fact, a 2004 study published that 80% of people with a recent history of either self or doctor diagnosed sinus headache had NO signs of sinus infection and actually met the criteria for migraine headaches! So, the more we can learn about the different types of headaches, the more likely that we will arrive at an accurate diagnosis.

Tension-Type Headaches: This is the most common type affecting between 30-78% of the general population. It is usually described as a constant ache or pressure either around the head, in the temples, or the back of the head and/or neck. There is typically NO nausea/vomiting, and tension-type headaches rarely stop you from performing normal activities. These headaches usually respond well to chiropractic adjustments and to over-the-counter medications like Advil, aspirin, Aleve, and/or Tylenol, though we’d prefer you first reach for an anti-inflammatory herb like ginger, turmeric, bioflavonoid, and the like as these have less stomach, liver, and/or kidney related side-effects. These headaches are typically caused by contraction of the neck and scalp muscles, which can be result of stress, trauma, lack of sleep, eyestrain, and more.

Cluster Headaches: These are less common, typically affect men more than women, and occur in groups or cycles. These are VERY DISABLING and usually arise suddenly and create severe, debilitating pain usually on only one side of the head. Other characteristics include: a watery eye, sinus congestion, or runny nose on the same side of the face as the headache. An “attack” often includes restlessness and difficulty finding a pain-reducing, comfortable position. There is no known cause of cluster headaches, though a genetic or hereditary link has been proposed. The good news is that chiropractic adjustments can reduce the intensity, frequency, and duration of cluster headaches!

Sinus Headaches: Sinusitis (inflamed sinuses) can be due to allergies or an infection that results in a headache. This may or may not include a fever, but the main distinguishing feature here is pain over the infected sinus. There are four sets of sinuses. Many people know about the frontal (above the eyes on the forehead) and maxillary (under the eyes in our cheeks) but the two sinuses deep in head (ethmoid and sphenoid sinuses) are much less known or talked about. These two deep sinuses refer pain to the back of the head, and when infected, it feels like the back of the head could explode. Lying flat is too painful so sitting up is necessary. Chiropractic adjustments applied to the sinuses, upper neck, and lymphatic drainage techniques work GREAT in these cases!

We will continue next month with the remaining types of headaches!

We realize you have a choice in whom you consider for your health care provision and we sincerely appreciate your trust in choosing our service for those needs.  If you, a friend, or family member requires care for headaches, we would be honored to render our services.

Can Chiropractic Help the Post-Surgical Patient?

Low back pain (LBP) accounts for over 3 million emergency department visits per year in the United States alone. Worldwide, LBP affects approximately 84% of the general population, so eventually almost EVERYONE will have lower back pain that requires treatment! There is evidence dating back to the early Roman and Greek era that indicates back pain was also very prevalent, and that really hasn’t changed. Some feel it’s because we are bipedal (walk on two legs) rather than quadrupedal (walk on four limbs). When comparing the two, degenerative disk disease and spinal osteoarthritis are postponed in the four-legged species by approximately two (equivalent) decades. But regardless of the reason, back pain is “the rule,” NOT the exception when it comes to patient visits to chiropractors and medical doctors. Previously, we looked at the surgical rate of low back pain by comparing patients who initially went to spinal surgeons vs. to chiropractors, and we were amazed! Remember? Approximately 43% of workers who first saw a surgeon had surgery compared to ONLY 1.5% of those who first saw a chiropractor!  So, the questions this month are, how successful IS spinal surgery, and what about all those patients who have had surgery but still have problems – can chiropractic still help them?

A review of the literature published in the Journal of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons showed that in most cases of degenerative disk disease (DDD), non-surgical approaches are the most effective treatment choice (that includes chiropractic!). They report the success rate of spinal fusions for DDD has been only 50-60%. The advent of artificial disks, which originally proposed to be a “cure” for symptomatic disk disease, has fared no better with possible worse long-term problems that are not yet fully understood. They state, “Surgery should be the last option, but too often patients think of surgery as a cure-all and are eager to embark on it.” They go on to write, “Also, surgeons should pay close attention to the list of contraindications, and recommend surgery only for those patients who are truly likely to benefit from it.” Another study reported that, when followed for 10 years after artificial disk surgery, a similar 40% of the patients treated failed and had a second surgery within three years after the first! Similar findings are reported for post-surgical spinal stenosis as well as other spinal conditions.

So what about the success rate of chiropractic management for patients who have had low back surgery? In a 2012 article, three patients who had prior lumbar spinal fusions at least two years previous were treated with spinal manipulation (three treatments over three consecutive days) followed by rehabilitation for eight weeks. At the completion of care, all three (100%) had clinical improvement that were still maintained a year later. Another study reported 32 cases of post-surgical low back pain patients undergoing chiropractic care resulted in an average drop in pain from 6.4/10 to 2.3/10 (that means pain was reduced by 4.1 points out of 10 or, 64%). An even larger drop was reported when dividing up those who had a combination of spinal surgeries (diskectomy, fusion, and/or laminectomy) with a pain drop of 5.7 out of 10 points!

Typically, spinal surgery SHOULD be the last resort, but we now know that is not always practiced. IF a patient has had more than one surgery and still has pain, the term “failed back syndrome” is applied and carries many symptoms and disability. Again, to NOT utilize chiropractic post-surgically seems almost as foolish as not utilizing it pre-surgically!

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Chiropractic Promotes Normal Ranges of Motion

“It is hypothesized that because spinal manipulative therapy (adjusting) brings a joint to a normal range of motion, routine manipulation of asymptomatic patients may retard the progression of joint degeneration, neuronal changes, changes in muscular strength, and recruitment patterns, which may result in improved function, decreased episodes of injuries, and improved sense of well-being.”
Journal of Chiropractic Humanities, December 2011