Common Questions about Cervical Disk Herniations

Last month, we discussed the topic of neck pain arising from cervical disk herniations. The focus of this month’s Health Update is common questions that arise from patients suffering from cervical disk derangement.

1. “What can I do to help myself for my herniated disk in my neck?” The mnemonic device “PRICE” stands for Protect, Rest, Ice Compress, and Elevate is a good tool to use in the acute stage of many musculoskeletal conditions.

  • Protect your health by NOT placing yourself in an environment that is likely to harm you, such as playing sports or doing heavy yard work. That is, think about what you do BEFORE you do it and if sharp, radiating pain occurs, STOP and assess the importance of what you are doing. Use the concept, “…don’t pick at your cut.” This means if you want the injury to heal, don’t keep irritating it!
  • Rest is similar. Limit your activities to those that can be done without increasing symptoms, especially radiating pain.
  • Ice – The use of ice reduces swelling/inflammation, which reduces pain and promotes healing. Alternate it every 15-20 minutes (on/off/on/off/on) several times a day. You can also use contrast therapy (Ice/heat/ice/heat/ice) at 10/5/10/5/10 minute intervals to “pump” out the swelling.
  • Compress – The use of a collar worn backwards, if it’s more comfortable that way, can literally “take the load off.” the neck and disks. There are even inflatable collars which are pumped up with air to traction the neck. Other forms of traction will be discussed further.
  • Elevate – The concept of raising the ankle to the height of the heart so swelling can drain out of the ankle is the classic example of “elevation.” In the neck, the traction concept may apply once again.

2. “I don’t want to have surgery if I can help it. What can you do as a chiropractor to help me?” This is one of our primary goals, and in fact, the goal of ALL health care providers, even surgeons! Chiropractic offers anti-inflammatory measures: ice, herbal anti-inflammatory agents (ginger, turmeric, bioflavonoid, curcumin, bromelain, Rosemary extract, Boswellia Extract, and more), digestive enzymes taken between meals, muscle relaxant nutrients (valerian root, vitamin D, a B complex, chamomile, magnesium, and others) as well as other non-pharmaceutical options. Treatments consist of manual manipulation, mobilization, traction (for home and office), modalities such as laser and low-level laser, electrical stimulation, magnetic field, ultrasound, and others.

Most important is having a “coach” guide you through the stages of healing by first addressing the acute inflammatory stage (first 72 hrs), the proliferative or reparative phase (up to 6-8 weeks), followed by the remodeling phase (8 weeks to 1 or 2 years) and finally, the contraction phase (lifetime – includes the natural shortening of scar tissue). If manual traction reduces neck and arm pain, the use of home traction is very effective. Options include sitting over-the-door traction, laying down versions, and mobile traction collars (discussed previously).

Exercises to stretch and strengthen the neck are also very important in reducing neck pain as well as preventing recurrences. If in spite of all the best efforts of this non-surgical care approach should ongoing neurological loss and relentless symptoms continue, we will coordinate care with physiatrists for possible injection therapy and pharmaceuticals, with neurology for further testing (such as EMG/NCV – a nerve test), and/or neuro- or orthopedic surgery – THE LAST RESORT!

We realize that you have a choice in where you receive your healthcare services.  If you, a friend or family member requires care for neck pain, we sincerely appreciate the trust and confidence shown by choosing our services and look forward in serving you and your family presently and, in the future. 303.300.0424 [email protected]

 

Car Accidents and neck pain (a.k.a. Whiplash)

Whiplash refers to an injury to the neck resulting from a rapid movement, usually associated with a motor vehicle collision (MVC). However, it can occur with a slip and fall injury, a bar room brawl, during a sports event like being tackled in football, among other things. For the sake of this discussion, we will stick with the classic example of a rear-end MVC.

 Mechanism of injury: So what really happens during the MVC that causes injury? The answer centers around movement of the neck which exceeds the normal tissue’s stretch limits, sometimes referred to as “the elastic barrier.” When the MVC occurs, during the first 100-200 milliseconds the trunk supported by the back of the car seat rapidly moves forwards leaving the head unprotected in its original position resulting in a backward glide or motion of the head and neck. Next, the head (which weighs about 12-15 pounds) drops back (HOPEFULLY) into the headrest stopping the motion, but if the head rest is too far back (>1/2 inch) or too low, then the head keeps going backwards until the tissues in the front of the neck stretch to the point of either stopping the motion or tearing (or both).

Next, the highly stretched front of the neck muscles, ligaments, disks, and tendons (in a “crack the whip” like manner) propel the head forwards to the point of over stretching the tissues in the back of the neck, which similarly stops the movement &/or tears. The degree of injury depends on many things, but is notably worse in the long-necked, skinny female where the “crack the whip” reaction is the greatest. Several factors determine the degree of injury, including the “G-Force,” or the amount of energy produced during the impact. The greater the G-force applied to the head/neck, the greater the potential for injury.

The G-force affecting the occupants inside the vehicle is related to many things: the speed of the crash, the size of the two vehicles (worse if a large automobile hits your smaller car), the angle and springiness of the seat back, the amount of energy absorbed by crushing metal vs. no damage to the vehicles (worse when there is no damage as all the energy is transfer to the occupants), whether the head was rotated or looking straight at impact, and more. The KEY to all of this is that we cannot voluntarily contract our muscles quicker than 800-1000 msec and the whiplash process is over after about 500 msec, so we can’t effectively “guard” or protect ourselves against injury even if we try by bracing ourselves before the MVC!

            Type of injury: The classic injury is called a sprain (ligament tear) and strain (muscle and/or muscle tendon tear) to either or both the front of the neck and/or back of the neck. Sprains and strains come in 1st, 2nd, and 3rd degree tears, getting progressively worse as more tissue is torn. Please refer to previous issues of the Whiplash Health Update where the anatomy is reviewed so you can “picture” this properly.

            Prognosis: The length of time to recovery or maximum improvement varies by the amount of tissue damage. A “prognosis scale,” first introduced in 1995 and validated by 2001, showed that in Type 1 injuries pain without loss of neck motion healed the quickest. Type 2 injuries where neck movement was reduced after the MVC (but no neurological findings occurred) healed next quickest. Type 3 injuries, which included BOTH motion and neurological loss, healed the slowest and had the worst long-term outcomes. Other factors enter into this, of course.

We will continue this “Whiplash 101” discussion next month…

We realize you have a choice in where you receive your healthcare services.  If you, a friend or family member requires care for whiplash, we sincerely appreciate the trust and confidence shown by choosing our services and look forward in serving you and your family presently and, in the future.

Hippocrates and chiropractic care

Chiropractic may only be 114 years old, but spinal manipulation has been around for thousands of years. Massage and manipulation are two of the oldest remedies known to man. In fact, the first pictures depicting spinal manipulation were discovered in prehistoric caves in Point Le Merd in southwestern France. These drawings depicted crude, non-specific attempts to manipulate the spine that date back to 17,500 bc. The ancient Chinese were using manipulation in 2700 bc. and James Cyriax, in his Textbook of Orthopedic Medicine, included a picture of a Buddhist temple with a statue over 2,000 years old showing manipulation of the lumbar spine.

More recently, Hippocrates (460-377 bc), the father of Greek medicine said, “Get knowledge of the spine, for this is the requisite for many diseases.” He wrote over seventy books on healing and was a proponent of spinal manipulation. This great physician was also the first to deal with the anatomy and the pathology of human spine. In his books, he provides a precise description of the segments and the normal curves of the spine, the structure of the vertebrae, the tendons attached to them, the blood supply to the spine, and even its anatomic relations to adjacent vessels. Hippocrates devised two apparatuses, known as the Hippocratic ladder and the Hippocratic board, to reduce displaced vertebrae.

Hippocrates believed only nature could heal and it was the duty of a physician to remove any interference preventing the body from healing. Hippocrates taught that the essence of life and the ability of the body to heal was the result of a vital spirit.

Denver Chiropractic Center Weekly Health Update

“If you want others to be happy, practice compassion.
If you want to be happy, practice compassion”
~ Unknown

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Mental Attitude: The Elderly and Facebook.
Elderly adults who learned to use Facebook on a daily basis scored 25% better on tests measuring their cognitive abilities than their peers who did not.
University of Arizona, February 2013

Health Alert: Baby Boomers Vs. Preceding Generation!
As each generation grows older, they believe they are healthier than the previous generation. However, the baby boomers are unable to make this claim. Compared to the preceding generation at the same stage of their lives, fewer have “excellent” health (13% vs. 32%), more have high blood pressure (75% vs. 35%), and more are obese (36% vs. 25%).
JAMA Internal Medicine, February 2013

Diet: The Southern Diet and Stroke.
People from the American South are 20% more likely to have a stroke than those from other parts of the country, and the Southern diet may be to blame. People who eat Southern style food high in fat, sugar, and salt at least 6 times a week were at 41% higher risk for a stoke. People whose diets consisted of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains at least 5 times a week were 29% less likely to have a stroke.
American Stroke Association, February 2013

Exercise: Tai Chi?

Tai Chi may reduce falls among adult stroke survivors. Tai Chi is a martial art dating back to ancient China that includes physical movements, mental concentration, and relaxed breathing.
American Stroke Association, February 2013

Chiropractic: Recommended For Back Pain.
The Royal College of General Practitoners’ 2009 recommendation for treating non-specific low back pain advises doctors to advocate exercise and manipulation (such as chiropractic care) before pharmacological (drug) therapies and more invasive treatments (like surgery).
National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellences, 2009

Wellness/Prevention: Sunshine and Rheumatoid Arthritis.
Routine exposure to the sun, especially ultraviolet B (UVB) rays, may decrease the risk of rheumatoid arthritis. Those with the most elevated rates of exposure were 21% less likely to develop rheumatoid arthritis than who had less exposure.
Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases, February 2013

Who replaced Miss Keri, Denver Chiropractic Center shows you how to help your own ankle sprain, and the one-page health news.

This week we welcome our new office manager Natalie who is taking the reins from Keri. We look forward to working with Natalie for a long time. This week, as we’re all digging out from the snow, we have another video from Dr. Stripling. He’s covering ankle sprains. We treat lots of ankle sprains at Denver Chiropractic Center. As scar tissue affects the injured ankle, it’s left stiff and painful. By using Active Release Techniques to break up the scar tissue, and using some appropriate re-training techniques, we can usually dramatically shorten the time it takes for sprained ankles to heal.

 

Mental Attitude: No Interruptions Please. Short interruptions (such as the few seconds it takes to silence that buzzing smart phone) have a surprisingly large effect on one’s ability to accurately complete a task. Interruptions of just three seconds can double your chances for making errors. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, January 2013

Health Alert: American Health. Americans have shorter life expectancy and higher rates of injury and disease than citizens of other industrialized countries. A 2011 report showed that the US ranked 50th in life expectancy. In most health issues (infant mortality, teenage pregnancies, sexually transmitted diseases, heart disease, chronic lung disease, disability, obesity, diabetes, drug-related deaths, homicides, injuries, and HIV/AIDS), the US is either at the bottom or near the bottom of the list of industrialized nations. Institute of Medicine and the National Research Council, January 2013

Exercise: Not At School! In the 1920s, 97% of US college students were required to take Physical Education (PE); today, that number is at an all-time low of 39%. 34% of adolescents and teens ages 12-19 are overweight and 17% are obese. These rates have roughly doubled since 1980. The median PE budget for schools in the US is $764 per school year in K-12 and 61% of PE teachers report an annual budget of less than $1,000. Obesity will cost the US $344 billion in medical- related expenses by 2018, about 21% of the nation’s total health-care spending. Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport, January 2013

Chiropractic: Inflammation! Inflammation is your body’s natural response to injury and is part of the healing process. However, if proper care is not received, inflammation can hinder the healing process and may lead to scarring, improper motion, and additional pain. Signs of inflammation include: pain, heat, redness, swelling, and loss of function. Chiropractic adjustments and care can reduce inflammation and pain naturally!

Quote: “A healthy attitude is contagious but don’t wait to catch it from others. Be a carrier.” ~ Tom Stoppard

Video: Dr. Stripling’s Ankle sprain video can be found on our blog by clicking here.

This week’s 1-Page health News from Denver Chiropractic Center

Health Alert: High Fructose Corn Syrup and Type-2 Diabetes. Researchers found a 20% higher proportion of the population has diabetes in countries with high use of High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS), like the United States, compared to countries that do not, like the United Kingdom. The United States has the highest consumption of HFCS at 55 lbs (~25 kg) per year per person. The United Kingdom consumes 1.1 lbs (~.5 kg) per year per person.

Global Public Health, November 2012

Diet: Food Advertising. Childhood obesity has tripled in the past 30 years. Food companies spend $10 billion a year marketing in the United States, and 98% of that is on foods high in fat, sugar, or sodium.

Journal of Pediatrics, November 2012

Exercise: Walk Much? The more moderate physical activity (like brisk walking) you do, the better. Compared to doing nothing at all, seventy five minutes of vigorous walking per week was linked to living an extra 1.8 years. Walking briskly for 450 minutes or more per week was found to provide most people with a 4.5-year longer lifespan. The longer people spent each week being moderately active, the greater their longevity. Heart, November 2012

Chiropractic: Keep Your Disks Healthy. In normal healthy disks, the nerves (sinuvertebral) only sense pain on the periphery or outer regions of the disk. In grossly degenerated disks, nerves may penetrate into the center (nucleus) of the disk and be more vulnerable to degeneration and/or inflammation. Lancet, 1997

Wellness/Prevention: Cell Phone Addiction. Cell phone and instant messaging addictions are driven by materialism and impulsiveness and can be compared to consumption pathologies like compulsive buying and credit card misuse. Cell phones may be used as part of the conspicuous consumption ritual and may also act as a pacifier for the impulsive tendencies of the user. Impulsiveness plays an important role in both behavioral and substance addictions.

Journal of Behavioral Addictions, November 2012

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome – Are There Other Tunnels?, by the Active Release certified doctors at Denver Chiropractic Center

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome – Are There Other Tunnels?

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS) refers to the median nerve being pinched in a tunnel at the wrist. As the name implies, “carpal” refers to the 8 small bones in the wrist that make up the “U” shaped part of the tunnel and “syndrome” means symptoms that are specific and unique to this condition. As we learned last month, CTS can be affected by nerve pinches more proximal to the wrist, such as at the forearm, elbow, mid-upper arm, shoulder or neck.

To make matters more complex, there are two other nerves in the arm that can also be pinched in different tunnels, and the symptoms of numbing and tingling in the arm and hand occur with those conditions as well. This is why a careful clinical history, examination, and sometimes special tests like an EMG/NCV (electromyogram/nerve conduction velocity) offer the information that allows for an accurate diagnosis of one or more of these “tunnel syndromes” in the “CTS” patient. Let’s look at these different tunnels and their associated symptoms, as this will help you understand the ways we can differentiate between these various syndromes or conditions.

Let’s start at the neck. There are seven cervical vertebrae and eight cervical spinal nerves that exit the spine through a small hole called the IVF (intervertebral foramen). Each nerve, like a wire to a light, goes specifically to a known location which includes: the head (nerves C1, 2, 3), the neck and shoulders (C4, 5), the thumb side of the arm (C6), the middle hand and finger (C7) and the pinky side of the lower arm and hand (C8). If a nerve gets pinched at the spinal level (such as a herniated disk in the neck), usually there is numbness, tingling, and/or pain and sometimes, usually a little later, weakness in the affected part/s of the arm and hand (or numbness in the scalp if it’s a C1-3 nerve pinch).

So, we can test the patient’s sensation using light touch, pin prick, vibration, and/or 2-points brought progressively closer together until 1-point is perceived and then comparing it to the other arm/hand. Reflexes and muscle strength are also tested to see if the motor part of the nerve is involved in the pinch. The exam includes compression tests of the neck to see if the arm “lights up” with symptoms during the test.

Next is the shoulder. Here, the nerves and blood vessels travel through an opening between the collar bone, 1st rib and the chest muscles (Pectorals). As you might think, the nerves and blood vessels can be stretched and pinched as they travel through this opening and can cause “thoracic outlet syndrome.” Symptoms occur when we raise the arm overhead.

Hence, our tests include checking the pulse at the wrist to see if it reduces or lessens in intensity as we raise the arm over the head. At the shoulder, the ulnar nerve is the most commonly pinched nerve, which will make the pinky side of the arm and hand numb, tingly, and/or painful. A less common place to pinch the nerves is along humerus bone (upper arm) by a bony process and ligament that is usually not there or resulting from a fracture. Here, an x-ray will show the problem.

The elbow is the MOST common place to trap the ulnar nerve in the “cubital tunnel” located at the inner elbow near the “funny bone” which we have all bumped more than once. Cubital tunnel syndrome affects the pinky side of the hand from the elbow down. The median/carpal tunnel nerve can get trapped here by the pronator teres muscle, thus “pronator tunnel syndrome.” This COMMONLY accompanies CTS and MUST be treated to obtain good results with CTS patients. The radial nerve can be trapped at the radial tunnel located on the outside of the elbow and creates thumb side and back of the hand numbness/tingling.

Any or all of these nerve can get “trapped” by the muscles that run near them. This is where Active Release Techniques (ART) treatment separates itself for other modalities. ART is the only system that trains providers how to check these entrapment spots muscle by muscle. Once identified, the trained and certified ART provider knows how to release the muscles and remove the pressure. This goes way beyond standard chiropractic treatment or basic physical therapy.

So now you see the importance of evaluating and treating ALL the tunnels when CTS is present so a thorough job is done (which is what we do at Denver Chiropractic Center). Try the LEAST invasive approach first – non-surgical treatment – as it’s usually all that is needed!

Do the Chiropractors at Denver Chiropractic Center Help Patients With Headaches?

This seems like an easy question to answer, doesn’t it? The answer of course being, YES!!! However, there are many people who suffer with headaches who have never been to a chiropractor or have not even ever considered it as a “good option.”

So, rather than having me “reassure you” that chiropractic works GREAT for headache management, let’s look at the scientific literature to see if “they” (the scientific community) agree or not.

In a 2011 meta-analysis, researchers reviewed journals published through 2009 and found 21 articles that met their inclusion criteria and used the results to develop treatment recommendations. Researchers discovered there is literature support utilizing Chiropractic care for the treatment of migraine headaches of either episodic or chronic migraine. Similarly, support for the Chiropractic treatment of cervicogenic headaches, or headaches arising from the neck region (see last month’s Health Update), was reported

In addition, joint mobilization (the “non-cracking” type of neck treatment such as figure 8 stretching and manual traction) or strengthening of the deep neck flexor muscles may improve symptoms in those suffering from cervicogenic headaches as well. The literature review also found low load craniocervical mobilization may be helpful for longer term management of patients with episodic or chronic tension-type headaches where manipulation was found to be less effective.

We add Active Release Techniques to this treatment arsenal to release tension in the muscles in the neck and at the base of the skull. These tight muscles are often the overlooked culprit in people with headaches,

Okay, we realize this is all fairly technical, so sorry about that. But, it is important to “hear” this so when people ask you why are going to a chiropractor for your headaches, you can say that not only that it helps a lot, but there are a lot of scientific studies that support it too!

Bottom line is that it DOES REALLY HELP and maybe, most importantly, it helps WITHOUT drugs and their related side effects. Just ask someone who has taken some of the headache medications what their side-effects were and you’ll soon realize a non-drug approach should at least be tried first since it carries few to no side effects.

We realize that you have a choice in where you choose your healthcare services.  If you, a friend or family member requires care for headaches, we sincerely appreciate the trust and confidence shown by choosing our services and look forward in serving you and your family presently and, in the future. 

Dr. Stripling’s Self-Help Video for Neck Pain, from Denver Chiropractic Center