Oakland Spine News

Still In Pain?

All teachers know their history.
When it comes to pain and wellness, here’s a lesson worth remembering: acupuncture is one of the oldest healing practices in the world and can be traced back thousands of years to ancient China. The practice is based on belief in keeping the body’s vital energy flow, or qi (pronounced chee) in balance. Qi flows through the body along 14 ‘pathways’ or meridians. When energy becomes stuck or blocked, pain and illness can occur. Today, many Western practitioners view the acupuncture points as places to stimulate nerves, muscles and connective tissue. This stimulation appears to boost the activity of your body’s natural painkillers and increase blood flow.

Many teachers suffer from painful sciatica, carpal tunnel and neck or low back pain due to repetitive motions and, often, stress. Acupuncture has been shown to help patients mange pain for these disorders, as well as many others, such as migraines and joint pain. The process of inserting very fine needles along specific points in the body can release natural pain-relieving chemicals, promote circulation and balance the nervous system.

Acupuncture has become an increasingly popular option for patients who suffer from chronic pain. In fact, the FDA estimates that Americans undergo between 9 and 12 million acupuncture treatments per year – a number that is bound to continue growing, thanks to its safety and effectiveness. The procedure itself involves the use of ultra-thin needles, made from silver and steel alloy. After a patient has been diagnosed and acupuncture has been deemed appropriate, a licensed acupuncturist will map out the points on the patient’s body where the therapeutic needles can be used to effectively restore the body’s natural energy flow. Patients generally feel only a brief sensation when the needles are inserted, and are often surprised at how painless the treatment actually is. In fact, many patients find acupuncture to be soothing and relaxing.

Acupuncture treatments have been shown to cause the release of endorphins, which are the natural pain relieving substances found in the brain and spinal cord. This natural reaction by the body may help to explain how acupuncture is helpful in relieving pain.

Why do teachers love acupuncture?
Because acupuncture is a non-surgical, drug-free technique that has been used to successfully treat not only pain in the back, neck, shoulders and extremities, but it may also be used to help with relaxation, losing weight, quitting smoking, or reducing anxiety.

Reprinted with permission from Think Teachers Magazine.

It’s All in the Wrist… and Hand… and Fingers…

The carpal tunnel is located at the base of the palm. It is made up of bones, tendons and a thick ligament, all of which encircle the median nerve. Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS) occurs when this nerve becomes pinched or inflamed, usually a result of repetitive motion from typing or any other sustained activity that overuses this area. An injury to the wrist or hand can also result in nerve damage to the carpal tunnel.

Symptoms range from numbness, tingling and pain to loss of muscle strength. Numbness is most prevalent in the thumb, index and middle fingers, and is often first noticed upon waking.

Who Gets Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?
CTS is the most common nerve disorder of the hands, but the majority of cases occur in women between 40 and 55, and 60% of all work injuries are due to CTS. Common occupations at high risk for CTS are secretaries, carpenters, weightlifters and meat packers. Young women can also develop CTS during pregnancy because of hormonal effects upon ligaments and tendons.

Treatment of CTS
Traditional physicians often inject corticosteroids into the area, which will temporarily relieve pain and swelling, but this does not actively treat the problem. When CTS is severe, surgery is often recommended, but this should be a last resort, since surgery can result in scarring and weakening of the ligament, and symptoms can eventually recur.

Chiropractic manipulation has been proven effective in treating CTS because chiropractors are nervous system experts. After X-ray or electromyography studies, your chiropractor can determine the extent of injury and the exact mode of manipulation necessary to alleviate the problem. Adjunct treatment LCT 1000 Deep Tissue (Class IV) Laser may be the most advanced and effective way to alleviate pain and promote healing for CTS sufferers.

Wrist support is very helpful in resting the area and relieving symptoms, even during sleep. Patients with CTS are also encouraged to take breaks and vary their activities during the day to avoid overuse of the area, and to wear fingerless gloves to promote warmth and flexibility in the hands and wrists.

What if it Still Hurts?
Some people do not respond to typical treatment of the wrist because the painful nerve compression is occurring not only in the wrist, but also further along the nerve path to the neck or at multiple locations. The effects of the compression at the lower area is exaggerated by the other higher up compression. This is called Double Crush Syndrome and can be helped with chiropractic management that includes spinal manipulation and physical therapy.

Reprinted with permission from Think Teachers Magazine.

Fibromyalgia (FM) Facts

What is Fibromyalgia Anyway?
Fibromyalgia (FM) is a disabling condition of the myofascia, or the fibrous connective tissues that surround muscles, that can include widespread musculoskeletal pain along with fatigue, sleep disturbance, memory changes, mood changes and more. Fibromyalgia is an epidemic diagnosis and continues to grow. The most affected group is women from the age of 30 to 50.

Studies show that FM amplifies or increases painful sensations by changing the way the brain processes pain signals. FM is NOT a psychological disorder that only people with a troubled past or present acquire. Nor is it due to being inactive or lazy.

What are the Symptoms of Fibromyalgia?

  • Chronic muscle and joint pain, muscle stiffness, leg cramps
  • Painful trigger points – small penny-sized tender spots scattered over the body in 18 specific target areas
  • Unrefreshing sleep, insomnia, depression, anxiety
  • Fatigue, sometimes overwhelming
  • Increased sensitivity to drugs, chemicals, foods, light and/or sound, changes in temperature
  • Dizziness
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Numbness or tingling of arms, legs or feet
  • Irritable bowel, irritable bladder

What Causes Fibromyalgia?
Most researchers believe fibromyalgia is caused by a combination of factors, which may include genetic predisposition, stress, trauma, and chemical or hormonal imbalances. A deficiency of the neurotransmitter serotonin, responsible for its calming, anti-anxiety properties, has been highly implicated, especially since women have lower serotonin levels than men, and patients given SSRI medication (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors) such as Zoloft, Cymbalta or Lyrica, have shown improvements in Fibromyalgia symptoms.

In 1990, the American College of Rheumatology established 2 criteria for diagnosing FM. The first is widespread pain lasting at least 3 months, and the second is the presence of at least 11 out of 18 positive tender points. Since then, less emphasis has been placed on the exact number of tender points, while ruling out other possible underlying conditions that might be causing the pain is now utilized. Treatment is best approached by a “team effort” combining the skills from multiple disciplines including a primary care doctor who “believes in FM” and is willing to work with chiropractors, and others. Exercising, pacing yourself, accepting your limitations, yoga, psychological counseling, nutritional counseling, and having strong family/friend support are all important in the management of FM.

What Treatments are Available for Fibromyalgia?
In addition to numerous drugs on the market, many people find relief using physical modalities to treat their symptoms. Traditional therapies like chiropractic manipulations, physical therapy and massage therapy have produced high levels of lasting success for many. In addition, new research is proving the benefits of acupuncture. Finally, new technology like class IV deep tissue laser therapy to treat the pain points can also be very effective.

Reprinted with permission from Think Teachers Magazine.

A Little Stress Is Healthy… A Lot Is Not!

We all experience stress at times in our lives, and it isn’t always bad. Under certain kinds of pressure, you can be motivated to do your best and perform better. Stress can come from your environment, your body and your thoughts. No one is immune to it, and everyone handles it differently. It can be positive, keeping us alert and helping us avoid danger… and it can be negative when facing continuous challenges without relief or relaxation to recover from it.

When you’re constantly running in emergency mode, your mind and body can pay the price. Even the commonplace stresses of modern life may be affecting your health without you even realizing it. Stress that is constant without any relief can lead to a negative stress reaction called distress. Distress can lead to physical symptoms including pain of any kind including headaches, neck and back pain, heart disease, digestive problems, sleep problems, depression, obesity, autoimmune diseases, skin conditions such as eczema, and others.

While unchecked stress is undeniably damaging, there are many ways to reduce its impact and mitigate the symptoms. Recognizing common stress symptoms can give you a jump on managing them. You may think that illness is to blame for that nagging headache or persistent backache, but it could very well be your body’s reaction to stress that is causing your pain. While you can’t completely eliminate stress from your life, you can control how much it affects you. To get your stress under control, first find out what is causing the stress in your life. Then look for ways to reduce the amount of stress you’re experiencing, and implement some healthy ways to relieve stress or reduce its harmful effects. It’s all about taking charge of the way you respond to stress — taking charge of your emotions and thoughts, your schedule, and your environment.

Strategies to prevent and manage stress include learning how to relax, developing a positive attitude, regular exercise, eating a healthy diet, enjoying time with friends and social situations, massage therapy, acupuncture, chiropractic adjustments to release muscle tension and reduce irritation, mental health professional support, relaxation techniques such as yoga, meditation and deep breathing, and getting a night of good, restorative sleep.

Reprinted with permission from Think Teachers Magazine.

Condition of the Month : Colds & Flu

When it comes to Colds and Flu this year the best offense is a great defense. Every year around this time millions of Americans suffer from colds and flu and they don't know what to do. Well it turns out the latest and greatest medications never work.

Even the Flu Vaccine is highly questionable. The top Flu Researcher at the FDA reported: "There is nothing based upon either epidemiology or controlled experiments, to show that the influenza vaccine yields a benefit toward the recipient." Further, many respected researchers around the world have claimed that the Flu Vaccine GREATLY increases your risk of developing Alzheimer's, Parkinson's and Dementia. So what they are saying is not only does it not work, but you risk far greater diseases if you take the shot.

So lets put logic to work here. During this time of year there are many different stressors that are at work: seasons are changing, schedules are changing, schools and sports are back in session – in other words there is a boat load of stress.

Typically, when we have more time demands we tend to neglect what we need -resulting in a "double negative" of more stress and less care. Stresses come in different forms, but they all have one thing in common – they RUN DOWN the nervous system and it's the NERVOUS SYSTEM that controls the immune system. So what do you need to know???

Don't neglect yourself. As a matter of fact, instead of getting less care during this time of the year, we suggest you get EXTRA CARE. Come in for EXTRA adjustments to boost your nervous system, EXTRA massage therapy to boost your lymphatic and immune system, and EXTRA acupuncture to balance all the systems in your body!! Just a word of advice from the office that cares about more then just your spine!!


What if Your Back Pain is a Herniated Disc?

What is a herniated disc?
Discs are shock absorbers for the spine – they’re flexible, almost gelatinous disks between vertebrae that cushion the spine and permit full range of motion. Sometimes these discs can degenerate and herniate, which means material from inside the disc can leak out. This can cause a great deal of pain, because when a disc herniates it presses on spinal nerves. Approximately 90% of disc herniations occur toward the bottom of the spine, known as the lumbar spine. A herniated disc with a pinched nerve can be extremely painful.

What are the symptoms of a herniated disc with a pinched nerve?
Symptoms of this nerve impingement are weakness in extending the big toe and ankle (foot drop), numbness can be felt on top of the foot, and can radiate into the buttock. If a different nerve is involved, the ankle reflex is lost and the patient cannot rise to their toes using their ankle. Pain in this case radiates down to the sole or outside the foot.

How is a herniated disc treated non-surgically?
Pain from a herniated disc often resolves on its own over time, as the prolapsed material is reabsorbed by the body, but until this happens (usually between four and six weeks) there can be considerable pain.

Bed rest is not recommended beyond a day or two for a herniated disc with a pinched nerve. Even in these cases, regular movement is advised to maintain muscle tone. Pain medication, cold and/or heat therapy, electrostimulation, bracing, traction, steroid injections and hydrotherapy are often used to control discomfort until the condition resolves.

While many people turn to medications and even surgery, they are very often ineffective and sometimes not necessary. It is during this period that chiropractic manipulations and physical therapy are often recommended, and in 80 to 90% of cases of a herniated disc with a pinched nerve, no surgery is required. New technological advances, such as class IV deep tissue laser and spinal decompression, comprise some of the latest non-surgical therapeutic modalities that can successfully resolve the problem and eliminate the need for surgery.

Other treatment options include medication to reduce the pain associated with herniated discs and, in severe cases where conservative treatments fail to relieve the symptoms, surgery may be performed to remove the protruding portion of the disc. Rarely, the entire disc may be removed and spinal stability may need to be provided by fusing metal hardware, or in some cases, an artificial disc may be implanted. Surgery should always be the last resort because of the statistically high failure rate and long recovery time.

Reprinted with permission from Think Teachers Magazine.

Better Ways to Treat Headaches & Migraines

Headaches are one of the most common conditions known to man. Nine out of ten Americans suffer from headaches, either occasionally or on a more chronic basis. Headaches are divided into primary headaches (which account for 95% of headaches) and those headaches that signal another physical condition.

Headaches can be dull, sharp, throbbing or extremely painful, as in migraine or cluster headaches. Nausea can be another symptom, along with increased sensitivity to light and sound. Several factors can trigger headache onset, the most common triggers include stress, tension, allergies, too much alcohol, colds and flu viruses, insomnia, and even food.

While medication is often the first treatment choice for headache and migraine sufferers, there are also drug-free options such as acupuncture and therapeutic massage that have proven to be highly effective while eliminating the risk of dangerous side effects. The Consensus Statement on Acupuncture by the National Institutes of Health, released in 1997, stated that acupuncture was useful as an additional treatment or an acceptable alternative in a comprehensive pain management program for conditions including headache, carpal tunnel syndrome, low back pain, and others. And one recent study showed the effects to be long-lasting, with acupuncture treatment reducing chronic pain in the neck and shoulder areas and associated headache for months.

For centuries, massage therapy has been used to alleviate stress and promote general wellness. It has also proven to be a remarkably effective means for combating chronic pain and improving range of motion, and can even be used to fight off headaches and depression. Non-invasive and extremely safe, massage therapy can be utilized on its own or as a supplement to physical therapy, chiropractic treatment, and a host of other therapies.

Originally published in Think Teachers Magazine

Reprinted with permission from Think Teachers Magazine.

Questions About Sciatica Answered

What is Sciatica?
Back injury doctors will tell you that sciatica is a condition in which pain originating from the low back or buttock area travels down one or both legs. The pain of sciatica has been described as achy, sharp, tingling, or has sometimes been likened to electric shocks. Pain can be mild, moderate or severe, infrequent or constant, depending on the degree of nerve involvement.

What Causes Sciatica?
Sciatica is usually caused by compression of the sciatic nerve, a large nerve originating at the base of the spine. This compression can be caused by subluxations (misalignment) of the lower spine; herniated or bulging discs; pregnancy and childbirth (when pelvic bones shift and the tissues surrounding them are softer and more movable); tumors or diabetes.

Sciatica is often a result of Piriformis Syndrome. The piriformis muscle is located in the lower spine and is involved in hip rotation. The sciatic nerve is located directly beneath the piriformis muscle, so any injury or disorder affecting this muscle can result in pinching of the sciatic nerve.

How Does a Back Pain Specialist Treat Sciatica?
Initially the doctor will need to accurately diagnose the cause of a patient’s sciatica. This involves taking the patient’s medical history, conducting a thorough physical and neurological examination and employing various diagnostic tests, including X-ray, MRI, CT scans and, if needed nerve testing including electromyography. In most cases, sciatica can be treated non-surgically and non-invasively.

Therapy will be customized based on the most effective way for the patient’s body to begin to heal itself, and may include physical therapy, ice/cold therapy, electrical stimulation (TENS), and spinal manipulation. Advanced therapies such as spinal decompression and deep tissue medical laser therapy can also create dramatic results.

Reprinted with permission from Think Teachers Magazine.