By: Dr. Aaron Dutruch
As a Chiropractor, one of the more common reasons patients seek treatment is back pain. There are several types of injuries that could cause a patient pain or discomfort. Of these, the most common injuries we see are sprains, strains, joint dysfunction and more serious issues involving the spinal discs and nerves.
Strains & Sprains
Sprains are defined as damage to the muscle or tendons, whereas strains are defined as damage to the ligaments. They usually occur at the same time and are often treated simultaneously. These types of injuries can occur throughout the spine and are typically characterized by local pain (pain in one spot that does not move), potential swelling and pain with movement. Sprains and strains can happen with motor vehicle accidents, falls and improper lifting.
The spinal joints are unique in that they are not specifically designed to bear weight like the knee, hip or ankle joints. They are designed to be like “guide rails” to help direct motion and protect the spinal cord. Joint dysfunction simply means that the joints are not moving the way they should. These injuries are subtle and often lead to muscle spasms, chronic stiffness or discomfort for the patient. The most common causes of joint dysfunction are incorrect posture and sprains or strains that have not healed properly; which can cause a change in bio-mechanics (how we move).
Disc and Nerve Involvement
The spinal discs are the primary weight bearing structures within the spinal joint complex. Because these structures are so close to the spinal nerves, they often cause intense pain and radiculopathy (pain, numbness, tingling or weakness often into the extremities). These injuries can occur several ways, such as during a motor vehicle accident, when lifting improperly, or over time with joint degeneration.
Prevention and Treatment
Although its difficult to avoid traumatic events such as accidents and falls, lets focus on things we can affect.
Increasing core strength and flexibility are great ways to help reduce the risk of injury. Yoga is an excellent, low impact way to increase your core strength and endurance; help reduce muscle tension and joint stiffness within the spine. Another easy way to increase your core strength and endurance is to keep your core muscles tight while you are standing. This will also increase your overall postural awareness and can help reduce the effects of degeneration as we age.
Overall, treatment for these various conditions will be different from person to person and depend on the severity of the injury. These treatments could include adjustments, exercises and various therapeutic modalities.
The chiropractic adjustment is an excellent way to help correct bio-mechanical deficiencies. Throughout our education as chiropractors we are taught how to test for abnormal motion within a patient’s spine, and learn adjusting techniques to correct these abnormal movements.
Specific exercises may be given to the patient to help stretch tightened muscles or to strengthen weakened muscles that are contributing to the patient’s pain. Other modalities available to the chiropractor could include, but are not limited to, nutritional counseling, decompression for disc related injuries, dry needling, soft tissue mobilization and electrical stimulation can be used to help reduce pain and muscle spasms.
But the most important tool in the chiropractic toolbox is education. The goal in any chiropractic office should be to make sure to teach you not only what is going on with your body and how we can help, but how you can avoid these injuries moving forward.
Proper posture is an important aspect of injury prevention so remember these posture tips throughout the day to help. While seated, keep your feet on the floor without crossing your legs, keep your feet in front of your knees (they should be level with your hips), keep your shoulders relaxed and remember to take frequent breaks (every 25 minutes or so). While standing, keep your weight on the balls of your feet with your knees slightly bent, your feet should be shoulder width apart, tuck your stomach in and keep your ears over your shoulders.
Dr. Aaron Dutruch received his BS in Kinesiology, Fitness and Human Performance from LSU and his Doctorate of Chiropractic from Texas Chiropractic College. He specializes in Functional and Kinetic Treatment with Rehabilitation (FAKTR). Premier Chiropractic, 1120 N Causeway Blvd. Ste 2, Mandeville, (985) 674-5855, premierchiromandeville.com