Sciatica

Many people have heard of the term sciatica, however it is a very commonly misused and misunderstood term. It covers more than just leg or back pain and can become quite debilitating if left untreated.

Sciatica is actually a group of symptoms and not a diagnosis in itself. The technical meaning of sciatica is dysfunction of the sciatic nerve caused by other spinal structures starting at the nerve root.

This means that actual sciatic pain comes from the nerves that exit the spine, typically at the base above the pelvis (L5-S1), and is most often caused by one of the following:

• Lumbar subluxation (malposition of a joint)
• Lumbar disc herniation
• Degenerative disease
• Spondylolisthesis (where one vertebrae is sitting forward over another)
• Spinal stenosis (where the passage that the spinal chord sits is narrowed)
• And a few others.

The pain associated with sciatica is typically a shooting ‘nerve’ pain that travels quickly down the leg. It often travels down the back of the thigh, past the knee and towards the ankle.

One cause that is a little different from the others is called Piriformis Syndrome. The piriformis is a muscle in the area at the back of the pelvis and in about 15% of the population, the sciatic nerve actually runs through this muscle. That means that when the piriformis is tight or inflamed, it can cause sciatic symptoms even though it’s affecting the nerve further from the spine compared to other more typical causes.

Sciatica

Many people experience sciatic pain differently and may need varying types of treatment. Chiropractic should really be one of the first choices when deciding what to do about your potential sciatica. This is because it’s non-invasive, natural and effective for many cases. The way chiropractic works to reduce sciatica is by decreasing the stress on the nerves at the base of the spine by making sure that each spinal segment is positioned and moving as it should be.

Exercising, along with chiropractic adjustments, is also paramount in the treatment of sciatica. Chiropractic is great for taking stress off the nervous system and helping spinal flexibility, but doing core exercises will help keep your lower back strong and supportive between adjustments at the beginning of treatment and long into the future when you’re maintaining your spinal health.

If your case needs further investigation, our chiropractors at Brisbane Natural Health will help to guide you in the right direction so you can address the issue in a timely manner.

Dr Beau Billett – Bachelor of Applied Science (Chiropractic), Masters of Clinical Chiropractic

What’s cracking? Why you get a popping sound during an adjustment.

Posted by our chiropractor Dr. Beau Billett.

One of the most common statements I hear when someone comes to see me is – “my back has gone out, can you pop/crack it back in?”  This statement leads to my usual response- “if your back has gone out, then where did it go?”  It is a common misnomer that people have that their backs can “go out”.  Unless you have a significant injury with a traumatic joint separation and dislocation, it is unlikely that you back is “out”.  What actually occurs is that a joint complex has lost its normal motion and is fixed or stuck, which can then cause pain, irritation to nerves etc.  Chiropractors, call this joint dysfunction a Subluxation.  Rather than popping or cracking it back we chiropractors perform an adjustment, with the intention of restoring normal motion back to the joint.  Various techniques that chiropractors use do create a popping or cracking sound.  So what is this popping sound that you hear during a chiropractic adjustment? One thing I can say is that is not “bones cracking”.

Some chiropractic techniques cause a popping sound whereas others do not.

When an adjustment is given, the joints that are stuck or fixed, open up briefly (we call it gapping the joint).  It is the process of this joint gapping that creates the sound you hear.  The actual pop is called a cavitation, and it is the release of gas that makes the popping sound.  The joints of the spine are called synovial joints.  The key thing with synovial joints is that joint itself is covered by a joint capsule which is filled with a fluid, called synovial fluid, that acts to lubricate and nourish the joint.  Dissolved into this synovial fluid are a few gasses, Oxygen, Nitrogen and CO2.  When a joint is gapped, or opened up, the gas is rapidly released from the fluid and you hear the distinctive popping sound.  It is similar to the release of gas bubbles when you cork a champagne bottle.  Once the joint is opened up, the synovial fluid re-lubricates the surface and hopefully normal motion has been returned to the joint.

It is important to realize that not every adjustment results in a popping sound, in fact, some chiropractic adjusting techniques never cavitate the joint.  I personally use a mixture of techniques in which some create the sound and some don’t.  The point is, while a ‘pop’ is sometimes felt when giving and adjustment (which by the way does feel great), it is not an indicator of whether or not the correct motion has been restored.  This is why we always recheck that area again after the adjustment to determine if proper motion has been restored.  For those of you who are not keen on having their joints “cracked” then these techniques, that don’t create the popping sound, may be for you.  Please discuss with your chiropractor if you are not comfortable with the sound and we can discuss the options with you.

Still on the “cracking” topic, the other question I get asked a lot is, does cracking my knuckles lead to arthritis? The simple answer is no.  There have been a few studies that investigated whether or not cracking knuckles caused arthritis.  They did conclude that cracking knuckles will not increase the risk of arthritis, but (and there is always a but) knuckle cracking was related to hand swelling and lower grip strength and there may be a connection to soft tissue injuries.  So, even though it will not give you arthritis, it may not be a good habit to get into.

What do you think? Do you like or dislike the cracking noises during an adjustment?

To make an appointment with a chiropractor at Brisbane Natural Health, call us on 07 3367 0337 or use the booking button!

Chiropractic For Neck Pain

Can chiropractic help with neck pain?

Yes! Our chiropractors help patients overcome neck pain every day. Chiropractic is clinically proven to be of help with neck pain. Besides us getting excellent results for our clients in this area, here is what researchers have found:

A randomised controlled trial involving 183 patients with neck pain compared chiropractic, physiotherapy and general practitioner (GP) care (counselling, education and drug therapy) over 52 weeks. The study found that chiropractic resulted in faster recovery than physiotherapy or GP care. As well as this, it was found that the total cost of chiropractic over the other therapies was about one-third of the other interventions.

— Korthals-de Bos et al (2003), Cost effectiveness of physiotherapy, manual therapy, and general practitioner care for neck pain: economic evaluation alongside a randomised controlled trial, British Medical Journal

A study involving 272 participants evaluated the effectiveness of chiropractic vs. pain medications or exercise recommendations. After 12 weeks, 57% of those who received chiropractic care had a 75% reduction in pain, compared to 33% of the medication group. After 12 months, 53% of the drug-free groups reported at least a 75% reduction in pain, compared to just a 38% pain reduction from those on medication.

— Bronfort et al. (2012), Effectiveness of manual therapies: the UK evidence report, Annals of Internal Medicine

 So how does it work?

Chiropractic works for neck pain by removing blockages in the cervical (neck) spine, which can lead to surrounding muscle tension and pain. When the joints are not moving freely, it can cause inflammation and tightness around the site. As well as moving the joints back into alignment, our chiropractors will help to release the surrounding muscles to help relieve pain in the area.

But, it’s not always about the neck. The shoulders and lower back can also play a role in neck pain, due to the resulting misalignment. Our chiropractors will look at the whole body and will also give you some basic stretches to do at home to help relieve the situation.

Will I need X-rays?

Our chiropractors will likely order X-rays to look at your spine. X-Rays allow our chiropractors to pick up any structural abnormalities, degradation or other issues that could be contributing to your neck pain. Getting a diagnosis for your pain is important, as we don’t want to just treat the symptoms.

How long will it take to get better?

Most patients begin to notice changes in their neck pain in the first couple of weeks of treatment. To correct the problem may however take several months, depending on the severity. Initially your body will need more treatment to respond, then as things stabilize, your treatments will become less frequent.

What about massage?

Massage can be an important factor in recovery for those with neck pain. We know that muscles and bones work together, so we offer all new chiropractic patients a complimentary 30 minute massage to evaluate the state of your muscles and recommend a course of treatment based on this.

You can make an appointment at our Brisbane clinic by calling 07 3367 0337 or using the online booking button below to make your own appointment online.

 

 

chiropractic and neck pain

Why you shouldn’t skimp on stretching

Stretching – that activity that we know we should no but generally don’t, leaves you feeling nice and warmed up and ready to take on the world… but why is stretching important, and does it really matter if you decide to skimp on it? In this article our Musculoskeletal Therapist Emma shares her wisdom on stretching.

Range of motion

Generally speaking, the range of motion is dictated by two factors: your joints and muscles. Muscle provides passive and active tension to joints, with neuroreceptive qualities to it, dependent on its contractile state. Movement is also dependent on the amount of range of motion a synovial joint has (synovial being a joint that has a capsule filled with synovial fluid).

Muscle tension decreases range of motion

So from this we have one major factor that we can control: muscle tension. Muscle tension can result from a variety of things; anything from your day-to-day activities – work, exertional exercise, walking, even sitting down and watching television has some factor in which muscles create tension, and which muscles are switching off and not doing their job.

Without even working your muscles can become tense from your body’s amazing ability to adapt and overcome situations. This can include scar tissue, neurological impairment, or certain postures (think desk work, five days a week situations).

Stretching helps the muscles and the joints

Stretching generally focuses on the muscular length between the joints where it originates, and where it attaches. When you stretch, your muscle increases in length due to muscle: brain communication through certain receptors. As well as stretching muscles, actively stretching allows your joints to increase in space, allowing less compression between bones. This reduces deterioration of joint structures, ultimately allowing your ligaments and fascia (the connective tissue surrounding your muscles, bones, joints, blood vessels etc) to release. Regular stretching can therefore prevent pain and discomfort that arises from both muscular tension and joint pain.

Stretching calms the mind

Active stretching, the kind that puts you through your entire range of motion – holding and releasing several times, can also induce a meditative state, where you are able to enjoy the full benefit of your feel good endorphins! Combining stretching with some deep breathing exercises will help you to be able to stretch longer with the added benefit of relaxation.

Stretching for people who ‘can’t stretch’

Are you particularly tense and feels like you just can’t reach that happy point of no pain and/or length when stretching? Getting some passive stretches from a Musculoskeletal or Remedial Massage Therapist can greatly reduce the restrictive feeling of active stretching as they work with your own body dynamics, rather than against them. It feels fantastic to stretch like this since you’re immediately relaxing into it and allowing your body to naturally move in ways that would otherwise be limited from the psychological barriers in place to reduce injury.

So to recap, you shouldn’t skimp on stretching because…

  • It lengthens muscles to relieve tightness
  • It helps to increase space in the joints, which can prevent pain and discomfort
  • It helps to prevent injury
  • It increases range of motion, to help you move more freely

So now that you know, try not to skimp on stretching. It really is an important part of keeping your body healthy and mobile through the years. Happy stretching, everyone!

Want your own tailored stretching program? Make an appointment with a musculoskeletal or remedial massage therapist by calling 07 3367 0337 and we will help you on the way to recovery. 

5 Common Causes of Back Pain

Back pain is one of the most common ailments people visit our chiropractors and massage therapists for. Here is our chiropractor Dr. Beau’s 5 most commonly seen causes of back pain.

1. Lifting injuries.

Poor lifting technique is by far one of the most common causes of back pain I see in the clinic. Lifting objects, heavy or not, with poor posture and lifting technique, is a recipe for disaster. Just like any other joint in the body, you can sprain and strain the ligaments and tendons in your back, irritate the joint capsules or worse still cause a disc injury. All of which can lead to stress on your spinal nerves.

Some tips to avoid lifting injuries:

  • Get help lifting when available, especially for heavy objects or anything greater than 20% of your body weight.
  • Bend through knees and hips, keeping the back straight instead of bending at the waist.
  • Tense your core and abdominal muscles.
  • Avoid any twisting or pivoting whilst lifting. Change direction by moving your feet, not twisting at the waist

2. Posture related pain – not sitting right

Humans have not evolved to sit for long periods of time. That includes time sitting at a desk, in a car, on the couch, at the dinner table and so on. If you add all the time you spend sitting each day, for some it can really amount to a huge chunk of your day. So if we are going to be sitting, we should at the very least be doing it properly.

  • Sit with your backside in the corner of the chair.
  • Use the backrest and avoid leaning on your desk as you work. This takes stress off your discs.
  • Take breaks every hour or so to stand up, stretch, and reposition yourself to correct your posture.
  • Avoid crossing your legs, which misaligns the spine

3. Stress

Stress can take many forms; emotional, physical/mechanical and dietary/chemical, but in almost everyone, when we get too stressed, we develop muscle tension and stress on the nervous system. Most commonly noticed in the upper back and shoulders, another area we can forget about when we are stressed is the low back. I can be very beneficial to take some time out after your busy day to unwind and do a few stretches before retiring for the evening. Being mindful of your stress goes a long way to realising and addressing those tight spots we develop when under the pump.

4. Daily activities.

This one is often related to lifting injuries. Especially when in a rush, tasks such as doing the laundry, gardening or doing the dishes for example, can easily cause back pain if attention is not paid to how we are positioning ourselves and whether or not we are engaging our core abdominal muscles. Even twisting to get out of a car has been known to cause disc injuries. To avoid any injuries be sure to stay mindful of the task at hand and to engage your core muscles. This takes practice and can be achieved by imagining that you are sucking your belly button to your spine and ‘tucking’ your backside down. Certain types of exercises, such as Pilates, are designed to get you using your core muscles more effectively.

5.Weekend Warriors

This is referring to that game of football you decided to have with your mates on the weekend without any training, or those 18 holes of golf without any stretching afterwards or the massive mountain trek where you pulled up so sore you could barely move the next day. Yes, the most common cause of acute back injury I see in clinic is the weekend warriors doing athletic activities without athletic training or recovery. There’s no reason to say you can’t exercise and do something a bit adventurous on the weekends, however know your limits. Take into account your overall fitness, any training you’ve been doing, and make sure to warm up and stretch properly afterwards.

 

Need help with back pain? Chiropractic is clinically proven to help with back pain. Call reception on 07 3367 0337 to make an appointment. 

Crossing your legs – how bad is it really?

Posted by Dr. Tressa Fuss – chiropractor

People often ask me if crossing your legs is really bad for you.  They have been told that crossing your legs can lead to varicose veins. This is the case.  But it’s worse than just the vein damage… Your whole body is affected.

VEIN DAMAGE:

Your arteries (the blood vessels from your heart to the body) have the very powerful heart to pump your blood down the the feet. The veins (the blood vessels from the body to the heart) however use your calf muscles, which aren’t as strong, to push the blood back up.  They also have little valves inside to catch the blood as your leg muscles pump it up, to stop gravity taking it back down to the feet. The weight of one leg on the other compresses the tiny veins in your legs. Your body needs these veins open to ensure that the blood is able to be pumped back to your heart.  If they are squashed then the blood pools in your feet and calves which stretches the veins. The veins not only become more visible through the skin as they become bigger, crossing the legs makes the poor valves work way too hard and can cause irreversible damage.

SPINAL DAMAGE:

Your spine can also be injured by crossing your legs. To understand how, give this a try:

1. Sit down with the feet flat on the ground and put one hand on each hip.

2. Cross your legs with one knee over the other and feel what happens to your hips.

One hip will elevate and the other hip will lower as the pelvis twists to allow you to cross the legs. The more you sit like this, the more the body gets used to it and muscles will begin to hold you in that position even when you uncross the legs. The pelvis is a bit like the floor of your house, if it’s twisted or tilted, it’s hard to expect the walls will be straight and the roof on flat. Except in the case of your body, the walls are your spine and the roof is your head. If the pelvis is tilted the spine will curve and twist trying to keep the eyes parallel to the horizon.

The other problem is that if the floor is tilted, it usually means the foundations (your legs) are dodgy too. When the pelvic bones tilt, the muscles tighten and one leg gets pulled closer toward the body. This gives you a shorter leg on one side.  When you stand up, the body leans over that side causing even more change to the spinal curves, even up as high as the neck.

Any changes to your spinal curves causes an altered load bearing to the joints and increases your risk of wear and tear as well as pain and inflammation.

See the three pictures below.  The first is with uncrossed legs, the second is with legs crossed at the knees and the third is with one foot up on the opposite knee.  You can easily see how much the poor body has to try and compensate.  Hips are tilted, the spine is twisted and leaning off to the side, the neck is rotated and the head and shoulders are not level.  It affects the body the whole way up.  Imagine the imbalanced muscles, the uneven joint pressure, none of which is at all good!

chiropractor brisbane

WHAT YOU CAN DO:

Crossing the legs at the ankles is better but anything higher than that causes damage long term.  If you do need to cross the legs for a brief period (eg. modesty reasons when wearing a short skirt) make sure it is for as little as possible, get up often and make sure you swap legs consistently so that it’s not always the same leg on top.

Do you cross your legs much? Are you suprised to learn the effects?