Problems With Back Pain? Try Sleeping in a Hammock

The vast majority of us in America are overweight, under-rested, and have at least mild and occasional, if not chronic, back problems.

For being the wealthiest country in the world and surrounded by 21st century technology that may be a bit surprising. But as anyone who's had the pleasure of crossing the border to Mexico, or even further south to Nicaragua and the rest of Central America, can tell you, sometimes to find the key to better health you need to travel back in time.

Hammocks have been around for over 500 years; ever since the Mayans started weaving them from Sisal bark on the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico. In almost all every home in Latin America there's a hammock in the patio or living room. And if it's not someone's primary bed, then it's at least used for daily naps. Why? Because it's often more comfortable and healthy to sleep in a hammock.

Expensive, modern mattresses cause longer more back pain problems than they fix. Sleeping in a hammock, however, can often alleviate back pain and lead to a much better nights rest. The reason is that hammocks support your body's weight evenly. A hammock with the right weave pattern will stretch and conform to your individual weight and shape and give even support to every part of your body that it comes in contact with.

The key is finding the proper weave. Handwoven Mexican (often referred to as Mayan) hammocks and Nicaraguan hammocks employ a double or even triple spring weave where every strand of cotton or nylon is interwoven 2 or 3 times with the neighboring strand. The result is a hammock that performs a give and take with your body and supports you in a way no mattress ever will-no matter how expensive or advanced.

What's more, recent studies show that sleeping in a hammock can lead to much deeper, more satisfying sleep and faster recovery. The reasons are twofold.

First, it's been proven that the most healthy, ideal position to sleep in is with the feet raised ever so slowly and the head and back raised at a 10-30 degree incline. This is exactly the position you get from sleeping in a hammock, and results in more unobstructed breathing, increased oxygen intake to the brain and improved blood flow that's vital to helping tired and sore muscles recuperate.

And secondly, the gentle back-and-forth rocking motion you get from a hammock has been shown to alter your brain waves in a way that not only helps you fall asleep faster, but gives you more REM sleep (deep sleep) once you ' re there. This REM sleep is essential to restoring your bodies immune system and even improving your brains capacity to process information.

So not only can a hammock improve your health and alleviate back pain problems, it might even make you smarter!

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Time to Trade in Your Mattress (and Back Pain) for a Hammock?

Anybody out there who does not love a relaxing nap in a hammock? No. Did not think so, but here's another reason to love hammocks even more: A hammock is good for your back.

Everybody knows about back problems caused by mattresses that are too soft, or the discomfort of a mattress that is too firm. But nobody has ever had to utter the phrase “hammock back pain.” Because even with all the research and money being poured into making thousand-dollar space age mattresses that reduce pressure points and distribute weight evenly, a quick half hour snooze in an centuries' old weave will convince you that sometimes the best solutions to a difficult problem are also the most simple ones that have been right in front of us all along.

Hammocks have been around for centuries; ever since the Mayans started weaving them from Sisal bark on the Yucatan peninsula of Mexico over 500 years ago. And today a hammock can be found in almost every home from Mexico down through Nicaragua, Panama and beyond. The reason is simple: Hammocks are good for your back, great for sleeping, and much more affordable than a high-end mattress.

So what makes a hammock good for your back? With a tightly woven, yet flexible hammock your weight is supported evenly through. The problem with a bed is that whether you sleep on your side, stomach, or back, your body is not flat but the mattress is. This naturally creates undue stress on your body when, say, your butt, upper back and head are being stuffed into your mattress or pillow and supporting all your weight while your lower back, thighs and other parts of your body are left unsupported.

A traditional hammock (the woven kind without spreader bars), however, will conform to your body weight and shape, and form a supportive cocoon around your entire body.

It's important to get the proper kind of hammock. Traditional American rope hammocks and solid, all-weather fabric hammocks will do very little to alleviate back problems as they lack the ability to stretch and conform to your weight and shape. Woven hammocks from Mexico or Nicaragua on the other hand feature a double or even triple spring weave, where strands of cotton or nylon are interwoven two or three times around each other to create an extremely comfortable, breathable, supportive weave that stretches and conforms perfectly to your individual weight and shape; no sleep number necessary.

So in case you were still on the fence about buying that new hammock for the backyard or patio, now you have the health argument on your side. So go ahead and swipe that card, and when you get the receipt, file it under “health and well being.”

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How Chiropractors Can Help With Back Pain

Millions of people suffer from a number of different aches and pains every day. Some of those aches and pains are minor and temporary. Others are easily remedied using creams and ointments, massage, or through pain pills. When none of these options works, especially when it comes to the pains that people suffer with relation to their back, they seek out the assistance of a professional that is trained in helping people ease their pains. The professional that many people seek out to help them with their pain are chiropractors. Chiropractors are trained in how to treat the different parts of the body and hopefully ease the source of the pain from which the individual may be suffering.

Dealing With Pain

With relation to the back pain, that people suffer from specifically, this can be a result of the spell being knocked out of alignment. This can occur to an accident, or when playing a variety of different sports. If you find yourself experiencing any pain in the back and nothing that you have tried seems to work, before you look into going to a chiropractor, you may want to consider going to a traditional doctor to make sure there is not a medical reason for your constant pain. If after checking with your doctor and no medical problem being linked to your pain, consider consulting with a chiropractor that you trust.

Treatments From Chiropractors

If you are suffering from lower back pain and go to a chiropractor, they will be able to help alleviate this pain through different treatments. One of the most common reasons for pain in the lower back is related to the irritation of the sciatic nerve. A chiropractor will know how to manipulate the spelling in a variety of ways that will help in the removal of the irritation allowing the individual to function normally once again, without the constant pain in their lower back.

Depending on the reason for your pain, and where it is located, your back and spine will be twisted and manipulated in a variety of ways until the pain that was once present has been eliminated or greatly reduced. One thing about going to chiropractors is that once you have started going to see one for your back pain, you will have to see them on regular occasions. Regular treatments will help keep your back pain at bay.

If you are someone that suffers from regular back pain and nothing you try offers you any sort of relief, then it may be time to you considering going to a chiropractor.

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New Study Yields Important Findings For Treatment of Spinal Cord Injury

A recent study into the effects of treadmill therapy on patients with spinal cord injuries in the upper back (thoracic spine) yielded several interesting results. These results may be highly important for spinal injury patients and the doctors treating them.

Widespread Injury

One of the important findings of this study, which used mice as subjects, was that injury to the spinal cord may cause adverse effects all the way down the spine. Thoracic injuries shown evidence of damage as far as 10 vertebrae lower than the site of injury. Nerves in the lumbar sphere are responsible for several of the body's functions, one of the most important of which is walking. This means that therapies designed to maintain and facilitate lower body function, like treadmill walking, are important for patients with thoracic injuries.

Inflammation Impacts Recovery

Secondly, researchers found that the amount of inflammation present in the spinal cord has an impact on the effectiveness of treadmill therapy, which involves the use of a harness to support the patient's body weight as he or she attempts to move his or her legs on the treadmill. One group of mice in the study was genetically engineered to have less of a pro-inflammatory enzyme called MMP-9 in their bodies, meaning they experienced lower levels of inflammation with spinal cord injury; another group had normal levels of the enzyme. Only mice without the enzyme, and therefore with lower levels of inflammation, displayed significant locomotor improvements from treadmill training. Control groups of mice who received only one of the treatment modalities – MMP-3 deficiency or treadmill training – displayed no improvements.

For humans, this result may mean that treadmill walking combined with measures to control inflammation in the spinal is the most beneficial form of treatment after spinal injury.

Early Treatment Is Best

The final significant result of this study was that one week of treatment beginning 2 days after injury yielded results, while delayed treatment during the 7th week post-injury did not yield results. This suggests that prognosis is best when treatment is begon early, although this study offers no information on the effectiveness of treatments begon between the 2nd and 6th weeks post-injury.

While this study was conducted on mice, and while one study is never enough to state conclusively what type of treatment is best, the results do suggest a path for doctors treating patients with spinal cord injuries. Inflammation control, early treatment and attention to the whole spine appear important.

See more on the study at http://www.jneurosci.org/content/33/32/13101 .

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The Role of Inflammation in Back Pain

Back pain is second only to headaches as the most common neurological complaint in our country. Whether acute or long term, statistics tell us that most people will suffer from some sort of back pain at least once in their lifetime.

Limited mobility and pain are associated with both chronic and acute back problems. Sometimes even everyday tasks that involve bending, stretching and walking, becomes difficult because of the degree of pain experienced. Back pain robs you of your freedom and often interferes with both your personal and work life. Each year, millions of Americans lose time away from work because of debilitating back pain and inflammation.

Over $ 50 billion or more is spent each year treating back pain

The back is a beautiful, yet intricate combination of bones, muscles, and other tissues that bear a great responsibility in our body. Not only does the back support the body's weight, it is also protects the nervous system and the spinal cord.

When Inflammation Occurs
When our back is injured or stressed in some way, the body releases chemical substances to respond to the tissue irritation. These substances stimulate the nerve fibers around the injured area which creates a feeling of pain. Pain tells us what we can and can not do; it is the body's way of protecting itself.

Some of these same chemicals facilitate the inflammation or swilling process, which further adds to pain. Infection is the body's attempt to self-protect, however, when inflammation gets out of hand it can create too much inflammation, causing greater discomfort and immobility. This is when intervention is critical.

Treating Inflammation in Back Pain Holistically

Although you may be tempted to reach for some over-the-counter pain medicine, or even visit your doctor for a pain prescription to treat your back pain, opt first for a more conservative approach. A visit to a chiropractor could just be the thing to help you regain your mobility and reduce the inflammation that causes pain.

The Agency for Health Care Policy and Research is a government research group that recommends that people suffering from low back pain choose the most conservative treatment option first. It also notes that spinal manipulation is a safe and effective drugles type of such conservative care for those who suffer from low back pain and inflammation.

Treating the body as a whole, not a symptom, is the basis of what chiropractic care is all about. Comprehensive assessments and evaluative tools are used to determine the amount of the patient's condition and work to bring about balance. In addition, chiropractors are skilled at helping you develop preventative measures to keep your back safe and strong so that you can avoid future problems.

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When One Pain Leads To Another

The subject can be described in different ways. It could be a chain reaction. It could be described as the Domino Effect. And it could also be true when the phrase rhymes up with the subject by saying “one thing leads to another.” When pain occurs in the body, it can be an extremely uncomfortable feeling.

As you know, there are different types of pain. Headache pain, toothache pain, leg pain, arm pain, and back pain. The pain we`re going to focus on in this article is back pain. Regardless of who you are, if you haven`t experienced back pain yet, just wait and you will experience it somewhere in your life span. I remember my years growing up in rural Oklahoma, when I was between 11 and 15 years of age, my father saw to it that my older brother and I worked when there was work to be done. Many times the work was strenuous and also required a strong back. We had to lift cement blocks to build fences and walls. We had to lift heavy burlap sacks of potatoes at harvest time, and there were many other heavy objects that put a hurting on my back. Because of my younger age at the time, and the fact that I lifted items the correct way, I did not develop a strained back.

When I came to Los Angeles, CA I was about 20 years of age. I came to California to attend college. I always wanted to have something to do with art. So I chose Graphic Design, previously Package Design. As the years went by I found that I was confused many times with lifting heavy objects. When I found out about back support braces, this was indeed a good thing. My primary physician told me one time that when a person gets past forty years of age, the body in some people start falling apart. I find this to be true in people who don`t watch their health and take care of themselves.

I made up my mind that I would take care of my health. I found there is a good choice of back support braces when I purchased mine. There is the Core back support belt. It provides strong support to the lumbar region of the body. It helps alleviate muscle strains, supplementation weakened or stretched abdominal musculature.

There`s the Elastic Criss-Cross Belt. The reinforced criss-cross back panel provides complete compression through a full range of motion. Nine-inch (33cm) high back panel tapers to four (10cm) in front. Flexible places prevent rolling.

There`s the Elastic Industrial Back Support which provides maximum compression to the abdomen and helps stress on the lower back. The belt is constructed of a high-quality elastic with dual hook-and-loop side pulls. Detachable safety suspenders help maintain proper lifting posture.

Then there are back support braces for expectant mothers. For one, there is the Baby Hugger Single, which protects the ligaments from over stretching. This helps to prevent aging in congestion, stretch marks, varicose veins, edema, and other discomforts later in life.

As was said in the beginning of the article, the body can go from one pain to the other, such as headache pain, toothache pain, leg pain, arm pain, and back pain. The pain that I have personally shared with you is back pain, and the remedy that I chose to alleviate the back pain.

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Please! No More Lower Back Pain

Back pain symptoms can be as minor as a dull ache or as painful as a stabling sensation. Injury, heavy lifting, and sleeping on a sagging mattress can all lead to back pain. This type of pain can make daily tasks and sleeping very uncomfortable and sometimes impossible.

What Causes Lower Back Pain?

It is difficult to pinpoint the cause of lower back problems. However, there are some common culprits to watch for:

  • Unsupportive, Sagging Mattress
  • Overzealous Workout
  • Heavy Lifting
  • Overstuffed Bags and Purses
  • Bad Posture
  • Spinal Problems or Herniated Discs

Treatment Options at Home

There are numerous treatment options you can easily try in your home. If you have a sagging mattress you can replace your sagging mattress or use a support system you insert under the sagging mattress. For dull pains you can try to relieve symptoms by taking a warm bath or cautiously applying a heating pad to the tender area.

Yoga helps prevent back pain but also helps relieve symptoms of lower back pain. Essential oils can also help relieve symptoms and can be used to prevent muscle strains in the lower back. Lie down on a non-sagging mattress and have your partner nicely massage your lower back.

Other home prevention and treatment options are even simpler than replacing your sagging mattress. Lifting heavy objects with your legs rather than your back can make a big difference in preventing back pain.

Seeking Treatment from a Professional

Chiropractors and message therapists use various techniques developed to treat lower back pain. Some techniques include spinal manipulation, deep tissue massage, or acupressure. Studies have shown that massage therapy can help reduce symptoms of chronic lower back pain.

Acupuncture has worked for many to reduce symptoms of any back problems. Some also choose physical therapy to help strengthen muscles and educate on beneficial stretches and exercise routines that will relieve and prevent back pain. Professionals can direct you as to which treatment methods are best and may advise you to replace your sagging mattress and purchase a more supportive sleeping surface.

Pay attention to your body. Feel for signs of pain more often than you would check to see if you have a sagging mattress or not. If back problems persist or become worse after trying these treatment options you may choose to visit your physician and receive x-rays to ensure the spine is unharmed.

You have to care to your sleep, sleeping well is the basis of your day and could also even mean how you develop your day-to-day lifestyle with your success and failures too. Sleeping well will keep you in a good mood, and of course keeping you away from any inconvenience and pain that you might have.

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Increasing Protein Intake: Same Weight Loss, Less Muscle Loss

For many, weight loss is an important component of lower back pain treatment. Whatever the cause of your back pain is muscular or spinal, excess weight puts greater loads on the lumbar spine and musculature, increasing incidence of pain and injury. Along with an active lifestyle, a strong core and a well-rounded diet, maintaining a healthy weight helps your back stay healthy.

When losing weight to help tie back pain, it's important to make sure the weight you're losing is fat weight and not muscle weight. Muscle loss in the core can lead to poor posture, improper body mechanics and spinal instability. Exercising as part of weight loss will help you both lose weight and maintain muscle, but a new study suggests that adding more protein to your diet in conjunction with exercise will help maintain muscle better than exercise alone.

Researchers analyzed three groups of participants: one which received the daily recommended amount of protein, one that received twice as much and a final group that received three times the daily recommended amount. Participants were fed these amounts for 10 days prior to dieting, then embarked on a 3-week period of regimented dieting and exercising, the only difference being protein take between the groups.

Researchers found that all participants lost almost the same amount of weight in 3 weeks – 7 pounds – regardless of protein intake. Those who ate more than the recommended daily requirement of protein saw no difference in muscle use of protein between the 10-day pre-diet period and the diet period, while those who received the recommended amount saw a reduction in protein use by muscles. The high-protein dieters lost less muscle and more fat than the control group.

See more on this study at http://www.fasebj.org/content/27/9/3837 .

The results of this study suggest that dieters can lose the same amount of weight but have less of that weight be muscle and more of it be fat if they up their intake of protein, although results plateau once you hit double the recommended amount; to ensure you're eating a balanced diet rich in other healthy food groups, then, it's probably best to keep your intake no higher than double your recommended amount.

If you have a health condition and are trying to lose weight, it's best to consult with a dietician or other health professional to ensure that your specific nutritional needs are being met.

Do not sabotage your back pain treatment plan by losing muscle tone. Talk with your doctor about a high-protein diet.

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What Is a Herniated Disc and What Are the Symptoms?

As common as it is, most people are not quite sure what a herniated disc is and what the common symptoms of the condition are. To correctly answer the question, “what is a herniated disc?” it is important to understand the structure of the spine. The spine is made up of 24 bones called vertebrae. These are stacked on each other to form a protective canal which encloses the spinal cord. Between the vertebrae and intervertebral disks which act as cushions against shock induced from physical activity such as walking or running.

A disc is considered herniated when the inner jelly-like nucleus escapes from its protective shell and begins to push against the surrounding nerves. This can be caused by wear and tear as result of normal aging, or it can be caused by a sudden injury. Of course the result of the nucleus pushing against the surrounding nerves often results in neck, mid or lower back pain according to where the problem disc is located. In some cases the gel-like nucleus, because of a weak or injured disc will push its protective shell out on the nerves, but it many cases it leaks out of the injured disc altogether, where the gel itself is irritating the nerves. It most cases if a lower disc is severely compromised, it will also affect the sciatic nerve which will cause numbness down the leg.

The main cause of a herniated disc is related to the natural aging of the spine. The intervertebral discs of children and young adults have high water content. These discs tend to dry out and weakened as one gets older. As such, the disks start to shrink and the spaces between them progressively get narrower with time. This is one of the numerous normal aging processes and is often referred to as disc degeneration.

There are certain risk factors that can increase the likelihood of one developing a herniated disc. Knowing and understanding these factors will help prevent any future herniated disc problems. Such factors include one's gender, their weight and lifestyle as well as strenuous activities. It has been noted that men between the ages of 30 and 50 have an increased likelihood of developing a herniated disk. Moreover, research has also found that being overweight increases stress on the discs in the lower back. Studies have also found that long hours of driving or sitting as well as leading a sedentary lifestyle can increase the pressure on the spine increasing the likelihood of discs herniating.

In order to understand the answer to – what is a herniated disc? -it is important to know the common symptoms that lead to a diagnosis of the condition. Lower back pain is the most common symptom. For most individuals with a herniated disc, it is the first noticeable symptom to develop. While this pain may last a few days, it is often followed by leg pain and numbness. This leg pain is often described as pain that radiates from the back down the leg to the foot.

The treatment of a herniated disc varies depending on the severity of the condition. Nonsurgical treatments including rest, anti-inflammatory medication and physical therapy are commonly used to help alleviate the pain associated with the condition. In cases where the pain persists for many weeks or months, surgical methods may be recommended. Surgical methods are, however, only recommended when nonsurgical methods have failed.

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Activities of Daily Living: Lifting

Lifting anything is one of the biggest challenges to someone with a painful back or for someone who has been there and done that and does not want to do it ever again. For some of us, intermittent back pain is a fact of life. I am sure you will have heard or read some of what I am including in this article but some of this comes strictly from my own experience, from years of teaching Back School, and from listening to back injured people.

We all know that we are expected to lift with our legs but what does that even mean and what if you can not just lift with your legs? I am going to suggest a slightly more descriptive approach to lifting. How to lift with your legs while keeping the natural curve of your back:

  1. Visualize the lift. If you mentally rehearse your lift, you are less likely to find yourself with a box halfway to a goal that really does not exist.
  2. Make sure you know how heavy the item is. Yeah, kind of give it a little test lift. You can actually be injured from lifting an item that was lighter than you expected as well as one that is heavier. How do I know? What do you think?
  3. Square yourself to the item you are lifting, weight even distributed on your feet. Do not lift from the side or off-kilter. Very bad idea if you can avoid it.
  4. Squat while maintaining your post for a good squat. Your knees should not go past 90 degrees. No sense saving your back and damaging your knees. This is where you may have to bend a bit and flatten your back a little. Just try as much as possible not to bow your back out while lifting. Tightening up your stomach muscles helps, too. Visualize those Olympic weight lifters and how they have their bottoms stuck out past their heads as they squat.
  5. Lift with your arms and shoulders to move the item up off the floor. Depending on the size and weight of the item, try to bring the item up close to your chest as you lift. You should keep the weight close to your body and higher than your waist, if possible.
  6. After you have control of the item in your arms, straighten your legs as you lift, keeping the item close to you so that you are not pushed off balance and so that your back does not have to work too hard to maintain that inward curve.
  7. Okay so now you are up with the item in your arms, pivot your feet to change directions or walk in a circle or whatever. Just do not, do not, do not twist your trunk to move the item onto another surface.
  8. Reverse the procedure to set the item down. Keep the item close to your chest, squat confidential and lower the item using your back, shoulders, and legs.

The first time you follow these instructions, all this safety can seem a bit cumbersome but, trust me, soon it becomes automatic.

If you work at the kind of job that requires you to lift less safely, well, we all have to do what we have to do to make a living. However, if you are repeatedly deadlifting multiple items without taking care to bend your knees and mind your posture, strengthening your back, actually your whole trunk, is key. Be careful that you strengthen your back, abdomen, hips, and upper back equally. Another aid to back safety is using a lumbar belt that helps you support your trunk while you are lifting.

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If You Have Back Pain From No Identifiable Cause, How Can Exercise Help You Relieve That Back Pain?

Nearly everyone experiences some form of back pain in their lives and it can range from a niggling ache to extreme pain that requires time off work. Sometimes it can result in a specific injury or condition in which case, the cause can be identified, even if it can not easily be remedied. Most of the time, the cause is unknown and the pain can vary in intensity and duration.

A common reaction to back pain is to limit all movement, take bed rest and stop all forms of exercise or activity. This is often the best approach in the first few days of extreme back pain. However, this becomes a problem when this activity lasts for weeks and months and even years, as people are fearful of undertaking any activity that may cause them more pain.

However, contrary to the way people may feel about avoiding activity when they are in pain, active exercise is almost always beneficial to the health and well-being of the entire body, including the spine. Correctly prescribed and properly executed exercise plays an intense role in the recovery and the easing of back pain and the prevention of future back problems, so although avoiding movement may seem the safest thing to do, this is not the case after the first few days and controlled, progressive exercise is essential for keeping the back healthy.

The key is performing exercise at the correct level and to gradually and safely progress the level of exercise to strengthen the muscles of the trunk. Exercise elevates the heart rate and blood is pumped around the body much faster, distributing nutrients to all parts of the body, including the disc space and soft tissues in the back and this keeps the muscles, ligaments and joints healthy. Exercising regularly also anticipates stiffness that comes with lack of use and age.

But before starting any kind of exercise program and especially when back pain is an ongoing issue, it first needs to be diagnosed by a doctor to see if there is a particular condition requiring specialist treatment. Injuries need to be excluded before starting any exercise program to correct poor posture and muscle and joint problems. Once given the all-clear to start an exercise program, it is very important to have a balanced whole body approach, with a combination of strength, flexibility and cardiovascular work.

One of the first places to start is stretching. This is essential for maintaining mobility and flexibility. Lower back pain is often associated with an imbalance in muscle tone, particularly in the trunk muscles and with joint flexibility, particularly in the hamstring group. As well as lower back pain, tightness of the muscles in the chest and weakness in the muscles of the upper back can also result in poor posture and upper back and neck tightness and pain. Developing strong core muscles in the abdomen, lower back and gluteus is very important for decreasing stress on the lower back, but these should be prescribed as a whole body program.

Cardiovascular exercise for back pain sufferers should start off being low impact, which means walking, cycling or swimming and this could later be progressed to high impact sports, depending on the improvements to core strength and flexibility and the improvement in the back pain. As people feel the improvements in their bodies, they are ready to slowly advance their level of exercise, which should always be done in a supervised, supervised exercise program.

A balanced program combining specific stretching and strengthening exercises is necessary for the re-introduction of good posture and a strong, stable mid-section of the body and flexibility. A strong well-conditioned back strengthened through exercise can withstand more stress and protect the spine far better than a back that has not been conditioned through exercise. Although this may take some time, it all leads to a good foundation for effective exercise in the future and long-term benefits for overall health and well-being.

The best place to start, depending on the degree of back pain, is your doctor, a physiotherapist, a qualified personal trainer, your gym or supervised beginners classes, such as yoga or Pilates. There is a great deal that back pain sufferers can do to help themselves and once you have the all-clear to exercise and a properly written program to start, then it's up to you!

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Causes, Treatment and Management of Lower Back Pain

It is said that there are 2 types of people, those with a back ache and those that are going to get it! Back ache has been an affliction that can strike anyone, anytime, that can disappear as quickly as it came or persist for a lifetime. The quest to find the ultimate solution to the age old problem has eluded even the most committed of researchers.

Before embarking on a discussion around the treatment of lower back pain one really needs to be more specific around the causes of lower back pain (LBP). There are many different causes, and the treatment protocols can be very different depending on the cause.

For each cause of LBP there are 2 categories:

1. Acute – 'new' pain; from initial sunset to 3 months in duration
2. Chronic – pain that has persisted for longer than 3 months.

PATHOLOGICAL CAUSES

Fortunately, pathological causes of back pain are reliably rare. Pathological returns to a disease process, in this instance affecting the spine, or parts of the spine such as the joints, disks, spinal cord or other bony structures, that will, initially, manifest as pain. An infectious process (tuberculosis, bacterial infection), a devastating process (rheumatoid arthritis) or even cancer of the spine are just some of the examples that one would consider pathological.

Such disease processes, although they may initially be mild, usually progress fairly quickly to the point of being debilitating. Often these conditions originate from a primary site somewhere other than the spine. Tuberculosis often starts in the lungs, rheumatoid arthritis may have been evident in the joints of the hands, and the primary cancer site may have been the prostate or breast. When the spine becomes affected it is simply a progress of the original disease.

TREATMENT

In the case of pathological LBP, the pain may begin gradually and present as either disc problem or mechanical LBP (see below). In the initial, or acute phase of the problem, the real undering cause is often missed and the pain is treated conservatively, either with medication, physio, chiropractic, rest or an over the counter remedy.

However, in the case of these pathological conditions the pain rarely responds adequately to the conservative treatment leading to further investigation and, ultimately, the correct diagnosis.

At this point the treatment is essentially medical and can include stronger and stronger medication, radiation, chemotherapy and surgery.

Patients often complement their medical management of these conditions with nutritional or homeopathic intervention, meditation, energy 'medicine' and so on, and some have claimed miraculous 'cures'. Each case has to be managed on its own merits, however, as there are many variables that can enhance the body's self-healing and auto-regulatory processes.

INTER-VERTEBRAL DISC PROBLEMS

A more common cause of back problems, but still reliably rare, are the true inter-vertebral disc problems.

The inter-vertebral disks are the 'cushions' that are found between each vertebra of the spine. They serve as the spine's shock absorbing system and also enable some vertebral motion.

When subjected to excess force, especially rotational or twisting forces, there is the potential for the strong fibro cartilage holding and protecting the disc to tear, thus allowing the disc to bulge, protrude or even herniate.

If the tear and resultant protrusion are large enough, nerve root compression occurs with resultant pain referral along the distribution of the specific nerve that is involved. The area of ​​referral will depend on the level of the protrusion. If it's in the cervical or neck area, pain, tingling and / or pins and needles will be felt in the arm, and if in the lower back or lumbar area symptoms will be felt in the leg.

If the protrusion is sufficient enough, causing marked nerve root compression, the pain will be sever and debilitating. Coupled with this, and perhaps more serious, is the loss of reflexes and muscle function that can occur if the compression is allowed to continue for too long.

In many cases even these more serious disc conditions can be successfully managed conservatively. Conservative management may include rest, ice, anti-inflammatories and chiropractic. Time and the appropriate therapy, or combination of therapies, in most cases will see the symptoms improve and eventually resolve.

In some cases, however, surgery is needed to remove the disc to prevent permanent nerve damage. While surgery should always be the last resort there is certainly a time when surgery may well be indicated.

MECHANICAL SPRAIN

The third cause of LBP, and by far the most common, is mechanical sprain / strain syndrome, also referred to as 'facet syndrome'.

Mechanical strains and sprains are responsible for the world wide epidemic of lower back pain. Where mechanical back problems are concerned there is good news and bad news. The good news is that in most case the problem is manageable and resolvable; however, the bad news is that it's not curable.

In order to more fully understand the nature of mechanical back trouble it is necessary to have an appreciation of how the vertebra all fit together. The spinal column is made up of a number of vertebrae stacked one on top of the other. They are separated in the front by the disc and at the back by the vertebral joints or facets. The facet joints facilitate spinal mobility (without them we would have rigid spines) and are supported by ligaments, tendons, connective tissue and capsular structures. It is the facet joint (s) and their supporting structures that are forward to trauma, repetitive strain and the over-use of daily living.

FACTORS CONTRIBUTING TO MECHANICAL BACK PAIN

Mechanical back trouble rarely has just one cause. Multiple factors usually contribute to the onset of these problems, including an initial traumatic event such as lifting something awkwardly or that's too heavy, repetitive strain (sitting at the computer or driving for hours), general over-use and, that dreaded word, stress .

If the spine and its articulations are subjected to regular trauma (sports such as squash, tennis, hockey and cycling, not to mention the contact sports), repetitive strain (movements that are repeated time and time again) and over-use (computer, driving), mechanical problems will tend to recur – which is why they are not curable.

TREATMENT OF MECHANICAL BACK PAIN

Prevention is always better than cure, and when it comes to mechanical back trouble prevention refers to:

• Stretching and strengthening exercises – Pilates and yoga, for example
• Regular chiropractic treatment to ensure optimal spinal joint mobility and function
• Weight management
• De-stressing techniques

Chiropractic is now well established and accepted as the primary modality for the treatment and management of mechanical pain syndromes affecting the spine. While chiropractic care has a far greater scope than just mechanical neck and back trouble (it includes other joints such as the shoulder, ankle and wrist, 'whiplash' injuries, headache syndromes, and so on), the mechanical sprain / strain conditions respond specifically well to chiropractic management.

In conclusion, then, the source, and initiating causes of backache, may be more complicated than is sometimes thought. Mechanical problems rarely resolve themselves, and if they do, it's usually only for a short period after which they return, often worse than before and requiring protracted treatment.

Always consult with a health professional who is adequately qualified and registered to diagnose, treat and manage back conditions, and if the problem persists after repeated treatment considering further investigation and perhaps a second opinion.

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Walking Back Pain Away

A friend was telling me recently that the worst thing he had done to his back when younger was to replace his roof by himself. The worst part of that was brushing on an area of ​​flat roof. He says he could feel – and possibly hear, though I think he's exaggerating – his lower back grinding with each motion. He was in his thirties at the time and with a few visits to a chiropractor and enough time the pain went away.

The body's resilience fades as we age and / or get out of shape, however.

Now in his mid-forties he tells me with comical detail and expression how he was killing himself sitting all day at his laptop. I find it interesting how we equate our backs with ourselves – our back is such a basic component of our whole selves! He spent several days working out the best height for his chair so that his arms hang freely, his forearms at just slightly greater than a 90-degree angle as he types, no armrests. Looking down at a laptop screen is still a problem, however, and now he has upper back pain!

It occurred to me, having deal with pain by various means over the years and currently preferring a particular set of stretches, that the first real step to relieve many types of pain is basic, overall health improvement. You often hear that if you're a desk-worker now or for that matter, anyone generally sedentary from work or video games and so on, could benefit fantastically from just taking regular walks.

Many people never start. Perhaps they do not believe it's enough. Well, consider this: there are two secrets as to why the above prescription (regular walks) can make a dramatic difference in your health.

First is the term, regular . By regular we mean one a week will not do. At least three walks a week and preferably five or six, each lasting about 40 minutes or more, and you'll be off to a whole new, healthier life. No heavy lifting, no gymtimidation, no expensive gear.

Second is why such a seemingly simple thing as taking walks works so well, and can actually help tie back pain amongst other things. When you walk you're not just moving your legs and getting an extremely mild cardiovascular workout, you're actually activating all your bodily systems:

  • Musculoskeletal
  • Cardiovascular
  • Respiratory
  • Endocrine

And they want to be active! Try it! In fact they now say bed rest can make back pain worse, that getting moving lightly as soon as possible has tremendous benefit in relieving back pain. Remember, we more quickly fade away than burn out. Get walking!

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Central Cord Syndrome, The Symptoms

Central cord syndrome is a common ailment that occurs in the spine. It is characterized as an injury that leads to the arms and hands being impaired; a more extreme version would lead to the injury in the legs. The injury is caused by the brain's ability to receive and send signals properly to and from these parts of the body through the spine. Damage done to large nerve fibers is what causes the limited reception and sending of signals, as these are the parts responsible for carrying the information from your cerebral cortext to the spinal cord.

Central cord syndrome has several symptoms, such as loss of movement for the fingers, wrist, arms, and hands, up to the legs. Sensory loss on the area below the injury is another major symptom of central cord syndrome, along with bladder control loss. Painful sensations like burning, tinging, or a dull ache are also likely symptoms of this syndrome. These symptoms occur when trauma results in the neck vertebrae or due to a herniation on the vertebral discs. Individuals that are above 50 years old are also likely to develop central cord syndrome as their vertebrae and disks weakened. The weakening of these parts can also lead to a narrowed spinal column, resulting in the compression of the spinal cord once the neck becomes hyper extended. Other causes for central cord syndrome include a trapped nerve that blocks the signals sent through the spine.

There is no full cure for central cord syndrome, but many patients have been known to recover and eventually arrive at a near normal function. Treatment for central cord syndrome will depend on the condition of your spinal; from there the doctor will assess what type of surgery, physical therapy, and drugs need to be taken as part of the recovery program. The doctor will have you going an MRI in order to see the degree of spinal injury and the instability of the vertebral area. Cervical disc herniation or acute traumatic injury usually requires surgery to prevent any more damage along the spine. Prevented damage along the spine will also avoid limited movement on the fingers and wrist should the vertebral instability get worse without treatment. Most patients assessed with central cord syndrome are able to return to a substantive function even after an initial injury. They are even able to walk normally for the most part, but the results will likely depend on what the doctor assesses according to your test results and the degree of injury. Therapy usually targets leg movement first and then moves to the bladder and eventually the arms, fingers, and wrist. Expect a few stretch exercises during physical therapy.

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Infuse System For Spinal Fusion: Good News and Bad News

The past two years have seen growing concern over the safety of a device commonly used in spinal fusion surgeries called Infuse or Amplify. This device contains a genetically-engineered substance called called bone morphogenetic protein (BMP) that stimulates bone growth, both eliminating the need for a bone graft and increasing the rate of successful vertebral fusion.

As complaints of complications mounted, Professor of Orthopedic Surgery Eugene Carragee and his Stanford colleagues decided to take up an independent investigation, reviewing 15 years of research and data publicly available through the FDA. They found a host of increased risks associated with the use of BMP during fusion procedures, one of which was cancer.

The Good News

A more recent study contests this result. The study of 4,700 patients receiving spinal fusion with BMP showed no increase in cancer risk compared with people with non-BMP fusions. The researchers found no significant difference between subsequent cancer development rates for each group (9.37% and 7.92%, respectively).

The Bad News

While that's good news for people who have received spinal fusion with Infuse or are considering it, it's important to note that this study found participants operated on with BMP to have a 31% higher rate of benign tumor development. While these tumors are not cancerous, “benign” does not necessarily mean “innocent.” Benign tumors in the spinal and meninges – the tissue surrounding the spinal cord and brain – can cause other symptoms, like spinal pain and nerve impingement.

Another factor to consider is that some of this study's participants were followed for as little as 2 years post-surgery; long-term cancer risks were not assessed.

Read more on the study at http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23756740 .

Finally, Carragee et. al. found many other risk factors associated with BMP besides a potential cancer risk, including a 10-50% increased risk of male sterility, urinary problems, bone repair problems and inflamed nerves in patients who received BMP in the lumbar spine. Those who had BMP placed in the cervical spine had an increased risk of serious and life-threatening adverse events of 40%.

See more on Carragee's research at http://med.stanford.edu/ism/2011/june/carragee-spine-0628.html .

While more research may confirm or deny some of Carragee's results, it's important to know all possible risks of a treatment before you pursue it. You may expect your medical professionals to inform you off all the risks associated with your procedure, but keep in mind that Infuse was approved for use as far back as 2002, 9 years before Carragee's research surfaced; your doctors may not be apprised of the risks. Given the potential risks associated with BMP, it's probably a good idea to talk to your surgeon about alternative methods of spinal fusion.

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