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The Problem With Surgery for Low Back Pain

The Problem With Surgery for Low Back Pain

By Editorial Staff

If you’ve ever experienced back pain, whether acute or chronic, there are a few facts you should know. First, you’re not alone; studies suggest 80 percent of adults experience at least one episode of low back pain in their lifetime. Second, thousands of people undergo back surgery every year for back pain, putting their bodies at risk for surgical complications. Third, chiropractic and other conservative, nonsurgical treatment methods have been shown to be effective for uncomplicated cases of LBP.

And here’s one more important fact: Research suggests the big problem with surgery for back pain, particularly chronic back pain (recurrent pain over weeks or months), is that it doesn’t seem to work – at least not any better than conservative care. The latest evidence: study findings published in the research journal Spine that found: “After an average of 11 years follow-up, there was no difference in patient self-rated outcomes between fusion and multidisciplinary cognitive-behavioral and exercise rehabilitation for cLBP (chronic low-back pain).

surgery - Copyright – Stock Photo / Register MarkThe results suggest that, given the increased risks of surgery and the lack of deterioration in nonoperative outcomes over time, the use of lumbar fusion in cLBP patients should not be favored in health care systems where multidisciplinary cognitive-behavioral and exercise rehabilitation programs are available.”

This isn’t the first study to suggest surgery isn’t your best option when it comes to the back. And if you think you can go to any type of doctor, think again. Expertise aside, research indicates that the type of doctor you visit first – namely a surgeon vs. a doctor of chiropractic – can essentially determine whether you’ll eventually undergo surgery. So think surgery last and visit a chiropractor first. Your back will thank you for it.

Weatherproof Your Body This Winter

Weatherproof Your Body This Winter

By Editorial Staff “To Your Health”

OK, it’s time for a quick lesson in weatherproofing your body. Particularly when you’re in the throes of winter (like now), skin health is pivotal. Here are some simple strategies to keep your skin healthy during the winter months:

    • Go easy on the water: Many of us have a tendency to languish in a hot shower or bath when it’s cold outside, but that’s exactly the recipe for skin disaster. Why? Because, contrary to what you might think, water actually depletes the skin’s natural moisturizing capabilities, particularly overly warm / hot water. As the water evaporates, it takes natural oils with it, leading to dry, flaky, unhealthy skin.


    • Lotion is your friend: A good moisturizer is key to protecting your skin during the winter months, and even more so after contact with above-mentioned water. Choose a product that lubricates the skin, slows the rate of water evaporation, and leaves your skin with that “silky-smooth” look and feel. To learn more about the right (and wrong) ingredients in skin-care products, click here.
    • skin - Copyright – Stock Photo / Register Mark
    • The sun is still there: Winter might bring less daylight hours and more overcast skies, but that doesn’t eliminate the potential for the sun’s rays to harm your skin. A good sunscreen is still essential during the winter months whenever you plan on being outdoors for more than 15-20 minutes at a time, particularly during the hours of the day when the sun’s at its most intense: 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Ditch the sunscreen and you’ll age your skin and increase your risk of developing skin cancer.


  • For some people, diet goes out the window during winter. After all, why stay in shape when you’re blanketed in cold-weather clothing all the time? Unfortunately, poor diet can take a toll on your skin, so make sure you eat plenty of skin-supporting foods during winter (and throughout the year). Click here for a complete list.

Your skin is your body’s largest organ, so take care of it this winter by incorporating the above tips into your daily routine. Your skin will thank you for it.

Poor Sleep Leads to Chronic Pain

Poor Sleep Leads to Chronic Pain

By Editorial Staff

Not getting enough sleep – or not enough quality sleep that leaves you refreshed and ready to take on the day, rather than fatigued, irritable and ready to crawl right back into bed? A major health issue could be in your future: chronic pain. In fact, your odds of suffering chronic pain due to poor quality and/or quantity of sleep may increase by a factor of two or three compared to people who experience better sleep.

A large multi-national review of 16 studies spanning 10 countries and involving 61,000 participants arrived at this disturbing conclusion, with the lead study author even declaring that the impact of sleep on pain may be more significant than the impact of pain on sleep – often regarded as a major contributor to poor sleep.

poor sleep - Copyright – Stock Photo / Register Mark

And that wasn’t the only finding: Poor sleep also was associated with impaired responses to bacteria, viruses and other foreign substances, poor physical functioning, increased inflammation, higher cortisol levels, and other markers of pain, fatigue and overall compromised health.

Chronic pain isn’t something to mess with, but you don’t have to, thanks to your doctor of chiropractic. Discuss any pain you’re experiencing and don’t forget to mention any sleep issues. Whether poor sleep is causing your pain, or pain is causing poor sleep, your chiropractor can help determine the cause and correct it. Now that’s called a win-win.

Skip the Soda During Pregnancy

Skip the Soda During Pregnancy

By Editorial Staff

While it’s not completely understood why many women experience food cravings when baby’s on the way, we are beginning to understand which cravings you should try to fight if you can help it.

Soda – particularly non-diet soda – is one of them. Here’s why: Women who drink non-diet soda during pregnancy are doing their son or daughter a big disservice when it comes to their weight in childhood.

A recent study published in Pediatrics highlights this risk. Researchers studied more than 1,000 mother-child pairs and found each additional serving of non-diet (i.e., sugary) soda a pregnant woman consumed per day increased the odds that their child had larger waist size and body mass by age 7 compared to children whose mothers did not consume non-diet soda. What’s more, approximately 25 percent of children enrolled in the study were overweight or obese by mid-childhood; body-mass index, waist circumference and skinfold thickness (an indication of body fat) were highest in children whose mothers drank two or more non-diet sodas per day during pregnancy.

drinking soda - Copyright – Stock Photo / Register MarkThe bottom line: Stay away from the sugary soda when you’re expecting! You and your child will benefit in a big way. And by the way, while maternal diet soda consumption was not linked to childhood obesity in this study, that doesn’t mean the diet variety is part of the healthy, balanced diet you and your future child need. Your doctor can tell you more about which foods to stock up on and which to limit / avoid during this important time

Growing Up With Antibiotics, Growing Up With Asthma?

Growing Up With Antibiotics, Growing Up With Asthma?

By Editorial Staff

In the latest (but probably not the last) research to associate antibiotic use during infancy with the development of asthma, three studies suggest exposure to antibiotics (either prescribed to the pregnant mother or the child during the first year after birth) increases the risk that the child will suffer from asthma.

The first study found that “both prenatal (before birth) and post-natal exposure to antibiotics was associated with an increased risk of asthma.” Building on this, the second study noted: “Antibiotic use in the first year life is associated with an increased risk of early-onset childhood asthma that began before 3 years of age. The apparent effect has a clear dose response” (the more you take, the greater the risk).

asthma - Copyright – Stock Photo / Register MarkThe third study compared babies born in urban areas with those born in rural areas. While a number of factors increased the risk of asthma, “the use of antibiotics” was one factor contributing to development of the condition, particularly in urban areas.

Talk to your doctor about the risk-benefit profile of any medication you’re prescribed / recommended (including over-the-counter products); then make an informed decision on whether it’s worth the risk.

Prevent Arthritis Pain With Fiber

Prevent Arthritis Pain With Fiber

By Editorial Staff

Fiber has been shown to promote numerous positive health benefits, including bowel health, blood sugar control, cholesterol reduction and weight maintenance. But pain prevention? Yes, at least knee pain due to arthritis, according to recent research.

According to a study of middle-age (early 50’s at the start of the study) adults, people who eat the most fiber are less likely to suffer osteoarthritis-related knee pain and stiffness. The study of more than 1,200 adults found the top quarter of fiber consumers had a significant reduction in their risk of knee OA (61 percent lower risk) compared to the bottom quarter of fiber consumers. Knee OA was assessed nine years after the initial assessments, showing fiber intake earlier in life can have an impact on knee OA risk during later years.

arthritis - Copyright – Stock Photo / Register MarkThe study authors speculate that fiber may reduce the risk by two mechanisms: 1) reducing inflammation, which can cause pain; and 2) helping maintain a healthy weight, which puts less stress on joints and bones. To learn more about osteoarthritis and fiber, talk to your doctor. Click here for five easy ways to get more fiber in your daily diet.

Why You Should Be Making Periodic Visits to Your Chiropractor

Why You Should Be Making Periodic Visits to Your Chiropractor


When you experience back pain, chiropractic care can help relieve the pain and identify the underlying cause. But your care shouldn’t stop once the pain stops (or comes back, which can frequently happen).

A new study suggests maintenance chiropractic care (defined by the researchers as “treatment at regular intervals regardless of symptoms”) is more effective than symptomatic treatment (receiving chiropractic treatment only when you’re experiencing pain).

In the study, patients with recurrent / persistent low back pain who received maintenance care (scheduled every 1-3 months) after their initial treatment reported an average of 19.3 less days of “bothersome” low back pain over a 12-month period compared to patients who received only symptomatic chiropractic care. Overall, during the 12-month period, maintenance care patients made seven visits, on average, to their chiropractor, versus five visits, on average, for symptomatic patients.

So, if you’re suffering low back pain and your chiropractor suggests you come in periodically for treatment, you may want to heed his/her advice. It’s a research-supported suggestion that could dramatically reduce the amount of time you spend in pain.

The Missing Pieces to the Chronic Pain Puzzle

The Missing Pieces to the Chronic Pain Puzzle

By Dr. Kevin Wong

PAIN is a significant problem in our society, and the way too many of us deal with it, either by taking medication to temporarily relieve the pain or ignoring the pain altogether, foolishly hoping it will go away, is an even bigger problem, contributing to long-term disability and reduced quality of life. Here are a few important pieces to the puzzle that can help you deal with pain now and prevent future episodes – chronic pain- from ruining your life.

How do you feel at this very moment? You can do a easy self-check just by moving your neck, shoulders, arms and legs around. Do you have any aches and pains anywhere? If your response is, “Don’t most people have pain somewhere in their body?” or “Doesn’t pain come with old age?” keep in mind that while that’s true, it doesn’t mean you have to accept it. And remember, pain isn’t just physical. The emotional stress it creates can be as hard on you as the pain itself. Let’s talk about ways you can find relief from your physical pain, which will undoubtedly lighten your emotional load at the same time.

Pain Defined

Chronic pain puzzle - Copyright – Stock Photo / Register MarkPain is defined as an unpleasant sensation that can range from mild, localized discomfort to sheer agony. Pain has physical and emotional components. The physical part of pain results from nerves being stimulated. Pain may be confined to a specific area, as in an injury, or it can be spread throughout the body. Around the world, millions of people live with pain in some form or another, involving many different body parts, on a daily basis.

One of the most interesting things about pain is how each human being deals with it. Some learn to live with pain. Others can’t stand to feel even an ounce of it. The most common types of pain include arthritis, lower back, bone/joint pain, muscle pain and fibromyalgia (widespread pain, tenderness and fatigue in muscles,tendons and ligaments). Back pain is the most frequent cause of limited activities for people younger than 45 years old.

Acute vs. Chronic Pain

Acute pain is a normal sensation triggered in the nervous system to alert you to possible injury and the need to take care of yourself. This type of pain comes on quickly and can be severe, but it lasts a relatively short period of time. In general, acute pain is in response to an event that happens to the body. It may be a result of surgery or an accident.

Chronic pain is different. Chronic pain tends to stay around or progress over longer periods of time. Pain signals keep firing in the nervous system for weeks, months or even years. Oftentimes, chronic pain is resistant to traditional medical treatments. The emotional component of pain often comes into play in a chronic situation.

The Consequences of Pain

The loss of productivity and daily activity due to pain is substantial. Americans spend at least $50 billion per year on back pain, and that’s just for the more easily identified costs. Pain has a negative impact on an individual’s quality of life. It diminishes one’s ability to concentrate, do their job, exercise, socialize, perform daily tasks and sleep. Over time, this can lead to depression, isolation and loss of self-esteem. Researchers have found that depression is the most frequent psychological reaction to chronic pain.

If you hurt an area of your body and do not restore proper, healthy movement patterns, you will end up with problems later down the road. I can’t tell you how many patients I have seen who got in car accidents and hurt their neck and back, but waited to get treatment and used pain as the indicator for how they feel. Eventually, the pain went down or even away, but they were often left with problems in their bones and joints.

What Your Spine Says About Your Health

What Your Spine Says About Your Health

By Perry Nickelston, DC, FMS, SFMA

You may have heard the saying, “the eyes are the window to the soul.” There is another saying in the world of chiropractic, “your spine is the window to your health.” How can the condition of your spine divulge so much information about overall health? Your spine is the central support column of your body and its primary role is to protect your spinal cord.

Think of it like the foundational frame of a house holding everything together. If the frame becomes dysfunctional many problems will begin to manifest themselves. The house begins to develop cracks, shifts, and structural problems. When your spinal foundation becomes dysfunctional you develop aches, pains, injuries, and other health related issues. The good news is you can do a simple spinal health checklist to determine if you may benefit from the expert intervention of a chiropractor or other healthcare professional. Becoming familiar with simple spinal anatomy, structure and function will help empower you to take control of your health.

Your spine is composed of 24 bones (vertebrae); 7 in the neck (cervical spine), 12 in the middle back (thoracic spine), 5 in the lower back (lumbar spine) and the base tailbone (sacrum). Your soft spinal cord is encased inside these 24 moveable hard vertebrae to protect it from injury. Your spinal column has three natural curvatures making it much stronger and more resilient than a straight design. There are cervical, thoracic, and lumbar curves designed with precise angles for optimum function. However, these curves are different than the abnormal curves associated with scoliosis and postural distortions. You may remember getting screened in school or your doctor for scoliosis when they had you bend over and touch your toes. This was an early checklist for spinal abnormalities. Through life’s stresses, genetics, trauma, injuries, and neglect the spine can develop dysfunctions in these curvatures and the body must compensate by changing posture as a protective mechanism.

image - Copyright – Stock Photo / Register MarkWhat are some of the compensations your body develops and what can they tell you about spinal health?

Rounded Shoulders: This is a very common postural distortion resulting from more sedentary lifestyles. Hunching over in front of a computer screen hours on end simply feeds this dysfunction. This poor posture pattern adds increased stress to the upper back and neck because the head is improperly positioned relative to the shoulders. Common effects are headaches, shoulder, pain, neck pain and even tingling and numbness in the arms because of nerve compression by tight muscles.

Uneven shoulders: One shoulder higher than the other is indicative of a muscular imbalance or spinal curvature. You probably see this one on most people where one shoulder is migrating up towards the ear. Stand in front of a mirror and you can easily see if this asymmetry is present. You may also notice that one sleeve is longer than the other when you wear a shirt. This asymmetry is a common precursor for shoulder injuries, headaches, neck pain, elbow injuries and even carpal tunnel syndrome (tingling in the hands).

Uneven hips: Hips that are not level are like the foundation of a house that is not level. You begin to develop compensations further up the body so you remain balanced when walking. You develop altered spinal curvatures, shoulder positions, and head tilts. Your body has one primary purpose of maintaining symmetry and balance and it will do it whatever way is necessary. Signs of unbalanced hips may manifest in abnormal shoe wear typically on the outside edges and pants will fit unevenly in the leg length.

When you visit a chiropractor for a spinal evaluation some of the things they will search for during your evaluation are underlying signs of spinal damage that you can’t see. Spinal x-rays are a safe and effective way to get look at your spine for damage or potential problems. Just like a dentist takes an x-ray of your teeth to see if you have cavities or problems with the bones below gum line. If problems are detected, corrective or preventive measures can be implemented to help your body function at optimum.

Degenerative Disc Disease (DDD): This is not a real disease in the terms of how we think of them. DDD is term used to describe degeneration and excessive wear on the soft tissue disc structures between the spinal bones. It may come with age or from biomechanical asymmetries in movement causing excessive wear from overuse. Sort of like uneven treads on a car with imbalanced tires, one may be worse than the other. Although the degeneration cannot be reversed, once discovered there are strategies your chiropractor can implement rebalancing exercises and therapies to help prevent further damage.

Osteoarthritis: The breakdown of the tissue (cartilage) that protects and cushions joints. Arthritis often leads to painful swelling and inflammation from joints rubbing together. The increase in friction causes a protective pain response and excessive swelling where the body attempt to add artificial cushioning via swelling.

Herniated disc: A herniated disc is an abnormal bulge or breaking open of a protective spinal disc or cushioning between spinal bones. Patient’s may or may not experience symptoms with a herniated disc. Disc diagnosis is conformed via a special imaging study called an MRI (\Magnetic Resonance Imaging) which observes soft and hard tissue structures. You cannot see or confirm a suspected disc herniation via normal spinal x-rays.

Spinal stenosis: The narrowing of the spinal canal the open space in the spine that holds the spinal cord. Stenosis is a more severe form of arthritis that typically causes radiating (referred pain down the arms or legs) from an irritated or compressed spinal nerve.

If you experience spinal pain, tingling, numbness, weakness, muscles spasms or swelling near your spine or arms and legs consult a healthcare professional. These are all warning signal signs from your body that something is wrong and needs your attention. Pain is how your body communicates its function with you. A car has dashboard warning lights that tell you when the car has a problem. If you chose to ignore the signals bad things are going to happen. Your body has its own warning light system. Start checking for the warning lights. Ignore them at your own risk. See your chiropractor for a proper assessment and any concerns.

Perry Nickelston, DC, is clinical director of the Pain Laser Center in Ramsey, N.J., where he focuses on performance enhancement, corrective exercise and metabolic fitness nutrition To learn more about Dr. Nickelston, visit

Ditch the Drugs for Low Back Pain

Ditch the Drugs for Low Back Pain

By Editorial Staff

Ask someone with low back pain what they do to manage the pain, and you’ll usually get one of several responses: endure the pain or take over-the-counter pain medications. And in some cases, their doctor may have prescribed even stronger pain meds such as opioids, which have been in the news lately for all the wrong reasons.

Of course, if they’ve been to a doctor of chiropractic before, they know what not enough people know: Chiropractic is a first-line treatment option for low back pain, while OTC and other pain medications provide only short-term relief, don’t address the root cause of the pain, and have side effects that range from mild to life threatening.

Fortunately, research is proving the benefits of non-drug treatment options for LBP and emphasizing the relative lack of effectiveness / side effects of commonly used pain medications. For example, a recently updated guideline from the American College of Physicians recommends chiropractic and other nondrug options (acupuncture, massage, exercise, tai chi, heat therapy, etc.) for acute (lasting less than four weeks), subacute (lasting four to 12 weeks) and chronic (lasting longer than 12 weeks) low back pain before turning to medication. Only if these options prove ineffective should doctors consider recommending medication, according to the guideline.

low back pain - Copyright – Stock Photo / Register MarkA recent study underscores the ineffectiveness of medication for low back pain and other forms of spinal pain, concluding that nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs, such as aspirin and ibuprofen) are no more effective than placebo for combating spinal pain. In other words, drugs worked no better than doing nothing! (A placebo is an inactive treatment patients think is active; in this case, a nondrug pill they thought was actual medication.)

What’s more, the study noted that 5-6 patients would need to take medication in order for just one to achieve a meaningful benefit. Let’s hope if you do take pain meds, you’re the one who does benefit, particularly considering “all NSAIDs have been associated with cardiovascular and gastrointestinal risks,” according to the study, whose researchers also found that NSAID use elevated the risk of adverse GI effects in the first two weeks of use. If you’re the majority who don’t benefit from the medication, why are you taking them in the first place when natural pain-relief options are preferred and recommended first?

The bottom line: If you’re already seeing a chiropractor for your low back pain, great job! If you’re not, what are you waiting for? Physician guidelines and research are pointing you in the right direction.

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