Back pain, movement and the reason many of us hurt; here are three things you can do now to get relief.
By William D. Charschan DC, CCSP, ICCSP
If you suffer from back, neck, and shoulder pain and have seen a physical therapist, a chiropractor, a pain management specialist, or countless other degreed professionals without getting the problem resolved, you are not alone. If you read John E. Sarno’s book on Healing Back Pain: The Mind-Body Connection you may think that his approach is the right one for you and the problem is all in your head. The truth is, one size does not fit all and we are not widgets and require a solution that understands why we hurt first, rather than a solution dosed out via protocols that may not work on you. Unfortunately, this is what most professionals are taught to do resulting in a disconnect between patient customized and centered care and protocol-driven care that fails to recognize why you hurt and simply doses therapies hoping it helps. If it doesn’t, most treatment tracts doctors follow involve more costs, more tests and more invasive methods that often fail, and worsen our outlook rather than improve it.
A growing chorus of healthcare professionals is deciding to do things differently because the tools they learned at school, in clinics, and in degree programs are not improving the outcomes of their patients the way they were promised they would. These newly enlightened healthcare providers want to know why so many of these patients never get better, and in many cases are made worse by surgeries, therapies, exercises, and other interventions.
Years of professionals not understanding your problem has created a great business for pain management, therapist, and surgeons who are only glad to help you with their solutions. As the recent literature suggests, knee surgery often does not resolve knee problems and history has suggested that a second, third, and sometimes fourth surgery occur as the knee continues to have future problems, while rehab may have a similar effect(1). The data for back surgeries and spinal injections is also showing that these solutions aimed at where you hurt often do not work as advertised and can have adverse effects that make you worse.
Most healthcare providers through physician bias unfortunately try to make you fit their understanding of pain instead of understanding what is unique about you, or your family, or your genetics that may contribute to why you hurt. A huge part of the problem is reductionist rather than holistic ways of looking at the mechanisms behind why you hurt. This has resulted in a fragmented care industry instead of primary musculoskeletal providers who solve your problems safely and effectively without the problem of different injuries that continue to occur or the need to do constant exercises or stretches just to feel good.
A new way of thinking about back problems is currently emerging using methods such as active evaluation and treat – test – treat protocols. In my book, Cheating Mother Nature (2), what you need to know to beat chronic pain, I referred to these doctors as the enlightened practitioner. The book discussed the cause and effect of the way we are built, which is a series of inherited traits we share with our parents and their parents. Since we develop out of toddler gait and begin to walk as we would as adults by around the age of six, we base what we consider to be normal on what we are used to. If we are inflexible or are tight all the time, we consider this our normal except our normal is our assumption of what a healthy body feels like and it is what we are used to. Symptoms are not normal to us and some of these symptoms can be quite painful. Anyone who has had their lower back lock upon them can tell you what they experienced. JFK, one of our most famous presidents suffered from horrible back pain and the experts who did multiple surgeries on his back made him worse, rather than better.
If you take a walk in the park and watch others walk, you may see things in a different light, since we all move differently. Those differences can result in back pain, knee pain, shoulder pain, neck pain, and other painful conditions we learn to work through, but rarely understand.
To better understand why we hurt, often a video taken for 30 seconds on a treadmill can be enlightening. Some of us limp and are unaware of it, while others have clear asymmetries in how we walk we may never have noticed otherwise. The video can be quite enlightening.
Thinking outside the box in the musculoskeletal realm is more important than ever, for the public to get the best value for their healthcare dollar. Movement-based healthcare providers such as chiropractors or chiropractic sports physicians are likely to be looked at differently by most healthcare providers in the next 20 years.
Movement involves the core, the legs, and even the upper body. If your gait (the way you walk) is asymmetrical, you will want to do something that will level your hips and improve the way you walk and move.
Here are three things you can do now that can improve the way you move and function.
- Try foot orthotics. The right foot orthotic will level your hips, improve the way you walk, and improve the efficiency of your core muscles. They can improve movement patterns and reduce the force at which we hit the ground. Also, secondary compensations in the upper body will improve with the right device.]
- Perform bridges, squats, and other exercises to improve the strength and the responsiveness of your core muscles. This can improve the way you feel and function.
- Foam roll tight fascia to improve overall flexibility. Improving the way you move can improve the way you feel.
Finally, if these methods offer no relief, look for a healthcare practitioner who can perform manipulation, myofascial release, and exercises and looks at you, rather than just your back. Back pain can be a leg tightness problem, a lower back problem, and upper back problem or another problem. Sometimes you will require the help of a professional to get the best results. Often a sports certified chiropractor is your primary care doctor for the musculoskeletal system and a great first choice to get the relief and problem resolution you deserve now.
- BMJ 2017;357:j1982 doi: 10.1136/bmj.j1982 Arthroscopic surgery for degenerative knee arthritis and meniscal tears: a clinical practice guideline Reed A C Siemieniuk, Ian A Harris, Thomas Agoritsas, Rudolf W Poolman, Romina Brignardello-Petersen, Stijn Van de Velde, Rachelle Buchbinder, Martin Englund, Lyubov Lytvyn, Casey Quinlan, Lise Helsingen, Gunnar Knutsen, Nina Rydland Olsen, Helen Macdonald, Louise Hailey, Hazel M Wilson, Anne Lydiatt, Annette Kristiansen
- Cheating Mother Nature, what you need to know to beat chronic pain available through Amazon.com and other booksellers.
William D. Charschan DC. CCSP. ICCSP is in private practice in North Brunswick and Scotch Plains NJ and can be contacted at www.backfixer1.com. He is the author of Cheating Mother Nature, what you need to know to beat chronic pain.