Help My Back “Went Out”. Now What?!

Help My Back “Went Out”. Now What?!

Help! My Back “Went Out” Now What?!

 

            80% of Americans will experience back pain at some point in their lives. For some this pain can be so debilitating and excruciating to the point that they will have a hard time getting up from laying down or sitting. This pain is all too real and I’ve had many patients say things like:

“My back went out and I could barely move without excruciating pain”……

 “All I did was plug my charger in and the next thing I knew I was on the floor because my back pain was so bad”…….

 “I sneezed and next thing I knew I could no longer move without severe back pain”.

 We’ve all heard of a close friend or family member’s “back going out” but until we experience it then it’s hard to really tell how terrible it feels. Just imagine not being able to get out of bed, get up from a chair, or even do simple things like dress yourself without severe back pain. 

 If you ever find yourself in this unfortunate predicament there are a few vital steps you should and shouldn’t take. Depending on what you do may prolong the amount of time you’re in pain or may actually accelerate the healing process.

 

Don’t panic!

            The worst fears always pop up in our heads when we have low back pain.  “Will I need surgery?” “How will I be able to live like this?” “What if something is seriously wrong with my low back”? It is a concerning time but you should know that MOST cases of low back pain do resolve with the proper guidance and care. Research has shown that <3% of low back pain cases are caused by something serious (i.e cancer).  When you are in high amounts of pain it is VERY hard to be calm but I always recommend some deep breathing to those who are dealing with a sudden lower back pain episode. It can be hard to see even a week in advance or let alone even a few days but just know that this back problem will resolve if taken the right approach.

 

Avoid movements that cause the pain

    This might seem obvious but you would be surprised how many patients I’ve seen that were “stretching into the pain” or “working painful muscles” only to aggravate them more. Many times simple movements like getting up and down from the chair or getting in and out of bed can be really painful. To make getting out of a chair easier scoot to the edge and really focus on using your legs more to stand yourself up. It helps to “hinge” at the hips so that your lower back doesn’t bend. The same goes for sitting down in the chair. Focus on using your hips and legs to control lowering yourself down. Avoid excessive twisting when getting in and out of the car.

 

Forget everything you’ve been told about posture

      I see so many people come into my office who focus on the “perfect posture”. I’m sorry to say that perfect posture is a MYTH. The best posture is one that is variable and changing. For instance instead of worrying about sitting upright like a perfect soldier try and just sit relaxed for a little (dare I say even a little slouched). Everybody responds differently to different adjustments in posture. Don’t be afraid to try sitting slumped or slouched to see if that helps. In some cases that can be helpful and in other cases you may need to sit upright for the most relief. The point is don’t get married to a particular posture just because that was the one posture you “were told to sit in”.

 

You will get better!

       Just know that your back pain WILL subside. Yes it may be very painful right now but it will get better if you take a sound approach. Back pain attacks can be likened to the common cold. When you get a cold it can last 2-3 days or maybe even a week but it does get better. The same can be true for back pain IF the correct steps are taken to take care of it. It’s really hard to see 2-3 weeks in the future but know that most cases of acute flare ups in the low back resolve within a 6-10 week period. You should see gradual improvements each way if you are taking the right precautions and seeking competent help.

     An acute back pain attack can be scary but it doesn’t need to ruin our lives. While it can be a major inconvenience it’s the steps you take after you experience the flare up that will help determine your success in recovery. Seek help from a competent medical provider that is familiar with acute lower back pain flare ups. A physical therapist can help you determine what caused the problem, help you alleviate the pain, and show you ways to prevent it from coming back. If you want to learn more than you can up a call with a back pain specialist physical therapist to help you determine what you should do next.

 

3 Reasons Your Elbow Pain Won’t Go Away

3 Reasons Your Elbow Pain Won’t Go Away

            Tennis elbow and golfer’s elbow are no fun to deal with.  While both types of injuries are located in different areas of elbow they are very similar in nature. They tend to be painful and nagging injuries that seem to never go away. The typical cycle may look something like this. You start to feel a pain in your elbow (inside area if it’s golfer’s elbow and outside area if it’s tennis elbow). Once you feel pain you figure some rest might help, so you rest and then decide to “test” it out again. But the pain returns again!

          So you rest it, ice it, slap a brace/band on it, and maybe take some pain killers and the pain subsides. Feeling good you decide to get back out there and UGH the pain returns!  It can certainly be a frustrating experience especially when you are beginning to miss out on some of your favorite activities including tennis, golf, or lifting weights. What’s going on? Why isn’t the elbow pain getting any better?

1. Ice, Pain Killers, and Armbands/Braces Are Only “Band Aids”

       Pain killers, braces, arm bands, are usually the first “go to” quick fixes for people dealing with elbow pain. When I see someone dealing with this problematic issue these are the FIRST things they say they have tried. There’s nothing inherently bad or wrong with using these things to help decrease pain but the problem is that they only address the “symptoms” of the problem and not the true “root cause” of why the pain is occurring.  This is why the elbow pain calms down for the short term but then ramps up again once you try to get back to your favorite activity. The truth is that there are no “quick fixes” to golfer’s elbow or tennis elbow.  

2. Rest Is Needed But It HAS To Be The Right Amount

     We all know rest is needed in order for an injury to heal. Rest is important yes but understanding the appropriate amount of rest is vital. If you just rest and NOTHING else then you will be doing nothing to address the underling issue of the elbow being overworked. Here are a few big take aways regarding rest.

 Don’t rest for extended period of time (without taking any other action) hoping the pain will just go away. Usually pain occurs because there is some sort of strength, flexibility, or movement fault. Rest will not fix these issues

Don’t completely avoid activity. Sometimes it’s OK to feel a little sore in the elbow after playing tennis, golf, or working out. It’s when this soreness turns into pain and lingers for 2+ days that it becomes an issue. Cut back on the amount of the activity you do instead of avoiding it all together.

Don’t rush back into things give your body some time to heal. Yes you want to rest the area but while you are resting you need to work on the issues that are causing the pain to occur. Typically some of the causative factors include a lack of strength and flexibility in not only the elbow but the wrist and shoulder as well.

3. The Wrong Area Is Being Treated

          This one can be tricky for some. The pain is felt in the elbow and the first line of defense is to focus only on treating the area of the pain. This will bring some symptom relief but leave you disappointed when the issue doesn’t go away completely. What most people miss out on is treating the areas above and below the elbow including the neck, shoulder, and wrist.  These areas MUST be looked out in order to understand what the root cause of the elbow pain. Chances are if an epsiode of elbow pain is lasting longer than you can stand and you’ve tried treatments directly at the site of the elbow then you may need to look above and below the elbow.

         If you find yourself in the endless cycle of elbow pain flare ups, calming down, and flaring up again then the reasons above may be why you haven’t enjoyed the lasting recovery you are seeking. The key is to understand that there is ALWAYS an answer as to why the elbow pain occurs. If you’ve tried all of the above mentioned tactics then it may be time to seek a second opinion to figure out the true root cause of your elbow pain.

Signs of a Pinched Nerve: What You Need to Know

Signs of a Pinched Nerve: What You Need to Know

Signs of a Pinched Nerve: What Your Need To Know

A pinched nerve in the neck can be a very debilitating and irritating condition. The signs of a pinched nerve are pretty simple.  Often times it causes you to have pain in your neck with numbness and tingling down your arm.  This can limit your ability to move your neck pain-free and may even cause you to stop participating in some of your favorite activities. The key to treating a pinched nerve is determining where the nerve is being compressed upon and targeting the pain at its root cause. Once you’ve determined what is causing the pinched nerve you can alleviate the pain and start to move pain-free again.  In this article, I will explain what nerves are, the top signs of a pinched nerve, what can cause a pinched nerve and how long it can take to heal.

What is a nerve and what does it do? Nerves are like the electrical wiring in our bodies. The central command center is the spinal cord and at each level of our spine nerves branch off like little wires and bring the electrical current necessary for us to have the sensation to feel and the ability to move our muscles. Without our nerves, we would not be able to move our muscles properly or feel different sensations such as touch, heat, cold, or pinprick.  When these nerves get compressed or impinged upon by different structures in our neck then we begin to experience pain and loss of movement in our neck/arm. This can affect our ability to move pain-free and enjoy the activities that we love.

What can cause a pinched nerve? A pinched nerve occurs when there is too much “compression” on the affected nerve and this can be caused by several factors. This, in turn, can cause irritation of the nerve and symptoms that come along with it which will discuss later in this article.  Some of the most common causes of a pinched nerve include bulging disc, muscle tightness, joint restrictions and posture.  It is crucial to undergo a thorough assessment to determine what exactly is causing your nerve to be affected.

  1. When we sit with poor posture (our head and neck forward with shoulders rounded) we will start to change the way our neck muscles and joint function. This, in turn, can cause tightness and lack of mobility in the neck. If you turn your head to the right or left and you feel a pinch or tightness then that is a sign that there is a restriction in the neck that may be affecting your nerve. When mobility deficits appear, other areas begin to be affected including the nerves that leave the neck.
neck pain

Incorrect Posture

pinched nerve

Incorrect Posture

Correct Posture

2. Nerves run through our bodies like wiring. They pass through different muscle groups in order to get to their destination. Therefore, if certain muscles in the neck or shoulder area get into spasm or tighten up the nerve, in turn, will be affected. If you have tightness or stiffness in your neck muscles or shoulder region along with the symptoms of a pinched nerve then there is a good chance that the muscle spasm could be the culprit.

3. A bulging disc could be the cause of the nerve pain if you are experiencing pain when looking down for prolonged period of time. People that have occupations where they have to look down at a table or desk often tend to have nerve pain related to a bulging disc in the neck. The good news is that we know through research that if certain steps are taken then that this nerve pain from the bulging disc can be relieved. Often times the disc itself can be healed!

4. At each level of our spine in the neck there are holes through which the nerve exits. This is where the nerve branches off the spinal cord and leaves the spine to go to the different muscles in our body. If there is any stiffness or tightness at the joint level where the nerve exits than this can cause irritation upon the nerve. This typically occurs in people in age > 40. There is no need to worry because once the specific joint restriction is identified it can be loosened which relieves pressure off the nerve and restores pain-free movement. Now that we have covered some of the typical “causes” of a pinched nerve, let’s take a look at some of the most common signs of a pinched nerve:

1. Numbness and tingling down the shoulder, arm or hand

2. sharp pinch when turning our head to one side

3. Burning into our upper trap muscles

4. Radiating pain into the shoulder, arm, or hand
You can also watch this video below which discusses the top 3 signs of a pinched nerve to understand better.

Can a Pinch Nerve be healed? How long does it take to heal a pinched nerve? Yes! Recovery and healing from a pinched nerve is possible.  It’s important to read the signs of a pinched nerve before it gets even worse. This depends on several factors including how long you’ve had the pain, how bad the pain is, and how often the pain occurs throughout your typical day. It is important to be able to identify which movements and postures can bring about your pain. Does it occur when you look down for too long? Look to one side or look up? Once you are able to understand which movements or postures cause your pain then you can change how you move to avoid irritating the nerve that is affected. Have these signs of a pinched nerve ready when discussing with your Dr. Nick.

All of these factor matter in regards to healing the particular nerve that is irritated. If the nerve has been irritated for < 2-3 months then it can generally take anywhere from 4- 6 weeks to heal. If the problem has been around > 3 months then it may take longer than the 4-6 week time frame. The most important concept to understand when thinking about pinched nerves is to identify what activities, movements, and postures aggravate your condition. Once you have figured that out you are one step closer to natural healing and pain-free movement!

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