Research, news, and clarity on the field of chiropractic, and our collective model for balanced wellness and patient-focused care.



Australian Study Identifies Lower Back Pain Triggers

Mar 24, 2015 | By Tuck Chiropractic News

Study Identifies Lower Back Pain Triggers

Lifting heavy objects in awkward positions is a potential trigger for acute lower back pain.

A recent study conducted by Associate Professor Manuela Ferreira, Ph.D., and colleagues at the George Institute for Global Health and Sydney Medical School at The University of Sydney in Australia has identified triggers that commonly cause acute lower back pain. According to research published in Arthritis Care and Research, a journal of the American College of Rheumatology, there are several factors that increase the likelihood of experiencing acute lower back pain.

One of the factors identified is intense manual labor in awkward positions, such as lifting incorrectly. When you lift bending forward at the waist, for instance, or leading with your shoulders, it can increase the chances of acute lower back pain by up to eight times. Other risk factors identified were being distracted or fatigued while performing physical labor.

Back pain affects a significant number of people. In America, lower back pain affects 31 million Americans at any given time — almost 10 percent of the population. It is also the biggest cause of disability worldwide, which has huge economic and social implications. Despite its pervasive nature, researchers are still working to understand the factors that lead to acute lower back pain.

Understanding the cause of lower back pain gives healthcare professionals the tools to more successfully prevent it, Ferreira said. It also gives patients the tools to understand how to manage and relieve lower back pain.

Surveys Help Reveal Physical & Psychosocial Lower Back Pain Triggers

The study recruited 999 participants from 300 clinics in Sydney. The participants had visited a clinic for acute lower back pain between October 2011 and November 2012. Researchers asked the subjects to report whether they had experienced any of 12 possible physical and psychosocial factors in the 4 days before experiencing acute lower back pain.

They used an odds ratio to analyze the results, which ranged considerably dependent on triggers present (ranging from 2.7, which represented moderate to vigorous physical activity, to 25.0, which represented distraction during an activity.

Time of day and age were significant factors in the start of lower back pain. Researchers found that the risk of acute lower back pain was at its height between 7 a.m. and noon. The findings indicate that those carrying significantly heavy loads had a higher risk of experiencing acute lower back pain at the ages of 20 and 40, but those who were 60 years old were at slightly less risk.

This study confirms the results of previous studies about acute lower back pain risk. Identifying risk factors for back pain is particularly important because the injury is likely to happen again if the cause is not identified. This study is the first to identify links between particular psychosocial and physical factors and acute lower back pain, according to the authors.

You can learn more about the causes, symptoms, and treatments of lower back pain here.

Text Neck: Smartphone Overuse Could Lead to Spinal Woes

Mar 18, 2015 | By Tuck Chiropractic News

Text Neck Spine Problems

The average person spends more than a thousand hours a year looking down at a smartphone, which could have devastating long-term effects on the spine.

Everywhere you look, people are staring down at their smartphones, sending texts, reading emails, and scrolling through social media. According to a November 2014 article by Lindsey Bever in The Washington Post, the average person uses a cell phone between two and four hours a day, which adds up to about 1,400 hours a year.

All this time staring down at your phone can have a huge impact on your spine. The relatively recent explosion of smartphone use has created a phenomenon known as “text neck.”

Text neck is the result of the widespread habit of bending the neck to look down at a phone instead of balancing the head between the shoulders. This posture imposes more weight on the cervical spine, the part of the spine in the neck and shoulders. The average human head weighs approximately 12 pounds, but bending the neck downward even slightly while texting can increase the weight strain on your cervical spine to as much as 60 pounds of pressure at a 60-degree tilt. The greater the tilt, the greater the burden.

While the common term for this phenomenon is “text neck,” the problem can occur as a result of gaming, typing emails, or any other smartphone use that causes the user to bend forward at the neck.

Long-Term Effects of Text Neck

Text neck results in daily wear and tear on the spine, which may have permanent and painful consequences. Some medical experts claim that for every inch the head leans forward, pressure on the spine is doubled. That pressure could lead to early spinal degeneration. Researchers suggest that there could be a drastic impact on the developing spines of teenagers, some of whom could spend as much as 6,000 hours a year in this harmful position.

Stretching the neck for long periods of time in an unnatural position causes sore, inflamed tissues. It can also lead to pinched nerves and disk degeneration, and can even permanently disrupt the curvature of the cervical spine. Forcing the spine to unnaturally support the weight of the head causes stiffness and pain, which can affect your neck, shoulders, and arms. It can even contribute to arthritis, headaches and muscle spasms. Poor posture generally is estimated to reduce lung function by 30 percent, and is associated with other health disorders, such as depression, heart disease, and headaches.

Preventing Text Neck

Text neck is primarily the result of poor posture, so the most important method of preventing it is to sit or stand up straight, with the spine correctly aligned. Pull your shoulders back slightly so you are not hunched over, and bring your phone up to eye level to avoid bending the spine to read the screen. Pull your chin toward your chest instead of dropping your head, to avoid increasing weight on the cervical spine.

Try to avoid typing long messages on your phone and use a computer or external keyboard for lengthy correspondence. Exercise regularly, focusing on developing strong core muscles, which contribute to good posture.

If you must use your phone for long periods of time, take frequent breaks to stretch and readjust your posture. Correct posture is when your shoulder blades are relaxed, your ears are lined up with your shoulders, and your head feels relatively weightless. This posture puts the least stress on your spine, preserving it from wear and tear.

Studies also suggest that good posture raises levels of testosterone and serotonin in the body while lowering levels of cortisol, the stress hormone.

Image via maridav/123RF.

4 Ways Sitting Affects Your Health & What To Do About It

Feb 12, 2015 | By Charlotte A. F. Farley

Health Impacts of Sitting

Sitting for long periods during the day can cause pain in your neck, head and back from bad posture.

In this modern, digital age, you’ll find yourself sitting down more than you ever have before: you spend time sitting in the car to drive everywhere, you sit in front of computer screens for work and catching up on social media, and you unwind watching television. While it’s one thing to take it easy, it’s another thing entirely to spend most of your day sitting down, especially since there are serious health hazards that come from sitting.

 

How Excessive Sitting Impacts Your Body

You might be thinking, “Health hazards? From sitting? Only if it’s a wooden chair and I get a splinter!” If only it were splinters that you had to worry about. Hunkering down for too long:

1) Exaggerates your spine’s arch
You don’t need to start working on a six-pack, but strong abdominal muscles help support your back. If you are sitting for long periods of time, you tend to neglect your posture and begin to sag and slouch in the chair, which is not good for your back.

2) Limits your range of motion
When you’re sedentary, you don’t give your hip flexor muscles a chance to work and extend.  Not only does this cause them to shorten and tense, but they also become less mobile—a major contributing factor to dangerous falls (especially in the elderly population).

3) Strains your neck
When you stretch and tilt your neck to look at a screen or look down at the keyboard, you put stress and strain on cervical vertebrae in your neck, which can cause headaches, migraine, vision problems, and vertigo.

4) Causes inflexibility and damages your discs
Staying seated for a long period of time compresses your spinal discs and prevents them from receiving blood and nutrients, causing collagen build-up on surrounding ligaments and tendons.

In addition to these impacts on your body, inactivity contributes to obesity, which can lead to high blood pressure, heart disease, cholesterol problems, obstructive sleep apnea, and blood clots.

 

What you can do

You don’t have to start working out like the Olympics committee called you to represent the U.S. (unless you want to); instead, you should begin by increasing your activity levels (and decreasing your time in a chair) throughout the day. Stand up or walk around as much as possible. Take phone calls, send texts, and talk face-to-face with friends while standing up. Take a lap around the house during commercial breaks, or consider using a pedometer to track your daily steps to help you stay on your toes. If you’re working on a laptop, set it on a standing desk or countertop so you don’t have to be seated while working.

It is sometimes impossible to avoid sitting down, especially at work, but you can help yourself by being mindful of your posture when desk-bound. Make sure you’re sitting up straight with your feet planted firmly on the floor. Since you should give your eyes a break from the screen once an hour to avoid eye strain, get up and take a short walk.

If you’re already feeling the effects of sitting down for too long, get in touch with us and make an appointment to see one of our chiropractors for an adjustment and advice on how treat your personal symptoms.

Image via Flickr.

Keys to Managing Lower Back Pain Caused by Everyday Activities

Jan 30, 2015 | By Lucie Lawrence

Lower Back Pain caused by everyday activitiesIf you have ever suffered from lower back pain then you know how even the simple things in life can become a hassle quickly. Some sources say that as many as 80 percent of Americans will experience back pain at some time in their lives, and that includes 31 million Americans who experience lower back pain at any given time. With this kind of probability, it is extremely important to be aware of the preventative measures we can take to protect our back and keep it strong and healthy.

Many people believe that lower back pain only happens to those of us who have bad posture, or repeatedly lift heavy objects. While this is certainly true, there are many other causes.

Lower back pain can also be caused by being overweight or obese, carrying extra weight from pregnancy, not exercising regularly, having weak back or abdominal muscles, smoking, and even stress.

Could any of these describe you? If so how can you ward off lower back pain and ensure your back remains strong, healthy, and pain-free?

Sitting and Standing

Many of us sit at desks for long periods of time during the workday. While there is not a lot we can do to change this, there are ways to alleviate the stress this causes on our backs.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) emphasizes the need to find a comfortable working posture in which your joints are naturally aligned. Working with the body in a neutral position reduces stress and strain on the muscles, tendons, and the skeletal system.

Here are some tips that may help. Try using a chair with a firm back. Be sure to make full contact with the back of the chair and place both feet firmly on the floor. Avoid crossing your legs. Relax your shoulders and bend your elbows between 90 and 120 degrees. Support your thighs and hips with a well-padded seat and keep your knees at about the same height as the hips with the feet slightly forward. One example that many people don’t think of is the habit of resting your chin in your hand when sitting down. This position puts stress on the spine and can aggravate your lower back.

When standing, always concentrate on standing straight and erect, without slouching. Visualize a vertical line beginning at the top of your head down to your hips and through your ankles. Let that line draw you up so that you stand tall.

According to OSHA, working in the same posture or sitting for prolonged periods can be unhealthy. You should change your working position frequently throughout the day by making small adjustments to your chair or backrest; stretching your fingers, hands, arms, and torso; and walking around for a few minutes every 20 minutes or so.

Physical Labor

Some careers require a great deal of standing, lifting, and bending. If yours does, try to stretch out your back muscles before starting work each day. Warm, loose muscles are less likely to be strained or pulled. Also remember to push heavy objects instead of pulling them, and avoid twisting and lifting at the same time, this can increase the likelihood of injury. The key is to consistently protect your back before and during physical labor.

Also, performing abdominal exercises that strengthen the core muscles will greatly help with preventing injuries to your spine.

Physical activities beyond the workplace can also put strain on your back. House work, yard work, and even lifting your children are common sources of strain that can result in lower back pain.

Driving

Studies conducted by the U.S. Department of Agriculture found that individuals who drive for 20 hours per week or more are at an increased risk for musculoskeletal disorders because driving forces you to sit in a constrained posture. Less discomfort was reported in drivers of cars with more adjustable features, such as lumbar support, seat-pan angle, and steering wheel.

To minimize the occurrence of lower back pain, keep your seat close enough to the steering wheel that you don’t need to stretch to reach it. Always bend your knees and arms to prevent strain. If you are behind the wheel for more than two hours at a time, try to stop and stretch. If stopping is not possible, roll your shoulders from time to time.

According to UCLA’s Ergonomics Program, there are things we all can do to increase comfort and reduce fatigue when driving. Try removing your wallet, keys, and any other bulky items from your pockets. Because these items press against your buttocks when sitting, prolonged pressure can reduce circulation and compress nerves and soft tissues. In addition, if your seat belt strap is uncomfortable, place a shoulder strap cushion or pad on the part of the strap that presses into your shoulder or chest. Relax your grip on the steering wheel. Change your hand position frequently to improve circulation and reduce fatigue.

Sleeping

According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the average adult needs seven to eight hours of sleep. How you spend those eight hours could negatively affect your back. Be sure to take care of your back by lying on a firm mattress. Flipping the mattress every six months can help it remain firm.

We all sleep in different ways — on our back, side and stomach. When you are on your side, try using pillows to support your body and maintain neutral alignment of your spine during sleep. Placing a small pillow or rolled towel between your knees will help align the hips and alleviate pressure on your back. This is especially important for pregnant women.

Chiropractic Care For Lower Back Pain

One of the best ways to treat lower back pain is to see a qualified chiropractor. An experienced chiropractor can help manage and reduce your lower back pain. “By restoring proper motion and alignment in the spinal structures, the body is able to return the tone of the tissues in the body to normal,” says Dr. Lee Matthis of Tuck Chiropractic Clinic in Christiansburg.  “This allows for symmetrical muscle tension and ROM.  The body is then able to function normally and heal itself, symptoms often disappearing in the process”

Whether your lower back pain is caused by a sports injury, an accident, or any of the daily activities discussed above, chiropractic care — combined with routine exercise and stretching — can significantly reduce or alleviate your lower back pain.

Regardless of your health issue, it is crucial is to find a practitioner who listens to you and directs you to the most effective, cost-efficient care possible. If you have any questions or would like to learn more about managing lower back pain, please don’t hesitate to contact us.

Image by ginasanders/123RF.

Winter Activities

Jan 29, 2015 | By Dr. Danielle Vann

Winter Activities and Chiropractic Care

Skiing and other winter sports can be enjoyed safely with a little preparation.

As I am sure you have experienced, winter recreational activities and chores can cause many potential problems for people of all ages. Activities like skiing, skating, sledding, shoveling snow, slipping on sidewalks, climbing over snow banks the wrong way, or if your like me just walking in snow, all have the potential for an accident. You can prevent the potential for this type of injury by following a few simple steps.

 

  1. Layer your clothing to keep you and your muscles warm and flexible.
  2. Stretch and warm up your muscles before heading out into the cold weather; and again when you get back inside.
  3. If you are shoveling snow, push the snow straight ahead. Don’t try to lift the snow and throw it into a pile.  And avoid excessive twisting motions.
  4. Take frequent breaks from your winter play or chore. Allow you muscles time rest, a fatigued body is more susceptible to injury.

By being proactive in your winter activities with these tips you are less likely to experience an injury or pain.  But if you do experience any symptom that does not resolve quickly from your winter activities, please call a Tuck Chiropractic Clinic near you, we are always here to help!

Image via flickr.

What is your body trying to tell you?

Jan 13, 2015 | By Dan Foley

What is your body trying to tell you?  Often times your body will give you clues as to what is going on inside and if you learn what those clues mean you can have a better understanding of what you need to do to improve your body and health.  In this article, we are going to look at what you can learn from your body fat storage pattern, your sleep, and how your body moves.

The first area you can easily learn from is how your body prefers to store fat.

Belly fat – Belly fat is one of the most common fat storage patterns today, and it relates to the hormone cortisol.  Cortisol is meant to be high in the morning and low in the evening.  This allows you to wake up easily in the morning and fall asleep easily at night.  If you have more belly fat than you would like, then you should look to improve your sleep, avoid sugar, limit the amount of caffeine you consume, avoid all known food intolerances, and try to limit the amount of stress in your life.

Love handles – If you are storing more fat on your love handles than you would like, then you are probably eating more carbs and sugar than your body can handle given your genetics and current activity level.  Love handles are a sign that you are producing too much insulin.  This is best resolved through proper nutrition.

Back of the arms – If you are storing fat on the back of your arms, then you are probably having issues with low testosterone.  The best way to combat this is to get into the gym and lift some heavy weights.  Excessive cardio and low calorie diets can often lead to fat triceps.

Quads  – If you are storing most of your fat in your quads this is a sign of estrogen dominance.  If this is the case then make sure to avoid sugar because sugar converts testosterone into estrogen.  Also lifting weights and staying away from long, slow cardio is important.  Most females with estrogen profiles typically have trouble with slow bowel movements so that should also be addressed.  If you are a male and you have fat quads then you probably need to limit your intake of sugar because high insulin levels make males more feminine.

Hamstrings - If your glutes and hamstrings are storing fat then you are probably being exposed to environmental toxins especially estrogens.  In order to help with this, make sure that you are avoiding soy, limiting your exposure to plastics, and avoiding commercially raised meats that contain growth hormones and anti-biotics.  The other thing to be aware of is cosmetics as they often contain estrogenic compounds.

Knees and calves – If you are storing fat on your knees or calves then this is a sign that you have low levels of growth hormone.  Your biggest surge of growth hormone happens when you are in deep sleep, so it is important that you sleep well.  Typically, if someone has a bad night of sleep, their knee and calf measurements can increase by as much as 50% the next day.  One of the best ways to increase the amount of growth hormone you produce is to do weight lifting with short rest intervals.

Next we will take a look at your sleep.

Trouble falling asleep – If you have trouble falling asleep at night then you probably have elevated levels of cortisol at night.  To remedy this make sure that you get into the habit of relaxing when you get home at night and that your nutrition is not stressful on your body.  Writing in a journal is also another great way to lower your stress at night.

Trouble getting up in the morning – Do you have to hit the snooze button 10 times before you can get out of bed in the morning?  If so, then your cortisol levels are probably low in the morning.  Remember that cortisol levels are supposed to be elevated in the morning to give you the energy to pop out of bed easily.  If you are having trouble getting up, then consider upping the protein in your breakfast.  Protein will increase dopamine and acetylcholine levels in your brain which will help give you the motivation to get going.

How Does Your Body Move?

The other thing that I have found is that the way your body moves can also give us clues as to what is happening inside.  For example, we often see clients who have very tight hips and upper traps.  These muscles are linked to your cortisol levels.  Clients who are tight in the right hip flexor often have a hard time getting out of bed in the morning, and clients who are tight in the left hip flexor often have a hard time getting to sleep at night.  There are many other examples of your movement patterns being linked to body fat storage patterns and hormones, but this will give you the idea.

Putting it all together

If you have extra belly fat, have trouble falling asleep at night, and have a hard time getting into a deep squat or lunge then the odds are that cortisol is an issue for you.  The interesting thing I have found is that all of these factors are linked, and if you improve one area, then the other problems also get better.  For example, if you get your hips to move better, then you will sleep better and your belly fat will drop.  If you sleep better, then your hips will move better and your belly fat will drop, if your belly fat drops then you will typically sleep better and your hips will move better.

By paying attention to your body fat, sleep, and movement patterns, you can learn a lot about what is happening on the inside, and you can use these clues to improve the way your body looks and feels.

Blood Pressure, Hypertension & Chiropractors

Jan 11, 2015 | By Dr. A. J. LaBarbera

A. J. LaBarbera, D.C.

A. J. LaBarbera, D.C.

Really!! High Blood Pressure (Hypertension) affects 1 in 4 Americans.*  You or someone you know probably has it. Now, am I suggesting that Chiropractic is a cure for high blood pressure/hypertension?  No, no at all.  Should you stop taking your medication and go to the Chiropractor for your hypertension problem?  Definitely not.  However, recent research out of the University of Chicago suggests that Chiropractic adjustments to a specific area of the neck can lower specific types of  blood pressure an average of 14 mm/hg systolic (the top number) and 8 mm/hg diastolic (the lower number).**

“How is this possible?” you may ask.  Medical Textbooks teach us that the brain and nervous system control every function of the body.  The base of the brain/top of the spinal cord controls much of the pressure regulation mechanism of our circulatory system among other things.  The first bone in the neck, called the “atlas” (or C1) can put pressure on the base of the brain and spinal cord and create dysfunction of the vascular system causing an artificial pressure increase.  When the bone is moved (micro millimeters) by a Chiropractic adjustment, pressure is taken of the brain and spinal cord and normal function resumes according to the study.

This kind of research isn’t as far-fetched and surprising as it may seem, if we think more about it.  Chiropractors work with headaches, neck pain, upper back pain, low back pain, sciatica, hip pain, and numerous other conditions in the same basic manner as the Doctors in the blood pressure study.  Chiropractors treat patients every day with the understanding that the nervous system does indeed control and coordinate every function of the body.  That is how we have consistently achieved the great clinical outcomes over the last century.  This research piece shows that very relationship at work.

In the same breath,  that in no way means that every condition is a Chiropractic case.  However, a healthy nervous system will always contribute to overall well-being no matter where you stand on the health continuum (aged, young, sick, well, etc.)  Every day, more and more research is showing a consistent relationship between a healthy nervous system and a better functioning body.

So, when under Chiropractic care, it is essential to follow recommendations through your care plan for maximum benefit.  In addition, as you have read, it can also play an important role in affecting other systems of your body and help with overall health and well being.  Continuing with wellness care is your choice and can most definitely affect your quality of life in a positive manner for years to come!

*Harvard Health Services
 
**“Chiropractic Cuts High Blood Pressure”,   Journal of Human Hypertension (2007) 21, 347-352.

Shoulder Pain & the Rotator Cuff

Jan 9, 2015 | By Dr. Sean Skinner

Figure 1

Figure 1

What is the rotator cuff or rotor cuff?  If you are anything like me, you hear those two terms used quite a bit.  I hear the term mostly while I am talking to a new patient with shoulder pain.  “Doc, my shoulder is killing me.  I think tore my rotor cuff.”  The shoulder is much more complex than just the rotator cuff.  The shoulder joint complex is made up of bones, ligaments, cartilage, bursa, muscles and tendons.  Because there are so many different structures in such a small area, and we have so much range of motion in the shoulder, there is potential to injure any one of them.  When you have shoulder pain, it doesn’t mean that you have torn your rotator cuff, you should see a licensed health care professional to determine that.  Let’s talk more specifically about the rotator cuff.

 

Figure 2

Figure 2

The rotator cuff is made up of four muscles and their corresponding tendons.  The four muscles that make up the cuff are the Supraspinatus, Infraspinatus, Teres Minor, and Subscapularis (see Figure 1. and Figure 2.)  We refer to the muscles of the rotator cuff with the acronym “SITS” muscles.  These muscles originate on the shoulder blade (scapula) and insert on the head of the upper arm (humerus).  The cuff muscles stabilize the head of the humerus as you move the shoulder through its normal, healthy ranges of motion (see Figure 3.).  Any repetitive movements or traumatic movements out of the shoulder’s normal range of motion can potentially cause injury to the cuff and surrounding structures.

 

Figure 3

Figure 3

If you have injured your rotator cuff,you will have pain with movement and decreased range of motion.  Determining what you have injured in or around your shoulder will take place during your consultation and examination.  If you have injured the rotor cuff, you will present with certain signs and symptoms that will help the doctor determine what part of the rotator cuff, or surrounding structures you have injured.  After your exam, your doctor may want to have some x-rays taken or other advanced imaging to help aid in the diagnosis.  When the diagnosis is made, depending on the degree of the injury, there are a number of different conservative treatment options that are available.  As chiropractors, we can perform different passive modalities (e-stim, ultrasound, etc.), active rehab exercises (stretching, strengthening, etc.), and chiropractic adjustments to the injured area.  If you have shoulder pain, you should get to the proper health care professional as soon as possible to help establish a good diagnosis and get the proper treatment.  If you have any questions please contact me at sskinner@tuckclinic.com.

Is Your Wallet Causing Back Pain?

Jan 7, 2015 | By Dr. Logan Brooke

Logan Brooke, D.C.

Logan Brooke, D.C.

If you have ever experienced the excruciating pain of sciatica or severe low back pain, you’ll do anything to reduce the symptoms.  Often any type of pill, potion or lotion is no match for this disabling pain.  What you may not know is that your wallet could be the reason why you are in so much pain.

So how is the wallet causing all this pain?  Think of it like this, if you had a pebble in your shoe and constantly walked on it day in and day out, would your foot eventually begin to hurt?  Absolutely! Essentially that pebble is your wallet to the pelvic bones.  Every time you sit on your wallet you slightly elevate one side of your hip bones.

Although the pressure created is minimal at first, think about what 15, 20 or 25 years of the continuous pressure on one side of your gluteus!  That slight pressure is just enough to cause a chain reaction of problems with the joints, nerves, muscles and ligaments of your low back.  The ligaments will slightly stretch due to the presence of a wallet.

Next, the muscles will tighten and relax to accommodate that change.  Your body will innately cause inflammation and swelling around the joints and finally (over time) you will begin to pressure the nerves.  Once this happens; you know it.  Sciatica can be debilitating.

Patients may go through months of physical therapy or even surgery to reverse the damage caused by their wallet, with still no relief.  A Chiropractor is the only health care professional able to reverse all the damages associated with the wallet.  Once you get the much needed care by a Chiropractor, I highly recommend purchasing a money clip and storing your goods in your front pocket.  Experts also say that this is a safer place to keep your valuables.

Chiropractic TENS vs. EStim Machines

Jan 4, 2015 | By Dr. Sean Skinner

Sean Skinner, D.C.

Sean Skinner, D.C.

“I have a TENS unit at home, why do I have to do electric therapy here?”

This is a question I get in my office now and then.  Before coming to see the chiropractor, some patients may have obtained a Transcutaneous Electric Nerve Stimulation (TENS) unit from a surgeon, physical therapist or obtained one on their own.  There is a common misconception that the TENS unit is the same thing as the multiple forms of electric stimulation (EStim) therapy that we use here in the office setting.

When confronted with this question I tell patients that the effect of the TENS unit is more superficial and used for temporary pain control.  The other forms of EStim that we use in the office setting feels similar, but penetrates deeply, is much stronger, and has longer lasting effects.

We can use some simple diagrams to show how the different therapy has an effect on different tissues.  When you have pain, a pain signal is carried from the injured area of your body by a nerve to your brain.
Injured/Inflamed tissue —-> Irritated Nerve —-> Brain (pain is felt)

A TENS unit will help block pain signals that are sent from stressed/injured tissue to the brain by effecting the nerve carrying the pain signal.  Although there is a blocking of pain signals, there is no effect on the inflammation that is generating the pain.  The effect is only temporary:

Injured/Inflamed tissue —> Irritated Nerve + TENS —-> Brain (LESS pain)

The EStim that we use in the office setting allows for deeper penetration into your bodies soft tissues (skin, muscles, joint).  This allows the EStim to have a direct effect on the injured/inflamed tissue.

Injured/Inflamed tissue + EStim —-> LESS Irritated Nerve —> Brain (LESS pain)

If you have an injury or chronic inflammation in your joints and muscles, you want the energy of the therapy to be focused deep enough in the tissue and joint where most of the inflammation is located.  The EStim therapy is powerful enough to do this.  Once the area of your body that is injured/inflamed is healed, you will no longer have pain.

If you keep masking the pain with a TENS unit, you are not having a direct effect on the inflammation, and you will continue to feel pain.  Please follow the recommended treatment protocol that is prescribed to you by your chiropractor. This will help you get better as quickly as possible.  We are here to help!