“Conservative” Treatment for Neck and Back Pain – A Chiropractic Perspective. Part 1

Clear Lake City TX Chiropractor Comments: As a practicing chiropractic orthopedist, I am regularly asked what the difference between me and an orthopedic surgeon is. The simple answer is that I look for a conservative treatment option while the surgeon looks for a surgical treatment option. The term “conservative treatment” is used to describe any treatment option that does not involve surgery. This may be as simple as reassuring you that it is not a serious problem, and recommending that you just watch and wait. However, people with recurring back or neck problems should consider preventive measures. This includes learning how to protect your back and neck and exercising to strengthen your back and neck. Conservative treatment approaches include the use of:

Chiropractic Therapy

If chiropractic care is recommended, your Doctor of Chiropractic (DC) will start by asking you questions about your spine condition. You may be asked questions about when your pain started, where you hurt, and how your symptoms affect your daily activities. Your answers will help your DC focus on the source of your problem and what he or she will need to do to help relieve it. Your DC will then do an exam that may include some or all of the following checks.

  • Posture — imbalances in the position of your spine can put pressure on sore joints, nerves, and muscles. Improving your posture can often make a big difference in relieving pain.
  • Range of motion (ROM) — measurements are taken of how far you can move in different directions. Your ROM is recorded to compare how much improvement you are making with each treatment.
  • Nerve Tests — your DC may check your reflexes, sensation, and strength. The results can help determine which area of the spine is causing problems and the types of treatment that will be best for you.
  • Manual Exam — your DC will carefully move your spine in different positions to make sure that the joints are moving smoothly at each level. Muscle and soft tissue flexibility is also tested.
  • Ergonomics — ergonomics involves where and how you do your work or hobby activities. By understanding your ergonomics, your DC can learn whether the way you do your activities may be making your pain worse. Sometimes even simple corrections can make a big difference in easing spine problems.
  • Palpation — your DC will feel the soft tissues around your spine to check for changes in temperature or texture, which may indicate that you have inflammation or nerve irritation. Palpation also checks whether there are tender points or spasms in the muscles near the spine.

Your DC will evaluate your answers and your exam results to decide the best way to help you. He or she will then prepare a plan of care, which lists the treatments to be used and the goals that you and your DC decide on to do your daily activities safely and with the least amount of discomfort. The plan also includes a prognosis, which is your DC’s idea of how well the treatments will work and how long you will need care in order to get the most benefit.

Dr. Ward Beecher practices at Beecher Chiropractic Clinic at 1001 Pineloch, Ste 700 Houston, TX 77062. You can schedule an appointment at BeecherChiropractic.com or by calling (281) 286-1300. If you have any questions regarding this blog, please comment below!

Neck Pain – Non-Surgical Treatment Options

Clear Lake City Chiropractor Comments: There are many treatment options for those suffering from neck pain.  There is conventional medical care where the family doctor will usually prescribe a muscle relaxant, anti-inflammatory, and/or pain killer to help patients through episodes of acute neck pain.  However, many patients with neck pain have been through the process of treatments associated with medications and simply cannot tolerate the adverse side effects of stomach pain common with anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen (Advil, Nuprin, Mediprin, etc.), Aleve (Naproxen), or aspirin.  Others don’t like the groggy, drunk-like feelings associated with pain killers or the sleepiness associated with muscle relaxants.  Therefore, these patients often turn to complementary / alternative care.

As noted in the May, 2009 issue of Consumer’s Report for low back pain, chiropractic was the most sought after form of treatment, but there has been no extensive review of neck pain regarding evidence-based treatment approaches – at least not until February, 2008.  An international “team” representing 9 countries screened over 31,000 titles of articles published between 1980 and 2006, reviewed more than 1200 articles and eventually reported on 552 studies in their final report.  Their findings included the following:

  • In the US, 54% utilized complementary (alternative) treatment approaches compared to 37% that obtained conventional medical care.
  • Neck pain was the 2nd most common reason Americans obtained chiropractic care.
  • Chiropractic was found to be the most frequently reported form of treatment for upper back or neck pain (ahead of massage therapy, relaxation therapy, acupuncture).
  • Those who obtained complementary AND conventional medical care were much more likely to perceive the complementary/alternative therapy as being helpful (61% vs. 6.4% for neck conditions and 39.1% vs. 19% for headaches).
  • Women more commonly obtained care than men for neck/shoulder pain (29% vs. 18% men) over a 4-6 year time frame.
  • Manual therapy (mobilization, manipulation, stretching) was associated with greater pain reduction in the short-term among patients with acute whiplash when compared with usual medical care, soft collars, passive modalities, or general advice.
  • For non-whiplash neck pain (without arm radiating pain), manipulation or mobilization, exercise, low level laser therapy (LLLT), and “…perhaps acupuncture…” were reported as more effective than no treatment, sham, or other alternative interventions.
  • For both whiplash and non-traumatic neck pain, supervised exercise with or without manual therapy was favored over usual medical care or no care.

What does all this mean?  Simple!  Everyone who is suffering from neck or upper back pain should seek chiropractic care which includes manipulation, mobilization, exercise training, and activity modifying advice, as these approaches have been found to be more effective than usual medical care!  Why waste time with a “wait and watch” with or without drug intervention approach when the evidence favors chiropractic related interventions.  If you, a friend, or a loved one is struggling with neck or upper back pain, we will properly assess your condition and administer the appropriate care that is required.  We will coordinate care with other health care services when necessary.  This recommendation may represent one of most significant acts of kindness you can offer those that you truly care about.

Dr. Ward Beecher practices at Beecher Chiropractic Clinic at 1001 Pineloch, Ste 700 Houston, TX 77062. You can schedule an appointment at BeecherChiropractic.com or by calling (281) 286-1300. If you have any questions regarding this blog, please comment below!

Joints Cracking?…What is that noise?

Houston Chiropractor Comments: Ever since I became a chiropractor in the late 1980’s, one of the most common questions I hear about spinal adjustments is “What is that cracking noise?” Patients have the perception that the sound is coming from the bones, but it is in fact coming from the joints. The audible sound is due to release of oxygen, nitrogen and carbon dioxide from the synovial fluid which is a joint lubricant. The joint cavitations or pressure change occurs when the connective tissue is stretched. This increases the volume and subsequently decreases the joint pressure. The gases that were originally dissolved in the synovial fluid become less soluble and are allowed to form bubbles which can ultimately “pop”, thus making the noise you hear. The change is rapid and the pressure ultimately rises again as the gas is again dissolved in the synovial fluid.

After the adjustment there is typically an increase in joint mobility due to the stimulation of the Golgi tendon organs. The increase motion of the joint along with proper follow-up exercises and stretches help allow you to reach your body’s maximum potential. Another important thing to know is that the joint cavitations do NOT cause any arthritis or damage to the spine. That is just an old wives tale.

Dr. Ward Beecher practices at Beecher Chiropractic Clinic at 1001 Pineloch, Ste 700 Houston, TX 77062. You can schedule an appointment at BeecherChiropractic.com or by calling (281) 286-1300. If you have any questions regarding this blog, please comment below!

Prompt Treatment of Carpal Tunnel is Best!

Clear Lake City, TX Chiropractor’s Comments:

Many people suffer from CTS (Carpal Tunnel Syndrome) and unfortunately, often ignore the initial symptoms of numbness or tingling in the hand(s).  These early symptoms are typically not too alarming and hence, they often do not raise the level of concern until more intense symptoms occur; such as waking up from sleep due to numbness, dropping items, difficulty buttoning clothing, needing to switch hands when driving, difficulty writing, typing, knitting, as well as work related pain.  There may also be fear of job loss associated with CTS, especially in these hard economic times with frequent lay offs, prompting CTS sufferers to postpone initial care.  Unfortunately, delaying treatment is associated with a longer recovery time when compared to prompt management which usually results in a quicker, less complicated and more satisfying recovery.

There are many causes and contributing factors of CTS.  The most prevalent cause is mechanical irritation from simply moving the hands too fast for too long, without enough rest.  Another risk factor is age (over 50 years old). In this era of an aging workforce, this may be a significant issue.  Fast, repetitive movements of the arms and hands are often a direct cause and can be appreciated by watching someone knit rapidly and/or performing line work using fast, repetitive movements.  If the hands/wrists have to bend in awkward positions to accomplish a work task, or if a tool that is frequently used places pressure in the palm of the hand, these can also contribute to the onset or perpetuation of CTS.  Other conditions can also contribute to CTS including inflammatory arthritis like rheumatoid, diabetes, pregnancy, the use of birth control pills, obesity and hypothyroidism.

The management of CTS is case specific, and is dependant on which of the above mentioned causes or contributors are present. Management of any metabolic disorder such as diabetes or hypothyroid is important, especially compliance with taking appropriate medication, when indicated.  The management of weight, hormone replacement therapy, and fluid retention all play a roll in CTS management.  Ergonomic or job-related management strategies are very important and can include work station modifications so that unnecessary awkward arm/wrist/hand positions can be avoided.  This may require moving the item being worked on to a less stressful position, using a different type of tool handle (screw driver, etc.), changing the height or reach distance at which the material is worked on, and taking “mini-breaks” every ½ to 1 hour when the lack of rest is a contributor.  Frequently, the combination of pinching a phone between the head and shoulder, typing data into a computer where the monitor is positioned too high or off to one side, and excessive arm motions using a computer mouse can contribute to pinching the nerve in the neck and/or arm, resulting in CTS.  Remedies for this situation include the use of a head set, repositioning the computer monitor so that it is in front of the worker, and using a trackball type of mouse to eliminate arm motion can be extremely helpful.  Treatment strategies offered by chiropractors include the use of manual therapy to the wrist and the tight muscles in the front of the forearm, as well as other nerve constriction areas such as the elbow, shoulder, and neck, manipulation of the joints in hand, wrist, elbow, shoulder, and/or neck, depending on what is unique and needed for that patient, and the use of physiological therapeutics such as low level laser light therapy, electrical stimulation, and/or ultrasound have all been shown to offer beneficial effects. Nutritional recommendations include Vitamin B6 (150mg/day), magnesium, calcium, Co-Q10, omega 3 fatty acids and vitamin D3.  Reducing glutens (wheat, oats, barley, and rye) is also very important due to the inflammatory response of these foods.  Surgery is typically, the last treatment resort and is appropriate, “when all else fails.”  We welcome you to our clinic and are proud to offer you a non-drug, non-surgical solution for CTS and its disabling symptoms.

Dr. Ward Beecher practices at Beecher Chiropractic Clinic at 1001 Pineloch, Ste 700 Houston, TX 77062. You can schedule an appointment at BeecherChiropractic.com or by calling (281) 286-1300. If you have any questions regarding this blog, please comment below!

Chiropractic’s Role in National Healthcare – Houston, TX Chiropractor Comments

Clear Lake City / Houston TX Chiropractor Comments: In the 20 years that I have been a Houston chiropractor, I rarely have talked politics in the office, but the times are different. As it looks more and more like some type on national healthcare will be enacted by the government, I have decided to write this blog. To help ensure that Congress, insurance and managed care companies do not restrict your access to the essential chiropractic services that you have enjoyed and benefited from, I ask you to visit www.ChiroVoice.org. According to ChiroVoice.org., they are a chiropractic advocacy network is a dedicated group of national volunteers who educate policymakers about the value of chiropractic and work to positively impact any legislative efforts to reform the current national health care system. Through the chiropractic advocacy network, patients and chiropractic supporters can stay informed about important health care issues and help ensure that:

Congress does not restrict your ability to access essential chiropractic services.

Congress does not limit – but instead expands – coverage for services provided by Doctors of Chiropractic within Medicare.

Insurance and managed care companies do not deny patients’ access to the essential chiropractic services they need.

Your involvement makes a tremendous difference.
Each active member of the chiropractic advocacy network brings us one step closer to our goal of assuring full-scope access to chiropractic services. Chiropractic patients and supporters who are interested in serving as advocates may sign-up to receive special e-mail alerts about advocacy issues and important legislation. Network members will also receive a monthly e-newsletter.

On another note, since so many of our patients are active duty and retired military, I would urge you to call your national representative (ours is Pete Olson) and ask them to sponsor the bill HR 484. This will help to develop and implement a plan to provide chiropractic health care services and benefits for certain new beneficiaries as part of the TRICARE program.

Dr. Ward Beecher practices at Beecher Chiropractic Clinic at 1001 Pineloch, Ste 700 Houston, TX 77062. You can schedule an appointment at BeecherChiropractic.com or by calling (281) 286-1300. If you have any questions regarding this blog, please comment below!

Oh, My Aching…Leg? Sciatica Causes and Relief

sciatica houstonClear Lake City, TX, Leg Pain & Sciatica Specialist: I have been practicing in Clear Lake City, Texas since 1990 and my patients are always surprised to learn that certain low back conditions give rise to more than just low back pain. For example, leg pain can be more intense than low back pain, even though the cause of the leg pain is coming from the low back. When this happens, many patients complain that they have “sciatica,” which refers to radiating pain that starts in the low back and extends down into the leg. When the intensity of leg pain is worse than the low back, it can make patients wonder, “…where is my problem really coming from?

To understand this better, a short “anatomy lesson” is appropriate. The spine can be divided into two halves, front and back. The structures in the front half include the larger, heavier bones called vertebral bodies and the shock absorbing cushions that lie between the vertebral bodies called the intervertebral disks. The disk is like a jelly donut where the center is liquid-like and the outer portion is a tough, criss-cross pattern cartilage arranged like the rings on a tree stump. There are also ligaments that hold the vertebrae and disks tightly together. The back half of the spine includes the spinal cord, nerve roots, as well as the small joints of the back called facet joints. Every movable joint has a joint capsule that helps lubricate the joint and limits the amount of movement, along with surrounding ligaments. The larger, heavier vertebral bodies and shock absorbing disks carry the majority of the weight (approximately 80%) while the smaller facet joints carry much less weight (only 20%) but are more responsible for guiding the movements of our back.

When leg pain is present, it can be caused by either a pinched nerve, or, an inflamed facet joint.

When a nerve is pinched, the cause is usually from the intervertebral disk where the jelly-like center leaks out and presses on the nerve that goes down the leg, commonly referred to as a “herniated disk with sciatica.” This type of pain is quite specific, easy to describe and often extends below the knee to the ankle or foot. It can include muscle weakness, numbness in certain areas of the leg, and bending forward increases low back and leg pain while bending backwards reduces the leg pain (and sometimes the LBP).

When a facet joint capsule tears (technically, called a “sprain”), the pain is “referred” down the leg in a generalized, non-specific manner, usually described as a “deep ache,” often hard to describe and usually does not go below the level of the knee. Here, it feels better to bend forward and worse to bend backwards, of which neither movement changes or affects the leg in a specific way. Disk related leg pain carries a potential for surgery if all non-surgical approaches fail, while facet joint referred leg pain rarely requires invasive treatments or surgery.

The good news is that both of these sources of low back and leg pain are very treatable with chiropractic care in my office! The important point to remember is that obtaining prompt treatment, when symptoms first appear is best – as waiting and hoping it will subside on its own often results in a longer treatment course and is less satisfying for all concerned.
Dr. Ward Beecher practices at Beecher Chiropractic Clinic at 1001 Pineloch, Ste 700 Houston, TX 77062. You can schedule an appointment at BeecherChiropractic.com or by calling (281) 286-1300. If you have any questions regarding this blog, please comment below!

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome – Chiropractic vs Medical Treatment

Clear Lake City Chiropractor Comments: In the two decades that I have been practicing chiropractic in the Bay Area part of Houston, TX, I have noted that there are many patients who suffer from Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS). In fact, CTS is one of the most common work related injuries. In spite of multiple studies that show the benefits of chiropractic treatment with patients suffering from CTS, many medical doctors are unaware of the studies and still tell their patients that chiropractic treatment is either ineffective, or may actually harm them. This unsupported ill advice can easily result in the patient not even considering chiropractic care as a potential effective form of treatment. This can be especially damaging to a patient who cannot tolerate anti-inflammatory medications such as Ibuprofen, Aleve, or aspirin. In fact, side effects secondary to stomach pain (gastritis and/or ulcer) can be quite common, especially at the recommended dose of 2400 mg / day. Moreover, if poor tolerance to these medications exists and an unsatisfying response to conservative medical treatment occurs, the “next step” offered to the patient may be surgery. Surgery that may have been avoidable had chiropractic treatment been considered as a viable alternative.

There are several studies available that will enlighten those who simply are not aware of the effectiveness of chiropractic care in the treatment of CTS.

The type of treatment that one may receive when being treated in our office includes manipulation of the bony joints of the neck and upper extremity. The objective of this is to improve the mobility of the joints and loosen the muscles through which the nerves pass, particularly, the median nerve that runs through the carpal tunnel and innervates the 2nd to 4th fingers. There are several exercises of both stretching and strengthening types that strive for similar goals. Physical therapy modalities such as low-level laser therapy have reported beneficial results. Modalities such as ultrasound, interferential current (IFC), ice massage over the tunnel, and other therapies may also be utilize. There may be other treatment approaches that may suggested on an individual case basis.

Dr. Ward Beecher practices at Beecher Chiropractic Clinic at 1001 Pineloch, Ste 700 Houston, TX 77062. You can schedule an appointment at BeecherChiropractic.com or by calling (281) 286-1300. If you have any questions regarding this blog, please comment below!

Chiropractic Reported Best for Back Pain Relief

Clear Lake City, TX Chiropractor Comments: As a practicing chiropractor in the Houston area since 1990, I was not surprised to see the recent positive press about chiropractic care. According to the May 2009 Consumer Reports chiropractic was voted the best in pain relief for people suffering from back pain. The actual results were:

Chiropractor- 59%
Physical therapist- 55%
Acupuncturist- 53%
Physician, specialist- 44%
Physician, primary care- 34%

This is similar to the results that I see in my office in Clear Lake City, TX. While this survey showed the patients who were “highly satisfied”, almost all of our patients are either satisfied or highly satisfied with their care. Patients are glad to find out that their headaches, back and neck pain and other complaints can be alleviated without drugs or surgery. They are also happy to find out exercises and stretches that can be done at home to prevent the problems from reoccurring. Their satisfaction makes my job all the more enjoyable. Let me know if I can make you a satisfied patient also!

Dr. Ward Beecher practices at Beecher Chiropractic Clinic at 1001 Pineloch, Ste 700 Houston, TX 77062. You can schedule an appointment at BeecherChiropractic.com or by calling (281) 286-1300. If you have any questions regarding this blog, please comment below!

What is Orthopedics?

Clear Lake City, TX Chiropractor’s Comments: Orthopedics is the branch of chiropractic medicine that deals with the prevention and correction of disorders of the joints, skeleton, muscles and other supporting structures. Orthopedics comes from the Greek word “Ortho” meaning straight and “pedics” meaning children. Medical orthopedics utilizes surgery to correct these musculoskeletal complaints. Chiropractic orthopedics, a recognized council of the American Chiropractic Association requiring extensive post-graduate education and testing, utilizes manual therapy and rehabilitation to correct the musculoskeletal problems instead. As a doctor who is board certified chiropractic orthopedics in Houston, TX, I am frequently asked to do consultations or second opinions for patients to determine the underlying cause of their complaint(s). I take an extensive history and perform an appropriate examination to arrive at the accurate diagnosis. The correct diagnosis is important to determine whether the patient will respond to chiropractic care or does he/she need to be referred to another doctor. If I feel that the patient would benefit from chiropractic orthopedic medicine, then I design a specific treatment plan with the appropriate chiropractic care, exercises and stretches to allow the maximum improvement possible.

Dr. Ward Beecher practices at Beecher Chiropractic Clinic at 1001 Pineloch, Ste 700 Houston, TX 77062. You can schedule an appointment at BeecherChiropractic.com or by calling (281) 286-1300. If you have any questions regarding this blog, please comment below!

The Neck and Headache Connection

Houston Chiropractor’s Comments: In the 20 years that I have been a chiropractor, I have noticed that patients with headaches commonly complain of neck pain. The term “cervicogenic headaches” has become an accepted term due the close connection between the head and neck for many years. There are many anatomical reasons why neck problems result in headaches. One of these reasons is that the top 3 nerves exiting the spine penetrate the muscles that connect the head to the neck, any excess pressure on these nerves by the muscles or spinal joints will result in irritation and subsequent pain. Another reason is that some of the cranial nerves affect sensation and motor function around the head, neck and face.

When patients come to our office seeking treatment for their headaches, a thorough examination of the neck, upper back and cranial nerves is routinely performed. It is common to find a decrease in the neck’s range of motion and bone alignment. Muscle tenderness is also common and contributes to the headaches and neck pain.

It is best to have your cervical spine examined by a chiropractic spine specialist to determine the cause of your pain. Specific treatment, stretches or exercises may be recommended to prevent the pain from becoming a chronic problem.
Dr. Ward Beecher practices at Beecher Chiropractic Clinic at 1001 Pineloch, Ste 700 Houston, TX 77062. You can schedule an appointment at BeecherChiropractic.com or by calling (281) 286-1300. If you have any questions regarding this blog, please comment below!