Massage therapy

Can Massage Therapy Help Your Back Pain?

Massage for Back Pain

Can Massage Therapy Help Your Back Pain?

For most of us, the answer is probably ‘yes’, since massage is non-invasive and considered very low risk for most people. In addition to physical benefits, certain types of massage have been shown to help psychologically via relaxation and increased production of ‘feel good’ chemicals that the body naturally produces (endorphins)–helpful for people with both acute back pain and chronic back pain. This post describes why massage may be right for you.

Benefits of Massage
Massage therapy is becoming more widely accepted in the medical community as a credible treatment for many types of back pain and/or as an adjunct to other medical treatments. Research shows that massage therapy has several potential health benefits for back pain sufferers, including:

Increased blood flow and circulation, which brings needed nutrition to muscles and tissues. This aids in recovery of muscle soreness from physical activity or soft tissue injury (such as muscle strain).
Decreased tension in the muscles. This muscle relaxation can improve flexibility, reduce pain caused by tight muscles and even improve sleep.
Increased endorphin levels–the “feel good” chemicals in the brain. This mood enhancer can ease depression and anxiety, which can help reduce pain and speed recovery–particularly important for those suffering from chronic back or neck problems.


Massage Therapy May Help Numerous Back Problems

Many healthcare providers say they will encourage their patients to pursue massage therapy in addition to medical treatment. If appropriate, you may want to ask your physician for a referral to a massage therapy professional in your area. Additionally, the American Massage Therapy Association website has a directory of trained and licensed massage therapy professionals at http://www.amtamassage.org.

There are numerous back problems that may benefit from massage therapy, including:

Muscle strain in the lower back or upper back/neck. Most episodes of acute lower back pain are caused by muscle strain, such as from lifting a heavy object, a sudden movement or a fall. The low back pain can be very severe and last for several hours, several days or even a few weeks. When back muscles are strained or torn, the area around the muscles can become inflamed. With inflammation, the muscles in the back can spasm and cause both severe lower back pain and difficulty moving. The large upper back muscles are also prone to irritation, either due to de-conditioning (lack of strength) or overuse injuries (such as repetitive motions). Upper back pain may also be due to a specific event, such as a muscle strain, sports injury, or auto accident. Massage can help work out the spasm/irritation and improve range of motion.

Osteoarthritis of the spine. Spinal arthritis is the breakdown of the cartilage between the aligning facet joints in the back portion of the spine. The facet joints become inflamed and progressive joint degeneration creates more frictional pain as bone rubs on bone. Therapeutic massage can help reduce osteoarthritis pain by improving circulation and reducing stress and muscle tension. However, it is important to find a professional who is specifically trained in treating people with arthritis.
Fibromyalgia can affect people differently, but is usually characterized by pain, stiffness, fatigue and/or non-restorative sleep. The patient typically feels both widespread pain and pain in specific “tender points” as evidenced by physical examination. Massage can target both the tender points and the more broadly distributed pain and stiffness.
Although massage is relatively safe, it is always advisable for patients to first check with their doctor before beginning massage therapy or any other treatment. There are some contraindications for massage therapy, such as (but not limited to): recent surgery; infectious skin disease, rash, or unhealed wound; varicose veins; and osteoporosis.


Massage Therapy Treatments for Back and Neck Pain–What’s Involved

One question patients often ask is: What kind of massage should I try? For overall relaxation and circulation, many patients find the Swedish massage technique helpful. This technique is characterized by long gliding strokes and kneading motions. For specific pain points, such as a lower back muscle strain, the American Academy of Pain Management recognizes neuromuscular therapy (also called trigger point myotherapy) as an effective treatment. Shiatsu massage is a popular technique that utilizes some of the elements of neuromuscular therapy.

With neuromuscular therapy, the therapist applies alternating levels of concentrated pressure (10-30 seconds) on the areas of muscle spasm. The patient will feel some pain or discomfort from the pressure, but the muscle spasm should be lessened after the massage. Any soreness from the pressure should fade in 1 to 3 days, and the muscles that were worked should be less tight for a week or two afterwards. A typical massage therapy program for muscle spasms consists of four sessions over 6 weeks.

Alternatives to Hands-on Massage
What if periodic appointments with a massage therapist just aren’t practical for you? Due to things like busy schedules, travel times to a good massage therapist in your area, or personal privacy, getting a hands-on massage may just not work for your lifestyle. While not an exact substitute for human touch, there may be alternatives. There are many therapeutic products available for use in the home, such as hand-held massagers and massage pillows, which are designed with the goal of mimicking some of the techniques used by massage therapists. For people who have experienced significant pain relief from massage and are interested in investing in a product that delivers overall, massage-like benefits, a massage chair may be an option. Most massage chairs are designed to mimic the Shiatsu and Swedish massage techniques, making them potentially helpful for specific pain points in the back or neck and for overall relaxation.

Final Thoughts
Patients with severe back pain should be checked by medical personnel before beginning massage therapy, and patients should always obtain an accurate medical diagnosis for the cause of their back pain prior to beginning a new treatment such as massage therapy to rule out potentially serious conditions. Many massage therapy professionals will work as part of an interdisciplinary healthcare team for patient evaluation and treatment.

Neck Pain at Work?

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It’s  important to look at workplace ergonomics as part of treatment and prevention of neck pain.  Most often we forget.  This Spine Health article explains what you can do to reduce painful neck pain.

When sitting at a desk and looking straight ahead:

  • Eyes should point directly at the top third of your computer screen.
  • Forearms should be approximately parallel with the floor when typing.
  • Elbows should be at the side.
  • Feet should be flat on the floor with the thighs parallel with the floor.
  • If you stand or perform driving tasks, make sure that one side of the body is not constantly rotated more than the other side, and that there is as much symmetry in repetitive tasks as possible.

If you are experiencing neck pain, Blue Ridge Orthopaedic and Spine Center can help.  Our team of board certified/ fellowship trained physicians, as well as our physical therapy and rehabilitation department (including massage therapy) will diagnose your neck pain and develop a treatment plan that is right for you.

Blue Ridge Orthopaedic & Spine Center has two convenient office locations in Warrenton (540) 347.9220 & Gainesville (703) 743.2814 to serve all of your Orthopaedic needs.  Call us today to schedule an appointment.  Same day/next day appointments available.  For more information on all comprehensive services we offer visit www.broava.com.

Texters Beware!

Take note texters, your spine is suffering

You’re 18, ready to start college, play sports, make it big and prepare for spinal surgery. Wait, what? Spinal surgery? But I don’t have back pain or injury you say. Go ahead and blame that sometimes 60 degree angle of your neck is at while you are texting friends and family. Our bodies aren’t designed to keep that kind of stress on the neck and will eventually lead to degeneration.

“Your spine is at its happiest when your ears fall on the same plane as your shoulders, and your shoulder blades are retracted. Without these adjustments, you put added stress on your spine, Dr. Kenneth K. Hansraj, spinal & orthopaedic surgeon.

When you are texting, you are actually doing damage to yourself. Okay, once in a while isn’t going to hurt you, unless you’re driving at the same time, but consistent posture like this will do damage. It’s like carrying 60 pounds of extra weight on your spine. That’s a second grader on your back all the time! Nobody wants that. Normal usage would be about 700 – 1,400 hours of pressure and the worst offenders are looking at about 6,000 hours of that intense pressure on their spine per year. Here’s an idea of the pressure you put on yourself when you text and hold that position for a while.

Image Courtesy of http://www.thetimes.co.uk/

Image Courtesy of http://www.thetimes.co.uk/

Your resting pressure when you hold your head up straight is about the weight of your head, or 11 pounds. At 15 degrees tilted, it’s about 27 pounds, 30 degrees is about 40 pounds and by the time you hit a 45 degree angle, you are looking at 60 pounds of pressure on the spine.

That is a lot of pressure to be putting on your spine. However, it’s almost impossible to avoid today’s technologies so what do you do to help combat it?

Make an effort to limit the tilt. Okay, that can be easier said than done so here comes the Mom card. Do as your mom always told you and stand up straight. Good posture is so important on so many levels, don’t let it fall aside for a text. Keep your phone, or electronic device, away from waist level when looking at it to ease of off the pressure. “Look down with your eyes, no need to bend your head.” advises Hansraj

Here at Blue Ridge Orthopaedic & Spine Center, we offer complete comprehensive care for the whole family, including Physical Therapy, which is an invaluable resource to getting you back to your daily activities after an injury or surgery and will work with you to reverse the detrimental effects of repetitive daily activities like this.

 

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Blue Ridge Orthopaedic & Spine Center has on-site state-of-the-art technology to diagnosis and treat orthopaedic conditions. Both of our offices are equipped with in-office  radiology departments. Not only does this facilitate rapid diagnosis but it is also convenient for patients who may be experiencing pain or disability at the time of their visit. To schedule an appointment with one of our board-certified and fellowship trained physicians, call our Warrenton office at 540-347-9220 or our Gainesville office at 703-743-2814.

Physical Therapy offers a non-drug alternative to Pain Management

NIH Says Current Treatment of Chronic Pain Has Created ‘Silent Epidemic;’ More Focus Needed on Non-Drug Approaches

News Now Staff – APTA

According to a report recently released by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), it’s time that treatment of chronic pain moves from a 1-pill-fits-all mindset to an evidence-based, individualized, multidisciplinary model that recognizes the value of non-pharmacological approaches, including physical therapy.

The report (.pdf) is the product of an NIH panel that looked at the current state of treatment for chronic pain, which is estimated to affect 100 Americans. In addition to looking into research on the issue, the panel convened a workshop that included more than 20 speakers. The results of the panel’s work were published earlier this week (.pdf), and featured in the online edition of Time magazine.

Much of the report is focused on the use—and possible overuse—of opioids as the “go-to” approach in almost all cases of chronic pain. In addition to contributing to patterns of drug abuse, the reliance on opioids may simply not be helping in all circumstances, according to the panel report.

“Together, the prevalence of chronic pain and the increasing use of opioids have created a ‘silent epidemic’ of distress, disability, and danger to a large percentage of Americans,” authors write. “The overriding question is whether we, as a nation, are currently approaching chronic pain in the best possible manner that maximizes effectiveness and minimizes harm.”

The answer to that question, the panel found, is no. Patients with chronic pain are typically “‘lumped’ into a single category, and treatment approaches have been generalized with little evidence to support this practice,” they write.

Because the manifestations and response to pain can be so varied, the report calls for a variety of treatment options that include physical therapy, which is specifically mentioned in the report. These non-pharmacological treatments can be very effective—the problem, as one speaker at the workshop noted, is that “lack of knowledge or limited availability of these non-pharmacological modalities and the ready availability of pharmacological options and associated reimbursement structure appear to steer clinicians toward the use of … opioids.”

An NIH press release on the report quotes panel chair David B. Reuben, MD, as saying that “clearly there are patients for whom opioids are the best treatment for their chronic pain. However, for others, there are likely to be more effective approaches.” The solution, he believes, is to ensure that “every patient’s individual needs are met by a patient-centered health care system.”

The panel report cites many barriers to the implementation of such a system, including lack of substantive evidence-based research, limited physician access to experts in other disciplines, and some insurance plans’ resistance to integrative treatment approaches. For now, authors write, the chronic pain landscape is one in which “large numbers of Americans are receiving suboptimal care.”

The release of the report comes at a time when the issue is receiving wider attention, thanks in part to Cake, and a new film starring Jennifer Aniston as a woman with chronic pain. Recently, the Washington Post addressed the issue in an article that called for a “blended approach” to chronic pain, including the use of physical therapy. That story followed up on a January 12 Washington Post article titled “8 ways to deal with chronic pain.” The article’s first recommendation: “embrace physical therapy.”

“The more you move, the better you feel,” reporter Rachel Noble Benner writes in the article. “Strategically strengthening and stretching the body, especially parts that are affected by chronic pain, can increase mobility, decrease pain, and improve overall mood. Find a physical therapist who is experienced in working with people who have chronic pain.”

The Physical Therapists at Blue Ridge Orthopaedic & Spine works exclusively in the treatments of Orthopaedic conditions and have experience working with patients who have chronic pain. In conjunction with your doctor and using evidence-based treatments, we create treatment plans to treat the patient as a whole, not just the injury, and to restore full functionality.

BRO-Logo-colorBlue Ridge Orthopaedic & Spine Center is Northern Virginia’s premier facility for diagnosing and treating back pain and spinal disorders. In addition to our regionally renowned Spine Center, our practice features Joint Replacement, Sports Medicine, Pain Management, Physical Therapy, Trauma Center, Shoulder Care, a Hand Center and a Foot and Ankle Center.

We are committed to treating not just injuries and physical ailments, but rather the whole person, by offering a wide range of specialty programs designed to support treatment. Specialty programs include Massage Therapy, Medical Nutrition and Aquatic Physical Therapy.

APTA has been at the forefront in helping the public understand how physical therapy can be a transformative agent in the treatment of chronic pain. The subject was featured in a Move Forward radio podcast, and the association offers a physical therapist’s guide to chronic pain syndromes. Additionally, the APTA Orthopaedic Section sponsors a special interest group in pain management, and the PT’s role in chronic pain management was featured in the September issue of Motion magazine.

When the excuse, I slept on it wrong, doesn’t work anymore.

Stiff Neck Causes, Symptoms and Treatment
Spine-Health.com – Richard A. Staehler, MD

A stiff neck is typically characterized by soreness and difficulty moving the neck, especially when trying to turn the head to the side. A stiff neck may also be accompanied by a headache, neck pain, shoulder pain and/or arm pain, and cause the individual to turn the entire body as opposed to the neck when trying to look sideways or backwards.

Symptoms typically last for a couple of days or a week and may prompt neck pain that ranges from mildly painful but annoying to extremely painful and limiting. While there are a few instances in which neck stiffness is a sign of a serious medical condition, most episodes of acute neck stiffness or pain heal quickly due to the durable and recuperative nature of the cervical spine.

Stiff Neck Causes and Symptoms
The most common causes of a stiff neck include, but are not limited to, the following:

Muscle Strain or Sprain
By far the most common cause of a stiff neck is a muscle sprain or muscle strain, particularly to the levator scapula muscle. Located at the back and side of the neck, the levator scapula muscle connects the cervical spine (the neck) with the shoulder. This muscle is controlled by the third and fourth cervical nerves (C3, C4).

The levator scapula muscle may be strained or sprained throughout the course of many common, everyday activities, such as:

  • Sleeping in a position that strains the neck muscles
  • Sports injuries that strain the neck
  • Any activity that involves repeatedly turning the head from side to side, such as swimming the front crawl stroke
  • Poor posture, such as slouching while viewing the computer monitor
  • Excessive stress, which can lead to tension in the neck
  • Holding the neck in an abnormal position for a long period, such as cradling a phone between the neck and shoulder.

Meningitis / Infection
A stiff neck, in conjunction with a high fever, headache, nausea or vomiting, sleepiness and other symptoms, may be indicative of meningitis, a bacterial inflection that causes the protective membranes of the brain and spinal cord to be inflamed. Other infections can also cause stiff neck symptoms, such as meningococcal disease, an infection in the cervical spine. Any time a stiff neck is accompanied by a fever, it is advisable to seek immediate medical attention to check for these possibilities.

Cervical Spine Disorders
Many problems in the cervical spine can lead to neck stiffness. The stiffness can be a reaction to the underlying disorder in the cervical spine. For example, a cervical herniated disc or cervical osteoarthritis can lead to neck stiffness, as the structures and nerve pathways in the cervical spine are all interconnected and a problem in any one area can lead to muscle spasm and/or muscle stiffness.

Stiff Neck Treatments
As a general rule, it is advisable to seek medical attention if the stiff neck symptoms do not subside after one week. Immediate medical attention is recommended if neck stiffness is noted after a traumatic injury, or if there are additional troublesome symptoms, such as a high fever.

In the vast majority of cases, a stiff neck may be treated within a few days.
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Blue Ridge Orthopaedic & Spine Center has on-site state-of-the-art technology to diagnosis and treat orthopaedic conditions. Both of our offices are equipped with in-office radiology departments. Not only does this facilitate rapid diagnosis but it is also convenient for patients who may be experiencing pain or disability at the time of their visit. To schedule an appointment with one of our board-certified and fellowship trained physicians, call our Warrenton office at 540-347-9220 or our Gainesville office at 703-743-2814

 

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