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Anne Asher

Back & Neck Pain


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Chiropractic for Neck and Back Pain - How Does It Stack Up?

Thursday April 17, 2014

Image: Michael J.


A 2004 review of medical studies compared spinal manipulation and mobilization for neck and back pain with doing nothing as well as with trying conservative care and physical therapy. The review also compared manipulation - basically getting a chiropractic adjustment - with mobilization, which is more about releasing soft tissue around joints. (Mobilization is often gentler than manipulation, as well).

For acute low back pain, the researchers found moderate evidence that getting an adjustment provides better short term pain relief that soft tissue mobilization. They also found limited evidence that manipulation speeds recovery more than physical therapy.

For chronic low back pain, manipulation seemed to yield the same effect as taking an anti-inflammatory.  Both manipulation and mobilization were comparable to physical therapy for chronic back pain.

For neck pain, manipulation seemed to offer the most similar pain relief to rehabilitative exercise both in the short and long term.  Unfortunately, no studies on acute neck pain were available, so this finding only applies to chronic neck pain.




Are You Overmedicalizing Your Spine?

Wednesday April 16, 2014

Facet joints, discs, sacroiliac joint, spinous processes, oh my.  The typical spine doctor will likely use the tools available to her - x-rays, mris, and more - to find out which part of your spine causes your back pain.

But Dr. David Rakel from the University of Wisconsin Madison suggests that physicians tend to "overmedicalize" low back pain by prescribing too much medicine and using too many diagnostic imaging tests.  Patients are a part of this picture, as well, he says.   For example, avoiding therapeutic activities (i.e. doing your back exercises) may contribute to a perceived need for drugs, surgery, procedures and more appointments. Rakel says fear of worsening the pain may underlie this kind of avoidance.

Related: Fear of Movement

One tool an examining doctor has at her disposal is a bit of a lost art, and that is the medical history.


New - 8 Weeks to Healing Your Body Ecourse

Tuesday April 8, 2014

If you're interested in a more holistic way to work with your back pain, I invite you check out my new completely digital course called 8 Weeks to Healing Your Body .  You'll learn breathing and alignment techniques that may help you release chronic muscle tension and related pain. I'll give you the opportunity to experience me as a Health Coach for the spine, which is an approach many people really like.  Read my bio for more information about my approach, and don't forget to sign up for the course.

Gardeners, Ready Your Backs!

Tuesday April 1, 2014
Image: Anne Asher

For most of us, April 1st is still too early for planting a garden.  But it's not too early start readying your body for the upcoming season.  This is likely particularly true if you're prone to back problems.

Have I got resources for you!  For starters, you might want to check out Gardening Chores and Your Back.

Here are two other options for an avid gardener with back pain:

Sign up for my free e-course, Back Safe Gardening.  Start today, and in one month, your back will be ready!  (Just be sure to get help when you need it, use gardening posture aids and learn about - and use - the least stressful positions  for weeding, digging, managing a wheel barrow, etc.  All 3 resources on linked on this page will help you achieve these objectives.)

The 2nd resource is an interview I did with Deborah Giraud, Farm and Community/Economic Development Advisor at University of California Agriculture Extension.  Read this one early to give you enough time to implement her suggestions this year: Garden Smart: Strategies for Reducing the Need to Weed

About that Pain Reliever You're Thinking Of Taking...

Friday March 28, 2014
Image: Anne Asher

It's tempting to reach for the first medication available to quell back or neck pain.  I even read about licensed MDs who conduct business in this way by giving patients narcotic pain relievers as a first line of defense for minor episodes.

I am of the very strong opinion that this is not at all a good idea. Quite often the pain will go away on its own if you simply reduce your level of activity (notice I didn't say stop activity - only reduce), wait a week or less, and possibly take some over the counters such as Aleve -aka- Naproxen.

In my article, Choose an Effective Back Pain Medication, I reveal that for the most part all classes of pain relievers are equally effective. So no need to over-react.

With that said, if you have pain that keeps you up at night and/or radiating symptoms down a leg or arm, this bit of information likely will not apply.  Instead, you should see a doctor soon. Check out this list of symptoms that indicate the need for immediate - or near immediate - medical attention: Signs Your Back Needs Medical Attention.

And if you have symptoms of cauda equina, you should make sure you get to the emergency room as fast as you can.

For the rest of us - chill out and check out this list of at-home therapies for neck and back pain.


Workouts and Back Pain - Don't Let Them Conflict

Thursday March 27, 2014
Image:  kconnors

Many people with back problems don't take too kindly to pain that interrupts their workouts.  Others, like myself, have difficulty in exercising gently.

Challenges, challenges!

My latest article lists several common forms of aerobic activity and gives you the skinny on how they may affect your spine.  Of course, I've got evidence-based tips to go along with each.  Don't delay, check out:  Workouts and Back Pain - Manage Your Moves

Wry Neck and Torticollis

Monday March 24, 2014
Image:  Heliman

Most neck stiffness is a result of things you do during the day, the sports you play or the less than ideal positions you maintain for periods of time - in other words,  tense muscles and/or spinal misalignment.  But there is another type of stiffness that leads to an inability to move your head out of a twisted position ;  this type can be congenital, brought on by trauma or brought on by drugs.  It's called Torticollis.

Arachnoiditis Update

Thursday March 13, 2014

If you or a loved one has arachnoiditis, I'm sure I don't need to tell you that it's a painful, and also rare, back condition. Not only that, but based on its location and the fact that it's made of spaghetti-like strands of scar tissue that affect the meninges (covering) of the spinal cord, it is tricky to treat.

My opinion is these are the main reasons why research is slow to come up with definitive pain management solutions for arachnoiditis. But let's not leave you in the dark about what is being done - and also the basic medical facts. Read: Arachnoiditis

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Synovial Cysts - Another Spinal Scourge of Aging

Wednesday March 12, 2014

Oh, the spinal thrills of aging.  Along with the potential for arthritis and stenosis, degenerative disc disease and more, one is also at risk for synovial cysts as the years progress.

A synovial cyst is a rare occurrence.  But should you have one, it may underlie more serious conditions such as instability or cauda equina syndrome.  Learn more about synovial cysts in this short article: Synovial Cysts.

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Train Your Back to Not Act Up During Sports

Wednesday March 12, 2014

Well, we're somewhere in between New Year's resolutions and the full activity of summer.  If your New Year's resolutions included getting in shape, participating in sports or similar activity that could flare up your back, the time to start preparing for peak sesaon physicality is now.

About.com is resplendent with experts who can give you a training program geared towards your sports goal.  For example, you might try Paige Waehner's Exercise site, or Paul Rogers's Weight Training articles.

But don't forget your back.  If your're prone to pain or injury, you'll likely need to take extra precaution during the training season.  For a general approach, check out: Prevent Summer Back Injuries.  For a specific exercise program, you might try my  Back Exercise series or Posture Exercise program to rev up protection for your spine.

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