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Auto Injuries Increase Risk of Future Back Pain

Auto Injuries Increase Risk of Future Back Pain

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administrations reports that more than two million people are injured every year in auto-related accidents involving either a passenger vehicle, large truck, or motorcycle. Furthermore, that number appears to be climbing at an alarming rate, increasing more than five percent between 2014 and 2015 alone.

Certainly, being involved in this type of incident can have long-lasting effects. For instance, one study published in the journal Psychosomatic Medicine found that “a substantial minority” of subjects questioned reported experiencing anxiety when traveling in a motor vehicle post-accident, with 10 percent developing post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), a condition that, in some cases, plagued them for years.

Well, another recently published study has found that being in a car crash can also result in long-term physical ramifications as well. Specifically, it discovered that back pain can linger or appear long after the vehicle has been fixed and the debris has been cleaned out of the roadway.

In April of 2017, the European Spine Journal presented a study involving 789 adults, all of whom reported experiencing mild low back pain or no pain at all. Upon entering the study, each person was asked whether or not he or she had been in a motor vehicle accident resulting in low back pain, making note of whether their level of pain increased, decreased, or stayed the same six and 12 months down the road.

Approximately 74.8 percent of the participants responded at the six month mark, with 64.5 percent providing input at 12 months. Of those who did respond, researchers noticed a positive correlation between those who had previously been involved in an auto accident and the incidences of low back pain at a later date. In other words, having a car crash in your past may increase your risk of back pain in the future.

This is partially why being assessed right after a car wreck is so critical. While this is relatively standard when it comes to auto injuries that can be seen or easily felt, damage done to the musculoskeletal system isn’t quite so visible or easy to pinpoint, which also makes it easier to ignore.

Educating patients is the first step to helping them resolve any subsequent back issues. The second step is to regularly ask them whether they’ve been involved in a crash, no matter how small. If they have, addressing that issue first and foremost can keep their quality of life from being compromised months, years, or even decades later.

References

  • Mayou R, Tyndel S, Bryant B. Long-term outcome of motor vehicle accident injury. Psychosomatic Medicine 1997;59(6):578-84.
  • Nolet PS, Kristman VL, Côté P, Carroll LJ, Cassidy JD. The association between a lifetime history of low back injury in a motor vehicle collision and future low back pain: a population-based cohort study. European Spine Journal 2017;doi:10.1007/s00586-017-5090-y
  • Traffic Safety Facts. (August 2016). 2015 Motor Vehicle Crashes: Overview. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. 
Women’s Feet Are Paying a High Price for Fashion

Women’s Feet Are Paying a High Price for Fashion

high-heels
high-heels

Fashion before comfort… and health! That seems to be a prevailing attitude in the United States, particularly among women out shopping for new shoes. And while there are a number of shoe styles that can cause foot problems, the high heel (especially the ultra-high heel) is by far the biggest culprit. According the American Podiatric Medical Association:

  • 72% of women wear high-heeled shoes (39% wear heels daily, while 33% wear them less often).
  • 59% report toe pain as a result of wearing uncomfortable shoes; 54% report pain in the ball of the foot.
  • 58% of women purchased new high-heeled shoes in the last year.
  • Younger women are more likely to experience blisters and pain in the arches of their feet than older women. Older women are more likely to experience corns, calluses, and bunions.

Ultra high-heels have many podiatrists concerned: According to Hillary Brenner, DPM, a spokeswoman for the American Podiatric Medical Association, “Heels are getting higher and higher,” she says. “We podiatrists like to call it shoe-icide.” Ultra-high heels often result in an array of injuries, short- and long-term, from ankle sprains to chronic pain and many issues in-between.

“Ultra-high heels force the feet into a position that puts stress on the ball of the foot,” continues Brenner. “At this critical joint, the long metatarsal bones meet the pea-shaped sesamoid bones, and the toe bones (phalanges). Too much pressure can inflame these bones or the nerves that surround them. Chronic stress to the foot bones can even lead to hairline fractures.”

However, heels in general, whether they’re stilettos or mid-heels, are hobbling women all around the country. High heels are known for producing a tender knot on the back of the heel, called the “pump bump” by some. This is a result of the pressure from the stiff, unyielding high-heel on the back of the foot. Blisters, swelling, bursitis, and even discomfort in the Achilles tendon can follow.

Additionally, all high heels increase the danger of an ankle sprain. The issue most seen by podiatrists is a lateral sprain, which occurs when a walker rolls onto the outside of their foot, stretching the ankle ligaments beyond their usual length. A serious sprain may even tear the ligaments and increase the risk of developing osteoarthritis.

In podiatrists’ and other medical professionals’ offices across the country, women are presenting with mild to severe foot problems due to wearing the wrong shoes. Other shoes that can cause foot pain and other issues include:

  • Ballet flats, which provide no support whatsoever.
  • Flip-flops, which provide almost no protection from splinters and other injuries.
  • Platform shoes, which often have rigid foot beds, putting unnecessary pressure on the foot.
  • Pointy-toed shoes, which can result in nerve pain, bunions, blisters, and hammertoes.

So what can a woman do to stay fashionable and keep her feet healthy and pain-free? For those who love high heels, consider performance pumps, which most often come with reinforced heels, athletic shoe construction, and more wiggle room for the toes.

Another solution for the pump enthusiast is a chunky-heeled shoe. Chunky heels allow better balance with a wider surface area, which gives the foot much more stability thereby diminishing the risk of ankle sprains.

For other shoes such as ballet flats, orthotic inserts can offer the support that the shoes lack. If you’re unsure about what kind of insert is best for your feet, talk to your podiatrist to get an informed opinion on how to best take care of your feet—and look good doing it.

 

Use it or Lose it: Five Tips for Maintaining Your Sense of Balance Beyond Middle Age

Use it or Lose it: Five Tips for Maintaining Your Sense of Balance Beyond Middle Age

yoga on the natureIf you are middle-aged (40-60, by some definitions) or older, here’s 15-second self-test for you. Do you often find yourself needing to sit down or steady yourself against a table when putting on your shoes or stepping into pants? Do you increasingly need to use the armrests of your chair to “push off” when getting up? Do you generally hold on to handrails whenever you go up and down stairs? If you stand with your feet close together, do you feel unsteady and unable to balance yourself properly?

If you’ve answered “Yes” to any of these questions, you might want to start giving a little bit of thought to your sense of balance, and how important it is to you. It’s easy to take good balance for granted—most people don’t give it a first or second thought until after they’ve experienced a fall. However, the behaviors we asked about in our self-test are actually “early warning signs” that your sense of balance may be starting to deteriorate. Your balance is controlled by an area of the brain called the cerebellum, which works in coordination with your vestibular (inner ear) system, your visual system (your eyes, and their ability to perceive whether you are standing upright), and your proprioceptive system (your body’s sense of position in space).

All of these systems begin to deteriorate once you pass the age of 40, as do the muscles they control. Worse still, this process of deterioration can become accelerated if you lead a sedentary lifestyle (which growing numbers of Americans do). And although you might not think of balance as a health issue, falling is the leading cause of injury for people over the age of 65. In the U.S., someone from this age group is treated in an emergency room for injuries resulting from a fall every 17 seconds.

So how do you improve your sense of balance, and protect yourself from dangerous falls? Simple—use it! Balance is to some extent a learned skill, so if you practice a few simple exercises that isolate these components of balance, you can actually make your sense of balance better. Experts on aging suggest performing a few exercises to improve your balance each day, starting in middle age, before the systems that control your balance have begun to deteriorate.

For example, just avoiding the use of handrails on stairs or the poles in buses and subway cars forces your body to work harder to maintain its balance, improving reflexes, increasing coordination and strengthening your muscles. Other exercises you can perform include creating an unstable surface at home (such as a board placed on wobbly pillows) and then practicing standing on it with one foot, or improving your coordination by standing on one leg with the opposite arm extended and then swinging the other leg back and forth. Office workers can improve their balance—and get a refreshing break at the same time—by practicing getting up from their chairs ten times in a row without using their hands. Each of these simple movements shifts your center of gravity, causes your muscles to react to changing positions, and improves your balance.

Just walking in a small circle around your living room or your backyard can be good for your balance, because walking along a curve is more difficult than walking in a straight line. When you’re out for a walk, try to choose uneven surfaces rather than smooth pavement because this also exercises the muscles in your back and legs that are essential for good balance. Or place cones or other objects in a line on the floor in front of you and then weave between them while walking. You can strengthen your hips, which are very important for balance, by holding on to a table or a kitchen counter and then swinging one leg forward, to the side, to the back, and then up to your chest with your knee bent. Do this ten times, and then switch to the other leg and repeat. Yoga, Tai Chi, martial arts, and other forms of exercise that emphasize flexibility can also improve your balance.

So if you are concerned about protecting yourself against falls as you age, the important thing to bear in mind is the phrase “use it while you’re young, or you’ll lose it as you age.” The more healthy exercise you get in your 30s and 40s, the more healthy – and safe – you’ll be in your 60s and beyond.

 

Growth Plate Injuries: What Parents Should Know

Growth Plate Injuries: What Parents Should Know

boy-with-chocolate
boy-with-chocolate

For a child, falling down is almost inevitable and generally doesn’t result in a trip to the emergency room. However, even minor falls can sometimes cause serious injuries. If you hear a cracking sound or if your child has bruising, swelling, or a limb deformity, there’s a chance your child may have broken a bone and you should seek medical attention right away if you notice these symptoms. Most types of breaks are routine (for the medical staff if not for the parent), but those involving a growth plate can present complications and require extra attention.

There is a marked difference between the bones of an adult and those of a child. Children have what are called physes—that is, growth plates. These growth plates are located at the end of long bones in the arms and legs. The growth plates, made of soft, rubbery cartilage, cause the bone to grow in length. Growth plates are found near the shoulder joint, elbow joint, hip joint, knee joint, ankle joint and wrist joint. Of the six main locations the ankles and wrists are particularly vulnerable to harm.

Growth plate damage can lead to long term problems. When a growth plate is injured, the bone may stop or slow growing. This is why it is essential to seek qualified medical treatment immediately to avoid problems later in life. If injured, a child should under no circumstances “walk it off.”

It is imperative to get the child to a doctor as soon as possible if you suspect a growth plate break. Growth plates heal quite rapidly, which gives doctors only a very short window to do non- surgical manipulations in order to set broken bones correctly. If your child has a minor, non-displaced break, the doctor may treat it like a sprain and recommend a splint, cast, or walking boot to protect the area for four to six weeks. Usually, these types of fractures do not require long-term care. Preferably, a growth plate fracture should be set within a week of injury.

When a child’s bone has moved or been displaced, an orthopedist can set the bone back in place in the emergency room without the need to operate. The child will be anaesthetized in the emergency department, and the doctor will use X-rays to determine where to correctly move the bone. Once the bone has been set, the doctor will set a cast in order to keep the bone in place. Usually the child will be allowed to go home that night, but occasionally they will be admitted to ensure the swelling is not too severe. Proper care and follow up will likely involve physical therapy and doctor’s visits for the next half a year.

Most growth plate fractures heal properly and do not result in any long-term issues. Once in a while, the bone stops growing and winds up shorter than the other appendage. For example, a fractured leg might become shorter than the opposite leg. Early detection that growth is unequal between the two limbs is essential. However, this is a true minority of cases and most children heal just fine.

Proper Form for Football Tackles: Is Improved Technique Enough to Protect Youth Players?

Proper Form for Football Tackles: Is Improved Technique Enough to Protect Youth Players?

FootballThere is no question that football is a full-contact sport that has the potential to cause a variety of injuries, some of which can be very serious.  There is also no question that tackles are the most dangerous part of the game. Concussions and other head injuries, plus damage to the neck and spine can not only put a player out of commission, they may also lead to permanent injury or death.

Today’s professional football players are large, strong and fast. The traditional wraparound tackle places the head into harm’s way and increases the risk of injury. Football officials are promoting a method to change all this. To prevent or lessen this danger, the objective is to take the head out of play as much as possible. This is called the “heads-up” method of tackle. The experts say that you should not lead with your head down, as this can be dangerous not only for the tackler but also for the ball carrier.

Why has this become such an issue? The Washington Post reported in early 2013 that professional football injuries have risen between 2000 and 2011 from 2,640 to 4,473 injuries. In that same period, the average number of weeks a player spends on the NFL injury report has grown from 3.24 to 4.12 weeks. So, there are not only more injuries across the board, but longer lasting injuries as well.

The method recommended by professional football officials, including the NFL commissioner, and even the CDC, involves a specific form of stance and approach. With the head up and back, the chest forward and the arms extended slightly with elbows pointed down and knuckles pointed up, the tackler uses their leg muscles and hips to lunge upward, driving the chest and shoulders into the ball carrier. The tackler ends by throwing what looks like double uppercuts.

But not everyone agrees that the technique promoted by football officials is practical or that it’s likely to reduce the game’s inherent risks in any meaningful way. Matt Chaney, an analyst of football health issues, including catastrophic injuries, wrote a scathing critique of the method in a 2012 issue of Slate magazine. Chaney wrote, “As a former head-basher in NCAA football, I can say that this is a technique that I’ve seen precisely no one, ever, use on the field.” So, even though coaches may train and drill the technique, according to Matt Chaney, it isn’t used in the real world. Chaney explains, “To ask the body, while traveling at [football] speed, to crane the neck up and back, in defiance of physics, is a fool’s errand.”

At the same time, however, it is clear that some approaches to tackling—and being tackled—are safer than others. And the incentives to reduce serious injuries are beginning to grow for everyone in the broader football community, from team owners and coaches to the players themselves. Rule changes, improvements in protective gear and—yes—advances in tackling techniques all have a role to play. This is especially true in youth football programs.

Professional football players take their chances. After all, it’s part of their chosen career. However, juvenile players require more care and guidance. So what can be done to protect youth players? While some believe that better education and training (as well as better equipment) is the answer, others think that the nature of tackle football itself is the problem. Unlike baseball, which is sometimes described as men playing a boys’ game, tackle football is in some respects a man’s game being played by boys. This is the perspective taken by Matt Chaney. “If the NFL is truly serious about protecting kids,” wrote Chaney, “instead of building up the sport’s talent pool, then the league and the players’ union should start listening to the growing medical call to end tackle football for pre-adolescents.”

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