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Spotlight on Massage and Lower Back Pain

Spotlight on Massage and Lower Back Pain

According to the National Institutes of Health, lower back pain is the second most common form of chronic pain after headaches. Experts estimate that approximately 80% of Americans will seek help for low back pain at some point during their lives. Public health officials and insurers estimate that Americans spend $50 billion each year on treatments that are often ineffective. The standard treatment for lower back pain is to take muscle relaxants, painkillers or anti-inflammatory medications, along with physical therapy and back exercises. However, few medical interventions relieve pain reliably, and continuing to take painkillers on a long-term basis is not advised. Massage, on the other hand, has been found to be an effective way of dealing with back pain on a regular basis.

Treatment for lower back pain accounts for approximately a third of all visits to a massage therapist. A study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine found that patients suffering from lower back pain of unknown origin were helped more by massage than by conventional medical treatment. Of 401 total study participants, 133 received traditional medical care with no massage, 132 received structural massage (which addresses particular muscular and skeletal structures that cause pain) and 36 received relaxation massage (a general form of massage, such as Swedish, intended for overall relaxation).

Participants in the massage groups received one hour-long massage once a week for 10 weeks. All participants completed a questionnaire at the beginning of the study, then again at 10 weeks, 24 weeks and a year after the beginning of the study to report on their perceived pain. Both kinds of massage groups reported greater pain relief and ease of motion after 10 weeks of treatment than the medical group.

An average of 37% of the patients in the massage groups reported that their pain was almost or completely gone, while only 4% of the usual care group reported similar results. This was also the case at 26 weeks. However, at the one-year mark, the benefits to all groups were about equal. The type of massage used did not seem to matter, with both massage groups experiencing comparable levels of pain relief. The massage groups were less likely to report having used medication for their back pain after the 10 weeks of intervention, and they also reported having spent fewer days in bed and had lost fewer days of work or school than those in the usual care group.

Dr. Richard A. Deyo, professor of family medicine at Oregon Health and Science University in Portland says of the study, “I think this trial is good news in the sense that it suggests that massage is a useful option that helps some substantial fraction of these patients. Like in most other treatments, this is not a slam dunk, and it’s not like a cure, but it’s something that seems to offer a significant benefit for a substantial number of patients.” Deyo sees massage as a way of people being able to break out of the pain-inactivity cycle. He notes, “I don’t see massage as the final solution, I see it as maybe a helpful step toward getting people more active.”

As always, chiropractic care shows the greatest success in the treatment of all types of back pain. We have found that chiropractic care combined with massage can be a very effective option for many of our patients. If you are currently experiencing back pain, be sure to call our office to schedule an appointment with Dr. Oblander. 406-652-3553

 

Tips and Precautions for Winter Exercise

Tips and Precautions for Winter Exercise

cold-weather-jogging-200-300For many people, colder temperatures outside—whether at home or while traveling over the winter holidays—can mean big changes in exercise routines. Some will move their workouts indoors or hibernate during the winter months. Others, though, will decide to work with the seasons and find ways to be active outside. If you’re one of those people, this article is for you.

While there’s certainly no rule against venturing out into the cold for a little bit of exercise, it’s important to be smart about how you do it. Remember to protect yourself from frostbite, hypothermia, and injuries that can come with freezing temperatures. To help you do that, we’ve put together a short checklist that you can use to exercise outdoors safely this winter.

Remember that Cold Weather is Often Dry Weather. Winter weather is often associated with precipitation. However, as the temperatures drop to dangerous lows—close to freezing and below—the opposite is often true regarding humidity. The air will get drier, and even if you don’t sweat as much, you can still lose valuable moisture. When exercising in the cold weather, remember to drink plenty of water, even if you don’t really feel thirsty or sweaty.

Understand the Real Temperature Where You Plan to Exercise. Look up the weather on a website or app before you head out into the cold, but understand the numbers you are looking at. The general weather conditions can differ greatly from place to place locally, even in the same region. Pay especially close attention to wind chill numbers, since the combination of wind and your own movement may lead you to experience lower temperatures. The thermometer may say it’s 35 degrees out, but the wind chill may mean it feels closer to 20 degrees in certain areas.

Dress Appropriately. It may be tempting to bundle up when going out in the cold to work out, but this comes at a cost. Thick, warm clothes will make you sweat more easily, and that sweat can leach heat from your body and allow your temperature to drop to unhealthy levels. The key, as cold weather experts know well, is to dress in layers, starting with a thin synthetic layer of wicking material, then a fleece and finally a thinner waterproof coat. The added benefit to this clothing strategy is that it’s flexible. You can always take off layers if you get too hot.

Warm Up the Extremities. When exercising in the cold weather, pay particular attention to your extremities, which are more vulnerable to frostbite. It’s especially important to cover your fingers and head. If the air is very frigid, cover up your nose and mouth, too: That cold air can damage your lungs and freeze your nose.

Fuel Up. A source of energy is vital to keeping up your metabolism and keeping you warm when out in the cold. Eat a healthy amount of complex carbs and proteins before you go out, and if you’re going to be out for a few hours, then bring a snack along, too. Stay away from sugars and other less dependable sources of energy, if possible.

Start Slow. Stretching and warming up will both make injury less likely and help your metabolism pick up until you are ready for more strenuous work. Always warm up before going out into the winter weather, particularly if you are planning on an intense session with lots of running or heavy exertion. Otherwise, joint and muscle injuries could result.

Know the Danger Signs. Hypothermia and frostbite can creep up on you if you’re not careful. You can defend against the cold better if you recognize the signs. Frostbite occurs on exposed skin like your cheeks, nose, ears, and hands, especially below 20 degrees Fahrenheit. Hypothermia occurs when shivering cannot keep up your core body temperature and your heart and brain begin to shut down. Watch for intense shivering, sudden weariness, slurred words, and trouble with coordination.

Billings and our surrounding areas have had lots of severe cold and snow thus far this winter; be sure to be smart about going outside and take care of your health!

Chiropractic for Chronic Back Pain

Chiropractic for Chronic Back Pain

back-pain-office-200-300About a third of the millions of people who make appointments with chiropractors every year seek relief from back pain. Back pain can be acute, meaning it happens suddenly, lasts 6 weeks or less and often clears up on its own; or back pain can be chronic, meaning it comes on gradually and lasts 3 months or more. Chronic back pain can be particularly debilitating and can limit movement and mobility.

Traditional treatments for back pain include medication, physical therapy, surgery or steroid injections. While these treatments may provide symptomatic relief, they do not address the root cause of the pain. They can also be painful and expensive to carry out.

The foundation of chiropractic care for chronic back pain is the understanding that misaligned vertebrae can cause the pain. This misalignment can result in many additional problems, such as headaches, body pains and impaired joint mobility. Chiropractic treatment aims to restore alignment to the vertebrae, returning natural health to the spine and all the body parts the spinal nerves serve.

Chiropractors believe in the body’s natural ability to heal itself. Chiropractic care avoids medications and their possible side effects, and it also avoids surgery. As an example of the differences in treatment, surgeons may remove a herniated disk from the spine in order to relieve pressure on the nerves, while chiropractors use non-invasive spinal manipulation to achieve the same result.

Dr. Oblander can treat your chronic pain based on the vertebral misalignments found in your body. A quick, sudden force is applied to the appropriate vertebrae in order to restore the motion of the joint. Another common treatment for chronic pain is known as the flexion-distraction technique. This treatment involves a special table that stretches the spine. It is particularly effective in treating injuries to the discs that have been the cause of long-term back pain.

Chronic back pain will probably also require additional treatments such as massage, exercise, and perhaps physical therapy. A good chiropractor will work with other health professionals as needed to ensure you get the best possible treatment for your pain. He or she will also look at the entire picture of your life, including your diet, health habits, medical history, family history, and other conditions you may have. This approach is holistic and has a better chance of eliminating the root cause of your chronic back pain than traditional treatments that only work on the symptoms.

Every body is different. If you have questions about this article or whether chiropractic is an appropriate choice for your specific situation, please ask. We are here to help those in the greater Billings area!