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Surprise: Chiropractors Can Help These 5 Conditions

You might think chiropractors are only able to help with back aches, stiff necks, slipped discs and whiplash injuries. If so, you're not alone – but you're missing out.

Chiropractic care – which is based on the understanding that, given the opportunity, the mind and body can heal itself – can treat many issues that might surprise you.

Here's a look at the top five most surprising conditions a chiropractor can treat:

1. Migraines and tension headaches

Nine out of 10 Americans suffer from headaches. Some are occasional. Some are persistent. Some are dull and nagging, while others cause debilitating pain and nausea. Taking a painkiller and hoping your headache goes away is one option. But there's a better one.

Research shows that spinal manipulation – the primary form of care provided by chiropractic doctors – is an effective way to treat tension headaches and headaches that begin in the neck.

In a clinical trial conducted at Macquarie University, 72 percent of migraine sufferers experienced either "substantial" or "noticeable" improvement after a period of chiropractic treatment.

In fact, most headaches are related to muscle tension in the neck, which is an increasingly common condition among Americans who spend hours in the same position or posture (such as in front of a computer or television), leading to joint irritation and tension in the upper back and scalp that cause headaches.

What Can a Doctor of Chiropractic Do?

  • Perform spinal manipulation or chiropractic adjustments to improve spinal function and alleviate stress on your system.
  • Provide nutritional advice, recommending a change in diet or the addition of vitamins.
  • Offer advice on posture, ergonomics, exercises and relaxation techniques.

2. Stress and anxiety

We perceive stress from three basic sources: our environment, our body and our emotions.

Environmental stress includes noise, weather, physical threats, time pressures and performance standards. Body stress includes disease processes, organ malfunction, poor nutrition, poor sleep and physical injury. And emotional stress is more difficult to define, but it encompasses our reactions, in both thought and emotion, to environmental and physical stressors.

Jobs today are increasingly complex as the business world becomes more and more competitive. Physical stresses such as sound, air and water pollution have also grown worse over the last century – especially in the United States – and so have emotional and psychological stresses caused by an increasing awareness of troubles and tragedies around the globe, brought to our attention every hour by the Internet and its 24/7 news cycle.

Many illnesses are caused or worsened by stress, which activates our "fight or flight" reaction. This systemic reaction affects almost every part of the body, as the hypothalamus in the brain stimulates the sympathetic nervous system, which causes an increase in heart rate, blood volume and blood pressure, redirecting blood away from our digestive system and extremities.

When prolonged, the long-term effects of this state can be disastrous to good health and cause high blood pressure, muscle tissue damage, diabetes, infertility, damage to the immune system and slowed healing from disease and injury.

Chiropractors work primarily with the spine – the root of the nervous system through which nerve impulses travel between the brain and the rest of the body – and can help the body manage and process this stress in a healthier way.

What Can a Doctor of Chiropractic Do?

  • Chiropractors can release muscle tension, one effect of chronic stress that leads to nerve irritation and creates uneven pressures on the body's bony structures, which can cause the spinal column to become misaligned. This, in turn, helps the body return to a more balanced, relaxed state.
  • Chiropractic adjustments can reduce spinal nerve irritation and improve blood circulation, which can help signal the brain to turn off the "fight or flight" response and begin the healing process.
  • A doctor of chiropractic can suggest nutritional supplements, like B complex vitamins, to help the body cope with stress.
  • A chiropractor can also recommend relaxation techniques and discuss posture and environmental changes to help you recover from chronic stress.

3. Fibromyalgia

Fibromyalgia is a chronic disorder involving widespread pain and sensitivity throughout the entire musculoskeletal system. To be diagnosed with FM, a patient typically has a minimum of 11 out of 18 specific tender points on the body. In addition to pain, patients also report long-term fatigue and/or disturbed sleep and mood. Other disorders commonly associated with FM include irritable bowel syndrome, TMJ pain and dysfunction, psychological conditions and some autoimmune diseases.

Fibromyalgia is a widespread condition that affects about 2 percent of the United States, and medical science has yet to discover the cause of this condition.

Since those with FM often experience an altered mood, like depression, many experts focus on the psychological aspect of the disease. Others feel that FM is more physiological and has its origins in physical trauma or chronic postural alterations. Still others suggest that FM is a central nervous system disorder rooted in neurochemical imbalances, since those with FM are hypersensitive to even the slightest stimuli and often have a pain response to normally non-painful pressure or activity. Since all information from the outside world is collected and analyzed by the nervous system, it's logical to assume that if a person with FM is sensitive to a stimulus that others are not, there may be something wrong with this system.

It's often difficult for patients to find solutions for all of their symptoms, but recent studies show that chiropractic adjustments combined with a soft tissue technique called ischemic compression can help FM patients.

In one study, 60 percent of the subjects treated by a chiropractor experienced a significant improvement: reduced pain, improved sleep and decreased fatigue.

What Can a Doctor of Chiropractic Do?

  • Chiropractors are trained as neuromusculoskeletal specialists, and one of the main focuses of chiropractic care is the positive impact it can have on a person's nervous system. Therefore, chiropractic adjustments can improve a FM patient's nervous system, which gives them a better chance for recovery.
  • Chiropractic care can treat pressure points, back pain, neck pain, shoulder pain, headaches and pain from musculoskeletal injuries.
  • Chiropractors can also reduce a patient's overall pain through spinal adjustments that increase the mobility between spinal vertebrae, which have become restricted, locked or slightly out of proper position, thereby increasing cervical and lumbar range of motion.

4. Weak immune systems

The nervous system, endocrine system and immune system are inextricably linked. Together they share tiny messenger molecules that mediate communication between them, creating optimal responses for the body to adapt and heal appropriately.

Until recently, one of these messenger molecules, IL-2, was thought of as an immune system molecule. But recent studies have clearly shown its presence and activity in the nervous system, leading researchers to believe that neural dysfunctions due to spinal misalignments are stressful to the body and can cause abnormal changes that lead to a poorly coordinated immune response.

Subluxation is the term for misalignments of the spine that cause compression and irritation of nerve pathways, affecting the body's organs. Subluxations are an example of physical nerve stress that affects neuronal control. According to researchers, such stressful conditions lead to altered measures of immune function and an increased susceptibility to a variety of diseases.

It's important to note here how the endocrine system also impacts the immune system by producing cortisol in the adrenal glands – endocrine glands that are directly connected to the nervous system through the sympathetic nervous system – a stress hormone that inhibits the immune system.

If the sympathetic nervous system is too "switched on" due to stress and subluxation, it can increase the adrenal glands' synthesis of cortisol, in turn affecting the immune system.

What Can a Doctor of Chiropractic Do?

  • Chiropractic care is the only way to detect and eliminate subluxation, and chiropractic adjustments have been shown to reduce the stress on the nervous system, thereby boosting the coordinated responses of the nervous and immune systems.
  • One research group found that when an adjustment was applied to a subluxated area, the white blood cell count collected rose significantly.
  • Another study measured the effects of six months of regular chiropractic care on the immune system function of HIV patients. At the end of six months of care, the patients who had received regular adjustments showed a 48 percent increase in the number of CD4+ T cells, whereas patients who had not been adjusted showed an 8 percent decrease in CD4+ T cells.

5. Flexibility

When we're younger, it's easy to take our extensive range of motion and flexibility for granted. As we age, a number of health conditions – and the cumulative effects of wear and tear – can affect our ability to move the way we used to.

But a decrease in range of motion and flexibility can result in a downward spiral of disability.

For example, an injury or degenerative condition that causes pain, swelling and stiffness, may limit our flexibility and range of motion. When this happens, we may avoid activities that involve the affected body parts, either consciously or unconsciously.

This then becomes a classic case of "use it or lose it." Without regular exercise, the muscles and joints stiffen, adhesions and scar tissue can form, and mobility may be further reduced. Eventually, a person can become completely incapacitated, and ordinary tasks such as picking up something off the floor or tying your shoes can become extremely challenging or painful.

Regular chiropractic can help increase both range of motion and flexibility.

A study performed by researchers at the Phillip Chiropractic Research Centre of RMIT University in Melbourne, Australia, and published in the Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics found that chiropractic adjustments increased range of motion in the 105 patients who participated in the study. There were three phases of this study, in which each of the participants was given no adjustments, fake adjustments or true adjustments. In each phase, the patients who were given the true adjustments showed a significant improvement in range of motion, which was not the case for the other two groups.

What Can a Doctor of Chiropractic Do?

  • A chiropractor uses spinal adjustments and manipulations to other parts of the body to realign the bones and joints so as to reduce pain, restore range of motion and improve flexibility, balance and coordination.
  • Your chiropractor can also recommend specific exercises that can be done at home to increase your strength and flexibility so that you're able to maintain and build upon the gains from your chiropractic adjustments.
  • Regular chiropractic care can reduce or eliminate the source of your back and joint pain, allowing you to resume your normal activities and to remain more flexible into your golden years.
Squat Exercise

Lower Back Pain From Squats: Why this Happens and How to Avoid it

Squats have become so popular over the last few years and have become the go to exercise for building muscle in the lower body. Squatting is one of the most demanding and skillful exercises that exist. When mastered, squats can be the greatest weapon in the arsenal as you look to improve your strength and performance. Not only that, a good squat looks impressive too! However, if not respected, the squat can result in a serious injury. In this article we take a look at why lower back pain from squats occurs and how to alleviate it.

Why Squat?

Athletes across the world squat regularly…
This is because scientific research has shown squatting will improve power (your ability to overcome a resistance with speed). The evidence suggests a direct link between squatting strength, power and sprint speed! Even if you are not an athlete, adding squatting correctly to your workouts can have a wide range of benefits:

  • Body Building – Demanding, whole body exercises increase the release of hormones such as testosterone which are great muscle building simulators!
  • Time in the gym – Spend less time in the gym doing a whole body workout in 1 exercise rather than several muscle isolation exercises.
  • Flexibility – Taking your body through big movements under load, will not only improve your strength, but significantly improve your joint range and muscle length.
  • Core strength – A squat asks for all the major muscles in the body to work together. A strong core keeps stability throughout the body and improves through good squatting technique.
  • Reducing Injury – Working all of your leg muscles together provides great synchronization for the body. A well-coordinated body, means a more stable body and therefore, less likely to injure when running/jumping etc.
  • Social – Squatting with friends creates an environment where you can help each other or compete against each other.

Lower Back Pain and Squatting

Lower back pain accounts for around 9% of all GP visits and research suggests that 4 in 5 of us will experience it at some stage. This stat is a general one and does not take into the account the huge weights some people lift in the gym.

Lower back pain from squats is definitely not part and parcel with this exercise. There is always an underlying reason as to why you may be experiencing pain in your lower back such as:

  • Previous injury to the lower back
  • Poor technique
  • Weakness of the core or other surrounding muscles
  • Tight muscles and reduced range in joints
  • Incorrect footwear
  • Wrong environment
  • Progressing the weight too quickly

Office Work, Back Pain and Squatting

When sat at a desk for long hours on end we often find ourselves feeling pain or stiffness in our lower back. This is because the muscles in the body, particularly the core, becomes weak. Staying in the same position also loads the joints and discs, it is this continuous load that your back doesn’t like.

This can become more of an issue if you go straight from the office to the gym. Especially in the lunch hour where you may struggle to complete a thorough warm up. Heading to the gym without fully stretching and preparing your body is a frequent factor in lower back pain from squats.

Common Types of Lower Back Pain and Squatting

Some of the well-known types of low back pain include nerve root irritation (e.g. sciatica), muscles spasm, bone deformity, ligament or muscle strain, or intervertebral disc prolapse or degeneration. Each of these problems can affect individuals differently – in some cases causing severe pain and disability and in others producing no symptoms at all.

DOMS – Delayed onset of muscle soreness. Gym regulars know this well! It is that morning after pain in the muscles that usually lasts around 48 hours. This IS normal and can be expected. Squats involve almost every muscle, so you can expect a lot of DOMS – especially if you are new to the gym or significantly increasing the weight you lift. This will ease and is ok to train again once settled. If it doesn’t, then it could be a sign of a muscle strain or other injury and worth seeking advice.

I’m getting low back pain, what should I do?

There are several options. Some cases of lower back pain resolve on their own. However, it often require some intervention from a physiotherapist.

  • If you’re at a desk, simply changing the load of your back by standing every little while can really make the difference.
  • Are you doing an effective warm up? Engaging all the main muscles individually is really important before a squat. You may start with some glute work, core activation in a plank, some stretching and range of movement exercises etc. Seek advice if you’re unsure on how to do this!
  • Speak with a personal trainer, they can teach you effective warm ups and squatting technique.
  • If you are doing everything you think you can, visit a physiotherapist. A physiotherapist will take you through an assessment to identify the source of your back pain, addressing your squatting technique and bio-mechanics. Following this a wide variety of treatment techniques will be used, alongside exercise to work on any issues identified in assessment.
  • If the back pain resolves quickly, but you are worried or just want to improve your technique, you can always pop in and see the physiotherapist or book in with the personal trainers.

As you can see, there can be many factors which lead to lower back pain from squats, many of which are avoidable. If you are experiencing pain in your lower back following exercise, the Capital Physio team are highly knowledgeable and will be happy to help you alleviate any discomfort. By discovering the root of the problem, we can ensure you prevent any reoccurrence of the pain in future and get you back to training to your full potential.