Low Back Pain and Tight Hamstrings

If you are around my age, you might remember having to pass the Presidential Fitness Test in P.E. Part of that test was flexibility demonstrated by sitting on the ground with the legs extended and the knees straight. Then, you would reach forward as far as you could. Not to brag, but I could reach well beyond my feet. I was, in fact, the most flexible boy in my whole middle school. I remained pretty flexible until I was in college when I hurt my low back. Since then, I can barely touch my toes on a good day.

With any injury, the body has protective measures. When you hurt your low back, the hamstrings will shorten to protect against bending forward and causing further damage. Like most of these reactions though, the body doesn’t always know when to stop guarding which can prolong the healing process or lead to more problems down the line. My recommendation is to first start improving the function of the low back through chiropractic adjustments, and then to start regularly stretching the hamstrings.

I created the following video to help you do this stretch properly. Remember that in order to actually lengthen a muscle, you must sustain the stretch for at least 30 seconds. It can take time before you see results. If after several weeks of stretching you are not improving, it most likely means that there is still a significant amount of  dysfunction in your low back that you need to address.

Hamstring Stretch

Do Your Hands Fall Asleep?

Most of us have experienced it. There you are sitting in what seems like a comfortable position, watching tv. All of sudden you notice that you have no feeling in your hand! It has fallen asleep. You move from the all-of-a-sudden awkward position trying to pause the show you are watching but you can’t because you have no feeling. You do the obligatory shaking of the hand trying to get it to wake up. It starts to get some feeling back but really it just feels like someone is jabbing you with thousands of pins and needles. Then you start to flex and extend your fingers. It finally starts to wake up and you are able to reverse back and watch what you missed. Slowly, the hand goes back to normal. You have just experienced paraesthesia.

The scenario described is the least serious form of paraesthesia. It is usually temporarily caused from either a direct pressure on a nerve or by cutting off blood supply to the nerve. Once you release the pressure or get the blood moving, feeling starts to return. One still needs to be careful in such a situation. I have a  patient who tried to walk when, unbeknownst to her, she had a foot that had fallen asleep. When she got up to walk, she fell and shattered that numb foot requiring surgery and a litany of issues. So, be careful!

The bigger issue, however, happens when paraesthesia comes on insidiously. In these types of situations, there is something deeper that is irritating the nerve. For the hand, this can happen at the carpal tunnel, at the elbow, at the shoulder, under the pectoralis minor muscle, under the scalene muscles, and at the nerve roots in the neck. Irritation can be caused by swelling of soft tissue (ligaments, muscles or tendons), by bulging discs, by stretched nerves due to poor posture, by a deficiency in blood supply due to a host of conditions, and the list goes on. If your hand consistently falls asleep, you need to figure out the cause. It could be a simple remedy or it could be a sign of something serious. The longer a nerve is injured, the longer it takes for it to heal. In addition, you run the risk of injury to the area the nerve supplies. So, if you are getting numb hands, get in and let us help you.

Photo by Matilda Vistbacka on Unsplash

What Makes a Comfortable Adjustment?

When a chiropractor adjusts a person, the goal is to get joints moving properly. Because we are talking about movement, the force equation comes into play: Force = Mass x Acceleration. So, in order to adjust, a chiropractor needs mass and acceleration. If there is not enough mass, they need enough acceleration and vice versa. In general, the greater the acceleration, the more comfortable the adjustment.

There are a number of reasons a quick adjustment is preferable. Most people guard to some degree when getting adjusted. It is a natural response. Guarding only gets worse when someone tries to increase the force by increasing mass because the body is aware of the force. Along those same lines, an adjustment when someone is guarding doesn’t always move the joints thoroughly enough which leads to an unsatisfied feeling that there is still something not moving correctly. In addition, the  nerve sensors of a joint, known as the proprioceptors, need to be stimulated to get the full benefit of an adjustment. The only way to do that is with a quick movement of the joint.

Everybody is different in how they interpret comfort. Some like a firm touch others gentle. Some like to hear the cracking sound and some do not. Regardless of preference, thorough movement of joints is critical for a proper adjustment. Whether the speed is achieved through skilled hands, an adjusting tool like the Activator, or a drop table, the quicker the movement, the less mass and the less trauma on the body.

A Brief History of Chiropractic (It is not all about pain).

As the story goes, in September of 1895 a man by the name of Daniel David Palmer, also known as D.D., met a custodian named Harvey Lillard. Lillard developed significant hearing loss many years earlier when he was hunched over working and experienced a loud pop in his spine.  Dr. Palmer convinced Lillard to let him look at the area that popped and found a lump. He persuaded Lillard to let him “rack” it back into place and as a result, Mr. Lillard’s hearing started improving.

Palmer had been studying under the founder of Osteopathy, Andrew Stihl. Osteopathy was a healing art that utilized manipulation of the body to allow it to heal naturally. Palmer had also been involved in a variety of healing arts and believed he could blend science with metaphysics. Eventually, D.D. Palmer created his own philosophy and style of healing which focused on restoring health by correcting nervous system interference caused by spinal misalignment or spinal subluxation. Where Osteopathy used general manipulation to restore proper blood flow; Palmer’s healing art was specific and focused on the flow of nerves. He named it Chiropractic meaning done by hand, a tribute to how D.D. Palmer adjusted the spine.

Since those early days, chiropractic has grown into a mainstream form of healthcare. The tendency is to paint chiropractors into a corner by thinking of them as back doctors who only treat when there is pain. The truth is that the most benefit from chiropractic care goes well beyond pain. We, as chiropractors, want to restore the function of spinal and extraspinal joints. Proper joint  movement leads to proper nervous system flow which leads to proper function of the body as a whole. Symptoms can be useful in determining where there is a problem but it is not safe to assume that no symptoms means no problem. Instead, it is best to maintain good proper function and allow the body to heal and manage disease and illness whether it is typical like back pain and headaches or something different like hearing loss.

Science and Chiropractic

Have you ever read or heard something that on the surface made sense for a second but when you thought about it, it was completely banal? I had that experience this morning. One of my patients shared an article with me from Fox News about chiropractic. The article (that you can find here) was overall very positive with some interesting things to say. Unfortunately, the last paragraph is so stupid it is laughable. Mind you, I am not criticizing the author but rather the quote. Here it is:

“We’ve all seen the results,” says Dr. Nicholas DiNubile, an orthopedic surgeon and the author of the FrameWork book series. “But we need scientific research that shows what chiropractors can do.” For serious pain, DiNubile recommends that an orthopedic or sports-medicine specialist be your first stop.

Let’s talk about Science, since he referenced it. If you look up the word “science” in the dictionary, there are several definitions each with the general concept of a system used to come to knowledge from ignorance. In the scientific method  one asks a question, hypothesizes the answer, experiments, observes, and finally theorizes. If you look at Dr. DiNubile’s quote, you wonder if he really knows anything about science. The first thing he says is that we have seen the results. So, if the modern concept of chiropractic has been an ongoing experiment since the 1800’s, and we have over 100 years of observation, and “We’ve all seen the  results,” what type of scientific research exactly is needed, Dr. DiNubile?

To me, this smacks of a turf war jab. For years many medical associations have tried to maintain their hold on the world of healthcare by demanding scientific proof on their terms from every other industry. For them, they have established that “scientific research” has to be double blind, random, controlled experiments published in a peer reviewed journal. That works great for medication because a placebo can look just like the real thing and neither the doctor or the patient needs to know, which constitutes the double blind, and as long as you do your best to control or account for all of the factors, you can can get published in a scientific journal. Try performing a placebo adjustment! For that matter, orthopedists cannot really follow their own ridiculously stringent definition of scientific research unless a surgeon is unaware of whether he did or did not do a surgery. Does this mean we need more scientific research to see if knee surgery works? Along the same line, does that mean that we should not be doing knee surgery until we have more research?

In this chiropractor’s opinion, we do not need more research we need more people. We need people with enough sense to look at the results and to give chiropractic a chance. Case studies and anecdotal evidence over a long period of time is some of the best research we can do. We need people who are willing to conduct their own scientific experiment to see if their condition can be helped with chiropractic care. Finally, we need to be open to considering what works instead of doing nothing because a so called expert thinks we need more research.

Massage and Chiropractic

Massage and Chiropractic care go together like peas and carrots. By the way, who eats peas and carrots together anymore? Anyway, suffice it to say that they are very complimentary. Chiropractic is great at improving joint movement and coordination but can often be encumbered by muscles and fascia that refuse to relax. Along those same lines, massage is fantastic for removing scar tissue and relaxing soft tissue but if  muscles are guarded in order to protect injured joints, the massage will be ineffective, at best.

Generally speaking, getting adjusted before a massage is the best strategy. Getting adjusted helps reset the never impulses in the area which can turn off the protective muscle guarding. This makes for a more comfortable massage as well as a dramatically more effective one. In addition, it allows me, as the doctor,  to give the massage therapist some target areas where massage would really help.

Occasionally, I have a patient that is just too tight and guarded to adjust. In that rare instance, getting massaged before the adjustment is warranted. Then, sometimes it makes no difference whether you get massaged or adjusted first, if you are healthy and maintaining. In conclusion, there is great benefit to massage including but not limited to improved muscle tone, better blood flow, mental relaxation, and the release of toxicity in the soft tissues. When you combine massage with chiropractic care, you can experience synergistic improvement in your health.

Momentum of Healing

It is always interesting when a new patient who has never seen a chiropractor before,  and knows very little about it, asks what it will take to get better. When I explain that we are going to start off adjusting them three times a week, their eyes usually get very big and the eventual question is, “Why so often?” My answer is always the same, because you need consistency and momentum to heal.

Healing can be like climbing up a sand hill. When you first start out, the sand is the thickest and you are very prone to getting stuck or sliding back down. Likewise, if you are not concentrating on healing correctly, you can start going sideways and waste a lot of energy but not get anywhere. Heading in the right direction with enough momentum to gain traction is the only way.

Getting adjusted three times a week in the beginning of care provides the momentum necessary to progress up the sandy hill of healing. A little higher up on that hill it does not take as much energy so twice a week is sufficient to keep healing. However, stopping or slowing too much can make it difficult to get started again and complete the healing process.

A Year in Review

I haven’t written anything in quite a while and I have to confess that I have suffered from a bit of writer’s block. Not that there aren’t a ton of topics out there, I just have not felt the passion to write about any of them. So, I decided to write a little more personal blog about some things that are going on in my life and at Thomas Chiropractic. If this totally bores you, please send me ideas of topics!

I wrote an article several months ago about my knee. Back in March, I completely tore my ACL and tore both menisci. I felt sucker punched after the MRI and wrote this article about the pros and cons of surgery. I eventually had the surgery and was doing really well. That is the story most people know. In September, about a week after I was cleared by my doctor to start pushing the rehab on my knee a little more, things went awry. I was about knee deep in a pool standing on a baja shelf.  I went to go in a little deeper and expected the step to be about a foot and a half when, in fact, it was more like two and half feet. My knee buckled and became significantly loose. I went back to my orthopedist, Dr. Hansen, who said it felt like the ACL was torn again. The MRI was inconclusive but because the knee was so loose, we scheduled surgery. On December 28th, I had the ACL re-done. It was 90% torn which is why it was so lax. I have been able to work with my brace on and I have committed to only walking on level surfaces and taking it easy for the next 4 months at least. If that doesn’t kill me first, I am optimistic of a full recovery in about a year.

October brought a new addition to my family. Nora Allison Thomas was born October 4th at Sutter Roseville. Dr. David Scates delivered her by C-section. My wife, Michal, was in the hospital with complications the week before. This was her sixth C-section. The final count on children is in this order, three boys and three girls. All have recovered and we are finally starting to get some sleep. I did say final, right? Yes, we have six children. Yes, we are busy and crazy. Yes, we know how these things work. And, yes, we are definitely done. I take Bill Cosby’s response when people ask me why we had six kids, “Because we did not want seven!”

If you have been in the office during the last six months, you may have met Dr. Matthew Huseboe. Dr. Huseboe is establishing his practice here in Thomas Chiropractic. He has done a great job covering for me during the surgeries and for a few needed days off. I have had positive reviews from my patients when he has covered for me so, rest assured knowing you are still in good hands when I take some time off. Dr. Huseboe is skilled in a wide array of techniques but specializes in adjusting the upper cervical spine.

This past year was my most successful year to date. Since moving to this office in October 2010, we have more than doubled the number of patients seen in a week. I am so grateful for patients who appreciate good health through chiropractic and are willing to share with others my vision of it. I am looking forward to another great year of helping even more people. Thank you to all who have helped and continue to support me on this journey. I wake up every morning looking forward to adjusting more people to better health.

Holiday Hours

Wishing everyone a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Monday, Christmas Eve, December 24th: 8:00 am until 12:30 pm w/ Dr. Huseboe

Tuesday, Christmas Day, December 25th: Closed

Wednesday, Boxing Day, December 26th: 2:00 pm until 6:00 pm w/ Dr. Thomas

Thursday, December 27th: 8:00 am until 6:00 pm w/ lunch from 12:30-2:00

Friday, December 28th: Closed

Saturday, December 29th: Closed

Monday, New Year’s Eve, December 31st: 8:00 am until 4:00 pm w/ Dr. Huseboe, regular lunch time from 12:30-2

Tuesday, New Year’s Day, January 1st: Closed

Regular schedule from Wednesday, January 2nd on.