For most of the past 100 years, the mainstream medical approach to health was to wait until someone was ill before treating them. This is not surprising. After all, it would seem odd to be treated if you are well, don’t you think?
However, over the past 3 or so decades, an alternative health movement emerged in the western world. A curious notion known as “preventative” approaches to caring for your body emerged. Interestingly, this alternative – or preventative — movement had been around in the eastern world for centuries and was even the western world’s traditional healing style prior to the “come in when you’re sick” approach it has today.
What is Alternative Healthcare?
Quite simply it is anything that is not exactly like the “get sick first” approach of the emergency room. If the current western model is an ambulance at the bottom of the hill, alternative healthcare is a fence at the top. Why let someone get sick in the first place? We don’t line the bottom of a cliff with ambulances do we? So why take this approach with any other aspect of health?
We tell people not to smoke or eat unhealthy foods because we understand the value of not waiting until emphesyma or heart disease drives people to the emergency room? We are beginning to awaken to the notion of seeking maximum health instead of flirting with disaster or just “getting by.” Most people are unhappy living pay cheque to pay cheque. So why treat your health any differently?
How Can I Treat My Body with Alternative Healthcare?
My patients are well aware of my love for alternative — or preventative — healthcare. I consistently attempt to put my patients in a place where they do not simply come to get treatment when they are in pain. The goal of my practice is to place them in a state of well being. This is done by implementing the following strategies:
1. STOP hurting yourself! Most patients hurt themselves without knowing it. They are lifting wrong or sitting incorrectly throughout their work day and damaging their spines. Educating them on how not to hurt themselves is priority number one!
2. Get STRONG! Corrective exercises will make your body more resilient and increase your pain threshold. Every single one of my patients is given a home therapy and home exercise program to make them stronger for life.
3. Stay on top! Don’t wait until you are in pain to get treated. Periodic treatments that include soft tissue work, stretching and joint mobilization (or manipulation) are the maintenance care of the body. We apply this to all of our important investments. We periodically run virus scans to protect our computers, we get our expensive bicycles tuned up and our oil changed for our vehicles. Do the same for the single most important machine you own: your body!
I greatly encourage all of my patients to apply an alternative approach to their health. Get strong, get well, and stay that way. You don’t ever have to visit the “dark side” of health if you don’t want to.
Most patients that have low back pain come into my office and complain of having “sciatica.” No matter what type of low back they have. The low back is a multifaceted machine and there are many types of back pain, sciatica is only one and it is not that common. In order to educate the public on being better able to understand their back conditions, we are starting a “Low Back” series. Our first article will focus on “facet syndrome.” If you read this article and feel you may have facet syndrome, please see a professional before settling into your own self-diagnosis. Some conditions can mimick this type of back pain, and you always want to ensure you are not engaging in false security.
What is Facet Syndrome?
The facet joint connects the back of each vertebra with the verebrae above and below it. Think of them as two pillars, one on the left, the other on the right. Each vertebra stacks up on top of the other, disc to disc and facet to facet. The more you lean backwards, the harder you compress your facets. Therefore typically, people who have jobs or hobbies requiring a lot of low back extension are at a greater risk of developing
Facet syndrome is a very sharp pain in the middle of the low back that is made much worse with extension and is mostly relieved when bending forward. Typically, a patient with low back facet syndrome is middle aged and hurt themselves suddenly while performing a lift or twisting motion with the low back.
There are many theories as to why the facet hurts so much and so suddenly. One such theory points to the fact that between each facet, there is a meniscoid sandwiched in there. With enough repetitive strain, the meniscoid can be twisted or folded, making it very acutely painful whenever you extend and compress the facets. For this reason, joint manipulation (which gaps the facet joint) has proven very effective in treating most facet syndromes.
The hallmark of facet syndrome is that the pain is very central and very specific — like a needle poke — and only when you extend or extend and twist the lower back. If the mechanism with which you injured the low back was traumatic (e.g.: falling from a certain height and landing in extension, carrying a very heavy load, etc) you will want x-rays to rule out facet or vertebral fractures. If everything is clear, you can rest assured you have irritated the facet and nothing more.
Joint manipulation is usually the first line of defense when dealing with facet syndromes. And typically, 2 to 3 visits resolves a majority of the pain. If manipulation fails to provide satisfactory relief, medical procedures such as a cortisone injections can be used to bring pain relief. Although it is very unusual for manipulation to fail to bring resolution to facet syndromes.
Above and beyond achieving pain relief, your doctor should highlight which of your activities are likely to be compressing the facets repetitively so that you can — as much as is possible — avoid re-injuring the facet joints.
Flexible hips allow the lower body to move without jerking the pelvis with every step.
A fluid, flexible hip joint will let you go up and down stairs, get up from a seated position, run, walk and pick things up without straining the low back.
The muscles and ligaments surrounding the hip joint determine its flexibility.
If they are stiff, moving your leg forward will pull the pelvis along with the leg and curve the low back.
In turn, the low back discs will experience constant micro-flexion strain and speed up its degeneration.
Ideally, your hips and lower body should be able to move virtually without disturbing the low back and pelvis.
The following routing can be done at home to improve hip flexibility and prevent low back pain.
1. Warm Up
Perform a 15 to 20 minute walk before attempting the stretches that follow.
2. Hip Flexor Stretch
Kneel on a mat or rug. One leg is put out in front, knee bent to 90 degrees. Place both hands on this knee to prevent your chest from leaning forward. Lean pelvis forward until a stretch is felt in the opposite groin. Hold for 30 seconds and then perform on opposite side. Do twice each side.
3. Hamstring Stretch
Lay on your back, bend knees and place feet flat on floor. Bring one knee towards chest and grab the back of it with both hands. Then, using your quad muscle, straighten that leg until hamstring stretch is felt. Hold for 30 seconds and repeat twice on each leg.
4. Side-lying Quadriceps Stretch
Lay on your side and bend the bottom knee. Bend other knee behind you and grab the leg above the ankle line. Keep low back from extending backwards as you pull until your feel quad stretch. Perform 2 sets of 30 seconds on each leg.
5. Inner Thigh Stretch
A.) Get on all fours. Arch your low back down towards ground and stick chest out.
B.) Spread knees apart. Should be wider than shoulder width.
C.) Keep low back arched down and chest out as you lean backwards to sit on heels (you won’t get there) until you feel a groin and/or inner thigh stretch. Do 2 sets of 45 seconds.
6. Figure 4 Stretch
Lay on your back with knees bent and feet flat on floor. Bring one leg up and rest it on the other knee (forming a “figure 4”). Make sure the leg and not the foot is resting on the knee (to not strain ankle ligaments). Gently push the figure 4 knee away from you until stretch felt in your butt region. Perform 2 sets of 30 seconds on each side.