Could Stress and Anxiety Be Causing Your Chronic Back Pain?

Stress and anxiety—everyone deals with it to some extent. At times, however, stress can cause adverse health effects. Emotional side effects of stress can be depression and panic attacks, while physical effects can include heart palpitations, high blood pressure, digestive issues and even back pain.

People dealing with chronic pain feel desperate to find a solution. Knowing the way stress affects the back is the first step toward finding a solution to one’s pain.

Identifying the Two Types of Stress That Can Impact Back Health

Before going into how stress affects the back, it’s important to first understand that there are two types of stress that can have an impact on the health of a person’s back.

  1. Physical Stress
    Certain physical activities put stress on the body and can contribute to back pain. Things like:
  • Carrying a heavy purse, backpack or briefcase
  • Poor posture
  • Bad form while exercising
  • Avoiding exercise – cardio, weight training and stretching/flexibility exercises are all important
  • Aging
  • High heeled shoes
  • A bad, sagging mattress

All of these things, if not remedied, can result in chronic back pain.

  1. Emotional and/or Psychological Stress
    Emotional stress can have an immense impact on your back. For years, many considered stress and anxiety to be secondary causes of pain. The common thought was that pain was always the result of something physical. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, people who suffer from stress, depression and anxiety often suffer with pain as well. They also mention that back pain, specifically, is experienced more often by people dealing with emotional or psychological stress than those who don’t.

How Stress and Anxiety Can Impact the Health of a Person’s Back

Accepting that one’s emotions can be a main factor in their back pain can be hard to accept at first because we’ve thought otherwise for so long. But, more evidence is pointing to the back pain-stress correlation because of the following.

  • Stress causes tension: When a person is under stress, their muscles tighten up considerably. This is particularly noticeable in the muscles of the head, neck and shoulders. Tensing the muscles of the upper body puts pressure on those of the lower body. Massage therapists will concur—people with high anxiety will have the tightest, most knotted muscles, resulting in more daily pain.
  • Postural changes: Going through a stressful period changes a person’s posture. During the fight or flight response, the body’s muscles not only tense up, they tense up in an improper position. This position is generally one of self-protection and preservation: slumped over as if the weight of the world were on one’s shoulders, or like they’re trying to protect their abdominal area.
  • Stress, anxiety and depression can lead to inactivity: Emotional stress puts people in a major energy slump. Just getting through the day is hard enough; forget about exercise! The resulting inactivity leads to inflexibility, strain and muscle soreness.

Significantly Decrease the Occurrence of Back Pain with Stress Reduction

People don’t have to suffer with back pain, especially if it’s related to stress and anxiety. With help from a therapist, physical therapist and chiropractor people can find ways to reduce physical and emotional stressors. Working to reduce the stress is one of the best ways to reduce pain and promote overall health and wellbeing.

If you’re experiencing chronic back pain and suspect it may be due to high levels or stress or anxiety, contact us right away. We can provide the support you need and recommend ways to reduce your stress and treat your back pain effectively.

Travel and medicine: Benefits for patients when they travel for surgery

Why Do Patients Travel For Surgery?

 As medical costs rise, more and more patients are opting to travel for surgery instead of having surgery in their own country. People travel for a variety of surgeries including cosmetic surgery, knee and hip replacements, and other general medical surgeries, to name a few.

What is Medical Tourism?

This term refers to people traveling to another country for medical care. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), up to 750,000 Americans travel out of the country for medical care every year. The most common procedures that people travel for are heart surgery, dentistry and cosmetic surgery.

But why do people opt to leave their country of residence for medical care? Here are a few reasons that explain why patients travel for surgery.

Affordability

The main reason why patients choose to go abroad for medical treatment is the low cost of medical procedures that can be found overseas. Savings can range between 30 and 80 percent of the cost they would otherwise pay in the United States.

Why is medical treatment so much lower in certain countries? In general, the popular medical tourism destinations are able to offer much cheaper treatment because their cost of labour is significantly lower. This may cause some people to be skeptical about the quality of treatment they will receive, but in most cases the doctors are trained experts equipped with the latest technology.

Patients Travel for Surgery to Avoid Long Waiting Lists

Although first-world countries such as England and Canada may offer skilled surgeons and quality healthcare, patients often have to wait a few months just to get a consultation. Many medical problems are time-sensitive. For example, patients with heart conditions will not be able to wait that long. Often, patients who travel for surgery receive the care they need much faster than they would back home – with travel time factored in.

Unhelpful Local Doctors

Some patients have been to several local doctors and specialists and have not received relief from their symptoms and conditions. When they feel that no local doctor will be able to help them, they start looking elsewhere. In order to receive the help they need, the inconvenience of travel becomes less of an issue if they know they will receive the treatment they require.

No Medical Insurance

Many medical tourists are patients who either do not have medical insurance in their country of residence, or medical insurance won’t sufficiently cover the cost of the procedure needed.

However, there are risks involved when patients choose to travel for surgery.

  • Language barriers. Communicating their problems at a treatment facility where they do not speak the same language can lead to misunderstandings and can create more problems.
  • Poor quality medication. The dosage or quality of medication may not be the same.
  • Blood clots. Flying too soon after surgery puts patients at risk of developing blood clots

Precautions should always be taken if a patient chooses to travel for surgery. Some of these precautions include researching the health care provider they choose, researching what legal action is available to them if the procedure goes wrong, and carrying copies of medical records before and after the surgery.

If done correctly, medical tourism has many benefits to offer patients who are unable to locally receive the treatment they require.

 

doctor holding model spine

Figuring Out Your True Back Pain Diagnosis

The human body is an incredible machine, but when something goes wrong, and we develop low back pain, we certainly don’t feel very amazing. 

Surprisingly, most people don’t get their back pain diagnosed until it hinders their ability to do normal, everyday tasks. 

The sad truth is most people put off seeing a doctor about their back until the problem spills over causing issues in other areas of the body. Don’t let that be you. Keep reading to find out the truth about your back pain.

Acute Versus Chronic Pain: What’s What?

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The main difference between acute pain and chronic back pain is whether or not there was some traumatic injury preceding the pain. Many times, this can happen when your core muscles are weak, and you overdo it with chores, errands, lifting, and walking. In these instances, the pain you feel is your body’s defense mechanism for telling you to calm down. Of course, if the traumatic injury is more than just overdoing it then you definitely should seek the help of a medical professional. Your back plays such an important role in every movement and every task that it is vital not to ignore the pain.

When you’re dealing with chronic pain, there can be physical reasons causing the pain or it could be more of a degenerative issue that cannot be corrected. Even if you’ve been able to handle the pain, you’re not doing yourself any favors by not seeing a doctor for a diagnosis. There have been significant advances in the medical field that can detect the causes of low back pain; this makes determining the best treatment options much easier to define and understand. Spine surgeon

The Risk of Not Going to the Doctor

Back injuries and putting undue stress on our spine isn’t just the focus of many safety meetings, nor is it just something our parents used to nag us about when always reminding us to “sit up straight.” Our back holds and protects our spinal cord, the nerves that send pain signals from different areas of our body to our brain also send the all the pleasant sensations too. When you don’t listen to the pain signals you run the risk of making any damage worse than it needs to be, a pinched nerve doesn’t just affect your back; it changes the way you walk, stand, and sit. Think of your back like the trunk of a tree: if the wind always blows hard from the same direction, soon the tree trunk and branches will start to grow the way the wind blows. If you avoid going to the doctor for your low back pain, and you change the way you move in an attempt to ease the pain, your body will react like the tree out of habit.

Diagnosis & Treatment

If you’re suffering from low back pain in the Houston area and are ready to seek treatment for improving your quality of life, we invite you to contact one of our friendly, knowledgeable, and experienced doctors here at ClickMD Patients. Our primary goal is to provide our patients with an understanding of what options they have to treat their back pain diagnosis, from therapy and spinal procedures to pain management for conditions that do not have a cure available. You don’t have to let your low back pain bench you from living a full life, and we’re here to help get you “back” in the game. For more information about how you can get relief for life from your low back pain, contact us at (713) 461-8555 or email info@clickmdpatients.com.

woman holding her back in pain

Lower Back Pain

According to the American Spinal Decompression Association, low back pain (LBP) affects at least 80% of us at some time throughout our lives. It is usually recurrent, and subsequent episodes tend to increase in severity. LBP is usually common in individuals who lead sedentary lives and in those who engage in manual labor. LBP can occur at any age but is most prevalent during the third to sixth decades of life.

The functions of the low back, or lumbar area, include structural support, movement, and protection of certain body tissues. Pain in the low back can be a result of conditions affecting the bony lumbar spine, discs between the vertebrae, ligaments around the spine and discs, spinal cord and nerves, muscles of the low back, internal organs of the pelvis and abdomen, and the skin covering the lumbar area. Dysfunction in the sacroiliac joint, or SI joint, is also a large cause of low back and/or leg pain. The leg pain can be particularly difficult, and may feel similar to sciatica or pain caused by a lumbar disc herniation.

Less common causes of low back pain include Paget’s disease of bone, bleeding or infection in the pelvis, infection of the cartilage and/or bone of the spine, aneurysm of the aorta, and shingles. Screen Shot 2016-05-10 at 2.16.49 PM

The diagnosis of low back pain involves a review of the history of the illness and underlying medical conditions as well as a physical examination. It’s essential that a complete story of the back pain be reviewed including injury history, aggravating and alleviating conditions, associated symptoms (fever, numbness, tingling, incontinence, etc.), as well as the duration and progression of symptoms. Aside from routine abdomen and extremity evaluations, rectal and pelvic examinations may eventually be required as well. Further tests for diagnosis of low back pain can be required including blood and urine tests, plain film X-ray tests, CAT scanning, MRI scanning, bone scanning, and tests of the nerves such as electromyograms (EMG) and nerve conduction velocities (NCV).

The good news is that LBP can be treated! As described above, the treatment depends on the precise cause of the low back pain. Each patient must be individually evaluated and managed in the context of the underlying background health status and activity level.

The outlook for low back pain absolutely depends on its precise cause. For example, acute strain injuries generally heal entirely with minimal treatment. On the other hand, bony abnormalities that are irritating the spinal cord can require significant surgical repair and the outlook depends on the surgical result. Long-term optimal results often involve exercise rehabilitation programs that can involve physical therapists.

For more information about how you can get relief for life from your recurring low back pain, contact us on (713) 461-8555 or email us at info@clickmdpatients.com.

SI Joint

Sacroiliac Joint Pain Causes and Treatments

Do you have stiffness in the lower back when getting up after sitting for long periods of time or pain in the lower back and/or hip that radiates into groin area? If so, you may be experiencing Sacroiliac (SI) joint pain. There are two SI joints in your body, located on either side of the triangle-shaped bone at the bottom of your spine where it connects to your pelvis. The SI joints are a shock absorber for your spine and provide stability for your body as you run, walk, or jump. Interestingly, the SI joints usually don’t move more than 2 to 4 millimeters themselves. Each SI joint contains many nerve endings that can cause significant pain if the joint is damaged or loses its ability to move properly.  Screen Shot 2016-05-10 at 1.58.19 PM

Everyday wear and tear, arthritis, or a single injury can damage these joints, changing their normal movement and creating chronic and sometimes debilitating SI joint pain that often feels like generic low back pain.

Within the past couple of years, there has been resurgence in the recognition of the SI joint as a source of low back pain. In a recent study, Bernard & Kirkaldy-Willis found that the SI joint is a real, yet underappreciated pain generator in an estimated 15% to 25% of patients with low back pain.  Furthermore, 22.5% of patients with reported low back pain had SI Joint pain.

While it’s not clear how the pain is caused, it is widely considered by medical professionals that an alteration in the normal joint motion may be the culprit that causes sacroiliac pain. This source of pain can be caused by:

  • Too much movement (hypermobility or instability): The pain is typically felt in the lower back and/or hip and may radiate into groin area.
  • Too little movement (hypomobility or fixation): The pain is typically felt on one side of the low back or buttocks, and can radiate down the leg. The pain usually remains above the knee, but at times pain can extend to the ankle or foot. The pain is similar to sciatica, or pain that radiates down the sciatic nerve and is caused by a radiculopathy.

Othercauses of SI joint pain

  • Degenerative sacroilitis
  • Sacral disruption
  • Ankylosing spondylitis
  •  Post-traumatic SI Joint disruption
  • Leg length discrepancy
  • Structural pelvic asymmetry
  • Tumor (pituitary or metastatic)
  • Infection
  • Inflammation
  • Degenerative osteoarthritis
  • Ligamentous laxity (pregnancy)
  • Trauma Adjacent segment disease

Common symptoms of SI joint pain

  • Pain located on one side of lower back Pain radiating into the buttocks
  • Lower back and groin referred pain into the lower limbs (which can be mistaken for sciatica)
  • Difficulty turning over in bed,
  • Struggling to put on shoes and socks
  • Leg pain while getting in and out of car
  • Stiffness in the lower back when getting up after sitting for long periods
  • When getting up from bed Aching on one side of lower back when driving long distances

Diagnoses

During a physical examination, the doctor may try to determine if the sacroiliac joint is the cause of pain through movement of the joint. If the movement recreates the patient’s pain, and no other cause of pain can explain the patient’s pain and symptoms such as a disc herniation on an MRI scan, the sacroiliac joint may be the cause of the pain.Screen Shot 2016-05-10 at 1.58.39 PM

There are several orthopedic tests that can be used in an attempt to reproduce the symptoms associated with sacroiliac joint dysfunction. As a rule, several positive tests that reproduce pain specifically located at the sacroiliac joint improve the probability of the diagnosis of sacroiliac joint dysfunction.

Treatment 

Sacroiliac joint fusion is a technique used to stabilize the SI joint. The majority of patients can be treated through physical therapy, anti-inflammatory medications, or SI joint injections. However, some will require surgical treatment when conservative therapies have not improved symptoms.

One surgical technique is The Silex SI joint fusion system, which is intended for SI joint disruptions. In the Silex system, implants are placed across the SI joint, which provides initial stabilization and can offer significant improvement in pain.Screen Shot 2016-05-10 at 1.59.01 PM

The device optionally incorporates a proprietary dual-pitch compression-thread design and titanium plasma coating to stabilize the SI Joint in fusion procedures.

For more information about how you can get relief for life from your recurring low back pain, contact us on (713) 461-8555 or email us at info@clickmdpatients.com. We also have a seminar coming up on May 21st, 2016 at the Briar Club, register online to secure your place today!