Brain Health Series: Chronic Pain and Brain Function

Brain health in is a topic not discussed often enough, especially within the medical community. The conversation around mental health and access to mental health services has been increasing in recent years, however the aging brain is often left out of the conversation. There are so many questions left unanswered surrounding the decline of brain health associated with aging. The medical profession has made observations about those who ultimately experience brain atrophy and those who don’t, so we are slowly starting to gain clarity. However, there are still many questions left unanswered.

Research has identified some clear correlations and patterns in those who ultimately receive a diagnosis of dementia. Keep in mind, however, that correlation does not equal causation. We know that balance problems and risk of falls increase with increasing severity of cognitive decline. We know poor mental health increases the risk of developing dementia. We know that muscle weakness is...

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3 Exercises for Weak or Painful Shoulders

Acute or chronic shoulder pain is a common reason a person might seek out the services of a therapist. In this blog post, we will cover the starting point of our favorite exercises for weak or painful shoulders. First, we will discuss different types of exercise and how we use each type to promote pain management. Then we will demonstrate shoulder alignment and give instructions for strong, healthy shoulder joints!

Sound like a plan? Here goes...

When we initiate a plan of action for either acute or chronic pain, we structure an exercise sequence in a specific order. The first goal is to calm down the pain response and bring more stability to the joint in order to allow for bigger movement. Once pain is addressed, we look at underlying movement patterns and reinforce patterns to promote optimal joint health! Let's take a look at the difference between different types of strengthening exercise and discuss a starting point for weak or painful shoulder joints.

Different types of...

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Announcing our Strengthening for Shoulder Pain Workshop on Saturday June 30th, 2018

One of our favorite exercises for chronic shoulder pain is isometric shoulder strengthening. An isometric exercise involves using the muscle without moving the joint through a range of motion. This is a great initial start to a strengthening program to bring stability to a joint.
 
Isometric exercises can be done in all directions to strengthen multiple muscle groups. This easy exercise can be performed by positioning yourself near something that can provide resistance, like a wall. Then gently push your arm into the wall and hold for a few seconds. Sounds straightforward enough, but this is also an easy exercise to compensate with different movement patterns. The pattern we most often see people doing is performing a shoulder exercise using their trunk rather than actually using their shoulder (as demonstrated in the above photos, be like picture 2 not picture 1!) Trunk stability in this exercise is essential for proper shoulder strengthening.
 
Wanting to...
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A Brief Overview of Chronic Pain

As the chronic pain epidemic continues to pour over into the opioid epidemic, new research continues to break down the complexity of chronic pain. Just a few years ago, chronic pain was viewed completely from a biomechanical perspective. When the medical community realized that treating only the injury was not only not working, but the epidemic of chronic pain continued to worsen they realized they needed to take a step back and look at the whole person. What has been discovered has been an eye-opening look at how chronic pain involves factors beyond what is happening within the body tissue. Now, we take a broader look at the whole person and understand chronic pain has a multitude of origins.

The Actual Risk Factors for Chronic Pain

Over time, physicians and other professionals realized the amount of tissue damage being seen on an MRI and the amount of pain a person was experiencing just were not matching up. Beyond that, those who underwent surgical procedures were showing...

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When Body Alignment Does Matter: A Discussion of Chronic Pain and Function

Chronic pain is the leading cause of disability in the United States, with an annual cost estimated to be about $100 billion. These costs are associated with healthcare expenses, lost income, and lost productivity. A majority of adults experience acute pain at least once in their lives with about 28% later developing chronic pain (3).

With the nation’s growing opioid epidemic, there has been considerable emphasis on understanding the sources of chronic pain. Many mistakenly believe that tissue damage is directly correlated with a person’s risk of developing chronic pain. Statements from medical professionals to their patients which include “Your MRI shows that you have the spine of an 80 year old and you can expect to be in pain for the rest of your life” or “just avoid stairs or squatting entirely if it your knees are hurting” just further exacerbate the myths surrounding chronic pain.

There is much confusion regarding body alignment, movement,...

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High Heels and Your Health

For every 1 degree of heel your shoe has, 1 degree of spine, hip, and knee joint reaction is required to compensate…. meaning for every 1 inch of heel your shoe has, it caused 20 degrees of change throughout the joints of the lower extremities and spine! Think even a modest heel is not a detriment to your health? Think again.

Our footwear choices can be a detriment to our joint, bone, and muscle health. The amount of joint reaction caused by wearing heels can be contributing to knee and hip osteoarthritis, lumbar disc compression, and even pelvic floor dysfunction (new moms please avoid heels!). Improper footwear choices are also a common culprit of falls in older adults.

One of the highest impact steps you can take toward improving your health is changing your footwear. The purpose of a shoe is simply to protect our skin from the environment. The shoe should still allow your feet to experience as much natural movement as possible.

Start by looking for shoes that are flat,...

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Should I Get an MRI for Low Back Pain?

Mounting research indicates that getting an MRI for chronic back pain is more harmful than it is helpful. When someone walks into their doctors office looking for low back pain relief, imaging and medication might be recommended. However, an MRI report may come back with results like “degenerative joint disease” or “bulging discs”. Both of these findings are highly normal and present in up to 50% of the general population. In fact, it would be abnormal if the spine did not show any signs of aging. Once we hear a diagnosis like “degenerative joint disease” we think this is causing our back pain and assume that we will be in pain the rest of our life. This could not be further from the case.

Normal MRI Findings

60% of adults over 60 years of age will show abnormal MRI results, regardless of whether or not they have pain. In some cases, people do have low back pain and an MRI will show no abnormal results. This does not mean pain is...

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Normal Aging of the Spine and Low Back Pain

When it comes to back pain, we often hear phrases like “the doctor says I have the spine of an 80 year old” or “there is nothing that can be done about my back pain, it is just old age”. It is completely normal for the spine to begin to change as we age. However, these changes in the spine do not automatically lead to limited mobility and pain. On the other hand, age can cause an increase low back pain for a variety of other reasons. About one in three older adults will experience low back pain. Normal changes in the spine that come with age include postural changes, decrease in strength, changes within the joints, and decreased flexibility. These factors are most likely to contribute to back pain, but are also easily changed.

So am I more likely to have back pain as I age?

The majority of low back pain in older adults is not due to a specific pathology, such as fracture, and is diagnosed as non-specific low back pain. Degenerative changes on...

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