Tag Archives: lower back pain

Sciatica Pain…you have options!

Lower Back Pain

Lower back pain continues to affect millions of Americans each year. Some estimates suggest that 75-85% of all Americans will experience lower back pain during their lifetime. Over the last twenty years, surgery for conditions that cause sciatica pain, a specific type of lower back pain, have risen more than 200%.[a] Because this condition affects the quality of life for so many individuals, it’s important to let people know that surgery is an option but not the only option. In this article I want to give a brief description of what sciatica pain is and then share some thoughts on a popular randomized study I came across. Finally, I will discuss the Surgical Alternative therapies we integrate into a tailored treatment plan to help alleviate the pain and restore daily function so that our clients can enjoy an active lifestyle.

The sciatic nerve is the longest nerve bundle in the human body. Beginning at the fourth lumbar, the confluence of anterior and posterior nerve fibers run through the buttocks and down the back of each leg. Sciatica is pain associated with compression, pressure or irritation to the roots of the sciatic nerve. Symptoms related to sciatica include radiating pain in the lower back, shooting pain down the buttock or back of the leg, burning or tingling sensation along the pathway of the nerve, and numbness or limited muscle control in the leg. Typically, pain is localized to one side. Again, sciatica only refers to symptoms. There are a wide variety of conditions that cause sciatica. Multiple lumbar-spine associated disorders including herniated disks, degenerative disks, spinal stenosis, and spondylolisthesis can affect the sciatic nerve resulting in sciatica. It is also important to point out that not all lower back pain is caused by irritation of the nerve; soft tissue damage or injury can also play a significant role therefor, proper diagnosis is imperative in order to form an effective treatment plan.

Now that we have defined what sciatica pain is let’s delve into the aforementioned findings. The study was published in The New England Journal of Medicine; titled Surgery versus Prolonged Conservative Treatment for Sciatica. Participants in the study suffered confirmed sciatica pain caused by herniated disks, with onset of symptoms experienced between six and twelve weeks. Subjects were randomly assigned to two groups, early surgery and conservative treatment. The early surgery group had the procedure done within two weeks while the conservative treatment group continued therapy up to sixteen weeks with the option to have surgery extended. Data from each treatment group was collected on three different dimensions: functional status, intensity of pain, and perception of general health, then compared after one year[1]

As a therapeutic massage specialist who has helped clients find relief from sciatica pain, the results of the study did not surprise me. The rates of recovery on all three measures were nearly identical for both subject groups at the end of the one year follow up period. In other words, surgery did not improve the overall quality of recovery defined by the indicators mentioned above. While some benefits included a quicker rate of recovery from pain reported in the short term; the difference between the two groups in the level of pain diminished by week twenty-six. To me, the findings seemed to say two things; first, that there are different treatment paths that can achieve the same overall goal and secondly, people have the option to try non-invasive options before electing surgery.

Comparatively speaking, the only statistically significant benefit the study observed for early surgery was an increase in the rate of which the sciatica pain subsided. There is no question that this option could benefit someone who needed relief from debilitating pain immediately but many patients can find relief through other methods of treatment. For example, 16 of the 141 patients assigned to the early surgery group in this study recovered before surgery could be performed[b]. In addition, 61% of the conservative therapy group did not undergo surgery at all[c]. Remember, at the end of 1 year there were no differences in recovery between the two groups, an important note that should be emphasized to those faced with the option of surgery compared to alternative treatment methods. The point is that people are very diverse and each case is highly variable, so one treatment method will not work for everyone. Take time to learn the facts about each treatment option before charting a course to recovery.

As I mentioned before, surgery is a viable option for those dealing with intractable pain or for those who have exhausted all other treatment options. It is also important to recognize the benefits of surgical alternatives that have helped bring relief to individuals suffering from sciatica pain. We have helped hundreds of clients overcome the affliction of sciatica pain and return to happy, active, pain-free lifestyles through body and structural rebalancing techniques as well as therapeutic massage.

Our process is simple. In our first consultation we construct a pain profile which involves a description of symptoms the client is experiencing as well as visual observations to assess balance. Our goal is to verify that the pain the client describes matches what we are seeing.  Our next step involves kinesiology testing to assess for structural or musculature weaknesses / imbalances that are responsible for the symptoms. Once we have gathered all the relevant data we can begin treatment sessions and allow the body to begin healing. Our results-oriented approach is always focused on helping our clients alleviate their pain, regain normal function and, through our holistic approach; support a happy, healthy, pain-free lifestyle!

Please contact Surgical Alternative-Rehabilitative and Therapeutic Massage Therapy with your questions regarding sciatica pain or other conditions of which we may be of assistance. We would love to hear from you via the web or other social media outlets. For an appointment please visit our website to use our interactive calendar feature or call us at (813) 948-6300.

Web:  http://surgicalalternative.com/

Email: info@surgicalalternative.com

[a]Vega P, Charles MD http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/737594

[b] Peul, W. C., et al. (2007). Surgery versus Prolonged Conservative Treatment for Sciatica.

[c] Peul, W. C., et al. (2007). Surgery versus Prolonged Conservative Treatment for Sciatica.

[1] Peul, W. C., et al. (2007). Surgery versus Prolonged Conservative Treatment for Sciatica. The New England Journal of Medicine, 356(22), 2245-2256.




How come Grandma can “FEEL” a storm coming?


The next time you watch the weather forecast, notice the barometric pressure. Numbers such as 30.04 will be followed by “rising,” “falling,” or “steady.” Typically, when a low pressure front is coming, it signals not only a change in the weather, but a drop in the barometric pressure, which is pressure against the Earth’s atmosphere. Remember when Grandma would say, “Rain’s coming, and I can feel it in my joints?” She actually knew this because of what happens to our bodies when the barometric pressure changes.

That means that the pressure against your body drops as well, and your joints and areas that are injured can begin to swell. This swelling causes increased inflammation, and we require hormones to deal with this increased activity in our bodies. Increased use of these hormones can cause them to deplete.

We have, nestled atop each kidney, a small gland that produces both adrenaline and cortisone. These two hormones help us with energy, mood, immune function, pain management and the famous “Flight or Fight” response. The steroid cortisone is fundamental in managing pain, immune function and energy. When cortisone levels drop, pain level and illness increase. Adrenaline is famous for energy and strength.

Did you ever notice how your cold or pain gets worse at night? That’s because our bodies slow production of both adrenaline and cortisone in the evening so we can go to sleep. It’s part of our circadian rhythm. The downside is the fact that we don’t have these hormones that help us feel better, either. So, our cough gets worse, and our pain goes through the roof.

Something similar happens when a storm is coming. Did you ever know someone who could “smell” snow or rain before it came? What they “smell” is a change in the electrical charge in the air. It’s been described as a “metallic” smell. All atoms have either a positive or negative charge so they can bind to form molecules. As the barometer falls, the positive charge, or “ions” increase which causes a depletion of cortisone in the body. This happens to all creatures that have adrenal glands—in other words, all mammals.

People who are chronically stressed either physically or emotionally may experience weather changes more acutely. The elderly will experience it more acutely as well, as their bodies don’t have the ability to overcome these changes as easily as they did when they were younger. Because of our dependency on caffeine, we drink another cup of coffee, eat chocolate or sip tea in order to suppress fatigue that signals a drop in pressure, but don’t understand why our knees hurt more. There’s only so much cortisone produced daily unless we take medicines or drugs that increase this steroid. Unfortunately, doing so, on a chronic basis, can kill you. Think about the athletes who have died of chronic steroid use after their heart gives out.

So what can we do to manage this, aside from moving to southern California? Well, depending on the problem, whether it is pain, mood, or energy, there may be a solution. If the problem is simply energy, then we are warned to stay away from simple carbohydrates such as sugar, starches, and junk food. Eat foods that will sustain you and not bring the “crash” you feel after that morning doughnut. Don’t assume that caffeine is the answer, either. Consult a nutritionist if you need to come up with ideas for controlling simple energy problems.

Chronic pain, chronic fatigue and depression all present unique challenges. They all can be affected by nutrition, exercise, sunlight and barometric pressure, as well as by chemical imbalances. It is not a good idea to self-diagnose and self-treat when there may be medical problems causing these fluctuations in mood, energy and pain. But once diagnosed by a professional, there are things that we can do to improve our response to the environment.

Chronic pain can respond to pain management techniques. To be effective, though, these techniques require daily practice. Choices include relaxation or hypnosis techniques, biofeedback, acupuncture, acupressure, Reiki, massage, chiropractic, and aquatherapy. You may have to try several before you find one that you like and that works well for you.

Chronic fatigue still is poorly understood, although it can have a profound effect on mood. Diet, particularly the avoidance of carbohydrates, can help.

Depression has been described as a “chemical imbalance” but that is only part of the story. There are theories of genetics or the environment, such as family influence, prenatal care, or biohazard exposure. It also can be a manifestation of electrical problems in the brain, and that can be treated with neurofeedback. But the barometric pressure can have a profound effect on mood as well. How we interpret changes in our mood will have major effects on the mood itself. For instance, if we interpret a simple burst of adrenaline as anxiety, then we may have a panic attack. If we are tired from a long week, we can see this as depression rather than a body that just needs a rest.

Can Grandma predict the weather? Yes, sometimes she can, especially if she has arthritis or bursitis. Most of us don’t need a sophisticated meteorologist’s maps and predictions to know if we are hurting. But perhaps we can take measures to diminish the impact that an impending storm may have on us. We can eat properly, exercise, avoid the negative effects of drugs or alcohol, and use pain management techniques to control the chronic pain. Beware, however, of rebound pain that we can experience the day after “extra” doses of pain meds, whether they are for a bad back, joint or muscle pain, or a headache. The pain often can be as bad or worse the next day because of withdrawal from the medicines taken the day before.

Consult a professional about your mood, pain, or energy. Help can be simply a phone call away. You can check on the Internet as well. For chronic pain, Google the type of pain you have and look at professional websites such as The American Chronic Pain Association or The American Council for Headache Education. For more information about neurofeedback, visit www.eeginfo.com.

Why live with back pain? Alternative therapy benefits

Weekend warriors and people living an active lifestyle that has recently been disrupted by pain as well as those of you that have jobs / hobbies that have you doing repetitive actions for extended periods of time fall in this category too.  Why are you putting up with these pains?  Now it’s affecting activities you love and it doesn’t seem to be getting any better.  Does this sound like you? Adding regular bodywork as part of your health and fitness/ training regimen is preventative for injuries.   Which by the way helps you stay on your game?  SET bodywork is so much more than a deep tissue massage; this therapy incorporates cranial work, body logic, and deep tissue massage to focus on the source of where your symptoms are coming from.  Let me help you get back to feeling like yourself and resume normal life activities.

Having been in this industry for 13 years, I have always believed the benefits of massage especially the more specialized work like I do, have been undervalued.  So it was great to see an article on NPR discussing the benefits and the great results.  They compared the effectiveness of treatments for lower back pain using three different groups, full body relaxation massage, deep tissue massage and medication and physical therapy.  The study found good improvement with those who used either relaxation or deep tissue massage therapy over conventional types of treatment.  You can check out the full article at http://www.npr.org/2011/07/04/137609072/got-low-back-pain-massage-therapy-may-rub-it-out?sc=emaf.

Although massage has been around for hundreds of years we are still discovering the power the body and mind having in the healing process.  I have seen and lived this process with many of my clients, that is why I feel very fortunate and excited to do what I love to do, help others that are suffering from herniated discs, bulging discs, hiatal hernias, peripheral nerve damage, nerve entrapments, degenerative disk disease, pinched sciatic nerve issues and many more symptoms that people think they either have to have surgery for or are told they just have to deal with the pain.  At www.surgicalalternative.com we can help!