By Ruben Castaneda | Staff Writer
Jan. 5, 2017, at 9:39 a.m.
On a scale of 1 to 10, lower back pain can register somewhere between "I need an aspirin" to “please jack me up with morphine.”
Research suggests the back brace can provide short-term relief.
Those suffering from such discomfort might feel moderate to mild pain that is not debilitating. In severe cases, they could feel like a giant electrified claw has claimed the lower part of their back, tearing into each nerve in that part of the body. The smallest of movements – getting up from a chair, walking or even coughing – can feel torturous. Maybe the lower back is as stiff as hardened concrete and as sensitive as an exposed nerve.
A simple lumbar support device, or back brace, can provide short-term relief, research shows, according to an analysis of 28 studies published in the September 2016 issue of the Annals of Physical Rehabilitation Medicine journal. While these devices won’t cure the underlying condition, they're simple and relatively inexpensive. In the 2016 meta-analysis, researchers concluded that lumbar support devices are useful for improving function and reducing pain among those suffering from subacute back pain, which means it's past the acute stage – which is sudden and short in duration – but not long-lasting enough to be chronic.
Robert Hayden, DC, PhD, FICC
Not long ago a young lady came to see me with left jaw pain. That immediately gets my attention because frequently women present with jaw pain that is actually cardiac in origin. In this case, however, the jaw was actually sore to touch, and that will not happen if it is cardiac in origin. This could be just what appeared to be, maybe. It could be simply jaw pain. Of course, nothing is that simple.
Put your fingers at the angle of your jaw and then clench your teeth. The muscle you feel tightening is the masseter, a primary muscle for chewing. Sometimes when it is sore, someone has been chewing gum (or, gag, tobacco) excessively. That was not the case here. So I pressed on for more information.
Drawing from my own experience with jaw pain, I asked a few pointed questions. Yes, she did awaken in the mornings with her mouth feeling sore and swollen. Yes, it did hurt to fully open and extend the jaw. Yes, it was getting worse. The only positive aspect she saw was that her jaw pain was a mild deterrent to eating during the holiday.
So many times this story unfolds with a consistent pattern. Someone is stressed. That stress interferes with sleep and rest. Muscles stay active when they should be asleep, including those that operate the jaw. Grinding your teeth at night is called bruxism, and it is fairly common.
This particular young lady was not aware that she was grinding her teeth. Whatever happens in that twilight between sleep and wakefulness is not necessarily recorded in our conscious mind. For this reason, I believe most people who have bruxism at night are really unaware of it.
Robert A. Hayden, DC, PhD, FICC
First, to answer my question, I hope not. They have not yet.
I see “wonders” almost every day in my practice. A “wonder” for me is when someone gets well, or perhaps better, against the odds. Seeing this firsthand in a healthcare environment is like having a toy for which the “new” never wears off. Maybe it is like going to a concert in which every piece tugs at your soul in new and exciting ways. I can think of lots of good metaphors. Anyway, the wonders never cease for me at work.
I want to introduce you to Roger. He works hard for long hours every day doing construction. He has a very strong work ethic that will not allow him to slow down, much less stop, with a health problem that is not directly life-threatening. Part of that due to probably some strong parenting when he was younger, but there is also a family to feed. He simply cannot stop working, particularly in a right-to-work state.
Roger presented to the clinic one day with pain in his left shoulder. A careful history of the problem revealed a gradual onset of this pain that worsened with driving or other use of his left arm. After a directed physical exam ruling out some very serious potential causes of left shoulder and arm pain, it became apparent that the source of his arm pain was in his neck.
When pain radiates from the neck into the arm, something is hitting a nerve somewhere. Arthritis will not do that, nor will muscle strain. This was probably emanating from a cervical nerve root where it exits the spine. The things that can cause that include disc bulges and bone spurs, both of which can be troublesome.
Robert Hayden, DC, PhD, FICC
In Charles Dickens novel about Ebenezer Scrooge, the Ghost of Christmas Past was the first of three spirits sent to haunt the miserable old man by reminding him of his lifetime of greed and lost (squandered) opportunity for happiness.
Personally, I have not seen apparitions, but it seems that my perception of Christmas has evolved over the years. Maybe the bright silver star atop my mental Christmas tree has tarnished.
At the risk of dating myself, when I was five or six years old, I recall staring at the aluminum tree in the living room in rapt attention as the color wheel revolved, illuminating it beautifully in succession: red, blue, green, and yellow. Sometimes I would snap out of my trance and reverse the wheel just for something different. I would contemplate life, Christmas, and what my future would be. There was a great sense of wonder about it all.
The joy of giving manifest itself at some point when I discovered that it was really fun to make someone else happy by choices I had made for them. I put a lot of thought into making gifts personal and specific. That takes more energy, but that was part of the gift. Shopping became an adventure. It was particularly adventurous with the small budget I had back then.
When I was young we always had to travel at Christmas. That required putting toys aside to defer the joy and wonder of those shiny new distractions until we got back from a trip to my parents’ ancestral homes.
Robert Hayden, DC, PhD, FICC
Recently I decided I had had enough. I realized I was too heavy, and it was time to just stop. I got back on my Take Shape for Life regimen and dropped 16 pounds over about three weeks. I feel better, but have plans for more corporal renovation yet to come.
And here come the holidays.
Just when I was getting some progress, here comes a string of social events centered around food. And it is not just food, but food that I LOVE, but should limit or avoid altogether. It seems grossly unfair. What is a person to do? Well, I think this time I will “follow my gut.”
First, when facing an onslaught of holidays like this, maintaining your desired weight or size without gaining might be considered a victory. We have to be patient with ourselves, assuming we can force ourselves to use good sense. If we can’t, then we should be very angry and depressed (kidding, sort of).
Don’t skip meals or go more than three hours without eating a very small “something” that is sensible. In the Take Shape for Life program, we coach people to have a “lean and green meal” sometime during the day with five meal replacements that have measured amounts of low-glycemic carbohydrates and high-quality proteins. This keeps something in the system at all times so you don’t get hungry. When you get hungry, you tend to crave high calorie foods. That is not a sin or something about which to be ashamed – it is biology. We can use it to our advantage to get/stay healthy.
Robert Hayden, DC, PhD, FICC
King David wrote these words about 3000 years ago. He was a shepherd back then, so we had time at night to admire the heavens and reflect upon their Creator. This particular poem, recorded in our Bible as Psalm 30, says “… Tears may linger at nightfall, but there will be joy in the morning.”
For many of us, particularly seniors, the tears linger without the apparent promise of daybreak. When we lose a spouse, a sibling, a parent, a child, or a pet, there is a period of grief that may be far-reaching. It may affect every aspect of health.
I have seen studies that link our personalities as reflected on psychological tests that measure aggression to the efficiency of our immune systems. You may have heard the expression, “Bill is to mean to die.” There may be something to that. People that score high on the aggression scales also tend to possess very aggressive immune systems. Conversely, we may surmise that people experiencing grief and depression are more susceptible to diseases – even the common cold – because the immune system is also “depressed.