active Release Techniques

Not Just Back Doctors: Chiropractors and Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

Chiropractor in Burke, VAWhile doctors of chiropractic have a well-deserved reputation for helping patients overcome back problems, they are actually experts in diagnosing and treating a wide range of health conditions that affect the musculoskeletal and nervous systems. Many of these conditions involve the extremities—arms, legs, hands and feet—rather than the back, neck or hips. Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS) is one example.

What causes CTS?

CTS affects about one in a thousand people each year, mostly women. It is essentially a mechanical problem caused by the median nerve being compressed as it runs through the carpal tunnel, a passageway made up of tendons, ligaments and bones that runs from the wrist to the hand.

In many cases, the precise cause of carpal tunnel syndrome isn’t clear. An injury to the wrist (sprains, strains or broken bones, for instance) may sometimes trigger CTS. So might strong vibrations from power tools or heavy machinery. Repetitive movements that place stress on this area of the body can also play a role. The tendons that control finger movement all run through the carpal tunnel, so when they become inflamed and swollen the amount of space is reduced, putting increased pressure on the median nerve.

Who’s most at risk?

Women. As mentioned earlier, women are at greater risk of CTS than men. There are a number of theories as to why women tend to suffer from CTS more frequently than men. One is that they have smaller wrist bones, and thus a smaller space through which tendons can pass. Another is that hormonal shifts may play a role, particularly during pregnancy and around menopause.

People with a genetic predisposition. Some people may have a genetic predisposition for CTS. Approximately one out of four people has a close family member who has also has the disorder.

Workers who perform repetitive, forceful movements that place localized stress on the wrist. Those who have jobs that involve repetitive movements of the arm are more likely to develop carpal tunnel syndrome. Assembly line workers, carpenters and violinists would all be in relatively high-risk occupations. But what about heavy computer users? Interestingly, although long-term computer use was previously thought to contribute to CTS, there is now conflicting information about the relationship between keyboarding and CTS. Some studies, such as one from 2007 published in the journal Arthritis and Rheumatism, have found that those who use a keyboard intensively at work actually have a significantly lower risk of developing CTS. It’s worth mentioning that some leisure activities can also contribute to the risk of CTS. Knitting, golfing and anything else that requires you to grip items in your hands for long periods of time could raise your risk.

Why chiropractic care?

CTS treatment has been evolving rapidly across the last few years, so it’s important to visit a healthcare provider who keeps current on the latest research and works with carpal tunnel patients on a regular basis. Among the most commonly recommended treatments for carpal tunnel syndrome are using a wrist splint, resting the wrist and taking pain relievers. Surgery is usually viewed as a last resort that should be considered only after more conservative treatment options have been exhausted.

Recent research has focused on the role of manual therapies—particularly specialized manipulation and mobilization techniques—as well as exercise in relieving pain and restoring range of motion. Chiropractic treatment for CTS (specifically soft tissue mobilization) has been shown to be both safe and effective compared to conventional non-surgical medical treatment, helping to improve nerve conduction latencies, wrist strength and mobility.

Chiropractors (and physical therapists) may also prescribe at-home strengthening and stretching exercises to help relieve pain and improve function in the affected hand and wrist. These approaches offer natural alternatives to sufferers who can’t tolerate common over-the-counter anti-inflammatories or painkillers, or who simply wish to avoid medication altogether.

When it comes to carpal tunnel syndrome, early diagnosis and treatment are the keys to success. The sooner this condition is addressed, the more non-invasive therapeutic choices exist for the patient. So if you suspect that you or someone you care about is suffering from CTS, please give us a call at (703) 912-7822 or visit us at Chiropractor in Burke, VA.

NOVA Chiropractic & Wellness Center
8992 Fern Park Drive BurkeVA22015 USA 
 • (703) 912-7822

The Top Five Causes of Neck Pain

Chiropractor in Burke, VA Neck pain: it’s a real pain in the neck, isn’t it? Bad jokes aside, neck pain is a very common problem. A 2010 study found that in an average year, as many as one in five American adults experience discomfort in this area of the body. In part, this is because the neck is especially susceptible to stress, strain and injury. Knowing the five most common causes of neck tension can help you stay healthy and pain-free.

The Top Five Causes of Neck Pain

  1. Overuse of Muscle: Your neck is a remarkably easy part of your body to overwork, especially if you spend long hours sitting at a desk during the day. A poorly designed work area forces your neck to stay in an unnatural position for hours on end, causing unnecessary strain. Over time, this can cause chronic neck pain.
  2. Injuries: Trauma to the neck muscles can cause pain. One of the most common types of neck trauma chiropractors see is the result of traffic accidents. When your head is suddenly forced in a given direction (as can occur if a car you are sitting in is struck from behind), the following “rebound” motion in the opposition direction (also known as whiplash) injures the tissues in your neck. To help counteract this damage, your neck muscles contract, leaving you feeling stiff and uncomfortable.
  3. Poor Posture: Do you have perfect posture when reading or watching TV? If you’re like most of us, the answer is probably no. Poor posture might feel comfortable in the short term, but in the long run slouching can cause neck strain and discomfort. If you are obese or have weak abdominal muscles, your neck may bend forward in compensation, causing misalignment and producing pain.
  4. Diseases: Certain diseases can cause neck discomfort. Degenerative diseases are a particularly common cause of neck pain. Osteoarthritis, a joint disorder that speeds cartilage deterioration, leads to the formation of painful bone spurs. Degenerative disc disease can lead to bulging or herniated discs. Meningitis and some types of cancer can also lead to neck pain, though these conditions are more uncommon.
  5. Nerve Compression: If the nerves in your neck become compressed, neck pain can follow. Herniated discs and bone spurs are two of the most common causes of nerve compression in the neck. A disorder called spinal stenosis can also lead to narrowed nerve passageways, and therefore painfully trapped nerves.

Treating Neck Pain

Treating chronic neck pain effectively requires understanding the underlying cause of your discomfort. Consult with your chiropractor to find solutions! Depending on the situation, your chiropractor might recommend cervical manipulation, a precise adjustment to the joints in your neck that improves spinal alignment and increases range of motion. Chiropractic care is about more than just manual adjustments, though, and your chiropractor will work with you to identify lifestyle changes that can help you make sure your neck stays pain-free.  If you are suffering from neck pain give our office a call at (703) 912-7822 or visit us at Chiropractor in Burke, VA.

Chiropractic Care for Herniated Discs in the Lower Back: The Latest Research

Chiropractor in Burke, VAOne of the most common causes of lower back pain occurs when the spinal discs in the lumbar area become herniated. A herniated disc happens when the bone of the disc itself has crumbled or fractured and the soft inner core bulges out through the outer portion of the disc. This places pressure on the spinal nerve root that runs through the discs, and the result can be pain in the lower back as well as numbness, tingling, or weakness in the legs and buttocks. Medical doctors tend to treat acutely herniated discs with oral steroids and epidural injections of cortisone, both of which have limited success rates and adverse side effects.

Recently, however, a major study published in the Journal of Manipulative and Physiologic Therapeutics has found that both chronic and acute herniated discs can be effectively treated by chiropractic adjustments. This year-long study followed 148 patients whose lumbar disc herniation had been confirmed by MRI scans. All patients suffered from back pain, sciatica, and radiating leg symptoms, and 79 of them had experienced these symptoms without noticeable relief for over three months.

The patients in the study were treated with chiropractic adjustments appropriate for their individual cases, characterized by the researchers as “high-velocity, low-amplitude spinal manipulation.”  Throughout the study, the patients were examined by doctors at two weeks, one month, three months, six months, and one year. They were also asked to self-assess the success of the treatments at those points, rating their condition on a scale of “much worse, worse, slightly worse, no change, slightly better, better, and much better.”

The results were surprising, especially because the typical clinical expectation is that only 36% of lumbar herniated disc patients will show improvement after two weeks of treatment. However, among the patients who received chiropractic adjustments in this study, 69% reported significant improvement in both mobility and pain reduction after only two weeks. At one month, that number increased, with 79.6% reporting conditions of better or much better. At three months, 90.5% had reported significant improvements. Interestingly, the chiropractic care in the study ended at the three-month mark, but assessments at the six-month and 12-month points found that 88% reported that their condition was still improved.

The authors of the study reported no adverse side-effects and concluded that a large percentage of patients with acute and chronic lumbar disc herniation could be improved by chiropractic care. This likely comes as no surprise to the many chiropractors who have been treating herniated discs and the resulting lower back pain for years—or to their patients who have benefited from that care—but it is heartening to see scientific research catching up to what we’ve known all along: A drug- and surgery-free approach that treats the whole patient and helps their bodies to heal themselves is superior to masking the symptoms with painkillers or relying on dangerous steroids or epidural injections.

So if you have been diagnosed as suffering from one or more herniated discs, see your chiropractor in Burke, VA. You have only your chronic pain to lose, and so much to gain.  Give us a call today at (703) 912-7822 or visit us at Chiropractor in Burke, VA.

 

By Dr. Todd P. Sullivan

What is “Cervical Myelopathy”?

Chiropractor in Burke, VACervical myelopathy, or more accurately called “cervical spondylotic myelopathy” (CSM), is the most common spinal cord disorder in those over age 55. The natural degenerative processes that happen as we age, in combination with normal wear and tear, can cause a narrowing of the space through which the spinal cord passes, compressing the nerves. This can cause pain and disability.

Cervical disc degeneration, common in those over age 40, creates a narrowing of the space between the vertebrae when the disc either shrinks or bulges. Unfortunately, this degeneration also has a tendency to accelerate if not properly addressed. This is because more pressure is put on the spinal joints as the disc degenerates, which in turn tends to cause further degeneration. Inflammatory diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis also can cause degeneration in the joints of the neck, causing pain and stiffness. Injury or trauma to the cervical spine—typically related to auto accidents or rough contact sports—can also cause CSM. In rare cases, tumors and congenital abnormalities of the spine may trigger or contribute to this condition.

Symptoms of cervical myelopathy include pain and stiffness in the neck, tingling or numbness (particularly in the arms and legs), weakness (such as having trouble lifting things or frequently dropping objects), difficulty walking, and problems with coordination. For example, patients suffering from CSM may have trouble buttoning their clothing or feeding themselves.

A diagnosis of CSM can be confirmed by x-ray, MRI and/or use of a special kind of CT scan, called a myelogram, which can show the spinal canal in greater detail, including any bone spurs, and the size of the opening through which the spinal cord passes.

If CSM is not treated, it will cause a steady degeneration about 40% of the time. Approximately 20% of cases resolve spontaneously, and the remaining 40% stabilize. There is currently no way to determine which outcome will result.

Conservative treatment of CSM includes the following:

  • Anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen to reduce swelling and pain
  • Soft collars to support the neck and reduce movement so that the soft tissues supporting the neck are allowed to rest (though this should only be used in the short term, as long-term use can cause a weakening of the neck muscles)
  • Exercise to strengthen the muscles supporting the neck
  • Steroid injections to decrease pain and swelling (although these only result in temporary relief)

More severe cases of spinal myelopathy can require surgical treatment, which may include laminectomy (removing part of the vertebra), discectomy (removing part of the intervertebral disc) or spinal fusion. If you like you have cervical myelopathy give our office a call at (703) 912-7822 or visit us at Chiropractor in Burke, VA.