Tag Archive | degenerative disc disease

Can Yoga Be Bad For You? ( by physiotherapist Carlsbad, CA)

 

Yoga is very well known about it’s healing side, but can yoga also harm you? People have more and more physical problems today and an increasing numbers of population is turning to Yoga for exercise and relaxation. Yoga is well known also about relieving tightness and pain in joints, bones and muscles. Even though Yoga has many health benefits, if practiced incorrectly it may lead to injury and pain. Typical Yoga injuries are muscle strains, torn ligaments, shoulder problems, neck and back aches & pains. One reason of injuries is that people are pushing themselves past their limits and not knowing how far they can go. Another reason is a teacher who is not well-trained and has very limited knowledge about healthy and safe joint alignment and human anatomy.

Did you know that many yoga gurus and yoga enthusiasts have experienced back or neck pain? Many yoga poses force your spine to go too far beyond its normal and healthy alignment. Ideal Yogis are flexible and limber, right? However, too much flexibility is not good for anyone. The joints hypermobility (too much movement) puts excess pressure for your joints, ligaments, tendons and muscles. Loose ligaments and muscles can not support your joint enough, thus increasing risk of injury, pain or even arthritis. Our body is not designed to be like “human pretzel” anyway.

Hot Yoga is worst type of yoga if you have problems with your joint hypermobility, previous orthpedic injuries or fibromyalgia. In the hot room temperature Yoga poses are more intense because warm muscles let you stretch even more and at same time increases risk of injuries tremendously. So, as a Physical Therapist I do not recommend hot yoga as a healing aid for anyone who has problems with inflammation, pain or joint & soft tissue.

In my studio I have two former Yogis with serous back and neck problems. One has fusion in her cervical vertebras as well lumbar vertebras (L4-L5). She has been hypermobile whole her life and her spine was extremely flexible because of spondylolisthesis (slipped vertebras). She used to go to chiropractor three times a week which isn’t definitely helpful for her spinal instability and joint hypermobility. The other Yogis has herniated disc in her cervical spine, I’m wondering what causes that condition for seemingly healthy person…how about head stand or shoulder stand? Normally our weight is shifted by ankle, knee, hip and SI-joint, not by cervical spine. Even though your neck is a correct position while head standing, repetitiions many times a week is not good for your cervical spine and when we are getting older it is not even recommended anyway. It is good to keep in mind that at over 50 years old almost all of us are getting arthritics changes in our spine, which is a normal aging process. My client is over 55 and in a very good shape, but besides herniated disc on her cervical spine, she has also chronic back pain with sciatica, caused by sponlylolisthesis, degenerative disc disease and spinal stenosis. Yep, all of these in one person! She told me that she has been very active for whole her life and also practiced Yoga almost every day in a very advanced level (with head and shoulder stand). If I’m just looking at these two Yogis with all orthopedic problems what they have, my opinion is that Yoga can be sometimes bad for you. Especially if you really are extremely flexible like these two Too much is too much!

So, if you have too much movement (hypermobility) in your joints, you simply need more stability, not joint mobility or muscle flexibility. You need to strengthen supporting muscles around your joints which improve your joint stability and healthy, proper alignments. Pilates is a great form for improving your joints stabilization. Although many teachers typically have dancer background, they may also teach you to go too far. So, take the class from an experienced pilates instructor who has more knowledge about anatomy, proper biomechanics and orthopedic issues that you might have. If you find a good teacher you get definitely a long-term solution for your problems with pain, spine instability and joint hypermobility.

More about PIlatesWise Pilates & Rehabilitation program in Carlsbad California, please click HERE

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Take Care Of Your Spinal Health After Spinal Fusion

  

Did you know that here in the US the volume of spinal fusion surgeries is the most increased among Orthopedic “procedures”? Since 1996 the number of spinal surgeries has increased as much as 116%. Spinal fusion surgery is not that simple and it’s not always successful either. Sometimes underlying problems which caused your back pain in the first place are still there; poor posture, sacroiliac joint instability, weak supporting muscles, hip and thoracic spine limited rotational movement and shoulder girdle hypo or hyper mobility. Without proper treatment of underlying problems the spinal fusion alone is not the final answer to get rid of your pain longer term.

It is very true that in many cases the lower back pain is caused by lumbar spine instability (and nerve irritation) which basically means that there is too much unnecessary movement between vertebrae. Spinal instability does not come overnight and it is more complicated than how it looks like. One reason to have lower back spinal instability is when your hip rotation is limited or you have limited rotation on your thoracic spine. Lumbar spine does not have rotation or lateral flexion, but if rotation is not happening naturally from the place where it should (hip, thoracic spine), the body starts to compensate with excess rotational movement from your lumbar spine. Lumbar spine has to change it’s functioning and force vertebras, discs and ligaments to work the way that they are not built for, causing nerve compression and PAIN. And if spinal supporting muscles are also weak they are adding unnecessary movement and pain. Research shows that deep stabilizer back muscles are “shut down” those who got chronic back pain.

What happened after spinal fusion then? Spinal fusion limits your spine movement at the place which caused the pain, and that is a good thing, right? Unfortunately, body starts to compensate again and looks for the next place to do those missing movements and guess what, that is above and below fusion point. Those vertebras are now in danger and maybe develop similar spinal instability and nerve irritation to those vertebras which were fused together. What now – new fusion?

However, there is an other way to deal with this and that is to find a Physical Therapist who will assess your posture, muscle balance and whole body functioning, not just isolate back problems alone. Heat/cold pack, massage and back exercises are not working. Main problem might be elsewhere than in your lumbar spine alone. PT will analyze your movement and concentrate on increasing your spine & joints mobility and normal range of motion (especially rotation) and decrease hyper mobility with proper strengthening exercises (spinal stabilization training). Our body is a kinetic chain and all parts have to work together, so instead of just isolating to treat back pain, you must understand and treat the whole body.

Getting lifelong results and better spinal and proper body function, I warmly recommend to try Pilates private training. Pilates is an incredible treatment for all people with or without spinal fusion. If you don’t find a Physical Therapist who can teach Pilates for you, just look for an experienced Pilates Instructor who has education and experience to working with people with back pain and after spinal fusion. Pilates does probably not include that much stretching that people with back pain might need (hamstrings, piriformis, hip flexors), but it is a good way to strengthen your spinal supporting muscles, improve your range of motion and working your whole body more efficiently and safely. And the best part – with good Pilates instructor you will learn BODY AWARENESS. Body awareness is going to be a big help taking care of your spinal health after spinal fusion and back pain – and that is PRICELESS!!

More about PilatesWise Pilates & Spinal Stabilization training for back problems, please check out this video http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TDzsq7u199s or Visit our website click HERE.

Is Spinal Decompression Therapy as Good as Advertised for Relief Back Pain?

 

Spinal Decompression therapy is a non-surgical treatment for people with back pain caused by herniated disc, bulging disc, degenerative disc disease or sciatica. Spinal Depression therapy provides gentle decompression / traction of the disc and let the disc heal itself by helping to get more space between vertebras.

Now, is this magic treatment / therapy as good as advertised for relieve back pain? Well, like every treatments, some people may get help from it but some may feel even more pain after the treatments. Why? Using traction for treatment of bulging and herniated disc may also aggravate the condition. So do your research before starting this treatment.

The advertisement says “Spinal Decompression therapy is the latest non-surgical breakthrough technology”. Really? Believe or not, this “latest” back pain relief therapy / treatment is not new at all! When I was studying Physical Therapy in Finland in mid 80’s, we used to work with very similar spinal decompression table as used today and that treatment was called “spinal traction”. The traction table was exactly like this amazing new technology table. When I graduated at the beginning of 1990, this wonderful spinal decompression therapy method suddenly disappeared. Why? Because the treatment showed to be ineffective and too expensive. One Physical Therapist made some research to see what this “spinal decompression” was all about and found out that since II Word War Physical Therapists have been offering “Spinal Compression” = “Spinal Traction”. Recent studies also found that traction is ineffective for the relief of pain in the lumbar spine – just like Finnish PTs already realized 25 years ago. Seems that old treatment is coming back again but unfortunately this does not make this treatment any better.

Spinal Decompression treatment is also really expensive, about $100-$150 /visit. And if you get some pain relief that might be very short-term because the very underlying problems of your back pain are still there: poor posture, improper body mechanics, weak spinal supporting muscles, and repetitive stress can cause vertebrae to compress the disc or to slip out of their alignment which adds pressure to the discs, thus causing pain. These are really the underlying problems which need to be fixed too. Any spinal decompression therapy or manual therapy is not going to help improve your posture or muscle imbalance.

Almost all of my Pilates clients have back problems and some of them came to me after nothing else was not working. Very often doctors and chiropractors underestimate how important it is that patients take more active role of their own back rehabilitation. Active back rehabilitation with carefully designed exercise program is proven to be much better long-term back pain relief than just handing out home exercises, manual therapy or spinal decompression therapy. Our active back rehabilitation program in PilatesWise is designed and performed by a Physical Therapist. It includes comprehensive assessment, spinal stabilization training, McKenzie method and Pilates training, which does not only help relieve back pain but also keeps your back healthy and strong and prevents from future injuries. You have only one spine and back, so start taking care of it.

For more info, please visit our website http://www.pilateswise.com

Sciatica Back Pain – Is Pilates really helping?

The term sciatica describes the symptoms of leg pain and possibly tingling, numbness or weakness that travels from the low back through the buttock and down the large sciatic nerve in the back of the leg. Sciatica occurs most frequently in people between 30 and 50 years of age. Often any particular event or injury does not cause sciatica, but rather it tends to develop as a result of general wear and tear on the structures of the lower spine.

Common causes of sciatica are Lumbar Herniated disc, Spinal Stenosis, Degenerative Disc Disease, Spondylolisthesis, Piriformis syndrome and Sacroiliac Joint Dysfunction.

Exercise is usually better for healing sciatic pain than bed rest. Sciatica exercises are also important for the healthof the spinal discs. Movement helps exchange nutrients and fluids within the discs to keep them healthy. Many sciatica exercises focus on strengthening the abdominal and back muscles in order to provide more support for the back, so do Pilates.

Many Pilates studios are marketing their services as a treatment for lower back pain and sciatica, but does Pilates really help? Yes, it really helps if you find a good Pilates instructor who has back pain rehabilitation experience and who is familiar with your diagnosis, diseases and symptoms. Why Pilates instructor knowledge is so important? Because all Pilates exercises do not fit all sciatica clients and some exercises might be even contraindicated.

Here are briefly some underlying exercises that spine specialists recommend for each diagnosis of sciaticaThese exercises help to relieve pain and prevent further back problems:

  1. Spinal stenosis: Focus on flexion exercises (forward bending). Flexing the lower spine relives pain and nerve irritation for people with spinal stenosis. They often feel better bending forward than standing up straight. Still it’s important to strengthen back and abdominal muscles and teach posterior pelvic tilt which allows the client perform more activities and exercises with less pain.
  2. Degenerative Disc Disease: Focus on spinal stabilization exercises, back extension exercises including the McKenzie method. All Pilates exercises are focusing spinal stabilization, so Pilates for DDD is really beneficial. However, back is fragile for DDD clients, so full flexion and intermediate spine articulation exercises are in some cases contraindicated.
  3. Herniated disc. Focus on spinal extension with McKenzie method and Spinal Stabilization training.  Pilates is good, but has to be pain-free range.
  4. Spondylolisthesis: Focus on flexion based exercises and spinal stabilization program. It’s important to teach how the lumbar spine remains stable in a flexed position.
  5. Piriformis syndrome: Focus on stretching piriformis muscle, hamstring muscles and hip extensor muscles. Maybe only stretching exercises is enough to help to decrease this painful symptom. Finding neural pelvic position, spinal stabilization training and hip range of motion are all important for people with piriformis syndrome.
  6. Sacroiliac Joint Dysfunction: Focus on restore range of motion in SI-joint, which can be limited if the joint is inflamed. So, spinal stabilization, pelvic and hip exercises are all good.

All the above diagnoses cause sciatica pain but as you see the recommended exercises are very different. Pilates in general is good but definitely there is no “one size fits all” exercise for sciatica pain clients. Sometimes Pilates instructors are too confidence to taking care of people who suffer back pain, caused by sciatica. Many Pilates programs don’t give enough information about back disorders and many instructors don’t have enough experience either. It’s very important for Pilates instructors to know the client’s history of sciatica pain before they plan any Pilates program for their client. However, carefully planned Pilates program with a good hands-on skilled instructor make the life of sciatica pain client easier by relieving pain, strengthening and stretching muscles and increasing spine and joints range of motion. “Motion is lotion” is true here.

Please visit PilatesWise.com and read more about our SpinePilatres bacxk rehab program which is specifically designed for people with back pain and sciatica. Program is combination of Pilates and Spinal Stabilization, click HERE and learn more. This program is available also via SKYPE, so not need to live in North County, San Diego, California.