To Sit or to Stand, that is the question?

When it comes to low back pain, we are told that sitting for too long is not good for our backs. Why is that the case? What does sitting do to our low back?

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There are low back pain studies that have been conducted that measure the pressures in the spinal discs with various activities. One study in particular 1, involved a 45 year old male who had a pressure device inserted into his L4/L5 disc. This allowed researchers to measure the amount of pressure change in a variety of different activities. Running, sitting in various postures, lifting with both good and bad mechanics and even stair climbing were measured. What we observed from this study is that there are different pressures that the disc undergoes with differing positions. You may be asking, how is this relevant to me?


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What is critical to remember with patient’s is that if we treat a large group of people who have low back pain with the same interventions, we are going to help some people and we will not help others. This is where subgrouping comes into play. Subgrouping is when we take a history from the patient about their issue. From experience and research we have found certain subgroups of patients have certain characteristics and presentations. It makes logical sense that if we can subgroup patient’s with low back pain, that we can offer them more specific interventions that will better address their impairments. This is much more effective than just giving everyone the same interventions and only some people get better. More on the subgrouping in next weeks article!

Matching  interventions to patient’s with specific presentations allow for better outcomes.

Matching interventions to patient’s with specific presentations allow for better outcomes.

Low back pain treatment can revolve around the reduction of your pain. When you go see a practitioner it is often because you are in pain, which is an unpleasant experience. When we are given medication, offered injections, or prescribed a specific treatment, one of the goals is to help reduce your pain. Physical therapists often take a similar approach to low back pain. There are often movements/positions that make your pain better and some that make your pain worse. There is a phenomenon called peripherilization and centralization. Some patient’s have low back pain that is associated with radiating pain that goes down the leg (sciatica). One of our goals with this type of patient is to help centralize their pain. If we can take the pain out of the leg and move it toward the center of the back we can predict that the patient has a good prognosis (they will get better with our interventions).

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When it comes to treating low back pain there are studies that will show sitting is bad for your back and just as many studies that show sitting and standing create similar stresses on the back. You may now be asking, “What is the best position?” I will tell you that in my opinion it is somewhere in-between. I advise my patient’s to not go longer than 1 hour without getting up out of your chair or if you start in standing, sitting down. This variability will help to off load some of the structures that could be affecting your back. Set the alarm on your phone so that you have to get up and move around.

It may get awkward if you are doing a head stand in the office, but tell your co-workers to join in!

It may get awkward if you are doing a head stand in the office, but tell your co-workers to join in!

You may already know intuitively that one position is better for your back because the other causes pain. Another concept that needs to be addressed is the concept that not all hurt = harm. As I am writing this, I am coming up with more ideas for blog posts! More on the hurt = harm later!


The moral of the story when it comes to low back pain and in that matter, reducing the risk of developing low back pain is that you need to move your body. Motion = lotion is what I tell my patients.


If you found this article helpful, share it with a friend. If you need more specific advice, call or text me at 501-529-2010, or you can shoot me an e-mail at Brian@pinnacledpt.com. My name is Dr. Brian Murphy, I am a physical therapist and owner of Pinnacle Physical Therapy located in Little Rock, AR.

Thanks and here’s to helping you reach your PINNACLE!

5507 Ranch Dr, Suite 203

Little Rock, AR 72223

Brian@pinnacledpt.com

Reference

  1. Wilke, Hans–Joachim, et al. "New in vivo measurements of pressures in the intervertebral disc in daily life." Spine 24.8 (1999): 755-762.



Doc I have low back pain but I think it might be Cancer! Help!

In treating patients with low back pain, it is not uncommon for me to have them come in with a very well researched, self-made diagnosis. We can thank Google for so much of the information we have at our finger tips today. It is so easy to look up what WebMD or Mayo Clinic says about our condition.

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I am going to tell you know that there is no substitute for a skilled medical provider. Physical therapists have a huge asset on our side, TIME. We have time to sit down and let you tell us your story. The reason I say this is because there are clear things that come from the history section of the examination that will point to a more serious condition that may be masking itself as low back pain.

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“Dr. Murphy, I am convinced that my low back pain is from a spinal tumor, can you please tell me I am wrong?”




I am now going to go into discussing the possible more serious pathologies that could be related to low back pain. This article is meant to ease your mind about the slim chance of you having one of these more serious issues.

Let a skilled Physical Therapist interview you to assure you that you don’t have a more serious life threatening condition.

Let a skilled Physical Therapist interview you to assure you that you don’t have a more serious life threatening condition.


”Brian, how do you know whether I have something more serious? I am convinced that I have cancer!” Some of the things we do include administering a questionnaire about your general health. It could ask questions about your 24 hour pain patterns, previous history of cancer, when you saw your primary care physician last, signs of tingling and numbness, coordination problems and history of any recent trauma. All of these questions clue us into then asking further questions to determine if your pain is of mechanical nature. What I mean by that is basically are you appropriate for physical therapy care because we are mechanical/movement specialists.

The first condition I will discuss is cancer. Spinal cancers are rare and can be picked up quite easily on plain film X rays. If you have not had an X ray performed before you come in to see us we will ask questions about your age, previous history of cancer, any recent weight loss, your pain patterns (what makes it better, worse, 24 hour response). Quite often pain stemming from cancer is constant, there is nothing you can do to make it go away, it will wake you up at night and keep you up for hours.

The large, white blob just behind the bones of the neck is a spinal tumor.

The large, white blob just behind the bones of the neck is a spinal tumor.

The next condition that I will discuss is a stress fracture or spinal fracture. There are some clear indicators that this may be a possibility when a patient comes into our clinic. This patient is typically a 50+ year old female, who has a recent history of a fall or motor vehicle accident, she has pain and tenderness in her back and she may have been using corticosteroids. With Arkansas being a direct access state, we may see this patient before they had films in the ER or at their doctors office. In this case, we would refer them out to get X rays of their back to rule out this condition.

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The final condition I will discuss today is called Cauda Equina Syndrome. This condition stems from the nerves that come out of your low back. This condition can cause serious damage to those nerves which can be a problem because those nerves give energy to your bowel and bladder! Once again, the history here is critical. One of the hallmark symptoms of this condition is bowel and bladder changes. We ask the patient if they have had issues initiating or voiding their bladder. The patient feels that they did not expel all of their urine. The patient often has saddle paresthesia, tingling and numbness around your anus and genital area. Another thing we do as physical therapists is perform a thorough neurological examination. The nerves that come from your low back give strength to key muscles in your lower legs, it gives sensation to the skin and it also controls your knee jerk and achilles reflexes. We will test all of these things to see if everything is working smoothly. We of course do not want to see a decline in any of the functions of these structures.

Changes in bowel and bladder function are a major red flag and often require immediate surgery to maintain the normal function of your nerves.

Changes in bowel and bladder function are a major red flag and often require immediate surgery to maintain the normal function of your nerves.

In the state of Arkansas you can see your physical therapist directly without seeing a physician first. We are very skilled Doctors with advanced training in neuromusculoskeletal pain and should be at the forefront of your mind when determining who to see concerning your pain and limitations.

At Pinnacle PT, I offer a free 20 minute discovery visit either in my office or over the phone. I listen to your story and ask you relevant questions to see if you are appropriate for my care. I also make appropriate referrals to medical providers I trust in the community if you need to be seen by a physician for something that I am not able to treat. All too often we just ignore our pain because we are scared and think that it is just going to go away. Don’t let your pain get any worse, because often that will lead to compensation and development of pain in other areas and a further decline in your function.


E-mail me today at brian@pinnacledpt.com, or call/text me at 501-529-2010 and let me help you get through this trying time!

Here’s to helping you reach your PINNACLE!


5507 Ranch Dr Suite 203  Little Rock, AR 72223

5507 Ranch Dr Suite 203

Little Rock, AR 72223



Aging Gracefully: The benefits of resistance training

As we age unfortunately we loose muscle mass, which means we get weaker. You can’t avoid this decline but you can make it more gradual. Do you know the recommendations, the frequency, the specifics, the science, and do you have a resource you can talk to in order to find out more. Now you do. Read this article and let me know if you have any questions.

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