Keep Calm and take a kitkat break
Just the heading of this blog post can cause shivers down the spine to many die-hard sports enthusiasts. Normally, we are bombarded with advice to get outside and get active. Yes, being active is an excellent way to improve cardiovascular health, build strength, endurance and increase the hormones that make us happy. But there are times where our bodies need a break. We can sometimes experience diminishing returns of health benefits from over doing activities. Whether you are taking your body to the edge or playing too many sports the answer may be simple, just take a break.
The Type A Personality!
As a North Vancouver Sports Chiropractor, it is hard to explain to some patients and friends that their injury may benefit from rest. Persons that are Type-A have a hard time to consider this advice as they are programmed to always be on the go. Take a friend of mine for example who plays volleyball twice a week and suffers from low back and leg pain flair ups and limited shoulder range of motion. I have witnessed him have several major flair ups of back pain over the past several years. I had asked him if playing volleyball had consistently flared up his shoulder and back and his answer was yes. My advice to him was that he needed to take a break from group sports. Unfortunately, over the years he would not take my advice and continued pushing his body to the limit.
The responsibility of being a North Vancouver Sports Chiropractor is educating patients on the power of the innate. Meaning the body has the power to heal itself when given the opportunity too!
Just recently, his back had given out. Severe back pain and right leg pain. He had an antalgic gait to the left. This time he was out of commission for three weeks and the problem had made him think more than he had before. An extremely successful business owner and avid sportsman my friend had for the first time decided to stay home and rest. Here was my opportunity to educate him on the affects of repetitive trauma from work and sports. He was adamant that I treat him, but I decided to prescribe rest. I had performed a physical examination, and concluded that he may have a possible disc bulge posteriorly to L5 Disc and S1 nerve. Without a MRI I could not 100 percent conclude that this was his diagnosis, as a MRI is the gold standard for diagnosing disc bulges.
My friend had actually gone to a physiotherapist, registered massage therapist and shiatsu specialist. From all the information he had gathered he was concerned that he pulled a muscle. I educated him that when the inner soft material of the disc extrudes beyond the protective outer annulus a bulge occurs. Depending on the extent of the bulge symptoms will vary. Some people may experience low back pain, others low back pain and leg pain, and the last group may experience leg pain without back pain. But the third is usually consistent with a tear to the disc and not a bulge. Generally, a bulge in the back of the disc either left or right will put pressure on the DRG (dorsal root ganglion), which is a portion of the nerve exiting the spine and thus the DRG will like a mini computer send signals to the low back muscles to freeze up. Muscle Guarding is the result and is the body’s way of protecting the spinal column from further injury.
The discs that sit between each vertebra are affected when load is applied to the spine. When intradiscal pressure is increased the disc contents in the middle push outward but the outer fibers contain all contents. When the outer fibers continuously are damaged increased pressure can allow the inner toothpaste like material to bulge out. This will cause physical and chemical damage to spinal nerves, and degenerative changes to discs and bones from the inflammatory factors. In my friends case he was jumping up and down on a hard surface playing volleyball and also twisting his back often. This increased load to the lower back caused an eventual bulge. Therefore, my advice to him was to allow the disc to heal. As the disc is hot and swollen it needs to be removed from any load like jumping or excessive standing. Laying on the back and putting the knees up with ice to the low back will help reduce inflammation and the size of the bulge. With rest my friend eventually got better and his low back pain subsided. He now has taken a long break from volleyball and he may want to engage in a less load bearing sport.
With messages from pharmaceuticals telling people to take a pain pill and continue rock jumping with a bad knee or training through the pain it is important we spread the message that pain is a sign our bodies need rest. Five great reasons to take a break might help us reflect on healing:
- Stopping repetitive motions that are affecting acute or chronic injuries
- Taking pressure off achy joints and discs to reduce compressive forces
- Allow your body to rest and cells to heal
- Taking time to Ice the injury
- Spend time meditating and using visualization to heal
My friend’s shoulder range of motion also improved and the nagging pain at full abduction. It is not my intention to promote inactivity but there are times when the cause of a problem is over exertion. As a North Vancouver Sports Chiropractor, I am extremely cautious when a patient presents with symptoms and positive orthopedic test for a disc bulge. The best treatment in this case would be Cox Flexion Decompression. Take a look at my chiropractic sciatica treatment page to learn more about the incredible benefits of cox flexion decompression for the low back disc condition.