Category Archives: Low back pain

28Oct/14
Low back pain specialist London

Top 5 back pain myths

Back pain myths

Back pain myths

Welcome to my top 5 back pain myths. What are these you may ask?

Around pain and in particular back pain, there are many phrases and explanations used to try to educate the patient. These have been handed down through the generations and can appear to be logical. Fortunately, the science has moved on and we know better.

Here are 5 common beliefs that have been challenged:

**I have not included the myths of core stability because this has been well documented previously. Pulling in your abs does not solve the complexity of back pain, especially chronic back pain.

1. Bending is dangerous

2. Discs slip

3. Nerves are trapped

4. Pain comes from facet joints, discs etc

5. Low back pain is in isolation to everything else in your life.

Comments below:-

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1. Bending is normal. Sure it can hurt when the back is being protected, and when we have back pain the muscles are guarding and this can reduce the amount of movement. In the acute phase, most positions and movements hurt, but this is protection and it is meant to be unpleasant in order to motivate action. Moving little and often, changing position and breathing all help to keep blood and oxygen flowing.

2. Discs are not actually discs and they do not go anywhere. Yes they can be injured like any other tissue. They can bulge and affect the local environment, and they can herniate, triggering a healing response — both can hurt because protection is initiated. The fact that there are so many nerve endings around the area mean that sensitivity can arise in a vigorous manner. Again, this is a normal if highly unpleasant experience. Remember that a 1/3 of the population have such changes in their spine but without any pain. The body as a whole must rate the situation as threatening for it to hurt.

3. Nerves do not get trapped. Local swelling and inflammation can sensitise the nerves meaning that they send danger signals. There is not too much room either, so if there is swelling or a bulge, this can affect blood flow to the nerve itself and cause sensitivity to movement and local chemical changes. Again, this can happen without pain as well, so it is down to the individual’s body systems and how they respond. Understanding, gradually moving and breathing can all help ease you through this phase.

4. Pain is whole person and involves many body systems that are protecting you. There is no pain system, pain centre or pain signalling. Pain is part of a protective response when the body deems itself to be under threat. We feel pain in the body but the underlying mechanisms are upstream of the body part that hurts. To successfully overcome pain we must go upstream as well as addressing the health of the body tissues.

5. Low back pain is embedded within your lifestyle. It is not separate to how you live — e.g. lack of exercise, postures, work, stress, emotional state, previous experiences, understanding of back pain, gender, genetics, just to name a few. This maybe more complex, but this provides many avenues for overcoming pain.

Suffering with persisting back pain? Have other seemingly different problems such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), headaches, migraines, other joint pains, muscular pains, pelvic pain, jaw pain, recurring bladder infections? Contact me today to learn how you can move forward and overcome your pain: 07518 445493

28Mar/14
Low back pain specialist London

Relieving low back pain — keeping it simple but effective

Low back pain - simple strategies to change pain and move on

Low back pain – simple strategies to change pain and move on

Back pain is very common and most people will experience it. Many reasons are given for back pain, usually blaming the discs (they are not discs but rather amazing structures that work with the vertebrae to allow movement and force transduction — they are also very robust), joints, muscles and posture.

The simple fact is that the pain we feel in our body is not because of a structure. It is because our brain thinks we are in danger, or the tissues in the area of pain are in danger or potential danger, a warning. Pain is an output from the brain that is detected in the body, driving and motivating protective behaviours. This can be helpful in the acute stages of pain, but as time moves forward and the tissues heal (if they have been injured), these learned strategies become part of the problem. The pain persists, the alarm bells go off during normal activities (e.g. sitting, standing, walking) and we continue to behave as if we need to protect healing tissue. This on-going guarding, change in movement and adapted activities causes many problems including pain and fear.

Breaking the habits of protection and guarding are essential. The increased and inappropriate use of muscles in the back means that they work hard, too hard. Similar to a challenging workout, there is post-exercise soreness and pain, except this is happening on a day to day basis. Re-training the way the brain is activating muscles is vital but to do this, firstly you must understand that you are safe. The movements that re-educate normal movement are simple and can be done at home, at work, in the garden, in the park, anywhere that promotes safe and varied actions. This safety comes from an individual’s understanding of pain. So, this is the first step, making sure that pain is understood in the context of the patient’s narrative.

Understanding pain plus simple movements to develop body sense, nourishment for tissues (‘motion is lotion’) on a consistent basis (again very simple moves with feedback and a sense of safety) and skills to calm systems that are on alert to protect such as mindfulness or relaxed breathing. A basic movement can be primed and used in many different ways to represent the variance we experience every day. The brain loves variety and if it feels safe, you will be able to gradually build your activities back up to recover and get back to having fun.

Here are my formulae:

Understand pain + simple movements + confidence + feedback = reduced threat

Reduced threat + gradual increase in activities + mindfulness = pain relief and resolution of normal activities

For further information about our programmes of treatment and training for low back pain and other painful problems, visit our home page here or call to book an appointment 07932 689081

13Aug/13
Endometriosis & melatonin | Women and pain series

Endometriosis & Melatonin | Women and Pain Series

Chronic pelvic pain is a troubling condition for many women. The reason for pelvic pain varies but certainly includes endometriosis where the lesions impact upon nerve health and function (see here) with consequential sensitisation. The purported mechanisms of pain include inflammatory pain and neuropathic pain with subsequent central sensitisation that underpins the persistance and variance often described.

Pain is an output, a response to the brain’s perception of what is happening in the body. The sensation of pain emerges from that part of the body deemed in need of protection. The pain itself is modulated by a range of factors including stress, fatigue, anxiety and the environment. The actual feeling of pain is the end result of the brain’s analysis of what is going on ‘now’ on the basis of what it already knows and has learned. Hence, prior experience can flavour the pain. Changes in the spinal cord and higher centres can amplify danger signals, modulate normal signals (begin as normal and communicate with nociceptors, therefore the brain receives a danger signal despite the initiating impulse being one of touch; i.e./ allodynia) and are responsible for the varying patterns of pain such as when a treatment helps on one occasion yet seemingly worsens the pain on a subsequent occasion.

Alongside the painful experience there are other body and brain responses to the perceived threat. Altered control of movement that includes guarding and protective posturing that leads to patterns of on-going chronic tension. In the case of pelvic pain this emerges around the pelvic girdle, in the abdomen and in the spinal muscles and often across the body. It is not unusual to find that there are many tender and tight areas when the body has been protected for some time, demonstrating a more widespread pattern. Often there is sensitivity expressed via other body systems , for example the gastrointestinal system in IBS, headaches, migraine and recurring bladder infections to name but a few. General health can often be impacted upon, with levels of activity diminishing alongside a fear of moving and socialising (a gradual withdrawal from being out with friends and family). This typically leads to a downward spiral affecting mood, self-esteem and manifesting with anxiety in many situations. It is really a ‘hyper-protective’ state physically and mentally where many cues become threatening and hence we protect, sometimes consciously by making choices and frequently automatically or habitually. Breaking this pattern however, is entirely possible.

We are fundamentally designed to change, evolve and grow. When we set the right conditions physically and mentally (and it has to be both), then we can move forward and change our outlook and experience. I know that an individual is going to progress when they start changing their language, metaphor use and at the same time their appearance changes via posture, facial expression and general demeanour. The spark returns.

The optimal approach requires that we consider all the dimensions of pain: physical, cognitive and emotional. This must be integrated and a programme created to meet the unique needs of the person. Concomitant with a range of strategies and training techniques to retrain normal movement, tension patterns, ease pain, tackle stress and anxiety etc, medication can play a role. The efficacy of pain medication is varied and often there are side-effects to consider. A recent study looked at the use of melatonin for endometriosis-associated pain with some very interesting results.

The commentary of Timothy Ness in Pain 154 (2013) 775 summarises the study below: ‘The article by Schwertner et al..demonstrated efficacy of the hormone, melatonin, in the treatment of endometriosis-associated pain…..one of the few medications which have proven useful in the treatment of endometriosis-associated pelvic pain but it is also notable as an example of the back-and-forth translational process associated with preclinical models of pain/analgesia and the clinical demonstration of treatment efficacy.’ And, ‘In this particular example the information flow went in both directions from humans to non-humans and then back again’. He refers to the fact that the data produced in rats was also found in humans. Many studies use rodents as subjects with obvious limitations in terms of extrapolating data for humans.

Pain. 2013 Jun;154(6):874-81. doi: 10.1016/j.pain.2013.02.025. Epub 2013 Mar 5.

Efficacy of melatonin in the treatment of endometriosis: a phase II, randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial.

Schwertner A, Conceição Dos Santos CC, Costa GD, Deitos A, de Souza A, de Souza IC, Torres IL, da Cunha Filho JS, Caumo W.

Source

Laboratory of Pain & Neuromodulation at Hospital de Clínicas de Porto Alegre (HCPA)/Universidade Federal do Rio Grande do Sul (UFRGS), Porto Alegre, Brazil.

Abstract

Endometriosis-associated chronic pelvic pain (EACPP) presents with an intense inflammatory reaction. Melatonin has emerged as an important analgesic, antioxidant, and antiinflammatory agent. This trial investigates the effects of melatonin compared with a placebo on EACPP, brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) level, and sleep quality. Forty females, aged 18 to 45 years, were randomized into the placebo (n = 20) or melatonin (10 mg) (n = 20) treatment groups for a period of 8 weeks. There was a significant interaction (time vs group) regarding the main outcomes of the pain scores as indexed by the visual analogue scale on daily pain, dysmenorrhea, dysuria, and dyschezia (analysis of variance, P < 0.01 for all analyses). Post hoc analysis showed that compared with placebo, the treatment reduced daily pain scores by 39.80% (95% confidence interval [CI] 12.88-43.01%) and dysmenorrhea by 38.01% (95% CI 15.96-49.15%). Melatonin improved sleep quality, reduced the risk of using an analgesic by 80%, and reduced BNDF levels independently of its effect on pain. This study provides additional evidence regarding the analgesic effects of melatonin on EACPP and melatonin’s ability to improve sleep quality. Additionally, the study revealed that melatonin modulates the secretion of BDNF and pain through distinct mechanisms.

For further information about our proactive treatment, training and coaching programmes for chronic pain and injury, or to book an appointment please call us on 07932 689081 | Women in Pain Clinic in Harley Street

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J Pain Symptom Manage. 2012 Nov 27. 

Analgesic and Sedative Effects of Melatonin in Temporomandibular Disorders: A Double-Blind, Randomized, Parallel-Group, Placebo-Controlled Study.

Vidor LP, Torres IL, de Souza IC, Fregni F, Caumo W.

Source

Postgraduate Program in Medical Sciences, Faculty of Medicine, Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul, Porto Alegre, Brazil.

Abstract

CONTEXT:

The association between myofascial temporomandibular disorder (TMD) and nonrestorative sleep supports the investigation of therapies that can modulate the sleep/wake cycle. In this context, melatonin becomes an attractive treatment option for myofascial TMD pain.

OBJECTIVES:

To investigate the effects of melatonin on pain (primary aim) and sleep (secondary aim) as compared with placebo in a double-blind, randomized, parallel-group trial.

METHODS:

Thirty-two females, aged 20-40 years, with myofascial TMD pain were randomized into placebo or melatonin (5mg) treatment groups for a period of four weeks.

RESULTS:

There was a significant interaction (time vs. group) for the main outcomes of pain scores as indexed by the visual analogue scale and pressure pain threshold (analysis of variance; P<0.05 for these analyses). Post hoc analysis showed that the treatment reduced pain scores by -44% (95% CI -57%, -26%) compared with placebo, and it also increased the pressure pain threshold by 39% (95% CI 14%, 54%). The use of analgesic doses significantly decreased with time (P<0.01). The daily analgesic doses decreased by -66% (95% CI -94%, -41%) when comparing the two groups. Additionally, melatonin improved sleep quality, but its effect on pain was independent of the effect on sleep quality.

CONCLUSION:

This study provides additional evidence supporting the analgesic effects of melatonin on pain scores and analgesic consumption in patients with mild-to-moderate chronic myofascial TMD pain. Furthermore, melatonin improves sleep quality but its effect on pain appears to be independent of changes in sleep quality.

23May/13

The Chelsea Flower Show, gardening and back pain

With the Chelsea Flower Show in full bloom the world of gardening is full of excitement and wonder as the designers exhibit their creations. Gardeners can relate to this sense of cultivation and creativity as they work hard to illustrate their vision through their plants, flowers, grasses and other garden features.

Gardening is often physically demanding. Carrying, lifting, holding sustained positions and repeated motions form the bulk of the activities and of course this challenges the body. Much like the writer or film viewer, becoming lost in the moment is wonderful yet the trade off can be a painful back.

Back pain and low back pain are very common. Most of us will experience such pain at some point in our lives and in the vast majority of cases the pain eases after a few weeks and we return to our normal activities and movements. In some this does not happen and they continue to experience pain that impacts upon quality of life. These are usually the individual whom I see and they all have a story to tell about their pain. We are wise to listen as this narrative is key – see Oliver Sacks talking about narrative here.

Many will describe how gardening upsets their back pain yet they love to be outside crafting their environment. Much like the sportsman who wishes to return to the field of play, the gardener wishes to be on the lawn or busy in the shrubs. Again, like the sportsman, this needs preparation and a degree of fitness that must be developed with exercise and functional tasks (movement that is the same as you would use in the activity).

If you have back pain, it can be fine to spend time working in the garden in most cases. It is how you go about it that is important. How many people warm-up and cool-down when they garden? Few I would imagine. But why not? This prepares the body for the demands. Planning and pacing activities is also very important. Taking breaks and changing positions consistently and regularly helps to nourish the tissues and develop tolerance for physical activity. There are a range of other techniques that we can use so that gardeners can garden safely, confidently and productively.

**Please note that if you are unsure you should always seek the advice of your GP or health professional.

For further information about gardening fitness and treatment of low back pain so that you can return to the garden (or return to sports and other activities), call us now 07932 689081

05Nov/12
Endometriosis & melatonin | Women and pain series

Women and pain | Part 1

‘As many as 50 million American women live with one or more neglected and poorly understood chronic pain conditions’ 

Generally I see more female patients than male. This observation supports the view that chronic pain is more prevalent in women than in men for some conditions – see the International Association for the Study of Pain fact sheet here. There are some ideas as to why this may be, including the role of the sex hormones and psychosocial factors such as emotion, coping strategies and roles in life. Additionally, experimental studies have shown that women have lower pain thresholds (this is a physiological reading) and tolerance to a range of pain stimuli when compared to men although this does not clarify that women actually feel more pain – see here. Pain is a subjective experience of course, and modulated by many factors.

A campaign for women’s pain | Chronic pain in women (2010) report

It is not uncommon for a female patient to tell me about her back pain and continue the narrative towards other body areas that hurt and cause problems. This may include pelvic pain, migraine, headache, irritable bowel syndrome, chronic knee pain, widespread sensitivity and gynaecological problems (including dysmenorrhoea, endometriosis and difficulty conceiving). These seemingly varied conditions are typically looked after by a range of medical and surgical disciplines: gynaecology, neurology, rheumatology, gastroenterology and orthopaedics. More recent science and thinking has started to join the dots on these problems, offering new insight into the underpinning mechanisms and more importantly approaches that can affect all the conditions in a positive way. This is certainly my thinking on this hugely significant matter.

Reconceptualising pain

Undoubtedly pain is complex. This is particularly the case when pain persists, disrupting and impacting upon life. Reconceptualising pain according to modern neuroscience is making a real difference to how we think and treat pain – see this video. Briefly, thinking of pain as an output from the brain as a result of a complex interaction of circumstance, biology, thought, emotion and memory begins to give an insight into the workings of the brain and body. Pain is individual, it is in the ‘now’ but so coloured by the past and what it may mean to the individual. The context or situation in which the pain arises is so very important. We talk about pain from the brain but of course we really feel it in our physical bodies, but the location is where the brain is projecting the sensation – see this video.

Neuroscience has shown us that the danger signals from the body tissues are significantly modulated by the brain before the end output is experienced. Factors that influence the messages include attention, expectation and the circustance in which the individual finds herself. We have powerful mechanisms that can both facilitate and inhibit the flow of these signals and these reside within the brain and brain stem. For this reason we must consider the person’s situation, their expectations, hopes, goals, past experiences and current difficulties, and how these can affect their current pain.

Stress & emotion

Any hugely emotive issue within someone’s life can impact enormously upon pain and sensitivity. This can be the stress of a situation including caring for a relative, losing someone close, work related issues and divorce. The problem of conception certainly features in a number of cases that I see, causing stress and turmoil for both partners but clearly in different ways. Fertility receives a great deal of attention in the media and there are a many clinics offering treatment and therapies, in effect raising awareness and attention levels towards the problem. The pain caused by difficulties having children can manifest physically through the stress that is created by the situation. Thoughts, feeling and emotions are nerve impulses in the brain like any other and will trigger physical responses including tension. Stress physiology affects all body systems, for example the gastrointestinal system (e.g./ irritable bowel), nervous system (e.g. headaches, back pain) and the immune system (e.g. repeated infections).

Lifestyle

Lifestyle factors play a significant role in persisting pain. Modern technology and habits that we form easily may not be helpful when we have a sensitive nervous system. For example, sedentary work, the light from computer screens, pressures at work, limited exercise, poor diet, binge drinking and smoking to name but a few. All are toxic in some way as can be our own thinking about ourselves. When we have a thought, and we have thousands each day, and we pay attention, becoming absorbed in the process, the brain reacts as if we are actually in that situation. Consequently we have physical and emotional responses that can be repeated over and over when we dwell on the same thinking. This is rumination and is likely due to ‘hyper-connectivity’ between certain brain areas – see here. We can challenge this in several ways including by changing our thinking and using mindfulness, both of which will alter brain activity and dampen these responses. It does take practice but the benefits are attainable for everyone.

In summary, the underlying factors that must be addressed are individual and both physical and psychological. Pain is complex and personal, potentially affecting many different areas of life. How we live our lives, what we think and how we feel are all highly relevant in the problem of pain as borne out of sensible thinking and the neuroscience of pain. Understanding the pain, learning strategies to reduce the impact, receiving treatment that targets the underlying mechanisms, making healthy changes to lifestyle and developing good habits alongside the contemporary brain based therapies can make a huge difference and provide a route forwards.

For information on our ‘join the dots’ treatment programmes for chronic pain, contact us here or call 07932 689081

 

29Aug/12

Back pain in football and sport

Back pain is a common experience across society. Millions are spent each year on treatment yet we do not seem to be making any significant progress in tackling this vast problem. Undoubtedly footballers are also subject to spinal aches and pains, either from a direct injury or insidiously. Most people whom I see fall into the latter category, when the pain comes on gradually, the individual seeking help when the pain reaches a troubling level.

Frequently back pain is blamed upon a disc injury, a facet joint problem, arthritis or a ligament sprain. In the acute stages the muscles often tighten or spasm making it very difficult to move. The pain can be extremely intense and worrying, but in fact this is a normal body response to the problem, even if there is no significant damage to the tissues. It can sometimes take a few days for this to subside, with any movement triggering pain–when we move our arms and legs, because the trunk muscles are also being used it means that they can tighten and be painful.

Acute pain – seek help if you are unsure

The general advice with acute back pain is to remain active as possible. Usually your GP will suggest pain relief or anti-inflammatory medication to help ease the symptoms. Gentle and tolerable exercise maintains the tissue mobility meaning that movement becomes easier and easier. Typically the back will stiffen when we do not move, being painful and tight when we have to change position. Sometimes our posture is altered and we tilt forward or to one side, the muscles pulling the spine into a position of protection. Arguably pushing or pulling (manipulation) this into a straightened position is to force the body into a position and work against the natural protective mechanisms. It does seem that spinal manipulation can ease pain in the short term but does not necessarily offer a better long-term outcome. Consistent movement and positional change is a sensible option.

A study completed some years ago demonstrated that the best predictor of back pain was the ability to hold the back isometrically. With the individual lying face down on a table, his hips at the edge with the trunk being held straight out over the edge, they tested the endurance factor, i.e./ how long they could hold the position. Those with the ability to maintain the position were less likely to experience back pain over the next year.

Core stability encompasses a range of exercises that supposedly create a strong ‘middle’, thereby reducing the risk of back pain. This is based on research that was undertaken in Australia some years ago. Subsequent studies have found that to truly optimise the trunk muscles they need to be working as part of an overall movement strategy controlled by the brain. This requires subtle yet focused training with a strong cognitive element to ensure that the deeper muscles are working at the right level (very low) and with the right timing. This does not mean pulling the low abdomen in as tightly as possible. In fact, many whom I see who have practiced this end up with greater tension and pain as a result.

We simply cannot dissociate lifestyle factors from back pain. Our habits at home, work and during physical activity will have an effect upon the spinal tissues. At this point we have to consider the way in which we feel as stress plays a huge role in pain and how we use our body. The physiology of stress affects every system in the body including the musculoskeletal system where our movements and posturing are manifestations of our thinking. For example, many will tense their shoulders or clench their jaws on becoming stressed. Our thought processes therefore, have an enormous role to play in how we hold ourselves and move. In essence, movement is an expression of what we do and think about. When a pain has persisted for some time, dealing with stressors and emotions must be part of a comprehensive treatment programme. In the acute stage of back pain when fear and anxiety play a role in the protection, having a reassuring explanation is key to starting the process of recovery.

Many people with back pain demonstrate a fear of movement and avoid certain activities. The fear usually develops during the acute episode and is reinforced by further bouts of pain. This is one of the clearest demonstrations of how thinking affects our movement. Interestingly, the amygdala in the brain that deals with fear is connected with the motor centres thereby exerting an effect upon the planning and execution of movement. One of the primary roles of the healthcare professional is to thoroughly assess the patient and fully explain the symptoms and provide a meaning so as to reduce the fear factor and encourage positive engagement in tackling the problem proactively with physical and cognitive measures.

Spinal health in my view cannot be separated from our general health and lifestyle. Considering our physical activity levels, posturing, state of mind, life circumstances, past experiences, our beliefs about pain and injury, culture and the implications of injury are just some of the factors we must think about. No injury or pain happens in isolation. There is always a background to the initiation of pain whether it be acute or gradually building over a period of time. Our job is to look at the individual and their circumstances around the problem in order to find a route forward to recovery and health.

Many sports people will complain of back pain as it is such a common problem. With the right knowledge and strategies over a realistic timeline, the pain can change and we can adapt positively to lead fulfilling and active lives.

11Feb/12

Manual therapy, pain and the immune system

Pain relief

As a physiotherapist I frequently use my hands to treat the joints and tissues. It comes with the territory, everyone expects hands-on therapy and it does helps to reduce tension and pain. Most likely, the pain relief from joint mobilisation is due to descending mechanisms that include those that are powered by serotonin and noradrenaline (see here). This is very useful to know as it tells us about the effects of passively moving joints and importantly permits wise selection of techniques to target the pain mechanisms. Building on the knowledge base, two very recent studies have identified some extremely interesting results.

Firstly, Martins et al. (2011) found that ankle joint mobilisation reduced pain in a neuropathic pain model in rats along with seeing the regeneration of nerve tissue and inhibition of glial cell activation (a blog will be coming soon that discusses the immune system in pain states) in the dorsal horn of the spinal cord. Secondly, Crane et al. (2012) looked at how massage helps reduce the pain of exercise-induced muscle damage in young males. Taking muscle biopsies they found that massaged subjects demonstrated attenuation of proinflammatory cytokines, key players in sensitisation. It was also noted that massage had no effect upon metabolites such as lactate – see below.

More research into the mechanisms that underpin the effects of hands-on therapy is needed despite the advancements in our understanding. The ability to focus treatment upon this understanding can only develop our effectiveness in treating pain. I am very optimistic about the movement forwards in pain and basic science, and how this can be applied  in our thinking with individual patients. The language is changing with the words ‘treatment’ being used rather than ‘management’, the latter of which can imply that one has reached their limit of improvement. This is exciting and more importantly, realistic when one considers therapies such as the graded motor imagery. We do not have treatments that work for all pains but we do have brains and body systems that are flexible, dynamic and can change if given the opportunity, the right stimulation within the right context on the background of good understanding. It is our duty to keep this rolling onwards and thinking hard about how to best use the findings such as those highlighted in this blog.

Pain. 2011 Nov;152(11):2653-61. Epub 2011 Sep 8.

Ankle joint mobilization reduces axonotmesis-induced neuropathic pain and glial activation in the spinal cord and enhances nerve regeneration in rats.

Martins DF, Mazzardo-Martins L, Gadotti VM, Nascimento FP, Lima DA, Speckhann B, Favretto GA, Bobinski F, Cargnin-Ferreira E, Bressan E, Dutra RC, Calixto JB, Santos AR.

Source

Laboratório de Neurobiologia da Dor e Inflamação, Departamento de Ciências Fisiológicas, Centro de Ciências Biológicas, Universidade Federal de Santa Catarina, Campus Universitário, Trindade, Florianópolis, SC, Brazil.

Abstract

An important issue in physical rehabilitation is how to protect from or to reduce the effects of peripheral nerve injury. In the present study, we examined whether ankle joint mobilization (AJM) would reduce neuropathic pain and enhance motor functional recovery after nerve injury. In the axonotmesis model, AJM during 15 sessions every other day was conducted in rats. Mechanical and thermal hyperalgesia and motor performance deficit were measured for 5 weeks. After 5 weeks, we performed morphological analysis and quantified the immunoreactivity for CD11b/c and glial fibrillary acidic protein (GFAP), markers of glial activation, in the lumbar spinal cord. Mechanical and thermal hyperalgesia and motor performance deficit were found in the Crush+Anesthesia (Anes) group (P<0.001), which was significantly decreased after AJM (P<0.001). In the morphological analysis, the Crush+Anes group presented reduced myelin sheath thickness (P<0.05), but the AJM group presented enhanced myelin sheath thickness (P<0.05). Peripheral nerve injury increased the immunoreactivity for CD11b/c and GFAP in the spinal cord (P<0.05), and AJM markedly reduced CD11b/c and GFAP immunoreactivity (P<0.01). These results show that AJM in rats produces an antihyperalgesic effect and peripheral nerve regeneration through the inhibition of glial activation in the dorsal horn of the spinal cord. These findings suggest new approaches for physical rehabilitation to protect from or reduce the effects of nerve injury.

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Sci Transl Med. 2012 Feb 1;4(119):119ra13.

Massage therapy attenuates inflammatory signaling after exercise-induced muscle damage.

Crane JD, Ogborn DI, Cupido C, Melov S, Hubbard A, Bourgeois JM, Tarnopolsky MA.

Source

Department of Kinesiology, McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario L8S 4L8, Canada.

Abstract

Massage therapy is commonly used during physical rehabilitation of skeletal muscle to ameliorate pain and promote recovery from injury. Although there is evidence that massage may relieve pain in injured muscle, how massage affects cellular function remains unknown. To assess the effects of massage, we administered either massage therapy or no treatment to separate quadriceps of 11 young male participants after exercise-induced muscle damage. Muscle biopsies were acquired from the quadriceps (vastus lateralis) at baseline, immediately after 10 min of massage treatment, and after a 2.5-hour period of recovery. We found that massage activated the mechanotransduction signaling pathways focal adhesion kinase (FAK) and extracellular signal-regulated kinase 1/2 (ERK1/2), potentiated mitochondrial biogenesis signaling [nuclear peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor γ coactivator 1α (PGC-1α)], and mitigated the rise in nuclear factor κB (NFκB) (p65) nuclear accumulation caused by exercise-induced muscle trauma. Moreover, despite having no effect on muscle metabolites (glycogen, lactate), massage attenuated the production of the inflammatory cytokines tumor necrosis factor-α (TNF-α) and interleukin-6 (IL-6) and reduced heat shock protein 27 (HSP27) phosphorylation, thereby mitigating cellular stress resulting from myofiber injury. In summary, when administered to skeletal muscle that has been acutely damaged through exercise, massage therapy appears to be clinically beneficial by reducing inflammation and promoting mitochondrial biogenesis.

20Jan/12

Is immediate imaging important in managing low back pain?

Careful thinking is required when judging whether to image or not.

J Athl Train. 2011 Jan-Feb;46(1):99-102.

Is immediate imaging important in managing low back pain?

Andersen JC.

Source

The University of Tampa, 401 West Kennedy Boulevard, Box 104F, Tampa, FL 33606, USA. [email protected]

Abstract

REFERENCE: Chou R, Fu R, Carrino JA, Deyo RA. Imaging strategies for low-back pain: systematic review and meta-analysis. Lancet. 2009;373(9662):463-472.

DATA SOURCES:

Studies were identified by searching MEDLINE (1966 through first week of August 2008) and the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials (third quarter of 2008). The reference lists of identified studies were manually reviewed for additional citations. The search terms spine, low-back pain, diagnostic imaging, and randomized controlled trials were used in both databases. The complete search strategy was made available as an online supplement.

STUDY SELECTION:

The search criteria were applied to the articles obtained from the electronic searches and the subsequent manual searches with no language restrictions. This systematic review and meta-analysis included randomized, controlled trials that compared immediate, routine lumbar imaging (or routine provision of imaging findings) with usual clinical care without immediate lumbar imaging (or not routinely providing results of imaging) for LBP without indications of serious underlying conditions.

DATA EXTRACTION:

Data extraction and assessment of study quality were well described. The trials assessed one or more of the following outcomes: pain, function, mental health, quality of life, patient satisfaction, and overall patient-reported improvement. Two reviewers independently appraised citations considered potentially relevant, with disagreements between reviewers resolved by consensus. Two independent reviewers abstracted data from the trials and assessed quality with modified Cochrane Back Review Group criteria. The criterion for blinding of patients and providers was excluded because of lack of applicability to imaging studies. In addition, the criterion of co-intervention similarity was excluded because a potential effect of different imaging strategies is to alter subsequent treatment decisions. As a result of excluding these criteria, quality ratings were based on the remaining 8 criteria. The authors resolved disagreements about quality ratings through discussion and consensus. Trials that met 4 or more of the 8 criteria were classified as higher quality, whereas those that met 3 or fewer of the 8 criteria were classified as lower quality. In addition, the authors categorized duration of symptoms as acute (<4 weeks), subacute (4-12 weeks), or chronic (>12 weeks). The investigators also contacted the study authors for additional data if included outcomes were not published or if median (rather than mean) outcomes were reported. Statistical analysis was conducted on the primary outcomes of improvement in pain or function. Secondary outcomes of improvement in mental health, quality of life, patient satisfaction, and overall improvement were also analyzed. Outcomes were categorized as short term (≤ 3 months), long term (>6 months to ≤ 1 year), or extended (>1 year). For continuous outcomes, standardized mean differences (SMDs) of interventions for change between baseline and follow-up measurements were calculated. In studies reporting the same pain (visual analog scale [VAS] or Short Form-36 bodily pain score) or function (Roland-Morris Disability Questionnaire [RDQ]) outcomes, weighted mean differences (WMDs) were calculated. In all analyses, lower pain and function scores indicated better outcomes. For quality-of-life and mental health outcomes, higher scores indicated improved outcomes. All statistical analyses were performed with Stata 10.0. For outcomes in which SMDs were calculated, values of 0.2 to 0.5 were considered small, 0.5 to 0.8 were considered moderate, and values greater than 0.8 were considered large. For WMDs, mean improvements of 5 to 10 points on a 100-point scale (or equivalent) were considered small, 10-point to 20-point changes were considered moderate, and changes greater than 20 points were considered large. For the RDQ, mean improvements of 1 to 2 points were termed small, and improvements of 2 to 5 points were termed moderate.

MAIN RESULTS:

The total number of citations identified using the search criteria was 479 articles and abstracts. Of these, 466 were excluded because either they were not randomized trials or they did not use imaging strategies for LBP. At this step, 13 articles were retrieved for further analysis. This analysis resulted in 3 additional articles being excluded (1 was not a randomized trial and the other 2 compared 2 imaging techniques rather than immediate imaging versus no imaging). The final step resulted in the inclusion of 6 trials reported in 10 publications for the meta-analysis. In the studies meeting the inclusion criteria, 4 assessed lumbar radiography and 2 assessed magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) or computed tomography (CT) scans. In these 6 trials, 1804 patients were randomly assigned to the intervention group. The duration of patient follow-up ranged from 3 weeks to 2 years. In addition, 1 trial excluded patients with sciatica or other radiculopathy symptoms, whereas another did not report the proportion of patients with these symptoms. In the other 4 studies, the proportion of patients with sciatica or radiculopathy ranged from 24% to 44%. Of the included trials, 3 compared immediate lumbar radiography with usual clinical care without immediate radiography, and a fourth study compared immediate lumbar radiography and a brief educational intervention with lumbar radiography if no improvement was seen by 3 weeks. The final 2 studies assessed advanced imaging modalities. Specifically, one group compared immediate MRI or CT with usual clinical care without advanced imaging in patients with primarily chronic LBP (82% with LBP for >3 months) who were referred to a surgeon. In the other advanced imaging study, all patients with LBP for <3 weeks underwent MRI and were then randomized to routine notification of results or to notification of results only if clinically indicated. With respect to study quality, 5 trials met at least 4 of the 8 predetermined quality criteria, leading to a classification of higher quality. In addition, 5 trials were included in the primary meta-analysis on pain or function improvement at 1 or more follow-up periods. With regard to short-term and long-term improvements in pain, no differences were noted between routine, immediate lumbar imaging and usual clinical care without immediate imaging ( Table 1 ). In studies using the VAS pain score, the WMD (0.62, 95% confidence interval [CI]  =  0.03, 1.21) at short-term follow-up slightly favored no immediate imaging. No differences in outcome were seen in studies using the Short Form-36 bodily pain score. No improvements in function at short-term or long-term follow-up were noted between imaging strategies. Specifically, short-term function measured with the RDQ in 3 studies showed a WMD of 0.48 points (95% CI  =  -1.39, 2.35) between imaging strategies, whereas long-term function in 3 studies, also measured with the RDQ, showed a WMD of 0.33 points (95% CI  =  -0.65, 1.32). One included trial reported pain outcomes at extended (2-year) follow-up and found no differences between imaging strategies for pain (Short Form-36 bodily pain or Aberdeen pain score), with SMDs of -2.7 (95% CI  =  -6.17, 0.79) and -1.6 (-4.04, 0.84), respectively. The outcomes between immediate imaging and usual clinical care without immediate imaging did not differ for short-term follow-up in those studies reporting quality of life (SMD  =  -0.10, 95% CI  =  -0.53, 0.34), mental health (SMD  =  0.12, 95% CI  =  -0.37, 0.62), or overall improvement (mean risk ratio  =  0.83, 95% CI  =  0.65, 1.06). In those studies reporting long-term follow-up periods, similar results can be seen for quality of life (SMD  =  -0.15, 95% CI  =  -0.33, 0.04) and mental health (SMD  =  0.01, 95% CI  =  -0.32, 0.34). In the study reporting extended follow-up, immediate imaging was not better in terms of improving quality of life (SMD  =  0.02, 95% CI  =  -0.02, 0.07) or mental health (SMD  =  -1.50, 95% CI  =  -4.09, 1.09) when compared with usual clinical care without immediate imaging. In the included studies, no cases of cancer, infection, cauda equina syndrome, or other serious diagnoses were reported in patients randomly assigned to either imaging strategy.

CONCLUSIONS:

Available evidence indicates that immediate, routine lumbar spine imaging in patients with LBP and without features indicating a serious underlying condition did not improve outcomes compared with usual clinical care without immediate imaging. Clinical care without immediate imaging seems to result in no increased odds of failure in identifying serious underlying conditions in patients without risk factors for these conditions. In addition to lacking clinical benefit, routine lumbar imaging is associated with radiation exposure (radiography and CT) and increased direct expenses for patients and may lead to unnecessary procedures. This evidence confirms that clinicians should refrain from routine, immediate lumbar imaging in primary care patients with nonspecific, acute or subacute LBP and no indications of underlying serious conditions. Specific consideration of patient expectations about the value of imaging was not addressed here; however, this aspect must be considered to avoid unnecessary imaging while also meeting patient expectations and increasing patient satisfaction.

19Dec/11

Healthy tissues in 1-2-3

The simple fact is that our tissues need movement to be healthy. By tissues I am referring to muscles, tendons, ligaments, bones, fascia and skin. This does not need to be extreme movement but it must be regular and purposeful. Even without pathology, pain or an injury it is vital that the tissues are moved consistently throughout the day. It is likely that if you are recovering from a pain state, this movement will need to be ‘little and often’ to follow the principle of ‘motion is lotion’. I love this phrase. It was coined by the NOI Group guys and I use it frequently. At the moment I a considering some other phrases with similar meanings. If anyone has any suggestions please do comment below.

There are many types of movement from simple stretching to walking and more structured exercise such as yoga.  For convenience I talk to patients about the ‘themes’ of the treatment programme. In relation to movement there are three themes 1-2-3: specific exercises to re-train normal movement and control of movement, general exercise and the self-care strategies to be used throughout the day.

The specific exercises could include re-learning to walk normally, to re-establish normal control of the ankle or to concurrently develop confidence such as in bending forwards in cases of back pain. Normal control of movement is a fundamental part of recovery. When the information from the tissues to the brain is accurate, there is a clear view on what is happening, menaing that the next movement is efficient and so on.

General exercise is important for our health in body and mind. As well as reducing risk of a number of diseases, our brains benefit hugely from regular exercise. We release chemicals such as serotonin that make us feel good, endorphins that ease pain and BDNF that works like a miracle grow for brain cells. Gradually increasing exercise levels is a part of the treatment programme for all of these reasons.

Move from your seat, or buy one of these!

Regularly punctuating static positions with movement nourishes the tissues and the brain’s representation of the body. The tissues will tighten and stiffen when they remain in one position for a long period of time, and more so when there is pathology or pain. Often there is already overactivity in the muscular system when we are in pain as part of the way the brain defends the body. This overactivity leads to muscle soreness that can be eased with consistent movement.

These three simple measure are behaviours. Behaviours are based on our belief system and therefore we need to understand why it is so important to move and re-establish normal control of movement as part of recovering from an injury or pain state. This includes tackling any issues around fear of movement and hypervigilance towards painful stimuli from the body. Our treatment programmes address these factors comprehensively, employing the biopsychosocial model of care and the latest neuroscience based knowledge of pain.

Email [email protected] for more information about our treatment programmes or to book an appointment.

21Oct/11

Using neuroscience to understand and treat pain

Neuroscience to treat pain and injury

I love neuroscience. It makes my job much easier despite being a hugely complex subject. Neuroscience research has cast light over some of the vast workings of our brains and helped to explain how we experience ourselves and the richness of life. An enormous topic, in this blog I am briefly going to outline the way in which I use contemporary neuroscience to understand pain and how we can use this knowledge to treat pain more effectively. This is not about the management of pain, it is the treatment of pain. Management of pain is old news.

Understanding pain is the first step towards changing the painful experience. Knowing how the brain and nervous system operate allows us to create therapies that target the biological mechanisms that underpin pain. Appreciation of the plastic ability of the nervous system from top to bottom–brain to periphery–provides us with the opportunity to ‘re-wire’, and therefore to alter the function of the system and make things feel better. Knowing the role of the other body systems when the brain is defending us, is equally important. The synergy of inputs from the immune system, endocrine system and autonomic nervous system provides the brain with infomration about our internal physiology that it must scrutinse and act upon in the most appropriate way. We call this action the brain’s ‘output’ which is the responses that it co-ordinates to promote health and survival.

Treat the brain and to reduce pain

Excellent data from contemporary research tells us that understanding pain increases the pain threshold (harder to trigger pain), reduces anxiety in relation to pain and enhances our ability to cope and deal with the pain. We know that movement can also improve after an education session. This is because the perceived threat is reduced by learning and understanding what is going on inside, and knowing what can be done. The vast majority of patients who come to the clinic do not know why their pain has persisted, what pain really is, how it is influenced and what they can do about it themselves. For me this is the start point. Explaining the neuroscience of pain. Facts that we know people can absorb, understand and apply to themselves in such a way that the brain changes and provides a different experience.

It is the brain that gives us our experience of ourselves and the world around us. This includes the sensory and emotional experience of pain. The brain receives information from the body via the peripheral nervous system that suggests there is a threat to the tissues (input). In response, the brain must decide whether this threat is genuine based upon what is happening at the time, the emotional state, past experience, the belief system, gender, genetics, health status, culture and other factors. In the case that the brain perceives a threat, the output will be pain. The Mature Organism Model developed by Louis Gifford describes this beautifully (see below).

Pain is a motivator. It grabs our attention in the area of the body that the brain feels is threatened based upon the danger signals it is receiving from the tissues via the spinal cord. The brain actually ascribes the location of the pain via the map of the body that exist in the sensory cortex. On feeling the pain, we take action. This is the reason for pain. It motivates us to move, seek help or rest. Pain is an incredible device that we have for survival and learning, necessary to navigate life and completely normal. The brain constructs the pain experience and associated symptoms in such a way that we have to take note and do something about it immediately.

When we injure tissue there is a local release of inflammatory chemicals. These chemicals excite local nerves in the tissues called nociceptors. Normally, nociceptors are quiet but when they are stimulated by inflammation, these nerves send danger signals to the spinal cord where they meet secondary neurons. The early bombardment of signals into the spinal cord causes the secondary neurons to become excited. These cells then send danger signals up to the brain where the information is scrutinised. On the basis of this scrutiny, if the brain perceives a threat, pain will be allocated in the area of the body that is deemed to be in danger. The area of pain is allocated via the representation of the body in the brain (see previous blog here) in the sensory cortex, first mapped by Wilder Penfield and published in 1951. Therefore we know that actually there is no ‘muscle pain’ or ‘knee pain’ but rather pain as a brain experience, and not in the mind I hasten to add, that is detected in a body part or region according to the brain’s perception of threat. These are the body maps that the brain uses to know where information is coming from and to control movement.

This information is part of the neuroscience knowledge that can be used to help people understand their pain and to create therapies that treat pain. Future blogs will look at how we can change and nourish the nervous system to promote healthy tissues at one end of the spectrum with the brain end being targeted by deeper education and Graded Motor Imagery (GMI) for example–click here. The brain and the tissues are not separate, they affect each other in many ways, as do other body systems such as the immune and endocrine systems. Looking at healthy movement and functioning in a truly holistic and biopsychosocial manner with neuroscience underpinnings, provides us with an exciting route forwards in dealing with pain problems.