Chronic Pain

Alleviating chronic pain

chronic pain relief SOMA pain management center ChicagoThe origin of chronic pain is hard to pinpoint, but its disruption of your everyday life is very real. This constant pain takes many forms: headaches, back pain, muscle stiffness and shooting and burning pain. Living with chronic pain may lead to anxiety, depression, obesity or an inability to perform daily activities. At SOMA, we examine all aspects of your life to find and treat the root cause of your chronic pain. Treatment includes acupuncture, massage, physical therapy, homeopathic injections and chiropractic.

Exercises for Back Pain Relief

We all suffer from back pain at some point in our life. Back pain can occur because of a specific injury or it could be ongoing, requiring changes in our lifestyle.  Treatment depends on what caused the pain.

Before attempting any exercises, you must rule out that the source of your pain requires immediate medical attention.

Call your doctor if:

  • Pain is shooting down one or both legs, and the leg(s) feel weak
  • You cannot control normal bathroom functions
  • The pain is intractable and can’t be controlled with medication

Back pain stemming from an injury

Try to remember what caused your back pain.  Was is shoveling snow, lifting heavy furniture or just leaning down the wrong way to tie your shoes?  When we reach down without bending our knees, we put tremendous pressure on our lower spine and surrounding muscles.  This inherent weakness stems from the time man stopped walking on all fours and became upright.  Ideally, we should be using the thigh (quadriceps) muscles in our legs to provide lifting power instead of those in our lower back.

In the 2-3 days following a back injury, you should rest in order to relax the muscle spasm causing your back strain.

  • Take an anti-inflammatory medication like ibuprofen
  • Lay flat on your back on a hard surface (carpeted floor) with a pillow under your knees OR lay in a fetal position

Perform these exercises to ease your back pain when you are feeling better:

  • Lay flat on your back on a hard surface
  • Pull knee to the chest, one leg at a time, hold for several seconds, release
  • Repeat 5-10 times for each leg
  • If you can pull both knees to the chest at the same time without pain, perform that 5-10 times also.

Self-acupressure using tennis balls

  • Lay flat on your back on a hard surface
  • Place two tennis balls under your back on either side of the spine, starting with your lower back
  • Either lay on the tennis balls or, if the pain is not too great, rock back and forth on the tennis balls, putting pressure on your acupuncture points
  • Repeat, moving the tennis balls gradually up your spine

Chronic back pain

Ongoing back pain has many causes, but much of it is due to one of three factors:

  • Being overweight, putting strain on our back muscles
  • Lack of exercise, resulting in weak muscles
  • Bad posture while sitting, standing or sleeping, resulting in muscle spasms

There is a wealth of information on the Internet and in libraries about how to change your lifestyle habits.  For back pain specific guidelines, visit www.spine-health.com or www.FamilyDoctor.org.

Strengthening your back and other muscles to relieve back pain

Our back muscles do not work in isolation.  We have to stretch and strengthen all our muscles and joints in order to relieve back pain.  In addition to doing exercises stretching our hamstrings, neck, shoulders and spine every day, we should routinely do other low-impact exercises such as:

  • Walking
  • Pilates, which strengthens core muscles
  • Yoga
  • Swimming
  • Low impact aerobics
  • Riding a stationary bike or using an elliptical trainer

There are no guarantees that you will never have back pain.  By exercising regularly, bending your knees every time you bend down and maintaining a healthy lifestyle, however, you can minimize the chances of injuring your back and suffering chronic back pain.

Questions? Contact Dr. Mark Sobor at: drsobor@somamedchicago.com.

Texting:  the key to neck and shoulder pain

Texting has replaced calling and emailing as the primary form of communication for teenagers and young adults.  As a result, texters are experiencing the same repetitive motion injuries and nerve compression as career typists and keyboarders.  They are feeling discomfort not only in their thumbs, but also pain in their forearms, neck and shoulders.

Mobile phones and PDA’s are not ergonomically designed for excessive texting.  People tend to hunch over the small screens, putting strain on their neck and upper back muscles.  The common habit of using only one thumb to text, instead of several fingers, focuses the strain and pain on one side of the body.  The muscles in our forearm control the thumb, and they go into spasm.

The long term consequences of texting are not known, since it is a recent phenomenon and repetitive stress injuries can take years to develop.  When we overuse the same muscles repeatedly, they are deprived of oxygen and go into spasm.  The pain caused by muscle spasm can be treated with:

  • Hot packs/heat
  • Massage
  • Anti-inflammatories
  • Acupuncture

What steps can you take to minimize strain or permanent injury due to texting?

  • Prepare for texting like for a physical workout:  warm up and stretch your muscles.
  • Improve your posture.  Don’t hunch over while texting.  Place your phone or PDA on a surface where you don’t strain your neck and upper back bending over to see the screen.
  • Take frequent breaks.  Put the phone down between texts, get up and move around.  Regularly open and close your fingers and stretch them.
  • Stretch your forearm muscles by extending your arm with palm facing up and using the other hand to pull your palm toward the floor.  Hold for 15 seconds, repeat 2 or 3 times for each arm.
  • Use both thumbs to text and keep messages short.