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We run into trouble when we lose one of our spinal curves, which can occur in common situations such as whiplash injuries or bending down/forward at the waist. Courtesy photo
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Caring for your neck and back correctly is important (Part 2)

This is part 2 of a 2-part series

By Jeffrey Pearson,
D.O., F.A.O.A.S.M.

The spinal mechanics described last week can also create other symptoms. For example, a restricted sacroiliac joint can cause pain down the leg that is often mistaken for sciatica. Restrictions in the thoracic region can cause rib-related discomforts and difficulty taking deep breaths. Upper neck (occipital) restrictions can simulate migraines (and are actually more common).

What to do when this type of pain or restriction strikes acutely? In addition to over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medications such as Aleve or Advil, always remember that ICE IS NICE!

The treatment for all acute injuries is ice. Cold therapy will reduce swelling and hasten the resolution of pain (WARNING: do not place directly upon the skin, because that can cause frost bite). Cold therapy can significantly reduce discomfort by the next day.

Heat, on the other hand, increases circulation which will promote swelling, causing an increase in pain over the subsequent hours and days.

Accidentally applying heat to a minor injury will result in significant worsening of the symptoms (pain and spasm), so don’t do this! However, heat application after a day or so is generally fine and can provide some comfort.

Imaging (X-Rays, MRI scans) is not needed for most typical run-of-the-mill acute spine pain but will be considered if the history so warrants or it persists too long.

The natural history of these spine conditions is this: when we sleep, we tend to toss and turn during the night. If we happen to do so when our muscles are relaxed, these “kinks”/restrictions often unlock themselves within a few hours to days. If they do not, however, then consider manual/manipulative treatment. A skilled practitioner can save weeks of physical therapy and need for sedating prescription medications. [Be aware that while manipulation is generally very effective for acute injuries, it is much less so for chronic conditions.]

Dr. Pearson is a board-certified family and sports medicine physician practicing in the heart of Carlsbad Village at Medicine in Motion. Besides offering traditional medical care to patients of all ages, as an Osteopathic physician, he’s able to incorporate manipulation techniques into his treatment plan when indicated. He is a past recipient of the Patient Care Award for Excellence in Patient Education and served as the Medical Consultant for the world-renown Golden Door Spa for 25 years. He notes that patients seem to like him. Learn more at