Obesity, Smoking, Drinking, Depression: All Linked to Low Back Pain

backache_40072WEDNESDAY, March 25, 2015 (HealthDay News) — People suffering from lower back pain who smoke, drink, are depressed or are obese may be able to ease their agony by making some lifestyle changes, a new study suggests.

“If you have lower back pain that is not explained by a spinal problem but is more of a muscle pain, things like obesity, alcohol abuse, smoking and depression, factors that you can affect, can be contributing to it,” explained lead researcher Dr. Scott Shemory, an orthopedic surgeon with Summa Health System in Akron, Ohio.

Of all these risks, obesity is most obviously associated with back pain, he said. “It puts stress on all the joints and the lower back as well,” he said. Also, smoking can decrease blood flow, which can also contribute to pain, he said.

As for depression, it might contribute to the pain. On the other hand, lower back pain might contribute to depression, Shemory said. The same can be said for alcohol dependence, he added.

However, Shemory said that these problems might cause people to be less physically active, which can increase pain.

But altering these behaviors can improve your overall health and may reduce lower back pain, he noted. However, the study only showed an association between these factors and lower back pain, not a cause-and-effect link.

Shemory said there are no really effective treatments for lower back pain not caused by a disk problem or pressure on the spinal nerve.

“That’s why preventing lower back pain is so important,” he said. “In many cases, people just have to live with their pain.”

The findings were to be presented this week at the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons annual meeting, in Las Vegas. Research presented at meetings should be considered preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal.

For the study, Shemory and his colleagues reviewed data on 26 million people, 1.2 million of whom had lower back pain. Overall, 4 percent suffered from the condition.

Lower back pain was most common among smokers (16.5 percent), alcohol-dependent drinkers (almost 15 percent), obese people (close to 17 percent) and those suffering from depression (slightly over 19 percent).

Dr. Jason Lipetz, chief of the division of spine medicine at the North Shore-LIJ Spine Center in Great Neck, N.Y., said, “This study of over a million patients with low back pain reminds us of the many interrelated factors which can contribute to this common complaint.”

For example, cigarette smoking is known to accelerate degeneration of the lower spine, he said.

Obesity might reduce a patient’s level of fitness. “What we do not know, however, is if the pain itself is limiting exercise and leading to more weight gain,” said Lipetz, who was not part of the study.

“In addition, the relationship between mind and spinal pain is highlighted by an up to four times increase in lower back pain in patients with a history of alcohol abuse or depression,” he said.

Obesity, Smoking, Drinking, Depression: All Linked to Low Back Pain.

Never Miss a Powder Day: Get a Functional Movement Screen To Prevent Injuries

Winter is an incredible time of year in Colorado and is often the main reason so many people choose to live here.  World famous ski resorts are less than two hours away.  Snowshoers and cross-country skiers have access to amazing scenic trails.  Indoor and outdoor ice rinks seem to be popping up everywhere these days.  Unfortunately, we tend to see a significant number of injuries from all of these winter sports.  Lower body muscle weakness, balance deficits on slippery or unstable surfaces, and poor flexibility are major contributors to injuries.  Most commonly we tend to see a significant number of knee and shoulder injuries from winter sports that are result of falling or twisting awkwardly.  The rehab for these injuries tends to be costly both from a financial and time perspective.  It is not unusual for someone to miss the entire winter sports season from one injury.  But these injuries can be prevented.  The Functional Movement Screen (FMS) is designed to identify people who are at risk of injury from all types of winter sports.

What is the Functional Movement Screen?

The FMS is a tool that was developed in 1995 by physical therapist Gray Cook and his colleague Dr Lee Burton, a certified athletic trainer with a doctorate in health performance and wellness.  The screen looks at 7 different integral human movement patterns (i.e lunges, squats, stepping, etc) to identify dysfunctions or imbalances between right and left side of the body. Weakness, asymmetry between right and left side of body, and limited flexibility of muscles are common sources of musculoskeletal injury. Each of these seven movements are graded on a 0-3 scale with 3 being a normal/non-dysfunctional movement pattern and 0 indicating pain during the movement. At the end of the screen a score is calculated ranging from 0-21. The key score that the tester is looking for is 14 or less.  Some examples of the movements are shown below.    

Screen Shot 2015-03-17 at 12.08.53 PM

Low FMS Scorers Are 50% More Likely To Be Injured

Several studies have shown that if the FMS score is less than or equal to 14 then the probability of suffering an injury that would cause you to miss time at your sport increases by at least 50%. One study in particular studied 38 female collegiate athletes at the start of their fall or winter sport  and found that 69% of the athletes that scored 14 or less suffered an injury during the season that caused them to miss time at their particular sport1.  A 2nd study looked at an entire professional football team and again concluded that the key number for prediction of an injury was 14. The likelihood increased from a pre-test probability of injury of 15% to just over 50% when the player scored 14 or less2.


What do we do with the results of the screen?

The nice thing about the FMS is that we can use an advanced software program to create a specific home exercise program that is individualized to you based on your specific score and movement dysfunctions . This home exercise program is emailed directly to you with descriptive pictures and videos of each exercise. FMS clients often set up one-on-one physical therapy sessions with our physical therapists to review the exercises and address any pain or dysfunction that was encountered during the FMS.  The home exercise program and physical therapy visit is especially important for individuals that score 14 or less on the screen. Our PTs use information from the screen along with a thorough PT evaluation to create a custom workout that is specific to your winter sport.  Injury prevention is why the FMS is such a valuable tool for the winter athlete.

Example of Custom Home Exercise Program:


Where can someone get a Functional Movement Screen?

Our physical therapists at Therapydia Denver feel so strongly about the importance of the FMS in preventing injury that we have done over 140 free screens in the last 2 years.  We have worked with clients of all types including high school and college athletes, weekend warriors, and sedentary desk jockeys embarking on a new exercise program. The FMS is offered free of charge to all members of our friends at Vital Strength and Fitness gym in which our clinic is located.  We are now also offering the screen for free to members of the community when you mention this blog post.  Scheduling is easy through our therapydiadenver.com website or by calling 303-482-1540.  We have wide range of available hours so you can complete the 20-30 minute screen when it is convenient to you. Don’t wait for an injury to happen this winter.  Be proactive and schedule your Functional Movement Screen today.






Here’s How You Should Be Sitting at Your Desk (According to Ergonomics) | Greatist

Don’t let this infographic fool you—we know sitting can be bad for our health. It’s been linked to an increased risk for cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and even cancer   . Not to mention, sitting for long periods of time can cause your muscles to become inactive, and has you burning one calorie a minute, a third of what it would be if you were walking . And that’s even when you have good posture!

But most of us don’t even have good posture. We’re sitting like contortionists and twisted pretzels, setting ourselves up for a lifetime of pain and injuries . And although standing desks (or even treadmilll desks) are trendy, they haven’t become the office norm just yet—making sitting the majority of the day pretty inevitable.

To avoid the scary consequences of days spent on our rears, we teamed up with Alyx Brown, a chiropractor at Manhattan’s Urban Wellness Clinic, to find the best way to sit at our desks.


1. Computer Monitor and Eyes

It’s important to have your eyes in line with the area of the screen you focus on the most, whether that’s the top (if you’re sending lots of emails), or the bottom (if you’re writing a bunch of code). Looking down at your screen puts excess strain on your neck, which leaves you vulnerable to injuries such as cervical disc herniationcervical strains, and headaches. Stacking books under your monitor is a simple trick if you need to raise your screen to be at eye level. And if you happen to be a multi-monitor worker, make sure you apply this tip to the monitor you use the most—the last thing you want is an injury from looking sideways all day.

2. Desk

Anything that you constantly use (think your phone, mouse, or water bottle) can be a stressor on your body if you’re always reaching out to grab it. Instead of forcing your body to overwork (and be in an uncomfortable position), keep these must-use items within a foot.

3. Arms

When your arms are stretched and extended, your shoulders actually start to rotate forward, causing you to lose strength in your upper back. To avoid shoulder injuries and chronic upper back pain, keep your arms at a comfortable 90-degree angle in a nice, neutral resting position. Chairs come with armrests for a reason, so don’t be afraid to let them lend you a helping hand!

4. Back

You want your back to be comfortable and supported, with a small curve in the lumbar spine where your natural lower back (or lordotic curve) is. Without support, the back tends to get too much of a curve in the opposite direction—what’s known as kyphosis, or more commonly, hunchback—leaving the lower back perfectly exposed to disc herniation and chronic postural lower back sprains and strains (the most common injuries Brown sees). If you don’t have a chair that can provide support, get creative! Pillows and jackets are the perfect solution to such a problem.

5. Legs and Feet

When your legs are crossed or just your toes are touching the floor, you’re putting unnecessary stress on large supportive muscles and hampering proper blood flow (hello, pins and needles). Even little things—like keeping your legs crossed all day long—can lead to chronic pain. It’s of course OK to cross your legs every once in a while, but it’s important to be aware of your body position.

6. Vertical Alignment

While seated, you never want to be reaching or leaning forward. Why? Well here’s a fun fact: For every inch that the head comes forward, the spine feels like is has taken on an extra 10 pounds—bringing on some major strain for your muscles.

The Takeaway

Little changes to your posture matter. Bad sitting habits—from slouching to crossing your legs—can lead to serious injuries and chronic pain. Fortunately, most of these issues are preventable, and regardless of if you’re big or small, there’s a creative way to make your desk setup and posture a bit better. (There’s zero shame is stacks of printer paper people!)

It won’t feel awesome at first—we know the ideal posture is rarely the most comfortable—but that doesn’t mean you should give in to your long-standing (er, sitting) habits. Try slowly incorporating these changes (i.e. five minutes every half hour at first) to get your body adjusted to a healthier posture, and over time, sitting properly won’t feel awkward at all. You better believe your body will thank you.

Here’s How You Should Be Sitting at Your Desk (According to Ergonomics) | Greatist.