Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Are spinal fusions the best option?

Being a chiropractor, the most common complaint that I treat in my office is low back pain. Although we treat pretty much any and all musculoskeletal complaints from foot pain to headaches, low back pain is still the main reason most people see chiropractors. This is because low back pain is an epidemic in the United States. There are many factors that contribute to low back pain. Those may include obesity, lack of activity/exercise, sitting at work all day, injuries, bad genetics, etc. No matter the cause, our job is to find the right solution to reduce a patients' pain and work towards long-term relief solutions.

Over the past few decades, orthopedic surgeons have turned towards a very invasive surgery, spinal fusion, to deal with many cases of chronic low back pain. In fact, from 1998 to 2008, the number of fusion surgeries performed jumped from 174,223 annually to 413,171. This increase would indicate that outcomes for spinal fusions have been very good and therefore more have been performed. However, this isn't the case. While some fusions lead to much less pain and better function, way too many patients end up with the same level of pain if not more after the procedure.

Two very interesting studies were released earlier this year comparing outcomes of spinal fusion versus a much less drastic surgery called a laminectomy for spinal stenosis (one of the most common conditions for which fusions are performed). In the end, researchers determined that for the studied conditions, a spinal fusion did not give significant enough benefits over a laminectomy to justify the procedure. Basically, those patients who received a laminectomy suffered less blood loss during/after surgery, spent less time in the hospital, accrued less medical expenses and had nearly as good of 2 and 5 year outcomes in regards to pain and function as their fusion counterparts.

Undoubtedly, spinal fusions are at times necessary procedures. However, they need to be performed on the right candidates and should not be the quick go-to procedure for back pain. Most back pain can be remedied with conservative treatment and/or much less invasive procedures. You can read more about the studies mentioned by following this link.

If you have any questions regarding this topic, feel free to call our office at (847) 673-6600 or visit us on our website.

Friday, February 27, 2015

How effective is chiropractic vs. going to my primary doctor?

I'm always interested when I run across articles that talk about the cost-effectiveness of chiropractic care. While the cost of all healthcare (chiropractic included) continues to rise, chiropractic remains the most cost effective form of treatment for most spinal disorders (and many other conditions as well). Not only are patient outcomes and satisfaction with chiropractic consistently better than other medical treatments, the cost of care is less.

The study I happened to see is from Blue Cross Blue Shield of Tennessee. The study examined the cost of care for low back pain episodes and allowed patients to choose what type of provider to see. The following is a quote from the abstract regarding the outcomes of the study: "Paid costs for episodes of care initiated with a DC (Doctor of Chiropractic) were almost 40% less than episodes initiated with an MD (Medical Doctor). Even after risk adjusting each patient’s costs, we found that episodes of care initiated with a DC were 20% less expensive than episodes initiated with an MD." You can find the study by following this link.

Like most doctors, I despise talking about the cost of care and the question "how much will this cost!" However, cost is a reality in our healthcare environment. There has been a consistent rise in the cost of insurance and care for many years. Heck, my personal insurance premium has doubled in the last 3 years (along with the deductible doubling)! Despite the negativity associated with cost increases, I feel that chiropractors provide unique services that can change peoples' lives at a cost that is much less than our medical counterparts. My job is to show patients that their health and wellness is worth the investment in order to live more active, enjoyable lives. One of my favorite sayings is as follows...What good is adding years to your life if you don't add life to your years? I feel my job is to add life to peoples years and allow them to enjoy life to its' fullest.

If you have any questions regarding this topic, feel free to call our office at (847) 673-6600 or visit us on our website.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

An Apple a Day...

Everyone knows the old saying "an apple a day keeps the doctor away." Now, there is research to back this claim. In fact, a study out of Oxford University asserts that eating an apple a day is as effective as statin medications at preventing death by heart attack or stroke for people over the age of 50. Perhaps the best quote from one of the researchers is as follows: “Prescribing either an apple a day or a statin a day to everyone over 50 yeas old is likely to have a similar effect on population vascular mortality." They go on to state "choosing apples rather than statins may avoid more than a thousands excess cases of myopathy and more than 12,000 excess diabetes diagnoses.”

Why do apples help with vascular conditions? Apples are rich with antioxidants and chemical compounds called flavanoids (especially quercetin), all of which are good for our health and wellbeing. Apples also provide a good source of fiber which helps slow plaque buildup in blood vessels from cholesterol.

The researchers found one problem with eating apples as opposed to taking a statin drug...apples currently cost more! So, should you still be taking that statin drug? Only your doctor can tell you if you should or should not be on cholesterol medication. However, new recommendations have recently been released that will place millions of Americans on statins that were not previously candidates. If you are concerned about taking these drugs, please talk to your doctor about other options.

You can read more about this study by following this link.

If you have any questions regarding this topic, feel free to call our office at (847) 673-6600 or visit us on our website.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Interesting article on spinal fusion outcomes

I happened to run across a study from a few years back (2010) that looked at two groups of patients from Ohio that had similar low back conditions and diagnoses. One group opted to have a spinal fusion surgery while the second group did not have any surgery. The outcomes two years after the surgery are remarkable.

First investigated was the percentage of low back surgery patients that had returned to work vs. the percentage of non-surgery patients returning to work. While 67% of the non-surgery group was back working, only a meager 26% of surgical patients had returned to work! I should mention that this was a study of around 1,450 patients from the Ohio Bureau of Workers' Compensation database. The priority in these cases is to get people back to working condition. The spinal fusion recipients certainly were not obtaining the desired outcomes in this case.

The second aspect of treatment investigated was the percentage of patients taking pain medication. And not just Tylenol or Advil, but opiates that are highly addictive. The surgery group in this aspect saw a 41% increase in the use of these drugs versus patients that elected to pass on surgery. Again, a staggering number!

What can be learned from studies such as these? First, always use major surgery as a last resort to deal with back pain. Indeed, there are cases where it is absolutely necessary and will give the best long-term outcome. But, in many, many cases there are other avenues to rid yourself of pain (such as chiropractic of course!). One last statistic I will give you is that there are over 600,000 back surgeries performed in the US every year. An astounding 400,000 or so of these are major fusion operations. With outcomes such as in the study described above, please carefully consider all options before going under the knife!

If you would like to read more about this study, follow this link.

If you have any questions regarding this topic, feel free to call our office at (847) 673-6600 or visit us on our website.

Monday, July 29, 2013

More benefits from breastfeeding!

It seems that every few months I will see a story on the news about the many benefits of breastfeeding. The list of benefits for both the baby and mother is vast. Benefits to the baby include immunity to illness, lowered risk of asthma/allergies and lower rates of obesity later in life. For the mom, breastfeeding is terrific bonding time with a newborn, helps shed off the "baby weight" and reduces the risk of postpartum depression.

It now appears that breastfed babies may be smarter adults! A new study from Harvard University indicates that babies who are breastfed longer have higher intelligence scores later in life. Specifically, the children were found to have higher language and intelligence scores at the ages of 3 and 7, respectively. Who doesn't want their children to have more intelligence?

Current recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics are that babies should be exclusively breastfed until 6 months. After solids are introduced, it is recommended that mothers continue breastfeeding until the child turns 1 year of age.

To read more on this new study, please follow this link.

If you have any questions regarding this topic, feel free to call our office at (847) 673-6600 or visit us on our website.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Is the food industry scared?

I recently ran across this linked article on Yahoo. I find it interesting because of the style of writing...written in first person from the food industry to the consumer. I think that the article gives a good sense of the philosophy that the food industry possesses in regards to the American diet. Often times, our society shifts from one fad diet or way of eating to another. The food industry loves when we do this because it makes their marketing strategy simple to deploy. For example, when people start thinking that fat content is the problem, the industry does a terrific job of putting out low-fat or no-fat options for the foods we love. When carbs are evil, the industry creates products (even alcoholic products) that are marketed as "low-carb."

What people need to realize at some point is that, more than fats/carbs/cholesterol/etc., the main problem with the food we eat is simply in the way it is made. The industrial approach to all foods slowly poisons those who ingest them. While this is nothing new...additives and chemicals have been added to food for a long time...the percentage of food that is engineered continues to rise. All you have to do is look at the rate of disease processes that are directly related to diet...diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease. All of these are affecting individuals at younger and younger ages. The number of Type II diabetic children alone is staggering.

While eating completely organic, free-range, farm-raised foods is often too expensive for the average families' budget, efforts need to be made to eat less toxic foods. You can start by changing small things in your diet. For example, pay attention to the "dirty dozen." Avoiding these foods or choosing organic varieties can be a healthy kick start to changing your entire diet. Continue to take small strides forward until a majority of your diet falls within healthy parameters and you will be assured a longer, healthier lifespan.

If you have any questions regarding this topic, feel free to call our office at (847) 673-6600 or visit us on our website.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Best evidence-based treatment for acute sciatica...

Recently, I was talking to a patient about the effectiveness of a variety of treatments for acute sciatica. Depending on what type of doctor you see, the most effective treatment seems to vary greatly. If you consult a Physiatrist, you will most likely be referred to PT. See an Orthopedic Surgeon, a good oral steroid or steroid injection is probably in the cards. See your PCP (family doctor, internist, general practitioner) and you will probably be told to take ibuprofen or again referred to physical therapy. See me, a Chiropractor, and I'll tell you that you've come to the right place!

So who is right? While there isn't always a correct answer for this question, evidence definitely points in my favor! According to a review of evidence-based research done by the American Academy of Family Physicians in 2007, chiropractic is shown to be the most effective conservative treatment for acute sciatica. For reference, here is the link to the published article.

What also surprised me when I researched the effectiveness of various treatments for acute sciatica was the lack of effectiveness of oral steroids. I could not find a single study showing them to be helpful. Instead, the available studies tend to show that placebo is as effective as oral steriods for this condition...here is an example study.

Acute sciatica can be very debilitating and can linger for a long time (often many weeks). The earlier treatment is sought, the better results tend to be. If you have any questions about sciatica or chiropractic in general, definitely call our office. You can find more information at our website.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Be Wary of Grapefruits

Many people are not aware that grapefruits and grapefruit juice can have negative interactions with certain medications. While in the past the list of medications with possible interactions was short, a new study shows many more medicines have potentially dangerous side effects.

How could grapefruits be bad? Grapefruits have active chemicals that act synergistically with certain medications. That is, they can boost the effect of the medicine by putting a much higher amount of the active chemical into the bloodstream. For example, drinking grapefruit juice in conjunction with the drug symvastatin (a common cholesterol medication) led to a concentration of symvastatin 330% higher than normal. Drugs such as symvastatin can have potentially dangerous side effects without this synergy, making the drug especially dangerous when taken with grapefruit.

I always recommend that patients take a minute and talk to there pharmacist to review any and all medications they are taking. Pharmacists are often under-utilized by the public and can be a great asset to evaluate any negative effects of medications. To read more about grapefruits interaction with certain medications, follow this link.

If you have any questions regarding this topic, feel free to call our office at (847) 673-6600 or visit us on the web at www.HealingHandsOfSkokie.com!

Friday, November 2, 2012

High blood pressure can lead to early brain disease!

A study from researchers at the University of California - Davis shows that young people with high blood pressure have a higher incidence of brain disease early in life. In fact, the results show that by 40 years of age, a person with hypertension (high blood pressure) has a brain that appears 7.2 years older than the same individual with normal blood pressure.

Taking care of our bodies, especially our hearts, is crucial to living a long and fruitful life. We must make sure that our blood pressure, cholesterol, sugar levels and other markers are all within healthy ranges to prevent very costly and dangerous conditions later in life. This should be done, when at all possible, through diet changes and exercise!

To read more about this study, you can follow this link.

If you have any questions regarding this topic, feel free to call our office at (847) 673-6600 or visit us on the web at www.HealingHandsOfSkokie.com!

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Acupuncture Study Shows Great Benefits

Acupuncture has been used for centuries as a primary source of healthcare for millions across the world. However, there has always been a debate about how effective the treatments really are at achieving lasting results. We frequently use acupuncture for treatment of various problems at Healing Hands Wellness, but a lack of scientific data for its' effectiveness is hard to explain to patients. We often rely on anecdotel evidence to explain the benefits of acupuncture. A new analysis of 29 studies may help us reference more sound evidence when recommending acupuncture to patients.

A recent analysis of acupuncture in 18,000 patients showed very promising results in reduction of neck pain, low back pain, pain associated with arthritis and headaches. The use of acupuncture showed to relieve pain better than a placebo treatment and significantly better than seeking no treatment at all. These findings are very encouraging to both patients looking for treatment options other than drugs or surgery. It also offers practitioners another treatment option for those with chronic pain.

You can read more about the study analysis here...Acupuncture analysis.

If you have any questions regarding this topic, feel free to call our office at (847) 673-6600 or visit us on the web at www.HealingHandsOfSkokie.com!