Fixing Mom’s Super Hero Cape

by Peter on January 12, 2011

Is this patient in pain?

She struggled as she walked into my office, her face expressing a pain that is indescribable. Six months ago her back had began to ‘act up’. With kids, work, a husband and a house to look after who had time to deal with a minor back ache. Besides, she was active, not like before kids, but managed to run, some yoga, and the occasional Ultimate game. But this was different.

Mom’s are Super Heroes. They can do more and endure more that any man ever could. And this was no different. By the time she walked into my office however things were bad. She could barely stand up straight, and every step was painful. But, she thought, he had helped me before, maybe again this time too. Of coarse she had been to see her doctor, only to get a shrug of the shoulders and a referral for some x-rays. It’s no easy task getting those x-rays however, not with family, work and the wait time to get in. By the time she had come into my office she still had not made it for the x-rays.

So what was I suppose to do? Yikes. For nearly six months this patient was barely walking without pain, and bending and moving was extremely painful. Starting with postural assessment I could see that her pelvic angles and posture was extremely off (this was not terribly difficult to see). Was this causing her pain? No one can be sure, but we do know that the body has been designed to oppose gravity efficiently. Placing the body back on it’s postural planes is a great step in helping us regain control over our pain. It took sometime before she was able to obtain an x-ray. During this time of wait for x-rays however I continued to use some Neuromuscular Techniques and some Movement therapy to regain her posture and proper gait. With 3 very close treatments the pain had decreased substantially. By the time she went for x-rays she was experiencing no pain and had become fully functional and even began her running program. She decided to go ahead with the x-rays anyways to see if anything could be found.

X-rays, MRI’s and CAT scans can give us so much information about the structure of the body, the shape of the spine and the integrity of the muscles and ligaments. Thermography can give us much information about the physiology of the body, what is happening with the vascular and nervous system. But what lacks in all of these tests and scans is the ability to tell us if and where the pain is coming from.

Studies have shown that tests and scans are valuable in collecting data but have not been able to tell us anything about the patients pain. Several studies have shown that doctors reading charts and scans were unable to correctly identify those patients in pain, and those patients who had no pain.

Researchers at the Oregon Health and Science University in Portland have revealed that routine use of expensive X-Ray, MRI and CT scans or radiography on patients with lower back pain, do not have any effect on the clinical outcomes.

“Our study shows that performing routine X-rays or MRIs for patients with low-back pain does not lead to improved pain, function or anxiety level, and there were even some trends toward worse outcomes,” said Roger Chou, M.D., a lead author of the study; scientific director of the Oregon Evidence-Based Practice Center at OHSU; and associate professor of medical informatics and clinical epidemiology, and medicine (general internal medicine and geriatrics) in the OHSU School of Medicine.

So, in conclusion, was I helpful to Super Mom? In this case, a definite ‘yes’. Do I know where the pain was coming from. No, not exactly, but I sure had a good idea that her body was not opposing gravity properly and she had lost a sense of proper movement. Are x-rays and scans helpful? Yes sometimes, and no lots of times. Sometimes just making sure we are in good alignment will allow our body to heal itself. Even if that means unsticking the cape from the door of the mini van!

TRUE STORIES: Each month I post an article from the trenches. Real people stories that come into my office daily. Do you have any stories you would like to share? Please let us know. I’ll post them here.

In Health,

Peter Roach

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