Tag Archives: chiropratic and back pain

3 Medical Myths Debunked

Health care can be a confusing field.  There is so much information out there, much of it conflicting, that leaves consumers confused about their health.  Well, today I am here to sort some of them out for you.  Below are some common medical myths that people believe but are not necessarily true.

1. High Cholesterol Means a High Heart Attack Risk

This is perhaps the biggest one I see in practice.  Everyone thinks that having high cholesterol means they are at risk for having a heart attack.  They also think that having low cholesterol is protecting them from heart disease and heart attacks.  Neither is true!  As a matter of fact, 50% of the people who have heart attacks annually have high cholesterol and 50% have low cholesterol. To most people this is an astounding stat, but it’s true.  What has been shown in the research is that your total cholesterol is not actually a predictor of heart disease.  Looking at the break down of the HDL (the good) versus LDL (the bad) cholesterol is helpful but still is not the entire story.  What you should be looking at is the size of your cholesterol.  How do you do that?  It’s simple really.  It’s just a blood test.  It is how the lab analyzes your cholesterol that’s different.  Without getting to technical, small, dense particles of LDL cholesterol are bad because they can make their way into the lining of your blood vessels most easily.  Light, fluffy, large pieces of LDL are not problematic because they cannot readily get into the walls of your vessels and cause the atherosclerotic plaques that are so dangerous.  These are tests that several of the largest laboratories are performing now and give us better information about cardiovascular health.  I have begun measuring cholesterol in this fashion on all my high risk cardiovascular patients and the results have helped us tailor nutritional programs that will be most effective for them.

2. Bed Rest of Back Pain

I recently had someone visit my office on a Monday for an acute case of back pain.  She was in quite a bit of distress and discomfort.  So much so that she had been to the emergency room over the weekend.  There she was given test and test and finally told that her back pain was not life threatening and to go home, take some pain killers and get bed rest for 5 days.  The advice of bed rest is still being given out by many physicians around the country for back pain despite the evidence that overwhelmingly concludes that this only makes back pain worse. In fact, the research shows that if you do go with bed rest you are much more likely to develop a chronic back problem.  If you have an episode of back pain do not stay in bed.  Your best bet is to stay as active as possible.  Your goal should be to continue your normal activities, within reason, but modify these activities to fit your current limitations.  Now, if your normal activities include vigorous exercise you may want to hold off on that until your back is feeling better, but you should try to walk if you can.  Rest if you need to, but keeping the joints and muscles of the back active even when they are hurt is the best way for them to heal appropriately.  You should also see a chiropractor.  Chiropractors are trained extensively on the back and know how to provide nonsurgical relief for back pain.

3. Eating Fat Makes You Fat

This is a biggie.  People come into my office for a lot of reasons.  However, regardless of their initial reason I always ask about their diet.  Inevitably someone will tell me they eat a healthy diet because they eat low fat.  People assume that low fat is the best way to keep fat from accumulating around their midsection (and everywhere else!).  This simply is not true.  It seems intuitive that eating fat would make you fat just like saving money makes you rich.  However, things in the human body are hardly ever that linear.  The way the human body stores fat is by secreting a hormone called insulin.  Insulin is secreted when a person consumes carbohydrates (bread, pasta, sugar) and to some degree protein.  Insulin signals the body’s cells to take in the energy in the blood, in the form of sugar, and store it as fat or use it.  Notice that I did not say that fat causes insulin release?  That’s because it doesn’t!  If fat does not cause the body to secrete the hormone necessary for fat storage then how can fat make you fat?  It can’t!  This myth comes from the fact that fat is higher in calorie than other foods but somewhere along the line people made the leap that eating fat caused fat to accumulate in the body.  When fat is consumed it is actually slowly converted to sugar and burned, not stored.

There are many more to choose from, but these are some of the most common that I see in my office.  If you’d like to know more, let me know in the comments section and I’ll post about your questions.

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Filed under Diet, Public Health

Medicare pays for failed back surgeries but not highly rated chiropractic

I recently read an article summarizing a study that showed that risky and unnecessary back surgeries are costing Americans billions in health care costs.  As a chiropractor whose practice focuses more on functional neurology and nutrition, I have rarely posted about traditional chiropractic.  This was too important to pass up.

The study of Medicare patients showed that costlier, more complex spinal fusion surgeries are on the rise — and sometimes done unnecessarily — for a common lower back condition caused by aging and arthritis.

What is even scarier is that the study showed that these surgeries are leading to more hospitalizations and even death in some cases.

The cost to Medicare, just for the hospital charges for the types of back surgery reviewed is about $1.65 billion a year, according to the researchers.  Medicare is a government program that is funded by you and me.  Failed back surgeries are one major reason health care is so expensive in this country.

The study examined two types of back surgeries – decompression and fusion.

In a decompression procedure, the simplest method in the Medicare study, a surgeon cuts away part of the bone that’s painfully pressing on nerves. It can cost about $30,000 in hospital and surgeon fees.

For a fusion, a surgeon binds two or more vertebrae together using a bone graft, with or without plates and screws. The researchers defined a complex fusion as one involving three or more vertebrae or more than one side of the spine. Fusions cost $60,000 to $90,000.

The researchers analyzed data on more than 32,000 Medicare patients who had one of the three types of surgeries in 2007.

The study found that fusions were often done in patients that had little or no need for the more complex surgery.  Fusion is significantly more complicated and leads to more secondary issues.

The lead author on the study concludes that aggressive marketing of devices used in complex fusions is likely playing a role in the increase in these types of surgeries. The marketing includes ads in medical journals and lectures by surgeons on the payroll of device manufacturers.  There is little evidence to support that they are safe or effective for these patients.

The lead author also concluded that patients should ask their doctors about alternatives to complicated operations. Could steroid injections and physical therapy be tried?  While I applaud him for recognizing that there are alternatives he failed to mention the most successful one, chiropractic.

Why Chiropractic?

Chiropractic has been shown in many studies to be very effective in managing low back pain.  It has also been shown to be far more cost effective than surgery.  Think about it this way; a chiropractic visit may cost about $100.  This would likely include an adjustment to correct any fixations in the spine and some other form of therapy.  This might include stretching, neuromuscular work, electrical stim, hot or cold packs or rehabilitative exercises/instruction.

At $100 a visit you could get 900 office visits to the chiropractor or 1 spinal fusion.  To me the choice is obvious.  You certainly wouldn’t need 900 office visits to your chiropractor to get better, but it puts it into perspective for you.

On top of that, there is no garauntee that your back surgery is going to work and the risk of serious complication or death is relatively high.  There is no risk of death or serious complication from chiropractic treatment of the low back.

The study showed that many people are being given unnecessary back surgeries.  They looked at Medicare patients only.  Recently patients in “The Medicare Demonstration Project” gave chiropractors high marks for satisfaction.  Obviously Medicare patients are finding relief with chiropractic care.

The Medicare Demonstration Project revealed the long-awaited results from a congressionally mandated pilot project testing the feasibility of expanding chiropractic services in the Medicare program.

When patients were asked to rate their satisfaction on a 10-point scale, 87 percent of patients in the study gave their doctor of chiropractic a level of 8 or higher. What’s more, 56 percent of those patients rated their chiropractor with a perfect 10.

The very same population of people were studied in these two studies.  While not everyone in the Medicare Demonstration Project had the same conditions as the people in the study that examined back surgeries, surely there was some overlap.  What can be said for sure is that the over all population of people studied between the two were very similar because they were all Medicare patients.

In order to solve the health care crisis in this country, “alternative” therapies that are effective and certainly more cost effective need to be implemented.  Chiropractic fits that bill.  It is clear that people who would benefit from having more access to chiropractic would be satisfied with the care they received.  It is time for Medicare to reexamine what they choose to cover if they want to save the American people their hard earned money.

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Filed under Public Health