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Dr.Crystal Draper

Toronto Chiropractor


by Crystal
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Kinesiology Tape and Pregnancy: Baby Mamas Need a Little Support Too

You’d be hard-pressed to find an athlete who isn’t wearing a flashy colour of tape spiraling around their body these days. At the 2012 London Olympics, CNN even coined it “the latest Olympic accessory.” While this new rehabilitative taping technique has made a significant difference in the lives of top athletes by helping them recover from injuries without compromising their play, it also has many therapeutic benefits for the general population, including mamas-to-be.

What is Kinesiology Tape?

This colourful tape facilitates the body’s natural healing process by providing support and stability to muscles and joints, improving blood flow, reducing pain and swelling and controlling inflammation. Kinesiology tape differs from classic athletic tape (the plain old white stuff) because it is much more pliable. It is an elastic cotton strip with an acrylic adhesive so it will not restrict your range of motion.  Additionally, an application of kinesiology tape typically lasts three to five days if applied correctly, rather than just during an activity.

Baby bump support

Kinesiology tape is a safe and effective treatment option in pregnancy. As we have previously discussed, musculoskeletal pain is common in pregnancy, especially low back and pelvic girdle pain, as well as round ligament pain (that quick jabbing pain felt in the lower abdomen or groin area – ouch!). By adding a few strategic strips of the colourful tape to either the back or abdomen, some of the common postural aches and pains that are associated with a growing baby bump are alleviated. So not only are you sporting the latest vibrant accessory, you’ll feel better and more supported doing it!

Application

Please talk to your Chiropractor or healthcare provider to discuss if kinesiology taping is appropriate for you. Also, be sure to notify your practitioner if you have sensitive skin, or better yet, test it on a small patch of skin to ensure you aren’t reactive to the tape adhesive. Once your kinesiology tape has been applied, your practitioner will give you instructions on how to preserve the integrity of the tape while showering, bathing and dressing in order to maximize your colourful weave. Go ahead, pick your favourite colour and strut!

Case Study

This lovely 37 year old mama-to-be was experiencing acute pelvic girdle pain and nasty round ligament pain with any quick movements around 20 weeks. Additionally, she felt a lot of pressure around her pubic bone as though she needed to constantly hold under her belly for support.

At 23 weeks, she was getting frustrated and nervous about how she would manage the pain until her due date. Chiropractic Care and Massage Therapy were giving her transient relief, but not enough to put her at ease. At this time, we tried taping mom’s belly (as depicted here) and within one day her pain went from a 9/10 to a 4/10!

She is now late in her third trimester and her pain fluctuates between a 1/10 to a 4/10. She uses the tape as needed along with continued Chiropractic Care and Pelvic Floor Physiotherapy. This mama has gotten into her last trimester stride and is looking great!

For more information

To learn more about kinesiology tape, please visit:

Kinesio Tape

Rocktape

Spidertech Tape

Disclaimer

The advice provided in this article is for information purposes only. It is meant to augment and not replace consultation with a licensed healthcare provider. Consultation with a chiropractor or other primary care provider is recommended for anyone suffering from a health problem.


by Crystal
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Doula Guest Speaker: Natural Relief for Back Labour

One of the most common complaints that I hear from moms during active labour is about their back pain. Regardless of a baby’s positioning in the womb it is not uncommon for labouring moms to feel discomfort in their lower back. For some moms, this pain is mild and manageable, but for others it is intolerable.

Comfort Measures

Try these comfort measures for the labouring mom:

  • The Double Hip Squeeze can make unmanageable pain manageable during labour. While the mother is leaning over (leaning over the bed, on her hands and knees, leaning over a birth ball, etc.) place your whole hand on the outside of her buttocks and press in towards the centre of her body.  Your fingertips should be facing inwards towards the centre of her body as well. As a support person this can become quite tiring so best to use it only during the contraction. Use as much pressure as the mother is comfortable with.
  • Tennis balls or Acuballs are very helpful to have in your birth bag for massaging the lower back. As the mother leans over in any position you can roll the ball around their lower back using varying amounts of pressure. This can also be done using a rolling pin (for those labouring at home) or a cold can of pop.
  • Get into some water. Just when a labouring mother doesn’t think she can go on any longer is the perfect time to get her into the tub. Being fully submerged in water can lessen the intensity of the contractions and will usually relieve some of the pressure in her back. I have attended some births where the bath tub was tiny and only the mother’s lower body was in the water. In this case, I cover her abdomen in a large towel and keep it warm by continuously pouring warm water over it. Ideally though, a soaker tub is best.
  • Pelvic rocking; almost like a slow dance, supported or not, keep the pelvis moving back and forth to encourage ideal positioning of the baby. Wrapping your arms around your partner’s neck and leaning slightly forward and allowing the belly to ‘hang’ makes this position even more effective.
  • Try a side lying position for a series of contractions. Not only will this allow the mother to rest, but it may also encourage a baby to rotate into a favourable position. Place a pillow between the mother’s knees and make sure to lie on both sides.

Back pain in labour can be correlated with longer labours because it is oftentimes due to unfavourable positioning. Typically, the situation will resolve itself especially if the mother is actively changing positions throughout her labour.

Disclaimer

The advice provided in this article is for information purposes only. It is meant to augment and not replace consultation with a licensed healthcare provider. Consultation with a primary care provider is recommended for anyone suffering from a health problem.

Guest speaker:

Meghan Ford, a Birth Doula and Holistic Nutritionist.

Meghan provides prenatal and birth support to women and families in the GTA. For more information on Meghan, please contact nutritiousmeg@rogers.com.

 


by Crystal
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When Breast Cancer Hits Home: A Mother’s Day Donation

Statistics show that one in nine Canadian women are expected to develop breast cancer during their lifetime. Despite this high prevalence, we never think that it will affect us, or someone we love. I was one of these people, until I was rudely awakened. It was 10 years ago, but I still remember the day when those piercing, heart stopping, stomach flipping three words came out of my mother’s mouth: “I have cancer.” I had a million thoughts flash through my mind in those few seconds that followed: “Wake up – this is just a bad dream! Why? Not her! She’s only 50! What now?”

Treatment

Numerous doctors’ appointments, surgeries and a whole lot of fear filled that spring and summer. The journey all began with a routine mammogram where some questionable calcifications were found in my mother’s left breast. From there, her doctors decided to remove these lesions for testing, and so it began. The first surgery was a lumpectomy, where only the lesion/tumor and some of the surrounding tissue were removed. Her doctors thought this surgery would be sufficient, and we were hopeful that the biopsy would come back negative. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case – the cells were cancerous.

The surgeon decided to perform a second lumpectomy to ensure all of the cancerous tissues were completely removed. This may have been the worst part because they also removed a few lymph nodes during this procedure to see if the cancer had spread. Those few looming weeks our family spent waiting for the results were some of the hardest weeks we have ever had to endure. Despite the lymph nodes coming back clear (big sigh of relief), the medical team was still not convinced. They felt it was best to go forward with a mastectomy, where they would remove her left-sided breast tissue.

Recovery

Post surgery, my mother made the healing process look like a breeze. I don’t think I saw her shed one tear. She exuded strength, positivity and had an overall sunny disposition, as well as a newfound appreciation for the colour yellow! In colour psychology, yellow is described as the best colour to create enthusiasm for life and can awaken greater confidence and optimism. Being the lightest hue of the spectrum, the colour psychology of yellow is uplifting and illuminating, offering hope, happiness, cheerfulness and fun. It seemed to have just that affect on my mother; overall it brightened her day.

The following year, she had reconstruction surgery, which sadly did not go very well due to the amount of tissue damage from previous surgeries. As a result, a second surgery was deemed necessary. By now I bet you’re thinking, what a trooper! What did I tell you?

Gratitude

Despite the difficulty of the situation we faced, we were grateful for so many things. First, my mom did not have to undergo chemotherapy or radiation therapy, allowing her to recover with a little more ease. Second, if breast cancer was going to happen, at least it happened at a time when I was home from school for the summer and fully able to be at her side and at her service. You see, education is very important to my parents, and my mother had decided to “extend the truth” until I came home so I could finish off my semester. She knew I would flee to her side as soon as I heard those nasty three words.

I am also so incredibly grateful for the strength of our family, which allowed us to get through this trying time together. We all banded together to get through this, yet my mother was the rock — full of strength, courage and perseverance.

While I have so much to be thankful for, above all, I am most grateful that my dear mother has been cancer-free for 10 years.

“The strength of a woman is not measured by the impact that all her hardships in life have had on her; but the strength of a woman is measured by the extent of her refusal to allow those hardships to dictate her and who she becomes.” C. JoyBell C.

Remission

To celebrate 10 years of remission, show my gratitude to my mom for being the amazing, strong-willed, full-of-heart woman she is, and honour Mother’s Day, I am donating my hair to the Canadian Cancer Society (the Pantene Beautiful Lengths campaign) in her name. This partnership between the Canadian Cancer Society and Pantene Beautiful Lengths encourages women and men to donate their hair to create real-hair wigs for individuals who have lost their hair due to cancer treatment. I have been growing my hair out for over three years with this secret plan in mind all along, and I can’t believe the day has finally arrived. Thankfully, my mother didn’t need the service of real-hair wigs, but I am honoured to donate 11” of my hair to help another strong-willed woman just like my mother who does. Here’s to kicking cancer’s butt!

It’s time!

Discussing my new hairdo with Hiro!

That’s what 11″ looks like!

Here we go!

Snip!

Someone’s getting a wig!

I did it for my mama! Happy Mother’s Day!

Prevention

For more information on breast cancer, how to donate, or ways to get involved, please visit The Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation.

If you would also like to donate your lovely locks, please visit Wigs and Hair Donations at the Canadian Cancer Society.

Lastly and importantly, ladies, please take care of your breasts! This includes performing a breast self-exam at least once a month and leading a healthy lifestyle.

Don’t know how to check your girls? Take a look at this Breast Self-Exam How-To Guide by the National Breast Cancer Foundation, Inc.

For lifestyle habits that will keep your breasts happy, please read these Habits for Healthy Boobs by Nutritionist, Joy McCarthy.

Think pink!

Acknowledgements 

Haircut compliments of Hiro Hayashi at Salon Bespoke.

Photography compliments of Bekki Draper at Draper Photography.


by Crystal
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Breastfeeding Posture: Finding the Right Fit for You and Babe!

Breastfeeding is truly an art form. There are so many moving parts while learning to master this new skill. Mothers want to be sure their babe is latching properly, that they’re getting enough milk and that they’re comfortable. During this time, moms lose sight of their posture and can end up with some aches and pains of their own.

Musculoskeletal pain is common among moms who breastfeed while sitting or lying in bed. Usually the pain is mild and experienced in the neck, shoulders and back. But, there are ways that mom can make it easier on herself while still providing comfort for her little one.

Here are some posture tips to ensure everyone is comfortable!

The Cradle Hold

  1. This position is when you sit with baby lengthwise across your abdomen with your elbow (on the same side as the feeding breast) supporting baby’s head and hand supporting their bottom. Your other hand supports your breast.
  2. In this posture, you want to lay pillows on your lap to raise your baby up to appropriate nipple height. This will prevent you from hunching over in attempts to bring your nipple to baby. Instead, bring baby to nipple.
  3. For additional comfort, sit in a chair with supportive armrests and rest your feet on a stool to help elevate the little one and to avoid leaning down towards them.

The Cross-Cradle Hold

  1. This position differs from the Cradle Hold in that you support your baby with your opposite arm (to the feeding breast). For example, if you’re feeding on your left breast, use your right arm to support baby’s body and head. Your left fingers support the left breast.
  2. Similar to the Cradle Hold, you want to lay pillows on your lap to raise your baby up to appropriate nipple height, sit in a chair with supportive armrests and use a stool to rest your feet.

The Clutch or Football Hold

  1. As the name suggests, you position the baby like a clutch or football tucked under your arm.
  2. In order to remain comfortable with this hold, you want to sit upright with your back and shoulders well-supported.
  3. Place a pillow on your lap, towards the side of your hip and baby on the pillow facing you.
  4. Tuck baby’s legs and feet under your arm (like a purse or pigskin) and bend them slightly at the waist.
  5. Place your hand under the babe’s neck for support. Once they begin sucking, you can place a pillow under your hand so you are both supported.

Reclining or Side-lying Position

  1. This position is comfortable for feeding during the night but requires many pillows for support. You want to place several pillows behind your back, a pillow under your head and shoulders, and another one between your bent knees to ensure you maintain a neutral spine. An additional pillow should be placed behind baby as well.
  2. You are then going to lay baby facing you with their mouth aligned to your nipple and their head cradled with the hand of your bottom arm. Or, cradle the head with your top arm, tucking your bottom arm under your head, out of the way.
  3. If you need to bring baby closer to your breast, use a small pillow or blanket to prop them up. Neither of you should be straining in order to connect with one another.

Laid Back Position

  1. Similar to the side-lying position, this feeding position also requires the use of lots of pillows as good posture and support is crucial.
  2. You want to lie flat on your bed and elevate your head and shoulders slightly with pillows.
  3. Place your baby’s face down onto your stomach with their cheek to your breast.
  4. Again, make sure that neither of you are straining. If you are, tweak the position by using pillows or blankets for support.

The general idea with all of these positions is comfort and support for both mom and baby. If you are leaning in towards your baby, you will end up with a sore neck, shoulders and back, poor latching and sore nipples. All of these outcomes are going to make your breastfeeding experience a more difficult one for you both. So, use pillows, blankets, and stools, whatever you need to ensure comfort, support and an all-round positive bonding experience with you and your little bundle of joy!

Disclaimer

The advice provided in this article is for information purposes only. It is meant to augment and not replace consultation with a licensed healthcare provider. Consultation with a Chiropractor or other primary care provider is recommended for anyone suffering from a health problem.

References

Mbada, C.E. Is Baby-Friendly Breastfeeding Mother-Friendly? Journal of Women’s Health Physical Therapy. 2013; 37(1):19-28.

O’Brien, T. The Best Breast Feeding Positions for Mom and Baby. Parents. <http://www.parents.com/baby/breastfeeding/basics/the-best-breastfeeding-positions-for-mom-and-baby-/> (visited March 13, 2014)

Positions and tips for making breastfeeding work. Baby Center. <http://www.babycenter.com/0_positions-and-tips-for-making-breastfeeding-work_8784.bc> (visited March 21, 2014)

Smith, R. Breastfeeding Positions. Shird Inc. 2013.


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To Crack or Not to Crack, That is the Question: Is Chiropractic Care Safe in Pregnancy?

Musculoskeletal pain is very common in pregnancy, especially low back pain, as we learned in Low Back Pain and Pregnancy: Growing Pains. However, many expectant moms are confused about what to do about their pain. They don’t want to take medication and are unsure if it’s safe to see a Chiropractor while pregnant. As a result, most moms do nothing and just live with the pain. But, they don’t have to! Chiropractic care, including the adjustment (spinal manipulation), is a highly safe and effective evidence-based treatment for mommy’s-to-be.

The Research

Clinical studies have demonstrated a high level of safety for Chiropractic treatment in pregnancy. Most studies have found very few adverse effects of spinal manipulation, especially for the treatment of low back and pelvic pain in pregnancy.  Those that were identified consisted of mild and short-term events such as a temporary increase in pain following treatment. These side effects are not isolated to the pregnant population, but can be general effects of Chiropractic treatment or manual therapies in anyone.

However rare, more serious adverse effects of spinal manipulation in pregnancy have been reported with neck adjustments. This is thought to be a result of the hormonal changes of pregnancy. With the release of relaxin in pregnancy, there is an increase in joint laxity, increasing the susceptibility to injury.

Making Safe Choices

With these cautions in mind, your Chiropractor will perform a careful and thorough history and physical examination to ensure safety and assess for possible contraindications to treatment.  If contraindications are present, other treatment options can be explored by you and your practitioner, including acupuncture, gentle mobilizations and massage therapy, to name a few.

Most importantly, of the potential concerns that have been identified, none affect your growing babe! There is reassurance in knowing that safe and effective treatment options exist during pregnancy and that pain relief is possible. Please talk to your Chiropractor or health care provider to discuss treatment options most appropriate for you and your one on the way!

Disclaimer

The advice provided in this article is for information purposes only. It is meant to augment and not replace consultation with a licensed healthcare provider. Consultation with a Chiropractor or other primary care provider is recommended for anyone suffering from a health problem.

References

Khorsan, R. Manipulative therapy for pregnancy and related conditions: a systematic review. Obstetrical and Gynecological Survey. 2009; 64(6): 416-427.

Oswald, C. Optimizing pain relief during pregnancy using manual therapy. Canadian Family Physician. 2013; 59 (841-842).

Stuber, K. Adverse events from spinal manipulation in the pregnant and postpartum periods: a critical review of the literature. Chiropractic & Manual Therapies. 2012; 20: 8 (1-7).


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Don’t just sit there! It’s hazardous to your health!

We all know that too much sitting is bad for us, and we have previously discussed the Power of Movement. But, The Washington Post sat down with four experts to explain the many things, from head to toe, that go wrong in our bodies after those long hours at a desk and in front of the TV!

Disclaimer

The advice in this article is for informational purposes only. It is meant to augment and not replace consultation with a licensed healthcare provider. Consultation with a Chiropractor or other primary care provider is recommended for anyone suffering from a health problem.


by Crystal
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Joint Health: 6 Tips to Keep You Moving!

Joints form the connection between bones. Most joints are mobile, allowing the bones to move, and allowing us to move. However, with damage or injury, they can be what slows us down and stiffens us up. Here are 6 tips on how to keep your joints healthy and you moving!

  1. Get moving! One of the best ways we can take care of our joints is to get moving. Exercise strengthens the muscles that support our joints protecting them against the risk of strain or injury. Dr. Laith Jazrawi, Chief of the Sports Medicine division at NYU Hospital for Joint Diseases, suggests nonimpact forms of exercise including pilates, yoga, moderate weight lifting and swimming, which firm up your muscles without jeopardizing your cartilage.
  2. Proper posture! You want to maintain a neutral spine position to avoid abnormal stress on the muscles and joints, which can lead to muscular imbalances, injury and degeneration. To encourage this posture, have an ergonomic assessment at work and use a backrest support at your desk.
  3. Maintain a healthy weight! Carrying around extra pounds adds load to your joints increasing the risk of degeneration. Organize a group of family or friends that exercise together and swap healthy meal ideas!
  4. Eat well! Another way to promote healthy joints is by eating a well-balanced diet with less bad inflammatory foods. This means less processed and fried foods, which promote inflammation and pain. Instead, replace these bad foods with good wholesome foods such as fruits, veggies, whole grains, nuts and fish. These good foods help to decrease inflammation in our bodies and joints.
  5. Proper Supplementation! If you are unable to get essential nutrients from from diet alone, there are some supplements that can be taken to aid in joint health.
    • Omega-3 fatty acids – Decreases inflammation of the joints.
    • Boswellic acid – Helps to maintain joint health and flexibility.
    • Calcium – Helps to promote and reduce bone loss.

    If you already suffer from arthritis pain, the following supplements have been shown to help manage symptoms.

    • Turmeric – Reduced arthritis joint pain, inflammation, and stiffness related to arthritis.
    • Glucosamine – Helps to ease joint pain in cases where degeneration has begun.
    • Bromelain – Decreases arthritis joint pain and swelling, and increases mobility.
  6. Listen to your body! If you experience pain, seek care. Practitioners including Chiropractors, Physiotherapists, Massage Therapists and Acupuncturists can help promote and maintain joint health.

Disclaimer

The advice in this article is for informational purposes only. It is meant to augment and not replace consultation with a licensed healthcare provider. Please speak to your doctor or pharmacist before taking any supplements as they may interfere with medications and always consult with your health care provider before beginning any exercise program.

Joint Tips on Well.ca


by Crystal
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A Letter from Dr. Draper – Relocating Practice

Dear Valued Patients,

I am excited to inform you that after 3 years at 360 Health Care and 3 ½ half years at Mississauga Wellness, I am relocating my Chiropractic practice as of December 1st, 2013.

After careful consideration and with great enthusiasm, I have decided to join the team at Balanced Body Active Health Care at 260 The Esplanade (at The Esplanade and Berkeley Street). I will begin seeing patients there beginning on December 3rd, 2013. In my new Corktown/St. Lawrence Market location, I will be joining an outstanding group of Chiropractors and health care professionals who provide a truly collaborative approach to patient care. By joining Balanced Body, my patients will gain access to practitioners who provide optimal physical and manual therapy in an evidence-based, holistic way that promotes healthy living.

In addition to my new Corktown/St. Lawrence Market location, I am pleased to announce that as of December 4th, 2013, I will also be available at the Liberty Clinic at 657 Yonge Street Suite 200 (at Yonge Street and Charles Street). This is also a great team of health care providers that have a common vision for integrative medicine, and provide a greater range of services to meet your health care needs.

I realize that change can be difficult but the staff and I hope to make the transition as smooth as possible for you. I have included all the details regarding the new locations, including address, phone number and office hours below.

Appointments can be booked by contacting:

Balanced Body Active Health Care

260 The Esplanade

Toronto, ON M5A 4J6

(T): 647-352-6377

(F): 888-477-6307

www.balancedbodyahc.com

Tuesdays: 11am-7pm

Thursdays: 11 am-7pm

Saturdays: by appointment only

 

Liberty Clinic

657 Yonge St., Suite 200

Toronto, ON M4Y 1Z9

(T): 416-591-1123

(F): 888-436-7190

(E): info@libertyclinic.com

www.libertyclinic.com

Mondays: 11am-7pm

Wednesdays: 11am-7pm

Fridays: 11am-7pm

*Please note these hours will be carried out in full as of January 6th, 2014.

With my expanded availability and hours, I am delighted to be able to continue to accept new patient referrals at both practice locations. If you know of anyone who may benefit from Chiropractic or Acupuncture services, please feel free to pass along my contact information or refer them to my personal or clinic website.

It has been a pleasure working with you and getting to know you and I look forward to having you join me at my new practice locations! Your medical files will be making the journey with me, ensuring a smooth transition for you. If you should have any questions or concerns, please feel free to contact me at any time.

 

Yours in health,
Crystal

Dr. Crystal Draper

BAS, DC, ART Provider, Acupuncture Provider

dr.crystal.draper@gmail.com

 


by Crystal
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Ouch! Should I Heat or Ice?

One out of every seven Americans are affected by musculoskeletal injuries and disorders, so a good question to ask is, should I ice it or heat it?

Cryotherapy or the use of Ice

Cryotherapy is defined as the therapeutic application of any substance to the body that removes heat from the body, and results in decreased tissue temperature. This decrease in tissue temperature causes the following responses:

-       Decrease in blood flow to the tissue by constricting the blood vessels

-       Decrease in tissue metabolism

-       Decrease in oxygen use

-       Decrease in inflammation

-       Decrease in muscle spasm

Thermotherapy or the use of Heat

Conversely, thermotherapy is defined as the therapeutic application of any substance to the body that adds heat to the body, resulting in increased tissue temperature. This increase in tissue temperature causes the following responses:

-       Increase in blood flow to the tissue

-       Facilitates healing by supplying protein, nutrients, and oxygen at the site of the injury

-       Increase in tissue metabolism

-       Increase in tissue elasticity (more stretch)

General Rule of Thumb: Ice a new injury and heat an old one.

Ice a new injury

Cryotherapy is used when you have just suffered an acute injury, for example, an ankle sprain. With this injury there is pain, swelling and occasionally bruising in the area. Therefore, you would want to apply an ice pack and follow the 10-10-10 rule where you apply ice for 10 minutes, remove for 10 minutes, then reapply for 10 minutes. Remember to place a towel between the ice pack and your skin.

An ice pack is the most commonly used modality of cryotherapy, however vapo-coolant spray, ice massage or an ice bath can also be used.

Heat an old one

Thermotherapy is used when you have a chronic condition such as a stiff neck and shoulders. Applying a heat pack for 20-30 minutes in this case will help loosen the muscles by increasing blood flow and elasticity.

While the most common application is a heat pack, alternatives include a hot water bottle, an electric heating pad, or a hot bath/shower.

The exception to this rule is acute low back pain. Based on our general rule of thumb, we would reach for an ice pack in this acute situation. However, both a recent clinical practice guideline from the American College of Physicians and the American Pain Society and a recent Cochrane review recommends the application of heat in the case of acute low back pain.

Thermotherapy and Cryotherapy are useful adjuncts to conservative treatment including chiropractic care, acupuncture, exercise and patient education when used appropriately. If you have experienced an injury or suffer from chronic pain, please talk to your Chiropractor or healthcare provider.

Disclaimer

The advice in this article is for informational purposes only. It is meant to augment and not replace consultation with a licensed healthcare provider. Consultation with a Chiropractor or other primary care provider is recommended for anyone suffering from a health problem.

References

Chou, R. Diagnosis and Treatment of Low Back Pain : A Joint Clinical Practice Guideline from the American College of Physicians and the American Pain Society. Annals of Internal Medicine. 2007: 147: 478-491.

French, S.D. Superficial Heat or Cold for Low Back Pain. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews. 2006: 1; CD004750.

Garra, G. Heat or Cold Packs for Neck and Back Strain: A Randomized Controlled Trial of Efficacy. Academic Emergency Medicine. 2010: 17(5); 484-489.

Nadler, S.F. The Physiologic Basis and Clinical Applications of Cryotherapy and Thermotherapy for the Pain Practitioner. Pain Physician. 2004; 7: 395-399.

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by Crystal
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Western Medical Acupuncture: What is the “point”?

There are two main approaches to acupuncture: Traditional Chinese Medicine Acupuncture and Western Medical Acupuncture.  Knowing the difference between the two is an important factor in deciding which will be the most effective course of treatment for you.

Traditional Chinese Medicine Acupuncture

Acupuncture originated in China centuries ago and is encompassed in the practice of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM).  TCM refers to pathways that traverse the body called meridians and collaterals; 360 points exist along these 14 meridians.  These pathways carry qi or ‘life energy’ from the various organs to the surface of the body and help to regulate yin and yang, the two opposing forces that keep the body in balance.  According to TCM, pain is thought to result from a blockage or stagnation of qi, and by the insertion of the acupuncture needles the normal flow of the body’s energy force is restored.

Western Medical Acupuncture

Western Medical Acupuncture (WMA) is an adaptation of TCM acupuncture.  It is based on similar techniques as TCM but forgoes the metaphysical concepts such as yin/yang and the circulation of qi.  Instead, the foundation of WMA is built upon the understanding of anatomy, physiology and pathology.  Due to its medical foundation, WMA is mainly used to treat musculoskeletal (MSK) pain.

Chronic MSK pain is the most common reason individuals try WMA.  Research shows that the following pain conditions respond well to WMA:

  • Chronic low back pain is the most prevalent
  • Chronic pain affecting the neck and shoulders
  • Chronic tension-type and migraine headaches
  • Knee osteoarthritis
  • Temporomandibular joint pain syndromes
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Lateral epicondylitis pain
  • Dysmenorrheal
  • Chronic prostate and pelvic pain
  • Obstetric labor pain
  • Postoperative pain
  • Pain from irritable bowel syndrome
  • And nausea

TCM vs. WMA

The main difference between TCM acupuncture and WMA is the explanation of how they work.  As we mentioned previously, TCM acupuncture functions by balancing the flow of qi to decrease pain and/or disease.  WMA functions through neuromodulation, which is just a fancy word to say regulation of the nervous system.  Therefore, the main therapeutic effects of the needling technique are achieved through stimulation of the nervous system. This stimulation occurs at a few different levels, the central and peripheral nervous systems.

The central nervous system (CNS) is comprised of the brain and the spinal cord.  At this level of the nervous system, acupuncture causes the release of hormones (opioid peptides and serotonin) to induce pain relief.  The peripheral nervous system (PNS) includes all of the peripheral nerves outside of the central nervous system.  This part of the nervous system experiences the local effects of acupuncture.  For example, when the needle is inserted at a point, it stimulates the nerve fibers in the affected muscles to improve the local nutritious blood flow, facilitating healing.

Similarities between the two approaches exist in technique.  Both use the insertion of fine sterile needles and the same classical points.  However, WMA may include additional local points in trigger points of muscles outside of the traditional points.  In both practices the duration of needling is variable ranging from very brief exposure up to 20-30 minutes and the number of needles used during a treatment can range 12-35.

What to expect at a WMA treatment

A health care practitioner, including your medical doctor, chiropractor or physiotherapist, will perform a medical examination complete with a thorough history and physical examination in order to come to a diagnosis.  From this diagnosis, the practitioner confirms that the symptoms are suitable for treatment with acupuncture.  Next, the practitioner will have you assume a comfortable position, most often lying on your stomach or back.  They will insert needles locally into the affected tissues and/or segmental points along your spine that are linked with your presenting condition.   Additionally, extrasegmental or general effects points may be included, particularly in hands and feet.  You will lay still with the acupuncture needles in for up to 30 minutes.

Acupuncture is generally a well-tolerated form of treatment.  Most individuals experience no pain during the insertion of needles or during treatment.  If discomfort is felt, it is a “twinge” upon insertion or a “dull ache” sensation at the insertion point. In regards to recovery, some individuals require 6-8 sessions before an improvement in symptoms is noticed while others may feel a response within 2-3 sessions.  Response to acupuncture treatment is variable between individuals.

If you have any questions about acupuncture treatment in general, or if it is the right treatment for you, please talk to your Chiropractor or healthcare provider.

Disclaimer

The advice in this article is for informational purposes only.  It is meant to augment and not replace consultation with a licensed healthcare provider.  Consultation with a Chiropractor or other primary care provider is recommended for anyone suffering from a health problem.

References

Cheng, K.J. Neuroanatomical characteristics of acupuncture points: relationship between their anatomical locations and traditional clinical indications. Acupuncture in Medicine. 2011; 29(4): 289-294.

Eshkevari, L. Use of Acupuncture for Chronic Pain: Optimizing Clinical Practice. Holistic Nursing Practice. 2005: 217-221.

Kelly, R.B.  Acupuncture for Pain.  American Family Physician. 2009; 80(5):481-484.

White, A. Western medical acupuncture: a definition. Acupuncture in Medicine. 2009; 27(1): 33-36.

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