Dr. Jeffrey I. Kennis,  D.C.
205 Commercial St.
Boston, MA 02109

( 617)720-2329




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Posts for: August, 2018

Still not convinced you need to exercise? If you have trouble sleeping or are feeling depressed, listen up: Being more active has been associated with getting better sleep and improved mental health.

See Addressing Pain and Medical Problems Disrupting Sleep

Chronic pain and sleeping

As we have discussed, people with chronic pain very often have problems sleeping. Even beyond a chronic pain population, 1/3 of the adult population in the United States experiences insomnia every year, and each year 50 to 70 million Americans experience some effects on their health from sleep disorders, sleep deprivation, and excessive daytime drowsiness.

Approximately 70 sleep disorders exist, the most studied of which are insomnia and obstructive sleep apnea. Many neurological disorders are associated with poor sleep and poor sleep itself can have important health-related outcomes.

See Chronic Pain and Insomnia: Breaking the Cycle

A number of studies provide evidence that regular participation in physical activity (or exercise) is associated with reduced risk for disrupted or insufficient sleep, including sleep apnea. The evidence suggests that regular participation in physical activity has favorable effects on sleep quality and is a useful component of good sleep hygiene.

See Practicing Good Sleep Hygiene

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Physical activity, exercise, and other aspects of mental health

Benefits of being physically active also extend to other aspects of mental health that contribute to overall quality of life, such as self-esteem and feelings of energy/fatigue.

See Specific Exercise Strategies

Enhanced self-esteem has significance for mental health because it conveys a feeling of value or self-worth and it is a generalized indicator of psychological adjustment and health risk. Many studies suggest that self-esteem is increased among adults when physical fitness is increased. Also, research suggests that larger gains in self-esteem can be expected for individuals with low initial levels once physical activity is introduced.

Learn more:

4 Tips to Help Cope With Chronic Pain and Depression

Pain and Sleeping Problems Need to be Treated Together

Cold and heat therapy may both provide effective relief from your lower back pain—but how do you know which one to use?

See Heat Therapy Cold Therapy

Read on for helpful advice on deciding whether you should use ice or heat to treat your lower back pain.

See Early Treatments for Lower Back Pain

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Ice in the first 24 to 72 hours

As a general rule, it is best to apply cold therapy to your lower back in the first 24 to 72 hours following your lower back injury. The application of cold therapy can minimize your inflammation and swelling—which in turn may reduce your pain. In addition, ice can decrease your tissue damage and numb your sore tissues.

See Ice Packs for Back Pain Relief

There are numerous options for cold therapy, including a frozen bag of vegetables, frozen gel packs, and a frozen towel. Regardless of which option you choose, make sure to note the following precautions:

  • To avoid ice burn, place a cloth between your skin and whichever source of cold you select.
  • Apply cold therapy for no more than 20 minutes at a time. You can apply cold therapy 8 to 10 times per 24 hour period.

Watch: Video: How to Make 5 Quick and Easy Ice Packs

Use heat to encourage healing

After your initial swelling and inflammation has subsided, heat therapy can be utilized to encourage healing in your lower back. The application of heat therapy stimulates blood flow to the area, which brings restorative oxygen and nutrients. Additionally, heat can inhibit the transmission of pain signals to your brain and decrease your stiffness.

See How to Apply Heat Therapy

There are two basic categories for heat therapy: dry and moist. Dry heat may leave your skin feeling dehydrated, but many people feel it is easier to apply. Heat therapy may be more difficult to apply, but it can aid in the penetration of heat into your muscles.

Watch: Video: How to Make a Moist Heat Pack

If you have diabetes, an open wound, or dermatitis it is best to avoid heat therapy altogether.

What about chronic lower back pain?

All of the above advice addresses when to use heat and ice following the first occurrence of lower back pain after an injury. But what about chronic lower back pain?

See Types of Back Pain: Acute Pain, Chronic Pain, and Neuropathic Pain

The simple answer is that there is no right answer. Finding the balance between cold and heat therapy for chronic lower back pain is a process of trial and error—and what might work for one patient may not for another. But when it comes to exercise, many people with chronic back pain find heat therapy helps to warm up their muscles beforehand, while cold therapy helps with pain and inflammation afterwards.

See Heat Wrap Therapy Can Reduce Post-Exercise Low Back Pain

Additionally, if you do suffer from extended or chronic lower back pain make sure to receive care from a qualified medical professional. Relying on self-care for too long may make your back pain worse.

See Pain Management for Chronic Back Pain

I hope all of the above advice will help you determine if cold or heat therapy is right for you, which in turn may help you find meaningful relief from your lower back pain.

Learn more:

How to Use Ice Massage Therapy for Back Pain

Benefits of Heat Therapy for Lower Back Pain

The claim that lower back pain can lead to stress is not a controversial statement. But what about the other way around?

See Stress-Related Back Pain

Is it possible that stress is the primary cause of your lower back pain? Read on to find out the answer.

See Back Pain Causes: Overview of Conditions That Can Create Back Pain

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How does stress lead to lower back pain?

Before we discuss whether stress is the cause of your lower back pain, let's quickly look at how stress may lead to lower back pain. There are numerous theories on this topic, but what most have in common is the idea that psychological and emotional factors lead to a physical change that results in your lower back pain.

See Causes of Lower Back Pain

If stress is the cause of a person's lower back pain, it is easy to get caught in a cycle of pain. In this cycle, a person refrains from physical activity due to a fear of pain and/or injury. In response, the person's muscles become deconditioned, which in turn increases their pain. This cycle amplifies as the new pain leads to even less physical activity.

See How Does Stress Cause Back Pain?

Diagnosing stress-related lower back pain

The first thing to know about diagnosing stress-related lower back pain is that you should not self-diagnose. Your pain may be caused by a serious medical condition, and so you need to consult with a qualified medical professional.

See Specialists Who Treat Back Pain

As a general rule, the symptoms of stress-related lower back pain are similar to fibromyalgia symptoms. These symptoms include:

  • Back and/or neck pain
  • Diffuse muscle aches
  • Problems with sleep and general fatigue
  • Pain that is not isolated to only spot

See Lower Back Pain Symptoms

To confirm the diagnosis of your pain, you doctor will typically ask for your medical history and perform a physical examination (in part to rule out any major problems).

See The Diagnosis of Stress-Related Back Pain

The pain is not all in your head

When it comes to stress-related lower back pain, it is important to remember that this type of pain is real. It is not imagined or made up, but is just as real as if your back pain was caused by an accident or trauma.

See Chronic Pain As a Disease: Why Does It Still Hurt?

In recognition that your stress-related back pain is real, you and your doctor may work together to treat your pain with any combination of the following:

  • Physical therapy
  • Pain medications
  • Counseling and/or therapy
  • Psychological pain management techniques

See Treatments for Stress-Related Back Pain

If you suspect stress may be the cause of your lower back pain, schedule an appointment with your doctor as soon as you are able. You may find meaningful relief, and in turn be able to return to your favorite activities and hobbies.

Learn more:

Miscellaneous Causes of Low Back Pain

Managing Stress, Depression and Chronic Back Pain