January 22, 2013 • 09:24:45 a.m.

Health care professionals treat back pain, but patients can get moving to do their part


Dr. Amy Neff adjusts patient Sarah Sharp at the Premier Wellness Chiropractic office in Crystal Lake. Chiropractic care is just one way to help alleviate back pain. (Monica Maschak -

Want to ease or prevent back pain? Get up, say area chiropractors.

“Sitting is truly pandemic in our country,” said Dr. Anthony Ebel, a certified pediatric chiropractor and chiropractic wellness provider with Premier Wellness Chiropractic in Crystal Lake.

He and other area physicians offered advice on ways to help prevent back pain, especially for those who work at an office all day.

Eight hours or more a day at a desk can – and most often does – lead to back pain, which in turn has become one the most common reasons for missed work.

Experts estimate as much as 80 percent of the population will experience a back problem at some point.

Chiropractors work to treat it, but those suffering can prevent it, Dr. Ebel said.

“Did you know the most strongly associated factor to back pain is stress at work? Not car accidents, not scoliosis [or] stress,” he said.

His practice includes an 8 Weeks to Wellness program for adults, which offers nutrition education, stress management, exercise and other rehabilitation needed to help the problem, and also works to get to the root of it, Dr. Ebel said.

“Most of health care is so passive,” he said. “You show up and have a procedure done. ... The patient doesn’t get engaged in the process, and that’s the only way they’re going to get better.”

Through Ebel’s program, patients learn to get up every 30 to 60 minutes, to stretch, to exercise regularly and eat right.

Focusing about 60 percent on pediatrics, his practice has honed in on the huge role that obesity is playing in back pain and other related pain and disorders. Ebel is launching an 8 Weeks to Wellness program geared specifically toward children this summer.

The goal is to give kids a head start on tackling potential future problems, he said.

Many of his patients have had so many years of being overweight or obese that their spines and cores have become de-conditioned, he said. They require four to eight weeks of intensive care using adjustment, physical therapy and massage before transitioning them into the wellness program of exercise.

Someone might experience occasional back pain, but if it becomes steady, a doctor should be consulted.

“If they get to a point where it’s just on from the time they wake up in the morning, stiff, and they just can’t get comfortable through the day. If tension headaches build up, then they’ve gotten themselves into a funky place,” Dr. Ebel said.

Tremendous pressure is put on the back, specifically the lombard disc, when seated, said Dr. Randy David, a chiropractic physician with Centegra Health System, which offers a Back and Spine Center for centralized treatment.

That’s enhanced when those sitting do so with poor posture, he said.

“I tell a lot of my people it’s just as bad to be at a desk as it is to be out doing heavy construction labor or lifting heavy objects on a regular basis,” he said.

He advises people to not sit for longer than an hour at a time without standing up and stretching. Those experiencing problems and treatment should not sit for more than 15 or 20 minutes at a time, he said.

“The best posture for being seated is to actually ignore the back of the chair, sit toward the front, put feet up toward the buttocks, keeping the lower back and upper back in an upright position,” he said.

Over time, the necessary muscles to maintain that position for longer periods will build up, he said.

Patients have been advised to sit on exercise balls at their desks rather than chairs. And as many as 15 years ago, office chairs didn’t have backs, said David, who has been in the practice for about 30 years. The chairs were seats and kneeling bars to help people assume the proper posture, he said.

Nowadays, he said, at least make sure the chair is adjustable. Put it in the best position for your height and weight to get into that proper posture, he said.

Using a pillow as a lumbar support can help by maintaining that forward curve in the lower back, he said.

Seek attention for pain if it lasts more than two or three days, and especially if it radiates into the extremities, such as the neck, shoulders, arms, hands, buttocks or legs, he said.

Back pain can be a sign of and lead to other problems, experts say.

“The lower back pain can have a major impact on people’s lives, lead to depression, anxiety. It can cause economical issues, where they can sometimes lose their job,” said Dr. Sammy Dean, a pain medicine physician for Mercy Health Center.

If muscle pain doesn’t go away and becomes chronic pain, that can be a sign of arthritis or other problems.

Chronic back pain can be hard to cure, he said, but there are ways to manage and control the pain through medication and rest.

“Anything we do that causes pain means injury to the lower back,” he said. “Find a comfortable position, a comfortable chair, a pillow, anything that helps minimize the pain.

Perhaps the computer screen needs to be moved so bending the back to view it isn’t necessary, he said. When sitting or driving for long periods, get up and stretch, he said.

“As long as they have pain, that means there’s an injury, and they shouldn’t continue doing what they’re doing. Something is wrong.”

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