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Greetings to you all! This day finds me far away from you as I am fortunate enough to be in the beautiful country of New Zealand! A few weeks ago, I got a call from a good friend offering me this once in a lifetime opportunity and without another thought I jumped on it! I am so fortunate to have a tremendous staff, as they have stepped up big time and allowed me the opportunity to take the longest vacation of my career!

As I write to you, I am sitting in the back of a car, after finishing up my share of driving for the past 5 hours through the mountains in the southwest part of this beautiful country. During my driving, thus sitting, my teaching moment hit me, where it hits 80% of us in the United States, in my back!  Most of us have some back issues throughout our life. It happens as we get older and we tend to assume we are meant to have some kind of back, neck or joint pain daily. This is not true!

I am 64 years old and I first developed a terrible back problem when I injured myself in the Blue-Gold Game in 1973. Upon examination it was the consensus by the physicians involved that I needed surgery. Luckily for me, before going that route I was treated by a remarkable physical therapist. It took me several treatments, but I got better and was able to get back to playing football and would go on to be quite active in my life. I rarely have back pain, but I do work at it, by avoiding certain constant positions and exercises that can increase my risk of creating a painful back.

It may be hard for you to believe, but the number one cause of back pain is not lifting, shoveling, or bending. The number one cause is prolonged sitting! I do not want to get too technical but sitting for long periods of time sets most of us up for stiffness and eventually chronic back pain. Each one of us can dramatically decrease the chance of chronic back pain by getting up every 45-60 minutes, walking around or arching our backs for six times before sitting back down.

Many of my patients who have desk jobs have said to me, "I have no time at work to get up every hour." This is not true! We have been fortunate to observe many workers in their jobs, through technology that companies provide via their video systems. Most are not as busy as they think. Studies show that we work much less than we perceive. By getting up to move for 2-5 minutes, you will be increasing your blood flow which provides nutrients and oxygen to your body and changing static body positions that can increase your risk of chronic pain in your back and joints.

This tip may not seem like much, but it can help you if you find yourself sitting for prolonged periods of times at work, studying, watching tv, cheering on your team at sporting events, traveling, even talking or texting on your phone!  We are all doing something that we most likely don't realize is contributing to chronic pain in our back, neck and joints. It's so important to avoid sitting for more than an hour! It's so important to get up to improve our circulation! We need the oxygen flow that provides the nutrients and lubricants that keep our back, neck and joints moving freely! 
If you would like to learn more about ways to improve your chronic back, neck, or joint pain, feel free to come visit one of our physical therapists. We will perform an extensive evaluation and give you some helpful easy insights to improve your pain.
Hope to see many of you back in the states soon! Time for another stretch!

Health Information

5 Tips to Avoid Chronic Pain

1. Know Pain, Know Gain. There is a growing body of evidence suggesting that understanding how our pain systems work is an excellent strategy in managing it. The great news is that you don't need to know a lot! Simply knowing the basics of how our brain and nerves work, and their role in pain, can help reduce your chance for developing chronic symptoms. 
2. Keep moving. Gradually and steadily. Living an active, healthy lifestyle not only improves our general well-being and health, but can also reduce our chances of developing chronic pain. Our body was built to move, and we need to understand that not all aches or soreness is cause for concern. 
3. Spend time with a good PT. If you experience an injury, or develop the onset of pain, seeing a physical therapist (PT) early on can help address and manage your symptoms. PTs are movement experts who can diagnose and treat injuries and help you identify strategies to better manage your pain. The earlier you seek care, the better the chances you have for not developing chronic symptoms. And there's no reason to wait: you can see a physical therapist without a physician's referral in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.
4. Don't focus on an image. While most of us want a diagnostic image (ie, x-ray, MRI) to tell us "why we hurt," images actually give us little information about what's causing pain. A study performed on individuals 60 years or older, who had no symptoms of low back pain, found that more than 90% had a degenerated or bulging disc, 36% had a herniated disc, and 21% had spinal stenosis. What shows up on an image may or may not be related to your symptoms. Once imaging has cleared you of a serious condition, your physical therapist will help guide you back to the life you want to live!
5. Addressing depression and anxiety helps. Your chances of developing chronic pain may be higher if you also are experiencing depression and anxiety. A recent study in the  Journal of Pain showed that depression, as well as some of our thoughts about pain prior to total knee replacement, was related to long-term pain following the procedure. Make sure that you talk to your medical provider about your mental health throughout your treatment; it can help make your journey go much more smoothly following an injury or surgery.
Authored by Joseph Brence, PT, DPT, FAAOMPT, COMT, DAC

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