"If you aren't seeing a chiropractor, you must be on drugs."

October 18, 2005 [Volume 6, Issue 22]

In this issue of To Your Health:

Back Pain Not Cured by Back Exercises Alone
Dairy Foods May Ward off Metabolic Syndrome
Injuries: The Downside of the Sporting Life

Back Pain Not Cured by Back Exercises Alone

Chiropractors and other health care providers often prescribe specific types of exercise to help their patients strengthen and mobilize the lower back. However, a growing body of evidence suggests that targeting the back does not always help relieve back pain, and that in some instances, it may even aggravate the condition. The results of a recent study add to this evidence, and imply that general "recreational" exercises may do a better job of easing back pain than specific exercises.

In the study, 681 patients with low back pain were randomized into two groups and tracked for 18 months. People who participated in "recreational physical activities" such as brisk walking for three or more hours per week were more likely to report low levels of back pain, disability, and psychological distress. By contrast, those who performed exercises designed specifically for their backs were more likely to experience back pain and disability.

Exactly why specific back exercises may increase back pain remains unclear; people may perform them incorrectly, or they may be not be prescribed a specific exercise that could benefit their condition. Whatever the reason, staying active also seems to play a key role in reducing back pain. If you have back pain, talk to your doctor of chiropractic about a wellness plan that includes various types of activities, along with a balanced diet, to help you achieve optimal well-being.

Hurwitz EL, Morgenstern H, Chiao C. Effects of recreational physical activity and back exercises on low back pain and psychological distress: findings from the UCLA Low Back Pain Study. American Journal of Public Health, October 2005;95(10):1817-1824.

Dairy Foods May Ward off Metabolic Syndrome

The American Heart Association estimates that more than 50 million Americans suffer from metabolic syndrome. Not everyone agrees on what "metabolic syndrome" is, but many experts agree that having a combination of disorders such as high blood pressure, excess abdominal fat, and elevated levels of blood glucose and triglycerides, puts a person at increased risk of the disease. Previous research has suggested that eating dairy foods may help prevent weight gain. A new study goes one step further by suggesting the more dairy products a person consumes, the less likely that person is to develop metabolic syndrome.

Researchers in this study analyzed the dietary habits of 827 adults in Iran, looking specifically at their daily consumption of dairy products such as milk, yogurt and cheese. They also conducted waist and blood pressure measurements to see how many of them met different risk factors for metabolic syndrome.

People in the highest quartile (25 percent) of dairy intake were 31 percent less likely to meet the study's definition of metabolic syndrome compared to people with the lowest level of dairy consumption. They also were 37 percent less likely to have a large waist circumference, and 29 percent less likely to suffer from hypertension.

The researchers believe that the high calcium content in milk, cheese and yogurt may have accounted for the decreased risk of metabolic syndrome. Other good sources of calcium include eggs, sardines, tofu, and green, leafy vegetables.

Azadbakht L, Mirmiran P, Esmaillzadeh A, et al. Dairy consumption is inversely associated with the prevalence of the metabolic syndrome in Tehranian adults. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, September 2005;82(3):523-530.

Injuries: The Downside of the Sporting Life

Each year, an estimated two million high school athletes are injured while practicing or in the course of a game. Most studies of high school athletic injuries have looked at specific sports, or a variety of sports at just one school. A new study has taken a much broader view of sports injuries at the high school level, with significant findings that could affect the care of both male and female athletes.

This study of more than 6,100 varsity-level athletes from 15 high schools compared injury rates among boys and girls who participated in the same sports (baseball/softball, basketball, soccer, track/cross-country, tennis, or lacrosse). The students were followed for one year, with information collected on the student's age, gender, sport, skill level, injured body part, type of injury, and days lost due to injury.

Overall, 966 injuries occurred - 515 among girls, and 451 among boys. There were significant differences in injury rates between boys and girls for each area of the body. Girls were more likely to injure their ankles, knees, and tibias, while boys had a higher rate of injuries to the tendoachilles complex of the foot. Girls suffered more major injuries (loss of seven days or more) in basketball and soccer, while boys incurred more major injuries while playing baseball or softball.

Understanding why certain types of injuries occur more often among female athletes than male athletes, or during one type of sport compared to another, is crucial to preventing these types of injuries from happening in the future. This information can also be used by doctors of chiropractic, athletic trainers, and others to design effective injury-prevention and rehabilitation programs in the future.

Goldberg A, et al. Injury rate and injury risk in female vs. male high school athletes in gender-matched sports: a prospective cohort study. Presented at the American Academy of Pediatrics National Conference and Exhibition, Washington, D.C., Oct. 9, 2005.