Tag Archive for: New Hampshire pt


Do Cortisone Shots Work on Herniated Discs?

Do Cortisone Shots Work on Herniated Discs?

A recent conversation with someone regarding whether or not they should get a cortisone shot in their back to help a herniated disc inspired me to write this article. Why? Because in speaking with her, I realized how misinformed she was about when you should and shouldn’t get a cortisone shot, and what they are and aren’t good for. And I hate to see people getting procedures or injections when they don’t actually need one.

So when is a cortisone shot a good idea?

Cortisone shots work really well when the primary source of your pain in a targeted area is inflammatory or “chemical”. When you’ve got pain that is of chemical origin – then chemical drugs (like a cortisone shot) will work well to get rid of it. So what is “chemical pain” and how is it different? Chemical pain is the result of your body’s natural inflammatory response in response to injury – which produces an influx of chemicals and other nutrients in your blood to heal the injured area. Since this process creates inflammation and swelling – you feel pain. When the inflammatory process is working correctly, these chemicals naturally dissipate as the tissue heals. But on occasion, the process can get out of hand and get dysfunctional. The painful chemicals linger and create an almost constant state of pain that really doesn’t respond to any kind of movement or even rest.  In the case of back pain due to a herniated disc, typically you’ll find that you can relieve it temporarily by changing positions, moving, or going for a walk. But if it’s chemical pain – your back will hurt constantly – it will feel hot and inflamed – and nothing will seem to touch it. While rare, if your herniated disc is causing this type of pain response, then you’ll likely benefit from a cortisone shot. You need to get rid of those chemicals and the cortisone shot will do just that

But most cases of back pain – even those involving a herniated disc – are instead considered “mechanical” in origin.

Mechanical pain is responsible for 70-80% of all musculoskeletal injuries and it has to do with your mobility and movement patterns. Unlike chemical pain – mechanical pain does respond to changes in movement and position. It’s why most people suffering from herniated discs will feel better when they walk, move, or exercise. They can also temporarily relieve their back or leg pain by standing up (for example) after having been sat for a long time. The key recovery tool for mechanical pain is movement – identifying where your mobility restrictions are and where your faulty movement patterns or habits exist. Once you figure this out – the structural component (aka the herniated disc) is irrelevant and you can live with it for years to come without issue. If you’re suffering from back pain or sciatica, and have been told you have a herniated disc, and what I’ve just described is your typical pain pattern – you will likely not benefit from a cortisone shot and instead need a proper movement/mechanical assessment from someone who’s an expert in this sort of thing.

Now here’s where things get confusing…

If you’ve got a herniated disc – it has the ability to irritate the structures surrounding it – everything from muscles to nerves. I’ve seen people aggravate a herniated disc by simply sneezing or coughing. When your herniated disc gets “angry” and irritates the surrounding structures, you will experience localized inflammation. But it’s different from the dysfunctional inflammatory pattern I described previously. It’s still possible to make this inflammation go away on its own – without drugs – because it’s not in a permanent “chemical” state. But when you’ve got a highly sensitive and painful herniated disc it’s very tempting to get a cortisone shot to relieve the pain.

But here’s why I urge you to think twice… The cortisone shot may provide you with temporary relief – but it will be a bandaid.

Because at the end of the day – the cortisone shot will not address the root cause – the underlying mechanical problem that is causing that herniated disc to keep getting angry. What you risk is that during those periods of “pain relief” – you continue to do things that make that herniated disc worse – because you can’t feel what’s going on. If you keep masking the pain pattern with cortisone shots, and keep unknowingly making your herniated disc worse, you may get to the point where you can’t fix it naturally anymore and will be looking at a surgical fix instead.

Ok – so that was a lot of information and scientific terms thrown at you. But at the end of the day – here’s what I want you to remember and think about if you’re considering getting a cortisone shot for your herniated disc… 

If you can influence your back pain with any sort of movement or activity – then it’s not the type of pain that warrants a cortisone shot. Cortisone shots do nothing to affect a structure (aka herniated disc) – they only eliminate chemicals that are causing pain. And the short-term pain relief from the cortisone shot will not outweigh the potential long-term and harmful consequences you could experience by not addressing the root cause. But if you’re experiencing the sort of back pain that is hot, inflammatory, and not responsive at all to movement, activity, or positional changes – then you’ve got a situation where a cortisone shot might be beneficial – and could get you over the hump that is needed for movement and activity to actually help.

At the end of the day, before you consider any kind of injection or procedure, be sure you’re well-informed and have asked all the questions necessary to be sure that a natural alternative is not still available and worth trying.

If you are local to Portsmouth, NH – consider speaking to one of my specialists. We will ask you all about what’s been going on and see if we would be the best fit to help you. Click here to request to speak with a specialist.

Dr. Carrie Jose, Physical Therapist and Pilates expert, owns CJ Physical Therapy & Pilates in Portsmouth and writes for Seacoast Media Group. To request a free copy of her guide to back pain CLICK HERE or to get in touch, email her at [email protected].

Pain when gardening

Six Ways to Protect your Knees and Back when Gardening

Gardening is a favorite activity for a lot of folks – and lately I have been hearing many people having knee and back pain when gardening. To add more frustration to this topic, you might not even notice the pain until hours or days afterwards, which can make it challenging to address.

The good news is that there are several things you can do to protect your knees and back while gardening.

Here are 6 of my favorite tips to manage pain when gardening:

1. Warm up first

Before diving into any activity that you know you’ll be doing repetitively and for more than a few hours, it’s a good idea to warm-up. It doesn’t have to be anything crazy or excessive and 10 min is plenty.

Typically, you’ll only be gardening during nice weather. So enjoy it by taking a walk around your neighborhood first. Then do some easy light stretching to lubricate your joints before you begin. It won’t take long but your knees and back will thank you.

2. Avoid bending from the waist

Lifting and carrying heavy bags of soil or plants can put a lot of strain on your back and knees. You really want to make sure you’re using proper posture and body mechanics to avoid problems.

When lifting, be sure to use your legs instead of your back and hold objects close to your body. If you hinge only from your hips, for example, which a lot of people like to do, you will put extra strain on the back of your knees and lower back. Get in the habit of bending your ankles, knees, and hips in unison – kind of like an accordion – so that you build good muscle and body memory and don’t even have to think about it next time you’re gardening or lifting.

3. Take frequent breaks

It’s easy to get lost in the activity of planting and weeding. But even if you’re choosing good postures like I mentioned above – your back and knees still need a break. Our joints don’t enjoy anything when done repetitively or for prolonged periods, but especially too much bending or sitting on your knees. When you bend too much and too often, the discs in your lower back can get aggravated, and when you’re sitting on your knees, it’s a lot of pressure and can annoy your arthritis.

I recommend setting a timer and giving yourself a break every 30 min to change positions. Simply stand up and get out of the bent or sitting posture. Your back and knees will thank you and you’ll be able to garden for much longer and without risk of injury.

4. Pivot instead of twist

Your lower back and knees aren’t really designed to rotate, they are designed for bending and extending. So if you’re not careful – you can strain these areas with poor twisting and turning mechanics. When you have to rotate, you’ll want to pivot from your pelvis.

What does this look like?

Make sure your hips are always in line with the object you are moving and maneuvering. Keep your ribs in line with your pelvis and your pelvis in line with your knees and feet – and always move them as a unit. While it’s ok to bend and twist from your waist or legs on occasion – you’ll find yourself in some trouble when you do this over and over again – especially if you’re already prone to back or knee pain.

5. Use ergonomic gardening tools

The right gardening tools can be of significant help when it comes to maintaining good posture and avoiding overuse of your muscles and joints. Long-handled tools can help reduce the need for bending and stooping, which as already discussed, puts strain on your knees and back when overdone. Another consideration is the weight of your tools. It might be worth the investment to swap out your older, heavier tools for more modern, lightweight alternatives.

When you have to lift something heavy – especially repeatedly – use a wheelbarrow. This valuable gardening tool will allow you to lift and move heavy things with significantly less strain on your back. If you’ve got to be on your knees or squatting a lot – consider using a gardening bench and/or knee pads. These tools will make it easier to sustain activities that require prolonged bending or kneeling.

6. Use beds to raise your gardens

Raised garden beds not only look pretty but they are extremely ergonomic. Especially if you suffer from more chronic back and knee problems. Raised garden beds are elevated off the ground. They are easier to maintain and limit the amount of bending you have to do.

Raised garden beds are relatively simple to build and create. Even if you’re not having problems now with gardening, if it’s an activity you love to do, you might want to consider it. Making the investment in raised gardening beds now could go a long way in preventing knee and back problems in your future.

Gardening has so many positive benefits for both your mental and physical health – and the last thing I want is for back or knee pain to get in your way.

If you are experiencing pain when gardening – Give these tips a try.

But if it’s not enough, don’t give up.

Enlist the help of a musculoskeletal pain and movement expert who can help you figure out the source of your problem and provide you with practical solutions so that you can get back to gardening as quickly as possible.

If you are local to Portsmouth, NH – consider speaking to one of my specialists.

It’s a free, no-obligation call where you can tell us everything that’s been going on with you, and determine for yourself if we’re the best people to help you.

Click here to speak with a specialist.