back pain

Updated Thinking On Chronic Pain and Exercise

CF 129: Updated Thinking On Chronic Pain and Exercise Today we’re going to talk about chronic pain and exercise.  But first, here’s that sweet sweet bumper music
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OK, we are back and you have found the Chiropractic Forward Podcast where we are making evidence-based chiropractic fun, profitable, and accessible while we make you and your patients better all the way around.  We’re the fun kind of research. Not the stuffy, high-brow kind of research. We’re research talk over a couple of beers. I’m Dr. Jeff Williams and I’m your host for the Chiropractic Forward podcast.   If you haven’t yet I have a few things you should do. 
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Do it do it do it.  You have found yourself smack dab in the middle of Episode #129 Now if you missed last week’s episode, we talked about Tylenol failures, cervical disc research, and we talked about complementary and alternative treatment for headaches and migraines. What’s the current research and thinking? Make sure you don’t miss that info. Keep up with the class.  While we’re on the topic of being smart, did you know that you can use our website as a resource? Quick and easy, you can go to, click on Episodes, and use the search function to find whatever you want quickly and easily. With over 100 episodes in the tank and an average of 2-3 papers covered per episode, we have somewhere between 250 and 300 papers that can be quickly referenced along with their talking points.  Just so you know, all of the research we talk about in each episode is cited in the show notes for each episode if you’re looking to dive in a little deeper.  On the personal end of things….. Well, so far, no blowback from my rant on last week’s podcast so sometimes no news is good news. You either all agree with me or you’re not listening.  Rocking and rolling here at work, last week was finally the busiest I have been since late January or early February. It was quite a blessing. I have to admit, I’m not used to working that damned hard anymore but it’s OK. I just need to get back into fighting shape so I can see them all.  Last week we saw about 135 patients. Pre-COVID numbers were anywhere from 185-225 so I’m still significantly down but it’s trending upwards and it’s looking good right now. I cannot and will not fuss about it. Especially when I read that several are just now going back to work and have been closed completely this entire time. We’ve been fully, completely open for more than a month now. It’s hard to imagine being closed down any longer than we were honest. I don’t know how companies survive.  I see reports that the virus may have mutated to a lesser severity. Not only are some doctors claiming that people are getting less severe when they do get sick, but they are not getting sick as easily. That’s some exciting news if it is indeed a fact. Time will tell.  I don’t want to hear anything about ‘new normals’. Once this dude settles down, life will be normal. Not a new normal. It’ll be back to the way it was. I’m guessing August but who knows? It could be in the Fall. Maybe even the Spring. But it will be the old normal. You can count on that.  I hope your businesses are picking back up as well. I hope you’re seeing those old familiar happy faces coming back into the office to greet you. I hope you’re back on track to showing the world how effective and amazing chiropractic can be when practiced by an evidence-based, patient-centered professional. That’s you. That’s who listens to this show and I’m proud of you all. You make this profession better every day and I thank you.  I just hope you get something good from me every week. If you do, I won’t be shy about asking you to share this podcast with your colleagues. We are growing all of the time but it’s never quite fast enough to feel like I’m on a roll. So, with your help in sharing and talking about us, I think we can truly make a big difference and take this thing of ours to another level.  Item #1 This first one this week is called “Exercise Induced Hypoalgesia Is Impaired in Chronic Whiplash Associated Disorders (WAD) With Both Aerobic and Isometric Exercise” by Smith et. al(Smith A 2020). and published in Clinical Journal of Pain in May of 2020. Oy…..that’s smokin’ hot! Why They Did It First, let’s define Exercise Induced Hypolagesia. It is a generalized reduction in pain and pain sensitivity that occurs during exercise and for some time afterward. So, for normal, asymptomatic people, when they exercise, there’s less pain and they feel better and that lasts for a while when they finish exercising.  Exercise induced hypoalgesia can be impaired in patients with chronic pain and may be dependent on exercise type. Factors predictive of Exercise induced hypoalgesia are not known. This study aimed to: 
  1. compare Exercise induced hypoalgesia in participants with chronic whiplash associated disorders to asymptomatic controls, 
  2. determine if exercise induced hypoalgesia differs between aerobic and isometric exercise, 
  3. determine predictors of Exercise induced hypoalgesia.
How They Did It
  • A pre-post study investigated the effect of single sessions of submaximal aerobic treadmill walking and isometric knee extension on exercise induced hypoalgesia in 40 participants with chronic whiplash associated disorders and 30 controls
  • Pressure pain thresholds were measured at the hand, cervical spine and tibialis anterior
  • Appropriate baseline measurements were performed
What They Found Participants with whiplash-associated disorders demonstrated impaired exercise-induced hypoalgesia There was no difference in exercise-induced hypoalgesia between exercise types Wrap It Up “Individuals with chronic whiplash-associated disorders have impaired exercise-induced hypoalgesia with both aerobic and isometric exercise. Higher levels of physical activity and less efficient conditioned pain modulation may be associated with impaired exercise-induced hypoalgesia.” Item #2 This last one is by the great Dr. Craig Liebenson and is called “Pain with Exercise: Is it acceptable & if so how much & for how long?” and was published in First Principles Of Movement on May 20, 2020(Liebenson C 2020). Pow! Hot like a firecracker folks. For articles, we dispense with our normal outline and we hit the high spots and interesting points.  Craig starts by quoting a paper by Smith, Littlewood where they say “Protocols using painful exercises offer a small but significant benefit over pain-free exercises in the short term, with moderate quality of evidence……Pain during therapeutic exercise for chronic musculoskeletal pain need not be a barrier to successful outcomes.” He also quotes Annie O’Conner’s, author of World of Hurt, where she says we must violate the patient’s expectation that hurt equals harm. Especially with light pain.  Craig also refers to a photograph from Silbernagel’s paper demonstrating a Pain-Monitoring Model where the safe zone on the VAS was 0-2, the Yellow or acceptable zone was 3-5 on the VAS, and the red high-risk zone was 6-10.  Silbernagel says, “Biological plausibility/explanation and reasoning ranks high and then you can individualize. Meaning waiting for the pain to subside does not work because you get weaker and the tissue decreases its tolerance to load. So loading with pain is beneficial to get the structures to improve. However, if it is a fracture it might be very different so know the injury and tissue.” I like this quote of Craig’s from the article: “Many people believe the medical adage – “if it hurts don’t do it”. We know that for some this promotes illness behavior by giving the idea that the body is fragile. Ben Smith & Chris Littlewood’s shoulder paper, Annie O’Conner’s WOH book, some of K Thorberg’s groin work, & you’re tendonopathy paper all show yellow pain is acceptable.  He says the idea of, if it hurts, don’t do it brings about clear yellow flags. Yellow flags such as
  • Hurt = harm
  • activity is harmful
  • if an activity hurts it should be stopped
On the topic of osteoarthritis, he says 
  • The patient decides what’s tolerable, 
  • Above 5 is the red area
  • If pain increases with exercise, that’s OK as long as by the next day it has calmed. 
He goes on to cite a new paper in JAMA by Ben Cormack asking about pain tolerance vs. using the traditional Numeric Rating Scale. They’re suggesting asking if the pain is tolerable is a better way to deal with it.  Cormack says:
  • “The exclusive focus of the numeric rating scale (NRS) on pain intensity reduces the experience of chronic pain to a single dimension.”
  • “This drawback minimizes the complex effects of chronic pain on patients’ lives and the trade-offs that are often involved in analgesic decision-making.”
  • “Furthermore, continually asking patients to rate their pain on a scale that is anchored by a pain-free state (ie, 0) implies that being pain-free is a readily attainable treatment goal, which may contribute to unrealistic expectations for complete relief.”
The modern approach to managing disabling musculoskeletal pain is to shift the focus from chasing symptomatic relief to addressing activity intolerances related to symptoms.
  • “ The overarching goal of chronic pain treatment is to make the pain tolerable for the patient rather than to attain a targeted numeric rating.”
  • “Our findings confirmed the intuitive assumption that most patients with low pain intensity (ie, NRS score, 1-3) find their pain tolerable.”
  • “In contrast, the tolerability of pain rated between 4 and 6 varies substantially among patients.
  • “In this middle range, if a patient describes the pain as tolerable, this might decrease the clinician’s inclination to initiate higher-risk treatments.”
  • “A substantial subgroup of patients with severe pain reported their symptoms as tolerable.”
Dr. Liebenson wraps up the article by saying, “This discussion highlights that hurt does not necessarily equal harm. Nearly all musculoskeletal pain guidelines over the last 30 years have emphasized that pain does not equal tissue damage or impending injury. This study goes a long way to show us better ways to educate people in reassuring ways that will get them back to activity and thus build a mindset that can make them feel less fragile.” Chronic pain is interesting stuff and is a HUGE market where there are lots of opportunities for educated, smart chiropractors to stick their flag in the dirt and stake a claim.  Alright, that’s it. Y’all be safe. Continue taking care of yourselves and taking care of your neighbors. Tough times are upon us but, the sun will shine again. Trust it, believe it, count on it. Let’s get to the message. Same as it is every week.  Key Takeaways Store Remember the evidence-informed brochures and posters at   
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  The Message I want you to know with absolute certainty that when Chiropractic is at its best, you can’t beat the risk vs reward ratio because spinal pain is primarily a movement-related pain and typically responds better to movement-related treatment rather than chemical treatments like pills and shots. When compared to the traditional medical model, research and clinical experience show us patients can get good to excellent results for headaches, neck pain, back pain, and joint pain to name just a few. It’s safe and cost-effective can decrease surgeries & disability and we do it through conservative, non-surgical means with minimal hassle to the patient. And, if the patient treats preventativly after initial recovery, we can usually keep it that way while raising the overall level of health! Key Point: At the end of the day, patients should have the guarantee of having the best treatment that offers the least harm. When it comes to non-complicated musculoskeletal complaints…. That’s Chiropractic! Contact Send us an email at dr dot williams at and let us know what you think of our show and tell us your suggestions for future episodes.  Feedback and constructive criticism is a blessing and so are subscribes and excellent reviews on podcast platforms.  We know how this works by now. If you value something, you have to share it, interact with it, review it, talk about it from time to time, and actively hit a few buttons to support it here and there when asked. It really does make a big difference.  Connect We can’t wait to connect with you again next week. From the Chiropractic Forward Podcast flight deck, this is Dr. Jeff Williams saying upward, onward, and forward. Website
Social Media Links Chiropractic Forward Podcast Facebook GROUP Twitter YouTube iTunes Player FM Link Stitcher: TuneIn–Wellness-Podcasts/The-Chiropractic-Forward-Podcast-Chiropractors-Pr-p1089415/   About the Author & Host Dr. Jeff Williams – Chiropractor in Amarillo, TX, Chiropractic Advocate, Author, Entrepreneur, Educator, Businessman, Marketer, and Healthcare Blogger & Vlogger   Bibliography
  • Liebenson C (2020). “Pain with Exercise: Is it acceptable & if so how much & for how long?” First Principles Of Movement.
  • Smith A, R. C., Warren J, Sterling M, (2020). “Exercise Induced Hypoalgesia Is Impaired in Chronic Whiplash Associated Disorders (WAD) With Both Aerobic and Isometric Exercise.” Clin J Pain.

10 Back Facts & How Does Chiropractic Perform When Integrated?

Jordan Hospital Spine Care demonstrated the quality and value of care rendered to a population of patients. This was accomplished with a relatively low cost and with high patient satisfaction.

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CF 008: With Dr. Craig Benton – Brand New Information Based on Results Chiropractic Proven Effective For Low Back Pain

Today’s episode is all about chronic low back pain and some great, brand new research. By now, as I’ve said in the past, even traditional Chiropractor-hating, torch-wielding, quasi-scholastic chiropractic detractors are admitting that, yes, Chiropractic is indeed helpful for low back pain.

If you love what you hear, be sure to check out As the podcast builds, so too will the website content, educational products, webinars, seminars, and speaking dates as they get added.

For now though, it’s time for bumper music!

We will dive into the research in a few minutes but first, I have to introduce my guest this week. His name is Dr. Craig Benton. Dr. Benton is the owner/operator of Benton Chiropractic down in Lampassas, Texas but that’s not where the intro stops. Dr. Benton is the chair of Scientific Affairs for the Texas Chiropractic Association. He is where I have found a healthy percentage of the material that I have covered over the years for my blog, my YouTube videos, and now for the Chiropractic Forward podcast. Dr. Benton has been unknowingly instrumental in keeping me in business and making my life easier.

Welcome to the show Dr. Benton, how is life in Lampassas this week? My first question today is, have you been playing any guitar lately?

Dr. Benton and I are both in active practice. In fact, there’s a chance we may both have a patient show up at any time. That’s how actively we are practicing. I think that’s incredibly important to note because, so many times, you hear podcasts and attend seminars where the guys and gals speaking don’t really know a thing about actively practicing for 20 plus years. I’ve always felt that experience matters. Even when I was young and green. I was well-aware that I didn’t know it all and I’m even more aware of that today than ever.

So Dr. Benton, I’m looking forward to hearing your opinions and insight today.

Since the podcast today is about chronic pain, I think we should begin with a definition of what Chronic really is. When we define “chronic” in the context of neuromusculoskeletal complaints, we define it as being a complaint that is greater than 12 weeks in duration. Right at 3 months. Some patients will come into the office having had a condition for 15-20 years. I tell them that they are more than a little stubborn to have put up with something for so long.

It is common sense that a condition that is chronic will be more difficult to treat. Also, most chronic conditions can be traced back to a biomechanical, neuromusculoskeletal origin. One of my favorite quotes is from Dr. Lee Green, Professor of Family Medicine at the University of Michigan. He said, “Neck pain is a mechanical problem, and it makes sense that mechanical treatment works better than a chemical one.” Although Dr. Green is referring to neck pain in this instance, “low back pain” can easily be substituted. What he says could not make more sense. It’s an easy and very concise way to understand why Chiropractic, manipulation, mobilization is so incredibly effective above and beyond anything else for this sort or issue, including medication.

Do you have a quote or quotes that you love sharing that make sense to you and that help you boil down what it is we chiropractors are doing to help our patients?

I have overhead medical doctors (more than once) talking about having back pain and just injecting themselves with something to try to get over it. If they asked me, I’d tell them that they’re just covering up an underlying trigger or cause and ignoring it is to their detriment.

A good metaphor I came across for using medication for neuromusculoskeletal complaints is that it’s like unplugging a smoke alarm because you don’t like the noise. But, the fire is still slowly growing. What have they done to treat anything in a responsible and effective way? Nothing at all. We tend to live in a society that wants a pill for this and a potion for that so they can get over it and get on with life. But it doesn’t work that way.

Dr. Benton, has this been your experience as well?

Dr. Benton, don’t you treat soldiers through the VA program? Can you tell us all a little bit about that?

Let’s go over some low back pain statistics just we can try to stress the importance of what we’re talking about here. Dr. Benton, please feel free to jump in with anything you’d like to add:

  • Low back pain is the single leading cause of disability worldwide.
  • 8 out of every ten people will experience back pain. I will admit that I have never met anyone in 45 years of life on this Earth that fit’s into the 20% that apparently never suffers from any low back pain. Dr. Benton….have you ever met anyone that has never had back pain? Is it just me?
  • Back pain is the second most common reason for visits to the doctor’s office right behind upper-respiratory infections.
  • With such gains and leaps in the medical industry as far as treatment goes, low back pain is stubbornly on the rise.
  • More than half of Americans who experience low back pain spend the majority of the work day sitting. 54% to be exact. It’s good to be a chiropractor I guess. Our patients keep us up and moving most of the day.
  • Dr. Benton, did you know that….now…an equal number of patients seek help with a chiropractor first as seek help with a medical practitioner first for back pain? That’s new information to me that I found interesting.
  • Back pain in general costs $100 billion dollars every year when you factor in lost wages, productivity as well as legal and insurance overheads.

Now that we all know more about low back pain, let’s go through some things that may put you at greater risk of suffering from the condition. Dr. Benton, with your experience on the research, stop me if you have anything to add to any of these:

  • Age: as the spine and supporting structures begin to age and decline, the rate of low back pain will understandably increase.
  • Fitness Level: physically active people do not suffer low back pain to at the rate inactive people suffer. A healthy exercise and core building protocol can help reduce symptoms or instances of low back pain.
  • Weight Gain: Being overweight or obese and gaining weight quickly places increased strain on the low back.
  • Pregnancy: This one goes without saying. Pelvic changes and weight gain both contribute.
  • Genetics: Some forms of arthritis or other systemic conditions are genetic in nature
  • Work: Jobs that include heavy labor and or twisting or expose people to vibration consistently can be problematic. Jobs that require long periods of sitting in a chair can be equally problematic.
  • Mental health factors: Many people are able to deal with chronic pain but anxiety and depression are conditions that can cause a person to focus on the pain which tends to raise the perceived severity and significance for the person suffering from the condition. Dr. Benton, have you come across any patients that fit this description in your practice?
  • Improper backpack use: Kids suffer back pain needlessly since they are not traditionally in an age range we would consider to be a risk factor. However, backpacks used improperly are a common culprit. A backpack should never be more than 15%-20% of a child’s weight and should be carried on both shoulders with the bottom being at or about waste level.

What does the research say?

As I’m sure Dr. Benton will agree…..the research says a lot, to be honest. In fact, I’d say that there’s more research for the effectiveness of manipulation/mobilization in low back pain than for any other conditions chiropractors commonly treat. Am I out of bounds here Dr. Benton?

The research shows Chiropractic beating general practitioners in effectiveness as well as cost. The research shows Chiropractic beating common medications prescribed for low back pain. The research shows Chiropractic beating physical therapy and exercise alone. The research shows Chiropractic beating epidural spinal injections for low back pain. And the two of us can point you to randomized controlled trials proving it. Basically, the research is clear.

In January of 2018, a brand new research paper dealing with manipulation and mobilization was published in Spine Journal by Ian Coulter, PhD et. al. titled “Manipulation and mobilization for treating chronic low back pain: a systematic review” and funded by the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health.

Now, to be clear, Spine Journal sounds a little bit like it may be a Chiropractic publication for those of you that don’t commonly read research abstracts…… but it is not.

Dr. Benton, can you describe Spine Journal for us?

Here’s why the authors took this project on.

The authors of the paper stated that there remained questions about manipulation and mobilization efficacy, the proper dosing of the techniques, how safe they are, as well as how they compare to other treatment protocols commonly used for chronic low back pain.

I have to say that I had no remaining questions regarding really ANY of those topics but it seems that these authors did.

Dr. Benton, again, please feel free to jump in anywhere you’d like as we go through the hows, why’s and the what’s here.

Here’s How They Did It

  • This paper was a systematic review and meta-analysis.
  • They searched databases for relevant studies from January 2000-March 2017
  • They chose randomized controlled trials that compared manipulation or mobilization to sham treatment, no treatment, other therapies, and multimodal therapeutic approaches.
  • They assessed the risk of bias using the Scottish Intercollegiate Guidelines Network.
  • Grading of Recommendations, Assessment, Development, and Evaluation (GRADE) was applied to determine the confidence in effect estimates.
  • 51 trials were included

What They Found

  • Within 7 of those trials on manipulation and/or mobilization there was reduction of disability when compared to other forms of therapy.
  • Further analyses showed that manipulation specifically was responsible for significant reduction in pain and disability when put up against therapies such as exercise and physical therapy.
  • Mobilization was also was significantly more effective when compared to exercise regimens for pain reduction but not for disability.

Wrap It Up

In the conclusion of the paper abstract, the authors say, “There is moderate-quality evidence that manipulation and mobilization are likely to reduce pain and improve function for patients with chronic low back pain; manipulation appears to produce a larger effect than mobilization. Both therapies appear safe.”

As I’ve said many times, “a lot of research in your favor becomes fact.” Chiropractic has A LOT of research in its favor.

Dr. Benton, would you like to add any final thoughts?

I’d like to thank Dr. Benton for taking the time to be with us today. He really is one of the guys out here in the real world trying his best to help change things for Chiropractors in Texas and in the world.

I want to finish off by saying that when Chiropractic is at its best, you cannot beat the risk vs reward ratio. Plain and simple.

Just another reason to call a chiropractor TODAY!

Research and clinical experience shows that, in about 80%-90% of headaches, neck, and back pain, compared to the traditional medical model, patients get good or excellent results with Chiropractic. It’s safe, more cost-effective, decreases chances of surgery, and reduces chances of becoming disabled. We do this conservatively and non-surgically and do it with minimal time requirements and hassle on the part of the patient. And, if the patient develops a “preventative” mindset going forward, we can likely keep it that way while raising the general, overall level of health!

Please feel free to send us an email at dr dot williams at and let us know what you think or what suggestions you may have for us for future episodes. Please remember, we need your help to spread the word and grow this podcast. If you would help us out by sharing our podcast information, our website, and social media entities, we would greatly appreciate your help.

We cannot wait to connect again with you next week. From Creek Stone here in Amarillo, TX, home of the Chiropractic Forward Podcast flight deck, this is Dr. Jeff Williams saying upward, onward, and forward.

Research Citation:

Coulter I, et. al. “Manipulation and mobilization for treating chronic low back pain: a systematic review and meta-analysis” The Spine Journal, Volume 0 , Issue 0 ,