chronic pain Archives - Back in Shape Chiropractic

Fibromyalgia: Symptoms, Causes, Pain Management

Do You Have Fibromyalgia? Learn About Your Pain Management Options Do you have chronic muscle pain, especially abdominal and back pain? What about overwhelming fatigue? Numbness or tingling in your extremities? Stiffness? Insomnia? Headaches? Anxiety? Do these symptoms constantly shift Read more

7 Negative Effects of Poor Posture

Poor posture is more than just a pain in the neck. Poor posture can affect the body in a number of odd and unexpected ways. Other than the well-known cases of backaches and the serious unnatural spinal curvature, here Read more

What Different Kinds of Back Pain Are There?

Back pain seems like it should be a fairly simple concept—your back hurts, you want it to not hurt, you go to a professional where they fix you up and send you on your way. Except, like with most Read more

What Are the Benefits of Acupuncture?

Dr. Leo Potetti Acupuncture , , , ,

The image is probably familiar to you, something you may have seen in any number of comedy bits over the years—an apprehensive person lies down on their stomach and an acupuncturist proceeds to stick them with needles, producing comedic yelps in the hapless victim. And yet, while this remains a common trope in popular media, over 14 million Americans have experienced the benefits of acupuncture, having used it to treat some medical ailment.

Acupuncture was first introduced to the U.S. in the 70s, after a reporter accompanying President Nixon on a trip to China received the treatment after an emergency surgery and wrote positively about the experience in the New York Times. Since then, the practice has gained traction among Americans, the FDA classified acupuncture needles as medical devices, and numerous studies have confirmed acupuncture’s effectiveness.

So, what exactly are the benefits of acupuncture? What conditions can it treat? Is it painful or are there side effects? Here’s a rundown of the basics you need to know.

Acupuncture for Acute and Chronic Pain

Probably the most prominent benefit of acupuncture is its ability to provide pain relief.

In particular, research has shown that acupuncture can relieve the symptoms of back, neck, and shoulder pain, as well as chronic headaches and osteoarthritis (commonly referred to as degenerative joint disease or wear-and-tear arthritis). Other studies have found acupuncture to effectively reduce pain in patients with fibromyalgia, post-operative pain, and dental pain.

The studies that proved this compared acupuncture against both non-treatment and simulated acupuncture. When medical treatments are being tested for effectiveness, the clinical trials use control groups that are given a simulated treatment—when a drug is being studied, for example, the control group will receive a sugar pill. This extra measure is taken to make sure the positive effects of the treatment aren’t merely the result of a placebo effect.

So, simulated acupuncture is real acupuncture’s sugar pill—rather than inserting the needles into specific points according to the patient’s illness, the needles are used in random locations and might not pierce the skin. The fact that real acupuncture performed markedly better than this simulation proves that the benefits of acupuncture are real and cannot be explained away by placebo, as some try to do.

But how does acupuncture work? Well the acupuncturist chooses the acupuncture points by examining where the patient is experiencing pain. Long, thin needles are inserted into these locations and then manipulated by the acupuncturist. Sometimes they are heated or used to conduct a small electrical current, but this isn’t always part of the process.

In ancient Chinese tradition, these needles were thought to stimulate energy flow through pathways called meridians, breaking up blockages thought to be the cause of many conditions.

Today, however, academics of western medicine believe the benefits of acupuncture stem from stimulation of the nervous system. Acupuncture points are understood as spots where nerves, muscles, and connective tissue can be stimulated in such a way that blood flow to that area is increased and natural painkillers released within the body.

For patients with chronic pain, especially those with the type of pain where there is no identifiable mechanical cause for the pain and it’s likely an issue with the nervous system, this could be just what they need to provoke their body’s own response against pain.

That’s particularly important considering the epidemic of opioid addictions in the United States and the concerns that have been raised about their excessive prescription to people suffering from pain. Natural treatments like acupuncture may be a viable alternative to replace these unsafe drugs which so often lead to chemical dependence and even serve as a common gateway to heroin addiction.

Benefits of Acupuncture for Other Conditions

Those types of pain aren’t the only thing acupuncture is good for, though.

Some of the other benefits of acupuncture include:

Acupuncture also holds many unique benefits for women. Some of these include:

A more complete list of conditions and symptoms which acupuncture has been proven to be effective against can be found on the website for UC San Diego’s Center for Integrative Medicine, where they have a page for acupuncture. The list includes dysentery, colic, depression, leukopenia, sciatica, sprains, strokes, and tennis elbow.

The page also includes a list of conditions for which there is “limited but probable” evidence for acupuncture’s effectiveness. These include palsy, acne, gastrointestinal problems, asthma, insomnia, diabetes, drug addiction, schizophrenia, urinary tract infections, whooping cough, dementia, sexual dysfunction, prostatitis, and more.

Are There Risks or Drawbacks?

The first question everyone asks about acupuncture is how much it hurts. The truth is that most patients experience either no pain or minimal pain, though depending on the reason for the procedure and the location of the needle placements, pain is possible. The needles are only kept there for 5 to 30 minutes though, so even if there is some pain, it’s likely a small price to pay for long-term relief. Possible bleeding, bruising, or soreness can continue for a bit after the treatment, but the needles are so thin that this is usually negligible.

There are other risks to keep in mind, of course. Patients who are taking blood thinners, or who have a bleeding disorder, should probably avoid acupuncture, as the needles are piercing the skin and this could be dangerous in those cases.

And, of course, whenever needles are used, they must be sterilized. This is particularly important to keep in mind for patients such as those undergoing chemotherapy, whose immune systems are in a weakened state. For those patients, infections can be debilitating and even life-threatening, so great care must be taken to insure the sterilization of needles.

For those reasons, you need to have a licensed professional performing your acupuncture if you do decide it’s a treatment method you’d like to pursue. The benefits of acupuncture are many, but only if the person performing the acupuncture knows what they’re doing.

Here at Back in Shape Chiropractic, we have been studying and observing the benefits of acupuncture in Gurnee, IL for nearly 30 years. Our practitioners are educated and licensed doctors of chiropractic who are qualified not only to administer acupuncture, but to diagnose your condition and decide whether acupuncture is a good treatment route in the first place.

Make your appointment today by calling 847-249-2225.


Do I Have Sciatica?

Dr. Leo Potetti Infographic , , , , ,

Between the ages of 30 and 50 years old we spend most of our time working. It’s no coincidence that these are the years we are most likely to develop back pain and conditions like sciatica. Whether we are on our feet 12 hours a day or we spend that time sitting in a chair, we are likely to fight the battle of back pain and or nerve damage.

As sciatica is generally self-diagnosable, “Back in Shape Chiropractic” would like to save you the initial trip to the physician by telling you everything you need to know along with the symptoms and causes.


Sciatica pain can affect the lower back, hip and extends through one leg and sometimes down to the toes. Sciatica generally does not affect both sides of the body at the same time.

Common Types of Sciatica Pain

The type of pain or discomfort you feel may vary from mild to severe, radiating, jolting or sharp.

Sometimes you may feel a tingling or numbness throughout one of your legs. Other times you may feel a quick, sharp or burning sensation with an intense discomfort.

Some sciatica patients describe it as an “electric pulse” or “searing pain” from the lower back down through the thigh of one leg.

Other Signs you may have Sciatica

  1. Lower back pain
  2. Weakness or numbness in one leg, knee or foot
  3. Hip pain
  4. Shooting pain down one leg
  5. Pain on one side of buttocks when sitting
  6. In severe cases, loss of bladder control


Sciatica may be the result of the degeneration of an intervertebral disc which are the cushion between vertebrae. However it is most commonly caused by compression of spinal nerves in the roots of the lower lumbar spine. In other words, a pinched nerve. This may be caused by either a herniated or slipped disc or as a result of an injury.

Things that may worsen sciatica

  1. Being overweight
  2. Lack of exercise
  3. Using a mattress that is not stiff enough
  4. Wearing high heels


While you may have heard that sciatica requires surgery, it doesn’t. Chiropractors are trained to help your body heal itself without any medication or surgery, even for sciatica. With a non-invasive and drug-free treatment you can get your back in shape in no time. Depending on the severity of your sciatica, you may require one of the following treatments:

Types of Chiropractic Treatments

  1. Ice/Cold Therapy
  2. Ultrasound
  3. TENS (transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation)
  4. Spinal Adjustment
Do I Have Sciatica by Back in Shape Chiropractic

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How Treating Your Stress Can Alleviate Your Chronic Pain

Dr. Leo Potetti Chronic Pain , , , , ,

Your back aches. Your joints ache. Your head aches. Your neck is sore. Your feet hurt. Any combination of these can be present in people who suffer from chronic pain, whether the root cause is fibromyalgia or regional pain caused by a car accident or other injury. But while this may seem like a purely physical issue, an affliction of your body, did you know your mental state can have a profound influence on your chronic pain as well? This isn’t some new-age belief—scientific study after scientific study has shown repeatedly over decades of research that mental stress has a significant direct impact on chronic pain.

So how does stress affect pain? And how can tackling stress factor into your strategy for managing your chronic pain? Read on to learn about this crucial relationship.

How Stress Intensifies Chronic Pain

Studies have shown that there are several ways in which stress worsens the symptoms of chronic pain.

The first affects your body itself. When you experience stress, it triggers a response in your nervous system, releasing hormones that makes your muscles tense up. This occurs most commonly in the back, shoulders, neck, forehead, and jaw. Over time, this can lead to chronic muscle tension, which results in spasms, aching, and heightened pain sensitivity. This, of course, heightens the pain suffered by patients with chronic pain.

Another way that stress increases pain is how it affects the way that the nervous system, in particular the brain, processes pain. Nerves throughout the body receive sensory information, which travels up the spinal cord to the brain, where it is processed to create the experience of pain. Typically, the brain softens these pain signals so that we can still function. But a person who is often stressed puts strain on this system, and the brain becomes increasingly sensitive to pain, requiring less and less stimuli to trigger a pain response.

Recent research suggests that cortisol, known as the “stress hormone,” is responsible for this process. A study conducted at the Institut universitaire de gériatrie de Montréal (IUGM) and published by the Oxford University Press found that elevated levels of cortisol are associated with stronger stress responses, increased pain sensitivity, and possibly increased risk of developing chronic pain.

So stress both creates painful muscle tension, and also increases our experience of pain by making our brain process it with greater sensitivity.

Stress Management for Chronic Pain Reduction

chronic pain meter

Since stress can increase the intensity of your chronic pain, it follows that an effective method for alleviating some of your pain may be to address the stress you’re experiencing in your life.

There are many ways to treat your stress, some more general and some targeting the specific causes of your stress. Of course, the obvious first step is to try to arrange your life to be less stressful. Try changing up your daily routines to create a more balanced schedule with more room for the leisure activities that help you relieve stress.

To combat the stress you do feel, there’s a wide variety of strategies available that can help. Exercise is one such strategy. When you exercise, whether it’s a half hour on the treadmill at home or visiting the gym every other day, your brain releases endorphins. This hormone is not only your body’s natural painkiller, which helps you directly combat chronic pain, but also reduces your stress. If, however, your condition is such that exercise would be too strenuous or might negatively affect your pain, you may want to consult with your healthcare provider and consider alternative ways to get exercise like pool therapy or walking.

There are plenty of other ways of relieving stress as well. You can start with daily breathing exercises like foursquare breathing, in which you inhale to the count of four, hold to the count of four, exhale to the count of four, and so on and so forth for ten repetitions.

Once you’re ready for more involved exercises, you can move onto things like guided imagery. This is where you spend five to ten minutes each day visualizing yourself in a relaxing, tranquil scene incorporating all the senses including sights, sounds, and even feelings and smells.

Going further, you might try meditation. Mindfulness meditation involves spending twenty minutes noticing your breathing but not controlling it, noticing pain or thoughts but letting them pass like a cloud rather than pushing them away.

Beyond that, if your stress stems from a larger issue like relationship issues, insomnia, depression, anxiety, or mental illness of some other sort, it may be wise to address those causes. Getting professional help in the form of relationship counseling, sleep aids, or mental health treatment may be the right move to not only address those problems themselves, but also by extension alleviate your stress and thus your chronic pain.

Stress Management for Making Pain Tolerable

It should be noted though that many of those sources of stress can themselves stem from your chronic pain. It may hinder your ability to be sexually and emotionally intimate with your significant other, or keep you from being able to work full-time or do the things around the house you used to, or keep your from your leisure activities, or keep you awake at night. All of this can result in depression and insomnia which translates to more stress and, in turn, more pain. You can see how this becomes a cycle.

Since chronic pain is incurable, the best we can hope to accomplish is to minimize the symptoms, and one way of doing that is by breaking this cycle. Reducing stress may not remove your chronic pain, but it can soften it and mitigate the consequences so that the pain doesn’t control your life.

If your pain is making you sleep poorly, and your sleep deprivation is stressing you out and making your pain worse, then addressing your sleep issues may not cure you of chronic pain but it can keep it from getting worse and also make your pain more tolerable, because at least it isn’t also making you tired all the time. In short, treating causes of stress can minimize the grip that chronic pain has on your life.

If you have chronic pain and you’re interested in learning more about potential treatments that might be right for you, or about stress management, you should consult with a healthcare professional that’s experienced in dealing with such issues. Back in Shape Chiropractic has been serving northern Illinois for nearly thirty years, and is well-equipped to handle your questions and concerns. Simply give us a call at (847) 249-2225 and we’ll make you an appointment so you can receive the professional attention you need and deserve.
Back in Shape Chiropractic
4673 Old Grand Ave
Gurnee, IL 60031
(847) 249-2225

Text Neck – Infographic

Dr. Leo Potetti Healthy Living , , , ,

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_custom_heading text=”How to Avoid Text Neck – Advice from a Gurnee Chiropractor “][vc_column_text]Millions of people are suffering from symptoms caused by the repetitive stress injury commonly known as “Text-Neck”. If you are reading this on your smart phone you are probably feeling the effects right now.

Just as the name suggests, this injury is caused by a constant forward head position, not in line with your center of gravity, which causes increased stress in the cervical spine, or neck – a chiropractor’s nightmare! The average weight of a head is about 10-13 pounds. Visualize yourself holding a 10 pound bowling ball close to your chest and then at arm’s length in front of you. The weight of the ball is the same. However, it feels much heavier and eventually you will start to feel the burn from your muscles working.

The use of smart phones and other tech devices is not the issue as much as the strain that it cause on the neck and spine. Our bodies are meant to support the weight of our head when they are in proper position. However, when the head is constantly leaning forward the weight is shifted and thus not properly supported by the neck and spine causing strains, pinched nerves, herniated discs and lots of other pain that could lead to surgery.

Text Neck by Back in Shape Chiropractic

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Here are some symptoms that you may be experiencing if you are at risk of text neck:

The average person spends at a minimum of two to four hours per day bent forward attending to their smart phones and these numbers will only increase. With smart phones becoming more and more necessary in today’s business world it seems like there is almost no avoiding this struggle.  Here are a few simple things you can do to prevent text-neck injuries:

      1. Call Instead of Texting– Try calling instead of texting. The conversation will be much more meaningful and limit the risk of text-neck.
      2. Limit Use of Electronics– Try putting away the phone and do something more active.
      3. Take Frequent Breaks at Work– If your job requires the use of electronics it can be impossible to avoid. Get up and walk around the office for a couple of minutes every hour.
      4. Good Posture- It is easy to fall back into a poor posture when you are focused on a computer screen or cell phone. Whenever you notice yourself slipping, just sit up straight and practice good posture. Your neck and back will thank you.
      5. Periodic Stretches– Stretching your neck and back periodically will not only allow your muscles to relax but it will also boost circulation and concentration.
      6. Hold Phone at Eye Level– Give your neck a rest and work those arms. Holding your phone at eye level will help keep your head up and alleviate some of that cervical stress.
      7. Chiropractic Adjusting– A visit to the chiropractor to get adjusted will help re-align your back and restore normal joint function.

To see our Text Neck Infographic on Pinterest, visit us at

[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_cta h2=””]If you are concerned with the condition of your neck or back and would like to talk to a professional please call or visit Back in Shape Chiropractic and speak with a Gurnee chiropractor. We are dedicated to helping people like you get rid of neck and back pain so you may live more comfortably.[/vc_cta][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][/vc_column][/vc_row]