The patient was a mechanic by trade, accustomed to lifting heavy items throughout the day. But when he came in to see Dr. Jared Morris, his back was tired, sore and having muscle spasms. On the weekend, he’d spent Saturday gardening and, on Sunday, vacuuming for his wife.
The patient’s backache, said Dr. Morris, a family physician at Tanner Clinic Layton, was a matter of “everything lining up at the right time at the right moment.”
“On the weekend, he just did more,” said Dr. Morris. “He was a little more tired than usual. And then on Sunday, the twist with the vacuum was enough to make his back ache.”
Dr. Morris sees patients like this mechanic everyday. Maybe they lost a game of weekend football, or they sat in an off-kilter chair too long. More commonly, they just jerked their neck at an odd angle when they got out of bed.
Because Dr. Morris is a D.O — an osteopathic physician — his medical training included learning how to manipulate backs, necks, shoulders. D.O.s have the same training as an M.D., but with an extra dimension — additional training in our bodies’ interconnected system of nerves, muscles and bones. Instead of treating for a specific symptoms, D.O.s regard the body as an integrated whole.
Dr. Morris’ patient, the mechanic, left the doctor’s office with some muscle relaxers and a realigned back. The doctor’s tools also include physical therapy, anti- inflammatories, reconditioning and physical adjustments — he’s basically a medical doctor who can do all a chiropractor does and more.
Here’s a look at some of the symptoms that Dr. Morris sees frequently:
▸ Achy, painful backs and necks:
Lifting or twisting incorrectly can result in a misalignment of the lumbar or thoracic spine, said Dr. Morris. A good remedy for this is a back adjustment. Often it’s a one-time adjustment because the pain has flared suddenly and needs resolving immediately. The physician also has patients who return regularly for adjustments.
There are times an adjustment can’t be done because the muscles are too bound-up and painful. “If the patients are not super tight and in a lot of pain, I’ll try to adjust them in the clinic. If they’re too tight and I don’t get much movement or release, we’ll prescribe muscle relaxers and have them come back in a few days for an adjustment,” he said.
▸ Musculoskeletal chest pain:
Dr. Morris has seen this kind of chronic pain associated with auto accidents, falls, violent fits of coughing and shoveling snow. Often what’s causing the pain is a partially subluxated rib that’s “just out of place,” he said.
Coughing too much can cause a rib to come out of place, he said, as can being forced against the seatbelt or airbag in a crash. Lifting and twisting can impact a rib, as well as twisting an ankle. He adds, “If you twist your left ankle you usually get a partially subluxated rib on the right side, or vice versa.”
Dr. Morris works through the more common issues with knees, such as osteoarthritis. He also sees a lot of people with patellofemoral pain, better known as runner’s knee. Indeed, prior to the Ogden Marathon each year, “I see a lot of people with lower extremity pain such as plantar fasciitis or knee pain,” he said.
Among these patients are those who have meniscal (knee cap) damage from earlier falls or injuries. If he can’t resolve the issue, he refers the patient to an orthopedic surgeon.
▸ Shoulders and elbows:
Dr. Morris uses physical therapy, anti-inflammatories, injections and reconditioning to treat tennis elbow and shoulder pain.
“Sometimes weekend warriors will fall and now have tendinitis of the shoulder or a ruptured shoulder,” he said. If his treatments result in no improvement, he refers the patient to the Orthopedics Center.