Tag Archives: Back pain

Dr. Symko, Concord-area Functional Neurologist and Functional Medical Practitioner, continues to write about back pain.

It is clear to me that we do not know enough about back pain.

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One morning a long-time patient whom I hadn’t seen in a while asked if he could talk to me about a problem he had for over eighteen months.

At first, he stated that he had back and hip pain.  Before our appointment, he went to the orthopedic doctor who prescribed physical therapy for the back; however, his back felt worse after the treatment.  (He was doing a whole range of back and hip exercises.)

He then received a series of cortisone injections in his back and hips.  The injections did not help, but in fact, aggravated the pain, making it worse.  Even walking up and down stairs was problematic.

I examined him which included discussing his symptoms, like what type of pain, where did it hurt, how does it hurt, what makes it hurt and what makes it feel better. Once I had an idea as to what might be the problem, I performed a few orthopedic tests to help me confirm what I thought the problem was.

I determined that the primary issue was his hip, which was causing pain, but also causing a problem in his lower back.  He had a physically demanding job, and it has taken a toll on his hip, and because of this, his back was also affected.

I directed treatment to his hip, which only helped a little, so I then suggested an MRI of both hips.  The MRI revealed that he had a tear in the ligament supporting his hips.  One was worse than the other.  He needed surgery.

It is hard to say, but if the issue was figured out eighteen months before his visit with me, chances are his hips would not have been as bad.

back pain

Dr. Symko, Concord-area Functional Neurologist and Functional Medical Practitioner, What You Should Know About Back Pain.

Eighty percent of us will suffer from back pain, it is one of the leading causes of not going to work costing the US about 635 billion dollars annually.  That is a lot of pain.

Why is it so hard to figure out how to treat back pain?  I think the answer lies first in what we don’t know about backs.  You might hear that backs are complicated, or that “we don’t know everything about backs”.

In fact, is a lot of information out there and many little tidbits about the back and why we have pain.  Here are just 10.

  1. Backs are meant to move in a variety of directions without causing any pain.
  2. There are two types of muscle groups found in our back; fast twitch (stabilizers) and slow twitch (movers).
  3. Each type requires a different set of exercises to help them to be strong.
  4. Sitting for long periods is not good for back health.
  5. Pain is not always caused by a disc bulge.
  6. Movement is one of the best cures for back pain.
  7. It is not always necessary to have an x-ray or MRI of the back to determine what is wrong.
  8. The majority of back pain is of a functional nature and not a structural one.
  9. Simple orthopedic testing can help determine what is causing the pain and where it is coming from.
  10. The longer there is back pain the harder it is to correct.

If you have back pain and don’t know where it is coming from or how to heal it, we can help!  Give us a call or connect on email:  978-369-7070; drsymko@gmail.com.


Dr Symko, Concord-area Functional Neurologist, writes about how the brain can cause chronic back pain.


On the surface, it may not seem like the brain governs the movement stability components of our spines and the rest of our bodies and core muscles, but it’s true. Normal core stability provides a healthy body with the ability to perform normal good quality movements. This means that a little amount of energy will be exerted to execute highly efficient movements.

However, when the body experiences pain, the brain changes its activation strategy to high energy/low efficient movements. This altered control that the brain has over movement is clearly visible in the presence of pain, but even where there isn’t any pain, subtle physical tests can detect significant muscle control changes in people with a history of chronic back pain. This is why you can have pain in your back, shoulder, or elbow without having had an injury.

Many times, this sort of brain adjustment goes unnoticed and untreated. People often get treated for the pain and not the root cause of the problem. That’s where the ATM comes in. No, it’s not the thing you can get your money out of, but you will see great returns. ATM2® stands for Active Therapeutic Movement, and it’s a machine that helps create neutral-range movement while holding the proper body position. In other words, it helps retrain your brain to function correctly and not hurt your posture or back muscles. A few movement exercises are performed, usually 10-30. The proper body position is essential, because it will ensure that the active movement will alter the brain activation strategy from abnormal to normal.

This should produce immediate pain reduction and improved range of motion.

The ATM2®is designed to enable doctors to prescribe quality weight-bearing active movements. We use restraining belts that are connected to the ATM support pad to obtain passive joint re-positioning and stabilization. This helps reduce symptoms. Then we perform specific exercises using a harness connected to resistance bands.