Ask Dr. Javahery: “Is it possible for me to get taller?”

Welcome to February’s edition of Ask Dr. Javahery! Every month, I answer medical questions from the community on anything from back pain to headaches. And while I can’t give out personalized treatment over the web, I can provide general feedback to help you in your everyday life!

If you have questions that you’d like me to answer in a future column, submit them to my Facebook page or send me an e-mail at DrJ@finnpartners.com.

Hilda Q.

I’m suffering from sciatic back pain. What are some of my options to help subside the pain?

Hilda: Sciatica is leg pain associated with the compression of a spinal nerve as it leaves the spinal canal. It may or may not be associated with back pain. The management of sciatica is based on the severity of the symptoms, how long the symptoms have been present, associated neurological changes (increased weakness or numbness for example), what is seen on the imaging (especially the MRI), and the response to the initial medical treatment.

The sciatic nerve is the largest nerve in the body.

Generally, we try conservative measures such as a short-course of steroids, muscle relaxants, pain medications, use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatories, and medications to calm the nerve (such as neurontin). Evaluation by physical therapy to help with improving posture, flexibility, range of motion, and strength is also part of the initial treatment. If the pain is severe and the imaging indicates that the symptoms may be responsive to an epidural injection of steroids and analgesics, then a pain management specialist may be involved. I also send patients for acupuncture or chiropractic therapy if they are interested.

There is also surgical treatment of the sciatica. It is not always the last measure selected. Surgery may be one of the initial options especially if there are neurological changes. Generally, we try a short course of medical treatment first and if the symptoms do not improve, then we consider surgery. Several studies have shown that a discectomy/decompression for radiculopathy (sciatica) in the appropriate cases has better outcomes (patient satisfaction, return to work, need for narcotics, etc.) than continued conservative care. Your treatment plan has to be tailored for you by a physician taking into account your symptoms, other medical problems, neurological examination, and imaging.

Desi J.

I have scoliosis and my back hurts everyday. Is it best to see a chiropractor every week?

Desi: Scoliosis or a deformity of the spine may be be asymptomatic, cause pain or neurological changes, or even cause problems with the patient’s respiratory status. The treatment for scoliosis is very complicated and is based on the age of the patient, type of curvature, angle of the curvature, symptoms, medical comorbidities, and causes of the scoliosis.

Chiropractic care can be part of the treatment but it is not a definitive treatment for scoliosis. You need complete imaging (x-rays of the spine, MRI of the spine, possible imaging of the entire neuroaxis (brain and full spine), and dynamic x-rays of the spine) and should have an evaluation by a spine specialist to determine if your scoliosis is surgical or needs medical/conservative care.

Sammy B.

I play basketball and wish I was taller. I was reading online about the Alexander Technique where you can make yourself taller by releasing muscle tension. It said you can gain up to 2 in. of height this way. Is this true and is this safe to try?

Sammy: I have no specific evidence that the Alexander Technique works in allowing you to gain 2 inches of height. I do not know where those numbers come from but I would imagine that the gain in height is often in older patients with bad posture.

The Alexander Technique which attempts to release tension and improve the way we carry normal activities seems like a benign way of increasing one’s awareness of the way our bodies move and how to optimize its most efficient use for any activity. I have no personal experience with it so I can’t endorse it, but if you find a way to grow 2 inches please let me know!