Total Back Newsletter

School can be a pain in the back!

John Naumann Back Pain, Chronic Pain Comments Off on School can be a pain in the back!

back to school

Student Back Packs may not be causing student back pain

Schools are heading back into session and everyone is hitting the local stores to get their kid’s school supplies.  A recent study done out of the University of Lisbon, showed that almost 60% of children experience some form of back pain related to their school environment.  Believe it our not, they found little correlation between overweight backpacks and back pain.  So what is causing students to have pain in the back.  They found it was more related to poor static posture and related to their desk and studying environment.  Here are some of the key factors that can contribute to student back pain.

  1. Lack of Activity – Prolonged static posture, good or bad is not good for body.  Our bodies were designed to move to stay healthy.  Many students will sit sedentary at school all day and then come home and sit either studying, watching TV, texting friends, or playing video games.  It is recommended that a student gets at least 60 minutes of physical activity a day.  This is a good idea whether you are a student or not!
  2. Desk not properly set up – This is a very difficult for the classroom to be able to accommodate so many different body types, but a student can definitely set up a good home study environment.  Make sure the desk, chair, and computer are set up to encourage the best possible posture.  For tips, see 5 tips to make sure your workstation is set-up properly.
  3. No break in class schedule – Creating a break in the class schedule encourages a change in posture.  If PE is required in the student’s school, try to have it take place more middle of the class day to refresh the body and posture.
  4. Tablets and phones – Technology improvements have made many things in our life easier, but they are also encouraging extra stress on our bodies.  Phone use as moved from talking to viewing, which encourages a lot of forward head posture.  Tablets encourage the same thing.  The forward head posture puts more stress and strain on the back.

Addressing this points can help the student avoid some of the main things that contribute to school being a pain in the back.


Best exercise programs for people with back pain

John Naumann Acute Pain, Back Pain Comments Off on Best exercise programs for people with back pain

What are the best exercise programs for people with back pain?

f0505_Hot-Yoga

One of the foundations we try to establish with our patients is the importance of proper exercise to keep your back healthy.  There are a lot of different programs out there, some are better suited with dealing with back pain.  We take a look at some of the more popular programs out there and provide some advice on which ones may be better for back pain conditions.

  • Yoga – Yoga is a great option for people with back pain.  It focuses on flexibility and core stability will working on breathing and relaxing.  Stress is strongly correlated to the intensity of back pain.  Yoga is not the best option for weight loss, cardiovascular conditioning, or building muscle mass, but is probably on of the best options for people returning to an exercise program right after a bout of back pain. Many local gyms offer Yoga to its members and exercises can be easily practiced at home with minimal equipment
  • Pilates – Pilates also ranks very high as a great option for people with back pain.  Pilates focus is flexibility, strength, stability and control and endurance for the whole body.  It will have some increased benefits for strength because it will use some resistance training.  Pilates strong foundation of improving core stability can definitely help improve spine instabilities that can lead to back pain.  Pilates requires some very specialized equipment, commonly known as a “Reformer”.  Classes are typically offered by certified Pilates instructors and are often provided one-on-one. Pilates is not something you can easily do at home.  Pilates, like Yoga, is not the best option for weight loss, cardiovascular conditioning, but may improve muscle mass due to the resistance element with the reformer.
  • Interval training – Interval training is a general term and includes many of the popular programs you see today, P90x, Orange Theory, Crossfit, etc.  These programs are very popular because they reduce exercise boredom, by constantly varying exercises.  Many people can experience weight loss, better cardiovascular health, increased endurance and more muscle mass with these programs.  There is not as much focus on flexibility, as compared to Yoga and Pilates.  Many of the programs involve a group setting, which for some people can be encouraging or create a competitive atmosphere.  This can be motivating but can also lead people to push beyond their bodies limits, which for people with back pain can exacerbate the condition.  These types of programs are widely available and can also vary widely in cost.  Having a properly trained coach/trainer is important when doing this type of program.  A properly trained individual can help make modifications to the program to better suit an individuals condition.  People with back pain should approach this type of program with caution and discipline to stay within their limits and listen to their body.

 

The important thing is to stay active!  People with sedentary lifestyles often experience more back pain than ones with active lifestyles.  Doing any activity within your body’s tolerance is better than doing nothing at all.  A structured, consistent program can help people with back pain experience a better quality of life.  So get out there and move!


What your numb hands can tell you about your health

John Naumann Bulging Disc, Herniated Disc, Neck Pain, Pinched Nerve Comments Off on What your numb hands can tell you about your health

Do you experience numb hands?  The numbness in your hands may not be Carpal Tunnel Syndrome.  Many people attribute numbness in their hands to Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, but in many cases it can be caused from issues in the neck, shoulder, elbow, or wrist.

The median nerve is the nerve that is involved in with Carpal Tunnel Syndrome.  But if you look at the picture to right, you will see it comes out near the armpit, crosses at the bend of the elbow and then glides through the Carpal Tunnel of the wrist.  When affected numbness and pain is experienced at the palm side of the thumb, forefinger, and middle finger.  Compression, or irritation to the nerve anywhere from the spine can refer pain to this portion of the hand.ulnar and median nerves

The ulnar nerve is the nerve that innervates the ring finger and pinkie finger.  Many people experience pain or numbness affecting this nerve when they bump their elbow.  Commonly known as the “Funny Bone” nerve.  This nerve can be affected by compression or irritation at the neck, armpit, inside of elbow, or pinkie side of wrist.

The radial nerve is the nerve the innervates the back side of the hands thumb, forefinger, middle finger, and ring finger.  Many people can experience pain and numbness affected by this nerve when they experience lateral epicondylitis or commonly known as “Tennis Elbow”.  But the nerve can also be compressed or irritated anywhere from the spine, armpit, outside of elbow, or thumb side of wrist.Radial nerve

So the next time you experience numbness in your hand, think about where you are experiencing the numbness and what area you might have irritated or compressed to cause your symptoms.

 


Living with Series: Degenerative Disc Disease

John Naumann Acute Pain, Back Pain Comments Off on Living with Series: Degenerative Disc Disease

degenerative disc disease

What is Degenerative Disc Disease (DDD)?

Degenerative Disc Disease is the narrowing of the space between the vertebrae of the spine.  It sounds nasty, but is very common as we age and most people can be diagnosed with having this condition but don’t have some of the symptoms that come along with it.  The disc’s in our spine provide multiple functions in our torso, like, twisting, bending, and shock absorption.  As we get older these disc will naturally compress which narrows the space between the vertebrae and this begins to affect mobility and in some case encourage compression of the nerves leaving the spine.  Even though it is more common in older populations, people with disc injuries or genetic predispositions for the condition can develop degenerative disc disease at an earlier age.

Can you prevent Degenerative Disc Disease?

Prevention is not an option as this is a natural process as we age.  The good news is, many people already have the condition but experience very few symptoms that can be related to this condition.  There are some things you can do to reduce symptoms related to degenerative disc disease:

  • Stop smoking – Smoking is not a main cause to degenerative disc disease, but contributes to a lot of conditions that are related to DDD, such as, hypertension, obesity, cardiovascular issues.
  • Proper nutrition – Eating a healthy balanced diet helps maintain proper weight and decreases risk of cardiovascular problems, which significantly contribute to DDD.
  • Exercise – Exercise helps keep the back strong and provides extra support for the spine decreasing the risk of injury
  • Stretch – Proper flexibility and mobility in the spine decreases the risk of injury and can decrease symptoms related to DDD.

 

When should I seek medical attention?

Living with degenerative disc disease doesn’t mean you have to live in pain.  There are many treatment options that can help address pain related to DDD and improve overall quality of life. Physical therapy and chiropractic care can help by breaking the cycle of pain.  Some people call these “Flair-ups”.  Often people may experience a minor back injury and the result guarding (tightening) of the muscles around the spine activating the symptoms related to DDD.  While this is the way the body protects the injured area it is actually counterproductive to the healing process.  Effective treatment can include, spinal decompression, massage, stretching and strengthening.  Find a medical provider that specializes in this treatment in order to get the best results..


Living with Series: Scoliosis

John Naumann Back Pain, Physical Therapy, Scoliosis Comments Off on Living with Series: Scoliosis

How to live with scoliosis

scoliosis

Living with scoliosis is a fact of life for some people.  Idiopathic Scoliosis is the most common form of scoliosis and often develops in early childhood.  Most cases of scoliosis are very mild and people experience little or no pain related to it.  If the spinal curvatures get more severe, it can start to increase compression in the thoracic cavity containing your lungs and heart.   This can lead to breathing and heart related issues.  So how do you live with scoliosis?

If it is mild, staying active and strengthening the core muscles may help stabilize and reduce the potential for the condition to worsen.  For children, be aware that the pressure from wearing a backpack may increase discomfort in the back but will not contribute to worsening the condition.  Wearing a brace can help mitigate the potential progression of the condition.  Surgery is typically not recommended with mild forms of scoliosis.

If the condition is moderate to severe, staying active and strengthening the core muscles are still recommended, but with increased precautions. Physical therapy and chiropractic care are good options because the expertise in designing a proper program will help address most issue.  Avoid carry heavy loads as the spine is not strongly supported and can lead to injury.  A brace is typically mandatory to help provide support and a surgical option may be recommended to correct the condition.  If you are wearing a brace, make sure to wear it at least 13 hours per day because studies have shown that wearing the brace only 6 hours a day has little or no affect on the condition.  If surgery is recommended many patients experience some correction in the curvature of their spine.  Just be aware the recovery time may take from 6 months to a year.


Dehydration and back pain

John Naumann Back Pain Comments Off on Dehydration and back pain

Is dehydration making your back pain worse?

Reaction-to-girl-drinking-water

The heat is on and one of the biggest challenges living in Arizona is staying hydrated during the summer heat.  Water is the liquid of life, 65% of our body is made up of it.  When the temperature gets above 100, our body’s can lose up to 1.5 quarts of water per hour!  This is almost 2 pounds of body weight.  A person is considered dehydrated when they lose 5% of their body weight in water.  For the average person this can happen in about 2 hours.  So in order to stay properly hydrated you would need to drink 48 ounces of water per hour just to stay balanced.

So how does dehydration affect back pain.  First of all, your muscles are 75% water and can be significantly effected by water loss.  When muscles are dehydrated they do not function as well and cramping and muscle spasms can occur.  This can also lead to a strain/sprain injury.  So the muscles in your back can cramp up and cause back pain.  Also your nervous system can be affected by dehydration increasing sensitivity which commonly leads to aches and pain.

At times simply staying hydrated can help you alleviate the back pain you are experiencing.


Dealing with back pain as we get older

John Naumann Acute Pain, Back Pain, Uncategorized Comments Off on Dealing with back pain as we get older

The Wisdom of an Aging Back

Dealing with back pain as we get older

Ahh, the joys of getting older and dealing with back pain.  As our body and back changes as we get older, so should our behaviors. The challenge is to recognize these changes because they are affected by many different factors, including, physical activity, diet, weight, height, life experiences and genetics.  These all play major factors on how we approach an aging back.

Understanding our own body’s history helps prepare us for dealing with back pain as we get older.  So let’s breakdown the factors that contribute to your history.

Physical Activity

Physical Activity or lack there of can significantly influence how health your back is a you age.  Being physically active doesn’t necessarily mean you are going to have less back pain as you get older.  The reality is that it depends on the type of physical activity.  A person that plays high impact sports, like, football, basketball, volleyball, rugby, etc. and/or sports that put increased stress on the spine, like, golf or tennis are more likely to deal with back pain as they get older vs. a person that does yoga, Pilates, cycling.

Lack of physical activity will definitely increase the risk of back pain due to decreased back strength and increased static postures.

As we get older, it is important to stay active with a good balance of cardiovascular and strength training exercise.  We just need to take in account what our body has already been through.

Diet

We are what we eat, is ever so true.  Keeping our back healthy requires a proper balanced diet.  A person with a healthy diet has a healthier weight, and provides the proper nutrients to the nervous system, bony structures of the back and to the discs that connect these bony structures.  Poor diet over time weakens these structures and will lead to a higher risk of back pain as we get older.

As we get older, diet becomes more important, not just from a weight management standpoint, but also a nutritional standpoint we can get much more sensitive.  Some of the foods and drinks we drank in our youth may not settle as well with us in our older years and can have a negative affect on our body

Weight

Every person is different and so is their healthy weight.  If you are overweight, it will put extra stress on your back, therefore, increasing the potential for pain.  These stresses can create permanent damage to the back and spine, resulting in lifelong pain management.

As we get older, controlling our weight becomes more difficult.  A slowing metabolism and decreased activity can be to blame.  But with proper diet and exercise you can help to keep your back and spine healthy.

Height

Simply put taller people are more likely to experience back pain vs. shorter people.  We can thank the principles of leverage and gravity to that.

As we get older, we shrink.  This is due to bone density loss and more importantly the degeneration of the discs in our spine.  As these structures “shrink” the narrowing of space can put pressure on our nerves, resulting in impingement related back pain.  Practicing proper posture and maintaining proper spinal alignment can help decrease the potential for height related back pain.  It is never to late to practice!

Life experiences

Falls, accidents, things striking you, poor posture and lifting heavy objects can potentially affect your back health resulting in lifelong problems.

As we get older, the impact of our life experiences can be can be felt more often.  There is no point in looking back and wondering, “What if?”, but we can look forward!  Treating and managing these life experience conditions can help improve our quality of life.

Genetics

Some people were blessed with genetics that helps them from rarely having any back pain.  Some are challenged with structural defects of the spine resulting in a significantly increased risk of back pain.

As we get older, this is the 10% of life that we have no influence on.  But understanding our family background and history, can help us be proactive in managing the risks later in life.

The body of our youth is one of learning and designed to absorb the challenges that can increase back pain.  The body of our older years is one of wisdom and works best when we practice the wisdom gained from our youth!


Is a standing desk good or bad for your back?

John Naumann Uncategorized Comments Off on Is a standing desk good or bad for your back?

Is a standing desk good or bad?

Is a standing desk good or bad?

With recent research showing the dangers of sitting at a computer workstation all day we often get asked, “Is a standing desk good or bad for my back?”  The answer isn’t as straight forward as it may seem.  The real issue about static postures.  As a chiropractic and physical therapy provider specializing in treating back and neck pain, we see people from all walks of life.  In the work force, we often see office workers more than we see construction workers.  This seems counter-intuitive because construction workers often move heavy loads while an office worker rarely moves.  The important word is “moves”.  Our bodies are designed to move.  It helps with growth, repair and getting nutrients to tissues.  Breaking static postures, such as the ones sitting at a computer workstation, is more important than what position you are working in.

So here is the good and bad of a standing workstation:

The Good
  1. Standing puts less pressure on the spine than sitting
  2. When a standing surface is set up properly, it can encourage better posture than sitting
  3. It breaks the the static posture of sitting
  4. You are more likely to move when standing
The Bad
  1. Standing is more tiring than sitting
  2. Standing without movement is still a static posture, you still need to change position
  3. Blood circulation is stressed, due to blood pooling in legs.  (People with circulatory issues may be a risk)
  4. A standing surface must have the same proper set-up as a proper seated position.  Keyboard, mouse, and monitors must be set at height to encourage proper posture.
The Verdict
  1. Alternating your sitting and standing posture breaks up the static posture
  2. People with disc issues may benefit from a standing position
  3. The expense of setting up a standing workstation can be costly, try improving your current sitting set-up and see if you notice an improvement.
  4. Get moving!  The most important thing you can do is take micro stretch breaks every hour to break the static postures. Here are some good stretches you can do
    1. Chin Tuck
    2. Trapezius Stretch
    3. Chest Stretch

To learn more about how to set up a proper computer workstation set-up:  5 tips to set up a proper workstation


Improve your Back Health with Proper Sleep

John Naumann Back Pain, Neck Pain Comments Off on Improve your Back Health with Proper Sleep

How to improve back health with proper sleep

Bad sleeping positionOur neck and back health is strongly influenced by how we sleep and what we sleep on.  Ideally we should be spending approximately 8 hours a day in sleep.  This provides the time for the body to recover from a day’s worth of activities.  So one of the key elements of helping people treat back and neck pain is to identify how they sleep.

There are 3 primary sleeping positions, back, side and stomach.  Each position has its pro’s and con’s  from an overall health standpoint, this post focuses mainly on how it relates to the back and neck pain.

Back Sleeper

Back sleeping is the ideal position for better back health.  This position helps decompress the spine from our daily standing and seated postures. It is important to make sure you address proper neck positioning, you do not want it too high or too low creating awkward neck positions.

Side Sleeper

Side sleeping is the most common sleeping position for most people.  With proper pillow placement it can help provide a proper position for good spinal alignment.  Placing a pillow between your knees and proper placement  for you head will support the proper alignment.  Just be aware side sleeping encourages more compression on you body’s organs and nerve supply.  This can result in some numbness and discomfort.  If you are a side sleeper it is recommended that you switch from side to side to balance out the pressure of side sleeping

Stomach Sleeper

From the perspective of proper neck and back health, this position should be avoided. Stomach sleepers are not able to keep proper head and neck alignment, resulted in the spine being put in a twisted position and also increases the pressure in the lower back.

How to train your body to get used to a new sleeping position

Saying you should side sleep or back sleep is easier said than done.  Your body has gotten into a habit of sleeping a certain way and when you are asleep you and you will naturally move into that position when you are asleep.  The key to training yourself into a new sleeping position is the use of pillows.  It is not fool-proof but it can be effective.  The training is performed similar to how your body has trained itself to sense the edge of the bed so you don’t fall off.

If you are a back sleeper and want to train yourself to sleep on your side, maybe due to snoring, place a pillow under one shoulder.  As your body sleeps and tries to lay to its back, it will sense the pillow and roll back to the side position.

If you are a side sleeper and want to train yourself to sleep on your back, you can start in a back sleeping position with two pillow directly under you arms.  This will provide the sensory input to avoid rolling to your side.

If you are a stomach sleeper, use the same technique as above to train yourself to back sleep.  To transition to side sleeping use a body pillow or take a pillow and wedge it between you body and arms (hugging position).

You may have to do slight modification of these techniques to get it to work for you but you should be able to train yourself to get in a proper sleeping position.

How do you address what you sleep on?

What we sleep on is as important as how we sleep.  A proper fitting mattress and pillow are very important to helping support proper body position when sleeping.  There is no single rule of thumb on how to achieve this.  The thing to keep in mind, is if you have a good consistent sleeping position and you suddenly experience neck and/or back pain then it is time to look at the mattress and pillow.

Is the mattress old and worn out?  Mattresses over 10 years old begin to lose their ability to provide consistent support.  If it is this old, consider replacing it.

Is the mattress too soft or too firm?  Everyone is different when it comes to this.  Find out what works best for you.  Most mattress companies have a good return policy and will allow you the ability to return or trade in a mattress within 30 days of purchase.  This time frame is adequate to identify if the mattress will work for you in the long run.

Replace your pillow regularly.  Pillows break down too, so you should look at replacing your pillow if you start to experience neck pain.  Again firm or soft, just make sure it encourages good neck and spine alignment.

 


Low Back Pain in Young Athletes

John Naumann Back Pain Comments Off on Low Back Pain in Young Athletes

Back Pain in Young Athletes is different than in Adults

Low back pain and kidsBack pain is not exclusive to adults.  In fact at least 15% of all young athletes experience back pain.  This statistic is higher in certain sports like football, gymnastics and volleyball.  But back pain in young athletes is often very different than in adults.

The injuries youth athletes are significantly different than adults.  Injuries to the spinous process are significantly higher in young athletes, while disc injuries are more common in adults. Adults typically have fewer injuries to the spinous process, but incur more injuries to the vertebrae disc.

Children experience periods of rapid growth, soft tissues such as muscles and ligaments are unable to keep pace with the rate of bone growth, resulting in muscle imbalances and a decrease in flexibility.  This can place young athletes at greater risk for injury.

Although injuries are a part of sport, there are ways to reduce the risk of injury in young athletes. Recognizing risk factors are a key component to reducing injury.  Prior to the start of a sport season, an evaluation may identify certain risk factors, such as previous injuries that have not been fully rehabilitated or muscle weaknesses or inflexibility. These areas can then be addressed prior to the start of the season. Additionally, athletes should start general strength and fitness conditioning several weeks before the start of the season.   Increases in the frequency and intensity of training should be gradual to allow for safe adaptation to the demands of the sport.

During periods of growth, young athletes are prone to loss of flexibility and muscle imbalances that can predispose them to injury.  Because of this concern, young athletes should reduce the amount of training and the volume of repetitive motions during growth spurts. Certain sports require maneuvers that place a lot of stress on the posterior spine, such as layback spins in figure skating  and walkovers in gymnastics. Athletes may need to limit the number of repetitions of these maneuvers, particularly if there is pain associated with these maneuvers. Core-strengthening exercises and stretches for tight hamstrings and hip flexors may help reduce the risk of low back pain.


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