Total Back Newsletter

Get a good nights sleep to reduce back pain

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Studies have shown that lack of sleep can contribute to increasing our perception of pain. So how do you get a good nights sleep to reduce back pain?

Those of you with back pain are saying, how do I get a good nights sleep when my back is killing me? It can be tough to achieve but here are some tips to help you get a better nights sleep.

  • Check your mattress and pillow – If you have a mattress that is over 10 years old, it’s time for a change. Pillows should be replaced about every 1-2 years.
  • Sleep cool – Your body stays in deeper sleep longer with the proper room temperature. It is recommended your sleeping temperature be between 60-67 degrees.
  • Watch what and when you eat and drink – Avoid foods that may trigger heartburn before you go to bed. Foods that are high in sugar can also create a restless night sleep. If you are hungry, eat a handful of nuts, fruits like berries and bananas. With drink, avoid caffeine and alcohol, try non-caffeinated tea or warm milk. Have water by your bed, but try not to drink too much, or you may need to get up throughout the night to got to bath room.
  • Sleep in the right position – Avoid sleeping on your stomach and try to sleep on you back or side. For back sleepers with back pain, try a pillow under your knees to take some of the stress off your back. For side lying position, try a body pillow to help keep your spine alignment.
  • Avoid exercise before bed time – Exercise amps up your body making it harder to go to sleep. Try not to workout 3 hours prior to bedtime.
  • Turn off your electronics – Light from your phones, computers and televisions can keep your brain from preparing for sleep. Put the phone down and on silent and disconnect from other electronics in order to get a good nights sleep.
  • Give yourself the time for sleep – Plan for 8 hours of sleep. Go to bed early enough to allow yourself to get enough sleep. As we get older, the more likely we get up earlier and earlier, regardless of work or life schedule.

These are some things that you can do to help you get a better night sleep when you have back pain. Consult with your physician if your back pain is not letting you get a good nights sleep.

How Athletes Recover from Back Pain

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When most people think of back pain and an athlete, they think of Tiger Woods. His recovery is a well documented long dedicated process. In 2018, his return stunned the golf world as many sports writers had written his career as over. He is now back this week starting his 2019 season. So what can we learn from how athletes recover from back pain?

First, Tiger Woods began his process taking the most conservative route to recovery, physical therapy. He understood that once surgery takes place, the success rate and outcomes begins to diminish. Athletes are highly motivated to return to their optimal performance and are willing to put the hard work and consistency of treatment that is required in physical therapy. The challenge with the athlete is listening to their body through the process and not pushing themselves, which can set them back. Tiger Woods experienced this.

The next phase is going through less invasive treatments that help relieve pain temporarily to help in the recovery process. This can include nerve blocks and steroid injections. For an athlete this can help them address the pain and discomfort while they progress in their physical therapy.

Finally comes the surgical options. If the physical therapy and injections do not help the athlete they begin the surgical route. Tiger Woods surgical journey began in 2014. He had choices, do I take the more aggressive surgical route, which would limit his ability to return to golf, or do the more conservative surgeries. He knew the conservative route would mean the potential for multiple surgeries and multiple rehabilitation programs before he could “potentially” return to competitive golf. The same drive and determination that made him the #1 golfer in the world, helped him choose the more difficult path.

Over the next 3 years he dealt with setbacks and disappointments. He had the sports community saying he was done. He even let the possibility of him not ever golfing again to creep into his thoughts. But, when he returned last year, he shocked everyone, even himself and found success at the end of the road by winning the Tour Championship.

The athlete mindset is what we all need when dealing with back pain. There are no quick fixes, no magical surgery, no pill to get you through it. It takes hard work, a tough mentality, willingness to commit to the process.

3 Great Stretches at Desk for Back Pain

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Sitting at a desk all day can be a real pain in the back and really hurt productivity. In the past we have covered how to properly set up your workstation, but static postures for 8 hours a day can really do a number on your back. Here are 3 great stretches at desk for back pain. Perform 3-4 times daily.

Seated Twist

Seated Twist Stretch – Crossing your legs, place the opposite hand on the knee on top and twist towards the top leg’s side. Stretch should be gentle and held for 3 seconds. Reverse to the other direction. Perform 3 times.

Seated Side Bends

Seated Side Bends – Place your hands behind your head with elbows pointed out, while seated. Gently bend side to side in a slow controlled movement repeat 5 times each side.

Seated Pirformis Stretch

Seated Piriformis Stretch – While seated raise your leg and place the outside of your ankle/foot on the opposite knee. Place hand on foot and ankle, keeping back straight and bend forward up until you feel a stretch, hold for 30 seconds. Perform once per side.

You should feel no pain after performing these stretches. Consult with your physician before starting any stretch program.

Top Low Back Stretches: Prayer Stretch

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Top Low Back Stretches: Prayer Stretch

The prayer stretch is a great stretch that primarily targets the extensor muscles of the back.  The prayer stretch is excellent because it limits the loading placed on the low back while performing the stretch and allows you to fully relax, letting gravity do the work for you. The prayer stretch is one of the best stretches you can do to protect yourself from a low back injury and to help relieve pain during the rehabilitation from a low back injury.  When people injure their low back, the muscles surrounding the area of the injury will tighten to guard the area from further injury.  The problem is that this constant tension in these muscle groups, can increase pain when a nerve is involved and decreases blood flow to this area.  Decreased blood flow increases the time for healing.  So stretching the muscles in this area help break this cycle and allow for the body to heal.

Prayer Stretch

To perform the prayer stretch first consider the surface you are performing it on.  Due to your knees making direct contact with the surface you will probably want to perform this stretch on some form of padded surface. Also if you have knee pain you may want to place a pillow between the backs of your thighs and calves when you are kneeling.

Prayer stretchprayer stretch 2







-On your hands and knees, sit back so your buttocks is resting on your heels.

-Reach your hands forward to lengthen your spine and feel a stretch in your middle back.

-You can reach your hands to either side to focus the stretch on the opposite side of your spine.

-Hold for 10-30 seconds and perform 2-3 repetitions.

When should I perform the prayer stretch?

The prayer stretch can be performed prior to or after any workout program, especially with back loading is involved.  This will help prevent injury.  Performing this stretch after injury will help expedite the healing process.

When should I avoid performing the prayer stretch?

The prayer stretch needs to be approached with caution if you are dealing with back pain.  Some people with severe knee pain will have difficulty performing the stretch.  If you feel an increase in pain or numbness, stop and contact your doctor.


What your numb hands can tell you about your health

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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.


Top Neck and Shoulder Stretches: Chin Tuck

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Who doesn’t use a computer related product today?  Whether it is a desktop, laptop, tablet or cell phone, it is inevitable that you will have a forward head posture when using these products.  Forward head posture contributes to most neck and shoulder pain because it positions your head in front of the shoulders.  The Chin Tuck stretch is a great way to help address this forward head posture.  When performing this stretch you should feel the stretch at the base of the back of the head to the spine in between the shoulder blades.   It is important that when performing stretches in the neck that the individual does not have pain or numbness, but a mild stretching sensation in the muscles of the targeted area.  Please consult with a doctor if you have any questions about this exercise.

Chin Tuck

chin tuck– First sit or stand straight and tall

– Then, imagine that you are lying flat on your back with a pillow at the base of the neck

– Keeping your gaze straight forward, press back imagining you are pressing your neck into the pillow.

– Hold this stretch for 10 seconds, then relax

– Repeat 3 times


When should you perform the chin tuck?

Every hour that you use a computer, tablet, cell phone, or reading a book, you should take a break and perform this exercise.

When should I avoid performing the chin tuck?

If you experience an increase in localized pain during and prolongs after stretch, numbness, dizziness, or radiating pain during stretch, discontinue stretch and consult a doctor.


Things that are making your low back pain worse

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Making your low back pain worseLower back pain can be uncomfortable and difficult to manage, and some common coping strategies and issues could actually be making your low back pain worse.

Here are some things that could be making your low back pain worse.

  1. You lift things incorrectly –  It doesn’t take lifting a heavy object to increase back pain.  Most of the time it is how you lift an object.  Keeping you back straight, bending at the knees, using you legs, avoiding twisting motions, and keeping the weight close are good ways to avoid low back pain
  2. Your bed isn’t supportive enough – Mattresses should be changed about every 10 years and pillows about every year.  Many people experience a great benefit in reducing low back pain by just changing their mattress.
  3. You sit for long periods of time – Many jobs require working behind a desk, which results in long periods of time sitting.  But sitting actually increases pressure in the spine by up to 25% versus standing.  Also long sitting postures creates tightness in your muscles from “static” contraction.  The best way to address this is to get up and walk around for a few minutes every hour.
  4. Your not moving enough – Movement helps keep you healthy.  We see more people that are sitting or not moving enough throughout the day, than someone that works in a job that requires them to be constantly moving or people that make a focused effort to exercise throughout the day.
  5. You underestimate the value of medical treatment – Chiropractors and physical therapists are experts at addressing low back pain.  Addressing back pain immediately when you experience it is better than waiting and seeing if it will get better.   People with low back pain often wait and see if it will get better over time, but in many cases this just leads to a longer recovery time.

While addressing these things may not eliminate you have a low back pain experience, they can definitely impact the severity and period of time you are experiencing low back pain.

Top Neck and Shoulder Stretches: Trapezius Stretch

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Here are the top neck and shoulder stretches everyone should be doing.  Neck pain can have many different causes and almost all of them included muscle tightness and muscle guarding.  Breaking up the tension in you neck and shoulders is one of the key elements to recovery.  It is important that when performing stretches in the neck that the individual does not have pain or numbness, but a mild stretching sensation in the muscles of the targeted area.  Please consult with a doctor if you have any questions about this exercise.  This week we start our series off with the Trapezius Stretch or commonly called the Trap Stretch.

upper trap stretchTrapezius Stretch

– Place the back of one hand on your lower back making sure you are keeping that sides shoulder down

– Place the other hand gently across the top of your head, while the head is looking straight forward

– Apply gentle pressure to your head pulling your head towards the hand on head side until you feel a good stretch, no pain. (Do not push down)

– Hold the stretch for 20-30 seconds and perform for both sides 3 times


When should I perform Trapezius Stretches?

Whenever you have limited range of motion in neck or have tightness in shoulders.  Perform at least 2-3 times daily.  If you are working at a computer workstation, perform 1 time per hour.

When should I avoid performing Trapezius Stretches?

If you experience an increase in localized pain during and prolongs after stretch, numbness, dizziness, or radiating pain during stretch, discontinue stretch and consult a doctor.


5 tips to set up a proper computer workstation

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Computer workstation

Did you know that seated postures increase pressure in the spine by 50% versus standing?  This can be compounded by a slouching posture and can lead to computer workstation back pain.  Here are 5 tips to make sure that your computer workstation is set up properly:

  1. Have the right chair – The proper chair is the most important thing to providing proper postural support.  A good chair has good adjustable lumbar support, adjustable armrests and seat height adjustment. When seated your thighs should be parallel to the floor with your feet flat on the floor.
  2. Set the right keyboard and mouse height – Arms should be 90 degrees at the elbow with upper arms at the side of body.
  3. Set the right monitor height – With uncorrected or standard corrected vision the monitor height should be set so when you look straight ahead you are looking 2 inches below the top of the monitor.  If you wear bifocals, position the monitor so you are looking directly at the top of the monitor.
  4. Use a telephone headset if you are on the phone 20% of the day or more –  Most people multitask when on the telephone over 20% of the workday.  This encourages people to pinch the telephone handset between head and shoulders, leading to back and neck pain.
  5. Take frequent stretch breaks – When you are sitting at a workstation your neck, shoulders, chest and forearm muscles tighten, reducing blood flow.  This leads to potential strain/sprain injuries.  It is recommended that you take a short 2 minute stretch break every 30 minutes.

If you want to know more, or have questions contact Dr. Jolley 480-633-8293.


Best Type of Pillow for Neck Pain

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Have you ever woken up with a stiff neck and wondered if your pillow is causing your neck pain?  Well you could be right.  Your pillow is very important in maintaining proper neck posture while you sleep.  So what are the best types of pillows for neck pain?

Pillows are very individual so it is important to find one that bests fits you.  But here are some of the best available options to meet your needs.

For side sleepers, use a pillow with a bulge/contour under the neck to help support proper spinal alignment.

  • Sleep Innovations Memory Foam Contour Pillow
  • Brookstone Biosense Shoulder Pillow
  • Leesa Reversible Hybrid Pillow
  • Classic Brands Cool Sleep Advanced Contour Cool Gel Memory Foam Pillow


For back sleepers, use a pillow that provides a firmer head support.  Avoid too big or too thin.

  • Classic Brands Cool Sleep
  • My Pillow Premium
  • Sahara Nights
  • Best Cervical Orthopedic
  • ISHOWStore Therapeutic & Ergonomic
  • Bamboo Pillow


Pillows wear out faster than mattresses, so look to replace them every one to two years.  Here is to a better night sleep with less back pain!



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