Total Back Newsletter

Living with Series: Scoliosis

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How to live with 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

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Is dehydration making your back pain worse?


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

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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.


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


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.


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.


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?

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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

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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

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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.

10 Worst Jobs for Low Back Pain

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10 worst jobs for back painAccording to the Bureau of Labor Statistics sprain and strain injuries are the most common injuries and the back is 2nd most common place for injuries.  Over the years jobs have gotten safer to minimize risk but there are certain jobs that are inherently have a higher risk for back injuries.  Here is a list of the top ten jobs that have a high risk for causing back pain.

  1. Truck Drivers – The risk for this group is the combination of prolonged sitting combined with the need to move heavy loads.
  2. Construction workers – The risk is high in this group due to prolonged bent over positions and working with awkward and sometimes heavy loads.
  3. Landscapers – Landscapers often work with a lot of twisting motions and are often working in bent over positions moving heavy dirt, rocks, and plants.
  4. Police officers – Very similar to truck drivers, going from a prolonged seated position in their vehicle to going into explosive movements to apprehend suspects.
  5. Firefighters – The equipment that firefighters have to carry can be awkward and require forceful movements, increasing the risk of injury.
  6. EMT – The need to go from a seated position to transferring people can lead to back pain
  7. Farmers – Farmers often have to work with heavy equipment and also do a lot of prolonged sitting on their machinery.
  8. Auto mechanics –  Prolonged bent over positions and awkward positions in confined spaces can lead to back pain
  9. Nurses – Nurses are often responsible to transfer, bathe, and dress patients.  This often leads to awkward positioning and can lead to back pain.
  10. Office workers – Believe it or not, working at a computer workstation most of your day is bad for the back and can lead to back pain.

As you can see, the jobs that go from a prolonged seated posture to moving heavy loads or awkward movements are the most likely to cause back pain.  Make sure you stretch before going from a seated posture to lifting and you will reduce the risk of injury.  Are you dealing with back pain?  Contact us 480-633-8293.

March Madness Contest 2016

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Welcome to The Center For Total Back Care’s 1st Annual March Madness Contest!

march madness

Contest Rules:

  • Visit our contest page each Monday during March Madness (March 14, March 21, and March 28) for our update game picks.
  • Simply choose the winner of each match-up
  • Each match-up winner you pick will get you one ticket into our March Madness Contest Raffle (The more wins you pick, the better the chance for you to win!)


Final Week Entries in by April 2nd!

Grand Prize – $100 Visa Card

Consolation Prize – 2 Movie Tickets


March Madness

Stop Back Pain at Work

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Zinc coating - forward posture strapping to crane (1) 2011-02-25_12-44-31_521

Back Pain at Work: Tips to Stop work-related back pain

Back pain at work is nothing new.  No one is immune whether you work in an office or in construction, everyone could experience back pain at one time or another on the job.  Prevention is the key.  Here are some tips:

Office Job related Back Pain

Office related back pain often comes from long hours of poor static postures.  Use this tips to help address your poor static posture.

  1. Set up your work area to promote a proper seated posture. (Refer to “5 tips to make sure your workstation is set up properly”)
  2. Take stretch breaks.  Try these stretches below to break up tension created by static posture.
    1. Chin Tuck Stretch
    2. Trapezius Stretch
    3. Chest Stretch
Labor Job related Back Pain

People that work in labor related jobs have the advantage of moving continuously, which encourages good blood flow to muscles and tissues.  The challenges people in labor positions is preparing their body for the task at hand.  Here are some tips to address preparing the body for labor tasks

  1. When arriving on a job site take 5 minutes to go through “Dynamic Stretching”.  Dynamic stretching is the type of stretching an athlete will go through to prepare for their training or competition.  Labor Jobs are the Industrial Athletes!  Try these stretches below to avoid labor related injuries
    1. Lunge with twist
    2. Walking hamstring stretch
    3. Air Squats (perform 10)
    4. Shoulder stretch

Preventing back pain at work can be as easy as taking a few minutes to stretch!

Managing Back Pain during Pregnancy

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Back pain during pregnancy

Wikimedia, Silhouette of Pregnant Woman

One of the most common complaints of women during pregnancy is back pain.  Back pain during pregnancy is almost a forgone conclusion, considering all the changes that are going on in the body to prepare for birth. First you have a new life growing in your body which will throw off your body’s center of mass encouraging poor posture. Next the ligaments in the pelvis begin to loosen to prepare for the birth, this further challenges balance and posture.

Here are a couple of tips to help address back pain during pregnancy:

  1. If working at a computer all day, make sure to have it set up to encourage proper posture.  Many businesses work with ergonomists to help their employees.
  2. Try sleeping on the left side.  This increases blood circulation from mother to child and will alleviate back pain. Stick pillow under belly and between knees as needed to relieve back stress.
  3. Wear proper shoes.  It’s time to put the heels away and wear more comfortable, posture supportive, shoes.
  4. Avoid bending at waist to pick things up.  Many pregnant women in the later trimesters have to squat to pick things up anyways.  Continue to keep the legs strong by exercising such as walks and performing air squats (place hands on supportive surface for balance.  Proper lifting mechanics can reduce the risk of injury to back, especially during pregnancy.

If you or someone you know is experiencing back pain during pregnancy, feel free to contact us at 480-633-8293.

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