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The Strong Core-Healthy Back Connection

Chiropractor in Burke, VAUnless you’re either very, very young or live on a remote desert island without TV, radio, Internet or print media, you’ve probably heard the term “core strength” before. Serious athletes and exercise enthusiasts talk about it at the fitness center, and so do their coaches and trainers. But did you know that chiropractors and physical therapists talk about it too? So what exactly is core strength and why do some kinds of healthcare professionals care about it so much?

As you might guess, chiropractic physicians have a particular interest in the musculoskeletal system, the complex structure of bones, muscles and connective tissues that support the body’s frame and allow it to move. We’ve recognized for a very long time that the core muscles play a major role in stabilizing this frame and promoting correct posture when the body is at rest or in motion. In particular, strong core muscles contribute to a healthy back by holding the spine in proper alignment, supporting a portion of the body’s weight and absorbing many of the stresses and impacts we all experience when we walk and run. When your core muscles are doing their job effectively, your spine is protected. You can think of this as the “strong core-healthy back connection.” Let’s talk about it in more detail…

In human beings, the majority of movement originates from the lower part of the torso (the lumbar spine and abdomen). This is the part of the body that tenses first and keeps the body balanced during running, lifting, twisting and other normal day-to-day movements. Strength in this region is a basic building block from which to develop power in other areas of the body and (as we mentioned earlier) is fundamental to maintaining good posture and spinal alignment.

Anatomically speaking, the core region of the body consists of the lower back, abdomen, pelvis and diaphragm. The main muscle groups include the transversus abdominus, internal and external obliques, rectus abdominis and erector spinae. It is these muscles that often need strengthening due to the fact that on a daily basis most of us are far less active than our ancestors who worked at more physically demanding jobs.

Instructors across a wide variety of athletic and exercise disciplines have known about the importance of core strength for a long time. Yoga and Pilates teachers, martial artists and qi gong practitioners all move from the same center of gravity and balance in the core region and view this area as the nexus of human power and energy. They stress the importance of strengthening the core through breathing exercises and meditation as well as physical movement. Since the core region of the body contains the diaphragm, ease of breathing is both a sign and result of good core strength. Back pain, on the other hand, may well be a sign that core strength needs to be improved.

For those who practice sports, proper alignment is particularly important to prevent injuries during physical exertion. If the core muscles are not strong enough to support the spine during movement, then other muscle groups will be used to perform the action with a much greater risk of damage. The rest of us also need to be conscious of our core strength since we all engage in strenuous action at various points in our lives (lifting boxes, running to catch a bus, playfully swinging a child, etc.).

While chiropractors are always willing to help patients in need of treatment, the ultimate goal of chiropractic care is for everyone to have the best possible spinal health. Good core strength definitely contributes to that, whether you are otherwise healthy or have an ongoing postural problem. If you want to improve your spinal health and posture and reduce your chance of injury, working on core strength through a balanced program of exercise is a very good—and very inexpensive—way of going about it.

If you’re interested in learning more about how you can improve the strong core-healthy back connection, call us today (703) 912-7822 or visit us at Chiropractor in Burke, VA.

iPosture? Are Tablet Computers Causing Neck and Shoulder Pain?

Chiropractor in Burke, VAWhether you’re an Apple fan, an Android lover or a hardcore Microsoft user, there’s no denying the popularity of tablet computers. The numbers speak for themselves—technology market analysts estimate that over 200 million of them are sold in the US each year. Even if you don’t follow the latest tech trends, you know that mobile devices—principally phones and tablets—are a regular feature around town. From coffee shops and supermarkets to airports and train platforms, they seem to be everywhere. Plus a growing number of businesses are beginning to equip their sales and service staff as well as their executive teams with them. They’re even finding their way into hospitals and doctor’s offices!

But while tablets certainly have their benefits, new research suggests that they also have their drawbacks when it comes to musculoskeletal health. It has already been shown that frequent texting on your mobile phone can cause problems with neck pain (the so-called “text neck” epidemic), but those who use their tablet for everything from work-related applications to just surfing the internet and watching full-length movies may be in for even more pain. The anecdotal evidence is already starting to show up in the waiting rooms of chiropractic offices around the country, and researchers at leading universities are beginning to seriously study the ergonomics and health risks of tablet use.

The results of a study published in Work: A Journal of Prevention, Assessment, and Rehabilitation found that the use of tablet computers was associated with greater head and neck flexion than traditional desktop computers and that placing the tablet higher on a table and using a case to put the tablet at a more optimal angle could help prevent neck and shoulder problems.

Researchers from the Harvard School of Public Health, Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Microsoft Corporation studied 15 volunteers who were regular users of tablet computers. The subjects performed simulated tasks on an Apple iPad2 and a Motorola Xoom, during which the posture of the head and neck, the subjects’ gaze angle and gaze distance were measured by a three-dimensional infrared motion analysis system. They surfed the internet, wrote e-mails, watched movies and played video games.

Each tablet came with its own proprietary case that enabled users to set the tablet at different angles. The Apple case allowed for 15° and 73° tilt angles, while the Motorola case allowed angles of 45° and 63°. Greater flexion of the neck was found with the iPad2 when used in its case. Not surprisingly, tablets set at the least perpendicular angle caused greater neck and head flexion than when the subjects used a desktop or laptop computer. Head and neck posture only began to approach a neutral position when the tablets were set in their cases at the Table-Movie angle at which they were closest to perpendicular.

The researchers recommended that tablet users place the devices on a table and at the steepest viewing angle possible to avoid neck and shoulder pain. However, they cautioned that this configuration might cause problems for the arms and wrists, which in this configuration are not optimally placed for input. This of course can lead to its own set of musculoskeletal problems in the extremities. So the simple fact of the matter is that tablet ergonomics involve some tough compromises or tradeoffs for users. A position that’s ideal for viewing is troublesome for typing and gestures and vice-versa.

For many people, tablet computers have become an indispensable part of work and home life (for better or for worse). If you’re one of these people and can’t conceive of either giving up your iPad or reducing the number of hours you spend using it, then it’s very important to develop good ergonomic habits that minimize musculoskeletal stress and have the smallest impact on your posture. You should also consider seeing your chiropractor on a regular basis. Chiropractic care has been shown to be more effective in treating neck and shoulder pain than using pain medication. A chiropractic adjustment can realign neck vertebrae and take the pressure off compressed nerves, bringing relief in a gentle, natural manner and allowing you to use your tablet more comfortably. In addition to addressing the problems you already have, your chiropractor will also be able to offer specific ergonomic advice to help prevent them from recurring or becoming chronic.

We’re here to help! Whether you have specific concerns about a musculoskeletal problem or more general health and wellness questions, we encourage you to call or visit our office today!

What is Plantar Fasciitis?

Chiropractor in Burke, VAPlantar fasciitis (pronounced “plan-tar fash-ee-EYE-tis”) is also sometimes referred to as a heel spur. It’s a debilitating and painful condition that can make walking even a short distance difficult. The discomfort—ranging from mild to severe—is typically most pronounced near the bottom of the heel, usually toward the front, though it may also extend across the entire bottom of the foot. Plantar Fasciitis is usually at its worst first thing in the morning after you get out of bed and walk a few steps, or when you stand up after sitting for an extended period.

What exactly is plantar fasciitis?

The plantar fascia is a thick band of very tough, fibrous tissue that extends from the heel bone to the base of the toes and supports the arch of the foot. When this ligament develops micro-tears, pulls away from the heel bone or becomes inflamed, pain and bone spurs can result. The muscles in the foot may also be involved, especially if the pain occurs after long periods of standing or from chronic overwork, which causes the muscles to shorten, making them less resilient and more susceptible to micro-trauma.

What causes plantar fasciitis?

Plantar fasciitis can occur for a wide variety of reasons and it’s frequently difficult to isolate any one specific cause. That said, here are some of the primary culprits:

  • Standing for long periods of time
  • Wearing shoes with little support
  • Having flat feet
  • Having exceptionally high arches
  • Being overweight
  • A sudden increase in activity
  • Repetitive stress
  • Tight calf muscles
  • Overpronation (walking on the outsides of your feet)
  • Aging

What can be done?

Unfortunately, recovery from plantar fasciitis usually takes time and is prone to setbacks. However, there are some things you can do to help ease the pain and speed the healing process.

Rest the foot as much as possible. Applying ice to the area can help reduce the inflammation, as can taking an anti-inflammatory such as ibuprofen. Many people with plantar fasciitis find it helpful to wear Birkenstocks or other shoes that have good arch support. Custom foot orthotics and heal cups can also provide some relief. At night, wearing a boot that gently stretches the plantar fascia, Achilles tendon and calf muscles (not allowing the foot and toes to point) can help reduce morning symptoms. If you work in an office environment, rolling a baseball or lacrosse ball beneath the arch of your foot while sitting at your desk can help achieve the same thing during the day.

In the long-run, it’s important to address the cause of the problem so that it doesn’t become chronic or recurring. Fortunately, your chiropractor can help in that regard. Chiropractic physicians are experts at treating a wide variety of musculoskeletal problems—not only those that affect the back and neck, but also those that affect the extremities. To treat plantar fasciitis, your chiropractor may use a combination of therapies, including manipulation/mobilization, stretching, cold laser, and ultrasound. He or she may also recommend custom orthotics and useful exercises that you can do at home to gently stretch tight muscles and tendons. Since one common cause of plantar fasciitis is overpronation, a series of chiropractic adjustments can ensure your bones are properly aligned, allowing for greater range of motion and helping to take some of the strain off the overworked muscles and connective tissues in your feet.

Healing plantar fasciitis is a slow process that may take weeks or months. However, with good chiropractic care, conscientious at-home treatment and proper shoes, it doesn’t have to become a chronic or recurring condition. Have any questions? Please call us at (703) 912-7822 or visit us at Chiropractor in Burke, VA.

Low Back Pain – When is it DANGEROUS to Wait?

Chiropractor in Burke, VALow back pain (LBP) typically results from relatively “benign” causes, meaning it’s usually safe to wait and try conservative / non-emergency care first. However, there are a handful of times when prompt medical emergency management is appropriate, and it’s important that everyone is aware of these uncommon but dangerous and sometimes deadly causes of LBP, hence the purpose of this article.

“Red flags” trace back to the 1980s and 1990s, so this is not a “new” topic. In fact, guidelines for the care of LBP that have been published around the world ALL commonly state the anyone exhibiting these “red flags” needs to be promptly diagnosed and referred for emergent care. The common conditions cited in these guidelines include (but are not limited to): 1) Cancer, 2) Cauda equine syndrome, 3) Infection,  4) Fracture. The patient’s history can sometimes uncover suspicion of these four conditions BETTER than a routine physical examination, though a definitive diagnosis is usually made only after special diagnostic tests have been completed including (but not limited to) imaging (x-ray, MRI, CT, PET scans), blood tests, bone scans, and more.

1) Cancer: a) Past history of cancer. b) Unexplained weight loss (>10 kg within 6 months). c) Age over 50 or under age 18. d) Failure to respond to usual care (therapy). e) Pain that persists for four to six weeks. f) Night pain or pain at rest.

2) Infection: a) Persistent fever (>100.4º F). b) Current/recent URI (upper respiratory tract infection like pneumonia) or UTI (urinary tract or kidney infection). b) History of intravenous drug abuse. c) Severe back pain. d) Lumbar spine surgery within the past year. e) Recent bacterial infection (cellulitis or persistent wound – e.g., a decubitus ulcer or “pressure sore” in the low back region). f) Immunocompromised states such as those caused by systemic corticosteroids, organ transplant medications, diabetes mellitus, human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).

3) Cauda Equina Syndrome: a) Urinary incontinence or retention. b) Saddle anesthesia. c) Anal sphincter tone decrease or fecal incontinence. d) Bilateral lower extremity weakness or numbness. e) Progressive neurologic deficit or loss – major muscle weakness or sensory deficit.

4) Fracture: a) Prolonged corticosteroid use. b) Age >70. c) History of Osteoporosis (poor bone density). d) Mild trauma over age 50. e) Major trauma at any age (such as a fall).

Another red flag is an Abdominal Aortic Aneurism. Signs include: a) Abdominal pulsations. b) Hardening of the arteries (atherosclerotic vascular disease). c) Pain at rest or night time pain. d) Age >60.

We realize you have a choice in whom you consider for your health care provision and we sincerely appreciate your trust in choosing our service for those needs.  If you, a friend, or family member requires care for back pain, give us a call at (703) 912-7822 or visit us at Chiropractor in Burke, VA.

Neck Pain – The MOST Important Exercises (Part 2)

neck-headacheAs stated last month, exercises that focus on improving posture, flexibility, strength, and coordination are important for creating a well-rounded cervical rehabilitation program. Our discussion continues this month with stretching and strengthening exercises.

STRETCHING: Since our neck muscles have to hold up our 12 pound (~5.5 kg) head, it’s no wonder why our neck muscles seem to be tight almost all the time. Here are two ways to stretch the neck: 1) You can simply drop the chin to the chest, look at the ceiling, try to touch your ear to your shoulder (without shoulder shrugging) on both sides, and rotate the head left to right and vice versa (six directions). 2) You can use gentle pressure with your hand and assist in the active stretch by gently pulling into the six directions described in #1 by applying “over-pressure” at the end-range of motion (staying within “reasonable pain boundaries”).

STRENGTHENING: Most people have a forward head carriage, meaning their head normally rests in front of their shoulders. The further forward the head sits, the greater the load on the muscles in the back of the neck and upper back to hold it up. This position promotes a negative spiral or “vicious cycle” that can lead to many complaints including (but not limited to) neck pain, headaches, balance disturbances, and in the long-term, osteoarthritis. There are two important groups of muscles that require strengthening: the deep neck flexors and deep neck extensors.

1) The deep neck flexors are muscles located directly on the front of the cervical spine and are described as being “involuntary” or unable to be voluntarily contracted. Hence, we have to “trick” the voluntary outer “extrinsic” (stronger) muscles into NOT WORKING so the deep, intrinsic ones will contract. You can do this by flexing your chin to the chest and pushing your neck (not head) back over your shoulders into resistance caused a towel wrapped around the back of the neck. If you feel your chin raise towards the ceiling, you’re doing it WRONG! Keep the chin tucked as close to the chest as possible as you push your neck (not your head) backwards. If you’re doing it correctly, your chest should raise towards the ceiling as you push your chin down and neck back. Try it!

2) The deep neck extensors are strengthened in a very similar way EXCEPT here you DO push the back of HEAD back into your towel while keeping your chin tucked tightly into your chest. Do three reps, holding each for three to five seconds and switch between the two for two to three sets.

We will finish this discussion next month with important coordination exercises!

We realize you have a choice in whom you consider for your health care provision and we sincerely appreciate your trust in choosing our service for those needs.  If you, a friend, or family member requires care for neck pain or headaches, give us a call at (703) 912-7822 or visit us at Chiropractor in Burke, VA.

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome – WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW!

Chiropractor in Burke, VACarpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS) develops from a nerve problem in the wrist (the median nerve) and is NOT a “muscle problem” like some people believe. That is not to say the median nerve cannot be trapped and pinched by muscles. When this occurs, the condition is labeled with a different name, depending on which muscle(s) are pinching the nerve or where the entrapment is located. Here are some more FACTS about CTS that you need to know:

SYMPTOMS: CTS complaints include numbness, pain, tingling, and/or weakness of the hand (especially fingers two, three, and four), and while this can be constant, it usually comes and goes.

ONSET: CTS usually comes on gradually. However, the length of time over which it progresses can be HIGHLY VARIABLE. It can take weeks, months, or even years before the patient consults with their chiropractor or family doctor.

CAUSE: There are MANY reported causes of CTS, but it is not completely known how the process starts out or how it evolves for different people. Risk factors include age greater than 50, obesity, genetics (family history of CTS), gender (as it favors females over males), work type (highly-repetitive, hand-intensive work), pregnancy, birth control pill usage, thyroid disease, diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, and more. In general, swelling is the culprit that results in pressure on the median nerve. This most commonly occurs from overuse of the hands and fingers. Playing musical instruments, sewing, crocheting, basket weaving, assembly/line work, meat processing work, typing/computer work, and waitressing are common over-use activities.

CLINICAL COURSE: Early into the disorder, CTS is usually easily managed and reversible. However, if the amount of pressure on the nerve is too much, the symptoms can become permanent. Think of a wire and how wearing away the plastic coating will “short” the wire. There are multiple layers to our nerves and the wearing away of the outer layers over time can become a problem resulting in permanent numbness and/or weakness.

BIGGEST MISTAKE: Don’t wait until your symptoms are terrible! If you feel periodic numbness and tingling and you find yourself shaking your hand and “flicking” your fingers in attempt to “wake them up,” NOW IS THE TIME TO COME VISIT YOUR CHIROPRACTOR before nerve damage occurs and the risk of permanency increases.

HOW CHIROPRACTIC HELPS: Treatment guidelines for CTS recommend a non-surgical approach, and this is where chiropractic comes in! A wrist night splint is typically recommended since sleep interruption due to numbness is VERY common as we cannot control our wrist position when we sleep. Ice (not heat) is best as it reduces swelling (see #3 above). Rubbing an ice cube (or Dixie cup of ice) over the palm-side of the wrist works well. First, you will feel COLD followed by BURNING, then ACHING, and finally NUMBNESS (“C-BAN”). At this point STOP, as the next stage of cooling is frost bite! Do this three times a day or as directed. Your doctor of chiropractic will also talk to you about taking “mini-breaks” at home and/or at work and teach you exercises or stretches that can be performed during these breaks! A work station assessment is often very helpful as sometimes a simple change in work position or method can reduce wrist strain considerably. Your doctor of chiropractic may also perform manipulation to the small joints of the hand, wrist, elbow, shoulder, and neck as indicated in each specific case. He or she may also perform soft tissue release techniques to the muscles and soft tissues of the forearm, shoulder, and neck regions as needed. Surgery should be the LAST step in the treatment process, used only if all other non-surgical options have been tried without success.

We realize you have a choice in whom you consider for your health care provision and we sincerely appreciate your trust in choosing our service for those needs.  If you, a friend, or family member requires care for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, give our office a call at (703) 912-7822 or visit us at Chiropractor in Burke, VA.

How To Avoid Back Pain While Golfing

Chiropractor in Burke, VA

Chiropractor in Burke, VA

PGA golfers Tiger Woods and Padraig Harrington have relied on chiropractic care for years to stay healthy and to improve their performance over the course of their professional careers. Fred Funk and Suzann Pettersen have too. So have a great many others. So there’s really little doubt that elite golfers (and their coaches and trainers) recognize the value of chiropractic care. But what about the weekend warrior? Can chiropractic care help the average golfer play better, longer and with fewer injuries?

If you’re a golfer, you might already know first-hand that your musculoskeletal health plays a huge role in your enjoyment of the sport as well as your performance.

One of the most important things to understand is that the biomechanics of your golf swing can affect your health (back, hips, neck, elbows, etc.) and vice-versa—that your health can affect your swing.  It’s really a feedback loop that can have either a positive or negative effect on your game over time.

Many professionals around the broader golf community—from instructors and trainers to healthcare providers who specialize in sports medicine—are becoming increasingly interested in this feedback loop.  The Titleist Performance Institute (TPI) is one very good example:

“…TPI has analyzed how physical limitations in a player’s body can adversely affect the golf swing and potentially lead to injury.”

“TPI’s mission is to educate golfers and industry professionals on the body/swing connection…”

Let’s talk health first.

The very nature of golf and the biomechanics associated with swinging a club make chiropractic care a great fit for golfers. Golfing can involve considerable strain on the spine as a result of the need to generate club head speed. This requires good swing mechanics—posture, balance and timing. Poor swing mechanics have the potential to create exaggerated or flattened spinal curves that can seriously affect performance. In fact, Tom Ward, PGA Golf Instructor, says, “Over 50% of all golfers will experience some sort of pain due to poor posture and the problems that arise from loss of proper curves in the spine.”

By helping to improve your spine’s stability and range of motion, chiropractic care can help prevent injuries and enhance swing performance. An individualized treatment plan including chiropractic adjustments combined with structured stretching and exercise programs may make a significant difference in how well you golf and how much you enjoy it—as well as in how long you’re able to play the game.

Now what about performance?

Recent research suggests that chiropractic care can indeed lead to improved golf performance. A recent study published in the Journal of Chiropractic Medicine demonstrated that the combination of chiropractic care and stretching are associated with greater improvements in golfers’ swings when compared to stretching alone.

Two groups of golfers participated in the study. One group received a program of stretching only, and the second received both stretching and spinal manipulation. The stretching program was the same for both groups, and both groups had similar average ages, handicaps, and initial swings. All 43 participants initially performed three full swing maneuvers, and the average distances were recorded. Over a 4-week period, all participants hit 3 balls before and after treatment.

After 4 weeks, the stretching only group showed no improvement in swing performance.  However the stretching and manipulation group did improve their swing performance and there was greater driving distance right after treatment each week. So it appears that yes, chiropractic care can help not only top golfers such as Woods and Harrington, but it can help you improve your golf game too.

A good golf swing is the result of a complex combination of balance, flexibility and strength.  And doing it repeatedly over the course of 18 holes (or even more in tournament play) takes a high degree of conditioning as well. If you’re serious about golf, chiropractic care can help you play better, play longer and avoid injuries while you’re doing it!

If you are experiencing lower back pain while golfing give our office a call at (703) 912-7822 or visit us at Chiropractor in Burke, VA.

Short on Time During Your Workout? Don’t Skip the Stretching!

Chiropractor in Burke, VA

Chiropractor in Burke, VA

Why is stretching the part of our workout regimen that so many of us tend to skip? We might tell ourselves it’s because we’re sort on time, that we’re impatient or that (deep down) we believe stretching is really pointless. But however we rationalize it, skipping the stretching is a BAD idea!

It’s probably obvious that our joints were designed to be able to move in various directions with a certain degree of freedom. But as our bodies age, we become stiffer and lose the flexibility we had when we were young. In fact, chances are (unless you happen to be a dancer or gymnast), that process will start even before you reach your 20th birthday. However, it’s never too late to regain some of that youthful flexibility by becoming more serious about stretching. Combined with strength training, proper stretching can help prolong our mobility and independence—allowing us to perform basic day-to-day tasks well into our senior years. Reaching that high shelf, bending to pick up a dropped object, and accessing that hidden switch behind an awkward kitchen cabinet are all great examples.

One reason it’s really important to stretch before working out is that we are likely to use muscles and connective tissues that are normally inactive. Without flexibility, the risk of getting hurt goes up. However, stretching can help prevent (or even treat) some common types of musculoskeletal injuries if it’s done correctly. Plus, it can feel good! Stretching can be a great way to start the day or to wind down after work.

Preparing the body for exercise by warming up the muscles (increasing blood flow) and stretching is easy and need not take up much of your time. Simply begin moving the various muscle groups in a deliberate way, with slow stretches of the joints towards the end of their range of motion. As you do this, you should notice a gentle “pulling” sensation and hold the position for up to half a minute. Then stretch the alternate side or move on to other muscle groups. Not only does stretching prevent injury, but it also improves the mechanical efficiency of your body. Stretching prior to exercise means muscles and joints are able to move through their full range of motion with less effort when exercising , improving performance.

Other benefits of stretching include improved circulation, less pain and faster recoveries following workouts, and better posture. If you find yourself arriving home stiff and achy from sitting at a desk all day and then commuting—try stretching. You might find that you’ll feel better almost instantly!

Remember—good health is the result of lots of little day-to-day things, including your nutrition, exercise and sleep habits, as well as your healthcare choices. As chiropractic physicians, we’re experts in diagnosing and treating disorders of the musculoskeletal and nervous systems. We’re also experts in prevention and performance. If you’re interested in any of these things, we encourage you to call us at (703) 912-7822 or visit us at Chiropractor in Burke, VA.

Neck Pain – Management Strategies

Chiropractor in Burke, VAAs discussed last month, when you make an appointment for a chiropractic evaluation for your neck pain, your Burke chiropractor will provide both in-office procedures as well as teach you many self-help approaches so that as a “team”, together WE can manage your neck pain or headache complaint to a satisfying end-point. So, what are some of these procedures? Let’s take a look!

In the office, you can expect to receive a thorough history, examination, x-ray (if warranted), and a discussion about what chiropractic care can be done for you and your condition. Your doctor will map out a treatment plan and discuss commonly shared goals of 1) Pain reduction, 2) Posture/alignment restoration, and 3) Prevention of future episodes. Pain reduction approaches include (but are not limited to) joint mobilization and/or manipulation, muscle/ligament stretching techniques, inflammation control by the use of physical therapy modalities (such as electrical stimulation), ice, and possibly anti-inflammatory vitamin / herbal therapies. Your chiropractor will also teach you proper body mechanics for bending/lifting/pulling/pushing, and help you avoid positions or situations where you might re-injure the area. Posture/alignment restoration can include methods such as spinal manipulation / mobilization and leg length correction strategies (heel and/or sole lifts, special orthotic shoes, and/or foot orthotic inserts). These are often GREAT recommendations as they “work” all the time they are in your shoes and you don’t have to do anything (except wear them)! The third goal of future episode prevention is often a combination ongoing treatments in the office and strategies you can employ at home. This includes (but is not limited to): 1) whether you should use ice, heat, or both at times of acute exacerbation; 2) avoiding positions or movements that create sharp/lancinating pain; 3) DOING THE EXERCISES that you’ve been taught ON A REGULAR BASIS; and 4) eating and an “anti-inflammatory” diet (lean meats, lots of fruits/veggies, and avoid gluten – wheat, oats, barley, rye).

Let’s talk exercise! Your doctor of chiropractic will teach you exercises that are designed to increase range of motion (ROM), re-educate a flat or reversed curve in the neck, and strengthen / stabilize the muscles in the neck. Studies show that the deep neck flexor muscles – those that are located deep, next to the spine in the front of the neck – are frequently weak in patients with neck pain. These muscles are NOT voluntary so you have to “trick” them into contracting with very specific exercises. Your doctor will also teach you exercises that you can do EVERY HOUR of your work day (for 10-15 seconds) that are designed to prevent neck pain from gradually worsening so you aren’t miserable by the end of work. Along these lines, he/she will discuss the set-up of your work station and how you might improve it – whether it’s a chair, desk, computer position, a table/work station height issue, or a reaching problem; using proper “ergonomics” can REALLY HELP! Your doctor will also advise you not to talk on the phone pinching the receiver between your head and shoulder, to face the person you are talking to (avoiding prolonged head rotation), to tuck in your chin as a posture training exercise, and more. Cervical traction can be a GREAT home-applied, self-help strategy, and these come in many varieties. Proper positions for the head when sleeping and a properly fitted contoured pillow is also important since we spend about 1/3 of our lives asleep!

We realize you have a choice in whom you consider for your health care and we sincerely appreciate your trust in choosing our service for those needs.  If you, a friend, or family member requires care for neck pain or headaches, call us today at (703) 912-7822 or visit us at Chiropractor in Burke, VA.

Neck Pain – The MOST Important Exercises (Part 1)

Poor PostureNeck pain can occur for many different reasons, but what can you do about it? That’s the BIG question! As discussed last month, exercise training is an important part of the chiropractic management process. Let’s take a close look at which exercises are MOST important with respect to self-management strategies.

There are several goals or reasons to perform neck exercises. We will break these down into four main categories: Posture, stretch, strengthening, and coordination.

POSTURE: The biggest culprit in this category is the forward head carriage. If you look around a crowded airport, bus stop, train station, or mall, you can see MANY examples of this. If fact, this faulty posture is estimated to occur in 66-90% of the population! Also, forward head posture is STRONGLY associated with decreased respiratory muscle strength, which can reduce lung capacity and our ability to breath by as much as 30%! It’s also linked to tension headaches, altered eye and ear function, high blood pressure, and over time it can lead to arthritis, herniated disks, pinched nerves, and more. The “classic” appearance is the position of the head is too far forward, the shoulders roll forwards and the upper back sticks out. Did you know that for every inch the head glides forwards from the proper position, there is a 10 lbs (~4.5 kg) increase of weight that the neck and upper back muscles have to hold up? Using an average 12 lbs (~5.4 kg) head, a 5 inch (~12.7 cm) forward head carriage places an extra 50 lbs (~23 kg) of weight on the upper back/neck muscles for a 62 lbs (~28 kg) total! So, LET’S FIX IT!

Here is one exercise that may help your posture: Look straight ahead and 1) Tighten your core by performing an abdominal brace. This is done by contracting your belly muscles so that when you poke your thumbs into your sides and front, you feel a firm abdominal muscle wall. You don’t have to “brace” at a 100% of maximum, shoot for 25-50% or just enough to feel the muscles contract. Relax and contract several times so you’re sure you can feel the muscles tighten up. Keep a curve in your lower back when you do this (don’t slouch). 2) Lift your chest – don’t just tuck you head back! This will improve the rounded shoulders and slouched upper back posture. Think of lifting your chest towards the ceiling more than just sticking it out. Notice in a mirror how much improvement occurs already! 3) Perform chin retractions – do 10 retractions every hour (set the timer on your cell phone to remind you)! Do this gently, slowly, and to a firm end-point of movement. If you feel like you are creating a “double or triple chin,” you are doing it right! If you do the ten reps every hour, then in an eight hour work day, you’ll have done 80 posture corrections! This a GREAT way to “re-program” your nervous system and when you find yourself doing this WITHOUT THINKING, it will have become a new (and good) habit! Stay tuned next several months for more neck exercises focused on STRETCH, STRENGTHEN, and COORDINATION training!

If you, a friend, or family member requires care for neck pain or headaches, give our office a call at (703) 912-7822 or visit us at Chiropractor in Burke, VA.