active Release Techniques

Back-to-School Backpack Basics

Chiropractor in Burke, VAAmerican kids are suffering from back pain and neck pain earlier in their lives and in larger numbers than ever before. And if you’re a parent of school-age children, it’s important for you to know that overweight, improperly designed, and misused backpacks may be one of the big reasons for this growing problem.

This isn’t really news. The truth is that healthcare researchers and practitioners around the world have recognized the issue for a long time and have continued to call attention to it. The American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons recommends that a backpack should not be any heavier than 15% of a child’s body weight, but:

  • In 1999, researchers in Italy reported that about 35% of Italian schoolchildren carried more than 30% of their body weight at least once a week—actually exceeding the limits recommended for adults. The average sixth grader’s backpack was the equivalent of a 39-pound burden for a 176-pound man or a 29-pound burden for a 132-pound woman. And of those children carrying heavy backpacks to school, 60% had experienced back pain as a result.
  • As early as 2001, researchers at Simmons College in Massachusetts found that 55% of the 345 children they studied were carrying backpacks that exceeded the recommended weight limit, often by a substantial amount. One third of those students said that they had already experienced back pain.
  • A 2012 study by researchers in Spain found that 61.4% of 1403 students between the ages of 12 and 17 carried backpacks that weighed more than 10% of their body weight and that those carrying the heaviest backpacks had a 50% higher risk of back pain.

More than Just a Short-Term Health Risk

With an estimated 40 million school-age children carrying backpacks in America, it’s not at all surprising that there are some book bag-related injuries every year. Since 2000, the U.S. Product Safety Commission has reported that children and their backpacks make roughly 7,000 trips to the emergency room annually. However, many observers believe that the real toll is actually far higher since the vast majority of such injuries go unreported and many kids are treated by a family doctor or not treated at all.

It’s not clear how many acute injuries actually result from wearing backpacks as opposed to tripping over them or being hit by them. However, doctors who treat back problems regularly—especially chiropractic physicians—see worrying signs that heavier backpacks are setting the stage for more serious health issues in the future, including chronic back, neck and shoulder pain. Some chiropractors estimate that as many as 75% to 80% of the teenage patients they treat have postural problems directly related to overweight backpacks. This is one reason why the American Chiropractic Association advises parents to limit the weight of a child’s backpack to no more than 5% to 10% of body weight.

What’s Behind the Heavier Backpacks?

In an age of online education and mobile devices, you might be tempted to think that kids’ backpacks would be getting lighter. Not so. Across the past ten years, several factors have come together to increase the amount of weight young students are carrying in their book bags:

  • Increases in the amount of homework being assigned to students at a younger age typically mean more heavy books carried between home and school.
  • A trend toward removing lockers and individual desks from schools in many cases requires kids to carry all their belongings with them during the day.
  • Reduced time between classes or fewer trips to the locker can mean heavier loads for students.
  • Longer school days or increased participation in before-school and after-school activities often translates into more supplies and equipment as well as more time wearing the backpack.A good quality backpack with proper ergonomic features doesn’t have to be expensive. They’re available at many sporting goods stores and discount outlets. Experts offer the following advice:

How to Choose the Right Backpack and Use it Correctly

  • Get the size and fit right first. The right backpack should fit between the top of your child’s shoulders and lower back. Bigger is not better, since having more space available creates the potential for a heavier backpack.
  • Find one with shoulder straps that are wide, padded and adjustable. These distribute the weight more broadly across the shoulders and chest while allowing the backpack to be fitted snuggly to your child’s body.
  • For older students, consider a backpack with chest straps and a hip belt. Chest straps and a hip belt redistribute weight even further and bring the pack closer to the wearer’s body.
  • Look for a padded back that will add comfort and protection.
  • Choose a backpack with multiple smaller compartments. These help distribute the weight inside the bag and keep it stable.

Once your child has the right bag, it’s just as important to encourage him or her to use it correctly. Chiropractors and physical therapists generally agree that means wearing it on both shoulders with the straps tightened so that it hangs no more than four inches below the waist.

Recognizing the Warning Signs

If you see any of the following signs, it may be time to lighten the load, help your child choose a different backpack or talk about how it’s being used.

  • Pain in the back, neck, shoulders or knees
  • Red marks left on shoulders by backpack straps
  • Tingling or numbness in the arms
  • Trouble getting the backpack on or off
  • Bending forward or “hunching over” to shift weight from the shoulders to the back

Asking Your Chiropractor for Help

Under normal circumstances, using a backpack shouldn’t cause any pain or discomfort. If your child is showing signs of back, neck or should pain, we encourage you to call or visit our office today. In addition to addressing any current problems that your child may be experiencing, your chiropractor in Burke, VA can recommend an exercise program designed to strengthen muscles, and improve posture and coordination.

NOVA Chiropractic & Wellness Center
8992 Fern Park Drive BurkeVA22015 USA 
 • (703) 912-7822

Not Just Back Doctors: Chiropractors and Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

Chiropractor in Burke, VAWhile doctors of chiropractic have a well-deserved reputation for helping patients overcome back problems, they are actually experts in diagnosing and treating a wide range of health conditions that affect the musculoskeletal and nervous systems. Many of these conditions involve the extremities—arms, legs, hands and feet—rather than the back, neck or hips. Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS) is one example.

What causes CTS?

CTS affects about one in a thousand people each year, mostly women. It is essentially a mechanical problem caused by the median nerve being compressed as it runs through the carpal tunnel, a passageway made up of tendons, ligaments and bones that runs from the wrist to the hand.

In many cases, the precise cause of carpal tunnel syndrome isn’t clear. An injury to the wrist (sprains, strains or broken bones, for instance) may sometimes trigger CTS. So might strong vibrations from power tools or heavy machinery. Repetitive movements that place stress on this area of the body can also play a role. The tendons that control finger movement all run through the carpal tunnel, so when they become inflamed and swollen the amount of space is reduced, putting increased pressure on the median nerve.

Who’s most at risk?

Women. As mentioned earlier, women are at greater risk of CTS than men. There are a number of theories as to why women tend to suffer from CTS more frequently than men. One is that they have smaller wrist bones, and thus a smaller space through which tendons can pass. Another is that hormonal shifts may play a role, particularly during pregnancy and around menopause.

People with a genetic predisposition. Some people may have a genetic predisposition for CTS. Approximately one out of four people has a close family member who has also has the disorder.

Workers who perform repetitive, forceful movements that place localized stress on the wrist. Those who have jobs that involve repetitive movements of the arm are more likely to develop carpal tunnel syndrome. Assembly line workers, carpenters and violinists would all be in relatively high-risk occupations. But what about heavy computer users? Interestingly, although long-term computer use was previously thought to contribute to CTS, there is now conflicting information about the relationship between keyboarding and CTS. Some studies, such as one from 2007 published in the journal Arthritis and Rheumatism, have found that those who use a keyboard intensively at work actually have a significantly lower risk of developing CTS. It’s worth mentioning that some leisure activities can also contribute to the risk of CTS. Knitting, golfing and anything else that requires you to grip items in your hands for long periods of time could raise your risk.

Why chiropractic care?

CTS treatment has been evolving rapidly across the last few years, so it’s important to visit a healthcare provider who keeps current on the latest research and works with carpal tunnel patients on a regular basis. Among the most commonly recommended treatments for carpal tunnel syndrome are using a wrist splint, resting the wrist and taking pain relievers. Surgery is usually viewed as a last resort that should be considered only after more conservative treatment options have been exhausted.

Recent research has focused on the role of manual therapies—particularly specialized manipulation and mobilization techniques—as well as exercise in relieving pain and restoring range of motion. Chiropractic treatment for CTS (specifically soft tissue mobilization) has been shown to be both safe and effective compared to conventional non-surgical medical treatment, helping to improve nerve conduction latencies, wrist strength and mobility.

Chiropractors (and physical therapists) may also prescribe at-home strengthening and stretching exercises to help relieve pain and improve function in the affected hand and wrist. These approaches offer natural alternatives to sufferers who can’t tolerate common over-the-counter anti-inflammatories or painkillers, or who simply wish to avoid medication altogether.

When it comes to carpal tunnel syndrome, early diagnosis and treatment are the keys to success. The sooner this condition is addressed, the more non-invasive therapeutic choices exist for the patient. So if you suspect that you or someone you care about is suffering from CTS, please give us a call at (703) 912-7822 or visit us at Chiropractor in Burke, VA.

A Bicyclist’s Guide to Chiropractic Care

Chiropractor in Burke, VAThere’s no doubt about it—biking can take a real toll on the body, whether you’re a recreational or competitive cyclist. A burning sensation in the shoulders, numbness in the arms and hands, and tightness in the neck are just a few of the common “aches and pains” that many riders deal with. Not to mention frequent upper and lower back pain. While it might be tempting to ignore these types of symptoms and “pedal through it” when they first appear, they often recur and can eventually lead to chronic musculoskeletal pain. This in turn can seriously interfere with both training and enjoyment of the sport.

Can a chiropractic physician help cyclists with these kinds of problems? Absolutely! In addition, chiropractors can also help prevent future injuries and even enhance performance—speed, strength and stamina—for healthy cyclists. In fact, athletes of all kinds can benefit from the advice and treatment of a well-trained, experienced chiropractor—especially one who specializes in sports and understands the importance of biomechanics in a real-world athletic setting.

In addition to being experts at diagnosing and treating musculoskeletal problems, chiropractors have unique knowledge and skills that are particularly useful in working with cyclists. In fact, a combination of general and specialized training and experience are essential to successful treatment because everything in cycling is interconnected: the nerves, the bones, the muscles, and the joints. In most cases, all of these elements must be addressed in a holistic way by a systematic treatment plan in order to get good, lasting results. This is one reason why a chiropractor who specializes in sports medicine will probably have the most to offer you as a cyclist. They will also work with adjunct professionals such as sports trainers or physical therapists as needed to address your particular needs.

Solutions to problems cyclists commonly experience will likely be multi-dimensional. That is, they may involve a combination of adjustments, deep tissue massage, exercises, and stretches. will likely be required. For example, if a cyclist is suffering from lower back pain, it may be due to hip rotation. An adjustment of the sacroiliac joints will be quite helpful, but appropriate stretching and strengthening exercises will also be needed to address the weakness and tightness in the muscles that affect the hip joints. Strengthening exercises will contribute stability to the joint, while stretching will help to lengthen the muscles in the region, thus preventing them from contracting when stressed.

While a qualified chiropractor can be a valuable partner in helping patients recover from cycling-related injuries and pain, the cyclist must also do his or her part to make a treatment plan successful. In the same way that the athlete needs to actually execute a training program for it to be effective, he or she must also take responsibility for the at-home aspects of any treatment plan for it to achieve results. If you do not complete the prescribed stretching and strengthening exercises at home, you may not get the relief you expect.

Finally, a sports chiropractor will also likely be able to help you professionally fit your bicycle to maximize your efficiency and to minimize the unnecessary strain on your body. Bicycle size, seat placement, handlebar height, and cycling posture all have a significant impact on both performance and stress on the body. In much the same way that runners benefit from gait analysis, cyclists benefit from an insightful analysis of riding mechanics.

If you or someone you know is an avid cyclist who wants to ride healthier, perform better and enjoy the sport longer, we can help! Call our office at (703) 912-7822 or visit us at Chiropractor in Burke, VA.

Are You a Whiplash Patient? Here’s What You Should Know.

Chiropractor in Burke, VAYou’re not alone. Whiplash associated disorders (WAD) are very common neck injuries caused by a rapid distortion of the cervical vertebrae. Such distortion occurs when the head undergoes a sudden stop while moving at speed, jarring the muscles and ligaments of the neck, which move forwards and backwards quickly. Whiplash is most typically associated with motor vehicle accidents but may also occur in contact sports and as the result of falls from bicycles, chairs and horses. It’s a matter of anatomy, physiology and physics. There is a good reason that the neck is especially vulnerable to this type of injury. The adult human head weighs 10-11 pounds (about 5 kilograms). At rest, this weight is comfortably supported by the bones and muscles of the neck. However, rapid movement backward and forward puts a much larger load on the cervical vertebrae and ligaments holding them in place. The anterior longitudinal ligament that runs down the back of the spine is particularly at risk of stretching or tearing during a rapid collision.

Getting the right help quickly can make a big difference. In many cases, the injuries sustained during an auto or sports accident are not immediately apparent. Musculoskeletal injuries to the neck, back, hips and shoulders might not show any symptoms until days, weeks or even months after the initial trauma. Therefore, it is important to seek a medical evaluation immediately after your accident even if you do not feel seriously hurt at that moment. We know based on the research and from our own clinical experience that your recovery will be faster and more complete if problems are diagnosed and treated early.

No two whiplash cases are exactly the same. The symptoms of whiplash associated disorders range from mild neck pain for a few days after the injury to headaches, arm pain and long-term restricted movement of the neck. Studies have shown that whiplash injuries can also constrict blood flow to the brain, leading to light-headedness, poor concentration and fatigue. Since 1995, the Québec Task Force (QTF) scale has been widely used to assess the severity of WAD and how they should be treated. The grading scale works like this:

0          No complaint about the neck. No physical signs.

I           Neck complaint of pain, stiffness or tenderness only. No physical signs.

II          Neck complaint and musculoskeletal signs. Musculoskeletal signs include decreased range of motion and point tenderness.

III         Neck complaint and neurological signs. Neurological signs include decreased or absent deep tendon reflexes, weakness and sensory deficits.

IV         Neck complaint and fracture or dislocation. In addition to grading the injury based on your symptoms, a chiropractic physician can assess the injury by performing a thorough examination, palpating the affected area and observing your neck movement and any associated pain.

You have choices. There are several treatment options available, and your chiropractor will make his or her recommendations based on the nature and severity of your injuries. WAD often responds well to a combination of therapies, including chiropractic manipulation/mobilization, hot and cold treatment, cold laser and structured exercise and stretching programs designed to restore a full range of motion.

Pain medication may be required for grade II injuries and above (usually NSAIDs to reduce inflammation but narcotic pain relief may sometimes be prescribed for grade III WAD) and collars may also be used to keep the neck in place for 72 hours after grade II and III injuries to give the muscles and ligaments time to recover.

Grade IV whiplash (involving fractures or dislocation) is a serious injury and your chiropractor will likely refer you to another medial specialist for treatment based on the exact circumstances. For this type of injury, treatment is likely to consist of several months of neck immobilization and possibly surgery. Most whiplash injuries are much less serious than this and are more likely to be a cause of pain and discomfort than a true medical emergency.

Your injury may require a team approach. Depending on the nature of your injury, a chiropractic physician may recommend a team approach to treatment that incorporates other healthcare disciplines, potentially including neurology, therapeutic massage and physical therapy.

If you or someone you care about is suffering from chronic neck or back pain due to an auto, sports or work accident (even one that happened some time ago), there are ways to help relieve the symptoms and restore function. Our goal is always to help our patients recover as quickly and completely as possible so that they can return to an active lifestyle. We encourage you to call our office at (703) 912-7822 or visit us at Chiropractor in Burke, VA.

Chiropractic Care and the Expectant Mother

pregnancy back pain in burke, vaThe nine months prior to giving birth may be one of the best times in a woman’s life to discover the health benefits of chiropractic care. Not only is chiropractic care safe and effective in relieving many of the aches and pains that come with pregnancy, it can also make the delivery itself easier.

The changes that take place within an expecting woman’s body are profound and take place in a relatively short period of time. The additional stress placed on the body by the baby, combined with an average weight gain of 25 to 35 pounds, can result in considerable discomfort. In fact, studies have shown that at least half of expectant mothers develop back pain during their pregnancies. The physiological and hormonal changes that occur during pregnancy can also result in a variety of other musculoskeletal symptoms, including spinal misalignment, increased back curvature, pelvic changes, and postural abnormalities. This article highlights two of the most common complaints and explains why chiropractic care can be especially useful in addressing them.

Low Back Pain (LBP)

Unfortunately, pregnancy and back pain often go hand-in-hand. Even more unfortunately, relatively few women get help for the condition.

  • Between 57% and 69% of women complain of low back pain during pregnancy.
  • Only about 32% of women report these symptoms to their primary doctor.
  • Only about 25% of primary doctors recommend seeking treatment for the pain.

But there is some good news as well—a small number of chiropractic treatments can be quite effective in relieving pregnancy-related LBP. In a small study of 17 women:

  • Sixteen of 17 (94%) saw clinically important improvements in low back pain with chiropractic care.
  • The average pain rating went down from 5.9 to 1.5 (on a scale of 0 to 10).
  • It took an average of 1.8 visits and 4.5 days to get clinically significant pain relief.

Symphysis pubis dysfunction (SPD)

SPD is more frequently referred to simply as pelvic pain. It’s a problem that is growing more common among pregnant women, either due to increasing maternal age or to the condition simply being diagnosed more frequently. The pain is due to excessive movement of the bones that make up the pubic symphysis, which are the two bones that meet at the front of the pelvic girdle and are connected by a joint made of cartilage and supported by ligaments.

  • Over 30% of women are reported as suffering from some form of SPD during pregnancy.
  • Approximately 7 percent continuing to experience pain post-partum.

Symptoms of SPD include shooting pain in the pubic symphysis area (which often radiates to the abdomen, lower back and upper leg), pain on movement, a waddling gait and swelling in the pubic area. The pain can range from mild to debilitating, and the condition can interfere with normal daily activities such as bending, lifting the leg and getting up from a chair.

A recent study published in The Journal of the Canadian Chiropractic Association has reported that conservative chiropractic care can reduce pain from pregnancy-related SPD, increase mobility and improve function.

Sciatica

As the fetus grows inside the mother’s womb, the uterus expands and occasionally places pressure against the sciatic nerve in the lower spinal column. This pressure can become especially evident during the third trimester as the baby begins to shift toward the proper birthing position. The baby can end up resting directly upon the nerve, triggering common sciatica symptoms, including weakness, tingling, numbness and burning pain in the legs, back and buttocks.

Approximately half of all pregnant women who suffer from sciatica recover within six weeks of childbirth and almost all (90%) recover within 3 months, although there is a small percentage for whom the pain continues for much longer. Fortunately, chiropractic care is safe and effective for treating sciatica—both during and after pregnancy.

What You Should Know

All chiropractic physicians receive training in how to care for their pregnant patients. Some use tables that can be adjusted to accommodate a pregnant woman’s changing body and utilize techniques designed to avoid unnecessary pressure on the abdomen. Some chiropractors seek additional training in prenatal and postnatal care, and become certified with the International Chiropractic Pediatric Association (ICPA) as a DACCP, CACCP, or as Webster Certified to work specifically with pelvic balance during pregnancy. Chiropractors can also provide you with exercises and stretching routines that are safe to use during pregnancy.

There are no known contraindications to chiropractic treatment during pregnancy. In addition, chiropractic care during the actual labor and birth process itself has been found in studies to shorten labor time by 25 to 60 percent, reduce the amount of pain medication required, and help make the whole delivery process more comfortable.

If you’re an expectant mother and are wondering whether chiropractic care might be right for you and your baby, please call our office at (703) 912-7822 or visit us at Chiropractor in Burke, VA.  Dr. Todd P. Sullivan is certified in the Webster technique for pregnant patients.