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

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!

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.

The Top Five Causes of Neck Pain

Chiropractor in Burke, VA Neck pain: it’s a real pain in the neck, isn’t it? Bad jokes aside, neck pain is a very common problem. A 2010 study found that in an average year, as many as one in five American adults experience discomfort in this area of the body. In part, this is because the neck is especially susceptible to stress, strain and injury. Knowing the five most common causes of neck tension can help you stay healthy and pain-free.

The Top Five Causes of Neck Pain

  1. Overuse of Muscle: Your neck is a remarkably easy part of your body to overwork, especially if you spend long hours sitting at a desk during the day. A poorly designed work area forces your neck to stay in an unnatural position for hours on end, causing unnecessary strain. Over time, this can cause chronic neck pain.
  2. Injuries: Trauma to the neck muscles can cause pain. One of the most common types of neck trauma chiropractors see is the result of traffic accidents. When your head is suddenly forced in a given direction (as can occur if a car you are sitting in is struck from behind), the following “rebound” motion in the opposition direction (also known as whiplash) injures the tissues in your neck. To help counteract this damage, your neck muscles contract, leaving you feeling stiff and uncomfortable.
  3. Poor Posture: Do you have perfect posture when reading or watching TV? If you’re like most of us, the answer is probably no. Poor posture might feel comfortable in the short term, but in the long run slouching can cause neck strain and discomfort. If you are obese or have weak abdominal muscles, your neck may bend forward in compensation, causing misalignment and producing pain.
  4. Diseases: Certain diseases can cause neck discomfort. Degenerative diseases are a particularly common cause of neck pain. Osteoarthritis, a joint disorder that speeds cartilage deterioration, leads to the formation of painful bone spurs. Degenerative disc disease can lead to bulging or herniated discs. Meningitis and some types of cancer can also lead to neck pain, though these conditions are more uncommon.
  5. Nerve Compression: If the nerves in your neck become compressed, neck pain can follow. Herniated discs and bone spurs are two of the most common causes of nerve compression in the neck. A disorder called spinal stenosis can also lead to narrowed nerve passageways, and therefore painfully trapped nerves.

Treating Neck Pain

Treating chronic neck pain effectively requires understanding the underlying cause of your discomfort. Consult with your chiropractor to find solutions! Depending on the situation, your chiropractor might recommend cervical manipulation, a precise adjustment to the joints in your neck that improves spinal alignment and increases range of motion. Chiropractic care is about more than just manual adjustments, though, and your chiropractor will work with you to identify lifestyle changes that can help you make sure your neck stays pain-free.  If you are suffering from neck pain give our office a call at (703) 912-7822 or visit us at Chiropractor in Burke, VA.

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome vs. Cubital Tunnel Syndrome

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome Relief in Burke, VACarpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS) belongs to a group of disorders referred to as “cumulative trauma disorders,” or CTDs. The word “cumulative” refers to the cause being repetitive motion, usually fast and prolonged. Over time, the wear and tear on the upper extremities accumulates and symptoms begin to occur and possibly worsen. This can result in changes in movement intended to avoid further injury that then overstress another part of the arm, which can lead to a second injury. Like dominos, injury after injury can eventually result in multiple conditions between the neck and hand. Let’s take a look at two of the more common CTDs…

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS) is the most well known of the CTDs because the thumb, index, third, and fourth ring finger comprise 90% of the hand’s function. This part of the hand is innervated by the median nerve that travels through the carpal tunnel at the wrist. When injured, it can make fine motor movements, like tying your shoe, difficult-to-impossible! Our grip strength is also greatly affected by a pinch of the median nerve, so dropping coffee cups, difficulty removing a gallon milk jug from the refrigerator, and the ability to lift and carry are all compromised. Some risk factors for CTS include: 1) Age over 50; 2) Female gender; 3) Obesity; 4) Working in a highly repetitive motion type of job (assembly line work, meat/poultry plants, typing); 5) The presence of other CTDs such as forearm, wrist, or hand tendonitis; and 6) Metabolic conditions such as thyroid disease (hypothyroidism), diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, and more. Management strategies include: 1) Night use of a wrist splint (i.e., rest); 2) chiropractic manipulation of the small joints of the wrist and hand, and often, the elbow, shoulder, and neck; 3) Muscle and tendon myofascial release / mobilization techniques; 4) Management of any underlying metabolic condition (like hypothyroid disease and diabetes); and 5) Anti-inflammatory measures (ginger, turmeric, boswellia, bioflavinoids, vitamin B6, ice massage over the palm side of the wrist). NOTE: Recent studies have reported the use of NSAIDs — non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs like Advil (ibuprofen), Aleve (Naproxen), and aspirin — can interfere with and prolong the healing process. Chiropractic care may also include the use of modalities such as low level laser therapy, pulsed magnetic field, ultrasound, and/or electrical stimulation. Your doctor may order an EMG/NCV (electromyogram/nerve conduction velocity) if the case is not responding appropriately. Surgical intervention is the LAST RESORT but frequently, conservative chiropractic care yields satisfying results!

Cubital Tunnel Syndrome (Ulnar Nerve Entrapment – UNE): This is similar to CTS but it involves the ulnar nerve being pinched at the inner elbow (near where the “funny” bone is located). The big difference here is that the numbness/tingling involves the pinky side of the fourth and fifth fingers (NOT the thumb, index, third, or thumb-side of the fourth finger). Remember, you can have BOTH CTS and ulnar nerve entrapment (UNE) at the same time, in which case all five fingers may be involved. Causes are similar as CTS, but a more recently identified cause is called “cell phone elbow” due to the prolonged elbow flexed/bent position while using a phone. An overnight splint keeping the elbow straight as well as a wrist splint can be very effective. Otherwise, the treatment is similar to that described for CTS and it is frequently easily managed with non-surgical chiropractic care!  If you are suffering from carpal tunnel syndrome or cubital tunnel syndrome give our office a call at (703) 912-7822 or visit us at Chiropractor in Burke, VA.