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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.

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

Tips for Pain-Free Gardening

Chiropractor in Burke, VAWho says that gardening isn’t hard work? Anyone who’s spent a weekend tending a backyard plot knows that there’s a LOT of physical labor involved. This sort of activity can put quite a strain on your muscles, especially those in your back. With this in mind, here are some suggestions for making the most of your time in the garden while saving your back.

Use some common sense.

Gardening is physical activity—it can involve lifting, reaching, twisting and pulling. If you don’t garden regularly or aren’t otherwise physically active, be sure to start slowly and work your way up to longer gardening sessions. Warm up your back muscles with some stretching before you go out, particularly in colder weather. Be sure to keep drinking water nearby and to take breaks often. If you start to feel any pain, stop and rest. Otherwise, you risk injuring your back and making it impossible to do anything at all in your garden until your back has healed.

Plan your garden to reduce the amount of labor you’ll need to maintain it later.

  • Use mulch on the surface of your garden and avoid leaving bare spots. This will reduce weeds and help the soil retain moisture, so you don’t have to water as often.
  • Use raised flowerbeds, which are both attractive and help reduce the need to bend down. You can even grow vines and other trailing plants around the edges.
  • Make sure your flowerbeds are narrow enough that you don’t have to reach too far over them.

Choose your plants carefully.

  • Remember that slow-growing shrubs are less trouble to maintain than perennials or annuals.
  • Use fruit trees grown on dwarf rootstocks. This will allow you to pick fruit at a reasonable height.
  • Consider ground-covering plants to keep weeds under control. Weeding is notoriously hard on the back because of all the bending over.

Use the right tools.

  • Use forks and trowels with long handles and other tools with extenders to reduce your need to reach.
  • Make sure your pruners and loppers are sharp and have ratchet systems. Cutting will be easier and there will be less strain on your back and shoulders.
  • Get a holster for smaller garden tools and attach it to your belt, so you don’t have to keep reaching down to pick them up.
  • Avoid heavy watering cans for irrigation. If you use a can, only fill it half way.

Reduce the need for digging.

If you spread compost and fertilizer or manure over a flowerbed surface in the late autumn, the soil has time to settle before spring planting. Worms will take organic matter into the soil and you won’t have to dig so much. This approach requires initial digging to level the soil and remove weeds, but over time you will be able to dig less and less. Many gardeners feel that this method is better than traditional “double digging” because it leaves the soil structure intact. Consult a specialist at your local gardening center for more details on this back-saving approach to gardening.

As chiropractic physicians, we have a particular interest in your musculoskeletal health and overall well-being. If either you or someone you care about has questions or concerns in these areas, we encourage you to call our office today at (703) 912-7822 or visit us at Chiropractor in Burke, VA.

Can Chiropractic Care Help Arthritis Sufferers?

Chiropractor in Burke, VAArthritis is a big problem that affects many people in lots of different ways.

As far as musculoskeletal pain is concerned, arthritis casts a very long shadow. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 22% of American adults (about 50 million people) report having been diagnosed with arthritis. Their symptoms may include pain, swelling, stiffness, and loss of function in the joints. Although arthritis is most often seen in middle aged and older adults, it can also afflict younger people. And it’s not a health condition that chooses its victims based on ethnicity or gender either—arthritis doesn’t discriminate.

While the general public is aware that arthritis is painful, fewer people recognize just how widespread and severe the debilitating effects of arthritis actually are. People with arthritis may experience difficulty with everyday tasks like buttoning shirts or opening packages and containers. They may also find that arthritis limits their mobility. This could prevent them from participating in their favorite activities or spending time with friends and family. The American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons issued a Bulletin in October 1999 that ranked arthritis as a more frequent cause of activity limitation than heart disease, cancer or diabetes. More than ten years later, the CDC estimates that 21 million Americans face some type of disability as a result of arthritis. These kinds of statistics suggest that strategies for managing arthritis need to address goals beyond pain relief if they are to be truly successful.

But what exactly is arthritis?

Arthritis is not really one medical condition. Rather, it’s a more general term that refers to inflammation that may affect joints and other parts of the body as a result of more than 100 “rheumatic diseases”, such as fibromyalgia, osteoarthritis, and rheumatoid arthritis. These disorders destroy joints, bones, muscles, cartilage and other connective tissues.

You have choices when it comes to treating arthritis.

If you or someone you care about is suffering from arthritis, you should know that arthritis doesn’t have to mean an end to an active lifestyle. Prior generations may have accepted the condition as an inevitable part of aging and been given a standard prescription of bed rest and drug therapies. However, today’s health care professionals recognize that appropriate exercise and nutrition are also critical to managing arthritis effectively, and they can recommend a much wider range of treatment options.

How Your Chiropractor Can Help

Your chiropractor can play an important role, not only in relieving pain, but also in helping patients with arthritis continue to live a more independent, active lifestyle. For many arthritis sufferers, treatment still begins with rest and medication. But if you have arthritis, a chiropractic physician can help you develop a well-rounded, long-term approach to managing your arthritis in two other very important ways:

  • Designing an exercise program based on your own unique requirements. Such a program usually focuses on a combination of goals, including (1) restoring any lost range of motion in your joints, (2) improving your flexibility and endurance, and (3) increasing your muscle tone and strength.   Numerous clinical studies have demonstrated that inactivity can make joints affected by arthritis even more painful and stiff. It can also have other negative health effects.       A properly designed and supervised exercise program can reduce these risks.
  • Suggesting dietary changes and/or nutritional supplements that may be effective in reducing or controlling inflammation in your joints. Some research indicates that certain foods can have a role in either increasing or suppressing the body’s natural inflammatory response. Making adjustments to your diet may reduce swelling, redness and pain related to arthritis.

Keep in mind that some types of physical activity and dietary supplements may actually do more harm than good depending on the specific nature of your arthritis, the joints involved and your current treatment plan. So open communication with all the members of your healthcare team—including your chiropractor, family doctor and any specialists you’re working with—is the key to achieving results safely! Both the symptoms and underlying causes of arthritis can vary a great deal by individual, so it’s important that you consult your healthcare provider for an accurate diagnosis and to put in place a treatment plan that’s right for you.

If you or someone you care about is suffering from arthritis, it helps to know that you’re not alone and that you have treatment options. Many people are looking for a safe and natural approach that doesn’t involve the costs or risks associated with prescription medications or surgery. This is where chiropractic care may be able to provide an effective alternative. Call our office at (703) 912-7822 or visit us at Chiropractor in Burke, VA.

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.

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.