When you are suffering with back pain, whether it is in the neck, between the shoulder blades or in the lower back, it can sometimes be difficult to know what to do. Do you sit, rest, keep active, use heat or cold?
The most common cause of back pain is when the joints of the back become restricted due to abnormal stress such as, incorrect posture, degeneration and emotional stress. This causes tightening and inflammation around the joints resulting in muscles tightening in order to protect that area of the spine from further trauma. Muscle tightness causes the joint to be even more restricted in movement and therefore causes more joint inflammation and the cycle continues. People suffer from different types of back pain, some with tightening but others without, and therefore they will require a different treatment plan.
Chiropractors have the skill of removing joint restriction by using spinal adjusting to address the underlying problems of back pain. However, secondary problems of muscle tightness and joint inflammation require ongoing treatment so there are certain things a patient can do to relieve the pain.
The recommended treatment for back pain without muscle tightness is a cold treatment. This is simply a cold pack applied to the injury, which acts like a painkiller reducing the inflammation.
A Cold treatment can be used in any area of inflammation. i.e. spine or joint inflammation and restriction, knee swelling, sprained ankle etc.
For back pain with muscle tightness a hot pack is more suitable. Tight muscles are usually tender to touch, you can sometimes feel pea-sized knots and crystals in the muscle, heat relaxes the muscle and improves flexibility. Hot treatment can be used alone over tight muscles when they have contracted due to overuse, or ache following being used in a different way.
Hot & Cold Treatment
Leaving a hot pack on the spine for a long time can increase the inflammation and cause the pain to increase. In this case once relaxation has occurred a cold pack is placed over the area to help decrease the joint inflammation.
It is always best to consult a Chiropractor first but the advice is not to rest, but to try and keep active, manoeuvring the joint at least every 20 – 30 minutes. Combine this with the hot or cold method of treatment and you will help relieve the pain resulting in a quicker recovery.
We are very excited to be in a position to offer a full-time associate position taking over an existing patient list in a busy multidisciplinary clinic. The successful candidate with be working with two other full-time chiropractors, two massage therapists and an acupuncturist. The clinic is fully furnished with new Atlas tables, a digital x-ray system and a computerised patient management system. The position can also offer mentoring through the Royal College of Chiropractors PRT scheme if required. The clinic serves a wide community within the East Midlands with two Universities on the doorstep, thriving industry and an assortment of sporting opportunities. After 28 years in the area, we enjoy a great working relationship with local GP practices and most referrals are from word of mouth by way of the excellent reputation the clinic has developed over the years. It would be great to meet someone who feels they would like to join the team and have the opportunity to grow and develop their skillset.
Back pain while working is a constant topic of discussion, especially now that many of us are mixing working from home and the office. The majority of people work at a desk or table for long hours, which can put increased pressure on the structures of your spine – the vertebrae, discs, joints, ligaments, muscles and tendons. Although it is virtually impossible to avoid sitting, there are things you can do during the day to minimise back pain.
Not only choosing an appropriate chair, but ensuring it is set up correctly is an essential start your working day. So, spend a few minutes ensuring the chair height is adjusted and the seat tilts. Ideally the chair should have armrests they should be adjustable to the correct height. Choosing a chair with the right amount of lumbar support is crucial as well.
A proper sitting position should place your thighs sloping to the floor, creating a downward sloping line from your hips to your knees. Your feet should rest comfortably on the floor. If they don’t, a foot rest might be appropriate – but make sure your knees are still lower than your hips.
Sitting on an exercise ball or an air cushion -Sit Fit (ask in clinic for a try out), this also engages muscles in your body that would ordinarily be relaxed when sitting in a regular chair. Sitting on a ball or Sit Fit cushion also makes it more difficult to slouch since you need to be somewhat active in order to balance
Stretching once an hour is also very helpful in minimising back pain. Even if you are maintaining good sitting posture, taking regular breaks from sitting is important to prevent back pain. Even just standing up and sitting down again can rest your posture – set a timer to remind you.
Sitting for a prolonged time causes hip flexors to tighten. This tightness could cause you back pain and your spine to become misaligned.
Your hip flexors are an important muscle group. If they are tight, your spine can become more unstable and painfully misaligned and pressure is added to your lower back as your muscles try to realign your spine.
Prolonged sitting is one of the biggest reasons for short hip flexors and they can tighten up if your core muscles are not working well. Tightness of the hip flexors will make your back arch more and put pressure on the spinal joints. It will also inhibit the core muscles of the stomach that support your spine, making it unstable and vulnerable to injury.
Tight hip flexors can result in a lot of pain and discomfort and it can even make the simplest everyday tasks challenging. Performing simple exercises and stretches every day will help to release tight hip flexors and improve your athletic performance. Here are two effective exercises and stretches to help loosen up your hip flexors and improve your mobility.
Assume a lunge position and make tiny pulsing movements to activate your hip flexors
Repeat for 30 seconds on each leg for three sets
Reverse lunges with knee charge
Stand with your feet shoulder width apart
Take a step backwards with your right foot and lower into a deep lunge position
Shift your weight onto your left foot and drive your right knee upwards, until your knee is parallel to the ground
Repeat this movement for 3 sets of 10 repetitions on each leg
Hip Flexor Stretch
Lie down on your back on your bed
Shuffle to the edge so your left leg starts to hang over the side
Bend the right leg and lift it so you can take hold of your right knee
Bring it up towards your chest as far as you can and let the left leg fall down as far as you can
Relax into this position and hold for 30 seconds, repeat 3 times on each side.
If you have an underlying knee or hip injury these may be difficult, so ask your chiropractor on how to perform something similar and effective for your condition.
Stretches and exercises that have been designed to relax, lengthen and strengthen your hip flexors are one important part in helping you protect your joints and improve your mobility. Improved mobility will ultimately prevent injuries from occurring.
Many patients who suffer from knee, back or shoulder pain for example can attribute these issues to a pelvic dysfunction. While pelvic dysfunction is not life threatening it can be life limiting so find out how you can make small changes that may make a large difference.
Pelvic dysfunction often happens as a result of everyday awkward movements over time such as lifting heavy loads without care, sitting at a desk with bad posture, limping on a lower limb injury, falling on your knees or bottom, as well as during pregnancy and childbirth.
The pelvis acts as a transmitter of forces between the legs and the spine. Many important muscle groups attach to the pelvis, the thigh muscles from below and the muscles of the trunk from above. If the pelvic joints (sacroiliac joints and pubic symphysis) are not moving correctly this can cause an imbalance resulting in pain in many different places. It could be looked at as a core stabilizer, supporting the spine, legs and wide range of muscles, so when the pelvis is not working properly (hip is tilted out of position) it can cause pain, weakness and tightness that can travel through the hip and pelvis up into the shoulders and neck, it also commonly can cause referred pain down into the legs.
There are three distinct areas that may be affected as a result of Pelvic Dysfunction these include the hips, which can become achy, painful and inflamed, the lower back which due to impairment of stability and function of (hyperextension) of the muscles in the abdomen and lower back which can cause spinal joint (facet joint) injuries and finally, the knee and ankle which can be put under a lot of strain if weight is shifted to one side to compensate for the pelvic dysfunction.
You can do a simple test at home to help you look for obvious signs of pelvic dysfunction: stand barefoot in front of a mirror with your back straight but relaxed. Imagine a vertical line going straight down the middle of your body and a second line near your shoulders that is perfectly perpendicular to the first line. If your hips are out of alignment, your pelvis will appear diagonal rather than parallel to the second line meaning you have a lateral pelvic tilt. This could be a sign of pelvic dysfunction.
With the easing of lockdown spring has arrived and with it the added need for us to take extra care of our necks, backs and spines to avoid pain and injury…
If the arrival of sunshine has caused you to pack away your winter jumpers and, instead, pull out your racket, shin pads or helmet for a bout of summer activities, remember to take note of these simple steps to ensure you steer clear of any unwanted pain and discomfort.
RUNNERS can avoid injury by regular stretching of the tendons and wearing good shoes with shock-absorbing features.
RACKET-SPORTS PLAYERS should be wary of playing through the pain of Tennis Elbow. Tennis Elbow is in fact an overuse injury, caused by repetitive movements at the wrist forcing the thumb outwards and the palm upwards. Continuing to play will only exacerbate the problem.
GOLFERS are particularly prone to lower back injuries. Graphite clubs and soft spiked shoes will help absorb the shock which can bring on back injury. Your chiropractor can suggest appropriate warm-ups and exercises, and help you work on an alternative swing.
GARDENERS commonly suffer from aches and pains, but they can avoid lower back trouble by kneeling on one leg rather than bending from the hips, keeping the back hollow whilst digging, and varying tasks throughout the day to avoid repetition injury.
DIY, like gardening, is often far-removed from everyday activities. When the sun is shining many will want to get out in the garden and get on with the long list of DIY jobs that have piled up over the winter months. Enthusiasts often injure their back by in habitual exertion, so when lifting, take the weight on bent legs, keeping the back straight.
If you’re following the trends in exercise and fitness, you’ve probably heard the phrase “core strength” or “core stability.” These terms refer to the muscles of your abdominals (stomach) and back and their ability to support your spine and keep your body stable and balanced, helping to prevent back pain.
The core muscles lie deep within the trunk of the body. They generally attach to the spine, pelvis and muscles that support the scapula. They stabilise these areas to create a firm foundation for co-ordinated movement of the legs and arms.
Core stability is also needed in everyday life, helping to keep you fit and to prevent injury when you are lugging those heavy shopping bags or doing the ironing. Rises in back pain incidence have been linked to the sedentary lifestyle that many of us lead. How about neck and shoulder pain? Time spent hunched over the desk instead of getting out and about can mean that we don’t pay enough attention to posture, and the muscles of those crucial “corset” muscles.
To strengthen your core stability:
Start by lying on your back with knees bent.
Your lumbar spine should be neither arched up nor flattened against the floor, but aligned normally with a small gap between the floor and your lower back. This is the “neutral” lumbar position you should learn to achieve.
Breathe in deeply and relax all your stomach muscles.
Breathe out and, as you do so, draw your lower abdomen inwards as if your belly button is going back towards the floor.
Hold the contraction for 10 seconds and stay relaxed, allowing yourself to breathe in and out as you hold the tension in your lower stomach area.
Repeat 5-10 times.
Bear in mind the following points:
Do not let the whole stomach tense up or your upper abdominals bulge outwards, as this means you have cheated by using the large rectus abdominus muscle (the six-pack).
Do not brace too hard; just a gentle contraction is enough. Remember it’s endurance not max strength your are trying to improve.
Do not tilt your pelvis nor flatten your back, as this means you have lost the neutral position you are trying to learn to stabilise
Do not hold your breath, as this means you are not relaxed. You must learn to breathe normally and maintain the co-contraction.
Use your fingers for biofeedback on either side of your lower abdomen to feel the tension.
Once you have mastered the abdominal hollowing lying on your back, practise it lying on your front, four-point kneeling, sitting and standing. In each position get your lumbar spine into neutral before you perform the hollowing movement. If you feel any pain or discomfort while doing these exercises, then stop immediately and seek medical advice before continuing.
Could standing work desks be the answer to unwanted back pain?
Recent workplace trends show that many employers are now opting for standing work areas, rather than the more conventional seated desks, in a bid to prevent their workers suffering from back pain and to help increase their productivity in the office.
But are these innovative standing workspaces really the way forward to a healthy back, free from pain and discomfort? Here are three things to bear in mind if your work place decides that standing, rather than sitting, is best way forward:
Sitting and bending forward (as you tend to do in an office seat) can put twice as much load on your spine as standing does so standing desks could well be a better option for the office.
Take a break
While standing, however, it is important to remember that you should still take regular breaks as you would when sitting at a desk. Being stuck in one position, even if it is in a ‘good posture’, is not advisable.
The best of both
A desk set up that allows you to stand as well as sit is the most ideal situation, as this gives you the option to change position regularly. The more adjustable your desk set-up is, the more likely you are to find a position that suits you.
The primary factors that can cause or worsen pain include poor posture, injury, too little (or too much) activity, and specific conditions such as arthritis. However, what you eat can also help to manage or relieve pain, or even prevent it injury in the first place.
Here are some of our top nutrition tips for managing pain.
Ditch the processed foods
Processed foods generally refers to most things that come in a packet with a list of ingredients: from biscuits to ready meals to breakfast cereals. They often contain little in the way of naturally occurring vitamins and minerals. They may worsen inflammation and pain because they contain higher levels of unhealthy fats – in particular, processed omega-6 fats and ‘trans’ fats, which have pro-inflammatory properties. They often contain quickly absorbed sugars or refined carbohydrates too, which may exacerbate inflammation when consumed in excess.
In contrast, ‘real’ foods are as close as possible to how they are found in nature. They can include whole vegetables and fruit, nuts and seeds, whole grains, fish, eggs and meat (whole cuts, not ‘deli’ or processed meats). These foods naturally contain higher levels of nutrients that can help reduce inflammation and pain, such as those we’re going to look at in more detail below.
Eat magnesium-rich foods
One of the nutrients that may help to manage pain and inflammation is magnesium. Magnesium helps our muscles to work normally, including helping them to relax, which in turn helps to avoid or relieve muscle tension that can contribute to pain. This mineral is also important for the nerves.
Magnesium is found primarily in whole unprocessed plant foods – especially green leafy vegetables such as spinach and kale, seeds and nuts, and whole grains including rye and buckwheat.
Include oily fish
Oily fish such as mackerel, salmon, sardines, herring and anchovies are high in omega-3 fats. These fats have anti-inflammatory properties and therefore may help to manage pain. The specific omega-3s in fish (EPA and DHA) can be more beneficial than the types of omega-3 found in seeds such as flax seeds.
Aim to eat a serving of oily fish around three times a week. These can include tinned sardines and salmon as long as they do not contain added vegetable oils (olive oil is fine). Note that ‘omega-3 fish fingers’ are not a good source of omega-3 fats – stick to the real thing!
Get plenty of vitamin C
You may know vitamin C for its role in the immune system. But in fact the primary role of vitamin C is in making collagen – a protein that forms the basic structure of most of the body’s tissues, including the bones, joints and muscles. If your body can’t make collagen properly, these tissues will lose strength and function, contributing to not only day-to-day pain but also potentially painful conditions such as arthritis and osteoporosis.
Eating a variety of vegetables and fruit is the best way to get enough vitamin C. Although ‘five-a-day’ is the well-known recommendation, we should be aiming for at least seven portions a day, primarily of vegetables, in order to get good amounts of vitamin C and antioxidants. Some of the best sources of vitamin C include peppers, kale, broccoli, kiwi fruits, Brussels sprouts, watercress and red cabbage. If you can, get your veg and fruit from a local producer (e.g. a farmer’s market) as it can lose its vitamin C when it’s stored or transported for long periods of time.
Include anti-inflammatory spices
The spices ginger and turmeric in particular can have anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving properties. Use fresh ginger and powdered turmeric in your cooking whenever you can, make fresh ginger tea with a grated thumb-sized piece of ginger. If you have a good vegetable juicer you can even make fresh ginger juice to sip on – but watch out, it’s strong!
Try avoiding nightshades
The ‘nightshade’ or solanaceae vegetables may worsen inflammation and pain for some people. These are aubergines, tomatoes, potatoes (not sweet potatoes), and peppers – including chillis and all types of chilli powder (cayenne, paprika etc.). If you’ve implemented the other changes for at least three months and not noticed a significant improvement in your pain, then try eliminating the nightshade vegetables.
Consider eliminating gluten
Gluten is a protein that’s found primarily in wheat, barley and rye. The most severe reaction to gluten is coeliac disease, where the sufferer has to avoid gluten for the rest of their life. But some people who do not have coeliac disease may also react to gluten in a less severe way, which can contribute to inflammation in the body. If you’re cutting out gluten it can be best to work with a nutrition practitioner (e.g. a nutritional therapist) for support to make sure you’re not missing out on any nutrients.
Most children get a real thrill out of making themselves dizzy. They’ll spin round and round as fast as possible and then collapse in a heap of laughter and giggles. However, when someone suddenly becomes dizzy for no apparent reason, it can be a very frightening and debilitating experience.
Dizziness is the third most common complaint in general practice, yet most people don’t know why it happens. Our eyes, ears and nerve endings in our joints all combine to send signals to the brain telling us where our body is in space. If these signals are interrupted or the wrong signals are sent, then we can get dizzy. There are a number of different reasons why we can feel dizzy. Some of these include more serious trauma to the head and/or neck.
People are sometimes confused between dizziness and vertigo. Dizziness can be described as a feeling of light-headedness, whereas with vertigo, you either feel as if the room is spinning or you yourself are spinning. By the age of 70, about 30 per cent of people have experienced vertigo it at least once. If you think that you have experienced vertigo, then it is best to seek medical advice.