Blue Ridge

Your mom knew what she was talking about!

Your mom was always telling you to sit up straight or stand up straight and to put those shoulders back. You may have laughed it off, but now you know she was just looking out for you. Such a simple thing can lead to less pain in the future.

Good Posture Helps Reduce Back Pain

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Written by John Schubbe, DC
www.spine-health.com

Correct posture is a simple but very important way to keep the many intricate structures in the back and spine healthy. It is much more than cosmetic – good posture and back support are critical to reducing the incidence and levels of back pain and neck pain. Back support is especially important for patients who spend many hours sitting in an office chair or standing throughout the day.

Problems Caused by Poor Back Support and Posture

Not maintaining good posture and adequate back support can add strain to muscles and put stress on the spine. Over time, the stress of poor posture can change the anatomical characteristics of the spine, leading to the possibility of constricted blood vessels and nerves, as well as problems with muscles, discs, and joints. All of these can be major contributors to back and neck pain, as well as headaches, fatigue, and possibly even concerns with major organs and breathing.

 

Identifying Good Posture

Basically, having correct posture means keeping each part of the body in alignment with the neighboring parts. Proper posture keeps all parts balanced and supported. With appropriate posture (when standing) it should be possible to draw a straight line from the earlobe, through the shoulder, hip, knee, and into the middle of the ankle.

Because people find themselves in several positions throughout the day (sitting, standing, bending, stooping, and lying down) it’s important to learn how to attain and keep correct posture in each position for good back support, which will result in less back pain. When moving from one position to another, the ideal situation is that one’s posture is adjusted smoothly and fluidly. After initial correction of bad posture habits, these movements tend to become automatic and require very little effort to maintain.

Office work often results in poor posture and strain to the lower back. Many people work sitting in an office chair that is not properly fitted to their body and does not provide enough lower back support. One strategy is to choose an ergonomic office chair that often provides better support than a regular chair and may be more comfortable for the patient.

Take a Break from Sitting in an Office Chair
In addition, the spine is made for motion, and when sitting in any type of office chair (even an ergonomic office chair) for long periods of time, it is best to get up, stretch, and move around regularly throughout the day to recharge stiff muscles.

Identifying Incorrect Posture
The first step in improving posture is to identify what needs improvement by examining one’s own posture throughout the day, such as sitting in an office chair, carrying objects, or standing in line. At regular intervals during the day, take a moment to make a mental note of posture and back support. This should be done through the normal course of a day to best identify which times and positions tend to result in poor posture. Some people find it easier to ask someone else to observe their posture and make comments or suggestions.

Examples of Bad Posture and Back Support:
The following are examples of common behavior and poor ergonomics that need correction to attain good posture and back support:

  • Slouching with the shoulders hunched forward
  • Lordosis (also called “swayback”), which is too large of an inward curve in the lower back
  • Carrying something heavy on one side of the body
  • Cradling a phone receiver between the neck and shoulder
  • Pillows and Positions for Easing Neck Pain Video
  • Pillows for Neck Pain Video
  • Wearing high-heeled shoes or clothes that are too tight
  • Keeping the head held too high or looking down too much
  • Sleeping with a mattress or pillow that doesn’t provide proper back support, or in a position that compromises posture

Examples of Bad Posture While Sitting in an Office Chair
The following bad habits are especially common when sitting in an office chair for long periods of time

  • Slumping forward while sitting in an office chair
  • Not making use of the office chair’s lumbar back support
  • Sliding forward on the seat of the office chair

Posture to Straighten Your Back
As already discussed, for correction of poor posture it is important to determine where improvement is needed, such as when sitting in an office chair. Next, patients must work on changing daily habits to correct those areas. This effort will improve back support and over time help decrease back pain. It will take some effort and perseverance, and will seem a little unnatural at first. It is typical to feel uncomfortable, and even feel a little taller, but over time the new posture will seem natural and more comfortable.

Following are some guidelines of how to achieve good posture and ergonomics in the workplace and other situations.

  • Be sure the back is aligned against the back of the office chair. Avoid slouching or leaning forward, especially when tired from sitting in the office chair for long periods
  • For long term sitting, such as in an office chair, be sure the chair is ergonomically designed to properly support the back and that it is a custom fit.
  • When sitting on an office chair at a desk, arms should be flexed at a 75 to 90 degree angle at the elbows. If this is not the case, the office chair should be adjusted accordingly
  • Knees should be even with the hips, or slightly higher when sitting in the office chair
  • Keep both feet flat on the floor. If there’s a problem with feet reaching the floor comfortably, a footrest can be used along with the office chair
  • Sit in the office chair with shoulders straight
  • Don’t sit in one place for too long, even in ergonomic office chairs that have good back support. Get up and walk around and stretch as needed

Standing Posture

  • Stand with weight mostly on the balls of the feet, not with weight on the heels
  • Keep feet slightly apart, about shoulder-width
  • Let arms hang naturally down the sides of the body
  • Avoid locking the knees
  • Tuck the chin in a little to keep the head level
  • Be sure the head is square on top of the spine, not pushed out forward
  • Stand straight and tall, with shoulders upright
  • If standing for a long period of time, shift weight from one foot to the other, or rock from heels to toes.
  • Stand against a wall with shoulders and bottom touching wall. In this position, the back of the head should also touch the wall – if it does not, the head is carried to far forward (anterior head carriage).

Walking Posture

  • Keep the head up and eyes looking straight ahead
  • Avoid pushing the head forward
  • Keep shoulders properly aligned with the rest of the body

Driving Posture

  • Sit with the back firmly against the seat for proper back support
  • The seat should be a proper distance from the pedals and steering wheel to avoid leaning forward or reaching
  • The headrest should support the middle of the head to keep it upright. Tilt the headrest forward if possible to make sure that the head-to-headrest distance is not more than four inches

Posture and Ergonomics While Lifting and Carrying

  • Always bend at the knees, not the waist
  • Use the large leg and stomach muscles for lifting, not the lower back
  • If necessary, get a supportive belt to help maintain good posture while lifting
  • When carrying what a heavy or large object, keep it close to the chest
  • If carrying something with one arm, switch arms frequently
  • When carrying a backpack or purse, keep it as light as possible, and balance the weight on both sides as much as possible, or alternate from side to side
  • When carrying a backpack, avoid leaning forward or rounding the shoulders. If the weight feels like too much, consider using a rolling backpack with wheels.
  • See Avoid Back Injury with the Right Lifting Techniques

Sleeping Posture with Mattresses and Pillows

  • A relatively firm mattress is generally best for proper back support, although individual preference is very important
  • Sleeping on the side or back is usually more comfortable for the back than sleeping on the stomach
  • Use a pillow to provide proper support and alignment for the head and shoulders
  • Consider putting a rolled-up towel under the neck and a pillow under the knees to better support the spine
  • If sleeping on the side, a relatively flat pillow placed between the legs will help keep the spine aligned and straight.

It is important to note that an overall cause of bad posture is tense muscles, which will pull the body out of alignment. There are a number of specific exercises that will help stretch and relax the major back muscles. Some people find that meditation or other forms of mental relaxation are effective in helping relax the back muscles. And many people find treatments and activities such as massage therapy, yoga, tai chi or other regular exercise routines, or treatments such as chiropractic or osteopathic manipulation, etc. to be helpful with both muscle relaxation and posture awareness and improvement.

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Blue Ridge Orthopaedic & Spine Center has on-site state-of-the-art technology to diagnosis and treat orthopaedic conditions. Both of our offices are equipped with in-office radiology departments. Not only does this facilitate rapid diagnosis but it is also convenient for patients who may be experiencing pain or disability at the time of their visit. To schedule an appointment with one of our board-certified and fellowship trained physicians, call our Warrenton office at 540-347-9220 or our Gainesville office at 703-743-2814.

 

Good Posture makes all the difference!

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How Poor Posture Causes Neck Pain

Article written by: Gavin Morrison, PT    www.spine-health.com

Most neck pain that is not caused by whiplash or other trauma has a postural component as part of the underlying problem. Sitting atop the body, the health of the neck is subject to the curvature of the spine below and the position of the head above.

The neck muscle pain can be caused by the following neck muscles becoming tight:

  • Scalene muscles (three pairs of muscles that help rotate the neck)
  • Suboccipital muscles (four pairs of muscles used to rotate the head)
  • Pectoralis minor muscles (a pair of thin triangular muscles at the upper part of the chest)
  • Subscapularis muscles (a pair of large triangular muscles near each shoulder joint)
  • Levator scapulae muscles (a pair of muscles located at the back and side of the neck).

If the alignment of the head and spine is not optimal, the neck can be predisposed to injury and/or the degenerative effects of wear and tear over time.

 

Forward Head and Shoulder Posture

The most common condition that contributes to neck pain is forward head and shoulder posture. Forward head posture is when the neck slants forward placing the head in front of the shoulders. This head position leads to several problems:

Article continues below

  • The forward pull of the weight of the head puts undue stress on the vertebrae of the lower neck, contributing to degenerative disc disease and other degenerative neck problems.
  • Similarly, this posture causes the muscles of the upper back to continually overwork to counterbalance the pull of gravity on the forward head.
  • This position is often accompanied by forward shoulders and a rounded upper back, which not only feeds into the neck problem but can also cause shoulder pain.

The more time spent with a forward head posture, the more likely it is that one will develop neck and shoulder problems.

 

Effects of Poor Posture on the Lower Cervical Vertebrae

The part of the neck that is particularly vulnerable to forward head posture is the lower part of the neck, just above the shoulders.

The lower cervical vertebrae (C5 and C6) may slightly slide or shear forward relative to one another as a result of the persistent pull of gravity on a forward head.

This shear force can be a problem for patients with jobs that require them to look down or forward all day, such as pharmacists who spend many hours counting pills or data entry workers who look at a computer screen.

Long-Term Negative Effects of Poor Posture

Prolonged shearing of the vertebrae from forward head posture eventually irritates the small facet joints in the neck as well as the ligaments and soft tissues.

This irritation can result in neck pain that radiates down to the shoulder blades and upper back, potentially causing a variety of conditions, including:

 

Workplace Ergonomics and Neck Pain

It is often important to look at the workplace ergonomics as part of treatment and prevention of neck pain. Perhaps the placement of the desk, computer workstation and/or placement of the computer monitor and keyboard can be improved to encourage improved upper back and neck posture.

When sitting erect at a desk and looking straight ahead:

  • Eyes should point directly at the top third of the screen.
  • Forearms should be approximately parallel with the floor when typing.
  • Elbows should be at the side.
  • Feet should be flat on the floor with the thighs parallel with the floor.

If patients have a standing work station or perform other sorts of sitting or driving tasks, make sure that one side of the body is not constantly rotated more than the other side, and that there is as much symmetry in repetitive tasks as possible.

Persistent movements to one side or constant rotation of the neck and back to the same side can often aggravate joints and soft tissues causing neck and back pain. Some patients can develop poor posture of the head, neck, and shoulders through repetitive work tasks and/or poor sitting habits.

There are stretches and exercises that are effective at helping restore good posture, thereby taking pressure off the neck and relieving pain.

See Simple Office Chair Stretch

BRO-Logo-colorBlue Ridge Orthopaedic & Spine Center has on-site state-of-the-art technology to diagnosis and treat orthopaedic conditions. For your convenience, both of our offices are equipped with in-office radiology departments. Not only does this facilitate rapid diagnosis but it is also convenient for patients who may be experiencing pain or disability at the time of their visit. To schedule an appointment with one of our board-certified and fellowship trained physicians, call our Warrenton  office at 540-347-9220 or our Gainesville office at 703-743-2814.

Chronic Pain Coping Techniques – Pain Management

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Article written by: Andrew R. Block, PhD   Spine-Health.com

Clinicians who specialize in treating chronic pain now recognize that it is not merely a sensation, like vision or touch, but rather chronic pain is strongly influenced by the ways in which the brain processes the pain signals.

Chronic pain can provoke emotional reactions, such as fear or even terror, depending on what we believe about the pain signals. In other cases (such as in sports or another engaging, rewarding activity), chronic pain may be perceived by the individual as merely a nuisance, a feeling to be overcome in order to be able to continue in the activity.

The important role the mind plays in chronic pain is clearly recognized in the medical literature, as well as in the International Association for the Study of Pain’s definition of pain, which states that pain is always subjective and is defined by the person who experiences it.

The corollary is that the brain can also learn how to manage the sensation of pain. Using the mind to control chronic pain, or coping strategies, for managing persistent pain, may be used alone or in tandem with other pain management therapies.

Ideally, use of the chronic pain management techniques outlined in this article can help patients feel less dependent on pain killers and feel more empowered to be able to control their pain.

Managing Chronic Pain

Of course, the first step in coping with chronic back pain or other types of persistent pain is to receive a thorough medical evaluation to determine the cause of the pain.

  • In some situations, such as a herniated disc in the spine, it may be important to pay attention to the level and type of pain so that it can serve as a warning signal of impending damage.
  • In other cases, especially when the back pain is chronic and the health condition unchangeable, one goal can be to try and keep the chronic pain from being the entire focus of one’s life.

Whatever the medical condition, there are a number of effective strategies for coping with chronic back pain. These techniques generally include:

  • Relaxation training: Relaxation involves concentration and slow, deep breathing to release tension from muscles and relieve pain. Learning to relax takes practice, but relaxation training can focus attention away from pain and release tension from all muscles. Relaxation tapes are widely available to help you learn these skills.
  • Biofeedback: Biofeedback is taught by a professional who uses special machines to help you learn to control bodily functions, such as heart rate and muscle tension. As you learn to release muscle tension, the machine immediately indicates success. Biofeedback can be used to reinforce relaxation training. Once the technique is mastered, it can be practiced without the use of the machine.
  • Visual imagery and distraction: Imagery involves concentrating on mental pictures of pleasant scenes or events or mentally repeating positive words or phrases to reduce pain. Tapes are also available to help you learn visual imagery skills.

Distraction techniques focus your attention away from negative or painful images to positive mental thoughts. This may include activities as simple as watching television or a favorite movie, reading a book or listening to a book on tape, listening to music, or talking to a friend.

  • Hypnosis: Hypnosis can be used in two ways to reduce your perception of pain. Some people are hypnotized by a therapist and given a post-hypnotic suggestion that reduces the pain they feel. Others are taught self-hypnosis and can hypnotize themselves when pain interrupts their ability to function. Self-hypnosis is a form of relaxation training.

All of the above-describe techniques for coping with chronic back pain make use of four types of skills:

  • Deep Muscle Relaxation
  • Distraction: moving attention away from the pain signals
  • Imagery: visual, sound or other pictures and thoughts that provide a pleasant and relaxing experience
  • Dissociation: The ability to separate normally connected mental processes, leading to feelings of detachment and distance from the chronic pain.

11 Chronic Pain Control Techniques

To prepare for any chronic pain coping technique, it is important to learn how to use focus and deep breathing to relax the body. Learning to relax takes practice, especially when you are in pain, but it is definitely worth it to be able to release muscle tension throughout the body and start to remove attention from the pain.

Coping techniques for chronic pain begin with controlled deep breathing, as follows:

  • Try putting yourself in a relaxed, reclining position in a dark room. Either shut your eyes or focus on a point.
  • Then begin to slow down your breathing. Breathe deeply, using your chest. If you find your mind wandering or you are distracted, then think of a word, such as the word “Relax,” and think it in time with your breathing…the syllable “re” as you breathe in and “lax” as you breathe out.
  • Continue with about 2 to 3 minutes of controlled breathing.
  • Once you feel yourself slowing down, you can begin to use imagery techniques.

Eleven specific imagery and chronic pain control techniques that are effective for pain control include:

  1. Altered focus
    This is a favorite technique for demonstrating how powerfully the mind can alter sensations in the body. Focus your attention on any specific non-painful part of the body (hand, foot, etc.) and alter sensation in that part of the body. For example, imagine your hand warming up. This will take the mind away from focusing on the source of your pain, such as your back pain.
  2. Dissociation
    As the name implies, this chronic pain technique involves mentally separating the painful body part from the rest of the body, or imagining the body and mind as separate, with the chronic pain distant from one’s mind. For example, imagine your painful lower back sitting on a chair across the room and tell it to stay sitting there, far away from your mind.
  3. Sensory splitting
    This technique involves dividing the sensation (pain, burning, pins and needles) into separate parts. For example, if the leg pain or back pain feels hot to you, focus just on the sensation of the heat and not on the hurting.
  4. Mental anesthesia
    This involves imagining an injection of numbing anesthetic (like Novocain) into the painful area, such as imagining a numbing solution being injected into your low back. Similarly, you may then wish to imagine a soothing and cooling ice pack being placed onto the area of pain.
  5. Mental analgesia
    Building on the mental anesthesia concept, this technique involves imagining an injection of a strong pain killer, such as morphine, into the painful area. Alternatively, you can imagine your brain producing massive amount of endorphins, the natural pain relieving substance of the body, and having them flow to the painful parts of your body.
  6. Transfer
    Use your mind to produce altered sensations, such as heat, cold, anesthetic, in a non-painful hand, and then place the hand on the painful area. Envision transferring this pleasant, altered sensation into the painful area.
  7. Age progression/regression
    Use your mind’s eye to project yourself forward or backward in time to when you are pain-free or experiencing much less pain. Then instruct yourself to act “as if” this image were true.
  8. Symbolic imagery
    Envision a symbol that represents your chronic pain, such as a loud, irritating noise or a painfully bright light bulb. Gradually reduce the irritating qualities of this symbol, for example dim the light or reduce the volume of the noise, thereby reducing the pain.
  9. Positive imagery
    Focus your attention on a pleasant place that you could imagine going – the beach, mountains, etc. – where you feel carefree, safe and relaxed.
  10. Counting
    Silent counting is a good way to deal with painful episodes. You might count breaths, count holes in an acoustic ceiling, count floor tiles, or simply conjure up mental images and count them.
  11. Pain movement
    Move chronic back pain from one area of your body to another, where the pain is easier to cope with. For example, mentally move your chronic back pain slowly into your hand, or even out of your hand into the air.

Some of these techniques are probably best learned with the help of a professional, and it usually takes practice for these techniques to become effective in helping alleviate chronic pain. It is often advisable to work on pain coping strategies for about 30 minutes 3 times a week. With practice, you will find that the relaxation and chronic pain control become stronger and last longer after you are done.

Sometimes, after you are good at using the techniques, you can produce chronic pain relief and relaxation with just a few deep breaths. You can then start to use these techniques while you are engaged in any activity, working, talking, etc. With enough experience you will begin to feel a greater sense of control over the chronic pain and its effects on your life.

 

BRO-Logo-colorBlue Ridge Orthopaedic & Spine Center has on-site state-of-the-art technology to diagnosis and treat orthopaedic conditions. For your convenience, both of our offices are equipped with in-office radiology departments. Not only does this facilitate rapid diagnosis but it is also convenient for patients who may be experiencing pain or disability at the time of their visit. To schedule an appointment with one of our board-certified and fellowship trained physicians, call our Warrenton  office at 540-347-9220 or our Gainesville office at 703-743-2814.

DIY Hot and Cold packs

How to Make Your Own Gel Ice Pack

or Moist Heat Pack

Article written by:  via Spine-Health.com

Sometimes the simplest solutions are the best. For example, heat or cold therapy can provide a surprising amount of pain relief for most types of back and neck pain.

Treatment for Back and Neck Muscle Strain
Low back pain is commonly caused by injuries to the muscles.

Muscle strains and pulls are some of the most common causes of back pain, and can be soothed with heat and cold therapy.

  • Cold packs help reduce inflammation and numb a painful area.
  • Heat packs help increase circulation to a specific area of the body and can promote healing.

It’s easy to make a hot or cold pack with materials you already have at home. Making hot or cold packs yourself is convenient, because one will be ready whenever you need it, and it could save you some money.

Homemade gel ice packs

These homemade gel ice packs are more comfortable than a bag of frozen peas, because they mold better to your body without the lumps and bumps. They can be made for under $3.

What you need:

  • 1 quart or 1 gallon plastic freezer bags (depending on how large you want the cold pack)
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 cup rubbing alcohol

Instructions:

  1. Fill the plastic freezer bag with 1 cup of rubbing alcohol and 2 cups of water.
  2. Try to get as much air out of the freezer bag before sealing it shut.
  3. Place the bag and its contents inside a second freezer bag to contain any leakage.
  4. Leave the bag in the freezer for at least an hour.
  5. When it’s ready, place a towel between the gel pack and bare skin to avoid burning the skin.

Another way to apply ice to the back is by freezing water in a cup, and then rubbing it on the affected back muscles to reduce inflammation.

Freeze ice in a Styrofoam cup for a do-it-yourself ice massage.
Homemade moist heat packs

Heat therapy increases circulation to aching muscles, and provides pain relief. There are two types of heat therapy, dry and moist.

Electric heating pads bring a dry heat, which some people find to be less comforting than moist heat. Moist heat packs are less dehydrating to the skin, and they allow heat to absorb better into the skin and relieve pain faster.

What you need:

  • Cloth container (sock, fabric)
  • 4-6 cups filling (e.g. uncooked rice, flax seed, buckwheat, oatmeal)
  • Needle and thread (optional, but recommended)
  • Flair (ribbon, fragrant oils; optional)

Instructions:

  1. Fill your container with the filling.
  2. Tie or sew the container shut.
  3. Add soothing aromatherapy before you microwave, if you want.
  4. Microwave container for 1-3 minutes.
Sock heat packs for low back pain
Socks can make a heat pack that is beneficial for back pain.

Whether you are using cold or heat therapy, do not apply them for more than 15 minutes at a time. The best way to apply either heat or cold is to alternate 15 minutes on and 15 minutes off for an hour or two.

For another easy DIY project for back pain relief, see How Tennis Balls and Duct Tape Can Morph into a Do-It-Yourself Massage for Lower Back Pain

 

BRO-Logo-colorBlue Ridge Orthopaedic & Spine Center has on-site state-of-the-art technology to diagnosis and treat orthopaedic conditions. For your convenience, both of our offices are equipped with in office radiology departments. Not only does this facilitate rapid diagnosis but it is also convenient for patients who may be experiencing pain or disability at the time of their visit. To schedule an appointment with one of our board-certified and fellowship trained physicians, call our Warrenton  office at 540-347-9220 or our Gainesville office at 703-743-2814.

Treat your spine to some pampering this weekend!

It’s the weekend, time to relax, enjoy time with friends and family and indulge in good times. However, did you know that there are a few things that you can do that are pretty easy, massage therapy anyone, to take care of your spine at the same time? Just a little preventative care now, can make a big difference later.

3d rendered illustration - backache

11 Ways to Indulge Your Spine

courtesy of Spine-Health.com

Taking care of your back before serious problems arise is easier than you think. We have 11 ideas to help you give your spine the special treatment it deserves.

Our spines are made for movement. Watch: Lumbar Spine Anatomy Video

Make exercise a daily ritual
Research has consistently shown that exercise is the key to maintaining a healthy spine, and it helps rehabilitate injured spines. Our spines are made for movement, and even a simple exercise program that focuses on stretching and strengthening the back, hamstring, and abdominals can go a long way toward distributing nutrients into the spinal discs and soft tissues, accelerating the healing process, and keeping the discs, muscles, ligaments, and joints healthy. For more information, visit our Exercise Health Center.

Believe in the mind body connection
Take time to engage in mindful-meditation every day. Studies have shown this to be an effective tool for fighting chronic back pain. While the mechanism of pain perception is still a fairly mysterious topic, being able to tap into the mind-body connection may help you cope with pain. See Mindful Meditation vs. Chronic Pain

Maintain good posture while sitting
The spine is naturally built to curve, but slouching in a chair for eight hours a day at work can lead to muscle tension and lower back pain, and leg pain (sciatica).

As the discs in the lumbar spine (lower back) are already loaded three times more while sitting than standing, why make things even more difficult? Be sure to have an ergonomically-friendly office chair setup and to get up and stretch every 30 minutes or so.

For more information on preventing bad posture from becoming a habit and incorporating the right posture while not only sitting but walking, driving, standing, and lifting, see these Guidelines to Improve Posture.

Choose shoes wisely
The benefits of walking for the spine are plentiful, including strengthening the muscles that keep the body upright, nourishing spinal structures with necessary nutrients, improving flexibility, and strengthening the bones.

While walking, it’s important to have a flexible, comfortable pair of shoes that also serves as a stable base for the spine to stay in alignment. Here are some Guidelines for Buying Walking Shoes

Relax with heat therapy
Naturally your neck and back may feel sore at the end of a long day. Applying heat therapy is a great way not only to soothe spinal discomfort but to kick back and relax prior to going to sleep.

Try heating pads, wraps, warm gel packs, hot water bottles, or a bath/shower to benefit from heat therapy. Learn How to Apply Heat Therapy

Sleep on a supportive mattress and pillow
In ideal circumstances, nearly a 1/3 of the day is spent sleeping, which also serves as a time for the spine to rest after a hard day’s work. Still, an insufficient mattress can make rest a stressful time on the spine, and lead to some patients complaining of a stiff neck or back ache in the morning.

While sleep comfort is a matter of personal preference, taking into consideration a mattress that allows for correct support and sleeping positions can go a long way towards avoiding pain in the back and neck (cervical spine). See Choosing the Best Mattress and Pillow Support and Comfort.

Choose your food wisely
Your diet can make or break your overall health, and it can have an especially big impact on your spine health. Try sticking mostly to whole foods-foods you would find in nature- like vegetables, fruits, dairy, meats, grains, and legumes. Eventually make it your goal to eliminate all processed foods, and to only indulge in unhealthy treats once or twice a week.

Focusing on foods that are high in calcium (for bone strength and mass) and other nutrients and vitamins can help prevent osteoporosis, osteoarthritis and other conditions in the future. Similarly, maintaining a proper weight can reduce pressure on the spine and minimize back pain. For more information, visit our health center on Nutrition, Diet and Weight Loss.

Go for a swim

swimmer

Water therapy is especially advantageous for the spine because of the support the water gives to bones and joints during exercise. Buoyancy provides both mild resistance and support, thus reducing the risk of injury or pain during certain exercises.

Cold water soothes joint inflammation, while hot water stimulates circulation for stiff muscles and healing for minor muscle sprains or strains. For more information, get immersed in the following Water Therapy Exercise Program.

Literally Treat Yourself to Massage Therapy
Studies show that massage therapy is a legitimate treatment for some back pain. Massages offer several benefits, including improving blood circulation for the recovery of sore muscles, restoring spinal range of motion, helping with insomnia, and upping endorphins – the body’s natural chemicals that make patients feel good. See Massage Therapy for Lower Back Pain.

Resolve to quit smoking
Quitting smoking reduces the likelihood of lower back pain, which is reportedly 300 percent more likely in smokers than non-smokers. Resolving to quit is difficult, but there are many products, support groups, and strategies that have worked for thousands of people.

According to one study, smoking leads to degenerative spinal disorders and back pain as a result of damaging the vascular structures of spinal discs and joints. See why quitting smoking is a must-do for the spine in the following video: Stop Smoking!

Lift Correctly

lifting boxes
Improperly lifting heavy items can put the lower back muscles in abnormal positions that can produce painful muscle strains, and even cause the spinal joints to lock and the spinal discs to rupture.

Correct lifting is more than involving the knees, and should incorporate keeping the chest forward and the weight close to the body, and leading with the hips rather than the shoulders. Do you practice the right lifting techniques?

With all these suggestions in mind, what better day than today to start getting active and making these changes!

 

BRO-Logo-colorBlue Ridge Orthopaedic & Spine Center has on-site state-of-the-art technology to diagnosis and treat orthopaedic conditions. For your convenience, both of our offices are equipped with in-office radiology departments. Not only does this facilitate rapid diagnosis but it is also convenient for patients who may be experiencing pain or disability at the time of their visit. To schedule an appointment with one of our board-certified and fellowship trained physicians, call our Warrenton  office at 540-347-9220 or our Gainesville office at 703-743-2814.

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