Monday, March 5, 2012

March 2012

Hi Everybody,

Dr. Norris here. The most common question I get is “Why do I have pain?” So this month’s newsletter will attempt to answer the question.

Spinal pain sends more patients to doctors than any condition other than the common cold. It’s the fifth most common reason for hospitalizations and third most common cause of surgery. And 56% of people with backaches say symptoms disrupt their daily routines. Talk about a pain in the...back.

There are many possible causes of spine pain. Trauma such as falls, twists and muscle pulls account for the most common reasons. But everyday habits can take a big toll on your neck and back over time. Here are the top 10 mistakes people make that may be causing aches and how to correct them.

1. Too Much Sitting.

Did you know that sitting puts 40% more pressure on your spine than standing? We sit while driving to and from work. Many of us sit while at work. Then when we get home we sit at the computer or watch TV… while sitting. The longer we sit the more muscles will weaken and shorten. How to fix it: Sitting at a 135-degree angle can reduce compression of the discs in the spine, so lean back slightly every now and then. Make sure your office chair supports the curve of your spine. Your lower back should be supported, and your head should be straight—not lurching forward—when you look at your computer screen. Get up and walk around for a couple of minutes every half hour—take trips to get water, use the bathroom, or grab papers off the printer. Set a timer to signal you after an hour so you won’t forget.

2. You're Not Working Out.

Get moving to alleviate aches and pains and fix spine pain faster. New research shows that 40% of people become less active after pain strikes—a strategy that's likely to delay healing or even make their condition worse. How to fix it: In fact, most sufferers would benefit from more exercise—particularly frequent walks, which ease stiffness. For instant relief, I recommend stretching your hamstrings, hips and shoulders. Moves like these will take some strain off your spine.

3. You’re Workout Is Hurting You.

Do you routinely get a sore neck or back after even a gentle workout? You may need to reassess your activities. Muscle imbalance, improper technique or too much of one type of exercise can cause problems. How to fix it: You don’t have to ditch your workout entirely, but you should use proper form. Check with those who know how and get advice. Worse case… if it hurts don’t do it.

4. You Don’t Stretch Enough

By improving circulation and lowering stress, just about any kind of exercise promotes pain recovery. Stretches often ease pain faster than conventional exercises. Because stretches promote rhythmic breathing and relaxation, it reduces structural triggers of spine pain. How to fix it: You can find stretching classes everywhere—at gyms, YMCAs, and local studios. Make sure to tell the instructor about your pain so she can help modify certain moves for you.

5. You’re Not The Healthiest Eater

Research shows that eating habits that are good for your heart, weight, and blood sugar are also good for your spine. Healthy circulation brings nutrients to the spine and removes waste. If this doesn’t happen, inflammation can result, and inflammatory chemicals in the soft tissues can trigger nerves to send pain signals to the brain. How to fix it: A spine-healthy diet is one that reduces inflammation, according to The Truth about Back Pain. The book’s plan advises avoiding excess caffeine and processed foods, and eating more whole grains, soy, nuts and seeds, protein (chicken, fish, lean meat), vegetables, and fruit.

6. You Carry Your Entire Life In Your Purse Or Wallet.

A stuffed-to-the-gills handbag or wallet may cause back damage that’s comparable to a sports injury! When you tote a heavy bag, your shoulders become imbalanced. A thick wallet elevates your hip when sitting. This throws your spine off-kilter. Doing this every day can cause back muscles to ache over time. How to fix it: First, carry the lightest bag possible. (Some of today’s styles—with chains, studs, and other hardware—are heavy even when empty!) Alternate which shoulder you carry the bag with from day to day. Thin your wallet and/or carry it in your front pocket.

7. Your Mattress Is From Another Decade

Can’t remember the last time you replaced it? Your back may be in trouble. A good mattress lasts 9 to 10 years, according to the National Sleep Foundation, but consider replacing yours every 5 to 7 years if you don't sleep well or your back throbs. A study at Oklahoma State University found that most people who switched to new bedding after 5 years slept significantly better and had less back pain. How to fix it: When you do replace your mattress, take a Goldilocks approach: Try various kinds soft to hard. To help ease nighttime discomfort even more, tuck a pillow under your knees if you sleep on your back, between your knees if you're a side sleeper, or beneath your stomach and hips if you snooze on your belly.

8. You Have A Thing For High Heels

Or flip-flops. Both lead to foot instability, which can in turn affect your back. High heels force you to arch your back, making your spinal muscles work harder. Backless shoes like sandals cause your feet to move from side to side, which distributes your body weight unevenly and can cause pain. How to fix it: You don’t have to forgo trendy footwear—just don’t walk long distances in them. Commute in comfy flats or supportive sneakers, and consider adding cushioning inserts to uncomfy shoes. When researchers gave back-pain sufferers lightweight, flexible shoes with simple cushions, 80% reported significant relief within a year.

9. Stress- You Don’t Veg Out Enough

It’s not all in your head—chronic or acute stress can directly trigger spine pain. When you’re under the gun, your whole body clenches up, including the muscles in your neck and back. If you’re stressed all the time and those muscles stay tight, it can eventually cause major pain. How to fix it: You can prioritize ways to calm down each day, be it through exercise, laughing with a friend or partner, reading a good book, etc. One particularly helpful therapy, research shows, is listening to music. Massage is another great stress reducer.

10. You Ignore The Pain

Trying to block out pain could make it worse. A better approach: Let yourself consciously experience the hurt. In a standard pain test, psychologists had 68 back-pain sufferers plunge their hands or feet into ice water. When the volunteers were instructed to suppress the shock of the icy water, a key muscle in the back clenched. In contrast, the muscle didn't tense up when volunteers thought only about the shock. How to fix it: Accepting pain may be the best way to mentally cope. Try reminding yourself that it will pass. If it doesn’t you can call your chiropractor. Many Doctors of Chiropractic are specifically trained to treat spine pain naturally with minimal side effects.

“Anytime you have pain I will treat you
with compassion and understanding.
I promise to provide you the same care
I would give to my own family.
Because you don’t have time for pain.”
Dr. Michael H. Norris
(661) 435-7237


“A wise man ought to realize that health is his most valuable possession.” ~ Hippocrates