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Archive for May, 2016

My Neck Hurts When I Wake Up

Monday, May 16th, 2016

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I am frequently asked in my clinic “my neck hurts when I wake up. Why??” Frequently my new patients often have fingers that go numb or even whole hands.

My first question to them is, “what kind of pillow are you sleeping on?” If you are sleeping on a flat pillow that is simply foam or feathers, you need a new one. Why? Flat foam pillows tend not to have the proper shape that supports your neck. Some foam pillows are molded, those are different. If your pillow has a neck roll that supports your neck and allows your head to drop back into extension, those are great if you are a back sleeper. If you are a side sleeper they can cause you issues. Feather pillows tend to bunch up in all the wrong places as you sleep and lose their support in all of the areas your neck and head need support.

How should you then pick a pillow? If you are one of my patients, I have a demonstration pillow in my office. Ask me to see it and explain what to look for when purchasing a new pillow.

If you are a stomach sleeper, no wonder why your neck hurts when you wake up. No pillow in the world is going to make it better. You need to learn new sleeping habits to help your neck. Lying on your belly with your head rotated to one side all night is going to cause imbalances in your neck with one side of your neck muscles growing really contracted and the other side too stretched out.

If you sleep on your side, you need a thicker pillow. A high density foam that is the same thickness as the distance between the side of your head and the outside edge of your shoulder will be the best choice. That will fully support your head so that it isn’t tilting to the side all night squeezing and pinching off your nerves.

If you are a back sleeper, you need a pillow with a neck roll built in to support the curve in your neck adequately. These pillows allow your head to remain in neutral which means your neck is a little extended. That will keep your nerves happy while you sleep and keep the tension off of them resulting in less tight muscles when you wake up.

What do I sleep on? Well, just like running shoes, pillows are very individual. What you love one week, you may detest the next. I have three that I rotate between. One is a custom measured pillow that we sell in my office. The second is a tempurpedic memory foam pillow that I purchased at Brookstone and my new favorite addition to my collection is one from the Sleep Number Store at Ridgedale. It is a cooling memory foam with a neck roll that is a little bit thicker than most and also supports side sleepers. I find that if you have a cranky difficult neck, you are well served by changing your pillow every year.

As always, if you have neck pain when you wake up, you need to have yourself evaluated by a chiropractor. Good pillows are helpful but they don’t correct the bad movement patterns, imbalances and poor alignment causing the problem in the first place. You can always call our Plymouth chiropractic office for advice at 763-553-0387

Why is pain shooting down my leg from my back

Monday, May 16th, 2016

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When patients come to my office with a lower back injury, they want to know, “Why is pain shooting down my leg from my back?” There are often multiple reasons this can happen and to treat a person with back and leg pain, you need to properly diagnose the problem.

The most common reason the pain or numbness or even tingling will be shooting down your leg from your back is that you are having a disc problem in your lower back. Disc problems such as, disc bulges, inflamed discs due to injury, disc herniations, disc extrusions are all very painful. The good news is that research shows that after twelve months, patient outcomes are basically the statistically the same whether the patient has conservative care such as chiropractic manipulative therapy (chiropractic adjustments) or surgery. The bad news is that regardless of what option you pick for yourself, it can take a long time to heal. If you have a disc problem, it as usually a long time coming. Typically you would have weak muscles and inflexibility for a long time that went without stretching or strengthening and also poor movement patterns in your spine involving your vertebrae that placed extra stress on joints that weren’t designed to take it.

You can also have tight muscles that compress or entrap nerves. This can happen with your piriformis, hip flexors such as your psoas muscle and even your hamstrings. As muscles start to bunch up and the muscle fibers adhere together forming scar tissue it then starts to wrap up the nerve fibers and create additional compression on your nerves. A good chiropractor should be able to adequately diagnosis what is pinching on your nerve and causing you pain.

If you are having an episode of this, get an ice pack out of the freezer and call us. We will be able to diagnose your problem correctly. Do not heat your injury or you will get even more inflamed. Please remember when you visit your chiropractor to have realistic expectations. Any back problem that is extending into your leg, is not going to go away over night. You will need regular and frequent care to feel better for the long term.

Back Pain from Yard Work

Monday, May 16th, 2016

This is the time of year where I get the most calls of people having back pain from yard work. If you have been a relative couch potato all winter and then got outside this weekend and dug a bunch of holes, tilled the garden and raked leaves, it is probably pretty obvious why your back hurts. Allowing yourself to become deconditioned and then doing repetitive activities you haven’t done for months hurts.

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If you are relatively fit and work out regularly, working in the yard is just one of those facts of life that tend to aggravate any weak spot you already have in your spine. Unlike working out at the gym, the forces on your body in the yard are less predictable ( how much force will it take to pull that tree root out? Lots and then none as you careen backwards). The tasks involve unexpected resistance ( we have all been digging holes and hit rocks sending reverberations all the way up our skeletons). Yard projects also tend to last longer than workouts and I know that I try just to rush through them without taking breaks to stretch.

Odds are, you have already tweaked yourself and are experiencing your own back pain from yard work or you wouldn’t be reading this so call our office and schedule an appointment. Also, please start icing and don’t dare put heat on it.

To prevent future back pain from yard work, here are some tips I have learned over the years. First, if you have a big project like a great big truck of wood chips that you want to install, commit to doing it for an hour and then taking a break. I also am impatient and when I decide to do something I want it done yesterday. That personality has not served me well over the years when it comes to yard work. One hour, then take a break and kick your feet up, stretch a little, drink a lemonade and see how you feel before you go back to hour number two. Do this every hour. Six hours of doing repetitious activities that your body isn’t used to will hurt anyone.

Also, please identify your weak spots of your body and stretch them after you do your yard work. I am not suggesting a 45 minute stretch session, but 3-4 stretches on the parts that you already know will bother you the most. Don’t have a weak link on that body of yours? Yeah right, we all have one. If you really think that, you aren’t paying enough attention to your tight muscles. Those are my people who really get hurt when they hurt themselves because they don’t pay attention to the warning signs of an oncoming injury.

As always, our Plymouth Chiropractic office is here to help. If you have questions or have hurt yourself, call us.

Pain while traveling

Monday, May 16th, 2016

If you have ever flown in an airplane, you have had pain while traveling. Mental and physical pain, probably. I am currently writing this from the seat of the most uncomfortable airplane seat ever built and experiencing pain while traveling first hand from my least favorite airline, United.

Traveling is painful now. The leg room has shrunk, to compensate for this, they have taken all the cushion out of the seat that would typically absorb shock before it transmits into your spine from the molded plastic. If you can sit on your jacket or find a merciful flight attendant that will give you a blanket, that is your best bet for a quick fix.

I have become a big fan of aisle seats on airplanes. Even though I am relatively short, they simply give you more room to stretch out. They also let you get up more frequently to stretch out and walk around without the dirty looks of the poor sleeping person sitting next to you.


For long haul flights, the C-shaped neck pillows are invaluable. I find it nearly impossible to sleep on a plane without it. They simply allow your head to rest. If you get stuck in a window seat, they are great for cramming up against the window so you aren’t getting the window shade jabbed into your head.

Since airports usually involve long walks with luggage trailing behind you, remember to pause before yanking it out of the car and think before you lift as well as switch it from side to side so you don’t end up with one sided pain that could be prevented. I am a big fan of packing light, it will definitely cut down on the luggage injuries!

If you have recently returned from vacation or business travels an your back is sore and you don’t know what to do, call our Plymouth chiropractic office. We are here to help.

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