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My Neck Hurts When I Wake Up

Monday, May 16th, 2016


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

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.

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.

Slip and Fall on the Ice

Thursday, February 11th, 2016

Tis the season for the slip and fall on the ice injuries.  With this winter feeling more like Nebraska than Minnesota with freezing rain, falls and car accidents are all the rage.  We seem to be seeing an uptick in weather related injuries, especially after last week’s snow.


What should you do if you slip and fall on the ice? First, make sure nothing is broken.  If you are unsure, go to the nearest urgent care for an x-ray.  If you are simply bruised and banged up, the chiropractor’s office should be your second call.  As a chiropractor, we can determine if your injury is simply a deep bruise, an injured joint or something more serious.


Now that you have some time to wait for your appointment, remember to put the ice packs on.  That will help you feel better, will relax the muscles and will help to draw the inflammation out and make it easier for your chiropractor to examine you.  It will also help them give you a more accurate diagnosis.


When you see a new chiropractor for the first time, make sure they take the time to listen and understand what is wrong with you.  A good chiropractor should do a thorough exam before treating you.  It’s important that before a chiropractor adjusts you that they spend time understanding your history along with that exam to determine whether you have a chiropractic problem or something requiring medical attention instead.


We are always open to discussing problems over the phone and determining the next steps.  Call our office today if you have had a slip or fall on the ice this winter.

Kids and Back Pain

Monday, September 14th, 2015

I wish I didn’t have so much experience with kids and back pain.  My friends and family are always surprised to hear how many kids I adjust regularly in my clinic.  When I first started in chiropractic 16 years ago, it was rare that I could convince parents to bring their kids in to my office.  Often now the child is a chiropractic patient before the parent is.


Why do kids have so much back pain?  Let’s start with their big heavy back packs that don’t quite fit that they sling over one shoulder.  While I frequently recommend smaller back packs, keeping more in your locker and roller bags, that isn’t always realistic.  At the very least, be sure to wear a back pack with adjustable straps over both shoulders and the best scenario would be to use a waist strap too.  Where do you get something like that?  Try REI or another sporting goods store.


Just like any office worker, if you sit all day, it will cause back pain.  My office chair has a lumbar support and a butt cushion.  Most school desks I have seen have hard resin chairs with no padding.  How can anyone be expected to sit quietly and calmly on that?  That is one of the many reasons that varied physical activity is important for keeping your kids healthy and free of back pain.  This doesn’t mean three hours of soccer practice every night year round.  Variety in sports is important.  The kids that do best and have the least pain and injuries are the ones that don’t get so focused on one sport.  If your child is happy to settle for the B team because they are enjoying a variety of sports, be happy for them.  Be proud that they are making a decision that will cause them less pain and injury in the future.


Chiropractic care has been shown over and over to be effective and safe for kids.  If your child is struggling with back pain give a chiropractor a call.


For more information on spinal health for kids, check out this article from a chiropractor in Fort Worth  They have a great website too with lots of great information.

An Easy Detox for the New Year

Friday, January 16th, 2015

With all the emphasis on clean eating, let’s talk about an easy detox for the New Year that any of us can do. Many people use the yearly calendar change to set goals. Many of these are centered around weight loss. By the middle of January, frustration begins to set in. Once you’ve blown your diet, don’t give up. Just try a different approach.

First of all, you’ve got to break the sugar cycle. Personally, I don’t even like sugary snacks however, I am addicted to them. Once I eat a little, I eat a lot at regular intervals throughout the day. If you are anything like me, the key is simply to avoid sugar all together versus use the moderation method. Sugar stimulates cravings which cause consumption which cause more cravings. Got that? If you can avoid sugar for three full days, I promise you that your cravings will improve and settle down. Three days! That isn’t an eternity. Once you can make it three days with no sugar, check your alcohol consumption. Mine almost always goes up. That nightly gin and tonic you’ve been drinking more for the sugar than anything? Switch to something with less sugar and calories or eliminate it all together. As long as you can keep it in very good control, I don’t think a couple glasses of wine a week will kill you or cause you to gain weight. Note that I said a couple glasses NOT bottles. That will definitely pack on the lbs.

Once you deal with the sugar cravings, now it is time to deal with the salt. Most people find that with the sugar under control, salt cravings are more manageable. I am a popcorn-a-holic. There is nothing I enjoy more than a bag of artificially flavored popcorn. A bag of it makes my day! At this point in our detox, it is time to get rid of the salty snacks for a few weeks. Again, the whole point of this detox is to get your cravings under control so they don’t drive you and you can make good choices. On top of this, once you break the salt/sugar cycle, real food tastes good. If you don’t believe me, head off to the grocery store and smell a grapefruit. It’s hard to crave the natural flavors of grapefruit when you pollute yourself with straight corn syrup several times a day.

Now that the sugar and salt cravings are out of your system or at least manageable, let’s get to the hard part. For me, that involves adding in a lot more salads, soups and veggies and decreasing the bread. I would still recommend bread over sugar snacks. A loaf of bread used to be my favorite snack however middle aged ladies like myself simply can’t eat so much bread anymore. Also, bread cravings are just sugar cravings in disguise so if you are really looking to tame the beast, you have to handle these too.

Once you have the cravings under control, if you are trying to drop a few pounds you won’t feel like you are tormenting yourself as you try to reduce your portions and eat more healthfully. If you can load up your meals with fruits and vegetables, lean meats and a bit of whole grains and an even smaller portion of dairy, you will be well on your way to meeting your health goals and getting your eating under control.

Slow and steady wins the race every time versus crazy crash diets.

Exercise Habits as You Age

Wednesday, October 15th, 2014

An important topic for athletes to consider are the changes to make in your exercise habits as you age. Though my older friends disagree, when I divide 90 by 3, it puts in solidly in the middle aged category. Personally I think their disagreement is their own denial but it makes for a lot of fun conversations. As I have gotten older, I have had to change my exercise habits to keep the injuries at bay and feel good post workout.

When I was in grad school, it was nothing for me to go to a step aerobics class in the morning and a high impact aerobics class in the afternoon. Exercise is my Prozac and increasing the stress levels, just means I need more exercise to combat it. Fifteen years later, even one step aerobics class would probably leave me sore and twisted up for a week so I have needed to change my exercise habit as I have aged.

As I have started rounding the corner on 40, I have to add in activities that keep me limber and strong. Cross fit and old school weight lifting have gone away and I have replaced the 140lb squats with one legged squats on unstable surfaces or using TRX bands. I have also added in a pilates class at least once a week. If you haven’t tried pilates, it is hard as heck.. It took me going twice a week for two months before I was strong enough to not have back pain afterwards. If you have done pilates and it didn’t kick your butt, you weren’t paying attention to form and you were doing it wrong.

As far as running is concerned, I love running. Not because it feels good on my body, but because its very nature calms my mind. When I developed an awful case of plantar fascitis a few years ago, it was time to change that up. Obviously, I couldn’t run for awhile however, I fell in love with biking. I still run on occasion with my big dog trotting not too far behind but mainly I bike. My feet, knees and back feel better now and I find it a great stress reliever.  As you age, runners need to focus on strength building and rest days from running.

As for feeling better in the morning post exercise, we really need to stretch after our workouts. When you are younger, you can get away without stretching for a short time but take advantage of that too much when you are young and you develop really shortened muscles and a lot of stiffness that doesn’t have to be there. Does stretching always feel good? Absolutely not but you still need to do it. As far as how far to push yourself; if you can’t breathe there, you shouldn’t be there.

One last thing, don’t underestimate recovery days. I fully subscribe to the theory of “everyone needs to break a sweat every single day”. However, some of those days I do it by hitting up a big Three Rivers Park and going on a seven mile walk. Though I would feel as if I cheated the workout gods when I was 23 by walking, now, that definitely counts as exercise.

The biggest thing you can do to keep your body limber, fit and injury free is to change what you do every day. Using different muscles and joints in different directions is the key to spreading out the force and keeping your body healthy as you (we) age.

Nature’s Prozac: Natural Antidepressants

Wednesday, August 20th, 2014

I field questions frequently about natural antidepressants. With the hours of daylight decreasing and that terrible topic of winter just around the corner, I can already feel myself starting to freak out with the loss of sunlight. Here are a few tips for improving your moods, reducing depression and improving your mental health without antidepressants.

Before too many people get upset, do people need antidepressants on occasion?  Of course. However, I just received an email from my own health insurance company Blue Cross Blue Shield that they are now available from the online clinic doctors that read emails patients send them without ever meeting the person. What a crock of garbage. It amazes me that a health professional, MD, nurse practitioner or otherwise feels like they are qualified to write prescriptions for brain altering medications without even looking their patient in the eyes. Antidepressants shouldn’t be the first step for most people. There are a lot of natural antidepressants that are frequently helpful.

The number one natural antidepressant that we know of is exercise. If you are feeling punky, anxious, sad, depressed please do yourself a favor and exercise.  A study out of Harvard University found exercise to be just as effective and with longer lasting effects than Zoloft. On top of that, it wasn’t just a study done with slightly depressed people. Many of them had severe depression.

One of the most underrated natural antidepressants is sunlight. If you live in a climate that sees short hours of sunlight and lots of cloudy days and you notice yourself starting to feel extra sad this time of year, I recommend a sunlight for your desk. I use SunTouch Plus Desk Light in my office. I affectionately refer to is as my anti-murder light. It keeps me happy. Best $79 I have ever spent. Quite honestly, it worked so well, I bought two so I have one at home for non-work days. When the days grow shorter, I sit in front of it for the first 20 minutes in my office while I answer emails.

Let’s talk about a food that aggravates depression. Sugar. If you are prone to depression, stay away from it. First, it causes peaks and valleys in your glucose metabolism and the highs and lows will bring you up really quick and slam you down even faster. Also, it takes Vitamin B to process sugar. when you use up your Vitamin B processing sugar, you don’t have as much to regulate your moods.

If you follow these tips, odds are you will feel much better. On top of that, if you are prone to depression find a psychologist or licensed mental health therapist you trust. It amazes me the stigma some people still feel about finding help this way. What could possibly be better than someone who is forced to listen to your problems and and spend 50 straight minutes only talking about you?

The bottom line is that if you are depressed, get help.  Changes in exercise, diet and activities can make a huge difference as well as identifying and dealing with your problems with the help of a psychologist.

Mid Summer Weight Loss

Thursday, July 17th, 2014

Time for a mid-summer weight loss and nutrition check. I am always amazed by people who lose weight in the summer. I find it nearly impossible without a ton of intention. Here are a few tips to help you realize your summer weight loss goals.

First, sugary and salty snacks….. Packaged snacks are engineered with chemicals to stimulate your brain and make you crave more.   Stop eating them. You get no nutritive value from them.  NOTHING.  For those scarfing down a higher quality of snacks; bakery snacks….stop those too. Layer upon layer of sugar and salt stimulates cravings making you want more and more. Find a buddy that has been whining about weight loss and hold each other accountable even if it is just 24 hours with no sugary or salty snacks. If you can make it 72 hours, you can make it an entire week. Breaking the craving cycle is vital to getting your eating back on track.

Second, stop drinking so much. Again, empty calories. I didn’t say don’t drink at all just not so much. Summer brings lots of time for socializing, boating, and enjoying a glass of wine on your deck. You don’t need to give it up completely, just cut back. At 250 calories a mixed drink, 150 calories a beer or 125 calories a glass of wine, in a quantity of 3 or more, no wonder you feel bloated and that you’ve gained weight. Easy? It’s not. It’s a lot more fun to party on but it’s also a lot more fun to fit into your clothes and not huff and puff with every physical exertion.

Third, eat less. Use smaller plates or bowls to cut down on your portions. That beautiful set of plates in your cupboard, the great big ones? They are the enemy. You don’t need to replace them, just use a smaller one. You will put less on it and still feel full. Trust me on this.

Again, eat less, drink less, no snacks. Those seem like very obvious tips so there is no reason not to do them, starting today! At Active Family Chiropractic, we are here to help you reach all of your health goals. Give our Plymouth office a call today.

Yes, yoga can cause back pain

Wednesday, July 16th, 2014

Even the best cures can cause back pain and yoga is no different. The answer is yes, even as much as yoga can help back pain, yoga can cause back pain.

How is this possible? There are several ways that yoga can cause back pain. Let’s get a few things straight first. I am a trained yoga teacher who taught yoga for several years. I practice yoga myself. On top of that, I have an anatomy, physiology and injury prevention knowledge base that 99.99% of yoga teachers do not have. Yoga can be great for you in moderation and can help you resolve stiffness and tension in your body that has troubled you over a lifetime. Yoga can also be party to debilitating back and neck injuries. I have personally witnessed people blow discs in their back while practicing. I have personally taken care of many yoga instructors and yoga students who think that even though they practice yoga five days a week, their spinal pain can be resolved with even more flexibility.

Who are the people most likely to be injured at any activity? Research shows again and again, it;s your five percent least flexible and your five percent most flexible who find themselves in the most trouble. When I was teaching, it was hard to me to understand why so many of my co-teachers had more pain than any of their students and failed to see the cause.

Here are a few ways you can avoid hurting yourself. First, if you can’t breathe there, you shouldn’t be there. If you can’t comfortably inhale and exhale in a relaxed manner you are pushing yourself too hard. The goal isn’t to push yourself until you are able to tie yourself in a knot. It’s to relax your body as well as your mind and be healthy.

Second, building strength is just as important as building flexibility. This especially applies to women. If you are doing yoga twice a week, you should be doing strength training twice a week. No exceptions.

Third–common sense needs to prevail. If you inherently know that your body can’t bend like the teacher in the demonstration pose or have a fear of a pose, listen to your brain and don’t do it.

Finally- If you do yoga on even a weekly basis and your back pain or any other injury isn’t resolving, yoga isn’t going to solve it. It’s time to hit the chiropractors office and find out why you are in pain and create a strategy to solve it.

Chiropractic Care can help Chronic Headaches and Migraines

Friday, June 6th, 2014

Chiropractic care can help chronic headaches and migraines.  As a chiropractor and lifelong headache and migraine sufferer, I know first hand how helpful chiropractic care can be when it comes to relieving headache pain.

Step One-Prevention.  First of all, most head pain comes from having poor spinal positioning, posture and reduced spinal mobility.  Many times the muscles in your neck develop poor contraction patterns, scar tissue between muscle layers and cause referred pain to your head from adhesions in the muscles.  Many of these problems will improve greatly with chiropractic adjustments to your spine especially your neck and upper back.  When your spine functions better many times headaches and or migraines reduce in frequency and intensity.

Step Two-Avoidance of Triggers.  If you are a migraine sufferer, avoid the things that cause your brain to go wonky.  If your problem is too much sunlight, make sure you wear a ball cap and polarized sunglasses.  If you get tension headaches, make sure you are getting up frequently from your computer and have your screen height and keyboard height set to minimize neck and upper back strain.

Step Three-Keep living.  Migraine sufferers, I speak from experience.  After two days of sitting in dark rooms and no improvement, get back to living.  During a beautiful summer, no one wants to spend three days a week in bed.  If after a day or so the dark room treatment isn’t helping, try getting back to activities you enjoy that help you keep your spirits up while avoiding those that hurt you.  You might find that you feel better after going on a bike ride but any water sports are killer.  Get out of bed and get on your bike.  It is not easy to motivate yourself when you feel crappy but lying around doesn’t usually help for long.  If you are going to hurt anyway, you might as well do something you enjoy.  Disclaimer—as long as you aren’t making yourself feel worse!

At my Plymouth chiropractic office, we improve the function of the spine so that you will often find relief from your head pain.  Call today, there is no use wasting a beautiful spring and summer feeling poorly.



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