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Waking up with Neck Pain and Numbness

Thursday, February 11th, 2016

If you find yourself waking up with neck pain and numbness, I have a few helpful tips for you.


First of all, evaluate your sleeping posture.  If you prefer to sleep on your back, you need a pillow with the support (neck roll) under your neck.  The bulk of the pillow should not be under your head.  If your preference is to sleep on your side, you need a thicker pillow to keep your head in line with your neck.  If you are sleeping on a feather pillow that flattens out during the night or a thin foam pillow, that isn’t going to work.  You will spend a lot of the night with your head tilted towards the bed pinching off the nerves that exit your spine.  That causes you to wake up with neck pain and numbness.


Secondly,  I really like to read at night before I go to bed.  It’s a nice little ritual that helps me wind down from my day and makes me tired.  I found a pillow at The General Store in Minnetonka off of Highway 7 that is perfect for holding a kindle or a book.  It even has a nice pocket for my reading glasses.  It is shaped like a pyramid and has a little ridge around it the reader sits within.  For those of you who like books, it also has a long tassel to keep your page.  You can keep it on your lap, your table or take it to bed.  It keeps the book at an angle so your head isn’t constantly looking down.


Thirdly, ask yourself why you have neck pain and headaches.  Have you left a problem untreated for years only for your muscular imbalances to worsen?  Do you spend endless hours on devices such as laptops, phone and tablets?


It’s important to ask yourself what shape you want your spine to be in 5 years from now.  If the answer is better than it is right now, you need to change your device habits and also find a chiropractor so that you can correct the damage that years of looking forward and down have caused.

Hand Numbness

Friday, November 13th, 2015

Are portions of your hand going numb?  Do you feel hand numbness in certain fingers?  Do your fingers tingle or do you get sharp shooting pains in to your hands?


Many people come to my office telling me that they have carpal tunnel.  In 90% of those cases, and sadly even some they have been to the MD for, it is not the correct diagnosis.


What is carpal tunnel?  You have an indentation within the many bones of your wrist that the muscles that control the flexion of your fingers and your median nerve passes through.  It supplies the palm of your hand and first three fingers.  When you are having carpal tunnel symptoms you are getting compression of the median nerve AT your carpal tunnel.


Many times, even though you have numb fingers, the compression is happening somewhere else.  Often, I find the patient’s forearm to be full of trigger points (tiny painful adhesions between the muscles) that are causing hand numbness.  You can also have hand numbness that is caused by problems with your neck.  If the small holes between the bones of your spine where your nerves exit are causing compression or pressure to build up around your nerves, whatever they supply is not going to get the message.


With any of these issues, your first stop should be a chiropractor.  We are trained to diagnose and treat these problems as well as many others.  If you give chiropractic care a fair chance to work, listen to your doctors recommendations and still find after a couple weeks your symptoms aren’t improving, the chiropractor can refer you on for advanced imaging or diagnostics, physical therapy or even a neurologist consult.

Neck Pain From Texting and Constant Device Use

Friday, November 13th, 2015

Constant use of devices is causing “text neck” pain.  Have you noticed lately how much you look down and the neck pain that results?  Most of us spend 8-10 hours looking at a computer during the day.  On top of that when we aren’t looking at a computer screen, we are looking down at a phone, ipad, a book or a kindle.  We are often not in the best posture when using these devices.  It’s no wonder why our necks hurt and we get muscle fatigue, pain and headaches.

Our spines simply aren’t designed to support our heads that way for so many hours.  Your head weighs between 12-15 lbs.  When supported in good posture it balances well on your spine and skeleton.  When looking down, the weight is supported by the muscles in your neck and upper back and your spine is not doing the bulk of the supporting work as it should.  The result is neck pain from texting, reading and facebooking.

My advise is “be where you are at”, it is something I need to practice too.  People who email you don’t need instant communication back.  Facebook isn’t real life, it isn’t that important.  Recent research shows that people who don’t use it report higher levels of happiness and less anxiety.  Who among us couldn’t stand a little more happiness and freedom from anxiety.

On top of that, by constantly clicking between apps on our phones or ipads, we are destroying our attention spans and our ability to concentrate.  Research also shows that in the last decade the average American attention span has decreased an enormous amount.  I personally didn’t have a lot to begin with so this isn’t good news.

My recommendations are easier to say than do.  Set aside quiet hours and turn your phone off and put it away, at least put it on silent.  Make yourself have to get up to check it and put it on silent so the beeping doesn’t entice you into engaging. Set yourself a limit on how may times you can go on facebook a day and don’t keep it playing in the background on your computer.  Respond to emails in chunks if you have to be on top of things, don’t check it or respond constantly.

Part of my problem is that I love to read and often don’t do it in the best posture.  If I had to pick between giving up the ipad and giving up the book, the obvious choice is putting the ipad down.  I have been trying to leave my ipad in another room lately while I read.  Mine is old and almost dead and I am really evaluating whether or not I want a new one.  I am starting to think it might be more trouble than it is worth.  As for reading, I read either on a kindle that exclusively is a reader or a book.  If it was a kindle fire with all of my apps on, I would never actually finish a book because I would be mindlessly clicking between things.


So…bottom line.  Put the devices away or use them in good posture.  Your back and your brain will thank you!

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.

Electronic Devices Cause Neck Pain and Tingling Hands

Monday, August 11th, 2014

A multitude of electronic devices cause neck pain and tingling hands.  Personally I have a smart phone, ipad, kindle and  several laptops.  I am a non-techie person and find it rare to not find my devices acting like the world’s best temptress.  The more I use them, the more my neck hurts.  I can’t quite imagine what it must be like for the techie people who find not only their work but hobbies revolving around the computer and devices.

The number one key to avoiding neck pain and headaches caused by your electronic devices is to take frequent breaks from using them.  In a perfect world, you should only stare at a screen for a maximum of 15 minutes before you move around and do something else.  While this might not be realistic during the work day, simply do your best to take frequent breaks and make sure to follow this rule at home.

My number two tip for combating pain caused by electronic devices is to get out in the middle of the day and do something active.  If it simply means leaving the office to get lunch, go on a walk or take time for a workout, taking a break from sitting down is critical.  It helps your body feel better, helps you manage your stress and gives you breaks in your day to allow your mind to be creative.

As for specific device tips, if you are typing emails on ipads, keep them short and don’t use your hands as you would a traditional keyboard.  The hunt and peck method will make your keyboarding teacher cringe but your wrists and elbows will thank you.  If you spend a lot of time reading on your kindle, you will also feel better if you turn it horizontally and put it in landscape mode.  If you love reading and it is your main hobby, I would encourage you to get the giant kindle versus the purse size one that I have.  It’s easier to hang on to, will strain your elbows and wrists less and is easier to prop up against something to see from a distance.  When it comes to smart phones, I would suggest evaluating how much time you spend looking down at it and if its really that important that it can’t wait until you get to your computer.  Don’t read long documents on your smart phone, don’t respond to long emails, and limit your gaming time.

The most important thing to remember is that when you are using your devices, you aren’t interacting with other human beings and forming healthy relationships.  Don’t let your devices come between you and the people in your life that you enjoy and love.  On top of that, while your devices might make things convenient for you, they are also keeping you from being active and healthy.  It’s tough to get exercise if you won’t pry yourself away from the screen.

If you find yourself with neck pain, headaches or tingling hands, you probably have nerves that are getting irritated.  Call our Plymouth chiropractic office today to schedule an appointment.

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.



Chronic Stress and Chronic Pain

Monday, April 28th, 2014

Have you wondered about the connection between chronic stress and chronic pain? Consider this, you have been hunkered down in front of a spreadsheet doing the turtle pose at your desk all morning when your boss calls you into her office. Your client is in another bad mood and now so is she. You’ve already spent 25 hours over the last two days in front of a computer screen and it’s still not good enough. Is it any wonder why you have a headache and back pain?

Let’s take the above example and analyze it. First of all, your body position at a computer is bad for you even when you are using your best posture. Secondly, hours on end of sitting and staring at a screen will cause you to start to bend forward creating strain throughout your spinal muscles. You will also chronically shorten your hip flexors causing lower back pain. Then you end up in an intense discussion with your boss and your shoulders end up by your ears due to stress. Your body recreates this cycle again and again leading to chronic pain.

Let’s take another example. You and your husband haven’t been getting along lately. When you come home, you are already stressed and irritable from a long day at work and so is he. Your body is tight and muscles are already shortened due to your habit of holding tension in your shoulders. You come home and want to relax and immediately you two start bickering with each other about the kids. The bickering ends for the night, the headache begins. You go to bed and your body is tense and tight all night because you are sleeping next to your worthy opponent all night and are still angry. When you wake up you wonder why your neck is sore and stiff. Then you go to work and do it all over again.

Chronic stress causes chronic pain. If you can manage your stress you can improve your pain as well as your emotional well being. Try mediating. Try sleeping in a separate room where you can get good quality sleep. Try getting up from your desk several times an hour so your body isn’t punished by your job. Try chiropractic, it will break your pain cycle and help you manage your stress better as well as prevent it from accumulating in your body.

Eliminating Pain from Sleeping Wrong

Thursday, March 13th, 2014

Do you wake up with pain from sleeping wrong?  One of the most frequent complaints chiropractors hear is, “I think I slept wrong and now (fill in the blank) hurts.  How do you sleep?  Do you wake up in pain?  Does your bed partner complain about you tossing and turning all night long?


One of the best pieces of advice I have is DO NOT, under ANY circumstance sleep on your stomach. Eight straight hours of your neck being turned to one side and your lower back arching all night is going to leave you in pain the next morning.  If you have been sleeping that way your entire life, it is going to take a few weeks of sleepless misery to change your habit.  It will be worth it in the end, stick with it.  I recommend using a body pillow to start turning yourself over.


If you are a side sleeper, make sure you have a nice thick pillow supporting your head so that it is inline with the rest of your spine.  Also, make sure you are not choosing to sleep on an extra firm bed or that will create pressure points on your shoulders and hips.  Putting a pillow between your knees will also help your lower back be better aligned through the night.


For my back sleepers, thank you, you are the least likely to have pain from your sleeping position.  I would recommend getting an orthopedic pillow for your neck that has the lowered area in the middle and roll for your neck to fall over.  I would also recommend those of you with lower back pain to put a pillow underneath your knees to provide support for your lower back.


If you follow these tips you should enjoy more restful nights and less painful mornings.

Sitting and Back Pain: How it Affects Your Spine for the Future

Friday, November 30th, 2012

Ever wonder what long hours at your desk does to your body? As they say, sitting is the new smoking! Sitting and back pain go hand in hand.  Many people who sit down throughout their day, end up with all sorts of other health issues.

Why does your neck both you so much? As you lean in towards the computer throughout your day, you start to develop forward head posture which puts more stress and strain on the muscles of your upper back and the muscles between your shoulder blades. The muscles in the front of your neck also have to contract more than their fair share. This can result in frequent tension headaches. To combat this problem, make sure to keep your head back and over your shoulders. Don’t lean in towards whatever you are working on or reading.

Why does your lower back bother you? The muscles of your hips that attach to your lumbar spine are called your hip flexors. When you sit down, they shorten up. With enough prolonged sitting, their permanent state becomes shortened and they pull on your lower back every time you are in a standing position. This causes frequent back pain and discomfort. The solution? Get up every thirty minutes and take a few minutes to stand up while doing your paperwork. Or, even better, ask for a standup desk that can be raised and lowered at your leisure.

Make sure to counteract the effects of sitting on your job with lots of physical activity when you are done with work. Make sure your habits and hobbies don’t keep you more sedentary than you need to be.

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