Category Archives: Uncategorized

Summer Gardening

Gardening can be a relaxing and delightful activity for many during the summer season. If you enjoy growing your own fresh veggies, you know now is the time to be working hard in the garden to have a bountiful fall harvest. If flowers are your thing, pruning and pulling weeds are important parts of making your yard beautiful. An added benefit of gardening is that it can be a rewarding part of your exercise routine. Gardening for an hour can burn 200-400 calories a session. That physical component can make you stronger and more flexible. Research shows it can also improve mental health through relaxation and stress-relief. However, it can also cause some lower back pain if your form isn’t at its finest. While gardening is a great activity for mind and body, there are some things you’ll need to keep in mind to avoid injury.

First, always warm-up before you do any physical activity. Stretching your muscles and warming up before any activity can keep your muscles loose and help prevent a strain. After warming-up, set attainable goals. Your garden will be there for you tomorrow, so don’t over exert yourself in one day. Make a plan ahead of time and assess how you feel each hour. If you feel sore, tired or thirsty, give yourself a break. Make sure you have a water bottle at the ready to keep hydration at a healthy level. Since gardening often requires repetitive action, stretching will help keep your muscles loose. The repetitive action can often cause strain, so, try to switch up your tasks to avoid overusing some muscles and under-using others.

Once you’ve formed a plan and stretched, you can begin your work. Since bending and reaching are the most frequent activities when gardening, proper form is of utmost importance. We’ll remind you to lift with your legs, not with your back. When you bend, whether at the knees or the back, a flat, neutral back is the best form to keep. Often, when we are bent over for long periods of time, we round our back and stretch out the muscles and ligaments of the back, which can cause pain and strain. The best way to keep a neutral back when bending is to hinge at your hip joint; avoid rounding your back. This might mean sticking out your rear, which at first might feel unnatural, but will ultimately save you from an aching back after your gardening.

If you find it easier to garden while kneeling, you might find that soft cushions or pads will help ease the pain. You might have trouble going from a kneeling position to a standing one, so consider a kneeler or chair to leverage your weight and arm strength to get you back into a standing position. These pads and kneelers can help reduce the stress on your knees and back. You’ll want to position yourself close to your task, so that you are not over-reaching. Again, plan your work so that you are close to the job for the right amount of time. If you’ve planned far enough in advance, you might consider using raised beds for your gardening. The elevated beds could be easier for you to access without excessive bending and stretching.

Finally, don’t forget to use the right tools. There are great options to help you in the garden to keep you from over-extending your back. Long-handled tools will eliminate the need for bending and stretching, giving you the option to stand for longer periods during your gardening time.  You might even consider using these tools while seated if you need to give your feet, back, and knees a break. If at any point you feel like you need help, ask for it. Take a break. Your garden will wait.

Scoliosis: Signs, Symptoms and Screening

June is scoliosis awareness month. Scoliosis is a condition which causes a curvature in the spine. Idiopathic scoliosis is most commonly seen in girls with a family history of the condition, between the ages of 10 and 12; however, anyone can be impacted by the condition.

While it is a rare condition, you should consider a routine screening for younger children. If left untreated, the curve can worsen and even restrict heart and lung function. The spine stiffens as we age, making it more difficult to treat scoliosis in later years. Children are often screened at school, but knowing some of the signs and symptoms of scoliosis can help with early intervention and treatment plans.

An x-ray will be needed to confirm the presence of scoliosis; however, there are common signs and symptoms  you can keep an eye out for. In school screenings, a maneuver called the Adam’s Forward Bend Test is used to get a closer look at the spine. During this maneuver, the spine must be visible. The examinee bends at the waist with his or her feet together and arms hanging. The examiner will look for some of the following symptoms:

  • Asymmetry of the spine
  • The body leaning to one side
  • Uneven shoulders
  • One shoulder blade sticking out more than the other
  • An uneven rib cage
  • Uneven hips
  • The waist appearing uneven
  • The head  not lining up with the pelvis
  • One leg appearing shorter than the other

When preparing a child for a scoliosis screening, it is important to reassure them that the test is painless. They are often in a private room and will not have to be exposed to their classmates or teachers. If the screening is positive, the examiner will recommend that a more thorough examination should happen with your doctor. The doctor will perform more in-depth testing, including an x-ray to confirm the presence of scoliosis.

Even an untrained professional can notice the signs and symptoms of scoliosis. If you notice that your child has uneven shoulders or hips, you may want to make an appointment with their doctor to have them fully tested. Once tested, the doctor can tell you if scoliosis is present. If it is, the doctor will then let you know what the best treatment path would be. In some cases, a brace or surgery is needed to straighten the spine, while in other cases, the doctor may suggest simply monitoring your child’s growth and spine.

Scoliosis is primarily viewed as a physical condition. But, those that suffer from untreated scoliosis often talk about the emotional toll it takes, as well. They report feeling self-conscious about their looks and dealing with the pain they endure because of the condition. Some people report struggling with simple tasks like sitting at a desk or choosing what clothes to wear for the day. The good news is that children diagnosed with idiopathic scoliosis can be treated.  

It is important to catch scoliosis early so that treatment occurs sooner and the pain of advanced scoliosis can be avoided. If you have questions about screening, diagnosis, or treatment of scoliosis, you can contact our Nurse Navigator for help!

Mindfulness Meditation

Mindfulness Meditation: A New Treatment for Back Pain

The back is a sophisticated structure of bones and muscles. The delicate system can be strained or irritated leading to some form of back pain. At any given time, it is estimated that 31 million Americans experience lower back pain.

Back pain can be difficult to manage, which is why it is the leading cause of occupational disability worldwide. Often, a sufferer is told that a combination of painkillers, heat/ice therapy, and exercises will help relieve back pain. However, a new study shows that a new, natural treatment could be effective in combating the pain: mindfulness meditation. The study showed that participants who engaged in mind-body therapy (Mindfulness Stress Based Relief Meditation) showed improved pain scores over the 8-week treatment sessions.

The research gives new hope to sufferers of back pain, especially those who are wary of taking pharmaceuticals for management. To incorporate mindfulness into a pain management routine, it might be good to start from the beginning. What is mindfulness meditation? Mindfulness is being aware of both your mind and body as well as your thoughts and feelings, and is the skill of paying attention to your inner and outer experiences with acceptance, patience, and compassion.

In order to get started, there are some specialized, yet simple, techniques to practice mindfulness meditation. A basic recommended technique is posture therapy, which is essentially sitting in a controlled manner. Easy, right? In order to implement this routine, you’ll first want to take a seat–it can be on the floor, or on a sturdy chair or cushion.

If on the floor, cross your legs, and if in a chair, plant your feet on the floor. Straighten your back without stiffening it, and allow your hands to drop on the tops of your legs. If you feel as if you are hunched or stiff, adjust your posture to be straight, but comfortable. Drop your chin and allow your gaze to fall gently downward. Then, relax.

During this time, you can focus on your breathing. Don’t worry if your mind wanders. Don’t worry if your mind is empty. Exist in the moment of relaxation. You can hold this position for 3-5 minutes, and that’s it!  A few minutes a day can start you on the path to reduced pain!

If you are still feeling intimidated by the idea of meditation, there are some wonderful apps that can help jump start your mindfulness journey. Different apps will include guided features to help you through meditation by improving your technique and overcoming any self-consciousness associated with it. You can find a nice list of highly rated apps here, or explore the app store to find one that suits your needs!

As we continue to explore treatment options, we are discovering that back pain is manageable and that implementing healthy, non-pharmaceutical treatment techniques could be what keeps you pain-free in certain situations! If you have questions about your pain and want to consult with a doctor, please contact us here.



Scoliosis: The Basics

June is Scoliosis Awareness Month.  If you don’t quite know what Scoliosis is, you likely have heard the word at some point during your middle school career.  Most of us endured the somewhat uncomfortable spine check as our self-conscious 11-year-old self tried to hold back the giggles.  At the time, you likely weren’t explained why this test was necessary and were simply given the short speech that it was: “to make sure your back was straight.”  But, scoliosis is much more complicated than that and these in-school checks are an important screening process to catch scoliosis in its early stages.

Scoliosis is a condition which causes a sideways curvature of the spine.  While scoliosis can share a comorbidity with cerebral palsy or muscular dystrophy, it can exist on its own.  The cause of scoliosis is unknown.  The most common type of Scoliosis occurs in children and is more prevalent in girls after the age of 10.  Growth spurts occurring just before puberty are often when the curvature presents itself.

Scoliosis can be classified into two groups: structural and non-structural.  Non-structural scoliosis is related to a spine that in its structure is normal, but a slight, temporary curvature appears, likely due to differences in leg length, muscle spasms, or even appendicitis.  These causes are directly treated and the curvature can resolve.  Structural scoliosis is often related to a structural abnormality due to injury, a neuromuscular disease, infections or tumors.  This type of scoliosis is treated on a case-by-case basis, but can include surgical intervention, bracing or observation.

Scoliosis is diagnosed by a medical professional and is often first noted by an in-school screening or regular physician visits.  A more in-depth evaluation will be needed to conclusively diagnose the scoliosis.  This will include: 1) Medical History:  Scoliosis can often be found in multiple family members, so, if a parent or sibling has the condition, it is important to tell the doctor.  Also, birth defects, injury or other conditions should be noted.  2) Physical Examination: The doctor will look for a spinal curvature, uneven hips, uneven shoulders, asymmetric waist line or a shoulder blade protruding.  3) X-ray: Finally, an x-ray of the spine will be needed to confirm the curvature and the degree of the curve.  Once the diagnosis is made, the doctor will create a treatment path which will include routine observation and examination.  Again, a back brace or surgery may be needed to correct the issue.

If the issue is not corrected, the spine can continue to curve as the child grows.  If it does, it may worsen to the point that the rib cage is restricted.  This can impact the function of the lungs and the heart, making it harder to breathe.  It can also cause chronic back pain.  Finally, as the conditions worsens, one’s appearance will change.  This can often lead to feelings of low self-image, depression and other psychological impacts.

If you have a family history of scoliosis, or notice that your child displays any of the symptoms of scoliosis, you should consider having them evaluated to get a proper diagnosis and treatment course.  Please contact us if you have questions about scoliosis, its diagnosis and/or treatment.



Technology: A Real Pain in the Neck

Remember the first time you ever heard of someone getting carpal tunnel syndrome?  We’re sure you were surprised to learn how they got it: from typing!  It was a rarely heard-of affliction mostly due to the insurgence of computers into our daily lives.  With new technology, there can often be a learning curve, both in how to effectively use it, as well as how to utilize it in a healthy manner.

 Recently, a new injury is causing pain for many tech users: Text-neck.  The all-too-familiar scene: sitting at your desk or walking down the street, you’re hunched over your smartphone texting your friends about meeting for lunch.  We hate to sound like a broken record, but: that is very poor posture.  

Often, your neck is craning your head over your phone and your shoulders are slouched forward.  This stance can strain your muscles and cause pain and tension in your upper body and neck.  Worse, bending your neck over your phone can actually put upwards of 50 pounds of excess strain on your spine.  Holding this position repeatedly can lead to some headaches and at its most severe, disc injury and arthritic changes to your neck.  Some people may even notice tingling and pain down their shoulders, arms and hands.  

If you are guilty of this texting posture, and hey, who isn’t, it’s time to implement some of these techniques to help prevent permanent injury to your neck and spine.

  1. Take A Break

Take note of how often you find your head, neck and shoulders in the hunched texting position.  You will want to correct the posture to a healthier, more upright position.  Look away from your screen every few minutes.  This will remind you to sit upright and also has the added benefit of giving your eyes a break from the screen’s light.

   2. Change your phone habits

You might feel a little awkward at first, but it would be best to bring your phone up to eye level when you are reading an email or following directions.  This position is much better for your neck and back, although, it will take some getting used to.  If needed, when you are at a desk, you can get a phone or tablet holder to keep it at eye level.  Beyond that, you can set some automatic reminders on your phone, say every 10 minutes, to let you know it is time to take a break and adjust your posture.

   3. Try some neck stretches

There are great exercises and stretches that you can do daily.  They are simple and can be done at home or at your desk.  You can try the “Corner Stretch”, where you place your arms on the two walls where the corner meet and lean into the corner, or the “Levator Scapula Stretch”.  You’ll want to read the detailed instructions on these stretches.   If you want to go with a basic stretch, you can do a simple “chin tuck” where you pull your chin to your chest and hold it for a few seconds.  

    4. Take another break

If you can, ditch your smartphone as much as possible.  If you don’t need it, don’t pull it out.  Your neck will thank you.

If you try these techniques and the pain in your neck, shoulders and back doesn’t subside, it might be time to seek professional help.  You can make an appointment with one of our specialists to talk about your neck pain.