As you read the following questions and their answers, I hope you’ll gain an even better understanding of chiropractic care and my goals in educating my patients on how to stay out of pain and improve their quality of life. I’ve tried to include questions and responses that cover some of the other issues I work within my practice, namely topics that did not fall neatly within the categories of my eBook Chripractic 101.
Is it better to use ice or heat when I’m in pain?
I get asked this question more than any other and my best answer is…it depends. Let me explain first what ice and heat do when you put them on your body, then I will explain the two different scenarios for their use, followed by some do’s and don’ts.
Both ice and heat serve to interrupt the pain that is traveling from an injured area to your brain. Essentially what happens is that the information your body transmits about the heat or cold travels to your brain faster than pain, so you don’t feel the pain as much.
Both heat and cold also serve to reduce muscle spasms and muscle tension. Heat increases the circulation to an area, thereby bringing more nutrients and taking away more harmful waste products. Ice reduces the circulation to an area, thus reducing swelling. So, they both work, but there are specific times when one works much better than the other.
It is always best to use ice for the first 48-72 hours right after an injury. The ice will help to decrease the swelling and inflammation. After the first 72 hours, if the swelling and inflammation have gone down, you can switch to heat, which will help to relieve any muscle tension while you continue to heal.
It is best to use heat for chronic muscle soreness or soreness after an activity (as long as an injury with swelling is not present). The heat will help the muscles relax. Heat can also be helpful for chronic joint pain such as arthritis (osteoarthritis).
The directions for using ice and heat are the same. Apply ice or heat for 15-20 minutes at a time only. Then take away the ice or heat, and wait until the skin returns to room temperature (usually 30-40 minutes) before reapplying. It is ok to use a bag of ice or a commercial ice pack, as long as you wrap them in a towel first (to prevent injury to your skin). For heat, it is best to use a moist heat source such as a hot shower, hot tub, or hot towel.
I feel like exercising would help me, but I don’t know where to start. Can you help me?
In a word, yes. The best place to start is at the core. Your “core” muscles (the muscles of the trunk of the body) take priority over any other part of the body in terms of strength training.
Your core muscles protect not only your vital organs but, just as importantly, they guard your spine from injury. Imagine a cell phone tower. There are guy wires all around, each adjusted to the perfect amount of tension, to keep that tower stable. Your spine is like that tower, and your trunk muscles are like the strategically-positioned wires that keep the “tower” in line, while still being flexible and moving with the spine.
However, these “wires”—your muscles—must keep the correct amount of tension if the joints of the spine are to line up correctly. The balance that keeps the muscles working together cannot be thrown off by the muscles becoming slack, weak, or over-tight; if the balance is lost, the spine becomes vulnerable to injury and stress.
The good news is that it is never too late to start developing strong core muscles. I can help design a simple program that you can do at home, regardless of your current physical condition. I am a big fan of Dr Stuart Mcgill who I feel is the up most expert on low back pain and core training. Here is a link to the core exercises that I recommend everybody do daily whether you have low back pain or not. It will take less than 10 minutes a day. Stuart Mcgill’s Daily Core Exercises.
Which type of mattress is the best?
The mattress market has exploded recently and there are more choices than ever before. Each manufacturer claims that their mattresses are better than those of their competitors. Each brand claims that research has shown that people get better sleep with their products. All have snazzy commercials with impressive demonstrations. All claim that they have the perfect mattress for you.
There is only one problem…not every mattress is right for you. The following tips will guide you in shopping for the correct mattress. By following these, you should be well on your way to restful sleep.
Know that quality trumps hype. Don’t buy a mattress based on gimmicks alone.
Study the products. Know as much as you can about the three main types of mattress construction before you shop: traditional coil; air; and memory foam.
Study yourself. Determine if you are a still sleeper, who may sleep well on a memory foam bed, or an active sleeper who would do better on a traditional coil or air mattress. Also determine if you and your sleep partner are different enough in size and sleep pattern to need an adjustable air bed.
Time your trip wisely. Go shopping for your mattress in the late afternoon or early evening when you and your sleep partner (who should come with you) are tired.
Take your time while shopping. Pick a mattress within your price range and lie on it for at least 15-20 minutes before trying a different one. Lie in the position that you normally sleep. Pay attention to your body and try and feel if you are being supported correctly and comfortably. No part of your body should sink in or sag more than the others. If you fall asleep, chances are you are either too tired, or you made an excellent choice.
Having the right kind of mattress is essential to a good night’s sleep, which is one of the key elements of a healthy life. The right mattress, when paired with good chiropractic care, can also put you on the road to freedom from neck, back, and joint pain.
If I receive chiropractic care in Bend for my neck pain, will I have to keep going forever?
I get asked this question and ones like it a lot; the short answer is NO.
Let’s look at this a little more closely, and I will explain. First of all, NO, you don’t really have to keep going to a chiropractor forever if you go once for neck pain, low back pain, headaches, etc. The decision is totally yours. However, many people do return to a chiropractor after the first visit. It is also important to understand that our lifestyles often predispose us to needing to see your chiropractor more often. For instance if you sit alot for work, you are putting a lot of added stress to you spine especially your low back. Seeing your chiropractor regularly can help you maintain a healthy spine and stay out of pain.
There are also conditions that predispose a person to benefit from getting chiropractic care regularly. If a person has scoliosis or has developed arthritis in their joints regular chiropractic visits may be essential to keeping symptomatic pain from these conditions under control.
Another reason for many patients’ return is that they simply want to keep their bodies feeling great and pain-free. Many patients do not realize how badly they are hurting, or how much the pain is affecting their lives until they start feeling better after getting Treated and receiving chiropractic care. When their bodies begin to feel just a little bit “off,” they are aware that something is not right, and they want to get back to normal as soon as possible. This looks different for everyone, sometimes they come in once a month, sometime every couple months and sometimes a couple times a year EVERYBODY IS DIFFERENT.
My patients also tend to keep coming back to the chiropractor is simply to maintain a healthy habit. We know that eating right, exercising, and good hygiene are all habits necessary for a healthy lifestyle. You understand that your diet needs more variety than just potato chips and cookies. You would never go months without brushing your teeth. Why not show your muscles and joints, which is responsible for your functionality, the same respect?
My goal for each of my patients is to not only get them out of pain but to help them stay pain free. I want to educate them on proper office and day to day ergonomics, exercises and stretches, and information that gives them the tools to take care of their body and spine and will not need to see me for chiropractic care as often.
Back support is a main focus of office ergonomics. With this in mind, it is crucial that your office chair provides back support angling just past 90 degrees or up to 90 degrees, also there should be cushioning that pushes your back forward when sitting back in your chair. Proper low back support will help prevent slouching, and in turn decrease low back pain.
Be Aware of Your Posture
Often times you get your office ergonomics set perfectly, but then you don’t take advantage of it and you let your posture fall apart during the day. In order to avoid this, it is important to make a conscious effort to sit with your bottom pressed against the back of the chair, and make sure to avoid slumping or slouching, this puts added stress on the lumbar discs and other stuctures in the low back.
Be Aware of Your Screen Height
Once you have your chair and your desk adjusted properly, your legs are comfortable, and your back is correctly supported, now the final part to maximizing your office ergonomics is having your computer screen at the proper height. To check this start by sitting up straight, close your eyes and take a deep breath. While keeping your eyes closed, casually look forward, and then open your eyes. The center of your computer screen shold be right in the middle of your gaze. If not, make the proper adjustment so that your screen is level with your line of sight. This adjustment can be made with a computer riser or simply use books to raise your screen to the right height.
Check In with Your Bend Chiropractor
If you find that these tips on improving your office ergonomics do not help alleviate the pain you are experiencing, check in with your BendChiropractor. A physical exam may point to some more specific problems that can be fixed with chiropractic care and manual therapy. But more often than not, sometimes not matter what you do.
Stayed tuned for more tips and information about chronic pain, sports medicine, and other musculoskelatal conditions. My goal as your Bend Chiropractor is to educate the community on how through some simple lifestyle changes you can find pain relief and improve your quality of life for good.