My Tips for Traveling with Low Back Pain

Let’s face it, it’s hard to drive long distances with back pain.  The ideal situation would be to get out of the car every 20-30 minutes to stand, move around, or stretch, but that’s not too practical, especially traveling long distances.  Here’s my tricks to try to bring relief to the low back pain sufferer. Pack the above items for your car ride: a cooler, gel ice pack, a hand towel, a small pillow, water and coconut water.  The cooler is for the ice pack, water and coconut water.  The beverages are for hydration to avoid muscle cramping. Your car may or may not have a lumbar support, but that does not matter.  You have a small pillow and rolled up hand towel for support. Switch between the lumbar support, the pillow and towel throughout the trip. I tell my patients to keep changing the amount of lumbar support to have your back experience different angles, but if one really suits you, then stick with that.  Use the ice pack as needed for pain control.  Remember that ice is one of the strongest anti inflammatories over the counter.  Some rules of thumb when using ice: a gel pack is most comfortable, never apply ice directly to skin (wrap it with the hand towel), apply for 15 minutes only, you can optimize icing by applying the ice every 2 hours. Last, but probably most importantly, when you start to experience some discomfort, recline you seat back slightly.  This opening of the seat angle takes pressure off the disc and nerve.  If you are in extreme discomfort, it is best to go to a rest stop, walk a little bit and stretch gently. 

Happy, safe and comfortable travels!

Stress and the Effect on One’s Health

The key to optimal health is the avoidance of stress (see types of stress below) and the implementation of healthy habits.  One of the most important jobs I have as a chiropractor is to help people discover their sources of stress and eliminate them or help improve them.  I also, teach people healthy habits to help improve their immune system.  Good habits include hand washing, eating healthy, exercise, meditation, hydration, and enough sleep. When a person can improve their immune system with good health habits and avoid stress, this is the point where they will be able to initiate self healing and will thus be in balance with their external environment.
Types of stress 

Mechanical -slips and falls, auto accidents, poor ergonomics at the workplace.

Emotional -psychological  stress, death of a loved one, exams

Nutritional-a lack of a certain nutrient or an excess of a nutrient

Chemical- smoking, alcohol, artificial sweeteners 

Environmental- mold, allergens, pollution

Hans Selye was a Hungarian endocrinologist who lived from 1907-1982.  He is most acclaimed for his GAS theory (General Adaptation Syndrome) theory, which is his explanation of what the body experiences physiologically and psychologically when they encounter a stress.  In stage 1  (alarm stage) when a person first experiences a stress, their fight of flight response is initiated by the sympathetic nervous system and stress hormones like cortisol and andrenaline are released.  In stage two (resistance stage), the parasympathetic nervous system tries to balance out the sympathetic nervous system.  The person appears normal externally as they are figuring out how to resist this stress.  Their stress hormones are still elevated as well as their blood pressure, heart rate and blood sugar.  In the final stage (exhaustion stage), if the person is not capable of overcoming the stress, then they will become more susceptible to disease and death.  

“It’s not stress that kills us, it is our reaction to it.” -Hans Selye

Is Ice or Heat Better for an Injury?

In most cases it is prudent to try ice first following an injury. Ice is one of the strongest anti-inflammatories. In the first 72 hours after an injury there is significant swelling. The ice decreases blood flow to the area and reduces swelling. A cold pack should be applied to the area of complaint. It is very important that you wrap the ice in a towel and NOT put the ice pack directly on your skin or it may cause frostbite and the Huntington reaction can occur (a phenomena whereby the body instinctively starts bringing blood to the area and heating the tissues to try to conteract the thought that it is being frostbitten). Ice is recommended for sprains and strains and general pain, swelling and bruising. I recommend 15-20 minutes of ice time only and to wait at least a full hour before icing the area again.
Heat can be used for chronic complaints. It helps to relax tight muscles and stiff joints and can be useful for arthritis discomforts. I recommend no longer than 20 minutes of moist heat wrapped in a towel so that you do not burn your skin. For athletic overuse injuries heat is recommended before the activity or sport and ice is indicated after play if there is swelling present.

What is chiropractic?

The definition of chiropractic that I use in my practice is this: chiropractic is the science that allows the body to heal itself by removing nerve interference so that the body can function properly. A chiropractor detects and corrects subluxations. A subluxation is a vertebrae that is stuck and not moving in it’ s proper and full range of motion. A chiropractor detects subluxations by hand while also gathering information about the spine by performing orthopedic and neurological evaluations and when necessary by analyzing x-rays or MRI’s.

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What Caused My Back Pain?

This is one of the most popular and common question that patients ask in our practice. I love answering this question because it makes the patient analyze the stresses they may have in their lives and allows them to make better health and lifestyle choices.

Sometimes it is totally obvious what caused their back pain. For example, they slipped on a wet floor and now have low back pain or they fell asleep on their sofa or in a funny position and woke up with neck pain. When symptoms come on insidiously or have a gradual or subtle onset then this is what prompts the question “what caused my pain?” I discuss with the patient that it could be from a mechanical, emotional or chemical source of stress.

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Webster Technique for Pregnant Women

The Webster technique is an integral part of my practice when working with pregnant women.  I received my Webster certification in 2003 from the International Chiropractic Pediatric Association. The Webster technique is a chiropractic adjusting technique that corrects the neurobiomechanics of the sacrum which creates normal function.  To learn more about the Webster technique you can visit click on chiropractic research and Webster Technique. Please share this invaluable information with pregnant women, especially those suffering with low back,  pelvis, or sacral complaints and refer them to a Webster certified chiropractor.

Can I adjust my own spine?

spineI certainly would not recommend it. Leave this to a professional chiropractor. We know just where and how to adjust each area of the spine. In chiropractic school I was taught that when people self adjust they are most often times adjusting the wrong segment. For example lets say that the T4 vertebra is subluxated or restricted. This means that T 4 is stuck and not moving in its proper and full range of motion. According to the laws of biomechanics that means that the vertebra directly above T4 which is T3 is moving excessively to make up for the lack of range of motion at T4. When someone self adjusts they are actually moving the very mobile T3 which reinforces the fixation or restriction at T4.

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