Last week, I had a conversation with a former patient, Catherine, who was expressing concern over the upcoming winter and the toll that shoveling could take on her body.
Catherine has been suffering from back pain off and on for many years, and she was concerned about the possibility of obtaining a back injury from shoveling snow this winter that could lead to further back problems in the future.
With the first snow just around the corner, I thought others may benefit from some of the same tips I shared with Catherine.
First things first, if it is possible, find a shovel with an adjustable handle and lightweight plastic shovel blade, as this will help eliminate extensive bending and back strain.
Shoveling is just like any other exercise, and you should warm up for about five to ten minutes beforehand. You can do this either by doing some light movements, such as bending side to side or walking in place, and make sure to stretch out before shoveling, especially your back muscles and hamstrings.
Push rather than lift. Pushing the snow with the shovel instead of lifting can help reduce the strain on your body.
When lifting snow, make sure you are lifting correctly. Keep your chest forward and your load light, but if you absolutely must lift a heavier load, keep one hand close to the blade while the other one rests on the handle. This will make lifting much easier. But be careful never to lift more than you carry. Don’t forget: Bend at the hips, never the back, and don’t just toss the load; rather, physically carry the snow to its new location.
Take breaks whenever you feel overworked to relax and stretch your muscles. Go slowly, at a speed that is comfortable for you. Also try to spread the shoveling out over a period of days if possible, or at least only shovel a few inches of snow at a time to avoid overexerting yourself.
Maintaining good footing also goes a long way in preventing injuries. Make sure you keep both feet firmly planted on the ground. Footwear with good treads is imperative. Try spreading substances like salt or sand over the cement to increase traction.
If you have already been experiencing back pain from a previous shoveling injury, please don’t hesitate to give my office a call. I would love to talk with you further about how we can help!
I’ve recently had a patient come in with severe neck pain and she couldn’t figure out what had been going on. She had noticed the tension mounting for weeks, before culminating in neck strain painful enough that she needed to seek treatment.
Although she holds a desk job, she’s always been aware of the importance of taking breaks, and always makes sure to get up each hour, get away from the computer screen, and stretch all her muscles. She lives a healthy lifestyle and always remains active, either through jogging or practicing yoga twice a week.
However, as we were talking, it came to my attention that she often spends 30 to 40 minutes each night on her phone, either checking her messages or playing a game to unwind. She didn’t realize something so small over many weeks could slowly amount to neck strain, the kind of severe neck strain that has left her in a great deal of pain.
But staring at your phone screen for too long is not the only part of your nightly routine with the possibility of adding to your neck pain.
Sleeping with two pillows also holds the possibility of straining your neck because of the angle at which your head is tilted for hours at a time. Think about going to a movie theater and sitting in one of the first rows, where you have to crane your neck to see the screen. Now imagine having your head tilted at that angle for roughly 8 hours each night. This is similar to the amount of pressure placed on your neck from using two pillows at once.
Instead, try sleeping with only one pillow. This may be a bit of an adjustment after having been sleeping with your head propped up for so long, but once you get used to it, you will feel such a relief from the loss of pressure placed on your neck.
Another neck-straining nightly routine that we’ve already touched on is checking emails, reading, or playing on your phone before bed. These activities tend to cause your head to be tilted at an odd angle.
Therefore, the role of supporting your head falls to you neck, rather than your shoulders. Your neck is often tensing its muscles to support your head and keep it upright, which is a good thing when used the way it was meant to be. However, when your neck must compensate for your head not being supported by your shoulders, this can quickly lead to an increase in neck strain. Try putting your phone away at least 30 minutes before bed.
On the other hand, a beneficial nighttime routine that is often overlooked is stretching. Throughout the day, all kind of stressors can get in the way of living our healthiest lives, and we don’t often make time for relaxing and stretching our muscles. Going twelve hours without stretching your tense muscles can lead to further neck pain.
Try stretching for a good five minutes before you go to sleep and after you wake up to keep your muscles loose. This will not only reduce the neck pain you may be suffering from, but it may even relieve much of the stress you’ve been experiencing, making for a happier, more relaxing day!
P.S. If you would like more tips on how to ease neck pain, you can download my free report that shows you ways to ease neck pain naturally. Go here to get your copy and take it with you: www.restoreptllc.com/neck-pain.
It’s been a fun but busy week at the office! We’ve had a great time getting to know all our new patients, including a patient who was concerned because his back pain had gotten worse in recent months. He couldn’t figure out what the cause was. His routine had stayed fairly consistent, and he hadn’t suffered an injury.
As it turned out, the problem was his 7-year-old mattress. Mattresses are such a vital part of our sleeping—and healing—process, and yet, it’s so easy to overlook.
It is important to monitor your mattress and know when it might be time for a switch. This is especially true if you suffer from back pain or back-specific conditions.
It is usually best to switch out a mattress once it is over 5-6 years old or if another mattress is more comfortable. Research has shown that switching from an old mattress to a new one reduces back pain and increases the quality of sleep.
If you are planning on getting a new mattress, but aren’t sure what to look for, here are some things to consider when choosing a mattress:
We already talked briefly about Pillow-tops, but here are a few more common types of mattresses for you to look into during your next mattress shopping adventure:
It is also important to note that coils and padding are the most vital aspects of a mattress, as they are in charge of providing spine support. Generally, the more coils and the thicker the padding, the higher the quality (and price) of the mattress. But the mattress with the most coils and padding may not necessarily be the right choice for you. Mattress preference varies by individual and that individual’s back condition.
Sleep is so important, especially if you are trying to heal from an injury or have a back condition that demands a high quality of sleep. I hope this article was able to help you choose a better, more comfortable mattress for your sleep needs. If you are suffering from a back condition or pain related to an uncomfortable mattress, give our office a call! We’d love to talk with you about different treatment options to get you back to the good night’s sleep you deserve!
P.S. If you would like more tips on how to ease back pain, you can download my free report that shows you ways to ease back pain naturally. Go here to get your copy and take it with you: www.restoreptllc.com/back-pain.
I’m sure many of you have been using the warmer weather as an opportunity to be more active. However, this active lifestyle is not without risk of injury, and sometimes, even though we were certain we warmed up and did everything we could to prevent injuries, they can still happen. Back injuries, in particular, have been a fairly common problem for many patients in our clinic.
One question that often plagues people’s minds amid these injuries is when it is acceptable to use a cold compress and when to use heat therapy, and the benefits to both.
Cold therapy reduces both swelling and pain. It can also result in less tissue damage and relieve the tissues that have become sore. Use cold therapy:
Heat is often used later in the healing process to increase blood flow to the injured area, as well as much-needed oxygen and nutrients. Heat should never be used as a FIRST resort immediately following the initial injury. Instead, it should only be used to assist in the healing process after the swelling and inflammation have gone down.
There are two different kinds of heat that you can use to treat an injury: dry heat or moist heat. Dry heat tends to be easier and usually involves an electric heating pad or a sauna, but this can often leave your skin feeling more dehydrated. Moist heat is a little harder to do, but it helps bring heat into your muscles. Examples of moist heat are hot baths, steamed towels, or moist heat packs. You can make your own moist heat pack by pouring either oatmeal or rice into a sock, tying it together with some thread, and heating it in the microwave for 1-3 minutes.
However, if you have diabetes, an open wound, or dermatitis, do NOT use heat therapy!
For those suffering from chronic lower back pain, there’s no easy answer regarding which form of therapy will work best for you because everyone’s body is different. As a general rule, a lot of patients who enjoy being active tend to prefer using heat therapy prior to working out to warm up their muscles, while they prefer cold therapy afterward, to reduce the inflammation and swelling.
However, I would caution you against using self-care for too long, for this could end up making the back pain worse.
If you’ve been suffering from chronic pain for a while, it is a good idea to seek help from a medical professional to find relief from your pain. If you have any questions, or if you have tried the above solutions and nothing is helping, please feel free to give my office a call!
Whether just going for a walk around the block, or going on a five-mile hike, summer is the perfect time to be more active. However, how often do we actually think about the kinds of shoes we’re wearing? After all, we do a decent amount of walking nearly every single day; why should going on a brisk walk down the street or through a nearby trail be any different? But walking shoes play a vital role in our exercising—perhaps even more than we thought.
Good walking shoes serve as protection for our feet, which helps keep the rest of your body aligned. If there’s even a slight imbalance in your feet, it can completely throw off the rest of your body, leading to issues such as alignment problems. As a result of this, your body tends to compensate by redistributing the weight elsewhere.
A small imbalance in your feet may not feel like such a big problem now (and we are all guilty of thinking this way) but minor problems like this can build up over time, leading to bigger, unnecessary problems in the future, like poor posture or spine alignment, muscle strain, and back pain.
If possible, I highly recommend finding a store that will provide a service not often found in large chain retailers, where the employees will watch a customer’s walk to decide which shoe is the best fit for him or her.
A good shoe will help improve both posture and balance while walking and assist with the feet’s ability to roll slightly inward and outward (pronation and supination, respectively).
However, a lot of people have problems with pronation. In fact, many people’s feet will either under pronate (roll excessively outward) or over pronate (roll excessively inward), which can lead to balance problems. In over pronation:
In order to discourage under or over pronation, or other potential foot problems, you really need to pay attention to the kinds of walking shoes that you are purchasing.
When shopping for shoes, you really want to focus on three primary factors: stability (giving your foot a feeling of balance), flexibility (so that the shoes are not too lose but your feet are still comfortable moving and flexing), and comfort (containing padding in the right places, such as the heel and midfoot, to give your feet support while simultaneously leaving a decent amount of room at the front of the shoe).
Particularly, while you’re shoe shopping, pay attention to these parts of the shoe:
Prior to going shoe shopping, make sure to measure both of your feet. Your left foot very well could differ from the right, or vice versa. Also, make sure you measure your feet at the end of the day, because they could swell as the day goes on.
In addition, while trying on shoes, be sure to wear socks like the ones you’ll be wearing while you’re exercise walking.
Do not buy shoes that feel too tight. Despite the break-in period, any shoes that already feel tight are not going improve much and will only lead to further foot pain when you begin walking in them.
Sometimes walking shoes do not provide enough support and you may need orthotics, removable shoe inserts that provide you with better support, cushioning, shock absorption, and balance.
I hope this was able to help you in your next shoe shopping endeavors! However, if you’ve been noticing some consistent pain or discomfort that may be the result of improper walking shoes, please don’t hesitate to contact our Rochester Hills office. We would be more than happy to speak with you about the problem and ways that we can help!
What If Your Back Pain Is Caused By Your Bad Posture? Here Are Simple Tips To Correct Poor Posture And Reduce Back Pain.
Here at Restore Physical Therapy, we help a lot of people with lower back pain and neck pain, we recently had a patient come in with bad back pain and tension and discovered upon evaluating him that this was the result of bad posture. After talking with him about his hobbies and work, we realized he holds a desk job in which he sits for long periods of time, staring at a screen—one very big culprit of bad posture.
Desk jobs are fairly common, and even if you have a job that allows you to move more frequently, many of us are still guilty of developing bad posture, either through sitting at our computers, staring at our phones, or relaxing on our couch after a long day of work.
The results of bad posture can actually be worse than simply a little bit of discomfort, tightness, or pain. Over time, bad posture can alter the anatomy of your spine, increasing the possibility of constricted blood vessels and nerves or muscle and joint problems. These, in turn, can lead to neck and back pain, fatigue, headaches, and, in some extreme cases, problems with breathing and major organs.
That’s why I’m going to give you a few tips on how to improve your posture in different situations and straighten your back in the process.
If you, too, have a desk job, or are in any other kind of situation where you are sitting in an office chair for long periods of time, you want to first make sure that you are sitting with your back against the back of the chair and your arms are at a 75-to-90 degree angle. Your feet should also be planted on the ground, with your knees at the same level as, or even slightly higher than, your hips. And even if you have perfect posture, don’t forget to walk around and stretch from time to time. This will drastically improve your posture, stretch out your back, and make you feel better, helping you to make it through the end of the workday!
If you’ve noticed your posture suffering while standing around, catching up with friends, my suggestion is to keep your feet spread about shoulder-width distance apart and keep your weight mostly on the balls of your feet. However, if you’re standing for long periods of time, you can also try shifting the weight from one foot to the other or rocking back and forth from heels to toes. Keep your knees unlocked and arms loosely hanging at your sides.
Also, be sure your head is square on your shoulders. A good way to test this is to stand with your shoulders and bottom pressed against a wall. If your head is not touching the wall, this means it’s too far forward and you will need to tuck your chin in slightly to make sure your head is even and angled correctly.
If you notice yourself slouching while walking through a store or down the street, try focusing on keeping your head up, staring straight ahead, and your shoulders aligned with the rest of your body.
While driving, make sure to keep your back pressed against the back of the driver’s seat. Make sure that you can reach the pedals without stretching too far, leaning, or slouching down in your seat, and that the headrest keeps your head upright so that you are looking straight ahead while driving. Adjust the seat or headrest if you need to.
Lifting or Carrying Heavy Objects
I’m sure you’ve heard this next one a lot, but when lifting or carrying heavy objects, remember to ALWAYS bend at the knees, NOT the waist, and hold the object close to your chest. Make sure you are using the muscles in your leg and stomach to do the lifting rather than those in your lower back. When carrying a heavy bag, backpack or purse, keep it on the lighter side, if possible, and try to balance the weight on both shoulders or shift between both shoulders. Also, avoid leaning forward or hunching your shoulders. If the weight is just too much, consider using a backpack or suitcase on wheels.
Apart from occupation, sleeping tends to be another major culprit of bad posture we see in our clinic. A lot of this is caused simply from having the wrong kind of mattress. Choose first and foremost a mattress that feels comfortable to you, but if a softer mattress just isn’t working, try choosing a firm mattress to lend you good back support.
Also, try sleeping on your side or back, rather than your stomach, to reduce the tension placed on your back while sleeping, and make sure you have a good pillow to keep your head aligned with the rest of your body.
If you still experience a lot of back pain and tension when you get up in the mornings, try placing a rolled-up towel under your neck and a pillow under your knees (if sleeping on your back) to lend better back support. If you are sleeping on your side, put a fairly flat pillow between your legs, and this will help align the spine and take any added tension and pressure off of your back.
So there you have it, simple things you can very easily put into action in your day as soon as today, to improve posture and reduce back pain. If you don't do anything about it, it's likely to worsen and affect your ability to move freely.
P.S. If you would like more tips on how to ease back pain, you can download my free report that shows you ways to ease back pain naturally. Go here to get your copy and take it with you: www.restoreptllc.com/back-pain.
We may be tempted to blame our shoulder pain on the long winter months, but sometimes, there can be more to it than that. In fact, it may not be the weather that’s to blame at all, but our habits.
I would suggest starting off the day with stretching. Think about it. You have just spent the last 8 hours or so sleeping in the same position. This can cause your joints to get a little tight, just as they would if you had been standing or sitting in the same position for a period of time. That’s why it’s recommended to stretch 7-10 minutes per day, but even just a little bit of stretching when you wake up can make a difference.
Limiting the amount of time you spend on a screen can help as well. Too often when looking at our devices, we hold our heads down at a strange angle that our neck wasn’t designed to be in for extended periods of time. Try, instead, to only use your phone for about 8-10 minutes at a time and hold it directly in front of you. Use portable stands for tablets and e-readers, and place computers on a hard surface. This will allow you to look at the screen straight-on, rather than by tilting your head at an odd angle, and will keep your ears in line with your shoulders, which is the position our head and neck were actually designed to be in.
Reading at night can also cause a lot of shoulder pain. Reading is an excellent activity and a great habit! However, a not-so-great habit is that of bad posture while reading. This bad posture usually originates from struggling to hold the book upright while laying in bed or on your couch. Holding any size book for large amounts of time can tense up certain muscles in the neck, eventually leading to neck and shoulder pain. Try to only stay in the same position for 15 minutes at a time. I’m sure you’ll notice a world of difference!
Finally, begin to pay attention to when the shoulder pain occurs to help pinpoint the problem. Notice if it occurs more often after carrying a heavy purse or backpack, running errands, or sitting at your computer for hours at a time. From there, you can check your posture focusing on making sure you are looking straight ahead and that your ears are in line with your shoulders whenever you are participating in that activity.
With warmer weather right around the corner, there is likely to be a peak in travel at the local airports, and if you are one of the travelers embarking on a plane for vacation this season, you may want to take into consideration things that you could do on the plane to prevent or relieve back pain.
What may come as a surprise is the toll that flying can take on your back. Cramped legroom, uncomfortable seating, and being confined to a small space for long periods of time are several ingredients leading to back pain. A staggering 88% of people experience increased back pain following a flight. No one should have to endure back pain while they’re on vacation, so I thought I would give you a few helpful hints to help you eliminate this problem.
Back pain relief can start as early as the day when you schedule your flight. Trying to book a direct flight whenever possible will help shorten the amount of time in the air, as well as the number of times that you will have to lift your carry-on into the overhead bin. Also, try to make sure to get up plenty of times, or even stand at the back of the plane for most of the flight when your seat belt sign is off.
You may also want to plan for getting up and moving several times during your flight. Some of us may sleep well on planes and plan to doze for the entirety of the flight. However, if that’s not you, it may be beneficial to request an aisle seat for your trip. This will make it much easier for you to stand up and move easily around the cabin without disturbing your seatmates. Sitting too long in one position can cause tightness and pain, so being able to move and stretch more easily and frequently can be a huge benefit.
This leads right into my next tip. Make sure to do plenty of simple exercises at the back of the plane, or even in your seat if you are unable to get up. Try doing neck rolls or raising your hands high above your head to achieve a good stretch.
Also, if you are planning on taking on a carry-on, do your best to pack light. Any item you pack is one more thing that you will have to hoist over your head into the overhead bin or drag through the airport. For this reason, it’s important to pack light and check in any bags that you know you won’t be able to easily lift over your head.
This also applies during the remainder of your trip. Any time you go out or are exploring your destination, take a small backpack that distributes weight evenly as opposed to a shoulder bag that places an unnecessary amount of pressure on one side of your body. If you absolutely must carry a shoulder bag, switch it regularly from one side to the other throughout the day to reduce the stress placed on your body.
Let’s do our best to have a relaxing and pain-free trip this spring and summer season!
If you want more tips to ease back pain, you can download my free report that shows you ways to ease back pain naturally – it has some helpful exercises inside too which you can use on your holiday. Go here to get your copy and take it with you: www.restoreptllc.com/back-pain.
Oliver Patalinghug is the trusted health expert and founder of the Metro Detroit's Leading Specialist Private Practice Physical Therapy for people in their 40's, 50's and 60's who want to keep healthy and active.