The Neck Pain Monster

Neck Pain12-tingling arms

A Pain in the Neck (and the Arm)

Cervical Radiculopathy – a condition where pressure on a nerve root in the neck cases neck and arm pain. This condition, though not as common as a lumbar radiculopathy, can be quite bothersome and affects 85 out of 100,000 people.

The nerves in the neck can be compressed for a number of reasons: from a disc herniation, foraminal impingement and spinal canal stenosis.  Not to worry if you have no idea what I am talking about, I’ll explain these a little further below.

First let’s talk about some factors that put you at an increased risk of developing a cervical radiculopathy.

Repetitive heavy manual labor. This doesn’t mean to stop doing manual labor, but just to be cautious and make sure you are using proper form when lifting, knowing what your lifting limit is and getting help when necessary, and make sure to take adequate rest breaks to let your muscles recharge.

Driving or operating vibrating equipment. Be sure to have your car set up ergonomically to help minimize the strain on your neck (and spine in general). Check out one of my previous posts that was all about driving ergonomics.

Collision sports. Sports where there are more likely to be blows to the head (like football and hockey) increase the risk of an injury to the neck. Be sure to wear appropriate equipment to protect your body.

Prior injuries. If you have had a neck injury before, statistically speaking, you are more likely to experience another. Don’t worry about it though, just do what you can to keep your neck and spine healthy. See last weeks post about neck stretches and strengthening for more information on this.

Degenerative joint disease/Osteoarthritis. Sometimes arthritic changes in the cervical spine can leave less room for the delicate nerve fibers in the neck to pass through. This can lead to compression of the nerve root and cause neck and arm pain. However, this is not always the case. Many people have osteoarthritis and experience no pain.

How do you know if you have a cervical radiculopathy?

Here are some common signs and symptoms that can alert you that something in your neck is in need of attention:

A deep aching and/or burning pain in the neck.

Tingling, numbness, and/or sharp shooting pain in the arms.

You may have had neck pain in the past. Or there could have been a specific injury that seemed to start the pain.

You may feel you are less able to move your neck in certain directions, and moving in certain ways may aggravate the pain.


Cervical Disc Herniation – the discs are like little jelly doughnuts that sit in between the bones in the neck (between the vertebrae). They primarily act as shock absorbers. When one is damaged, it can become wider, and press on a nerve root in the neck. Nerve roots in the neck send signals of pain, sensation, temperature, etc. down the arms.

Formainal Impingement – there are small openings in the spine that allow delicate nerve fibers to freely pass through. If anything obstructs these areas (degenerative changes or inflammation are two possibilities) and there is increased pressure on the nerve fibers, this is when you may start to experience some tingling in the arms and hands.

Spinal Stenosis – this is when the diameter of the spinal canal narrows and there is less space for the nerve fibers to pass through the open areas of the spine.

Some other important points

Sometimes tingling in the hand and fingers is actually coming from a source in the hand, such as is the case with carpal tunnel syndrome. There are many never fibers running from the neck down to the hands, and there are many areas these nerve fibers can become irritated. Sometimes a feeling more like an ache, as opposed to a tingling, can be caused from a tight muscle that is referring pain to another close by area.

Therefore, when you are experiencing symptoms you think may be coming from a cervical radiculopathy, it is important to get a thorough assessment by your health care provider to determine the cause of your pain and what course of treatment in best suited for your specific needs.

-Dr. Marilyn Field DC


Neck Pain11 (2)-backpack

Backpacks, Purses and Bags – Don’t let them be a pain in the neck!

Improper use of backpacks can lead to back ache, numbness and even headaches. Nearly 40% of children report back pain at one point or another and many of them attribute this pain to backpack use. It’s not just school aged children that carry backpacks, many adults use them too and are just as likely to develop back pain from them. Further, back and neck pain can be a result of carrying not just backpacks, but purses, luggage, and duffle bags. The good news is that there are a lot of things you can do to help decrease the chance of developing pain from whichever type of bag you carry.

The following are some tips to help you avoid a backpack related injury. There tips are not only useful for backpacks, they also apply to the use of purses, briefcases, luggage, or anything else you use to carry your belongings.

Buying the Right Bag

Whichever type of bag you are buying, use these tips to help pick a good one:

  • When purchasing a bag with shoulder straps, make sure they are thick and well padded. This will help distribute the weight more evenly.
  • Shoulder straps should be adjustable so that they can be fitted to your body.
  • Opt for lighter weight fabrics, like canvas or cotton, rather than leather which tends to be heavier. When buying a designer bag or purse be cautious of ones that have too many studs, gems and fancy additions on them, these can add a fair amount of weight to a purse before you’ve even started putting your contents into it!
  • Get a bag with multiple pockets. This will help distribute the weight more evenly within the bag. It also gives you more places to put things so that you don’t have to twist, bend and fidget as much to find what you are looking for.
  • One size does not fit all when it comes to backpacks, bags and luggage. Purchase a backpack, bag or purse that is proportionate to your body size.
  • Stick with small to medium sized bags and purses to help prevent putting too much weight in it. The bigger the bag the more likely you are to over stuff it.
  • When buying luggage, look for bags that have wheels. This will save your back when you have to walk with it for any distance.
  • When purchasing a purse, a good option is to get a purse than can be worn with one strap across the body, this will help distribute the weight better, and help prevent you from hunching your shoulder up to your ear to prevent the purse from sliding off of your shoulder.

The Contents – Pack it right

When packing your bag keep these back-friendly tips in mind:

  • Weigh your bag. Once the bag is loaded and ready to go, weigh it. It should not weigh more than 5-10% of a child’s body weight or 10-15% of an adult’s body weight.
  • When packing the bag, put the heaviest items closest to the body and/or at the bottom of the bag.
  • Try to minimize bringing heavy books back and forth to school and home whenever possible.
  • It is better to pack your items into several bags, rather than overstuff one.

Wearing the Bag

Keep these tips in mind for carrying your bag:

  • If wearing a purse or one shoulder bag, be sure to alternate which shoulder it is worn on. Also, if possible, lift the strap over your head and wear it on the opposite shoulder. Wearing or holding a purse or bag on one side can cause you to bend and lean one way more than the other. This can throw off the alignment of the spine.
  • To put a backpack on safely, place it on a table or chair, bend at the knees, put one shoulder strap on at a time and lift with the legs.
  • Wear backpacks with both shoulder straps. If a backpack has shoulder and hip buckles, use them, especially if the back pack is heavy. This will help redistribute some of the weight of the bag onto your pelvis.
  • When wearing a backpack position it so that it is resting between the shoulders and waist. It should not be sagging more than 4 inches below the waist line and should not rise above the shoulders.
  • If you notice you or your child is hunched forward and/or has rounded shoulders while wearing the backpack, these are signs that it is too heavy. Try to lighten the load.
  • When using luggage that has wheels, take advantage of the wheels and push or pull your bag whenever possible.
  • Try to alternate which hand you use to carry your briefcase or purse with. It may feel awkward at first, but it will help to distribute the stress and strain between both sides of the body, decreasing your chances of developing an injury.

If you follow all these tips you will greatly reduce your risk of developing pain related to the bags you are carrying around. If you do experience any pain or discomfort however, consult your chiropractor. Whether it’s offering suggestions about the bags you are carrying or treatment for your body to be at its best, we are here to help.

-Dr. Marilyn Field DC


Neck Pain10 (2)-neckExercise is helpful in treating Neck Pain

Neck pain rarely presents on its own, common symptoms that accompany neck pain are limited range of motion, headaches and some degree of muscle weakness. Neck pain is often multifactorial, meaning there are a number of factors that are causing the pain, often times physical factors (like poor posture, poor ergonomics at work, repetitive strain) and psychosocial factors (for example, who hasn’t experienced times when you are under stress and you find yourself holding your shoulder up near your ears). Because the cause of neck pain can come from many factors, often the treatment for neck pain will consist of many different modalities. Common treatment options for neck pain in a chiropractic office are spinal adjustments/mobilizations, laser therapy, ice or heat therapy, muscle stretches and strengthening exercises. The goal of treatment is always to help reduce pain, improve function and reduce the chance of the problem reoccurring.

A study done in 2006 that looked at the effect of including different exercise regimes into a care plan for those suffering from chronic neck pain. They used a group of women between the ages of 25-55 who were suffering from chronic neck pain (meaning pain that had lasted more than 6 months). Prticipants were randomly assigned to one of three intervention groups. One group was given strength training (given isometric neck strength exercises and upper body exercises), one was given endurance training exercises (neck flexion and upper body exercises) and the third group was given stretches only. Each group also preformed standardized exercises for their lower body and trunk muscles.

After a 12 month follow up they found that both the strength and endurance group experienced a decrease in neck pain. It was also found that those with the highest pain levels at the beginning of the study experienced the most benefit from the exercise intervention (weather it was strength or endurance exercises). In short, this study found that for the group of people tested, exercise helped reduce neck pain. This study looked specifically at female office workers with chronic neck pain, however this is a good starting point for evidence showing that exercise helps with neck pain.

A more recent study published in 2012, in the Annals of Internal Medicine, found once again that exercise was helpful in decreasing neck pain. This study looked at people (men and women) with acute and subacute neck pain (pain lasting from 2 to 12 weeks). Participants were randomly assigned to one of 3 groups, spinal manipulative therapy (SMT) (which means they received chiropractic adjustments), home exercise advice, or medication.
At a 12 week follow up, those in the SMT group reported significantly less pain than those in the medication group. And those participants in the home exercise group reported similar results to those in the SMT group. At 26 and 52 weeks follow up, the results were similar, the most pain reduction was reported from the SMT and home exercise groups. Thus, showing that either chiropractic care, or a home exercise program were very beneficial for treating acute and subacute neck pain.
The following are a few general stretches and strengthening exercises that many people find helpful. However, it should be noted that before preforming any new stretches and strengthening exercises you should always get approval from your healthcare provider who is familiar with your specific condition to ensure the exercises are safe for you.

Isometric neck strengthening exercises:

Start with your head in a neutral position (ie. Looking straight ahead, ear in line with shoulders, should rolled back and down).  Place your hand against your forehead, keeping you head in neutral, gently press your forehead into your hand while maintaining the neutral head position. Use only about 10% of the strength you could maximally do. Hold for 10 seconds.

Move your hand to the left side of your head, now gently press your head into your hand. Use only about 10% of the strength you could maximally do. Hold for 10 seconds.

Move your hand to the back of your head and repeat, then move your hand to the right side of your head. This will help activate and strengthen the deep muscles within your neck.

Trapezius Stretch:

Part 1: Staring with your head in a neutral positon looking forward, gently bend your neck so you are brining your left ear close to your left shoulder, you should feel a nice stretch on the right side of your neck. Now repeat this stretch to the opposite side.

Part 2: Start looking forward with head in a neutral position, then bend your neck to the left, bringing your left ear toward your left shoulder (as with the last stretch), now look down towards your left foot.

Important Note: If you experience any pain or discomfort while performing these stretches and strengthening exercises, stop immediately and consult with your health care provider.

-Dr. Marilyn Field DC



Neck Pain9-phoneModern Day Ergonomics
Everyday most people are spending a fairly significant amount of time on their cell phone, tablet, laptop or computer. Whether it is for work or for fun, it’s not uncommon to spend many hours working/playing on these devices. And with all the time spent on them, comes the possibility or injury. Injuries of the neck, wrists and hands are becoming more common because of the time we spend on technology.

The following are a few simple tips to help decrease the risk of developing a ‘smart technology’ related injury:

When working or texting on a tablet or smart phone, bring the device to you rather than hunching forward towards it. Hunching forward while texting puts excess strain on your neck and shoulders. Try lifting the device up towards you. If you are using a cell phone that you can hold in one hand, you can even use your other arm to help brace the arm holding the phone up toward eye level.

Try to keep text messages short, or use the auto predictor setting. Injuries to the wrists and thumbs are becoming more common with the increased use of cell phones. If you have a lot to say, make a phone call rather than sending long text messages. It will help prevent pain and injuries to your thumbs, wrists and neck, and it’s also nice to connect with someone via a phone call!

When using your cell phone, try to keep your wrists in a neutral position (meaning your wrists are straight, not flexed towards you or extended).

Take a break. Even when you are on your phone or tablet for fun (playing candy crush, perhaps?), every 15 minutes or so, make sure to put the phone/tablet down for a bit and do some gentle wrist and hand stretches. It is also beneficial to your eyes to look away from the screen, a good rule of thumb to keep in mind: Every 20 minutes look at something 20 feet away for 20 seconds, this will help reduce eye strain.

When using a laptop, place books underneath it to elevate the laptop so that when you are seated comfortably and looking straight ahead, you are looking at the top 1/3rd of the screen.

When working at a computer, try to vary your posture every 15 minutes. Sitting in any one position for too long can put extra strain on your spine, muscles and joints. Aim to get up every 30 minutes, even just for a quick stretch of standing up, reaching up to the sky, and then sitting back down.

When sitting in a chair, use the chair to your advantage to help support your back and in turn help you sit up straight. When you sit down, be sure to sit all the way back into the chair so that your butt is touching the back of the chair, this will allow the back rest to comfortably support your back while you sit up straight. As your bottom slides forward in the chair, your lower back begins to round and your shoulders droop forward. When you start to notice this happening make sure to straighten up.

Don’t cradle the phone between your neck and shoulder, it might seem obvious to avoid this but it tends to be a habit many people have, and habits are hard to break! If you are on the phone and you need both hands free try using a headset or turning on speaker phone, this can help to prevent a lot of aches and pains.

-Dr. Marilyn


Neck Pain - SleepingSleep Well

A good night’s sleep is essential to good health, but it is hard to get a good sleep if you don’t have good sleep posture. The following are a few things to keep in mind to help ensure a good, healthy night’s sleep.

Find the right mattress:
Finding the right mattress can be a challenge. What is comfortable for one person, may cause many uncomfortable, restless nights for someone else. Ideally, your mattress should be firm enough to support the natural curves of the spine, and flexible enough to adapt to your body’s individual shape. For example when laying on your side, your hips should be parallel. If you share a bed it can be hard to find one mattress that is right for both people, but fortunately now there are many mattresses on the market that offer dual support, one side can be firmer or softer than the other so both people get the best support (and sleep) possible. Check out this link for reviews of “Online Mattress” that may be an option you want to explore.

Invest in a good Pillow:
A good pillow will support the natural space between your shoulder and head, if you are lying on your side. If you are lying on your back, it will support the natural C-curve of the neck. Your head should not be propped up or stretching to reach the pillow. Imagine good standing posture, this is how your body should be supported by your pillow and mattress when you are lying down.

Don’t Sleep on your Stomach:
Notice there were no tips about a good pillow for sleeping on your stomach? That’s because it is the worst position you can sleep in. It puts a lot of extra stress through your neck and lower back, avoid this position. Need help trying to break the habit? Wear pyjamas with a pocket and put a tennis ball in one of the front pockets, it will be uncomfortable to lay on it and prompt you to roll over should you try to sleep on your belly. You can also try propping yourself on your side using an extra blanket or pillow.

Suffering with Shoulder Pain?
Laying on your back can help relieve stress of off your shoulders. If you find side sleeping more comfortable, hug a fluffy pillow so that your arm and shoulder are supported throughout the night.

Lower Back Pain?
If you suffer with lower back pain, try putting a small pillow between your legs while sleeping on your side. This will help to maintain optimal alignment of the hips and lower back while you are sleeping. Even if you move around a lot in your sleep and are likely to kick the pillow out of the way during the night, having it there for at least a little while will be helpful.

Give these tips a try and enjoy a good night’s sleep, without a visit from the back or neck pain monster!

-Dr. Marilyn


Neck Pain7 - whiplashWhiplash – A real pain in the neck!

What is Whiplash?
A whiplash injury is considered an acceleration/deceleration injury, which means it is an injury that can occur as a result of your head moving quickly in one direction and then rebounding and moving quickly in the opposite direction. This sudden movement of the head can be forward, backward or sideways.
Whiplash itself is not actually a diagnosis, it is a descriptive term used to describe the way the injury occurred. Whiplash is diagnosed as a Whiplash Associated Disorder (WAD), which ranges from a WAD 1-4. We will discuss this more below.
Commonly whiplash is caused from a car accident, however it can also result from sports injuries, slips and falls or even from a work injury.

What are the symptoms of whiplash?
Symptoms from whiplash are not always experienced immediately following the injury. Sometimes one will not notice symptoms until years later, though most commonly symptoms will being 2 hours to 2 days after the accident.
The most common symptom of whiplash is neck pain, this pain may be localized to one area of the neck, or it may refer pain into the head, arms and even the upper back.
Other common whiplash symptoms include: headache, painful and/or limited range of motion, shoulder and upper back pain, and tingling in the arms and hands.
Some people may also experience fatigue, dizziness, pain in the jaw, blurred vision, ringing in the ears, trouble concentrating or sleeping, and irritability.

What structures are injured in a WAD injury?
Whiplash injuries commonly involve damage to the nervous system, vertebrae, muscles, joints and/or ligaments of the spine. The degree of damage to the different structures depends on the extent of the injury itself and will guide which type of treatment is necessary.

How is it diagnosed?
Whiplash is a term used to describe a mechanism of injury. The diagnosis of a whiplash injury is termed a Whiplash Associated Disorder (WAD) and is graded on a scale from 1-4.
The most severe form of whiplash involves a fracture or dislocation in the neck, this is a medical emergency and needs immediate medical attention. This type of injury is classified as a WAD 4.
WAD 2 and 3 are the most common forms of whiplash seen in a chiropractors office. With a WAD 2 injury one will experience neck pain or stiffness, as well as decreased neck ranges of motion and some tenderness in the muscles.
With a WAD 3 injury one will experience the same symptoms as a WAD 2 injury, with the addition of neurological signs and symptoms, such as numbness and tingling into the hands/fingers, and/or muscle weakness.
A WAD 1 injury is when one experiences neck pain and stiffness, but has no loss of motion or other physical signs.
During an assessment with a chiropractor a thorough history will be taken to understand how your injury occurred and what symptoms you are experiencing. A physical exam will then be performed to help assess the extent of damage to the different structures of the neck and x-rays will be taken if deemed necessary. All of this information helps your chiropractor develop the proper treatment plan for your specific condition.

What are my treatment options?
Whiplash injuries in the WAD 1-3 category are commonly seen in a chiropractors office and there are multiple treatment options available that have been found to be very successful. These treatment options include: soft tissue therapy, joint mobilizations and adjustments, laser therapy, advice on home care, as well as stretches and strengthening advice. Your treatment plan may consist of one, all or a combination of these options.
Any time you suspect you may have sustained a whiplash injury you should seek an assessment from a health care professional to assess the extent of your injury, rule out a possible fracture, and get guidance on the appropriate course of treatment.

An interesting and informative video demonstrating a whiplash injury, as well as more information about whiplash injuries can be found on the Nova Scotia College of Chiropractors website;

Whiplash Injuries

-Dr. Marilyn


Neck Pain6 (2)- postureHow is my Posture?

Good posture not only helps you look better, it helps you feel better too. The benefits of good posture range from improved circulation and breathing easier, to less strain and pressure on your muscles and joints.

The key to good posture is maintaining the natural curves of the spine (your natural lumbar lordosis, thoracic kyphosis and cervical lordosis). When the spine is not in its natural position it puts extra pressure on the muscles, ligaments and joints; which over time can lead to degenerative changes, and aches and pains.

A great way to assess your posture is to grab a friend and do this quick posture assessment on each other.

1. Look at each other front on. Is one ear higher than the other? Is one shoulder higher than the other? Look at their belt line, is one hip higher than the other?
2. Look at each other from the side. Does the head slump forward so that the ears are coming in front of the shoulders? Are their shoulders rounding forward? Is the curve of the lower back increased causing the belly to bulge forward?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, these are signs your posture is out of optimal alignment and you would benefit from working to improve it.

Tips to Improve your Posture

To really improve your posture it takes time and consistency. Try using some sort of cue to help you remember to check and correct your posture. For example, every time you see the color red, think ‘how is my posture and do I need to correct it’?

When standing try this: stand tall, shoulders rolled back and down, maintain the natural slight curve in the neck and lower back, shoulder and hips level, and core muscles engaged.

When sitting in a chair, use the chair to your advantage to help support your back and in turn help you sit up straight. When you sit down, be sure to sit all the way back into the chair so that your butt is touching the back of the chair, this will allow the back rest to comfortably support your back while you sit up straight. As your bottom slides forward in the chair, your lower back begins to round and your shoulders droop forward. When you start to notice this happening make sure to straighten up.

When sitting, try to vary your posture every 15 minutes. Sitting in any one position for too long can put extra strain on your spine, muscles and joints. As well, aim to get up every 30 minutes, even just for a quick stretch of standing up, reaching up to the sky, and then sitting back down.

When working on a laptop or smart phone, bring the device to you rather than hunching forward towards it. Use thick books to sit your laptop on to bring it higher so that when you are looking straight ahead you are looking at the top 1/3rd of the screen.

If you use a backpack, use both straps, letting it sit on one shoulder will cause you to lean one way or the other and put extra strain on your spine.

When using a purse of briefcase, opt for one with a long enough strap that you can sling it over one shoulder and have it rest on the opposite hip. This will minimize the strain on your shoulders and spine.

Working on your core stability will also be a big help in maintaining good posture.

A great app was put out from the Canadian Chiropractic Association called “Straighten Up Canada”. This is an awesome resource for learning stretches and strengthening moves that will help you improve your posture. And best of all it’s Free! I highly suggest checking it out!

Straighten Up Canada

-Dr. Marilyn


Neck Pain-drivingPain Free Driving
Neck pain can commonly arise after sitting with slouched posture where your head comes forward, or doing activites that involve using your arms, either having them outstretched or overhead for extended periods of time.
Slouched posture with the arms extended in front of your body is pretty much describing driving posture. The way we have our seat positioned in our car can either be a source of neck and back pain, or it can help prevent it.
The following are some pointers to help you have a pain free drive:

Move the seat forward until you can comfortably depress the break pedal and accelerator pedal while your hips remain square in the seat. Having to over stretch to reach the pedals can lead to lower back and hip pain.

Raise your seat adequately to give yourself proper vision of the road. You want your seat to be high enough so that you can comfortably see over the steering wheel, but not so high that your head is pushing against the roof of the car.

Reduce pressure on the back of the knees by raising the seat cushion to a comfortable level where the backs of the legs are fully supported. You want to ensure your legs are supported, while at the same time not having too much pressure against the back of the knees, inhibiting proper blood flow in the legs.

Adjust the backrest to fully support the spine, from the buttocks all the way up to the shoulders. If your car does not have adjustable lumbar support consider buying a back rest that will fit on the seat, or even using a small cushion or towel to place in the groove of your lower back to help maintain a neutral lumbar lordosis while you are driving.

Avoid reclining too much, this can cause added pressure on the lower back and neck. If you have your seat reclined too far back, you will end up straining more through your neck and shoulders to grip the wheel.

The steering wheel should be adjusted so that it can be easily reached with a slight bend in the elbows. Be sure that you are not straining to have both hands on the wheel, while maintaining a slight bend in the elbows. This will reduce the strain on your upper back, shoulders and neck.

Adjust the headrest so that the top of the head is level with or above the top of the headrest and as close to the body as possible. This will offer maximum protection in the event of a whiplash type injury situation.

If you are going on a long drive, aim to take a pit-stop every hour. Make sure you get out of the car and stretch. Even just a short walk around your car will help refresh your muscles (and your mind!).

I hope these tips help you drive without a visit from the neck pain monster!
-Dr. Marilyn


Neck Pain - 4

Office Ergonomics…Did You Know?

How our workspace is set up can have a big impact on our health and well being. We spend a lot of time at the office nowadays and it can take a toll on our bodies. If we are slouching, hunched over a computer or book, or sitting for too long, these things can lead to back pain, neck pain and headaches. If you are someone who sits at a desk job for most of the day these tips can help make your work station a little (or hopefully a lot) less likely to cause you pain.
Don’t cradle the phone between your neck and shoulder
Do use a headset or speaker phone when possible.

Don’t sit with your legs crossed at the knees. Prolonged cross legged sitting can cause extra strain and tension in the lower back and hips.
Do change positions every 15 minutes. The most important thing to remember about posture if you are sitting most of the day at work, is to vary your posture frequently, even with perfect posture (hips and knees bent to 90 degrees, feet flat on floor) holding that position for too long can create extra strain on the body.

Don’t strain to reach for things repeatedly while sitting
Do try to arrange your desk so that important items are within arm’s reach. Keep items frequently needed close by, within an arm’s reach. Items that don’t need to be used as frequently can sit a little farther away.

Don’t have your head flexed forward looking down at the computer screen
Do Centre your computer monitor so the first line of text is at eye level while you are looking straight ahead

Don’t spend the whole day sitting in an uncomfortable chair.
Do Use all of a chairs special feature to position the chair in the most comfortable position for you. Ensure your back is supported in the lumbar area, and make sure the chair is the proper height to reduce the pressure at the back of the knees. Use the arm rests to reduce the stress on the upper body and neck.

Don’t sit for more than an hour without standing up
Do get up from your chair at least every hour! If you can, get up and take a short walk, do a few lunges, squats or calf raises, just do something to get moving. If you don’t have time to walk away from your desk, simply stand up and sit back down. The simple act of activing your muscles will go a long way in preventing pain.

I hope these tips help to make your workspace pain free!
-Dr. Marilyn


Neck Pain - 3Experiencing Neck Pain? You are not alone

Neck pain is a common ailment, affecting roughly 11% of Canadians every year. Two out of every 20 people affected with neck pain will find the pain disabling, preventing them from being able to carry out all of the necessary tasks of their daily lives. Some studies have found that women are more often affected by neck pain than men, and neck pain typically peaks between the ages of 35 and 49 and then declines. All that being said however, neck pain is something that can affect anyone, at any age.

Common causes of neck pain include working long hours on a computer, studying, reading or writing with your head down. Poor posture, whiplash, or even grinding your teeth in bed can all be common causes of neck pain. Neck pain can be cause by different structures of the body, commonly the joints or muscles in the neck are restricted and tight, leading to neck pain and commonly headaches as well.

The good news is there are things you can do to help prevent and treat your neck pain. Remember pain is a signal from your body telling you something is not right and you need to do something about it. Looking at pain this way makes it seem like less of a negative occurrence and empowers you to find a way to solve the problem. Your body is always giving you signals telling you if it likes how you are treating it (when you feel good, have lots of energy, are sleeping well) or if it does not like how you have been treating it (pain, headaches, fatigue, stress).

When your body keeps giving you the signal of neck pain here are a few things you can do to help:

Watch your posture. As we talked about last week slouching forward puts a lot of extra strain on the muscles of the neck and can cause pain and headaches. Make sure to sit tall, roll your shoulders back and down, and imagine there is a string attached to the crown of your head pulling you upwards.

Don’t let technology be a pain in the neck. When you are on your cell phone or tablet, bring the phone up towards you rather than flexing your head forward to look down at it. On the laptop, use books or pillows to elevate the laptop so that when you are comfortably looking straight ahead you are looking at the top line of the screen.

Take stretch breaks. After sitting for 30 minutes be sure to take a break to stretch. One good stretch is to sit on the edge of your chair, have your feet firmly planted on the floor, extend your arms behind you with your palms facing upwards, and gently look up towards the ceiling. Another good stretch is to gently bend your head to the side brining the left ear toward your left shoulder, so that you feel a gentle stretch in the right side of your neck, hold for 15 to 30 seconds and repeat on the other side.

A few things to avoid. Don’t use pillows that don’t have any support for the neck and try not to fall asleep on the couch or in a chair. Don’t cradle the phone between your neck and shoulder, using a headset or speaker phone can prevent a lot of aches and pains.

If your neck pain is persistent and causing your significant discomfort be sure to get assessed by a regulated health care professional. Don’t let the little aches and pains linger for too long, the sooner you can properly address and treat the underlying cause of your neck pain, the better.

-Dr. Marilyn

Neck Pain - it's a monster ad #2

Did you Know?

The average adult in Canada spends 50-70% of their day sitting. Whether it’s in our cars, at our desks or at home, we sit more than we don’t and this can wreak havoc on your health and your neck!

A common seated posture involves having our shoulders rounded forward with the head drooping forward as well. For every inch that your head moves forward, it gains 10 pounds in weight, as far as the muscles in your neck and upper back are concerned. This is because the muscles have to work harder to prevent your chin from falling onto your chest. This common posture often leads to upper cross syndrome, a muscle imbalance problem. The muscles at the base of your skull (the suboccipital muscles) and trapezius muscles along the base of neck, as well as your pectoral (chest) muscles become tight. The muscles in the front of your neck (deep neck flexors) and the rhomboid muscles (the muscles used to pull your shoulder blades together) become weak.

If this posture is maintained over the long term issues can arise such as headaches (from excess strain on the neck and shoulder muscles and subsequent pressure on the suboccipital nerves), an increased thoracic kyphosis (aka. A hunch back posture) and even shoulder pain.

So what can you do about all this? Practice better posture!

To really improve your posture it takes time and consistency. Try using some sort of cue to help you remember to check and correct your posture. For example, every time you see the color red, think ‘how is my posture and do I need to correct it’?

When correcting your posture remember to roll the shoulders back and down and imagine a string attached to the crown of your head that is pulling you upwards.

When sitting, try to vary your posture every 15 minutes. Sitting in any one position for too long can put extra strain on your spine, muscles and joints.  Aim to get up every 30 minutes, even just for a quick stretch of standing up, reaching up to the sky, and then sitting back down.

When working on a laptop or smart phone, bring the device to you rather than hunching forward towards it.

Stretching the tight muscles and strengthening the weak ones will also help correct upper cross syndrome. If you are unsure of proper stretches and strengthening exercises seek advice from a regulated health care professional, a detailed training program will be made based upon your individual needs.

-Dr. Marilyn

did you know headaches

Did you know?

Your headaches may actually be stemming from a problem in your neck. Headaches can be caused by restricted joints and tight muscles in the neck.

Headaches are a common affliction, affecting roughly 47% of adults. There are many different types of headaches and it would take a long time to go over all of them, so we will limit this article to cover the 3 most common types seen in a chiropractor’s office, which are tension, cervicogenic, and migraine headaches.

Tension headaches are the most common form of headache. They are often described as a band of pressure around the head, and they can last anywhere from a few hours to a week. General stress, muscle tightness, lack of sleep and TMJ syndrome are a few common causes of tension type headaches.

Cervicogenic headaches, as the name implies, come from irritation of the cervical spine. Frequently, this type of headache is cause by tight suboccipital muscles, which are the muscles at the base of the skull, or restricted joints in the cervical spine. The pain tends to be felt in the neck and base of the skull, sometimes radiating into the forehead, around the eyes, ears and temples. This type of headache is often aggravated by movements of the neck and head, or sustained awkward head movements (such as from painting the ceiling or washing the floor).

A third common type of headache that can be helped by chiropractic care are migraine headaches. Migraines can be caused by many different factors, such as changes in hormone levels, rapid changes in blood sugar, certain foods (such as coffee, red wine, preservatives like MSG), or a migraine may develop after a prolonged tension headache. The pain from this type of headache is usually described as pulsatile or throbbing, commonly is felt in the forehead/temporal or ocular area (around the eye).

Chiropractic can help with each of these types of headaches by assessing joint motion and identifying any areas that are restricted, assessing for any areas of increased tension in the muscles, as well as identifying any weak muscles that may be contributing to headaches.

A few tips to help reduce or manage your headaches:

Exercise – exercise helps to reduce stress, relax muscles and it releases beta-endorphines, which are your body’s natural pain relievers! Not only has regular exercise been shown to help with headaches, it is good for your overall health and well-being too. Just 20 minutes a day of physical activity will get you the recommended 150 minutes per week which is recommended for good health.

Stay Hydrated – dehydration can be a common trigger of tension and migraine headaches. Aim to drink 6-8 cups of water per day. Everyone’s water needs vary slightly, and if it’s warm outside or you have been working up a sweat be sure to drink a bit more water. There is some debate if coffee and tea count towards your water intake, for the most part they do count. The problem comes in to play if all you are drinking is coffee, or tea, or worse, pop. The train of thought is that the caffeine has a diuretic effect and actually dehydrates you, however this is only a problem if you are drinking a lot of caffeinated beverages close together in time. (That being said monitoring caffeine intake is a good idea in general, since too much of it can trigger migraines in some people).

Watch you Posture – slouching causes increased stress on the neck and middle back which can lead to headaches. Be sure to sit straight with your shoulders rolled back and down. There will be more posture advice soon in future articles!

If you are having trouble identifying what triggers your headaches, try keeping a headache diary. Notice what you ate, drank and did before your headache began.

If you notice any changes in intensity, frequency or duration of your usual headaches, of if your headaches begin to worry you, consult a health care provider.

-Dr. Marilyn