Dr. Jeffrey I. Kennis,  D.C.
205 Commercial St.
Boston, MA 02109

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By Waterfront Chiropractic
February 12, 2019
Category: Neck Pain
Tags: Untagged

A neck spasm is when your neck muscles suddenly, involuntarily tighten. Your neck becomes painful and stiff, likely affecting your ability to turn your head. An awkward neck movement or stress-related muscle tension is often what triggers a neck spasm. While the experience may not last too long, it can be very unpleasant.

Image of a woman holding her neck in pain

Most neck spasms are caused by a sudden muscle strain.
 Neck Strain: Causes and Remedies

If you have a neck spasm, here’s a quick guide to relieving the pain.

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Try to relax your spasming neck muscles. Stretching may be an effective method to loosen and soften your muscles, which tighten and seize up during a spasm.

See Neck Stretches

Perform a stretch that lengthens your lateral neck muscles. One way to do this is to keep your shoulders in place and tilt your ear toward your shoulder until you feel a stretch in the side of your neck. But if a certain movement causes more pain, stop it and gently try a different movement.

See Easy Levator Scapulae Stretch for Neck Pain

image of woman doing the lateral flexion stretch for neck spasm pain relief

Try these 4 stretches to relax the neck muscles, which tighten and seize up during a spasm. Watch: 4 Easy Stretches for Neck and Shoulder Pain Video

Get a massage

Massage therapy can help you relax, which may calm your tight muscles and ease the pain from your neck spasm. Gentle pressure placed on the stiff, tender points in your neck may release tension from the constricted muscles, providing relief and restoring range of motion to your neck.

See Massage Therapy for Chronic Stiff Neck


Over-the-counter nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAID), such as ibuprofen (e.g., Advil, Motrin) and naproxen (e.g., Aleve), may help reduce inflammation and relieve pain brought on by a neck spasm. These medications won’t treat any underlying problems that may be setting off your neck spasm, but they can provide quick-acting first aid. Be sure to check with your doctor or pharmacist before use.

See Medications for Back Pain and Neck Pain

Apply cold/heat therapy

Medical illustration of the different types of heat and cold therapies including hot water bottle, hot shower, heating pad, bag of ice, ice pack, cooling cream

Applying heat and/or cold therapy can help to relieve pain and inflammation in your neck.

Cold therapy can reduce local inflammation, which may help relieve pain from your neck spasm. Fill a plastic bag with ice and some water and wrap it in a thin towel, then press it against the painful area on your neck.

See Ice Packs for Back Pain Relief

You may also find relief through heat therapy. Apply a heating pad, switched on a low setting, to the tender area of your neck. If you prefer, stand in the shower with a gentle stream of warm water hitting your neck. The warmth can increase blood flow to the affected area and soothe your pain overall.

See How to Apply Heat Therapy

When applying ice or heat, limit applications to about 15 minutes every 2 hours to reduce the risk for skin damage.


Your neck spasm may indicate that your neck has moved in ways it shouldn’t, and your tense muscles probably need a rest. One way to relax is to lie on your back with a cervical pillow or neck roll under your head and a pillow under your knees. Play calming music or a podcast to help pass the time as you relax.

Watch: Pillows and Positions for Easing Neck Pain Video

Most neck spasms occur because of a sudden muscle strain and should clear up within a week. If the pain persists or gets worse, it may indicate an underlying spinal problem. If this describes your experience, visit your doctor.

Watch: Neck Strains and Sprains Video

Learn more:

Chronic Neck Pain: What Condition Is Causing My Neck Pain?

Treatment for Neck Pain

By Waterfront Chiropractic
February 12, 2019
Category: Spine Health
Tags: Untagged

Winter may offer fun seasonal pastimes, but it can also bring cold temperatures and icy surfaces that lead to injury. When you head outside this winter, here’s how you can prevent injury:

Image of person shoveling snow

Snow shoveling is a common cause of back injuries during the winter months. There are several snow removal tips that can help you avoid low back injuries and pain during the winter season. Snow Shoveling Techniques to Prevent Low Back Injuries

Protect your back while shoveling snow

Shoveling snow is a common cause of back pain and injury, but it doesn’t have to be.

See Avoid Back Injury with the Right Lifting Techniques

  1. Get an ergonomic snow shovel. One with a curved handle or adjustable handle length can cut down on painful bending and arching. A small, lightweight blade on the shovel can help reduce the amount weight you pick up, further decreasing chance of injury.
  2. Use your legs, not your back. When you reach down to shovel snow, bend at the knees without rounding your lower back. To lift the snow, push up with your legs instead of letting your back muscles do the work. Wear a back brace or lifting belt to help encourage correct posture.
  3. Keep your movements compact. Avoid twisting your body to the side to move snow or tossing snow with your arms extended. Always square your shoulders and face the snow you are shoveling. Carry the shovel close to your body while you walk over to the spot you want to deposit snow.

See 4 Tips to Protect Your Back When Shoveling

Some people may follow these recommendations and still experience back pain. To avoid shoveling snow altogether, purchase a snowblower to use or ask a neighbor for help.

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Minimize your chance of falling

Slips and falls are more likely to occur during winter, due to hazardous conditions. Certain steps can be taken to minimize the risk of falls as much as possible.

  1. Hold for balance. Grab onto the handrail when walking a flight of stairs outside, even if the steps don’t appear to be icy.
  2. Apply ice melt. Lightly coat outdoor walkways and stairs with salt before and after a snowfall to reduce slipperiness.
  3. Wear winter boots with high-quality tread. They can help you grip the ground and stay balanced.
  4. Stock up on food before a storm hits. This way you can avoid going outside for groceries during hazardous conditions.
  5. Ask a neighbor for help. See if a person who lives nearby can bring your mail to the door and take your garbage out.

If you ever feel yourself falling, try to land on your side or buttocks. Don't fight the fall—try to roll naturally, allowing your head to turn in the direction of the roll.

See When to Seek Medical Care for Low Back Pain

Try these tips and see if they help you stay safe when you go outside this winter. Dress warmly, too, wearing several layers of light, loose clothing to protect yourself from extreme temperatures. And if you do get injured during a winter activity, seek immediate medical attention.

Learn more:

Additional Lifting Techniques to Avoid Back Injury

Causes of Lower Back Pain

By Jtsao@officite.com
January 09, 2019
Category: Uncategorized
Tags: Untagged

New Year’s is the perfect time to make lifestyle changes to reduce your chronic pain. It can be difficult to stick to vague, lofty goals. Instead, resolve to build specific, realistic habits into your daily routine. Here are 4 concrete resolutions to help you experience improved health and pain relief:

See Chronic Pain As a Disease: Why Does It Still Hurt?

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1. Walk 10,000 steps a day

Image of an unknown person walking on the sidewalk

Follow these 2 tips to prevent pain while walking. Watch Video: 2 Walking Tips to Avoid Sciatica Pain

Low-impact aerobic exercise is thought to reduce inflammation, strengthen muscles, and provide healing by sending oxygen-rich blood to painful areas. The easiest way to begin is to walk. Here are some ways you can easily incorporate this habit into your everyday life:

See Guidelines for Buying Walking Shoes

See Techniques for Effective Exercise Walking

  • Invest in a pair of walking shoes that you find comfortable and supportive.
  • Buy a pedometer so you can track your steps. A popular challenge for many people is taking 10,000 steps each day, but you can do more or less depending on your current fitness level.
  • Walk everywhere you can: around your block, to the train, throughout the shopping mall, in the office parking lot during your lunch break.
  • Team up with an accountability partner who has the same step goal. Make a game out of it, seeing who can take the most steps each day.

If walking is difficult for you, consider purchasing a cane or trekking poles.

See Exercise Walking for Better Back Health

2. Make your bedroom a no-screen zone

Image of a man checking his cellphone in bed

Chronic pain can disrupt sleep, which will, in turn, exacerbate pain. Kicking screens out of your bedroom can increase your chances of getting good sleep. Read: Chronic Pain and Insomnia: Breaking the Cycle

People with painful back or neck conditions often sleep poorly, and poor sleep can make the pain worse.

If you want to increase your chances of getting good sleep, kick screens out of your bedroom. Smart phones, laptops, tablets, and TV screens distract and stimulate you. By using these devices in bed, you make it more difficult for your body to recognize that it’s time to sleep. Break the habit and try these tips:

  • Set your phone on airplane mode and keep it out of arm’s reach. Decide ahead of time that you won’t use your phone while it’s in the bedroom.
  • Keep a physical book or magazine on your nightstand. If you need to engage your mind with something while in bed, these options are great since they don’t emit a bright glow or provide distracting Internet access.

See Practicing Good Sleep Hygiene

After a while, you may notice that refraining from screen use in your bedroom helps you fall asleep and stay asleep.

See 11 Unconventional Sleep Tips: How to Get to Sleep and Stay Asleep

3. Bring a water bottle everywhere with you

Illustration of two water bottles and two toothbrushes in a cup

Drinking enough water is vital to keeping your spine healthy. 
 Video: How Much Water Do I Need to Drink?

Staying properly hydrated is important for the health of your spine, as your intervertebral discs are mostly made up of water. Drinking water also allows nutrients to flow properly and helps with joint and organ maintenance.

  • Take your body weight (in pounds) and divide that number by 2. This number is about how many ounces of water you should drink each day.
  • Purchase a durable and easily transportable water bottle to help you reach your daily water intake. Read reviews to help determine which water bottle suits you best.
  • If you prefer more flavorful beverages, get a water bottle with a built-in fruit infuser. This option allows for deliciously flavored water that’s still healthy for you.

Another upside of drinking a lot of water is that it makes it easier for you to reduce your consumption of soda and alcohol—both of which can negatively affect your health.

See Food for Thought: Diet and Nutrition for a Healthy Back

4. Set a tobacco quit date

Image of a person cutting cigarettes with scissors

Studies show that smoking history is associated with the development of low back pain.
 Does Smoking Cause Low Back Pain?

People who smoke experience pain more frequently than people who don’t smoke. And nicotine kills cells that help with bone growth. Quitting smoking is a difficult challenge, but it’s worth it if you want to enjoy a healthier spine. Consider these ideas:

  • Set a quit-date and stick to it. Share the date with friends and family, so you're more committed to that date and they can help hold you accountable.
  • If you associate other habits with smoking, replace those habits with new ones. For example, if you typically enjoy coffee while smoking every morning, start drinking tea instead.
  • Consider using medications to help curb your nicotine cravings, such as Zyban or Chantix.
  • For the first few weeks of not smoking, limit your exposure to other people you know who smoke.

See Ways to Quit Smoking

Add at least one of these tips to your list of New Year’s resolutions and see if you enjoy a healthier and happier 2019.

Learn more:

Walking Shoes for Exercise Walking

Quitting Smoking: A Must for People with Back Pain Video

By Jtsao@officite.com
January 09, 2019
Category: Uncategorized
Tags: Untagged

One good way to support and protect your lumbar spine  is to strengthen your lower back and core muscles. A physical therapist or spine specialist can recommend exercises that address your specific condition. Here are two exercises that may be suggested as part of your treatment program:

Image of woman walking on the treadmill to relieve back pain

Regular exercise alleviates back stiffness and release endorphins, the body’s natural pain relievers.
 Exercise and Back Pain

Arm/leg raises

Arm/leg raises help build resilience in your lower back muscles. You can practice this exercise while lying on your stomach.

  1. Lie on your stomach with your chin or forehead to the ground (you can use a towel underneath). Keep your legs straight and arms extended overhead.
  2. Slowly raise one arm off the ground, hold for a moment, and lower it back to the ground.
  3. Now repeat this for your other arm and legs, 5 repetitions each.

You may prefer to perform a similar, alternative exercise on your hands and knees. This option requires a bit more balance.

Image of woman performing bird dog pose for lower back pain

The bird dog pose can help to build resistance in your lower back.

  1. Get on your hands and knees. Keep your spine straight, with your hands directly below your shoulders and your knees aligned directly under your hips.
  2. Reach out with 1 arm and keep it straight and level. At the same time, extend the leg on your opposite side, keeping it straight and level.
  3. Hold for a few deep breaths, then gently lower your arm and leg to starting position.
  4. Repeat this exercise with your other arm/leg. Try for 3 to 5 repetitions on each side.

Watch Video: 5 Best Sacroiliac Joint Pain Exercises

In yoga, this exercise is called the bird-dog pose.

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Hook-lying march

Image of woman performing hook lying march exercise for lower back pain

The hook-lying march exercise helps to take pressure off the spinal discs.

The hook-lying march is an example of a lumbar stabilization exercise. It’s a great way to strengthen your lower back and core muscles, taking pressure off your spinal discs.

  1. Lie on your back with your arms at your side, knees bent, and feet planted flat on the ground.
  2. Tighten your stomach muscles and think about pulling your belly button in toward your spine. This will help flatten your lower back against the ground. Maintain this position throughout the exercise.
  3. Alternate slowly raising each leg 3 or 4 inches off the ground and holding for a brief moment. It should look like you’re marching.
  4. Do this exercise for 30 seconds, and aim to complete 2 or 3 sets.

See Core Body Strength Exercises

There are more advanced exercises you can perform from this position, but the hook-lying march is a good place to start, especially if you’re recovering from an injury or back surgery.

See Guide to Physical Therapy After Spinal Fusion

Tips for lower back exercises

Keep these pointers in mind when you do your lower back exercises:

See How a Physical Therapist Can Help with Exercise

See Stretching for Back Pain Relief

  • Talk to a doctor or physical therapist first. These health care providers can show you which exercises work best for your unique situation. They can also help you practice the correct technique for each exercise to prevent injury.
  • Supplement your lower back exercises. You may want to incorporate gentle stretching and low-impact aerobics into your treatment program. These activities are important for flexibility and conditioning.
  • Listen to your body. You may feel sore for a couple days after exercising, especially if you’re new to it. But if you feel pain during these exercises, stop immediately. Don’t push through the pain, schedule a doctor appointment instead. Either the exercise isn’t right for you, or your form is incorrect, which can aggravate the pain.

There are a number of exercises you can do to build lower back strength, so be sure to meet with your doctor about which ones best suit your condition.

Learn more:

Easy Exercise Program for Low Back Pain Relief

Strengthening Exercise Program for Low Back Pain Relief

By Jtsao@officite.com
January 09, 2019
Category: Uncategorized
Tags: Untagged

Stretching and exercise can help relieve compression on the sciatic nerve root, which leads to sciatica pain. However, many stretches and exercises are too challenging for older adults. Here are 4 effective stretches and exercises that are gentle on the body and easy to perform—and most importantly, can help ease your sciatica pain.

Image of a senior woman doing a hamstring stretch for sciatic pain

Sciatica exercises help to reduce current sciatica pain and provide conditioning to prevent future recurrences. Read Sciatica Exercises for Sciatica Pain Relief

Pelvic tilt

While this stretch works better on a yoga mat, you can perform it on a firm mattress if that’s easier for you.

  1. To begin, lie on your back. Bend your knees so both feet are flat on the surface with toes pointed forward.
  2. Pull your belly button in so your pelvis pushes toward the ceiling and your back flattens against the surface.
  3. Hold this position for 20 seconds, and then relax. Try to do this stretch 10 times.

Watch: Sciatica Exercises for Spinal Stenosis Video

Be sure to rely on your core muscles—and not to push with your legs—when you tilt your pelvis.

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The bridge is an exercise similar to the pelvic tilt.

  1. Start by lying on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the surface.
  2. Slowly lift your buttocks up, pushing through your heels as you raise your pelvis toward the ceiling.
  3. When your thighs and torso align, hold this stretch for 8 to 10 seconds (less if you’re just starting out), then slowly lower back down to starting position.

View Slideshow: 9 Exercises for Sciatica Pain Relief

As your strength develops, work toward the goal of completing 2 sets of 10 bridges.

Seated hamstring stretch

Image of three people doing the seated hamstring stretch for sciatica pain

Increasing the flexibility at the back of your legs can help ease and prevent sciatica pain.
 Seated Chair Hamstring Stretch for Sciatica Relief Video 

Tight hamstrings can worsen sciatica pain. Increasing the flexibility at the back of your legs can help ease—and further prevent—the pain. You can do this stretch while seated in a chair:

  1. Sit on the edge of a chair with 1 foot flat on the floor. Extend the other leg straight out in front of you with the heel on the ground and toes flexed up.
  2. Keeping your upper back straight, lean forward in your seat until you feel a gentle stretch behind your leg.
  3. Hold this stretch for 20 seconds and then return to starting position. Work up to completing 3 repetitions.

Stretching your hamstring muscles is one of the most effective and simple steps you can take for managing sciatica pain.

See Hamstring Stretching Exercises for Sciatica Pain Relief

Prone leg raise

The prone leg raise is a stabilizing exercise that is particularly helpful for people with sciatica pain from degenerative disc disease.

  1. Lie prone, flat on your stomach, either on a yoga mat or the surface of a mattress. Rest your face on your folded arms in front of you.
  2. Tighten your lower stomach muscles.
  3. Raise a leg behind you, bending your knee slightly and without arching your back or neck. Your leg should be at a low level and does not have to come far off the ground.
  4. Hold for about 5 seconds, then slowly lower to starting position.

Watch: Sciatica Exercises for Degenerative Disc Disease Video

As your strength builds, try to do 2 sets of 10 leg raises.

The above stretches and exercises won’t alleviate sciatica pain for everyone. But they are worth trying and discussing with your doctor or physical therapist.

Physical Therapy and Exercise for Sciatica

Learn more:

What You Need to Know About Sciatica

Sciatica Treatment

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