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

( 617)720-2329




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Posts for: December, 2018

Lower back pain can have any number of causes, but these 4 symptoms may indicate your pain is from lumbar degenerative disc disease:

See Lumbar Degenerative Disc Disease Symptoms

Lumbar Degenerative Disc Disease

Lumbar degenerative disc disease can lead to the pinching of a lumbar spinal nerve.
 Lumbar Degenerative Disc Disease Video

1. Pain that is provoked by activity, then subsides

Often times, a symptom of lumbar degenerative disc disease is pain that is provoked by physical activity—such as bending, lifting, or twisting—and then subsides.

See Golf and Low Back Pain

For example, your lower back pain may flare-up after swinging a golf club, or perhaps following an extended period of gardening. If you have degenerative disc disease, it is likely that the pain from these activities will soon return to a low-grade level, or disappear entirely.

However, in certain cases it is possible for severe episodes of lower back pain caused by lumbar degenerative disc disease to last from anywhere between a few days and a few months.

See How to Lessen Pain from a Degenerated Disc

2. Pain that is worse when sitting

Many of my patients find that their degenerative disc disease pain is worse when sitting. One reason for this is that sitting places 3 times as much pressure on the discs at the bottom of your spine as standing.

See The New Health Epidemic: Sitting Disease

This means that if you work a sedentary office job, you may be provoking your symptoms simply by going about your daily routine. One way to test whether sitting is exacerbating your symptoms is to alternate between using a standing desk and sitting in a chair during your workday.

See Work Ergonomics: Minimize Back Injuries

It is important to note that some patients still feel pain from degenerative disc disease while standing—but they may find significant relief while walking (or engaging in some other form of exercise).

See Exercise and Back Pain

3. Pain that improves when resting in a reclining position

Many people who suffer from lumbar degenerative disc disease find that their symptoms are alleviated by resting in a reclining position (such as lying in a reclining chair). Additionally, others find relief simply by sleeping with a pillow under their knees. Both positions provide relief because they reduce the stress on your lumbar disc space.

See Mattresses and Sleep Positions for Each Back Pain Diagnosis

In some cases, patients with degenerative disc disease choose to purchase an adjustable bed—as it can be configured in a number of ways to support your body in a reclining position.

See Using an Adjustable Bed for Back Pain

If you suspect your back pain is caused by lumbar degenerative disc disease, make sure to schedule an appointment with your doctor. She or he can help you accurately identify the source of your symptoms—which is the first step when it comes to finding the right course of treatment.

Learn more:

Lumbar Degenerative Disc Disease Treatment

Surgery for Lumbar Degenerative Disc Disease

As the years add up, a lack of care for your spine can lead to pain and put you at risk for serious complications.

See Common Causes of Back Pain and Neck Pain

spine anatomy

Your spine is strong and flexible, but it is a common source of back pain.
 Spinal Anatomy and Back Pain

To help alleviate your discomfort and prevent future injuries, make these 3 spinal indulgences part of your daily routine:

See Spinal Anatomy and Back Pain

1. Take a walk

Low-impact aerobic exercises, like walking, provide numerous benefits for your spine. For example, a daily walk strengthens the core muscles that support your spine, nourishes your spine by spurring healing nutrients and oxygen to the area, improves your overall flexibility, and reinforces the bone structure of your spine.

See Low-Impact Aerobic Exercise

When you walk, make sure your practice good walking form. This means you need to walk with your shoulders straight, your head held up high, and your stomach slightly pulled in toward you.

See Techniques for Effective Exercise Walking

If you suffer from a spinal condition, get the okay from your doctor before starting a walking regimen. And if you’re not an experienced walker, or if you're dealing with severe pain, it’s a good idea to begin with several short walks every day and slowly build up to a single long walk.

See Exercise Walking for Better Back Health

2. Follow a healthy diet

You may not realize it, but the food you eat every day plays a significant role in determining the overall health of your spine. To indulge your spine, avoid excess amounts of saturated fats (found in many baked goods, fried foods, and butter and/or cream). It’s also a good idea to eliminate processed foods from your diet, and to limit your intake of liquid calories (i.e. calories from soda and coffee-based drinks).

In place of the above unhealthy foods, make sure to include plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean sources of protein into your diet.


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

It may be difficult to make multiple abrupt changes to your diet, so you can start by changing one simple thing per week. For example, the first week you can cut out sugary drinks from your diet.

See Lifestyle and Diet Tips for Healthy Bones

As an added bonus, a healthy diet will help you maintain a proper weight—which in turn can reduce the pressure on your spinal structures and minimize your back pain.

See Nutrition and Diet for Weight Loss

3. Use a standing desk

Sitting places 3 times as much pressure on the spinal discs in your lower back (lumbar spine) than standing. This means that excessive sitting can have serious consequences for your lumbar spine.

See The New Health Epidemic: Sitting Disease

One way to reduce the negative effects of sitting is to indulge your spine by using a standing desk for all, or part of, the day. Here is how you can get started:

  • Standing desks can be expensive, so consider purchasing an affordable platform that you can place on top of your current desk.
  • Make sure you also purchase a pair of shoes that you feel comfortable standing in for long periods of time.
  • Set a goal of accomplishing one specific task per day using a standing desk. For example, you can answer your emails in the morning while standing.
  • Add an additional task each week, and slowly you will build your way up to spending the majority of your day standing up.

See Ten Tips for Improving Posture and Ergonomics

The above 3 spinal indulgences may seem like small changes to your daily routine, but over time they can add up to meaningful relief.

Learn more:

Exercise and Back Pain

Pain Management for Chronic Back Pain

Making minor changes to your daily routine can add up to major sciatica relief.

See What You Need to Know About Sciatica

Sciatica Symptoms

Sciatica refers to a set of symptoms caused by an underlying lower back disorder. 
 Sciatica Animated Video

To help you determine the changes you need to make, we identified 2 common mistakes that may be provoking your sciatica symptoms:

1. Wearing high heels

A contributor to your sciatica symptoms may be right beneath you: your high heels. High heels are a common fashion accessory, but they disrupt the natural curvature of your spine by shifting your weight forward. This can place increased stress on your lower back, which in turn may provoke your sciatica symptoms.

See Sciatica Symptoms

Of course, the best course of action is to avoid wearing high heels altogether. Instead, buy a comfortable pair of shoes from a footwear store that also caters to runners. Most of these stores can analyze your gait and foot shape, and in turn they can recommend a pair of shoes that will fit you properly.

See Five More Tips for Reducing Back Pain at the Office

If you have to wear high heels, here is how to minimize your pain during the day:

  • Wear a comfortable pair of shoes to work, and change into high heels once you arrive
  • Limit the height of your heels to less than 2 inches
  • Purchase high heels that fit snugly (but not too tight) so your feet do not slide forward

See Myths About Sciatica Treatment Options


2. Maintaining the same workout routine

By now, you have likely heard that it is important for people with sciatica to exercise. This is because aerobic exercise spurs healing nutrients and oxygen to your lower back, and gentle stretching can relieve tension in your lower back muscles.

See Physical Therapy and Exercise for Sciatica

But keeping the same workout routine from before the onset of your sciatica symptoms can actually provoke your sciatica. For example, you may have been a runner your whole life, but running jars your spine and can pinch or aggravate a sciatic nerve root.

See Exercise and Back Pain

For exercise to be effective in relieving your sciatica symptoms, you need a controlled, gradual exercise plan targeted at the particular underlying cause of your symptoms. If you haven't already, the first step in formulating this plan is to meet with your doctor for a proper diagnosis. She or he can then help tailor a plan to your specific needs.

See Getting an Accurate Back Pain Diagnosis

Change is never easy, but ditching your heels and adjusting your workout plan may noticeably reduce your sciatica symptoms.

See Sciatica Causes

Learn more:

 Sciatica Treatment

 When Sciatica Pain Is a Medical Emergency

Airplane travel can expose you to uncomfortable positions and prolonged periods of stationary sitting, causing neck pain. Try these 7 tips to avoid neck pain next time you fly.

Image of woman napping in the window seat of an airplane

Long airplane trips can be daunting for people with back or neck pain. Luckily there are several tips that can help reduce or avoid pain and discomfort while traveling. Read Pain-Free Travel Tips

1. Pack over-the-counter medication

Over-the-counter pain medication, such as ibuprofen (e.g., Advil, Motrin) and naproxen (e.g., Aleve), can help reduce inflammation and lessen pain from a stiff, sore neck. Pack this medication in your carry-on luggage, making it easy to access if your neck starts to hurt during the flight. Or if you’re already dealing with chronic neck pain, consider taking the medication an hour before your flight so it gets in your system prior to takeoff.

See NSAIDs: Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs

These medications carry risks and possible side effects, so check with a doctor or pharmacist before use.

2. Use a travel neck pillow

The cramped space of an airplane can leave you susceptible to incorrect posture. Laying your head on the tray table or leaning against the window, for example, can lead to neck strain and muscle stiffness.

A travel-sized neck pillow can help keep your neck straight and upright during the flight, minimizing the painful effects of incorrect posture. One popular option is a scarf-like wrap that features a supportive brace inside the fabric. Wearing this pillow allows you to comfortably lean to one side without bending your neck too far.

See Pillow Types to Consider

3. Relax

Plan ahead for some enjoyable, relaxing activities that can help take your mind off the pain. Listen to soothing music or an interesting podcast on your smartphone. Bring a novel or magazine to read and stimulate your mind. Think about your vacation destination and all the fun activities you look forward to doing there.

4. Get up and walk around

Holding a sedentary position for several hours can lead to neck pain—and lower back pain, too. You may find some relief by walking up and down the aisle when the pilot turns off the seatbelt sign. Changing positions and keeping your body loose can help reduce the muscle tightness caused by sitting in an uncomfortable position.

5. Stretch it out

Stretching can help ease neck stiffness, loosening tight muscles and restoring the neck to a more natural range of motion. You can perform many simple, effective neck stretches while you sit in your seat. It is recommended you practice stretches you learned from a qualified health professional, such as a physical therapist.

See 4 Easy Stretches for Neck and Shoulder Pain Video

6. Try a self-massage tool

You may find neck pain relief by using a handheld self-massage device while on the airplane (if the device is battery operated, check with the airline ahead of time to see if it is allowed onto the flight). A tennis ball can also be used as a self-massage tool and fits easily in a purse or laptop bag.

See Trigger Point Exercises for Neck Pain

Some airports have a massage therapy business on site, where you can hire a massage therapist to help relax your neck before or after a long flight.

7. Apply heat and/or cold therapy

Heat therapy encourages blood flow, reducing stiffness and allowing the neck to heal. You can use a disposable heat wrap, for example, which you can put on the back of your neck before your flight. Some people prefer cold therapy for neck pain relief. Consider packing plastic bags, which you can ask a flight attendant to fill with ice so you can make an ice pack.

See How to Apply Heat Therapy

Try some or all of these tips the next time you travel on an airplane. Hopefully, these ideas help prevent neck pain, so you can have a more enjoyable flight.

Learn more:

5 Tips for Flying Back Pain Free

Taking Painkillers? Plan Ahead Before You Travel

The holidays can be hard on your neck. Traveling, hosting guests, setting up decorations, and attending family events may require your body to move in ways it’s not used to doing. These activities can result in stiffness, soreness, or a sharp pain in the neck. Try these 4 tips to help keep your neck healthy and happy this holiday season.

Image of woman laying face-down on a mat performing the prone cobra neck strengthening exercise

Maintaining a regular exercise program during the holiday season can help to keep your neck strong and flexible. Watch: 3 Easy Neck Exercises for Neck Pain Video 

1. Pack and travel smart

If you travel this holiday season, you may have to carry luggage or sit in a cramped space for a long time, causing neck pain. Here are some ways to protect your neck while you travel:

  • Use a neck pillow. A travel-sized neck pillow helps keep your neck straight and upright so it doesn’t accidentally bend in an uncomfortable position.
  • Pack in multiple bags. Lifting luggage that’s too heavy can easily stress or injure your neck. Pack your travel items in multiple small bags instead of 1 large, heavy bag. Ask someone to help you take luggage in and out of your trunk or the overhead compartment on an airplane.
  • Bring heat/ice therapy. Heat therapy encourages blood flow and can reduce neck stiffness, and ice therapy helps reduce swelling and inflammation. So pack a heating pad, disposable heat wraps, and an ice wrap (or empty plastic bags you can later fill with ice) to use in case neck pain flares up.

See Pain-Free Travel Tips

2. Stick to a nutritious diet and exercise

The holiday season can throw off your daily routine, and exercise is often the first item to get cut from a shifting schedule. Eating habits often change this time of the year, too, as many people enjoy home-cooked meals and delicious desserts with family and friends.

See Anti-Inflammatory Foods to Try for Neck Pain

But if you commit to exercising and eating nutritiously over the holidays, your neck will thank you. A balanced diet, which includes adequate protein and plenty of fresh vegetables, supplies vitamins and healing properties that your soft tissues need. And an exercise program can help improve your cervical spine’s strength and flexibility, which may reduce the risk for neck pain.

See Daily Exercises and Stretches to Prevent Neck Pain

3. Save your energy and know your limits

Before the holidays arrive, consider which traditions and festivities are worth doing and which are too demanding. Some holiday activities, such as stringing up lights, baking cookies, and washing dishes are all physically strenuous and can cause or worsen neck pain.

Listen to what your body is telling you and decide ahead of time which activities to skip. Ask your family, friends, or neighbors to help carry out difficult chores. Take some time for yourself this holiday season, relaxing in bed with a good book or soaking in a warm bath.

4. Ask for gifts that help relieve neck pain

If you exchange gifts with loved ones to celebrate the holidays, here are a few items you can put on your wishlist:

See Massage Therapy for Chronic Stiff Neck

See Pillows for Neck Pain

  • Massage therapy gift certificate. Massage therapy, such as a Swedish massage or deep tissue massage, can help you relax, encourage blood flow to your soft tissues, and reduce your perception of pain.
  • Pillow. The right pillow is the one that has just the right height and firmness for you and will help keep your neck in a supported position with neutral alignment.
  • Neck massage device. If you want to treat neck pain at home, you can bring the massage to you. Research the best neck massagers and muscle rollers on the market.

Neck pain can be especially difficult to handle during the holiday season. Using this list, you can try a few tips to see what helps you find relief.

Learn more:

7 Ways to Avoid Overdoing It This Holiday Season

Neck Exercises for Neck Pain