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

( 617)720-2329


 

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Posts for: March, 2019

1 Hour to Ease Your Back Ache and Boost Your Mood

Using a stand-up desk for 1 hour per day may help alleviate your back pain and boost your mood.
See Lower Back Pain Symptoms, Diagnosis, and Treatment


Back pain is the most common work-related injury. But there are several ergonomic changes that can be made to prevent back pain in the workplace. Read Ergonomics of the Office and Workplace: An Overview

Sound too good to be true? Read on to learn more:
See Back Pain and Ergonomics

The risks associated with excessive sitting

Before we look at the possible benefits of a stand-up desk, let's talk about the risks associated with excessive sitting. Complications may include:

  • Neck pain from hunching forward
  • Increased risk for developing heart disease
  • Tight hips and hamstrings
  • Increased back pain

See The New Health Epidemic: Sitting Disease

It is important to note that good posture can help minimize some of the risks associated with excessive sitting, but it is not a cure-all.

See Good Posture Helps Reduce Back Pain

Recent evidence promotes more standing

In a 2011 study, participants experienced less upper back pain, less neck pain, and an improved mood by simply sitting 66 minutes less per day.1

See Workplace Ergonomics and Neck Pain

Participants in the study held sedentary office jobs. Researchers provided the participants with a device that allowed them to sit or stand at their desks throughout the course of the study.

See Work Ergonomics: Minimize Back Injuries

The participants were given the choice to sit or stand as much, or as little, as they pleased. On average, the group ended up sitting around 1 hour less each day—but this was enough to realize statistically significant health benefits.

Improved emotional well-being

As mentioned previously, the benefits of less sitting were not only physical. Participants reported decreased fatigue, tension, confusion, and depression—all gained by sitting 66 minutes less per day.

See Depression and Chronic Back Pain

Moreover, the following benefits were reported:

  • 75% felt healthier
  • 71% felt more focused
  • 66% felt more productive
  • 62% felt happier
  • 33% felt less stressed.
See Stress-Related Back Pain

Toward the end of the study, the office workers’ sit-to-stand desks were removed, and their moods and pain levels went back to baseline.

What does this mean for you?

One clear takeaway from this study is that you may benefit from the daily use of a stand-up desk. Here are some tips to help get you started:

  • Height adjustable stand-up desks that are placed on top of your regular desk are available at a fraction of the cost of a full stand-up desk.
  • Ensure that your monitor is placed at eye level to reduce strain on your neck.
  • Place your foot up on some kind of rest so you can easily shift your body weight from one leg to the other.
  • Consider purchasing an adjustable stool so you can sit, or partially sit, for periods of time.
See Ergonomics of the Office and Workplace: An Overview

As a bonus, you may only need to use a stand-up desk for 1 or 2 hours per day to reap significant health benefits.

Learn more:

Early Treatments for Lower Back Pain
Office Chair, Posture, and Driving Ergonomics

References

  1. Pronk NP, Katz AS, Lowry M, Payfer JR, "Reducing Occupational Sitting Time and Improving Worker Health: The Take-a-Stand Project," 2011. Prev Chronic Dis 2012;9:110323


2 Neck Pain Symptoms That Require Immediate Medical Attention

Neck pain is not typically a cause for panic, as you can treat many symptoms with simple measures such as rest, stretching, ice/heat therapy, over-the-counter medications, and ergonomics. However, there are some instances of neck pain when you should seek medical attention immediately. Here are two: See Chronic Neck Pain: What Condition Is Causing My Neck Pain?

1. Stiff neck with a severe headache or fever


Having a stiff neck and flu-like symptoms could be a sign of meningitis, a serious condition that occurs when the protective membranes covering the brain and spinal cord become infected and inflamed.
If your neck is stiff, and you also have a fever and/or an especially painful headache, you could have meningitis.

See When Neck Stiffness May Mean Meningitis

Meningitis, in its most dangerous form, is a bacterial infection that causes inflammation in the brain and spinal cord. Early warning signs of meningitis may include a fever (high body temperature, chills, body aches), an intense headache, and an inability to flex the neck forward. A stiff neck doesn’t always occur when meningitis is present, so look for other possible symptoms, such as nausea, vomiting, and increased sensitivity to sound or light.

See How Meningitis Causes Neck Pain and Stiffness

Meningitis symptoms usually develop within a few days of exposure. Getting meningitis treated early is critical; delaying treatment poses a severe risk for hearing loss, brain damage, and even death.

Experiencing a stiff neck, fever, and bad headache all at once doesn’t always signal meningitis, but if you display these symptoms, it is recommended you visit a doctor right away.

See When Is a Stiff Neck Serious?

2. Neck pain with persistent arm/hand numbness or weakness


Cervical radiculopathy occurs when a nerve root in the cervical spine is compressed, inflamed, or damaged. Symptoms of cervical radiculopathy include tingling, numbness, and/or weakness in the areas served by the affected nerve root.
Do you have neck pain that radiates to your shoulder, arm, or finger with a pins-and-needles, weakening, or numbing sensation? These symptoms may suggest cervical radiculopathy.

See What Is Cervical Radiculopathy?

Cervical radiculopathy means that a nerve root in your cervical spine is compressed, inflamed, or damaged. The issue most often occurs because of a nearby bone spur or herniated disc that is caused by degenerative changes in your neck. Less commonly, cervical radiculopathy indicates an infection or tumor.

See Cervical Radiculopathy Causes and Risk Factors

Cervical radiculopathy pain typically is felt in just one side of the body. The pain may also take on a burning or shock-like quality, and your grip may feel weaker. Your reflexes may also be affected.

See Cervical Radiculopathy Signs and Symptoms

If you show cervical radiculopathy symptoms, see your doctor. He or she may perform a physical examination, review your medical history, and possibly conduct imaging studies or other advanced diagnostic tests.

See Diagnosing Cervical Radiculopathy

These two examples don’t form a comprehensive list, as other neck pain symptoms may require immediate medical attention. You should also seek urgent care if your neck pain is accompanied by problems with coordination or bowel/bladder control.

See Neck Pain Symptoms

When in doubt, call your doctor to see if troubling signs or symptoms need to be checked. Getting an accurate diagnosis early may lead to more effective treatments and better outcomes.

See Diagnosing Neck Pain

Learn more:

Stiff Neck Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment
Video: What Causes a Stiff Neck?


5 Quick Facts About Cervical Osteoarthritis

Cervical osteoarthritis, or neck arthritis, is a relatively common condition. To clear up confusion around this topic, here’s what you should know:

Cervical osteoarthritis occurs when the protective cartilage in the neck joints break down and no longer facilitate smooth movement between bone. Cervical osteoarthritis doesn't always cause pain, but when it does, pain typically begins gradually and feels stiff and achy. Read Cervical Osteoarthritis (Neck Arthritis)

 

1. Cervical osteoarthritis may be caused by several factors

Cervical osteoarthritis occurs when the protective cartilage that lines your neck joints wears down over time, which causes bone-on-bone friction and osteophytes (bone spurs) to develop. This process leads to inflammation and pain.

See Cervical Osteophytes: Bone Spurs in the Neck

Some evidence suggests that genetics play a role in the development of osteoarthritis. Sustaining a neck injury, working a physically demanding job, and being overweight all may also contribute to the onset of symptomatic osteoarthritis. There’s no single preventable cause.

Watch: Cervical Facet Osteoarthritis Video

2. Cervical osteoarthritis pain begins gradually

In many cases, cervical osteoarthritis doesn’t cause pain. If pain does occur, it typically begins gradually, not suddenly, and comes from the inflammatory response to arthritic changes. If your neck pain quickly escalates from non-existent to severe, it’s not likely to signal cervical osteoarthritis, but something else. Sometimes the sharp pain is a muscle spasm reacting to underlying arthritis.

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

The pain from cervical osteoarthritis typically feels achy and stiff rather than sharp. It can be especially painful in the morning before you have a chance to get up and move around. And the pain may come back again at the end of the day. These and other symptoms may progress and get worse over time.

See Cervical Osteoarthritis Symptoms

3. There’s no surefire imaging method to diagnose cervical osteoarthritis

No single imaging test to determine whether or not you have cervical osteoarthritis currently exists. X-rays and MRIs are often obtained if the pain is chronic, and these tests commonly reveal a certain degree of osteoarthritis in people over the age of 55, but they can’t diagnose the cause of the pain.

See Diagnosing Cervical Osteoarthritis

While a diagnosis is sometimes made by reviewing a person’s medical history and performing a medical examination, the doctor may need to use image-guided injections to identify the source of the pain.

See Medial Branch Nerve Blocks

4. Cervical osteoarthritis is often confused with rheumatoid arthritis

Cervical osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis can both occur in the cervical spine, and their pain may feel similar, but the pathologies are very different.

Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease and usually accompanied by other symptoms, including fatigue and loss of appetite. In addition, rheumatoid arthritis is more likely to develop in the upper part of the neck, while cervical osteoarthritis often occurs lower in the neck.

See What is Rheumatoid Arthritis? on Arthritis-health.com

5. Cervical osteoarthritis can’t be “cured,” but symptoms can be treated

Cervical osteoarthritis tends to get worse as people age. But even as the bony changes worsen, the inflammation can be treated and often eliminated.

See Cervical Osteoarthritis Treatment

Treatment options for cervical osteoarthritis vary and depend on the severity of the symptoms. Typically, doctors recommend non-surgical treatments, such as regular exercise, rest, heat/ice therapy, over-the-counter medications, good posture, and ergonomic workstations. The doctor may also suggest physical therapy, losing weight, and quitting smoking.

See Physical Therapy for Neck Pain Relief

Targeted injections can be effective, and for some people, a procedure called radiofrequency rhizotomy for arthritic facet joints in the neck may be recommended.

See Injections for Back Pain Relief

If cervical osteoarthritis progresses to the point of compressing a nerve root or the spinal cord, there may be additional problems with pain going into the arms or legs, numbness, weakness, and/or coordination issues. While such cases are rare, surgical options may be considered when non-surgical options have not effectively controlled these symptoms.

See What Is Cervical Radiculopathy?

These facts don’t represent a comprehensive guide to cervical osteoarthritis, but it is hoped they offer a helpful starting point on your journey to pain relief.
 

Learn more:

Stiff Neck Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment
Neck Cracking and Grinding: What Does It Mean?


3 Things That Might Be Causing Your Sciatica

Sciatica pain is a symptom that signals an underlying medical issue. It often shows up as:

  • A sharp or electric-shock sensation that runs down one side of your body, down your buttock, behind your thigh and calf;
  • Weakness or numbness in your leg, foot, or toes; and/or
  • Pain that worsens when you transition from a seated position to standing and/or walking.
See Sciatica Symptoms

The term sciatica refers to symptoms of pain, numbness, and/or weakness that radiate along the sciatic nerve. Sciatica often results from lower back disorders between the L4 and S1 levels that cause irritation to a lumbar nerve root. Watch: Sciatica Animated Video

What’s causing your sciatica? One of these 3 problems might be the culprit:
See Back Muscles and Low Back Pain

1. Herniated disc

A herniated disc in the lumbar spine, sometimes called a slipped disc or bulging disc, is a common cause of sciatica pain.

See Lumbar Herniated Disc: What You Should Know

A disc acts as a cushion between your vertebrae. A herniation occurs when a disc’s tough exterior breaks and its gelatinous inner contents (nucleus pulposus) leak out. Sometimes this material gets into the space that is only supposed to be occupied by nerves. When it pushes against your nerves, inflammation—and pain—occurs.

See Lumbar Herniated Disc Symptoms

Though sciatica pain from a herniated disc may feel sudden, it typically is the result of gradual wearing-down of your disc from daily repetitive movements and not necessarily triggered by a specific trauma. However, an accident or sudden injury—caused by lifting furniture or shoveling snow, for example—is enough to herniate a disc. Not everyone who has a lumbar herniated disc experiences symptoms.

See Lumbar Herniated Disc: Causes and Risk Factors

2. Spondylolisthesis

Spondylolisthesis is often the source of sciatica pain. It occurs when one vertebra slips forward over the vertebra directly underneath it. This slippage may happen because of a fracture or other spinal instability.

See Degenerative Spondylolisthesis

Spondylolisthesis can be caused by a sudden event, such as a fall or some other accident, but in most cases, it occurs gradually from cumulative stress as the joints in your spine degenerate over time.

See Isthmic Spondylolisthesis

The majority of people who have spondylolisthesis don’t show symptoms. People who do experience symptoms often report a sharp or burning pain that radiates down their buttocks and legs, and their legs may feel tired and/or tingly. Sitting in a reclining position often helps ease the pain from spondylolisthesis.

See Degenerative Spondylolisthesis Symptoms

3. Spinal stenosis

Spinal stenosis is another possible suspect for what’s causing your sciatica pain. This condition involves the narrowing of the spaces in your spine that nerves travel through. If these spaces get too cramped, they put pressure on your nerves, triggering sciatica pain.

See What is Spinal Stenosis?

People with spinal stenosis are typically comfortable when they rest but cannot walk far without developing leg pain. Pain relief is achieved, sometimes immediately, when they sit down again.

See Spinal Stenosis Symptoms and Diagnosis

Spinal stenosis can occur in either the cervical or lumbar spine. Only lumbar spinal stenosis is responsible for sciatica pain. This condition is related to the degeneration of the spine, so it’s more commonly found in people who are middle-aged or older.

See Lumbar Spinal Stenosis: A Definitive Guide

This list isn’t exhaustive; several underlying conditions can cause sciatic and sciatica-like pain. To find a treatment that’s effective for you, talk to a doctor for a clinical diagnosis.

See Sciatica Treatment

Learn more:

What You Need to Know About Sciatica
Sciatic Nerve and Sciatica


How to Treat Lower Back Pain Caused by Stress

All of us have experienced stress at some point in our lives; but what you may not have considered is that this stress could be the primary cause of your lower back pain.
See Causes of Lower Back Pain

There are several treatment options that help to manage stress-related back pain.
See
Treatments for Stress-Related Back Pain

Read on to learn about your treatment options for lower back pain that is caused by stress:

1. Physical conditioning

A common temptation for people who are experiencing stress-related lower back pain is to avoid exercise. This can be due to any number of reasons, including a fear of further damaging one’s back. Over time, this lack of exercise leads to deconditioned lower back muscles, which in turn can actually increase your lower back pain.

See Exercise and Back Pain

The connection between inactivity and increased pain is one reason why physical conditioning is a key component of almost all treatment plans for stress-related lower back pain.

See Exercise Walking for Better Back Health

I typically suggest that people begin a regimen of physical conditioning with a daily walk. Walking provides numerous benefits, including strengthening the muscles around your abdomen and lower back, controlling your weight, and spurring the release of pain-fighting endorphins into your system.

See Techniques for Effective Exercise Walking

You can begin a walking regimen with as little as 10 minutes per day, and then slowly work your way up to 30 to 40 minutes. Over time, your doctor will likely suggest you add strength training and stretching to your physical conditioning program.

2. Counseling for environmental hardships

A common contributor to stress is environmental factors. You may have recently lost your job, be facing severe financial hardship, or have suffered the loss of a close relationship—and the stress from these experiences may be provoking your lower back pain symptoms.

See How Does Stress Cause Back Pain?

It is often a good idea to find assistance through counseling or therapy to relieve stress caused by environmental hardships. A trained mental health counselor or psychologist can teach you strategies to cope with, and minimize, the causes of your stress. For example, she or he can teach you to plan in advance, and also help with developing strategies to deal with the difficult people in your life.

What is stress-related lower back pain?

When we speak of treating stress-related lower back pain, what we are referring to is lower back pain in which psychological and emotional factors are of primary influence. This means psychological and emotional factors either started your back pain symptoms, or they are the cause of your continuing pain.

See Stress-Related Back Pain

Stress-related back pain is not a traditional medical diagnosis, but stress may be one of the most common causes of back pain.

How stress-related lower back pain is diagnosed

Unfortunately, the diagnosis of stress-related back pain is not used by most medical professionals; but only those who are accepting of mind-body influences. As such, it is very unlikely that your primary care doctor (or medical specialist) will broach the possibility of stress being the primary cause of your symptoms.

See Getting an Accurate Back Pain Diagnosis

When it comes to diagnosing stress-related lower back pain, the typical patient experience is that all other possible reasons for your back pain are first ruled out. These include underlying conditions like a herniated disc and degenerative disc disease, as well as more serious conditions such as tumors. In the vast majority of cases, after other causes are ruled out people with stress-related back pain are diagnosed with some type of “sprain-strain” (in traditional medical nomenclature).

After this diagnosis, it is then often up to the patient to make the possible connection between their stress and their back pain. Once this possibility is broached with your physician, a more fruitful dialogue can then occur. In turn, your primary care physician might be able to help with a referral to the appropriate treatment professional to address the relationship between your stress and your back pain.

See The Diagnosis of Stress-Related Back Pain

Learn more:

Depression and Chronic Back Pain
Diagnosing Lower Back Pain