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

( 617)720-2329


 

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Posts for: November, 2019

Headache with neck pain can be a double whammy that makes it difficult to move the head and/or concentrate. While headaches can cause the muscles in your neck to become stiff and painful, a problem in your neck, such as irritated nerves, can also cause headaches. Common conditions where you may experience headache and neck pain together are:

Here are 11 tips to help relieve headache and neck pain without medication. Just remember to stop a treatment if it makes your pain worse.

Apply firm pressure. Applying compression on the temples, forehead, and/or back of the neck provide may provide relief from pain caused by tension headaches or migraines.1 This pressure may be applied with your fingertips, hands, or by wrapping a handkerchief around your head.

Try heat therapy. In some people, headaches may be caused by constriction of blood vessels, and can be relieved by placing a heat pack on the back of the neck. Taking a hot shower may also help in relieving pain while also providing a relaxed feeling. When applying heat therapy, limit applications to 15 minutes with at least 2 hours of rest in between to prevent skin damage.

Use an ice pack. Cold therapy decreases blood flow and reduces muscle spasms and inflammation, relieving pain. A cold pack placed on the forehead, temple, or neck may be useful when treating neck pain and headache. People who have migraines may find ice packs bring more relief than hot packs. When applying cold therapy, limit applications to 15 minutes with at least 2 hours of rest in between applications to prevent skin damage.

Maintain good posture. Spending hours a day slouched at a desk or over a computer with forward head posture puts extra stress on the neck’s muscles and joints. This poor posture can eventually lead to neck pain and/or trigger headaches.3 Instead, keep the head in neutral position with the ears directly over the shoulders and hips, which more naturally balances the head on the cervical spine. In addition to maintaining good posture, try to take breaks from sitting and get regular exercise as tolerated.

Sleep, but don’t oversleep. A good sleep routine is important for overall good health. A lack of sleep can induce headaches or make an existing headache chronic in some people. Some studies also show that sleeping longer than usual may cause tension headaches to occur or become worse.

Find the right pillow. A suitable pillow supports the natural curve of your neck and may help reduce neck pain and headaches. While pillows can vary greatly by height, material, shape, and firmness, no one pillow is considered best for everyone. Choosing the right pillow for you depends on your personal preferences and head-neck alignment. Try different pillows to see which one helps your neck to feel the best in the morning.

Keep a daily journal. Research suggests that writing out your emotions in a private journal may help relieve stress. Over time, keeping a journal may also help you to identify activities or foods that are triggering neck pain and/or headaches. For example, migraine triggers can be found in foods and food additives, such as chocolates, monosodium glutamate, nitrites, nitrates, caffeine, and alcohol.Migraines may also be triggered by certain types of light, smell, and/or sounds.

Visit a physical therapist. A physical therapist can help formulate a treatment plan by incorporating physical therapy techniques, such as manual therapy, stretching, and/or exercise. Physical therapy may help reduce headaches and neck pain. It is also useful in strengthening the neck and back muscles for better posture and function.

Get a massage. A massage therapist may help relieve pain in trigger points (tender nodules in the neck and scalp muscles) through different massage techniques.

Try dry needling. A medical professional trained in dry needling may place thin, sterile needles into painful trigger points located in your neck and/or head. The goal of dry needling is to release tension in irritable muscles and their connective tissues, which might have been contributing to the headaches and/or neck pain. Some evidence suggests that dry needling may help bring relief from chronic tension-type headaches.

Consider acupuncture. According to traditional Chinese medicine theory, an energy imbalance or stagnation within the body may contribute to neck pain and headaches. Acupuncture is one method for trying to get this energy (called “qi”) to start flowing again. A licensed acupuncturist places ultra-thin needles at specific acupoints on the body, depending on the symptoms being experienced. While science has yet to prove that qi or acupoints exist, many people have reported experiencing at least temporary pain relief from acupuncture.


Try a combination of these tips to see what works best for your headache and neck pain. If your headache and/or neck pain occurs frequently or worsens over time, consult a doctor for an accurate diagnosis. A doctor can help formulate a treatment plan, which may also include medications.

It is important to seek immediate medical attention for any stiff neck (nuchal rigidity) that presents with a severe headache and/or fever. These symptoms could indicate meningitis, which is a medical emergency.


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.

 

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.

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.

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.

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:

-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.


While no single treatment works for everyone, any of the following 3 techniques for coping with chronic sciatica may help you better manage your symptoms:

1. Disassociation
As you likely know by now, the location of your sciatica symptoms can vary based on which of your sciatic nerve roots is pinched or irritated. This means it’s possible to experience symptoms in a variety of places, such as your calf, foot, or hamstring (and symptoms may be experienced in multiple locations at once).

Regardless of the location of your symptoms, you may find relief by imagining that a painful part of your body is separated from the rest of your body (a mental practice known as disassociation). For example, picture your numb foot on the dresser located on the other side of your room. You can then tell your foot (or whichever body part is experiencing symptoms) to stay where it is (as you continue to hold this mental picture in your mind).

When your first start out, you can hold a particular image in your mind for as little, or as long, as you like. If possible, it is also a good idea to locate a dark, secluded room in order to practice the dissociation technique.

2. Biofeedback
Biofeedback refers to the process of using a monitoring machine (often a computer) to retrain physical states in your body that are not normally under voluntary control. Put another way, biofeedback measures a physical process, and then immediately reports the information to the person being monitored so that he or she can learn to consciously influence that physical state.

Biofeedback is used to train people to do such things as lower their heart rate, decrease muscle tension, and lower their blood pressure.

If your sciatica is provoked by muscle tension in your lower back, biofeedback treatment may help bring you relief by training you to reduce the tension and allowing your mind to focus away from your symptoms.

Biofeedback training for muscle tension involves placing electrodes on the skin over the area of the muscle that needs to be retrained. The computer can then measure the amount of muscle electrical activity that is present (this electrical activity is related to the tension in the muscle). On the computer screen, you will be able to see the amount of tension present in the muscle, and then you can slowly learn to decrease it.

3. Enjoy your favorite activity
It might seem too simple, but regularly engaging in your favorite hobby or activity can reduce your perception of your chronic sciatica pain. This is possible because your attention is drawn away from your chronic pain, and instead is placed on the pleasurable task at hand.

You may no longer be able to run a marathon or go mountain biking, but you can likely still engage in simple tasks like writing poetry or reading a good book. Another option is to call a good friend on the phone at least once a week.

As a final word on this technique, I often tell patients that when their pain is at its worst, the last thing you should do is give up on your hobbies. This is not only because engaging in hobbies can reduce your perception of your chronic pain, but it also places you at greater risk for developing depression.

Make sure to have the underlying cause of your sciatica diagnosed. This is important because your chronic sciatic pain may be more than a nuisance—it might be a warning signal alerting you to a serious medical problem.


November 12, 2019
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Sitting in an office chair all day is hard on your back. This prolonged posture can cause or worsen pain, putting pressure on your muscles, ligaments, and spinal discs.

See Identifying Incorrect Posture

If you’re looking for an office chair alternative, here are 5 options to consider:

See 10 Best Laptop Setups

1. Standing desk

Illustration of a man using a standing desk converter in his office

Using a standing desk engages your core muscles and can encourage better posture and spinal alignment. Try a standing desk converter if you prefer to switch off between standing and sitting.

A raised desk allows you to work while standing. Standing engages your core muscles more than sitting, and it can lead to better posture and spinal alignment.

See Posture to Straighten Your Back

Make sure your standing desk is raised to a height from which you can work comfortably. Your arms should be able to bend at a 90-degree angle while you use your computer, and you should be able to look straight ahead at your monitor without tilting your neck down.

See Ten Tips for Improving Posture and Ergonomics

Place a thick mat underneath you to keep things gentle for your feet and knees. Consider using a pedestal or footstool, too, so you can occasionally shift your weight.

Watch Video: 6 Tips to Improve Posture While Sitting

Standing all day may sound like a big commitment. For a less drastic change, you may prefer a standing desk converter. It sits on top of your current desk and can be raised to the height of a standing desk. That way you can switch between sitting and standing throughout the day.

See Types of Lumbar Support and Ergonomic Office Chairs

2. Recliner with laptop stand

You may feel most comfortable working in a reclining position rather than sitting upright. If this is the case, try a reclining office chair. It may keep you from slumping forward and putting pressure on your lower back. And by using the headrest, footrest, and an ergonomically positioned laptop stand, you don’t have to slope your neck downward or strain your arms to work on the computer.

See Office Chair: How to Reduce Back Pain?

3. Exercise ball

Illustration of a woman using an exercise ball with a base at a desk

Sitting on an exercise ball can help keep you from slouching. The dynamic sitting experience requires your body to adjust and balance, which helps strengthen your core and lower back.

Sitting on an exercise ball is active. Your body constantly makes minor adjustments to stay balanced, which engages your core and lower back. Because there is no backrest, it encourages good posture. And if you like to fidget or move around a little, the exercise ball lets you bounce up and down.

See Exercise Ball Uses

You may want to get an exercise ball with a base at the bottom, or an exercise ball chair, to prevent the ball from rolling away when you stand up.

See Beginning Exercise Program on an Exercise Ball

4. Ergonomic stool

An ergonomic stool, sometimes marketed as a balance stool or active stool, is a dynamic seating option similar to an exercise ball. The high seat encourages you to half-stand with your feet on the floor, and the pivoting base and lack of backrest require you to engage your core and practice good posture.

See Good Posture Helps Reduce Back Pain

Some people prefer an ergonomic stool over an exercise ball because it stands out less in a professional environment—while providing many of the same benefits.

5. Kneeling chair

illustration of a man using a kneeling chair at a desk

Kneeling chairs take pressure off the lower back and keep the spine in a more neutral position.

A kneeling chair provides a padded seat for you to sit, angled forward to shift some of your body weight to the shins and knees. The design of the chair is intended to place your spine in a more neutral position, taking pressure off your lower back.

See Choosing the Right Ergonomic Office Chair

Sitting in the kneeling position for long periods of time may be difficult at first. Try working your way up to an hour at a time in this chair, several times a day.

Be sure to get an adjustable kneeling chair so you can find the position that works best for you.

This list is by no means exhaustive, so feel free to try out different options and choose the one that feels best for you. Keep in mind that no matter which office chair alternative you choose, one of the best ways to keep your back healthy is to get up several times a day and go for a short walk.

Watch Video: 2 Walking Tips to Avoid Sciatica Pain

Learn more:

Ergonomics of the Office and Workplace: An Overview

Ergonomic Chair Alternatives to Traditional Office Chairs

 


November 12, 2019
Category: Uncategorized
Tags: Untagged

Looking down at your phone, tablet, or laptop can cause ongoing neck pain. When you hold this tilted, head-forward posture for long periods of time, you may develop a repetitive stress injury or muscle strain.

See How Poor Posture Causes Neck Pain

Image of woman on the couch looking down at her phone

There are several steps you can take to treat tech neck. Watch: Text Neck Treatment Video 

This ailment is commonly referred to as tech neck (sometimes called text neck) and can be avoided by changing a few habits. Here are 5 simple steps you can take to prevent the pain:

See Text Neck Symptoms and Diagnosis

 

1. Raise your screen higher

Hold your phone or tablet up close to eye level to avoid sloping your head forward or bending your neck down. If your arms get tired from holding the screen higher, buy a holder to elevate your device, or rest your elbows on a tabletop to prop your arms up comfortably. If you work on a laptop, get a second monitor and adjust the height.

See Text Neck Treatment and Prevention

2. Take breaks often

If you have to look at a screen for an extended period of time, take breaks. Develop a habit of taking a 2- or 3-minute break every half hour, and set an alarm on your phone to remind you. Use these breaks to change your posture and move around, keeping your muscles loose and spine aligned. Try this quick stretch on break: tuck your chin down, then slowly raise it upward. Then gently turn your head over one shoulder, then the other.

See Ten Tips for Improving Posture and Ergonomics

3. Sit in a chair with a headrest

The ergonomics of your chair can help you maintain correct posture and avoid tech neck. Switch to a chair that has a headrest and keep the back of your head flush against the headrest while you use your screen. Holding your head in this position will prevent you from looking down with your neck flexed forward.

See Choosing the Right Ergonomic Office Chair

4. Strengthen and stretch your muscles

Video still of woman doing the flexion neck stretch

Strengthening and stretching your chest, neck, and upper back can help to prevent muscle imbalances caused by forward head posture. Watch: 4 Easy Stretches for Neck and Shoulder Pain Video 

Over time, muscle imbalances can develop due to long-term forward head posture. To prevent these imbalances, it helps to strengthen and stretch your chest, neck, and upper back muscles. Keeping these muscles in good shape helps support the weight of your head and minimize strain on your cervical spine.

See Forward Head Posture’s Effect on the Cervical Spine

You can also perform exercises that target your abdominals and lower back. While it may seem counterintuitive to work out this part of your body to prevent tech neck, these muscle groups play a role in supporting your upper body, including your neck.

See Neck Exercises for Neck Pain

5. Use pain as a warning sign

If you experience pain in your neck, between the shoulder blades, numbness or tingling in the arms, or frequent headaches, there may be a more serious issue going on. Pay attention to these warning signs and act quickly to make changes to reduce or eliminate any head-forward posture straining your neck.

See What Is Cervical Radiculopathy?

Try all or some of the above methods and see which ones work for you. If your neck pain symptoms don’t improve, it may be time to seek help from a qualified health professional.

Learn more:

Workplace Ergonomics and Neck Pain

Forward Head Posture’s Effect on Neck Muscles