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

( 617)720-2329


 

Archive:

 

Patient Direct Icon




Posts for category: Uncategorized

Pain in the upper and/or middle back can be quite limiting and interfere with daily activities. To help alleviate this pain, consider stretching and strengthening the muscles that support your thoracic spine (upper and mid back). Here are 5 common exercises to try.

See Early Treatments for Upper Back Pain

Press-up exercise

This press-up or back extension exercise targets your back extensor muscles, which are attached to the back of your spine.

Image of person doing press up exercise for sciatica pain relief
  1. Lie on the stomach with your hands under your shoulders.
  2. Raise your upper body onto your elbows while keeping both forearms and hips relaxed on the ground. Breathe out and allow your chest to sink toward the ground. You should feel a comfortable stretch in your mid back.
  3. Hold for 5 seconds, then slowly return to the floor.
  4. Aim to complete 10 repetitions. Gradually build to hold the position for 30 seconds.

A more advanced Step 2 involves raising your upper body onto your hands (rather than forearms) while still keeping both hips relaxed on the ground. In yoga, this is called the cobra pose.

advertisement

Cat-cow pose

The cat-cow pose is a gentle stretch that can help ease the pain in your middle back.

Image of person doing the cat cow yoga pose for middle and upper back pain
  1. Get down on all fours with knees and hands on the floor. The back and neck should be in a neutral, straight position.
  2. Slowly tighten lower abdominals, rounding the back towards the ceiling and tucking your chin. You should feel a stretch along your spine.
  3. Hold for 5 seconds.
  4. Release and return to neutral position.
  5. Slowly lift your head, chest and tailbone toward the ceiling, letting your spine and stomach sink toward the ground. This should also produce a comfortable stretch in your spine.
  6. Hold for 5 seconds.
  7. Release and return to neutral position.

Alternate between the two poses.

Opposite arm/leg raise

This exercise, sometimes called the bird-dog pose in yoga, strengthens your abdominals and back muscles.

Image of person doing opposite arm leg raise exercise for upper and middle back pain
  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. Slowly reach out with one arm while extending the leg on its opposite side. Keep both 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.
  5. If you had a tissue box balanced on your lower back it should remain in place throughout the exercise.

Try for 10 to 15 repetitions on each side.

Corner stretch

Upper back pain is often due to poor posture, which may be exacerbated by tight chest muscles. The corner stretch is an easy and effective way to open up the chest muscles and encourage healthy posture.

Image of person doing the corner stretch exercise for upper and middle back pain
  1. Face the corner of a room.
  2. Position feet together, about 2 feet away from the corner.
  3. Place a forearm on each wall with the elbows slightly below shoulder height.
  4. Lean forward until a good stretch is felt across the chest and shoulders. Your lower back should remain neutral (as it is while standing).
  5. Hold the stretch 30 to 60 seconds.

If a corner is not available, another option is to perform this stretch in a doorway by placing the forearms on the door jambs (sides of the door frame). This stretch can be performed 3 to 5 times throughout the day.

advertisement

Prone cobra

The prone cobra is an advanced back extension exercise that targets your upper back muscles:

  1. Lie on the floor face down. You may place the forehead on a rolled-up hand towel for comfort.
  2. Place the arms at the side, palms down on the floor
  3. Pinch the shoulder blades together and lift the hands off the floor. Keep shoulders down and away from ears.
  4. Roll the elbows in, palms out and thumbs up.
  5. Gently lift the forehead about an inch off the towel keeping the eyes looking straight at the floor (do not tip the head back and look forward).
  6. Try to hold the position for 10 seconds.
  7. Aim to complete 10 repetitions.

To increase the intensity slightly, you can lift your legs off the ground, too.

Exercise should push your body (whether a feeling of stretch or fatigue) but not leave you feeling increased symptoms at rest. Stop immediately and consult with your health care provider if any of these exercises increase or cause pain. A physiatrist, physical therapist, or other qualified health professional can create an exercise plan specifically tailored to treat your symptoms and underlying condition.

Learn more:

Back Strengthening Exercises

Stretching for Back Pain Relief

We’ve all experienced a neck strain when muscles become overstretched and painful, such as from overuse, sitting with poor posture, or sleeping with your neck in an awkward position. While a simple strain can cause sharp pain and a stiff neck that limits activities, it usually feels better within a few days. But what if neck pain is the result of a more serious underlying condition that doesn’t heal on its own? Here are a few ways to tell the difference.

Animated video still highlighting neck muscles

A neck sprain or strain occurs when there an injury to the soft tissues of the neck.
Watch:
 Neck Strains and Sprains Video

Pain for days vs. pain for weeks

Distinguishing between pain caused by a strain and by a more serious condition can be tricky. Neck strains and cervical spine disorders, such as degenerative disc disease or osteoarthritis, are all capable of causing neck pain that ranges from dull and mild to severe and debilitating.

One key factor to note is how long the pain has lasted. Most neck strains start to feel much better within a few days or a couple of weeks. Underlying cervical spine disorders tend to cause pain that lasts longer than a few weeks, comes and goes, and may gradually become worse.

See Chronic Neck Pain Causes

advertisement

Local vs. radiating pain

The location or movement of the pain can also be a distinguishing factor between a neck strain or an underlying cervical spine condition.

Neck strain pain is mostly felt on the site of the damaged soft tissues. Occasionally, the pain may be referred further up the neck or down to the top of the shoulders. But for the most part, neck strain pain stays local.

Pain from a cervical spine condition, however, can potentially radiate down the arm and even into the hand. This radicular pain occurs due to a spinal nerve root that has become compressed or inflamed, such as from foraminal stenosis or a herniated disc. When nerve root compression results in neurological deficits, such as numbness or weakness, it is called radiculopathy.

See What Is Cervical Radiculopathy?

Radicular pain that goes into the arm may feel searing or shock-like, or it could feel achy or tingly. While radicular pain is usually felt on just one side of the body, it can occur on both sides.

See Radiculopathy, Radiculitis and Radicular Pain

Repeatable Neck Cracking

Most neck cracking and grinding sounds are normal and do not indicate any type of problem. When specific neck movements always result in a cracking or grinding sound, that could indicate bone on bone grinding and may be more serious. For example, if rotating your head to the left always produces a clicking or grinding sound, an injury or chronic condition such as osteoarthritis may be the cause.

See Causes of Neck Cracking and Grinding Sounds

When to See a Doctor for Neck Pain

Most neck strains can be treated with rest and self-care, such as ice therapy, heat therapy, gentle stretching, massage, or over-the-counter nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs, such as ibuprofen or naproxen).

  • For neck pain that does not improve within a couple of weeks, visit your doctor.
  • If your neck pain resulted from a major collision or is accompanied by troubling signs and symptoms, such as radiating pain, tingling, numbness, and/or weakness that goes into the arm, see your doctor sooner rather than waiting.
  • A stiff neck accompanied by headache and/or fever could indicate meningitis, which is a medical emergency. Seek immediate medical attention.

    See When Neck Stiffness May Mean Meningitis

advertisement

Knowing the difference between pain from a simple neck strain and a serious injury can help you seek prompt treatment and avoid potential complications. Whenever in doubt, see a qualified health professional for an accurate diagnosis of your neck pain.

See Diagnosing Neck Pain

Learn more:

Neck Strain Treatments and Prevention

Treatment for Neck Pain

A pulled muscle in your lower back can send intense flareups of pain, spasm, and stiffness, causing many people to end up in the emergency room. When this injury happens, it’s smart to know what you can do to immediately and effectively bring down the pain to a tolerable level while also helping your body heal.

Muscle Strain

Pulling (also referred to as tearing or over-stretching) a lower back muscle can lead to muscle spasms. See Lower Back Strain Video

As a general guideline, rest during the initial day or two after your injury, moving slowly and gently to allow your muscle tissue to recover and begin the regeneration process. You may use a back brace intermittently for additional stability.1,2

Below you will find effective treatments that you can employ at home to soothe your muscle soreness.

advertisement

Use cold first, then switch to heat therapy

During the initial few days after the strain injury, your muscle tissues begin to repair. The healing process causes inflammation to occur within the healing muscle fibers. The use of cold and heat therapy can help reduce inflammation in the following ways:

  • Cold therapy is surprisingly effective in reducing pain, muscle spasm, swelling, and inflammation.1,3,4 An ice pack, ice cubes wrapped in a towel, or a bag of frozen vegetables can be used to cool down your muscle fibers.

    See Ice Massage for Back Pain Relief

  • Heat therapy serves to facilitate blood, oxygen, and nutrient flow into your muscle fibers to promote healing, recovery, and pain relief.3 A hot water bottle or heat pack can be used to deliver heat to your muscles. Low-level continuous heat is another option, such as from an adhesive heat wrap.

    See Benefits of Heat Therapy for Lower Back Pain

It is best to use cold therapy during the initial day or two after your injury followed by heat therapy. Avoid using cold therapy for too long, because excessive cooling may slow down the natural healing process of the muscle tissue.1,3,4

See How to Apply Heat Therapy

It is important to use heat and cold as tolerated, intermittently for 15 to 20 minutes at a time, and with a 2-hour break in between—to avoid skin and/or nerve damage. Heat therapy can be used for longer, provided the heat is a low-level, such as with a commercial heat wrap.

Massage your lower back

Massaging by gently stroking or kneading your lower back can help promote blood flow, relax your sore muscles, relieve stiffness,5 and spur the release of endorphins—your body’s natural pain-fighting hormone.

If you’re unable to visit a massage therapist, physical therapist, or other qualified health professional, try a DIY massage by securing two tennis balls with duct tape and placing them between your chair and lower back. Gently move your back from side-to-side to enable kneading of the sore muscles as they come in contact with the secured tennis balls.

See Massage Therapy for Lower Back Pain

Take a natural muscle relaxant

Muscle relaxants can be effective in relieving muscle pain by decreasing spasms. Effective natural muscle relaxants include extracts of:

  • Tart cherry
  • Chamomile
  • Valerian
  • Peppermint
  • Curcumin (turmeric)

Valerian and chamomile also help promote good sleep, so it’s a good idea to use them before bedtime. Many of these natural options have powerful anti-inflammatory and healing properties as well, so taking them provides additional benefits.6 Supplements of magnesium may also help relieve muscle spasms.

Natural muscle relaxants are typically safe and commonly consumed in the form of supplements or tea. If you opt for prescription muscle relaxants, such as baclofen, benzodiazepines, cyclobenzaprine, or carisoprodol, they have a potential for substantial side effects, risks, and a possibility for misuse or abuse.

See Side Effects and Risks of Muscle Relaxers

Perform gentle stretches

Returning to normal activity after an initial period of relative rest is crucial for the repair of your muscle tissue. In addition to performing your routine activities, gently stretch the muscle a few times during the day to help elongate and strengthen the tissues, and promote healing.7 Simple stretches for your lower back can be done at home or while at work. Be sure to stretch as tolerated and avoid high-intensity exercises, which may cause further damage to your muscle tissue.

advertisement

Incorporating stretching exercises as a part of your normal routine can help strengthen and stabilize your lower back, reducing the risk of muscle strains and other injuries in the future. For many, it’s best to learn a stretching exercise with the guidance of a physical therapist, chiropractor, physiatrist, or other qualified health professional.

See Stretching for Back Pain Relief

Try these therapies to see what works best for the pain in your pulled lower back muscle. You may need to combine 2 or more methods a few times per day to alleviate your lower back pain. If your back-muscle pain persists for several weeks, worsens over time, or spreads into your leg(s), consult a doctor for a thorough evaluation and diagnosis.

Learn more:

Pulled Back Muscle and Lower Back Strain

Pulled Back Muscle Treatment

You only have one spine, and you need it for a lifetime. Healthy spinal discs are one of the keys. Intervertebral discs act as cushions between spinal vertebrae, but "life" takes a toll. A lifetime of walking, standing and other activities, combined with the body's aging process itself, can deteriorate spinal discs over time, making them drier, thinner and more likely to crack.

 

It's called spinal disc degeneration, and it's no laughing matter. Among other problems, it can cause significant pain, not to mention limited range of motion and function. Periodic chiropractic adjustments are one of the ways to keep the spinal discs – and spine – healthy for a lifetime, reducing the risk of disc degeneration. Your chiropractor also may recommend supplements, particularly omega-3s, which new research suggests also may reduce the risk of degeneration.

spine - Copyright – Stock Photo / Register MarkThis laboratory study, which appears in the research journal Medical Science Monitor, suggests daily omega-3 fatty acid supplementation [530 mg/kg/day of eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) in a 2:1 ratio, administered in sucrose solution] "reduces systemic inflammation by lowering AA/EPA ratios in blood serum and has potential protective effects on the progression of spinal disc degeneration." AA, or arachidonic acid, is an omega-6 fatty acid – associated with the inflammatory process; as opposed to omega-3s, which are anti-inflammatory. Thus, improving the AA/EPA ratio (essentially meaning less inflammatory omega-6s compared to anti-inflammatory omega-3s) may positively impact spinal disc degeneration by reducing inflammation.

Your chiropractor can tell you more about disc degeneration and how chiropractic adjustments, supplements such as omega-3s, and other wellness care can keep your spine healthy for a lifetime.

January 06, 2020
Category: Uncategorized
Tags: Untagged

You only have one spine, and you need it for a lifetime. Healthy spinal discs are one of the keys. Intervertebral discs act as cushions between spinal vertebrae, but "life" takes a toll. A lifetime of walking, standing and other activities, combined with the body's aging process itself, can deteriorate spinal discs over time, making them drier, thinner and more likely to crack.

It's called spinal disc degeneration, and it's no laughing matter. Among other problems, it can cause significant pain, not to mention limited range of motion and function. Periodic chiropractic adjustments are one of the ways to keep the spinal discs – and spine – healthy for a lifetime, reducing the risk of disc degeneration. Your chiropractor also may recommend supplements, particularly omega-3s, which new research suggests also may reduce the risk of degeneration.

This laboratory study, which appears in the research journal Medical Science Monitor, suggests daily omega-3 fatty acid supplementation [530 mg/kg/day of eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) in a 2:1 ratio, administered in sucrose solution] "reduces systemic inflammation by lowering AA/EPA ratios in blood serum and has potential protective effects on the progression of spinal disc degeneration." AA, or arachidonic acid, is an omega-6 fatty acid – associated with the inflammatory process; as opposed to omega-3s, which are anti-inflammatory. Thus, improving the AA/EPA ratio (essentially meaning less inflammatory omega-6s compared to anti-inflammatory omega-3s) may positively impact spinal disc degeneration by reducing inflammation.

Your chiropractor can tell you more about disc degeneration and how chiropractic adjustments, supplements such as omega-3s, and other wellness care can keep your spine healthy for a lifetime.