Dr. Jeffrey I. Kennis,  D.C.
205 Commercial St.
Boston, MA 02109
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( 617)720-2329


 

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Neck strains and sprains can range from mild discomfort to severe neck pain that hinders routine activities, like driving or getting dressed. Here’s how these soft tissue injuries can happen, and how to get relief.

Cervical Spine

A neck strain is not a serious injury; but the resulting pain can be severe.
Watch:
 Neck Strains and Sprains Video

Soft tissue injuries in the neck

There are numerous soft tissues that attach to the neck, including muscles, tendons, and ligaments. These soft tissues all work in tandem to support your neck and head. At the same time, they also enable movement in your neck. A neck strain or sprain occurs when one or more of these soft tissues is stretched beyond its normal range (or is injured in another way).

While the terms strain and sprain are commonly used interchangeably, they have different meanings:

  • Neck strain is an injury to a neck muscle or tendon (fibrous tissue that connects muscle to bone)
  • Neck sprain is an injury to a neck ligament (fibrous tissue that connects 2 bones)

Neck strains and sprains can vary in severity depending on the extent of the injury. For example, a minor neck strain may only have a few muscle fibers that are torn. A more severe neck strain involves more tears in the muscle fibers and takes longer to heal.

Neck strain symptoms

Neck strains and sprains can have similar symptoms. Some of the more common symptoms include:

  • Pain localized to the neck region
  • Pain that ranges from achy or throbby to sharp or intense
  • Stiff neck
  • Neck muscle spasm
  • Pain that worsens with movement

Neck strain may also involve pain in nearby areas, such as the head, shoulder, or upper back.

Read more about Neck Strain Symptoms

Neck strain causes

Common ways for neck strains to occur include:

  • Poor posture or holding the neck at an awkward angle
  • Lifting something that is too heavy
  • Whiplash, such as during a car collision
  • Repetitive neck motion motions
  • Performing a new or unfamiliar activity

Two of the more common neck muscles to have pain include the upper trapezius and the levator scapulae. It can also be very difficult to determine when the pain is arising from these muscles, or if the pain is referred from an underlying spinal pathology.

Read more about Neck Strain: Causes and Remedies

Neck strain treatments

Common first-aid treatment options for neck strain include:

  • Rest and/or activity modification
  • Over-the-counter pain medication (such as acetaminophen, ibuprofen, or naproxen)
  • Cold therapy
  • Heat therapy

After the initial flare-up of pain, an exercise program of neck stretches and strengthening may help prevent future injuries. To reduce the risk of further injury, speak with your doctor before starting an exercise program.

Read more about Neck Strain Treatments and Prevention

When to see the doctor

Neck strains and sprains typically start to feel better within a few days without needing to visit the doctor. For neck pain that persists or recurs despite self-care, or is associated with other symptoms such as weakness or severe arm pain, seek medical attention to rule out other more serious pathologies.

Learn more:

Neck Strain Diagnosis

Stiff Neck Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment

 

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

 

November 12, 2019
Category: Uncategorized
Tags: Untagged

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

 

Is it time to call a chiropractor? The right chiropractor can help you cope with back and neck pain, but don’t assume that just any chiropractor is the right one for you.

See Chiropractic Treatments for Lower Back Pain

Chiropractors can help with your herniated disc.
Watch:
Herniated Disc Video

These suggestions will help you find the right doctor and get the most out of your chiropractic visits.

See How To Select The Best Chiropractor

Once you've decided on a chiropractor, consider your first appointment to be like a job interview, to make sure the partnership will be a good fit.

See What to Expect at the First Chiropractic Consultation

Plan to ask your chiropractor these questions at the first visit or consultation:

  1. Do you offer free consultations? Ask the person who is making your appointment if the chiropractor offers a free consultation so you will know if the rest of your questions will be answered at no expense to you. If your chiropractor does not offer a free initial consultation, it is not necessarily a reason to cross him or her off your list, but it never hurts to ask.
  2. See Chiropractic Diagnosis

  3. Do you treat conditions other than neuromusculoskeletal problems that have a mechanical origin? Be on guard for any chiropractor who claims he or she can cure ear infections, colic, asthma, and any other systemic problems. An editor of the New England Journal of Medicine put it best: "That spinal manipulation is somewhat effective symptomatic therapy for some patients with acute low back pain is, I believe, no longer in dispute, but there appears to be little evidence to support the value of spinal manipulation for non-musculoskeletal conditions. For this reason, I think it is currently inappropriate to consider chiropractic as a broad-based alternative to traditional medical care."1
  4. See Chiropractic Services Beyond Adjustments

  5. Did you acquire any post-graduate degrees? If your chiropractor has a post-graduate degree or special training in treating your condition, it's a good sign that he or she may be well-qualified to treat your specific problem.
  6. See Chiropractor Educational Requirements

  7. How much experience do you have treating my particular condition? Don't take it for granted that your chiropractor is great at what he or she does. No matter how much the chiropractor has studied your specific condition, the amount of real, hands-on experience is what matters the most.
  8. What is your technique? Some chiropractors prefer a more forceful manipulation which may offer immediate relief, while others prefer to use a more gentle and gradual approach. Neither technique is necessarily better, but you may be more comfortable with one or the other.
  9. See Questions to Ask About Chiropractic Techniques

  10. Will you respect my preferences for a treatment plan? For example, if you prefer mobilization to spinal manipulation (with the crack) will you get any pushback from him or her?
  11. See Spinal Mobilization: Gentle Chiropractic Techniques

  12. How much experience do you have using the technique you are recommending? If your chiropractor is recommending a specific technique, e.g. cold laser therapy, Graston Technique, or Activator Technique, ask for training that they have received (and go online to see if this is the recommended amount of training).
  13. How long will my treatment last? Be wary of chiropractors who put you on a strict treatment plan including an exact time line of how long they think your treatment will take. This may be a sign that they are more interested in making appointments than helping you heal.

    Also, be aware of any chiropractor who asks for an up-front lump-sum payment.
  14. Do you take X-rays in the office when necessary? Be wary of chiropractors who take X-rays in the office regardless of the problem.
  15. See Getting an Accurate Back Pain Diagnosis

  16. What services do you provide? Ideally, the chiropractor can provide adjunctive therapy such as massage therapy, physical therapy, and nutritional counseling under one roof. If these services are not available in the actual clinic, ask the chiropractor if he or she works with other professionals in these areas, and if you will have help coordinating your care.
  17. What are the top 3 things I can do to get the best results? A good chiropractor will have an effective, personal treatment plan designed just for you. Make sure your chiropractor has your best interest in mind by asking him or her to outline a specific and detailed plan of action.
  18. See Chiropractic Treatment Plan

  1. What are the estimated costs? Before you agree to the chiropractor's treatment plan, ask him or her to estimate the total cost. It can be difficult to decide whether or not the costs are competitive, but at least you will know what you can expect to pay. Consider calling around to other clinics to compare costs. You could even post on our chiropractic forum to see what other community members are paying for their treatments.
  2. How is billing handled? You may have to submit your own claims, which can become cumbersome. Some insurance will only cover certain procedures. If a procedure is not covered, many clinics will offer discounts for cash payments. Ask how the clinic will handle procedures that are not covered by your insurance.
  3. Do you have references? Don't be afraid to ask the chiropractor to give you references. Any professional who is proud of his or her work will be happy to offer you the opportunity to speak with happy clients. Follow up with phone calls to the patients to ask about their experience with the particular chiropractor. (According to HIPAA, it is illegal in the United States for any doctor to give out names of patients, but he can ask patients to sign a release.)
  4. Under what circumstances would I need to see a different practitioner or spine specialist? If you fail to improve under the chiropractor's care, you will probably need to see a specialist. Does your chiropractor acknowledge this and agree? At what point will he or she decide it is time to refer you to a specialist?

Many people who visit our site have already been to see a chiropractor. For those of you who have never seen one, and who are not sure how to go about finding the right chiropractor for you, consider this practical advice:

  1. Ask friends and family for a recommendation. It goes without saying that this is the gold standard we all use to find a best babysitter, restaurant, etc. For me personally, I have a handful of friends I can always trust for great recommendations because we have similar values and standards.
  2. Get insider information. Doctors may have the advantage of "insider" information. Don't be afraid to ask your doctor what he or she has heard about a particular chiropractor. While your doctor may not want to "bad mouth" any other professional in the area, you can take note of his or her non-verbal cues if you ask about a certain chiropractor.
  3. Google the chiropractor. Hopefully, all you will see are his or her published marathon times, but if he or she has been in trouble with the law, you will most certainly find it on Google.
  4. Check if the chiropractor is licensed to practice by your state. Before a chiropractor can become licensed to practice, he or she must pass rigorous state and national exams. Go to the Chiropractic Licensing Boards website to look up a chiropractor by name. Or you could rely on Spine-health's database, which does a thorough check on all listed chiropractors.
  5. Check to see if he or she accredited by the Council on Chiropractic Education (or a similar association in countries outside the U.S.): www.cce-usa.org.
  6. Has he or she been disciplined by the state? There are enough chiropractors to choose from. If the one you are considering has been disciplined by any board, find someone else: www.healthguideusa.org.

A little extra work can go a long way when you are choosing a chiropractor. These practical guidelines can set you in the right direction for making the best choice.

Learn more:

How To Select The Best Chiropractor

How to Choose a Chiropractic Clinic

Reference:

  1. Shekelle PG. "Editorial: What role for chiropractic in healthcare?" New England Journal of Medicine, 339(15):1074-1075, 1998.

Nearly everyone can benefit from massage therapy and its ability to relax muscle tissue and improve blood flow. This may be especially true for chronic patients who rely on frequent treatments from chiropractors or massage therapists.

See Massage Therapy for Lower Back Pain

Massage therapy for the lower back can help relieve pain and increase blood flow.
See
Massage Therapy for Lower Back Pain

In fact, those with chronic pain may find that they’d like to get more massages, but it's too expensive.

With this in mind, we searched for some do-it-yourself ideas and found great examples of how patients with back pain can seek pain relief through do-it-yourself massage techniques.

All that’s needed for this DIY massage is a couple of tennis balls, some duct tape, a floor, and no more than 10 to 15 minutes daily.

Sound interesting? Here's what you'll need to do:

  1. Place 2 tennis balls next to each other and use as much duct tape as needed to secure the balls in this shape. When completed, the tennis balls and duct tape contraption will look like a peanut.
  2. Place the tennis balls on the ground and then lie on them in the supine position (lying down face-up), keeping the knees bent. The tennis balls should be parallel to your waist and centered just above the lumbar spine (lower back).
  3. Adjust yourself until you feel balanced and comfortable, and then raise both arms with your fingers pointed toward the ceiling. Keep your arms as straight as possible.
  4. Beginning with either your right or left arm, slowly lower your arm back toward your head. Once again, keep your arms as straight as possible and feel free to bend your neck backward when moving your arms.
  5. Bring the arm backward to the ground. Hold this position for a couple seconds, then slowly bring it back to its original starting position.
  6. Repeat the same action with the other arm.
  7. Complete for each arm 4 more times.

You can also use an individual tennis ball to relieve lower back, buttock, or even sciatica pain.

See Types of Sciatic Nerve Pain

Place the ball under your back, buttock, or upper thigh while you lie on the floor and gently move yourself around to find sore muscle groups. Once you find a tender spot, you can focus and press there, but not too hard. Do not roll the ball directly over your spine. And stop right away if you feel any sharp or sudden pain.

Massage is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to ways to relieve lower back pain. Exercise is crucial to keeping lower back pain at bay, and there are many low-impact options that can help you keep moving.

See Specific Low Back Pain Exercises

Learn more:

Can Massage Help Your Back Problem?

How Massage Can Ease Sciatic Pain