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

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Posts for category: Uncategorized

April 05, 2021
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Tips to Avoid Text Neck

In this age of mobile devices and smartphones, more and more patients are being diagnosed with neck pain associated with looking down at a screen. Studies have shown that young people are at increased risk of back and neck pain due to overuse of devices. Now, a new condition, dubbed "text neck," is being found in smartphone-users of all ages, resulting in serious stiffness, strain, and pain in the neck muscles and cervical spine.

 

Americans send an average of around 2.19 trillion text messages every year, meaning that text neck has the potential of afflicting millions of people.

The condition is relatively new, and as Forbes reports in their article, How Texting Can Give You a Permanent Pain in the Neck, "It takes time...for a new condition to spread throughout the medical community. Some doctors who have never heard of text neck don't think to ask patients with neck pain about their phone or computer habits."

However, investigators of worker's compensation claims are at the point that they look into the phone records of claimants with neck pain, and sometimes use their history of text messaging to get their compensation cases dismissed, attributing the neck pain to personal screen time rather than work.

There is no denying that a great number of people consider smartphones to be indispensable. And this overuse is causing what could be an epidemic of health problems into the future. A study published in the journal Applied Psychophysiology and Biofeedback found that an overwhelming majority of 83% of participants reported some hand and neck pain during texting. Researchers in this study also found that people sending texts displayed other classic signs of tension, such as increased heart rates and holding their breath. Even when they said they were relaxed, they had signs of tension.

If you text or play games on your smartphone, you know that it is easy to get into the habit of holding your head forward-and-down while typing on it. Another study conducted at the Center for Musculoskeletal Research found that 90% of people flexed their necks while texting, defined as bending the neck forward over 10 degrees past neutral alignment. In this study, it was discovered that the more texting that participants did, the worse their risk of neck or shoulder pain.

Especially susceptible to text neck are those of us who not only spend some of our leisure time on smartphones, but also spend much of our working time sitting at computers. All these hours spent in a flexed posture can add up to 30 pounds of extra weight on the upper vertebrae, straining the trapezius muscles and pulling the spine out of alignment over time.

Researchers are also finding that people over age 50 are more at risk of developing text neck. According to physical therapist Rob Worth, in an interview with Forbes, "People in their 50s and 60s have less tissue tolerance. Overuse injuries (like text neck) don't heal as quickly."

However, Worth said that young people are also at risk of permanent problems from text neck. He suggested that the stooped posture while typing on phones may freeze the position of the spine's alignment, and years down the road, we may see people who are permanently stooped because of it.

If you suspect you have text neck, talk to your health-care provider. Your chiropractor or physical therapist can help you determine if you're suffering from this ailment. These experts can also help design a treatment plan to relieve pain and regain range of motion, as well as advise you about preventing future injury. The following tips, summarized from the Forbes article, may help you avoid the risks of text neck:

  1. Hold your phone at a proper reading angle, rather than looking down. Your phone should be held directly in front of your mouth, a few inches across from your chin. Your eyes should look down rather than having to bend your neck down. Your shoulders should feel relaxed while you're typing.
  2. Use a text-dictation program if you have one. Hold the phone in front of your mouth.
  3. Set a timer and take breaks. Avoid prolonged phone use by taking regular breaks where you put your phone down and do something else.
  4. Build strength and range of motion. In your workout routine, include exercises and stretches that strengthen your neck, back extensors, rhomboids, and latissimus dorsi muscles. For some ideas, check out this blog post from researcher Dr. Erik Peper.
  5. Drink water and maintain hydration.
  6. Use other forms of communication. Try calling your family and friends or seeing them in person to chat.

References

Quilter D. How texting can give you a permanent pain in the neck. Forbes June 7, 2013. www.forbes.com.

Lin IM, Peper E. Psychophysicological patterns during cell phone text messaging: a preliminary study. Applied Psychophysiology and Biofeedback March 2009; 34(1): 53-57.

Gold JE, Griban JB, et al. Postures, typing strategies, and gender differences in mobile device usage: an observational study. Applied Ergonomics March 2012; 43(2): 408-412.

Peper E. Improve health with fun movements: practices you can do at home and at work. The Peper Perspective blog; February 2, 2013.

Reducing Headaches

According to a recent study, patients treated with chiropractic adjustments experienced a 50% reduction in the number of cervicogenic headaches they experienced.

What Are Cervicogenic Headaches?

Cervicogenic headaches are non-throbbing, steady headaches felt at the back of the head, with pain extending downwards through the neck and between the shoulder blades. Some patients also experience dizziness. Such headaches are caused by dysfunction in the cervical spine (the portion of the spine located in the neck).

Research Studies

Previous studies showed that chiropractic treatments can alleviate both the pain and disability resulting from cervicogenic headaches. This study showed that chiropractic treatments can also reduce the frequency of such headaches.

The research involved 80 people with chronic cervicogenic headaches. Patients received either light massage or chiropractic adjustments. Within each group, half received high doses of the treatment, while the other patients received lower doses. The light massage treatments involved several minutes of gentle neck and shoulder massage, while the chiropractic treatments consisted of high-velocity, low-amplitude adjustments of the upper back and neck.

Improvements with Chiropractic

Patients who received chiropractic treatments improved substantially more than those receiving massage. On average, chiropractic patients saw their headaches cut in half. At the conclusion of the study, chiropractic patients required one-third less pain medication than at the start, and reported a 50% reduction in symptoms.

 

The researchers found no major differences between patients receiving 8 chiropractic treatments and those who received 16 treatments. Those who received more treatments did have slightly more improvements in terms of neck disability. More research is needed to determine the optimum number of chiropractic treatments, but the researchers have concluded that chiropractic adjustments are an effective method of treating cervicogenic headaches. Research shows that chiropractic can also relieve migraine headaches.

Haas M, Spegman A, Peterson D, Aickin M, Vavrek D. Dose response and efficacy of spinal manipulation for chronic cervicogenic headache: a pilot randomized controlled trial. The Spine Journal 2010; 10: 117-128.

Worrying Damages DNA and Speeds Aging

There's the old lyrics, "Don't Worry, Be Happy."

Well, new research shows that worry actually speeds aging by degrading and modifying DNA.

Harvard researchers looked at 5,243 women and found that those with high phobic anxiety were more likely to have shorter telomeres.

The women with high anxiety had DNA damage similar to being six years older than their actual age!

"Many people wonder about whether—and how—stress can make us age faster," said Olivia Okereke, MD, MS, BWH Department of Psychiatry, study author. "So, this study is notable for showing a connection between a common form of psychological stress—phobic anxiety—and a plausible mechanism for premature aging. However, this type of study design cannot prove cause-and-effect or which problem came first—the anxiety or shorter telomeres."

Reference:

High Phobic Anxiety Is Related to Lower Leukocyte Telomere Length in Women

There are a wide variety of natural remedies to soothe your back, which can help reduce the intake of medications or provide an added benefit to your existing medical treatment.

Take a look at these natural pain-relieving strategies and find out what works best for you:

Read on to learn more about effective pain-relieving strategies for chronic back pain from natural methods.


1. Enjoy an anti-inflammatory drink every day

When you consume anti-inflammatory foods regularly, several antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and even anti-cancer agents can build up in your blood. Over a period of time, these potent agents can play a significant role in reducing and/or eliminating inflammatory reactions in the body.

Consuming these healthy drinks on a regular basis may help reduce your back pain.

  • Turmeric milk - Turmeric, an Asian spice, contains antioxidant, anti-arthritic, and anti-inflammatory properties. An easy method to consume turmeric is to mix a small quantity (1/2 teaspoon) of turmeric powder in a glass of warm milk. You can add honey or stevia to the milk if you prefer a sweet taste. Consume this drink, preferably just before bedtime to allow the anti-inflammatory process to work while you sleep. Consuming dairy products may increase inflammation in some people. In such cases, trying plant-based milk, such as almond milk can be helpful.
  • Tart cherry juice - Cherries are rich in antioxidants and anti-inflammatory agents. Cherry juice can help relieve muscle pain, which may be chronic or exercise-induced. Cherry juice is easily available to buy at grocery stores and commonly contains the tart cherry extract. Try drinking a glass of cherry juice on a daily basis and see if it has positive effects in relieving your back pain.
  • Ginger-green tea - You can also try infused-herbal drinks, such as ginger-green tea, which contains the pain-relieving benefits of both green tea and ginger. Ginger-green tea bags can be purchased from grocery stores and you can easily enjoy a cup either at work or at home. Over a period of time, these anti-inflammatory agents can build up in your bloodstream, so including these drinks in your daily diet will help reduce overall inflammation and prevent new inflammatory pain.

2. Fall asleep faster and sleep longer

When you have a restful night’s sleep, your back will feel less sore during the day. A night of restorative sleep can have healing benefits and make you feel refreshed, rejuvenated, and less stressed.

Try these natural sleep aids, one at a time, to see which one works best for you:

  • Vitamins C and B6 - The natural steroids in your body control your metabolism and promote good sleep. Supplements of vitamins C and B6 are known to help the body produce and regulate natural steroid hormones.
  • Melatonin - Your natural sleep hormone, melatonin can be taken as a supplement to improve your sleep cycle.
  • L-theanine - An amino acid found in tea leaves, L-theanine may help some people feel relaxed and get better sleep.
  • Valerian - Supplements made from the root of the valerian plant may help you sleep faster and stay asleep longer.

Another option is cherry juice or cherry extracts—cherries contain certain enzymes that help promote better sleep.


3. Avoid prolonged static posture

It is important to pay attention to the joints and muscles of your spine and hip. Prevent fatigue and stresses on these joints by following simple tips, such as:

  • Avoid excessive sitting - or consider using a standing desk while you work. When you sit for a long duration, the pressure on your spinal discs increase. Aim to get up every hour and walk a short distance to take the load off your discs.
  • Check your posture - and adjust your neck, shoulder, and back alignment to prevent stresses on your spine. Poor, unsupported posture can lead to several problems in your back, causing or increasing the pain.
  • Rotate activities - in order to avoid the same set of muscles and joints from getting over-fatigued. For example, if you have been standing and working for some time, consider changing to a different activity where you can sit down. You can go back to standing once the muscles and joints have had a chance to relax.

When you have a flare-up of symptoms, consider less exertive activities, such as reading a book, listening to music, or crafting. These activities can help divert your mind from the pain and let your back rest at the same time.


4. Gently stretch your joints and soft tissues through yoga

Yoga is an effective way to stretch your back, improve the health of muscles and joints, enhance distribution of healing nutrients through blood circulation, and increase the flexibility of the spine.

When you start, perform the stretches slowly and advance only if you feel comfortable without pain. Gradually, you will be able to add more stretches to your routine. An ideal time for yoga is early morning—to help loosen your spine and also reduce stiffness and aches in your back.


5. Try mindful meditation

Meditation is a great way to improve concentration, release feel-good hormones (endorphins), and decrease anxiety and stress. Through mindful meditation, you can control the way your body perceives pain

Find a quiet, dark room and meditate for 5 to 10 minutes in the morning. You can also try meditating before bedtime or while you take a break at work. If you don’t like to meditate, try simple breathing exercises—take 10 deep, slow breaths in a row.


6. Support your body in a warm pool

The buoyancy of the water lets you enjoy the benefits of exercise with less pain. Exercising in water also helps regulate the functioning of nerves and muscles, relieving pain.

If you prefer warmer pools, look into water exercise classes and hydrotherapy pools. Water therapy exercises are often done in water that is about 83 degrees to 88 degrees. Hydrotherapy pool temperatures are often more than 90 degrees.


7. Keep a self-activating heat patch handy

Heat patches that activate when in contact with the body are a great tool to carry during long drives or keep in your office desk/bedside table drawer. These heat patches activate quickly, can be worn inside your clothing, and provide a continuous supply of heat to relieve your back pain. Follow the package instructions and avoid wearing the patch for long durations to prevent skin damage. Some heat patches are also infused with medications for more effective pain relief.