Here are some tips from Dr. Henry to help you avoid neck and back problems, prevent the pain from returning, and enjoy overall good health:
Update: Do NOT pop or crack your own neck! I have seen patients who injured themselves doing this, resulting in pain, missed work, and expense. Gentle stretching is a good idea but if you feel the need to twist or pop your neck, listen to your body and get a professional chiropractic evaluation.
Sleep on your back or side, using a pillow that supports the natural curve of the neck if you are a back sleeper or one that keeps the head and neck in line with the spine if you are a side sleeper. The world's finest pillow (the same pillow I sleep on and my wife sleeps on) is the Doctor's Choice Therapeutic Sleep System (available at our clinic). This pillow features memory foam and is the only pillow that is adjustable to help restore the natural backward bending curve in the neck, preventing pain and premature degeneration. This pillow provides a gentle stretch while you sleep, much like braces for teeth, and will be very helpful in maintaining the progress gained by your chiropractic treatment. If you are traveling and forgot to bring your pillow, you can roll up a towel to a comfortable thickness and place it under the neck, so that when you sleep on your back the head and shoulders rest on the mattress and the curve in the neck is supported. Try to avoid sleeping on your stomach. Stomach sleepers end up twisting the neck and back and are more likely to wake up with a 'crick' in the neck. Sleeping with the neck twisted will also make it harder for your chiropractic adjustments to hold so your progress will be slowed and the benefits of treatment won't last as long. Another tip for avoiding back pain during sleep is to put a pillow between the knees if you are a side sleeper or under the knees if you are a back sleeper. Regardless of how you sleep, many patients report improved sleep quality following chiropractic adjustments.
If your job requires that you work at a computer or if you spend a lot of time on the computer as a hobby you stand a good chance of experiencing fatigue, neck pain, pain between the shoulders, and carpal tunnel syndrome. To avoid fatigue, stand up and stretch, at least every two hours. Place the monitor at eye level and directly in front of you so that you are not twisting your neck all day (a common problem with bank tellers, librarians, etc.). Keep your keyboard at a height so the forearms are parallel with the floor and the wrists are kept straight. It is a good idea to stretch the shoulders, arms and wrists along with the neck and back periodically during prolonged computer use.
Lift safely by bending the knees, keeping the back straight, and lifting with the legs. Keep your arms close and keep the load close to avoid injury. Avoid lifting heavy items by bending at the waist, especially avoid twisting. Bending and twisting, such as when lifting something heavy, is a common cause of sprains and strains of the low back and disc injury. Be careful and don't overdo it. Ask for help when you are lifting something heavy. This suggestion is aimed mainly at men. It isn't worth it to act like a 'tough guy' and injure your back.
Get regular exercise. Exercise is proven effective for patients with fibromyalgia, back pain and other conditions and helps prevent diabetes, heart disease, and osteoporosis. I recommend finding an activity that you enjoy and that you can maintain. Many people feel self-conscious at the gym and may be more comfortable in a group so for women, you may wish to join a women's gym, or a pilates, aerobics, or yoga class. Walking is a good, simple exercise that almost anyone can do. If you suffer from severe pain, osteoarthritis or impaired walking or balance, swimming or water aerobics may be a good alternative since the water will take stress off the joints but still provides good exercise. Exercise also helps to keep the discs in the spine healthy.
Drink plenty of water. Many people stay dehydrated and this can contribute to muscle and joint pain as well as disc injury.
Eat a healthy diet consisting of a large number of fresh fruits and vegetables and try to maintain a healthy weight. Most Americans don't eat enough vegetables and obesity is becoming an epidemic problem. Carrying 'a few extra pounds' can increase your likelihood of having a back problem, along with high blood pressure, cancer, and diabetes. Try to eat a diet that is high in fiber and increase your intake of omega-3 fatty acids. These are healthy fats that we tend not to get much of in our diet. Omega-3 fats are important in brain chemistry as well as preventing inflammation and are found in fish, such as salmon, sardines, and mackerel, walnuts, flaxseeds, and free-range eggs. Flaxseeds should be consumed ground since they can be hard to digest and should be kept in the refrigerator to keep fresh. Flaxseeds can be sprinkled on cereal, put in a smoothie, or used in baked goods. Learn to read labels and become educated about eating healthy.
Stress causes health problems. Try to keep the amount of stress you are under to a manageable level. Set some time aside for relaxation. If you find yourself feeling tense, take a few deep breaths and stretch to relieve muscle tension. Chiropractic care and exercise will help to relieve the tension you feel but you may require ongoing treatment depending upon the amount of stress you are under.
Wear comfortable shoes. I'll be happy to take a look at your shoes during your examination and evaluate the quality of support they provide your feet. When you look at your shoes, note whether there is uneven heel wear or whether your feet tend to flare out in or in excessively. You may benefit from custom made flexible orthotics (available at our clinic) to provide the support you need. Custom made orthotics are made from a mold of your foot to provide exactly the support you need for the three arches in the foot. These supports can decrease pain, improve posture, and help you to maintain the benefits of chiropractic treatment. The feet are the foundation of the human frame and proper support can make a big difference in how you feel and how you perform.
Students, don't overload your backpack! It seems students have to carry more books all the time and back problems can begin in childhood or adolescence only to become disabling later in life. Ask about our chiropractic approved backpacks.
Don't sit on a wallet all day! If you will be sitting for a long time, take your wallet out or put it in the front pocket to avoid introducing misalignment to the low back and pelvis. For ladies, don't overload your purse and switch it from one side to the other periodically to avoid asymmetry in posture and muscle balance.
When you are on the road, stop and stretch at least every two hours. This will help prevent stiffness and pain from a long road trip and will also help you to stay more awake and alert to help avoid accidents.
Get regular chiropractic checkups for the entire family. How often will depend on how much physical, chemical, and emotional stress is in your life. It's much cheaper and easier to prevent a small problem from developing into a big one than to wait until the pain becomes unbearable to seek help. After you have made a complete recovery, I recommend a chiropractic checkup at least every 6 months to keep you feeling and functioning at your best. I personally get my spine checked at least once a month.
Tell others about the benefits of chiropractic and share these health tips with them. While spinal manipulation has been around for thousands of years, Chiropractic is still a relatively new healing science. Please tell others so they too can enjoy the benefits of quality chiropractic care. Top notch chiropractic care is a must for every patient's healthcare team.
Information provided on this site is not to considered clinical advice and is not meant to replace a visit to your healthcare provider. Visitors are encouraged to confirm information found here with other sources. Nothing on this web site shall be construed as creating a doctor-patient relationship. While we believe the above information to be accurate and beneficial, it is recommended that you seek qualified advice specific to your case from Dr. Henry or another qualified professional.