The Dreaded High Shoulder

Have you ever woken up in the morning with one of your shoulders sort of sticking up, unable to relax, and painful to move?

I haven’t, but plenty of my patients have.

I’ll be honest: I’m not sure why on Earth this happens to people most of the time. Even the person with the high shoulder usually doesn’t have any idea why they can’t relax their shoulder, and why it hurts so much. Most people shrug the good shoulder and say something like “Well, I guess I slept wrong”.

Which brings up a great question: How is sleeping so complicated that adults are still doing it wrong? Beats me!

Still, this dreaded high shoulder exists and it inflicts millions of Americans every year (that is a crude estimation based on nothing more than guesswork, by the way).

What I do know is that your nervous system controls and coordinates all the activity in your body, including your neck and shoulder muscles. And I also know that an adjustment to the area in question usually gets that shoulder to settle down and relax and become much more comfortable. So, if you are dealing with this problem, give us a call and maybe we can make that shoulder go back where it belongs.

First Very Cold Morning in Frederick

Well, it’s Monday, and if that isn’t bad enough it was 36 degrees when I walked outside.

Many of us are in a bit more discomfort in the colder months of the year for a few reasons.

  1. It’s just plain cold. Our muscles are tight and we tend to take on a fetal position to hold in body warmth. While this may feel warmer, it isn’t the best posture!
  2. We exercise less when it’s cold. Maybe this is because no one can see the flab when we have a sweater on, or because it’s just too darn cold to go running. Either way, we all tend to get less physical activity when it’s this cold out.
  3. The holidays means that even if we keep exercising we are probably going to be eating too much rich, fatty food and packing on some extra pounds. Any time we bulk up our frame with chunk rather than muscle, the body is not happy.

So, on this frosty Monday morning I encourage all of our patients to do their best to keep their activity levels up this Winter, to watch their diets and not give in to the desire to pig out, and to try to keep that Summer posture even though it feels nice to curl up into a tiny little warm ball.

And don’t be this guy…that’s not how a snow angel is supposed to look.

winter cold

So… my back hurts. Now what?

Pretty much all of us will experience back pain now and again. As a matter of fact, many of us will endure crippling, stabbing back pain, even pain or numbness into the butt or legs.

Another fact is that most people pay very little attention to the physical health of their backs or necks until things are really starting to hurt. That’s why so many people have their first visit to a “back doctor” be a visit to the orthopedic surgeon or neurosurgeon. Of all the “back doctors” to see first, those should not be on your list.

pain descriptive words

I’ll be honest, chiropractic is GREAT for treating simple low back pain. Good ol’ regular biomechanical low back pain responds GREAT to chiropractic adjustments. Countless research studies in proper, well-respected medical journals have confirmed this. Some of that research is here, but that’s not the point of this article.

You have a few things you can try first. Like everyone else in the world, your first attempt at fixing something should probably be a relatively inexpensive option that has the smallest likelihood possible for something bad to happen.

You can try any one of these things:

Chiropractor Visits
Course of Physical Therapy Sessions
Acupuncture
Massage Therapy
Ice or Heat
Stretching or Exercise
Painkillers
NSAID’s
Steroid Injections
Nerve Block
Spinal Surgery

Looking at this list, we can tell right off the bat that some of these are easier, safer and less expensive than others.

Stretching or exercising is free. It’s not necessarily easy, especially if you are in pain, but it’s one way to go. Massage and acupuncture are both safe and natural, so they are good places to start if you want to avoid drugs. Physical Therapy, depending on your therapist, is probably going to be mostly or somewhat natural, and besides needing to have you come in three times a week so they can watch you exercise, it’s a great way to recondition your out-of-shape back.

Painkillers and NSAID’s are, well, drugs. So if you are trying to get the back pain monkey off your back without drugs, they aren’t going to be on the list. For what it’s worth, painkillers will probably do something to get rid of the pain. Of course, when they wear off, you will be back in pain. NSAID’s may be able to deal with the injury in your back by reducing the inflammation, and this may get the pain to disappear for a while even after the medicine has left your system. The problem here is that NSAID’s aren’t safe for everyone, and even if they work for you and are safe for you, whatever caused the inflammation (and therefore the pain) in the first place is still probably causing inflammation just like before, and it’s only time before the pain returns (probably worse).

Nerve blocks and surgery are very poor first-lines-of-defense if your back pain is non-emergency and non-traumatic. In other words, if your back hurts because your posture sucks and you never exercise, then a nerve block isn’t the right way to go unless you are into injuring yourself on purpose. And surgery obviously shouldn’t be on your Christmas list, either.

Since a chiropractor is the author of this article, you can bet I saved chiropractic for last because I was saving the best for last. And it is. Chiropractic is great for so much more than back and neck pain, but our bread and butter is helping people get rid of back or neck pain. People (who have never been adjusted before) are almost always surprised at how effective chiropractic is. The reason chiropractic is so effective is because you and me have bodies that are designed to function normally, and a chiropractic adjustment takes a screwy spine and, for lack of a better description, straightens that spine out. Then the spine works better…and then it doesn’t hurt any more. Rather than cover the pain with medicine we adjust the body so that it will work normally, and since normal function is supposed to be pain-free, the client typically feels better. It’s not magic, it’s actually basic physics, a touch of the basics of mechanics, and some rudimentary biology. The body is supposed to work normally, and without pain, so sometimes it just needs to be pushed back in the right direction.

So, if you want to be pushed in that direction, give us a call. Thanks for reading. -Rob

Headaches and Migraines

Many people suffer from headaches and migraines on a regular basis. Depending on the type of headache you have, your pain may be relieved with chiropractic adjustments.

There is a term, “cervicogenic headache”. This term describes a headache that is caused by a problem in the neck (also called the cervical spine). Hypertonic muscles (overly right muscles) in the back of the neck, where the neck meets the skull, can send pain all around the eyes. The pain may even feel like it is behind the eyeball. Other muscles, such as the muscles that go from behind your ear and around the side of your neck to your sternum, can also refer pain into and around the head causing a headache.

Many headaches are caused by stress, quite often from the stress that accumulates in the shoulder muscles and back of the neck. After prolonged tension in those areas a headache can develop. An adjustment to the bones of the upper back and neck often causes immediate relaxation of the involved muscles and the headache will begin to dissipate shortly after.

You can find some great details on research regarding headache and chiropractic by heading over to this link here.

Migraines are a different breed. They often come on with specific “triggers” such as red wine, chocolate, certain smells or foods, bright light or loud noises. Treating chronic migraines involves discovering the triggers and working to avoid this things as well as making sure the spine is clear of imbalances that may be an underlying exacerbating factor, or even may be the trigger. Research into the relationship between migraines and spinal disorder is in an early stage and no firm conclusions can yet be drawn, but as more information comes out we will update our research page to reflect this new information and incorporate the new research findings into our treatment protocols.

Low Back Pain

Low Back Pain…most Americans deal with severe lower back pain sometime in their lives, many Americans deal with it more than once every year, year after year after year.

For reasons beyond explanation with just a few paragraphs, most people do not utilize chiropractic care for their low back pain. This is despite the fact that the American Pain Society and the American College of Physicians have both declared that chiropractic adjustments for low back pain is of “proven benefit“. Hundreds of high-quality research studies, published in some of the most prestigious medical journals, have declared that chiropractic adjustments are effective as a treatment for lower back pain, while being safe and having none of the side effects that drugs and surgery carry. In 1994 the US Department of Health and Human Services declared that chiropractic treatment for lower back pain was “the only doctor-delivered method shown to both relieve pain and improve function”. The American journal, Spine, as well as the European Spine Journal, have both declared chiropractic to be a safe and effective treatment for low back pain. In fact, spinal adjustments are consistently found to be more effective than all other treatments for low back pain, as well as a less expensive and all-natural option.

All these facts, and only about 10% of Americans (more likely less than that, actually) utilize chiropractic care.

Perhaps you should decide to choose the safe, non-addictive, non-surgery method of addressing your lower back pain? If you are ready to make that decision, visit the main Park Bench Chiropractic website now.