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.

A Simple Explanation of How a Chiropractic Adjustment Relaxes Your Muscles

As a chiropractor, sometimes I forget to just use simple terms to describe how chiropractic works. This short article here will outline some of the scientific fundamentals regarding how chiropractic is able to help so much despite seeming so simple. Different chiropractors focus on and talk about different aspects of how chiropractic can help…this short post will just try to summarize how the mechanics of a chiropractic adjustment create positive change in the muscles. While my real goal is to put it out there in simple terms, I use plenty of scientific language upfront to allow anyone who reads this article the ability to head over to Google and search for more information about the terms I use. An educated person tends to make better healthcare decisions. At the end of this article, before the reference links, you can find the simple part in bold.

The Muscles

The muscles which cross a joint are typically innervated by the same nerve which innervates the actual joint (as well as the skin covering the distal muscle attachment [insertion]). That is known as Hilton’s Law, and this is an important fact to consider. A chiropractic adjustment creates a barrage of sensory input from nerve cells found in muscles called muscle spindles and golgi tendon organs, and from nerves in the joint capsule. Large inputs of proprioceptive sensation can lead to immediate decrease in pain sensation.

When you get a chiropractic adjustment the chiropractor is taking a spinal joint beyond it’s normal range of motion. The brief expansion or stretching of the joint is accompanied by a similar fast stretch of the muscular tendons that cross that joint. The tendon stretching immediately leads to a reflex response that causes those muscles to relax and become less tense. This is most effective with the deep back and neck muscles, and a chiropractic adjustment is effective whether it is specific to one vertebrae or to a vertebral region.

Summarized in laymen’s terms: chiropractic adjustments reduce tension in spinal muscles.

Additional information about the topic discussed can be found at the US National Institute of Health PubMed site,such as the Neurophysiological effects of spinal manipulation and Immediate Effects of Region-Specific and Non-Region-Specific Spinal Manipulative Therapy in Patients With Chronic Low Back Pain: A Randomized Controlled Trial.