Do Cell Phones Cause Horns?

21 Oct

It’s not hard to argue that nearly everyone spends too much time on their electronic devices, especially smartphones. You may be familiar with the terms “text neck” or “forward head posture”, but have you heard that excessive cellphone use may cause your body to grow horns?

If you reach around to the back of your head, just above the top of the neck, you should feel a bump in the midline. This is NORMAL, and it’s called the external occipital protuberance (EOP). The EOP serves as an attachment point for the nuchal ligament and the trapezius muscle, which function to keep the head upright and tilted backward. The size of the EOP normally varies (averaging around 5mm), depending on race, gender, genetics, and occupation.

A 2016 study revealed that an alarming number of young people had spurs (technically called enthesophytes) extending from the EOP, an occurrence associated with the wear-and-tear of osteoarthritis that can develop later in life. In the study, researchers reviewed x-rays of 218 men and women 18 to 30 years old who either had back pain, neck pain, or headaches or no history of such conditions. The research team observed an enlarged EOP (EEOP for short) in 41% of participants, regardless of the presence or absence of musculoskeletal pain. However, the data did show that EEOP was three-times more common in men than women.

The same study authors conducted a larger study in 2018 that included 1,200 adults of all ages and found that the combination of male gender, the degree of forward head protraction (FHP), and age predicted the presence of EEOP. Their results showed that being a young male with a greater amount of FHP lead to the formation of EEOP.

The researchers suspect that the age component of their finding (after all, the frequency and severity of degenerative skeletal spur formation typically worsen with age) may be due to young adults placing a greater mechanical load on their necks due to forward head posture caused by excessive device use.

The good news is that studies have demonstrated forward head posture can be improved with specific resistance and stretching exercises, monitoring your posture while using electronic devices, and reducing electronic device use. Your doctor of chiropractic can show you exercises that you can perform at home to reduce forward head posture.

 

 

This information should not be substituted for medical or chiropractic advice. Any and all healthcare concerns, decisions, and actions must be done through the advice and counsel of a healthcare professional who is familiar with your updated medical history.

Exercise Can Help Knee Osteoarthritis

17 Oct

In the face of musculoskeletal pain, it’s common to restrict activity. Unfortunately, doing so can weaken the muscles and joints in the affected area, which can prolong pain and elevate the risk for future injury. Patients with osteoarthritis of the knee often fall into this trap. So, what type of exercises are best for improving knee strength in the presence of knee osteoarthritis?

First, let’s define two types of muscle activity that can occur during exercise: eccentric and concentric. During a bench press, when you’re pushing the barbell upward, the muscles in the chest shorten in a concentric motion. As you lower the bar downward, your pectoralis muscles lengthen, which is an eccentric motion.

A 2019 study that involved 54 seniors with knee osteoarthritis investigated which of the two phases builds better strength for the knee – the concentric/muscle shortening phase or the eccentric/muscle lengthening phase of muscle activity. The participants were split into three groups: CNC RT (concentric resistance), ECC RT (eccentric resistance), or CON (control group – no exercise/wait-list group). The two exercise groups received four months of supervised exercise training using traditional weight machines with proper set-ups and instructions that emphasized the concentric or eccentric phase of the exercise.

Each week, participants completed questionnaires to measure knee pain and disability. The researchers also recorded the maximum weight each subject could lift with respect to knee flexion, knee extension, and the leg press.

The results showed that BOTH exercise groups experienced strength increases in comparison to the control group, with the eccentric resistance group achieving greater gains on the leg press and knee flexion exercises, but not for knee extension. Both exercise groups also reported less pain and disability than the control group. The authors concluded that both types of resistance training effectively improved leg strength, pain, and function, and they recommend that the mode an individual emphasizes should be based on personal preference, goals, tolerance, and equipment availability.

This study is a great example of the many benefits that exercise can offer for an elderly population suffering from knee osteoarthritis. Doctors of chiropractic often prescribe exercises for patients with knee pain in addition to providing manual therapies, modalities, orthotics (knee braces and foot orthotics), as well as dietary and nutritional counselling for inflammation reduction and pain management purposes. Before throwing in the towel and jumping to a total knee arthroplasty (replacement), you owe it to yourself to seek less invasive management strategies FIRST.

 

This information should not be substituted for medical or chiropractic advice. Any and all healthcare concerns, decisions, and actions must be done through the advice and counsel of a healthcare professional who is familiar with your updated medical history.

Great Exercises for Wrist Pain

14 Oct

There are many conditions that affect the hand and wrist: tendonitis (strains), ligament injuries (sprains), as well as carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS). A contributing factor for these conditions is inflammation caused by overuse and repetitive motions. That’s why your doctor of chiropractic recommend taking mini-breaks (30 seconds to one minute) throughout a busy workday to give the wrist a chance to rest. The following exercises are also helpful for self-managing wrist pain (in addition to chiropractic care):

 

  1. SHAKE: As if to dry off your wet hands, shake your arms and hands vigorously.
  2. FIST/BEAR-CLAW/FAN: This three-step exercise includes making a firm fist, then a bear-claw (bending only the ends or tips of the fingers/thumbs), and lastly, opening the hand wide and fanning or spreading the fingers out.
  3. THUMB-FINGER “O’s”: Make an “O” by touching the tip of the thumb to each of the four fingertips. Vary the speed and pressure. Mix it up.
  4. WRIST BENDS (OPTION #1): Sit or stand, elbow straight, palms up, and bend the hand toward you (fingers pointing up). Bend the wrist back so the fingers point down. Hold each position for about five seconds and repeat five to ten times. Repeat on your opposite hand to add pressure to the end-range stretch (to “super-stretch”).
  5. WRIST BENDS (OPTION #2): Repeat Exercise 4 but with the palms down.
  6. TENDON TETHER: Hold the arm out in front and bend the elbow 90°, palm facing you. Bend the wrist back so the palm faces upward. With the other hand, pull down on each finger while slowly straightening the elbow until the elbow is fully extended (arm straight) and hold for five seconds. REPEAT on each finger and thumb (both hands).
  7. WRIST RESISTANCE: Rest the forearm on the arm of a chair (elbow bent 90°) palm down, with the wrist and hand extended off the end of the arm (an edge of a table works too). Place the other hand across the knuckles (to form a “+” sign). First, raise the bottom hand against the resisting/top hand slowly through the full range of motion (ROM) and then reverse it by slowly lowering the hand while STILL RESISTING as you move back down toward the floor (full ROM). Repeat five to ten times slowly and repeat on opposite side. Perform the same exercise with the palm up and repeat on both sides.
  8. HAND SQUEEZE: Hold a soft rubber ball or a pair of balled up socks and slowly squeeze to a maximum tolerance and SLOWLY release it. One repetition should take at least five seconds. Repeat five to ten times with each hand.

 

When exercising, THINK ABOUT what you are doing (visualize the movement in your head) to enhance the neuromotor response for the best results. Your doctor of chiropractic can train you on these and many other exercises to facilitate CTS/wrist injury recovery.

 

 

This information should not be substituted for medical or chiropractic advice. Any and all healthcare concerns, decisions, and actions must be done through the advice and counsel of a healthcare professional who is familiar with your updated medical history.

Staying Active Helps the Lower Back

10 Oct

In the past, patients may have been prescribed bed rest by their family doctor for low back pain. These days, treatment guidelines recommend staying active during the recovery process. Why the change?

There are two types of muscles in the back: the superficial muscles and the deep muscles. The superficial muscles are used to perform motions like bending and twisting. These muscles are strengthened by exercise that places stress on the muscles, like lifting weights. The deep muscles help stabilize the spine and maintain posture, and physical activity helps keep them in shape.

When a person goes on bed rest, the muscles in the back will weaken and begin to atrophy. As activity is resumed, the body will recruit the superficial muscles to help stabilize the back. Because the muscles are not adapted for this function, the superficial back muscles will tire more easily, and in the presence of deep muscle weakness, normal movement will be impaired. This can place abnormal stress on the structures in the spine and other parts of the body, increasing the risk for additional musculoskeletal injuries.

Bed rest can also affect the disks that act as “shock absorbers” in the spine. In one study, researchers recruited 72 middle-aged adults and assessed their physical activity levels in the preceding years based on how many days they engaged in strenuous activity every two weeks: active (9 to 14 days), moderately active (1-8 days), or inactive (0 days). About one in five (21%) were classified as active, half (53%) were described as moderately active, and the remainder (26%) were inactive.  The researchers also performed an MRI on each participant and gathered information on low back pain-related pain and disability.

The results clearly showed that physically inactive individuals were more likely to have back pain, reduced function, loss of disk height, and fat build-up in their back muscles. The research team concluded that getting regular, regimented exercise throughout life is important for reducing the risk of back pain.

There are very specific exercises that help strengthen the deep, low back stabilizing muscles. Doctors of chiropractic regularly prescribe exercise to address an acute flair-up of LBP and to help prevent future occurrences.

 

This information should not be substituted for medical or chiropractic advice. Any and all healthcare concerns, decisions, and actions must be done through the advice and counsel of a healthcare professional who is familiar with your updated medical history.

Detoxing from Social Media and Electronic Devices

30 Sep

The ability to take out a small device and check email, take photos, interact with friends, play games, and answer almost any question seemed like a great idea when smartphones and social media debuted over a decade ago; but in recent years, several studies have looked at the downsides associated with heavy social media and device use.

For example, a 2018 study found that people who use social media platforms for extended periods of time are more prone to make risky decisions. Another study revealed an association between heavy social media use and an elevated risk for physical ailments. Most people are aware of the term “text neck”, which results from spending so much time looking down at the phone that it changes a person’s posture for the worse. Other studies have linked social media use with poor mental health, especially among teens and young adults. One study even suggests that the more someone uses social media, the more likely they are to consult with a plastic surgeon to “improve” their appearance.

The Cleveland Clinic’s Dr. Joseph Rock notes that these issues associated with social media/device use may be due to both how social media changes the brain and the effects of sedentary activity on the mind and body. After all, if you’re staring down at your phone all day, you’re probably not moving your body enough.

One of the big problems with social media is that it produces feelings that keep luring people back for more—to the point where they have difficulty coping if they’re not glued to their device. The best way to determine if you’re using your device too much is to ask family and friends what they think, and if the answer is consistently “too much”, that’s a good indication of a problem. Dr. Rock recommends a “cold turkey” approach to test the addiction intensity. He warns, though it will be initially uncomfortable, it does gradually improve.

Not only will you find yourself spending more time having face to face conversations and smelling the roses, but you’ll probably increase your physical activity levels and take on a healthier posture. If you’re still experiencing some neck/shoulder discomfort, your doctor of chiropractic can show you some exercises that can help retrain your body to sit up straight, which can take a lot of pressure off your neck and upper back.

 

This information should not be substituted for medical or chiropractic advice. Any and all healthcare concerns, decisions, and actions must be done through the advice and counsel of a healthcare professional who is familiar with your updated medical history.

The Link Between Whiplash and Jaw Pain

23 Sep

While neck pain is most commonly associated with whiplash associated disorder (WAD), patients often report jaw or temporomandibular joint (TMJ) pain following a car accident, sport injury, or slip and fall.

Common symptoms associated with temporomandibular disorders (TMD) include pain in the jaw joint area (in front of the ear), neck and shoulder pain, ear area pain with chewing or yawning, a “stuck” or locked feeling, and clicking, popping, or grating sounds with jaw movements. Patients with TMD may also feel like their teeth don’t fit well together, or report toothaches, headaches, dizziness, and tinnitus (ringing in the ear).

An MRI (magnetic resonant imaging) study of TMD following a WAD injury revealed joint effusion or swelling and/or disk displacement in more than half of the participants, along with alterations in the thickness of the lateral pterygoid muscle (LPM) that helps open the mouth. Studies have shown that rear-end collisions can result in trauma to the muscles in the area of the TMJ, along with its joint capsule and fibroelastic disk. Post-traumatic muscle imbalance can then perpetuate the problem, leading to chronic TMD.

A 2018 study found that patients with TMD following a whiplash injury (wTMD) had higher pain intensity scores, worse exam findings, worse function, and greater muscle atrophy in the LPM than patients whose TMD resulted from another cause. The patients with wTMD were also more likely to be affected by stress and headaches than the other TMD patients.

The authors concluded that TMD is a common WAD-related injury, and MRI findings of disk displacement and LPM alterations are often found together. They also point out that TMD from whiplash appears to involve a different mechanism than TMD from other types of trauma or no trauma.

Doctors of chiropractic are trained in the assessment and treatment of WAD, including TMD, which often involves a multi-faceted approach that includes manipulation, mobilization, and soft tissue techniques (myofascial release, contract-hold, trigger point therapy, muscle energy, and more).

 

This information should not be substituted for medical or chiropractic advice. Any and all healthcare concerns, decisions, and actions must be done through the advice and counsel of a healthcare professional who is familiar with your updated medical history.