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Posts Tagged ‘vertebrae’

Most people associate sports medicine with professional athletes, but at the Synergy Sports Wellness Institute™ in Atlanta we are proud to be able to help patients of all ability and activity levels. Even though we are well known for helping to improve the performance of some of the world’s most elite athletes, fewer are aware that we treat some of the most common complaints as well. For example, many of our patients are all too familiar with the sharp, wrenching pain of “throwing your back out.” Even relatively innocuous activity, like gardening or shoveling or just bending over to pick up a pencil, can potentially send a patient to the floor in agony. Why does this happen? What are we really saying when we talk about “throwing the back out?” Proper treatment begins with a deeper understanding of the back and spine in order to evaluate what is really going on.

throwing-your-back-outThe spine is the central support for the entire body. It bears the weight of the head, torso, and arms while allowing the body to move and bend in almost any direction. The adult spinal column itself is composed of 26 separate bones, called vertebrae, which surround and protect a central spinal cord that connects the brain to all of the various nerves in the body. These individual vertebrae are stacked on top of one another and are separated by elastic disks of tissue that act as shock absorbers. Back pain can be caused by a number of different issues, including muscle spasm or strain. However, what we commonly call “throwing the back out” is most likely the result of one of these disks becoming pinched or displaced.

The individual disks between the vertebrae are not unlike pieces of candy with hard outer shells and creamy centers. The outer portion, or annulus, which is firmly attached to the vertebrae both above and below the disk, is made up of a network of tough, crosshatched fibers that allow it to hold its shape. Inside this shell is the nucleus pulposis, a soft, gelatin-like filling that provides cushioning while evenly supporting the weight of the body. As we grow older, time and stress can cause small cracks or tears to develop in the outer ring. If one of these tears grows large enough, the disk can rupture, allowing the inner filling to squeeze out. This is called a herniated disk. The escaping material presses against the spinal nerves, causing intense pain or even numbness and weakness in the lower extremities. A herniated disk can be caused by a sudden load or violent jerk, but is more often the result of a slow accumulation of minor injuries over time, so the onset of pain can be sudden and unexpected.

In some extreme cases, spinal surgery may be necessary in order to repair a herniated disk. However, about 80% of patients can find relief without surgery, by pursuing a conservative treatment regimen consisting of rest, pain and anti-inflammatory medication, therapeutic massage, and chiropractic therapy. Our proprietary Synergy ™ Release Technique goes beyond simple manipulation by incorporating advanced therapeutic massage, stretching, and muscle activation techniques to restore balance to the body and achieve real, long-term results.

Back pain is a serious issue and needs to be carefully evaluated and diagnosed. At the Synergy Sports Wellness Institute™, our unique evaluation process uses a variety of metrics to analyze and diagnose the underlying biomechanical causes of a patient’s concern so that we can determine the treatment approach that is right for you. If you would like more information about the various services that we offer, or would like to schedule an appointment with any of our chiropractors or massage therapists, please contact us today. Don’t forget to follow us on social media for the latest news and information sports medicine and chiropractic care in Atlanta.

At the Synergy Sports Wellness Institute™ we have a great deal of experience treating a wide variety of common sports injuries, but we also know that health-related issues can affect those who lead more sedentary lifestyles as well.  We know that the human body functions most efficiently when it is standing upright with its weight evenly distributed between the feet and the hips balanced directly under the spine.  Unfortunately, most people today spend the majority of their days sitting behind a desk.  This time spent in a seated posture can cause a number of problems across the entire musculoskeletal system and may result in chronic pain or discomfort.  In fact, according to a 2017 study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, greater total time spent sitting is actually associated with a higher overall risk of premature death.

Prolonged Sitting Can Cause a Variety of Health Issues

When a person is seated, the pelvis, spine, shoulders, legs, and feet are no longer directly engaged in maintaining the body’s posture.  The muscles of the hips and spine do not have an opportunity to stretch and extend.  Eventually, those muscles become shortened and compressed to the point that secondary muscles are required to initiate standing movements.  This can, in turn, lead to overuse of those secondary muscles, potentially leading to back, hip, knee and foot pain.  Since the feet do not have to bear the weight of the body or deal with ground reaction forces when the body is seated, their system of arches slowly weakens.  The feet can become less able to accept the body’s weight upon standing, causing fallen arches that may require orthotics to correct.

Long periods of time in a seated posture can cause upper body problems as well.  When a person is working in front of a computer or driving a car, for example, the arms and hands are engaged in front of the torso.  This causes the shoulders to round forward and the spine to flex, restricting the movement of the muscles and connective tissue in the torso.  This can potentially result in shoulder injuries, like damage to the rotator cuff or shoulder impingement.  The neck and head must also adjust by arching upward, which can lead to further imbalances, pain and dysfunction.

Moreover, lack of movement can be particularly damaging to the spine.  The disks of cartilage that act as shock absorbers between the individual vertebrae that make up the spinal column do not have an independent blood supply.  Instead, they work like sponges, absorbing and expelling blood as they move.  While sitting, the sustained contraction of the muscles that extend the spine reduces the nutrition that reaches the disks and increases the pressure between the disks themselves.  This may lead to a herniated disk or chronic lower back pain.

Fortunately, no matter what your age or activity level might be, the expert chiropractors and massage therapists at Synergy Sports Wellness Institute are here to help.  If you feel as though you may be suffering because of the time that you spend seated, or If you would like to learn more about the many other services that we offer, please give us a call to schedule a chiropractic or rehabilitation appointment.  Be sure to follow us on social media for the latest news and updates as well.

By Dr. Michael Roura

Is Your Cell Phone Causing You Pain

Being on your cell phone all the time can be a real pain in the neck…literally!  As we all know, most people in America cannot go an hour without looking at their smartphones to check out the next meme of the day.  But what is so wrong with that, right?  Well, we will not go into the psychology of that, but we will address the negative bio-mechanical effects of “text neck.”

In order to look at their phones, the majority of people hunch over, with their shoulders rolled forward and their heads tilted down.  What most people fail to realize, however, is that an average head weighs about ten pounds and every inch that the head is dropped forward effectively doubles the load on the neck muscles, discs, and vertebrae.  This means that when looking down at a smartphone there can be as much as sixty pounds of load on the neck.  In the short term, this strain may only result in some minor soreness, but when we spend several hours or every day in this same posture, many bio-mechanical changes begin to occur.

  1. Front neck muscles start to shorten, bringing the head, neck, and shoulders forward.
  2. As the shoulders move forward, they become rounded, causing a “hunched-over” posture.
  3. The muscles in the back of the neck become longer and weaker, further contributing to the forward migration of the neck.
  4. Lengthening of the neck muscles can cause the neck vertebrae to lose their natural curve, or even to curve in the opposite direction.
  5. This loss of curvature in the neck can eventually cause disc herniation.

All of this will ultimately contribute to chronic neck and shoulder pain, along with recurring headaches.  For the most part, people do not feel the effects of “text neck” until they are older, but every day I see more and more patients under thirty, and an alarming amount of teenagers and children, who are experiencing neck pain.  This is not supposed to happen, particularly since children are still growing and developing.  If a child were to use an electronic device every day from when they were first able to use one, the natural curvature of the neck might never be established at all, potentially setting them up for a lifetime of neck pain.

Fortunately, there are several changes that you can make to prevent “text neck” from occurring: 

  1. Avoid staring down at a computer, tablet, cell phone, or other electronic device for more than twenty minutes without stretching or walking around.
  2. Read messages or text without looking down by bringing your cell phone or electronic device up to your eye level.
  3. Try to limit the amount of time children spend looking down at their devices, especially if they already are experiencing headaches and neck pain.
  4. Work on your posture. While looking into a mirror check to be sure that your neck is not coming forward, your shoulders are not rolled forward, and that you are standing up nice and tall.

Cell phones, tablets, and electronic devices aren’t going anywhere, so I expect that the common injuries like the neck and shoulder problems associated with “text neck” will only become more prevalent in the future.  However, the expert chiropractors and massage therapists at Synergy Sports Wellness Institute™ are here to help.  If you would like to learn more about the techniques that may be able to help give you some relief, or about any of the different services we offer, please give us a call to schedule a chiropractic or rehabilitation appointment, and be sure to follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+.

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Dr. Michael Roura