--- By Erica Sastre, LMT
Chiropractic has been proven to help manage both acute and chronic pain.
Pain management, in general, is a big issue in healthcare. Let’s look at some facts:
Low back pain is the single leading cause of disability. According to the US bone and Joint initiative study, back pain was cause for over 264 million days off of work. That is all without considering any other type of chronic pain condition. Pain affects more Americans than diabetes, heart disease and cancer combined.
When looking for solutions to chronic pain, the first thing we tend to reach for is over-the-counter aids such as Aspirin, Advil, or Ibuprofen. Then if these conditions worsen and we go to the doctor we are typically directed to stronger prescription medications, which, can be concerning to many patient situations.
Many people are looking for ways to treat their chronic pain without resorting to drugs of the traditional medication protocol. With alternative care we can lessen our dependency on over the counter drugs and even opioids.
Back pain is also one of the most common conditions that opioids are prescribed for with over half of opioid users reporting back pain among their symptoms. Why is this connection between back pain and opioids so concerning?
While prescription opioids are certainly helpful to many patients in complex severe conditions, however, we need to also be looking at the big picture of the opioid crisis: In 2016, illicit and prescription opioids were responsible for more than 42,000 fatal overdoses across the country. According to the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention, those numbers have quintupled since 1999, which means the problem is just getting worse.
The good news is that, alternative medicines are already making great improvements to these dire statistics.
Let's take a look at some strategies the VA has been using in order reduce opioid addiction among veterans. After launching one initiative, they were able to reduce overall opioid prescriptions by 41% over the past five years. The project was focused on non-drug treatment for chronic pain, such as acupuncture, spinal manipulation therapy, chiropractic care, and yoga.
It is also good news to know that patients who received services from a chiropractor were less likely to fill a prescription for opioid medication, and, there was a 51 percent lower likelihood of an adverse drug incident compared to non recipients of chiropractic care.
A visit to the chiropractor may also be more cost effective for sufferers of chronic pain. In one study, "those who initiated treatment for low back pain with chiropractic rather than a regular MD had 40% in reduced healthcare cost!" In general “Healthcare plans that incorporate chiropractic typically realize a 2:1 return for every dollar spent.”
There are numerous research studies, reports, and surveys proving how effective chiropractic can be for pain:
"In a Randomized controlled trial, 183 patients with neck pain were randomly allocated to manual therapy (spinal mobilization), physiotherapy (mainly exercise) or general practitioner care (counseling, education and drugs) in a 52-week study. The clinical outcomes measures showed that manual therapy resulted in faster recovery than physiotherapy and general practitioner care. Moreover, total costs of the manual therapy-treated patients were about one-third of the costs of physiotherapy or general practitioner care."
Korthals-de Bos et al (2003), British Medical Journal
“Patients with chronic low-back pain treated by chiropractors showed greater improvement and satisfaction at one month than patients treated by family physicians. Satisfaction scores were higher for chiropractic patients. A higher proportion of chiropractic patients (56 percent vs. 13 percent) reported that their low-back pain was better or much better, whereas nearly one-third of medical patients reported their low-back pain was worse or much worse.”
Nyiendo et al (2000), Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutic
The evidence and anecdotes are solid. If you are suffering form chronic or acute pain, chiropractic care may well worth a try!
Send us your questions! Yours might be answered next week. NorwalkSportsandSpine@gmail.com
Sources and Further Reading:
NIH Fact Sheet -- Pain Management
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention -- Drug Overdose Deaths
VHA Pain Management -- Opioid Saftey Initiative
Boss Magazine -- Corrective Care for the Opioid Epidemic
American Chiropractic Association -- What Research Shows About Chiropractic
-- By Erica Sastre, LMT
Did your massage therapist hit a particularly tender spot in your glutes? Did you have pain or tingling running down your leg? Why is your chiropractor trying to make you do so many squats?
This week we are putting the spotlight on the piriformis muscle!
The piriformis muscle is a muscle under the gluteus maximus, it attaches at the anterior surface of the sacrum, and the superior aspect of the greater trochanter (SI joint to the top of the femur). It Latterally rotates the hip (twists your thigh outward) , and abducts the hip when the hip his flexed (pulls your thigh away from the body center-line).
What could possibly go wrong?
Piriformis can be a literal pain-in-the-butt! A tight or knotted up piriformis muscle can cause pain on its own, or limit strength and flexibility. However, this small muscle can cause much bigger problems.
The Piriformis is often to blame for sciatic pain symptoms. The sciatic nerve runs right past the piriformis muscle, and sometimes even through the piriformis muscle. Due to its placement in the body, tightness in the piriformis and adjacent muscles can pinch the sciatic nerve. This can send pain, numbness, or tingling down all or parts of the leg! If you have ruled out a spinal issues as your source of sciatic, it's time to address the piriformis muscle.
How does the piriformis affect my posture?
Check out your toes! If your feet tend to turn in when you are standing, walking, running, or squatting you may have a weak piriformis muscle. Likewise, if you see that your feet tend to turn outward when standing, walking, running, or squatting, it may be a sign that your piriformis is overdoing it. Either one of these postures can cause problems in the legs, hips and knees, especially with load-bearing exercise. Squatting and lifting weights with misalignment can spell disaster for the knees! Keep in mind that if it is a hip/piriformis weakness, the positional problem will originate from where the hip and thigh meet. If the positional problem originates in the knee or ankle, we will have other muscles to look at! That's why it's a good idea to see a professional, like your chiropractor, to help evaluate postural problems.
How do I stretch it?
Pigeon pose is everyone’s favorite piriformis stretch! There are a number of modified pigeon poses you can try if you are less flexible. If floor stretches are uncomfortable, try doing a pigeon pose on a chair, couch, or low table. The 'figure 4' can be done sitting or supine (on your back), or even standing if you have good balance!
How do I strengthen it?
Piriformis is a lateral rotator. Meaning, it twists the thigh 'outward' from your hip. Working the gluteal region will generally build the piriformis, as well as create support for the piriformis with the other gluteal muscles.
Squats are an easy way to develop the glutes. Add a band for extra resistance! Try a one-legged dead lift and keep in mind that the grounded leg is the piriformis that you are strengthening. Work one leg at a time, grab on to the back of a chair, bar, or ledge. Lift the other leg out to the side, you can do this exercise with your feet paralell (both toes facing forward) or 'turned out' (feet make a V shape with your toes pointing outward, like in ballet). Try this one with a band as well! 'Fire Hydrant' starts on all fours. Keep your knee at 90 degrees then swing your leg out to the side, keeping your frame strong to isolate and work the glutes.
Fun facts about the piriformis
The piriformis is only one of six muscles in the lateral rotator group. The others are; gemellus superior, obturator internus, gemellus inferior, quadratus femoris and the obturator externus.
In 17% of the population the piriformis muscle is pierced by all or part of the sciatic nerve.
The word piriformis comes from latin, meaning ‘pear shaped’.
Hopefully you learned something fun about the piriformis today! Stay tuned for our next Q&A, and send your questions to NorwalkSportsandSpine@gmail.com! What muscle should we feature next?
This weeks blog is actually a Vlog!
This is the first of our warm-up series. Stuart is going to show off his personal warm up routine. Take notes, try some new things in your own routine, and stay tuned for more vlogs and featured guests!
Don't forget to send your health and wellness questions in to firstname.lastname@example.org
-- By Dr. Jason Queiros
Detoxes or cleanses are often misconstrued as a quick weight loss mechanism. I treat a detox like hitting the reset button on the modem or restarting the computer. In this case the computer being my diet.
It's an easy way to get back on the healthy track when you've strayed. I chose to do this detox after my son was born, a time of both extreme happiness and stress. I was getting less sleep, and my eating habits definitely took a temporary dive. This was a stressful time and I'm sure my decreased nutrition and changes in hormones had me feeling less energized, sluggish even. Making me less productive at home and work. This then carried to even occasional feelings of gloominess at times. At this point I knew it was time to hit the rest button.
I asked a colleague at work about a detox she was purchasing and I thought, "Why don't we do it together." We referenced other popular cleanses and customized them to our preferences and to add more nutrients. We also decided that we would be making our drinks using the entire fruit and vegetable, not just the juice.
This was important to me since most juices are sugar and water and lack valuable minerals, nutrients and fiber. By making the smoothies at home, it costs only a fraction of what it would if you were buying the juices at the store or smoothie shop. For a total of $75, opposed to paying $65-80 per day for juices, I was able to buy organic fruits and vegetables and make enough shakes for 2 people for 5 days.
The amounts of each ingredient may vary, adjust to your taste! I made the shakes at home with my Nutribullet.
The organization of our cleanse consisted of 4 smoothies (3 hours apart). Coupled with a large salad consisting of lettuce, mixed greens, spinach, mixed nuts, seeds, finished with a drizzle of olive oil & vinegar to complete the day and keep from late night snacking!
7 AM - Green
10 AM - Orange
1 PM - Yellow
4 PM - Red
7 PM - Salad
Experiment with recipes and discover what you and your family like! Enjoy your smoothies, and send your questions to email@example.com for our next Q&A!
-- By Erica Sastre, LMT
This weeks Q & A was inspired by Game of Thrones! Lots of us are excited for the final season to begin. If you have dragons and sports medicine on your mind, read on.
Q: Should I use FIRE (heat) or ICE (cold) treatment?
A: Did you tweak a hamstring in the battle of Winterfell? Do you have neck pain after a long day of combing over old tombs in the Maester's library? Do you get headaches every time you Warg with your wolf? Read on and the choice will become clearer than a green dream.
Letâs start by taking a look how heat and cold affect the tissues in the body!
FIRE/Heat/Thermotherapy on the body will...
You have lots of options with heat,
Heat is best for... Chronic conditions, sore muscles, stiff joints, and overall relaxation.
ICE/Cold/Chryotherapy on the body will..
Therefore, ICE is best for acute (new) injuries such as twisting your ankle, strained muscles, or back spasms. You should also use ICE after an activity that aggravates a chronic injury. The goal is to reduce swelling and keep the injury from getting worse.
Tip from Dr Q:
"Don't waste your money on an ice pack. Buy a frozen bag of peas, which will serve a triple purpose. It is effective cryotherapy for your injury, it will also act as a timer (by the time the peas melt it will be time to stop your cryotherapy), and then you have a healthy snack afterwards!"
Within 24-48 hours of an injury, sprain, strain, or spasm, you will want to ice it. Apply cold no more than 15-20 minutes at a time to decrease swelling and inflammation to keep the injury from worsening. Wait 60 minutes between treatments.
After 24-48 hours, after the swelling has gone down post-injury or for chronic conditions, you will want to use heat. We recommend applying heat no more than 20 minutes at a time, and wait 60 minutes between treatments. Follow instructions for your hot pad or heating devices to keep a nice even temperature that will to increase circulation, tissue pliability, and cell metabolism for healing the injury over time.
Still in doubt? Go with ICE. Although heat has more therapeutic benefits, you can do more damage when applied in the wrong situation or instance. Therefore, there is more room for error with ICE. Be cautious, as you can burn yourself with either.
That is our secret, we can only be victorious in our health and wellness treatment plans if we use fire AND ice!
Have a great week! Send us your questions for next time to firstname.lastname@example.org!
-- by Erica Sastre, LMT
A: The answer is… Probably!
Let’s be honest, most of the time the answer is yes. Even if it is not the root cause of your back pain, wearing a backpack incorrectly can seriously worsen other conditions such as disc herniation, scoliosis, hip and shoulder disorders. Most people wear backpacks improperly, or are overloading their backs.
How heavy are our backpacks?
“Researchers visited three New York City schools and weighed more than 50 children’s backpacks. They found that kids in the 2nd and 4th grades are carrying about 5 pounds worth of homework and books. But once kids reach the 6th grade, the homework load gets heavier. On average, 6th graders in the study were carrying backpacks weighing 18.4 pounds, although some backpacks weighed as much as 30 pounds.”
School books are just the beginning of spinal stress for students, most of whom are doing extracurricular activities. Imagine a 30 pound backpack, a tuba, a poster board presentation, and a soccer bag that all need to be transported to and from school! How heavy is ‘too’ heavy?
“The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that a child’s backpack weigh no more than 10 to 20 percent of a child’s weight.”
Yikes, textbooks add up fast! Most parents are not checking to see if their kids backpacks are weighing too much, and few students are self monitoring their posture or the weight they are carrying. They merely accept whatever the coarse-load demands of them. In addition these same students spend a lot of time studying at a desk or computer, most of their day encourages a slouched, leaning forward posture.
Schools are slowly changing with the times, some students have options to have electronic books, or share books at school so they don’t need to carry so much. Each situation is different, but most still need to carry all their books, and do their best.
The WRONG way to wear Backpacks
The Correct Way to Wear a Backpack
Notice how the spine is straight, shoulders are even, hips are even. The straps are used so that weight is evenly distributed between the hips and torso! This is the part that most kids want to skip, but if you look at climbers, hikers, military, they all use straps with their packs to distribute the load properly, this helps them move more freely and prevent injury!
Why is this so important?
Most students spine are in the process of growing! Teens are experiencing their growth spurt, some don’t finish growing until their 20’s so this concern even applies to college students.
The spine is supposed to be extending upwards as it grows There is a normal amount of curvature within the spine, but not too much (which is called Kyphosis in the thoracic spine and Lordosis in the lumbar spine). Nor is it supposed to grow into a twist, or a side-to side bend (Scoliosis).
If we load up the back, and twist the spine because of weight, every single day, over time we are encouraging the spine to grow in a curve or twist. It much more difficult to correct posture later in life.
What can we do if our children seem to be suffering from posture problems related to their backpack?
1) Lighten the load. Two sets of textbooks, electronic textbooks, sharing books with friends. Talk to teachers and administrators to work out viable solution for your child and the other students!
2) Corrective stretches and exercises, as well as regular participation in activities that encourage correct posture and body mechanics such as yoga, dance, martial arts & climbing are all great examples.
Stay tuned for next weeks Q&A! If you have any questions yourself, please feel free to send in your questions to email@example.com
Sources and further reading:
-- By Erica Sastre LMT & Rochelle Shaeffer L.A.c, LMT
A: YES! Acupuncture is a wonderful modern modality with ancient roots.
What is acupuncture?
Acupuncture is a treatment derived from ancient Chinese Medicine, where fine needles are inserted at certain points in the body (called acupoints.)
Are the needles safe? Is there a chance of infection?
All needles are sterilized solid stainless steel, and once used, are properly disposed of. The practice of acupuncture is completely sanitary and safe.
Does it hurt?
The needles are expertly and quickly inserted into the skin and and superficial fascia. Most people do not feel much when the needles are applied.
While the needles are inserted you might feel the muscle ‘jump’ or ‘let go'. This would be the desired effect to relax the muscle. This is known as fasciculation or "Da Qi". It is a small, local, involuntary muscle contraction and relaxation which may be visible under the skin. Fasiculation may also happen as the needles are being removed, you may feel the skin 'pull' on the needles, and afterwards the area or muscle will feel released and refreshed. During the treatment it is best to relax, listen to the music, breath deeply, and feel the tension and stress leaving the mind and body.
There are different styles of acupuncture such as TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine), Five Element, and Meridian or Japanese style. Our Acupuncturist, Rochelle, has been trained extensively in both TCM and Japanese Style.
Japanese style uses finer needles with a shallow insertion and very little to no manipulation. Rochelle will customize your treatment on an individual basis depending on many factors.
Where does Acupuncture come from?
Earliest documentation comes from The Yellow Emperor’s Classic of Internal Medicine dating from about 100 B.C.E. Acupuncture then developed more extensively over the next few centuries. It was implemented and supported by the use of massage, diet, herbs, and moxibustion.
Acupuncture is part of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), a system of medicine that dates back thousands of years in development and practice. Other types of TCM treatments you may have heard of include Tai Chi, Tiu Na, Qi Gong, Chinese Herbal Medicine, AMMA Therapy, along with many others.
What can Acupuncture treat?
TCM is considered a whole medicinal system, and is designed to address any complaint the patient might have be it physical, emotional, or energetic. This is unlike western medicine, where conditions are treated separately and practitioners compartmentalize disease processes. TCM can be a great compliment to western medicine, addressing the more abstruse parts of our health and giving us a sense of interconnectedness.
People seek acupuncture treatment for pain management (both chronic and acute pain conditions), athletic performance, relaxation, fertility, mood disorders, to aid in recovery from injuries, surgeries, and so much more.
You can ask the acupuncturist to address as much or little as you like. In the consult the acupuncturist will take time to hear out your concerns, create a treatment specific to you. No two treatments are alike.
Needles going into my skin can treat tendinitis, headaches, and anxiety? That sounds a little… magical… What is the science behind Acupuncture?
Acupuncture and other alternative medicines are currently facing scrutiny in western cultures. Though this scrutiny has propelled an ever increasing number of scientific studies to further validate there efficacy. We are happy to report that studies on Acupuncture are supporting what TMC practitioners have been saying all along.
Research supports that acupuncture can…
Why are they asking to look at my tongue?
Tongue diagnosis is a tool in TCM for thousands of years. The texture and color of your tongue are indicators for the practitioner. They also might do pulse diagnosis, inspect your posture, and other tests to evaluate your health and energy.
Can you explain a little bit of the theory?
TCM sees the human body not just of physical parts, but of energetic parts. Energy moves through the body in meridian channels. It comes down to balancing our Yin and Yang, balancing our five elements (Fire, Water, Metal, Wood, Earth), balancing our meridian pathways that this energy moves within (Lung, Large Intestine, Small Intestine, Heart, Spleen, Stomach, Gallbladder, Liver, Kidney, Bladder, Pericardium, Triple Burner). By unlocking these pathways and balancing this energy, we become balanced and experience good health and a feeling of wellness. This is comparable to the concept of homeostasis in western medicine, which is the aim of all treatments. To bring the patient to optimal health and happiness.
That seems very complex, who are acupuncturists? What is their training? Can anyone be an acupuncturist?
TCM is very complex. This is why acupuncturists must go through years of training to receive a Master of Science in Chinese Medicine (which includes Chinese Herbology.)
I said I had a headache, why is she putting needles in my feet?
Needles may be inserted in to distal points on the meridians to affect problems along any area of the meridian. For instance, a needle might be put in the are of the hand or thumb for a headache. The needle will affect the whole meridian.
This is not an unfamiliar concept in the world of chiropractic and bodywork! When we talk about trigger points, pain referral, compensatory pain or symptoms, we are referring to situations where the source of pain and the problem are not the same.
Feel free to ask your acupuncturist questions about their method or reasoning if you are curious, it is best to keep an open mind, relax, and see how you feel after the treatment.
Who gets acupuncture?
LOTS of people receive acupuncture, from all backgrounds, professions, and countries all over the world. Don’t believe me? Here are some examples of celebrities that have used acupuncture…
Will I know it works after one treatment?
Acupuncture works best over time. Most people do feel relaxed or euphoric after just one acupuncture treatment, but, especially if you are new to acupuncture, try 4-6 treatments, at least once a week, to see if the treatment and acupuncturist are right for you
Do you have more questions?
Talk to your acupuncturist! Call, email, or text us more acupuncture questions. We will answer them and your question may be featured in next week’s Q&A!
-- By Alicia Saunders, DC
A: The truth about which foods to eat organic
We all know pesticides are toxic to our bodies but where do you start when it comes to buying organic foods? Every year the Environmental Working Group researches which veggies and fruits contain the highest amount of contamination from pesticides. These pesticides linger on our produce even after they have been thoroughly washed or peeled. The top 12 fruits and vegetables with the most pesticides (listed here from most contaminated to least contaminated) include:
Strawberries, Spinach, Nectarines, Apples, Grapes, Peaches, Cherries,
Pears, Tomatoes, Celery, Potatoes, Sweet Bell Peppers
Strawberries take the cake for the most pesticides found per sample compared to any other produce. 99% of sampled strawberries contained at least one pesticide, with 20% containing 10 or more.
When it comes to spinach, about 40% of the samples contained DDT, a banned neurotoxic insecticide in the US.
Nectarines contained at least two pesticides in 94% of the fruits tested. 80% of apples contained diphenylamine which is banned in Europe.
On average grapes contain at least 5 different pesticides.
When it comes to peaches 99% were positive for pesticide residue.
It was found that cherries contain a potential cancer causing pesticide iprodione which is also banned in Europe.
Pears were found to have fungicides and insecticides present. Celery and tomatoes contained multiple pesticide residue, some as many as 13-15. Potatoes had more pesticides residues by weight compared to any other food.
Eating higher levels of pesticides can cause many different symptoms or dysfunctions. Some include fertility problems in women and men, cancers or diabetes, asthma, and decreased cognitive function.
Trying to stay on a strict grocery budget? There is also a list of 15 foods that have had the lowest amounts of pesticide residue which are safer to consume non-organic. These are called the “Clean 15.” Keep in mind however that 70% of non-organic produce tested was positive for at least one pesticide.
Avocados, Sweet Corn, Pineapples, Cabbages, Onions, Frozen Sweet Peas, Papayas, Asparagus, Mangoes, Eggplants, Honeydews, Kiwis, Cantaloupes, Cauliflower, Broccoli.
For more information turn to the Environmental Working Group website. So next time you’re shopping at the grocery store pay extra attention to the Clean 15 list to better your health and the health of your family!
Don't forget to send in your questions for our next Q&A!
-- By Erica Sastre, LMT
Hey everybody, Erica here with this week's Q&A. February is Black History Month, I thought I would endeavor to learn a little about more about African American History in the Chiropractic profession. I’m kind of a history nerd, and I thought this project would be a lot of fun. Well, I learned a lot! So for this week’s Q & A I’d like to share the story of Harvey J. Lillard, the man at the heart of the chiropractic story.
Harvey J. Lillard was the first chiropractic patient. The very first adjustment was performed on him, and restored his hearing. This is the miracle that blew up chiropractic interest, and established a lasting profession. The founder of Chiropractic medicine was a man named Daniel David Palmer.
Dr. Palmer was not yet famous when he met Lillard. At that time he was a small-time entrepreneur in Davenport, Iowa who was trying to make a living with magnetic healing and other popular modalities of that time. Lillard owned the custodial company that took care of the building where Palmer was renting his office. Palmer heard Lillard’s story of how he lost most of his hearing. An incident that apparently was accompanied by a strange ‘popping’ noise in his spine.
His daughter, relates the legend...
“Chiropractic came into being because of my father. "
"Evidently my father was a tale-teller. He and a man that worked for him stepped in front of D.D. Palmer’s office while my father was finishing the story. Well, Dr Palmer was reading a book. The Doctor stuck his fingers between the pages and walked out to listen to the end of the tale. The Doctor was so tickled that he hit my father in the back with a book.”
Based on the story, Palmer came up with a theorized that the deafness was related to Lillard’s spinal alignment, and offered to work with him to invent a treatment. The first adjustment was in 1895, and it cured Lillard's hearing!
“I was deaf 17 years and I expected to always remain so, for I had doctored a great deal without any benefit. I had long ago made up my mind to not take any more ear treatments, for it did me no good. Last January Dr. Palmer told me that my deafness came from an injury in my spine. This was new to me; but it is a fact that my back was injured at the time I went deaf. Dr. Palmer treated me on the spine; in two treatments I could hear quite well. That was eight months ago. My hearing remains good." - Harvey Lillard
This miracle story is the foundation of chiropractic medicine, it was used to market and legitimize the technique, which rapidly grew across the country and into an established medical profession.
Little is know about the other details of Harvey Lillard's life. He had a wife and daughter, Lillard and his family left Davenport Iowa in 1907 and moved to Seattle. He was a deputy sheriff there until his death in 1925. Fun fact: He is buried in the same graveyard as Bruce Lee! His grave is much smaller than Lee's, but, if you enjoy chiropractic treatments and want to say thank you next time you are in Seattle, stop by the Lake View Cemetery and see Harvey.
Sadly, despite working with Lillard on creating chiropractic, Dr. Palmer did not teach African Americans. The Palmer School of Chiropractic blatantly stated, `Negros not accepted'. All major chiropractic schools until the 1950's did not accept blacks or minorities.
Yet, African Americans continued to participate in and contribute to the chiropractic profession. For example, Fred H. L. Rubel, established The Rubel College of Chiropractic in 1914 “to open the field of instruction to all races, no matter what the color of their skin may be, so as particularly to give members of the colored race an opportunity to learn one of the greatest modern professions—Chiropractic...”
As you can see, Harvey Lillard's story was just the beginning of a rich, complex, and diverse chiropractic history.
Check out this timeline to see a more complete list of events, notable figures, and facts about African American chiropractic history, check out the links below for further reading on this topic.
Now we know who to thank for the chiropractic treatments we enjoy today. Don't forget to submit your own questions for us to answer! Send them firstname.lastname@example.org, your question could be answered in next week's Q&A!
--Erica Satstre, LMT
-- By Jason Quieros, DC
A: This answer isn’t the same for everyone. No two people should use the same pillow. The point of a pillow is to support the natural curvatures of the spine and keep it aligned throughout the night when your body is in recovery and repair mode. Sleep position plays a significant role in the type of pillow you should use. As a general rule of thumb, back sleepers should use a thinner pillow to support the head and neck, while side sleepers need a slightly larger pillow to fill in the space between the mattress and head/neck due to the width of the shoulders. It is not advised to sleep on your stomach, as it is very detrimental to both your neck and lower back resulting in pain, headaches and numbness or tingling in the arms/legs.
The best way to sleep is on your back on a firm mattress which allows the spine and surrounding muscles to decompresses overnight. This also supports the natural curves of the spine and doesn’t compress any of your joints. A close alternative to sleeping on your back would be your side with the use of the proper pillows to support not only your head and neck but also your hips and shoulders. Sleeping while holding a pillow in front of you and another between your knees will allow your shoulders and hips to stay aligned, along with the spine.
If you are a side-sleeper, and your pillow is too small…
Neck: Your neck is forced to scrunch up and tilt downward on one side. Compressing the spinal facets and impinging nerves, blood, and muscles on this side. The other side is over stretched, and can weaken the muscles there. Over time this can create limited range of motion, neck pain, headaches, numbness and tingling in the arms, weakness, and other complications.
Shoulder: Your lower shoulder is taking all the weight of your upper body. Compression of the glenohumeral joint can cause problems in the labrum, bursa, tendons and muscles of the arm and scapula, not to mention strain on the very delicate AC joint and clavicle.
Spine: Your spine is is forced into an awkward ‘S’ shape. It is forced to dip down from your hips in the lumbar spine, then up over your shoulder (which remember, is bearing all this weight), then curve down again as your head weighs it down the other way. This can cause pain all on its own, and if you have any disc issues such as herniations, degeneration, or spinal impingement this sleeping position can make these more painful.
Hips: Because your lumbar spine is forced up by gravity, so are your hips pulled out of alignment. This effect is worse if you don’t have a pillow between your legs. If you have sciatic pain symptoms, achy hip or knee joints, arthritis in any of these joints, take a good look at your sleep position!
If your Pillow is too High…
Neck: Your neck is forced up into the other direction, scrunching one side and stretching out the other. We see similar problems as with a too-small pillow. Over time you might develop thoracic outlet syndrome, neck pain, headaches, numbness/tingling in the arms, weak and or tight muscles, and limited range of motion.
Shoulder: This one is a bit easier on your lower shoulder, but, it still isn’t ideal for the good ol' glenohumeral joint. Instead of your shoulders being straight across like a T, you are forcing them into a tilted angle. The upper shoulder will be dragging down on the torso because it is too high, compression the upper thoracic spine.
Spine: The spine is again forced into an awkward ‘S’. This time the lumbar spine is being forced down then curving up and over the too-high pillow. This can again causes pain, aches, and exacerbate symptoms of existing spinal problems.
Hips: With your lower hip now ‘down’ and your upper hip pulled up, we see that lower hip taking on more weight than it should. You really don’t want the hip joint and knee joints grinding together while you sleep, as it can weaken the capsule, joint, and connective tissues.
Doctors recommend between 7-9 hours of sleep. Less than 6 hours a night and your brain is operating the same as it does with a .08 blood alcohol level. More than 9 hours and you are disrupting the delicate hormone cycle in your body. We talk about posture all the time, and how repetitive motions and postures can cause issues in the body. 7-9 hours is a long time to be out of alignment! It is hard to ‘even out’ in the morning and achieve a good posture.
Side sleeping does complicate things when picking a good pillow. Everyone has a different body shape so keep a few measurements in mind when picking the right pillow: neck girth, shoulder width, neck length, and distance from base of skull or ear to the top of the shoulder. This is why we support the Pillow-Wise pillow here at the office. We take these measurements of your body and take into account the position you sleep in, along with the firmness of your mattress and come up with the perfect pillow thickness for your specific situation.
The best thing to do is get a custom-fitted pillow for your head, and also sleep with either a long body pillow or two smaller pillows for between your knees to take pressure of your hips, and under your arm to decompress the upper shoulder. The spine should be in alignment with your shoulders and hips even. This position will help your muscles relax the most, and you will get your best rest.
The Norwalk Sports & Spine Blog is for answering your questions! Stay tuned to learn about our practice, health, food, treatments, and more!
Subscribe for updates!
Norwalk Sports and Spine | Norwalk, CT Chiropractor | Dr. Jason Queiros | Dr. Andrew Zomick | Sports Chiropractic