Why muscle relaxers are not the answer to your back or neck pain

This week I’ve had two patients ask for muscle relaxers to help them sleep.  They didn’t even request it to help calm a muscle spasm.  It’s not in the scope of practice for a chiropractor to prescribe a muscle relaxer.  But honestly, why would you ever want one? If your back hurts that bad, even after your chiropractic appointment, and you really need to take something…I would recommend an over-the-counter to help with some pain relief.  Or if you’re in the state of Colorado, go find a dispensary.

Why do muscles spasm? I like to refer to the analogy of the chicken and the egg.  Did the joint stop moving properly and cause the surrounding muscle to spasm, or did the muscle tighten up and cause the joint to lock up?  In either case, you want to treat both the joint and the muscular dysfunction.  Improper movement, poor posture, repetitive movements are all things that can cause dysfunction.   Doesn’t it make sense to spend the time addressing the real issue than attempt to get the muscle to relax with a pill?

Muscle relaxers cause all the muscles in your body to relax, including the ones that create stability along the spine.  Once you take away that stability, how can you ever expect those muscles to work properly and engage throughout your daily movements.

One of the worst things I see patient do when their back hurts is to take a muscle relaxer, rest on the couch (usually in a poor spinal position) and then try and get up hours later.  Quite frankly, they just can’t.   This is usually the moment that their spine gives out and they start calling the office because they cannot move.

Movement is medicine.  Movement is my prescription for every ailment the body may have.  Even when your back hurts, you should be able to go for a walk or do some basic core strengthening exercises.  If you want to find out the real reason your back hurts, then call us at Denver Sports and Family Chiropractic Center.  We promise not to just put a Band-Aid on the problem, but to keep it from coming back for good.

High Heels and Your Back

While women have worn high heels for decades in the effort to look sexy, it is increasingly having a bad effect on their back, not to mention their knees and feet. Those pricey Manolo Blahniks may look great, but is the price your back pays really worth it?

When you wear high heels, they throw off your center of gravity, causing your pelvis to tip forward and forcing the muscles in your hips, thighs and lower back to work harder, which can lead to tightness and occasional spasms. They also create a greater curvature in your lower back, which makes the buttocks more prominent and lengthens the appearance of the legs (which is what makes high heels “sexy” looking).

If you wear high heels for any length of time, your body posture adapts to it, making some muscles work harder than they should and letting other important ones become weak. For instance, the gluteal muscles weaken and the hip flexors, which are responsible for raising your knee toward your chest, become unusually tight, causing back pain. Your hip flexors extend from the front of your thigh bone, through the hip joint, to end at the lower back. Therefore, if the muscle is tight and shortened it pulls on the lower back. High heels combined with a desk job are the worst of all, as the hip flexors become shortened from being in a sitting position all day.

If you don’t want to give up your high heels there are a few things you can do to reduce long-term damage to your back:

1) Stretch your hip flexors regularly – You can reduce back pain by keeping these muscles stretched. To do this, kneel on one knee on the floor with the foot of the extended leg slightly forward of the knee. Then move your hips slowly forward so your knee is over your foot. You should feel a gentle stretch in the hip of the kneeling leg as you do this. Hold for 20-30 seconds and do twice on each side.

2) Choose a lower heel – Try to buy shoes with a heel no higher than 2 inches. This will still achieve the elegant effect you are looking for without putting excessive stress on your musculoskeletal system.

3) Tighten your abdominal muscles – Strengthening “core” muscles in your abdomen by practicing yoga or pilates will help you maintain good posture while walking in heels and take some of the load of your upper body weight off your lower back.

4) Have regular chiropractic treatment – An experienced Denver chiropractor can realign a spine pulled out of alignment by high heels and can suggest appropriate exercises to help strengthen weak muscles.

Good health is a combination of many factors including your nutrition, preventative care, appropriate corrective care and the small choices you make every day in the course of living. If you have questions about this article, your general or spinal health, please ask. We are here to help!

Top 10 Tips for Office Workers

Numerous studies have proven that the sedentary lifestyle of typical office workers is hazardous to their health. The biggest problem seems to be sitting for long periods of time, often without a break. One study conducted in 2010 indicated that "men who reported more than 23 hours a week of sedentary activity had a 64 percent greater risk of dying from heart disease than those who reported fewer than 11 hours a week of sedentary activity." And yet the nature of office work is essentially sedentary. What can you do to make it less so, and thus improve your health? Here's the top 10 things you can do to help.

  1. Eat breakfast. Studies have shown that workers who eat breakfast have better concentration than those who only drink coffee in the mornings. In addition, those who eat breakfast tend to eat less during the day than those who do not, and thus more easily avoid gaining weight.
  2. Bike or walk to work. If you live close to work, this can provide much of the exercise you need each week, and you arrive at work feeling more energized and having been exposed to fresh air. If you take public transportation to work, consider getting off one or two stops earlier, and walking the rest of the way.
  3. Take frequent short breaks. Even if you take a longer break for lunch or to go to the gym, sitting for long, uninterrupted periods of time can still be hazardous. Studies have shown that taking micro-breaks (getting up from your desk and moving around every 15 minutes or so) can be more valuable than taking a longer break only once a day.
  4. Use the stairs. Why ride in a stuffy box when you could get a little healthful exercise?
  5. Drink lots of water. Experts recommend you drink 4 to 6 glasses a day to keep yourself hydrated and healthy. If you have to get up to refill your glass from the drinking fountain or the refrigerator, that'll also provide an opportunity for another micro-break.
  6. Don't forget about fresh air. Offices can often be stuffy and under-ventilated.  If possible, open a window near your desk. If not, be sure to take occasional breaks outside the building, even if only for short periods of time.
  7. Bring a healthy lunch and snacks from home. Rather than eating in the cafeteria, make a healthy lunch at home and sit outside when eating it. Instead of eating sugary snacks from vending machines, bring fruit and nuts and snack on them.
  8. Think ergonomically. Adjust your chair to fit your body and sit with your feet flat on the floor. Position your computer monitor at eye level and your keyboard at elbow level, so that your wrists are straight when you type. Move your whole arm when you use the mouse, not just your wrist.
  9. Stretch at your desk. You may not be able to jog or do push-ups at your desk, but you can certainly stretch and release tension from your arms, neck, shoulders, and fingers.
  10. Exercise before you go home. After a long day at work, many people get home and just want to sit down on the couch and relax. If you are a member of a gym or jog regularly, doing this directly after work will improve the likelihood that you'll actually exercise.

Choosing the Right Lumbar Support

Lumbar back support products are designed to help prevent neck and back pain, which can lead to pain in other parts of the body as well. Many of these products are pillows or cushions that offer additional support when you are seated for long periods of time.

The lumbar region of the spine is usually referred to as the lower back. It is the area just above your tailbone and below the thoracic (middle back) region. The lumbar area includes your spine and all the muscles, ligaments and tendons surrounding your spine. If your ligaments are pulled or torn, you will experience a lumbar sprain or strain, which can lead to muscle spasms and significant pain in your lower back.

What can cause lumbar sprains and strains? Poor posture, poor lifting technique, obesity, and other health-related factors can contribute. In fact, sitting for long periods without lumbar support can itself aggravate lumbar pain. Finally, one of the greatest contributors to back pain is using the wrong type of chair for your body. Surfaces that are too hard or too soft do not encourage proper posture and do not provide adequate support for your back.

Chiropractic adjustments and active release technique can help, but a good support is also essential. So preventing these problems with a good lumbar support is essential, especially if you spend significant amounts of time sitting down.

The first step to choosing the right lumbar support is to ensure that it fits perfectly in the chair you spend the most time in. An even better option is to choose an ergonomically designed chair that includes a built-in lumbar support, or an individual lumbar support that is specifically designed to be used with your chair. “One size fits all” lumbar support products rarely provide any benefits and should be avoided.

Make sure you test the product in the store before you buy it. If you can, sit with the lumbar support for at least 15 minutes to see if it feels good or aggravates back pain. The best lumbar supports are adjustable, so you can fit it to the chair’s height. Ergonomic chairs with lumbar supports included usually allow you to adjust the height and width of the support. Adjustable separate supports are particularly useful if you use more than one chair throughout the day.

Good health is a combination of many factors including your nutrition, preventative care, appropriate corrective care and the small choices you make every day in the course of living. If you have questions about this article, your general or spinal health, please ask. Ask your Denver chiropractor, Dr. Carly May, about how she can help you!

1720 S. Bellaire St, Suite 406 | Denver, CO 80222 | Denver Sports and Family Chir