Tag Archives: Neck pain

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How to pick the right pillow

What To Look For in a Pillow

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Nothing starts your day off better than getting a good night’s sleep. And sleeping with the right pillow is key.

But think about it – when you bought your mattress, you probably put a considerable amount of thought into the purchase. Things like size, material, comfort and cost were considered – and it most likely was not an easy decision. But when was the last time you gave your pillow the same thought?

While comfort plays a big role in how we choose the perfect pillow, there’s more to consider, especially when coming from someone like myself – namely support and alignment of your neck and spine. A lot of people think pillows are designed just for your head, but really a pillow needs to be designed to support your neck. Just like sleeping in the wrong position – if you’re on the wrong pillow, you can actually end up with an injury (like a pinched nerve).

The following four tips will help you get the right pillow and a  great night of sleep:

1. Thickness

You always want your neck to be in a neutral position when you are lying on your pillow. If it is not in a neutral position it can irritate the muscles and nerves in your neck causing you to wake up with a possibly sore neck, headaches, numbness and tingling, and worse. No matter what avoid buying a pillow that is too big or too small for you. So how do you do that?

First, when you lie down in your favorite sleeping position, you’ll want that pillow to fill the gap between your head and your shoulders. Then, you’ll want to take a look at your posture. If you’re lying on your back with your head on the pillow, your ear should be in line with your shoulder, not in front or behind it. If you’re lying on your side, your spine should be close to horizontal; your head shouldn’t dip down or be propped up too much. If you’re stomach sleeping (TIP: Don’t) – you really don’t need to use a pillow.

2. Material

Because comfort is highly subjective, the material of your pillow is largely up to you. The key here is the right material that works with you that keeps you comfortable but also in proper alignment. Whatever you choose be sure the pillow is firm enough to stay a consistent shape. With some materials you will often wake up with the side you generally sleep on becoming almost flat. With the pillow being consistent in shape it allows you to retain a proper sleeping and neck position all night long.

No matter the material,  a pillow is likely to begin losing it’s shape and support within about two years, when it’s a good idea to purchase a replacement. And considering the dirt, oil, dead skin cells and dust mites that can accumulate in your pillow, you might want to replace it even more regularly, anyway.

3. Shape

There are many different shapes of pillows, from your classic that looks fluffy, to the more complex and contoured. The truth again is that it really depends on your sleep position as to what shape you need your pillow to be. If you sleep on your back, you’ll need a thinner pillow, so your head and neck remain neutral and isn’t thrown too far forward. A cervical curve in the lower portion of the pillow would also be beneficial to promote the normal curve of your neck. If you sleep on your side you’ll need a firmer pillow to fill in the distance between the ear and outside shoulder – and a cervical curve would not be necessary.

Side Note: At True Health, we offer the Proper Pillow to our patients because it is the only pillow that I’ve found that allows you to sleep in proper alignment for both back and side sleepers.

4. Cost

Just because a pillow has a million features does not mean it is the right pillow for you. With that being said, when it comes to the price tag, anything $20 or under is probably cutting corners somewhere. A mid-range pillow is more than sufficient – and will probably run you $40 to $80, while anything over that mark is high-end luxury and you’re probably paying for marketing and packaging more than comfort.

 


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New Insight on Headaches

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Headache

Headaches are a secondary condition almost everyone can attest to experiencing. But why are they so common?

Headaches are the number one reason for purchase of over-the-counter drugs. Understandably, these medications offer a temporary solution to get through the day, which is sometimes necessary in this fast-paced world. Unfortunately, it does not take care of the cause of the headaches.

There are four main types of headaches: tension, migraine, cluster and rebound. Tension is the most common, accounting for 90% of all headaches – these result in contraction of the muscles in the neck and skull, and are due to stress, poor posture and Anterior Head Syndrome (AHS). When it comes to migraines, there are often known triggers, such as dehydration, caffeine, red wine and chocolate – but avoiding these may not always help. We are now realizing why: many migraine sufferers have headaches that stem from the nerves in the neck.

A recent article at CBS News explains what structural chiropractors have always known – dysfunction in the joints of your neck (a structural shift) can irritate nerves and lead to all sorts of symptoms (including migraines). Dr. Houman Danesh of Mount Sinai Hospital explains, “Essentially the joints start rubbing against each other, and that irritates the nerve that goes from the back of your neck to the back of your head, and can offset and trigger a nightmare.”

“Essentially the joints start rubbing against each other, and that irritates the nerve that goes from the back of your neck to the back of your head, and can offset and trigger a nightmare.”

Medicine is now starting to recognize the science behind chiropractic. The difference is the medical answer to this is to inject anesthesia into the area and temporarily reduce symptoms, which can help BUT it can also lead to further degeneration and damage of the joint since it’s not addressing the underlying cause – a structural shift in the spine.

Wouldn’t it make more sense to just restore normal function to the shifted segment of the spine and alleviate the nerve irritation causing the symptoms? Good news – that’s what we do everyday at True Health through a specific, gentle chiropractic adjustment.


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You Are As Old As Your Spine

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aging spine

Aging is not just the number of years you’ve inhabited planet Earth, but rather the degree of wear and tear your body, brain, and vital organs are expressing at a given point in time.Ronesh Sinha, MD

A spine with too much, too little, or improper movement directly affects the wiring and firing of nerves that come from your brain and travel down your spinal cord. Your brain and spinal cord act like the world’s most powerful computer chip which requires a proper information and power supply to work properly. Movement of the spine dictates how information is received in the brain through tiny little nerve ending’s called mechanoreceptors. The spine also houses critical nerves, arteries, and veins that carry food and waste in and out of the brain and spinal cord.

This is why – regardless of disease or symptoms – a healthy, properly moving, aligned spine is so essential to our health. By restoring motion to the spine (via the chiropractic adjustment), changes will begin to occur, such as: decrease in stress signals and stress hormones, decrease inflammation, and pain (if present) will subside. Most important of all, it results in a healthy body-brain neurological communication which is essential for overall health.

When it comes to your spine – the things we do on a daily basis are either moving us towards a healthy spine or away from health and towards a degenerating spine. Research shows that a joint (aka your spine) that has lost a degree of its normal movement will begin degenerating at a rate measurable within one week of onset. It’s important to realize that this degenerative process will continue, often painlessly, until significant degeneration has occurred. This is a big reason why you don’t need to be in pain to have chiropractic care in our office.

The following are the good and bad in keeping your spine as young as possible:

The Good

  • Periodic chiropractic checkups – Regardless of symptoms, the research shows we are much healthier with a properly moving spine than without.
  • Stretch regularly – Consider how inflexible most people are – how do you think they got that way? Muscles abide by the “use it or lose it” principle. Avoid this fate by isolating key muscle groups and giving them a good daily stretch (Patients in our office receive customized stretches based on their individual needs).
  • Proper hydration – Your spine and its supportive structures work best when they’re hydrated. Most people will not drink enough water to replace their original fluid deficit, and this problem is exacerbated with age.
  • Daily exercise Ideally we should be spending a good portion of our days walking, standing and moving in general. If we don’t our bodies rebel and health declines. Do some form of exercise that significantly raises your heart rate for 30 minutes at least four times a week.
  • Supportive sleep environment – Your bed and pillow should both help keep your body in natural alignment. Dated and flimsy mattresses stress your hips, pelvis, and back, which inevitably lead to chronic pain. Buy a quality pillow that keeps your head level, and use a good mattress that firmly (yet comfortably) prevents your spine from dipping or sagging while you sleep.
  • Be mindful of your posture – This applies to whatever you’re doing, whether you’re at work, home, in the car, at the gym, or simply standing up. Good posture has benefits; poor posture has consequences.
  • Proper nutrition –  A nutrient-rich diet with a diversity of plants, healthy proteins and high quality, healthy fats actually feed and nourish your genes, slowing the degenerative process.

The Bad

  • Poor general posture (slouching) – With proper postural awareness, you can save years of wear and tear on the spine, and maintain full function of the delicate nervous system.
  • Sedentary lifestyle – A study done in over 2,000 identical twins who carry the same genetic material showed that the more active twins had longer, healthier telomeres than their genetically identical siblings.  The most active twins had genes that appeared 9 years younger than their inactive siblings. Spend less time on your computer/phone and move daily.
  • Stress – Chronic stress promotes inflammation and oxidative damage that is inflicted upon DNA, which increases disease risk and accelerates aging.
  • Sleeping on your stomach – Having your head and neck turned to one side while sleeping can significantly strain the muscles and ligaments of the spine. Repeatedly doing so every night for years slowly adds pressure to the joints and nerves, contributing to spinal degeneration and allowing for the development of a variety of health problems.
  • Neglecting your spine by not getting periodic chiropractic checkups – By restoring motion and removing nerve interference – you can begin to function how you were designed to.

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5 Tips For a Better Sleep Tonight

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If you are having trouble sleeping at night, you are not alone. More than one-quarter of the U.S. population report they occasionally do not get enough sleep, while nearly 10% admit to experiencing chronic insomnia.

Getting a good night of sleep is one of the cornerstones of health, your body needs this time to repair and heal. Six to eight hours per night seems to be the optimal amount of sleep for most adults, and too much or too little can have adverse effects on your health. Research shows that inadequate sleep can have disastrous effects on your weight loss efforts, impair your concentration, and weaken your immune system.

There is good news though, because starting tonight, you can improve the quality and quantity of your sleep. Here are 5 ways to get back on track:

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Check the Neck

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What does the research say about Chiropractic care and neck pain? Lets find out:

“Neck pain is often caused by mechanical disorders associated with gradual changes due to aging, or strain of the neck or arms. Pain can be localized to the cervical spine or may radiate down an arm.”

– D. Borenstein, MD & American College of Rheumatology (2006)

“A seven-year study found (chiropractic) neck adjustments to be a better choice for managing most common neck pain than many current practices. Also included in the short-list of options for relief were massage, exercise, education and neck mobilization.”

– The Bone and Joint Decade 2000-2010 Task Force on Neck Pain and Its Associated Disorders, Spine. (2008)

“Chiropractic care is better at reducing pain than taking medications like aspirin, ibuprofen or narcotics. Even a year later, there were differences between the chiropractic adjustments and medication groups.”

– Gert Bronfort, MD & The Annals of Internal Medicine (2012)

You see, if the body’s frame is in alignment, then the nervous system – the brain, spinal cord and the millions of nerves extending throughout the body – can function at its best. This postural balance leads to better body-weight distribution which improves the position of internal organs and helps protect those structures that stabilize the spine. This leads to you having more energy to think, function, heal and maintain yourself. Oh, and it will help your neck pain.


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