Most of our daily tasks involve the movement of our spine. Sitting down at the computer or dinner table, standing up, turning to grab an item, catching a ball, jumping, running, and everything in between requires the stabilization or movement of our spinal cords. Many of us might not think too much about it until we experience pain, discomfort, or a lack of mobility. Unfortunately today, lower back problems are increasingly common. Many of these cases are related to herniated discs. Despite this being a common injury, back pain can be scary and unnerving. So here’s what you need to know before you take drastic measures like surgery.
A Closer Look at the Spinal Cord
The human spinal cord is composed of 24 vertebrae and is a vital link between the brain and the body, as it is intricately innervated with nerves and neural activity. The spine is broken up into four sections, the cervical, the thoracic, lumbar, and sacral. Many common injuries occur in the lumbar spine, as it is an area that takes a lot of tension and impact during common movements that we perform every day.
Common Causes of Spinal Injury and Herniated Discs
The tricky part of herniated discs is that they can happen anywhere, anytime. People have experienced herniated disc injuries while bending down to tie their shoes, to pick up a bag of dog food, or while performing heavy weightlifting exercises. A single strain, injury, or trauma can lead to an injury to your discs. It might happen as a result of wear and tear.
As the National Center for Biotechnical Information asserts, degeneration is perhaps the most common cause. The disc material degenerates with age meaning even minor movements can cause greater damage.
There are eight discs in the cervical spine—which most of us know as the neck—and it is a common area for herniated discs after accidents or trauma. The lumbar spine is perhaps the most common area of the spine that sees herniated or bulging disc injuries.
What You Might Feel When You Have a Herniated Disc
Unlike pain that comes from a mechanical dysfunction, pain associated with herniation is usually experienced as a burning or stinging sensation. It may also include:
Herniated Discs: The Jelly Donut Example
Most people don’t like to think of their spine as a jelly donut, but it’s a common example. For some, it is helpful in visualizing a herniated disc injury without getting too technical. It’s a useful example, as it allows people to picture how their disc is structured and what happens when it becomes “herniated.” You can think about your discs as cushions that help absorb impact. Their outer layer is made up of tough cartilage, a dense collagenous ring.
In our donut example, this would be the doughy part of the pastry. The inner jelly filling is the material inside the annulus fibrosus called the nucleus pulposus. When enough pressure is applied, this dense outer layer can crack and cause the nucleus pulposus—i.e jelly filling—to be pushed out, obstructing the path of the spinal nerve which causes inflammation and swelling.
The Difference Between Herniated Discs and Bulging Discs
The terms bulging disc and herniated disc are often used interchangeably and are really a similar issue. The term “slipped disc” is also used commonly to refer to either a bulging or herniated disc. A bulging disc doesn’t always affect the entire disc but only part of it and the herniated disc refers to an injury that involves a crack to the outer layer.
Treatments for Herniated Discs
Herniated disc injuries will interrupt a person’s active lifestyle. A chiropractor will approach the problem through various angles and begin by understanding your medical history, perform a physical exam, and even orthopedic and neurological exams. Sometimes X-rays and MRIs are necessary to pinpoint the precise source of the problem.
Questions a chiropractor will address as they evaluate your back issue:
The Use of Spinal Manipulation
Spinal manipulation sounds intimidating to some people, but it is a very effective technique to get relief from herniated disc pain. This is a hands-on technique and should be performed only by a professional and experienced chiropractor. It requires slow and calculated movements that help the body push the disc back into pain. Patients may hear popping sounds when this happens. This is normal! It is a result of gasses released from the shifting discs.
Your chiropractor may also suggest the performance of certain movements. These exercises are meant to fortify your strength and keep mobility as your body continues to heal.
Experiencing Back Pain? Get Relief With a Trusted El Paso Chiropractor
Here, at Southwest Chiropractic, we practice conservative means for healing the spine and other bodily injuries. Loss of mobility is detrimental to a person’s quality of life. Come by today for an assessment of your back pain and how we can help you get back to normal.
It seems like everyone has some sort of back pain these days. It could result from the stressful events and lifestyle changes the nation has gone through, like working from home. Simply put, back pains can ruin your day.
Your spine is the pillar and foundation of your entire body, after all. It withstands significant amounts of force throughout the day. It doesn’t matter if you’re sitting, lifting, or standing. Back pain can occur during any of these simple or intense movements. So, how can you prevent these injuries and treat your back a bit more to ease the pain or hopefully prevent it entirely?
#1) Make Sure to De-Stress
Stress itself can destroy you back. We may think that it’s all mental, but the things we do when we get mentally stressed can drastically affect our bodies. We tend to lift our shoulders higher and lock them near our ears. We also forget to breathe. Crazy, right?
When we’re stressed, our breaths become shorter, and this doesn’t allow oxygen to flow through our entire body properly. Don’t just take short breaths that only expand your chest. Take deep breaths into the bottom of your stomach and expand. Finding even small ways to relax, like focusing on your breathing, can help with reducing the tension in your muscles. Once your back starts to tense up, it’s only going to get worse from there. It can lead to upper back pain from your shoulders or a tight lower back that can cause pain when moving.
#2) Find the Healthiest Way to Sit
Sitting for long periods of time can wreak havoc on your back. Not only do we tend to slouch after long periods of inactivity, but our discs in our lower spine become more loaded while sitting. This can create or aggravate your back, causing pain. When sitting at the computer for long periods of time, we tend to lean forward after a while. This puts even more strain and stress on our lumbar discs.
It’s best to have some sort of lumbar support on our lower back, even if it’s uncomfortable at first, while our spines adjust to sitting properly. Try to find an ergonomic chair that can support your lower back and keep your feet flat on the floor.
Most of all, remember to stand up! Take a break at least once an hour to stretch and walk around if you’re sitting during most of the day.
#3) Exercise, Exercise, Exercise
Exercising can help reduce stress and tension in our backs. If you’re exercising regularly, you will probably stretch before and sometimes after your routine. Maintain mobility of your spine by stretching daily and strengthening your core several times a week. Your core muscles need strengthening to support your spine and take the pressure off your lower back. Targeted exercises are the best way to work out your lower back and abdominal muscles.
#4) Sleeping Can Make Or Break A Healthy Back
If you sleep on your side, then use a thick pillow to have your neck and head positioned in the middle of your shoulders. You can even place a pillow between your legs to take the pressure off your lower spine. If your pillow sits too low or too high, then you’ll bend your neck, causing discomfort in your spine overall.
If you sleep on your back, then use a pillow that holds your neck and doesn’t prop it too high. Placing a pillow under your knees to maintain the natural curvature of your back will help as well.
#5) Diet Is Key For A Healthy Back
Your diet plays a much larger role in back pain than you may think. Foods that have rich antioxidants and anti-inflammatory agents like vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and legumes will help your back in the long run. It’s not necessarily about weight loss but keeping a reasonable weight that your back can support. Your spinal discs are made of soft tissue, and they’re not designed to handle the stress of being overweight. This can lead to faster wear and tear on the issues.
#6) Stay Hydrated!
Keeping your body hydrated will maintain soft tissue elasticity and fluidity in joints. The loss of hydration can make your spinal discs begin to shrink, and you can become more prone to painful disk conditions. A herniated disk means a disk has slipped or ruptured when there’s a loss of fluids causing discs to become brittle and slip out of place.
Southwest Chiropractor Can Help
Here at Southwest Chiropractor, we help keep your back in the best shape possible. For treatments and examinations, give us a call. We can schedule an appointment and get your back on track for a healthy lifestyle. If you have consistent back pain of any sort, then it’s best to reach out before it gets worse. We’re here to help each of our patients with extreme care to give your spine the proper support it needs.
We look forward to helping you!
October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. As such, we’d like to highlight how chiropractic care can help relieve breast cancer-related pain, especially post-surgery or after chemotherapy. The Southwest Chiropractic team is in full support of Breast Cancer Awareness Month. If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with breast cancer, is currently undergoing treatment for breast cancer, or has survived breast cancer due to surgery, we can help. Through chiropractic care, we’re able to do our part in helping our clients achieve a pain-free life.
A Primer on Breast Cancer
According to the American Cancer Society, an estimated 268,600 new cases of invasive breast cancer will be diagnosed among women and approximately 2,670 cases will be diagnosed in men in 2019-2020. That’s an over 30,000+ increase from 2015.
Breast cancer is commonly associated with lumps that can be found in breast tissue. It’s important to point out that these signs are not universal among those who have been diagnosed.
Breast cancer is more prevalent among women in their late 60s but the ACS recommends for women aged 45-54 to receive annual mammograms. Upon reaching 55 years of age, mammograms can be switched to every two years.
As with most cancers, early detection is crucial for appropriate treatment and care. That’s why annual mammograms are recommended for women in their mid-40s. If a doctor sees signs of breast cancer during an early screening, the patient will be able to begin treatment sooner rather than later. The American Cancer Society states relative survival rates for women diagnosed with breast cancer are 91% at five years after diagnosis.
Surgery is a common treatment for breast cancer, with the two most prevalent options being mastectomy or breast-conserving surgery (BCS). A mastectomy is the surgical removal of the entire breast while BCS, as its name might suggest, involves only the removal of the cancerous tissue and a rim of normal tissue. Surgery is often paired with radiation therapy.
How Chiropractic Care Can Help Breast Cancer Survivors
Any surgery is traumatic on the body. Recovering from a successful mastectomy can take weeks or months. It can be a painful process, resulting in aches, pains, and physical impairment. This is where chiropractic care can come into play.
Perhaps this is the first time you’ve considered chiropractic care working in tandem with post-surgery recovery, but it’s a very common option. Chiropractic care is non-invasive and drug-free, making it an excellent choice for anyone who has gone through chemotherapy.
As El Paso’s premier chiropractic clinic, we’ve seen the positive impact of our therapy services first-hand. Our treatment options can aid those suffering from back pain, chronic pain, neck pain, and headaches. Those recovering from breast cancer surgery tend to experience these kinds of pain, seeing as their bodies have undergone quite a serious change. If you’re looking for a non-invasive way to reduce pain, then chiropractic therapy from Southwest Chiropractors may be the right answer.
Prior to partaking in chiropractic care, however, it’s crucial for you to speak with your doctor. Once you receive the go-ahead, make sure to let your chiropractor know you’re recovering from breast cancer-related surgery. This way, we’ll be able to provide the right therapy you and your body deserve.
What to Expect from Your Treatment Plan
Once you’ve received approval from your medical doctor, it’ll be time to discuss your chiropractic treatment plan. Due to the myriad symptoms one may experience post-surgery, not every treatment plan will be alike. For instance, one client may experience tremendous back pain and headaches but experience no other pain. It wouldn’t make too much sense to include neck pain treatment in this individual client’s treatment plan. By having an open discussion with your chiropractic care professional, you’ll be able to experience pain relief that’s tailored to your needs.
At Southwest Chiropractic, we go above and beyond for our clients. In fact, the very first step Dr. Fred Aguayo takes is to conduct a comprehensive exam which includes an interview, an in-depth look at your medical history, as well as in-house x-rays and lab tests. If you feel unsure about undergoing x-rays or partaking in lab tests, then we’ll be able to discuss it with your medical doctor to find the best path forward. Once Dr. Aguayo has all the information he needs, he will create a comprehensive treatment plan that will be specialized to your needs.
Southwest Chiropractic Cares For You, All Year Long
At Southwest Chiropractic, we care about each and every one of our clients. Just because October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month doesn’t mean we stop caring about all those who have been diagnosed. Awareness of receiving regular screenings, understanding surgery options, and learning more about non-invasive post-surgery treatment is crucial in order for our community to live happy, healthy lives. If you’d like to learn more about how we can help, simply give us a call!
In full support of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, we urge our patients to be vigilant and get checked for breast cancer annually. By staying aware, patients can catch the signs early and begin treatment. Stay healthy this fall with Southwest Chiropractic!
Today, most people don’t live too far away from a chiropractor. In fact, tens of thousands of chiropractors practice in all 50 states, helping millions feel their best from day to day. However, most people simply aren’t aware of how the practice came to be. At Southwest Chiropractic, we wanted to change that. In our latest blog, we discuss the tumultuous and fascinating history of chiropractic care!
The History Of Chiropractic Care
The word “chiropractic” comes from the Greek words cheir (hand) and praktos (done). Although similar practices have been informally done in many civilizations for hundreds, maybe even thousands of years, a man by the name of Daniel David Palmer is credited with the creation of this method of physical care. Palmer began his first chiropractic service in 1895, where he provided a crude adjustment to a janitor with back and hearing problems.
The idea of Palmer being the pioneer of chiropractic care would be far from the truth. Evidence suggests that chiropractic care was a common practice as far back as ancient Egypt, making the practice several thousand years old. Indeed, Palmer studied some of this history, especially Greek history. Chiropractic care has been a human phenomenon for millennia but now has become a recognized practice in the 21st century.
Following this adjustment, Palmer went on to continue his practice and eventually found his Palmer School of Cure, now the Palmer College of Chiropractic. After some time, states began to recognize it as a legitimate medical practice and began offering licenses for chiropractors. Today, tens of thousands of chiropractors work to alleviate the pain of millions of people.
Chiropractic had its early roots in spiritualism, naturalism, magnetism, and several other older metaphysical disciplines. In effect, Palmer’s mission was to combine the merits of metaphysics with the rigor of science. Another part of Palmer’s insistence on this new form of care was to curb reliance on medicine that seemed to plague people at the time. He believed that many ailments could be adequately addressed using chiropractic techniques.
Any history of chiropractic care would be incomplete if it assumed that the introduction of this practice was smooth, which it certainly wasn’t. The truth is that chiropractic care as introduced by Palmer and his supporters was far from being accepted from the larger medical community. Specifically, the profession of osteopathy, a branch of medical practice based on the manipulation of bones, joints, and muscles, was in opposition to chiropractic care.
Palmer and his proponents were absolutely eviscerated by the local media, which called them quacks. The attacks were most often levied towards their more metaphysical practices, like using magnetism from hands to heal ailments. It could be argued that these critiques were fair, as Palmer’s early work was unsubstantiated by any conventional understanding.
Another opponent of chiropractic care was the pharmaceutical industry, who obviously didn’t like the idea of treating people sans medicine. Motivated by profit, this industry spared no words for Palmer and those who supported him.
The osteopathic community was incensed by the rise of chiropractic medical care, even going so far as to call it a “bastardized form of osteopathy.” Proponents of osteopathic care went so far as to push for licensing requirements, which actually led to arrests of several people, including Palmer himself!
It would actually take until 1974 for all 50 states to recognize separate licensing. However, the battle for chiropractic legitimacy still would not be over. The American Medical Association called the practice an “unscientific cult” as late as the 70s and 80s until they lost a case against them.
The full assault on chiropractic care may seem unprecedented, but their concerns were actually substantiated for much of its history. The main issue that was presented by critics was a lack of scientific rigor, which could certainly be applied to Palmer and his students. Palmer often did not seek to verify that his techniques had any scientific backing, making chiropractic care wildly variable. His utter disregard for the scientific method placed a huge target on his back and on chiropractic care in general.
By the 90s, though, chiropractic care was given the full ability to develop and work with people in need.
Chiropractic Care In The 21st Century
As we’ve seen, the rise of chiropractic care in the 19th and 20th centuries was far from smooth. There were attacks on all sides, with some being warranted and some not. But how has the chiropractic profession transformed in the 21st century?
Well, you’ll be glad to know that chiropractic care has a much firmer foundation in scientific ideas and evidence. Chiropractors must have a much more rigorous understanding of anatomy and the way that manipulation affects it to be licensed and successful.
Chiropractic care, being recognized as a legitimate practice, has had the time to grow and become refined. Now, millions around the world use chiropractic care for recovery and for feeling their best.
Choose Southwest Chiropractic For Top-Notch Care!
For the best chiropractic care that El Paso has to offer, Southwest Chiropractic is ready to help! Give us a call today to schedule an appointment.
If you’re suffering from back pain, you’re in good company. About 80% of Americans will experience back pain in their lifetimes. Luckily, there are daily habits we can develop to ease back pain and prevent it from getting worse.
Be Mindful of Your Body Positioning
If you experience chronic pain, the simple act of paying attention to your posture can ease the discomfort. Here’s how:
Be sure you keep a straight back with your feet on the floor—no slouching! You want a 90-degree angle with your hips higher than your knees. Use a cushion if you need to.
Keep your shoulders back (not slouched) and your feet shoulder-width apart. Stand up straight with your head level (not tilted in any direction). You want to bear your weight on the balls of your feet. If you stand for extended periods, shift your weight from foot to foot or from heels to toes.
The key here is to maintain the natural curve of your spine. If you tend to sleep on your side, try putting a pillow between your knees. If you’re a back sleeper, a pillow beneath your knees will help. If you’re a stomach sleeper, try to train yourself to sleep on your back or side. If that’s not possible, place a pillow under your pelvis.
When lifting a heavy object, keep your feet shoulder-width apart. As you bend your knees, keep your spine in a neutral position, and lift slowly. Hold the load close to your body, and don’t twist; pivot with your feet instead.
Start by adjusting your seat to lean back slightly, at about a 100- to 110-degree angle. Then adjust the part you sit on until your thighs are fully supported and your hips are higher than your knees. If you have lumbar support, use it. If not, place a cushion behind your back.
Check Your Phone Posture
Do you spend hours each day with your head thrust forward, looking down at your phone? This is a perfect setup for back and neck pain. Try to keep your head back, your ears aligned with your shoulders, and your phone held straight out from your body. An armchair can help with that.
If you use a landline at work, try using a headset. And never cradle your phone between your head and your shoulder to keep your hands free.
Wear Supportive Shoes
High heels are the worst thing you can wear if you have back pain (with flip-flops a close second), particularly if you’re on your feet a lot.
High heels alter your balance and force your hips and knees out of alignment, putting extra strain on the lower back. Whenever possible, wear good supportive shoes with arch support.
Watch the Weight in Your Handbag or Backpack
If you use a handbag or shoulder bag, don’t overload it. If you’re feeling back strain from it, it’s too heavy. Chances are you always carry it on the same side, which strains your neck and back muscles. In time, this could cause muscle weakness and more severe problems. Try alternating sides from day to day or throughout the day.
Consider using a backpack. Backpacks are better than bags for carrying heavy loads because they distribute the weight evenly throughout your back. But again, don’t overload it.
Diet can have a substantial impact on back pain. A poor diet can cause inflammation that can lead to pain. Your dietary habits could also cause digestion issues such as constipation, cramping, and gas. All of these things can cause you to feel pain in your back.
The best diet for pain from inflammation is one with plenty of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and healthy fats. Include tomatoes, green leafy vegetables, olive oil, nuts, and fatty fish.
In addition, Harvard Health recommends avoiding the following:
Eating a healthy diet is also critical for maintaining a healthy weight. Carrying excess weight, especially around the middle, is another preventable source of back pain.
Gentle stretching is an excellent way to reduce back pain and ease aching muscles. Make it a daily habit, and you’ll be amazed at how much better you feel. Ask your therapist about stretching exercises that you can do at home.
If You’re a Smoker, Quit!
Many studies have shown that smokers are much more likely to have chronic pain issues. Quitting can decrease current pain and reduce the risk of it becoming chronic.
Our bodies aren't designed for our modern lifestyles. Many of us sit for too long and don’t get enough exercise. We spend hours each day hunched over computer screens, and our backs can pay a high price for it.
Creating an awareness habit is an easy and effective way to reduce that pain. Be attentive to what you ask of your body throughout your day and discover how much better you’ll feel.
You only have one back; be good to it.
As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, millions of Americans have shifted to working from home. If you’re one of the many Americans who now find themselves clocking in in their pajamas, it can definitely feel like quite the adjustment.
At Southwest Chiropractic, we understand that the change can be a little jarring, so we’ve decided to dedicate our latest blog to tips for working from home. By using these tips, you can hopefully enjoy working from home just a little bit more, and stay healthy throughout the pandemic!
1.) Designate A Workspace
One of the first items on your working-from-home to-do list should be to find/make a designated workspace. The reason for this is it can help you get and stay in the mindset of work, rather than sleep or leisure. A desk would be ideal, but even using the dining room or kitchen table would suffice.
When finding your workspace, try to find a place where you can spend time away from distractions like the TV or family. This isn’t always possible, of course, but finding a place away from distractions can help you stay productive.
2.) Invest In Work Equipment
Investing in some handy equipment can also do wonders for your time at home. One of the best investments you could make today is a good office chair, one that balances comfort and support. While we don’t recommend working on a bean bag chair or the couch, a dining room chair might be too rigid and uncomfortable. You can find a happy medium or, if all else fails, look for some affordable office chairs with great reviews online!
Another excellent investment to make for your home setup is a standing desk, which can keep you from staying seated for hours at a time. Sitting is notoriously bad for you—it increases the likelihood of certain diseases, as well as harming mental health on average. With a standing desk, you can avoid some of those bad effects.
Other excellent investments include a hanging file folder, a nice desk lamp, and a phone adapter
3.) Take Breaks
We are workaholics. This country, and the world at large, works long, hard hours. As you work from home, though, it’s important that you remember to take breaks along the way.
Periodic breaks in the day can have incredible health benefits, like improved creativity, mental-wellbeing, and even productivity. Yes, productivity! By giving your brain time to rest and refresh, you can work more efficiently when you are working.
Try to schedule out your break time, like one 5-10 minute break per hour or two. That way, you can find time to walk around, read an article, play a game, or even just rest your eyes.
4.) Don’t Forget To Stay Active
This is a huge tip. Being active is an incredibly crucial part of working from home. Even if you didn’t have a workout routine before, you probably still burned more calories than you realized.
This is because our everyday activities also burn calories, not just going to the gym or swimming laps in the pool. Opening your car door, walking to the break room, getting the conference room ready for a meeting—these all burn calories too, though we don’t often think about it. Working from home doesn’t allow you to burn calories in this way, so be sure to stay active.
Remember those breaks we suggested? Perhaps use them to go for a quick walk, or do a small workout circuit. This can help you stay happy and alert while you work, while also getting you out of harmful postures. Purchasing equipment like workout bands and a pull-up bar can also do wonders for your health. One of our more recent blogs discusses stretching in detail, another excellent way to stay healthy.
5.) Get Some Consistent Sleep
Working from home messing up your rhythm? You’re not alone. In addition to messing up our normal routine, it can also affect your sleep too. People tend to sleep later (sometimes way later), which can leave you groggy in the morning.
If you were getting a good amount of sleep pre-COVID19, try to maintain that schedule, or shift it slightly to account for your lack of a commute. But try not to let your sleep vary wildly from day to day, as it can lead to weight gain, irritability, and decreased productivity.
6.) Get Dressed
We all love our cozy pajamas, but when it’s time to work, you may want to put on some clothes. That’s because they help you get into the mindset of working, as opposed to the mindset of...well, sleeping.
That doesn’t mean you need to put on a full suit or dress, but some casual or business casual attire can help you wake up and shift your mindset to productivity mode.
7.) Keep An Eye On Your Calories
While you work from home, it can be tempting to reach for the chips and cookies while you work, but be warned: you may need some new pants soon.
It’s ridiculously easy to eat way too much while working from home. Even if you manage to keep eating the same amount, remember that you likely aren’t burning the same amount of calories as you used to. So you may slowly put on a few extra pounds.
To keep from gaining your social distancing-15, try cutting down slightly on your daily intake of food, and drink plenty of water to stay hydrated and satiated.
8.) Make A Set Schedule
Finally, make a set schedule for your work. Working from home, it can be easy to let work consume your whole day, but you need that break. Set a definite start and stop time for work, so you can switch from work mode to relaxation mode reliably.
Choose Southwest Chiropractic For Your Health Needs
Due to the recent events regarding Covid-19, we would like you to know that Southwest Chiropractic is taking the following precautions in conjunction with other healthcare providers. As such, we ask that only the patient that is being treated and his/her ride or companion come to the appointment. We also ask that if you are not feeling well or have recently traveled or been around people who may have been exposed, not come to your appointment. We thank you in advance for your cooperation.
We are still open and taking patients at both our east and west locations. We are also accepting new patients. As we take in patients, we are concurrently taking ALL precautions to keep our patients and staff safe and healthy during this time. We are abiding by all distancing rules and will only allow a few patients at a time in any one area of the clinic to avoid contact with each other. We still look forward to serving the people of El Paso.
Again, if any patient feels ill or has traveled within the last two weeks, they are advised to please refrain from coming in at this time.
Additionally, we are more than happy to provide documentation for our patients that they were here attending their therapy sessions if ever they get questioned for being outdoors.
If you've been reading about how stretching before working out is beneficial, what you're reading is correct. If you've been reading about how stretching before working out is a waste of time, what you're reading is also true. So, what's the real information? Should you spend precious time before a workout stretching your body? Or should you go straight into your activity with cold muscles?
It depends. That answer may surprise you, but it all depends on what activity you'll be performing for your workout and what kind of stretching you will do before that activity. Just like a workout isn't a one-size-fits-all activity, neither is stretching.
Muscles and Stretching
Muscles are not one large block; in fact, they are comprised of small bundles of fibers. A muscle strain can occur when small tears appear in those fibers. In theory, one would think that stretching would make those muscle fibers looser, like stretching a rubber band, thus making the muscles less likely to tear during a workout. Unfortunately, in some cases stretching as a warmup to exercise can cause injury instead. Why? Because many people include stretching as their warm-up routine. This means they begin stretching tight, cold muscles, making it more likely that they will have sore muscles or an injury.
If you’re stretching before a workout, try to understand why you’re making an effort to stretch. Is it to avoid sore muscles? Is it to increase flexibility? Or is it because everyone always told you to stretch? Understanding what you hope to achieve can help you to gauge if stretching is for your particular exercise.
Benefits of Stretching as Warm-Up
Stretching is meant to increase flexibility, which is a plus for overall good health, fitness, and agility. It loosens tension within the body and increases blood flow to the muscles. For people who want to gain flexibility, stretching is a great option.
However, for many people, stretching is used as a warm-up exercise for activities like aerobics or their usual gym workout. It sounds great in theory, but not in practice. Most people will stretch while standing in one place. This is called a "static stretch." Static stretching pulls cold muscles, tearing fibers, and then subjects those torn muscle fibers into a vigorous workout. If your goal is to avoid sore muscles, then cold static stretches may not be the way to go.
Dynamic Stretching As a Warm-Up
If the goal is to prevent muscle soreness, a better way is to perform dynamic stretches as part of a warm-up routine. This is an activity that gets a person slowly moving, like walking on a treadmill or using an elliptical, while performing a range of motions with the arms. Dynamic stretching uses major muscle groups and gradually builds up the heart rate. This allows the body to slowly work up to more strenuous exercises.
Picture a rubber band again. Rather than taking it and suddenly stretching it one way, risking it snapping apart, imagine stretching the rubber band slowly in different directions. This is how dynamic stretching works. Should you stretch before a workout? Sure. But make sure to use dynamic stretches rather than static ones. For most activities, a dynamic stretch warm-up is the way to go.
Static Stretching As a Warm-Up
There are times when static stretching before a workout is beneficial, which is why consulting with a trainer or physical therapist is essential.
Swimmers, for example, are encouraged to perform static stretches before working out in the water. The type of activity swimmers perform requires long, reaching movements that are repetitive and forceful. Static stretching prepares their bodies for the shock of sudden cold water, stretching of the muscles, and the flurry of activity.
Static stretching can help after a workout. By assisting the body to cool down and preventing muscles from tightening up, static stretches may work better post-workout than as a warm-up.
Benefits of Stretching in General
Stretching on the whole, whether static or dynamic, provides the body with numerous health benefits. Stretching can even be done throughout the day in small increments, separately from a workout routine throughout the day.
Stretching loosens muscle fibers and gets the blood flowing to the muscles and joints. This allows your body to deliver oxygen, energy, and nutrients to these areas more efficiently. This also allows the removal of waste byproducts, ensuring a less toxic environment within the body.
Enhances Flexibility and Range of Motion
Without realizing it, excess energy when the body isn't flexible, causing fatigue. Bending down to tie shoelaces or reaching for a book can cause strain and tire the body. By increasing flexibility, simple tasks become more manageable. Stretching also improves athletic ability, allowing the body to become more responsive and agile.
Relaxation and Stress Relief
Believe it or not, muscles store the stress that is felt throughout the day. Stretching releases this stress and helps the body and mind to relax!
So, What’s the Verdict?
Should you stretch before working out? Yes. Although what kind of stretching (static vs. dynamic) depends on the type of workout you will be doing. For the most part, dynamic stretching used as part of a warm-up is the most beneficial. If you’re facing any sports injuries, then the team at Southwest Chiropractic can help. Give us a call today to learn more about what we can do for you!
Five Frequent Causes of Lower Back Pain
Lower back pain is no laughing matter. Many people go through it, and that can be for several reasons. Our backs provide lots of support for our bodies, so it is very important that we take good care of them. Scheduling an appointment with a chiropractic clinic is a good step towards relieving your pain and making sure your back is nice and healthy. Here at Southwest Chiropractic, we can help you out with various kinds of back pain and assist you in seeking treatment. In order to provide as much knowledge and insight into back health as possible, we’ve compiled a few of the most common causes of lower back pain.
1) Muscle and Ligament Strain
Muscle strain is damage to the muscle caused by stretching it too far and therefore causing it to tear. Your ligaments are what connect your bones together, and ligament strain is when over-stretching and tearing affect those ligaments. If you experience this kind of lower back pain, then it might be time to make some adjustments.
One cause of muscle and ligament strain is lifting very heavy objects or twisting the spine while lifting heavy objects. A way to avoid this is by not lifting too much at the gym, and by being a little more careful the next time you decide you want to rearrange the furniture in your house.
These kinds of strains can also be caused by sudden movements such as a really bad fall. Also, keep in mind not to slouch. A common cause of muscle and ligament strain is general poor posture over time. If you play sports that involve twisting, large forces of impact, or both, then please be wary of back pain.
The curvature of the spine, with conditions such as scoliosis, can cause lower back pain. Scoliosis is a sideways curvature of the spine and often results in uneven ribs, a shoulder protruding more than the other, a shoulder or hip being higher than the other, and clothes hanging unevenly. These conditions can cause lower back pain if they lead to the breakdown of discs, facet joints, or sacroiliac joints. While the cause of scoliosis is unknown, it is known that the condition tends to run in families. Our office is readily equipt to help you seek proper scoliosis treatment suited to your needs.
3) Herniated Discs
A herniated disc is a problem that occurs with the discs in between the spinal bones. The pain typically associated with a herniated disc is found either in the neck area (cervical spine) or the lower back. This condition can form because of an injury, lifting heavy objects, or just normal wear and tear. The probability of being diagnosed with a herniated disc can be affected by serval risk factors such as being overweight, genetics, and having a physically demanding occupation. Here at Southwest Chiropractors, you may undergo an x-ray so we’ll be able to properly diagnose the herniated disc, and begin herniated disc treatment. We encourage you to call and schedule a visit with us if you experience symptoms of a herniated disc.
It goes without saying, but trauma to any part of the body is very serious and should be treated as soon as possible. Acute fractures and dislocations of the spine can lead to severe pain. In other words, if your spine gets broken, it will definitely hurt. If you experience back pain after trauma such as a car accident or a really big fall, you should immediately seek help and medical attention.
5) Less Common Conditions
There are some other conditions that can cause pain in the lower back, but they are very rare and may require medical attention from someone other than a chiropractor. It is very important that all possibilities are considered, however. Kidney stones, for example, can cause back pain, most typically on one side of the lower back. While it is very rare, tumors can cause back pain. They rarely ever begin on the back, but they typically spread from elsewhere in the body. Women who suffer from endometriosis can also experience a lot of back pain depending on how severe their condition is.
Don’t Let Lower Back Pain Bring You Down
Lower back pain is a difficult thing to get through. No one wants to suffer from pain, especially if it’s coming from the place that allows us to walk properly and perform basic everyday functions. No one wants to be able to miss out on the fun and adventurous parts of life because they are in too much pain. You should be able to play with your children and go hiking if you want to. Having severe lower back pain can also affect how you perform at your job and how you simply move around your own home. If you’re experiencing a lot of lower back pain, then you should visit a chiropractor in order to receive a proper diagnosis and treatment plan. Our doors here at Southwest Chiropractor are open for you, so don’t be afraid to contact us and make an appointment, today!
We are a family practice and have been in business for over 19 years. We specialize in the treatment and management of work-related injuries and auto injuries; offering you the latest in quality therapy and care.