What A Chiropractor Does When She Gets Back Pain

2009 04 20 047

If you’ve ever watched me adjusting families on a busy Thursday afternoon, you know that I work my spine A LOT.  Unfortunately, the correct body position for giving an adjustment is bent over, head down and slightly twisting at the waist.  I remember learning in neurology class that this is the exact position that puts the most stress on the spinal cord.  Imagine that!

I’ve had to learn, often the hard way, how to keep my spine functioning well despite my less than optimal work ergonomics.  For example, if I spend ten minutes stretching before an adjusting shift, I am less likely to feel sore later.  I’ve also learned that right before I make an adjustment, to slightly lift my chin, keeping my gaze up.  Ideally, I know I should adjust equally from both sides of the table and alternate feet when pumping the pedals.  If I do these things, and rest when I can in between patients, I can minimize trauma to my spine and feel better at the end of the week.

Maybe you’ve learned similar lessons with how you sit at your computer or your body position with a long commute.  I know patients who have “required breaks” at work to give their eyes and body a rest.  Being mindful of body position and taking regular breaks are keys to minimizing trauma from repetitive movements.

You might be thinking, “I know what I should do, I just don’t always do it.”  I fully understand and relate to that.  For example, when I get extra busy and am focusing intently on my patients, I tend to forget about my body positioning.  An hour can go by before I realize I have been slightly straining myself.  If I keep this up too long, I find myself hurting by the end of the week.  Maybe this has happened to your elbow or wrist from focused computer work.  Or to your lower back after eighteen great holes of golf.  Or your strained shoulders two hours into a riveting video game!

Once you feel strained, obviously the first step is to stop and rest.  Often, icing an area of acute inflammation will dramatically help.  I’ve also given patients temporary bracing for a wrist, elbow or ankle. We sell great seat cushions that take pressure off the tailbone when sitting. Where a real problem can set in, is if you don’t fully heal and then continue to strain yourself. Long term, a change of body position or equipment is necessary.

If a laptop is causing the problem, a docking station or at least a separate keyboard and mouse is critical.  Raising the screen to eye level and making the keyboard at about your waist is necessary to not cause strain to the body.

Irritation to the body can often be caused by footwear.  For example, I have discovered the three name brands that feel best for me while working.  I need supported arches, rubber soles and a very low heel.  It is critical to not wear shoes that are worn on the bottom of the heel.  Take a few minutes to check your shoes and discard (or have resoled) any that have worn, especially if they have worn unevenly.  As a general rule, you will get what you pay for with shoes.  Buy high quality shoes for any frequent activity you do on your feet.

Lastly, be aware of the quality of support in your chairs, sofas, car seats and mattress.  A surface that is too soft or no longer supportive will put stress on your spine.  If used repetitively, you could notice an ongoing issue.  Working on your spine and body position in other activities will only be partially effective if you still spend hours a day sitting or lying on unsupportive surfaces.  When it comes to mattresses, choose a medium to medium-firm, high quality mattress.  Discount stores often have sub-quality products.  Lye on the mattress for at least 15-20 minutes to get a feel for it.  Also, make sure you get a good warranty in case it doesn’t work for you.

I still get back pain from time to time.  When it happens, this is what I do:  I get adjusted, rest, stretch, ice, use biofreeze or arnica, maybe get a massage, and spend time considering the cause.  Often, it’s not hard to figure out where I went wrong.  Sometimes though, I have to dig a little to figure it out.  Recently, I determined that one-legged squats were irritating my hip, which was weak and tired because I was forgetting to use my opposite foot when pumping the pedals on the adjusting table.  The pain escalated to the point where I started to limp a bit.  I took a week off from lifting lower body weights, rested for the weekend, got a few extra adjustments, saw a massage therapist  (that’s Jewelie with me in the picture above), avoided unnecessary driving, and was more mindful while adjusting.  It’s about 90% better now.  In another week it should be all healed.

Even when taking care of our bodies, we may have body issues from time to time.  The key is listening to your body and quickly taking action to rest and heal.  Then, reassessing your body positions and equipment to determine what caused the problem.  I’ve also found that asking the question, “What am I to learn from this?” is helpful.  It’s not uncommon that there is an underlying emotional component to injury or pain.  For example, maybe you really just need a break and feel guilty taking it.  Honoring your body’s healing time is smart and necessary to prevent a chronic, long term issue.

This entry was posted in Healthy Thoughts. Bookmark the permalink.