Category Archives: Physical Therapy

Neutral Posture: Taking Pressure Off Your Spine

As NASA researchers have learned from astronauts, spending more time in neutral spine position can decrease chronic back and neck aches, muscle pain, stiffness and numbness as well as increase your work productivity. Here at Relax The Back, we believe in bringing you products that allow you to achieve a 24-hour neutral spine position, so you may reap its many health and productivity benefits. But first, you’ll want to know what neutral posture is and why you need it.      

Static Posture vs. Neutral Posture

In our sedentary society, our spines are under constant pressure. We spend most of our daily activities, including sleeping, in a static posture. As a poor posture condition, static posture can create spinal compression, tension and pain throughout our bodies.

In fact, 80% of us experience chronic back and neck pain resulting from working, relaxing and sleeping for many hours in a static posture. 

We sit up to 8 hours slouched at our computers or hunched over paperwork at our desk jobs. We spend another 2 or more hours lying on the couch watching television, or stuck in one cramped position while driving or commuting. Our spines fall out of alignment and, instead of our bones supporting our body weight, our muscles are forced to. This puts strain and tension on our muscles and can result in pain and cramps.             

Additionally, many of the physical activities we do throughout the day, like lifting and carrying heavy objects incorrectly, can strain and create pressure on our spines. And when we sleep, our mattresses sag and our pillows flatten. Consequently, our necks and spines are not properly supported for at least 6 to 8 hours each night. Unaligned spines during sleep can cause the vertebral discs to compress on, leading to pinching and irritating the nerves surrounding them.     

As a result, you can wake up with a stiff or painful neck and lower back, overall muscle tension and even numbness or tingling in your hands and feet.

Benefits of a Neutral Posture

Researchers found that astronauts in space had virtually none of these physical complaints. It was discovered that their bodies naturally assumed a proper spine alignment as they free floated throughout their space capsule’s environment.

Researchers discovered that a neutral posture is our body’s naturally preferred position. It’s a stress-free state in which our body naturally curves our spine.

A neutral posture is similar to the relaxed position we assume floating in water while swimming. A neutral posture puts zero pressure on your spine. It opens all the spaces between your vertebral discs creating an equal space between them.   

How to Find Neutral Spine Position

When you’re going through your daily activities, spending as much time in proper spine alignment will help improve your health by boosting circulation and reducing stress and tension. When you feel your best at work, you’ll also boost your productivity.

Here are some things you can do to help you achieve neutral posture at least two-thirds of your day.  

Working  

A neutral posture is one in which you maintain a 128-degree angle between your torso and thigh and a 133-degree angle between your hamstrings and calves.

You can achieve this while sitting by doing the following:   

  • Feet on the floor (or a footrest), don’t cross your legs
  • Hips slightly higher than your knees with a small gap between your knees and seat
  • Lower back is supported
  • Head, neck, shoulders, elbows, hips in alignment
  • Shoulders relaxed
  • Elbows bent at a 100-degree, or more, angle
  • Wrists straight
  • Fingers slightly curled and relaxed
  • Get up to stretch, take a brief walk around every 30 to 60 minutes

Standing

Standing with poor posture often causes the most pressure on your spine. You can avoid this by doing the following:    

  • Let the balls of your feet bear the most of your weight
  • Keep your knees slightly bent
  • Keep your feet shoulder-width apart  
  • Allow your arms to hang naturally at your side
  • Keep your shoulders pulled backward, head level
  • Shift your weight from toes to heels in long periods of standing

Sleeping

As mentioned, sleeping on sagging mattresses or pillows can create spinal pressure and result in morning stiffness and pain. Maintaining a good sleep environment with the proper mattress and pillow can help you prevent spinal pressure by helping you achieve proper spine alignment.

The following sleep tips can help you stay in neutral position throughout your sleep time:    

  • Don’t sleep on your stomach. Doing so encourages spinal pressure from lack of support.  It also keeps your neck in a twisted position for several hours.   
  • Use specifically designed bed wedges atop your mattress at the head to elevate your head and one at the foot of your bed to elevate your knees.      
  • If you like to sleep on your side, use a knee spacer pillow to alleviate pressure on your lower back and relax leg muscles. Knee spacers also take pressure of knee joints to prevent morning stiffness.   
  • Adjustable bed bases allow you to mechanically elevate the head or foot of your bed to keep your spine in neutral position as well as improve circulation.  
  • Whole-body pillows help to take pressure off your lower back and support an overweight frame. Especially good for pregnant women or men with larger, pendulous abdomens.
  • Lumbar pads help pad the bones, muscles, tissues surrounding the hips and lower back to prevent pressure and pain while sleeping.  
  • Travel pillows support your neck correctly if you sleep while on a plane, train or bus.  
  • Memory foam mattresses adjust to your specific body weight and shape and support you throughout the night.  
  • Memory foam pillows keep your head and neck supported correctly throughout the night to prevent neck strain and pain.  

Relaxation

Spending time watching television or reading in a chair can keep you in neutral position when using the right recliner. A zero-gravity reclining chair removes tension from your spine. It elevates your feet to the same level as your heart, relieving strain on your spinal vertebrae from the pull of gravity.

Exercise

Posture-strengthening exercises will help offset static posture activities you do during the day. Strengthening exercises include core-stabilization to strengthen your torso, pelvis and back muscles.

Try the following strength-building exercises:

  1.  Bridges. Lie with your back flat on the floor, knees bent. Lift your pelvis off the floor 20 reps.  
  1.  Planks. Lie prone on the floor, supported by your elbows, hands down, resting on your tiptoes. Hold this position to the count of 20. Extend the count by 10 until you reach 60.  
  1.  Back extensions. Lie prone on floor, resting your head on your hands. At the same time, lift your feet/legs and head creating an arch in your lower back. Lower, then repeat 20 reps.    
  1.  Side lying leg raises. Lie on your side, point your toes, slowly raise your leg as high as you can. 20 reps, then switch sides.   
  1.  Hip flexor stretch. Sit on the floor in a “butterfly” position, legs spread, knees out to side, soles of feet touching in the center. Bounce your hips to the floor and back for several reps, stop, then repeat.   
  1.  Standing thigh stretch. Stand with your feet 2-3 shoulder widths apart, your left foot pointed slightly out. Stretch your left foot out, bend knee, your torso bending back onto your right hip.  Hold for 30 seconds. Switch sides, repeat on your right side.

Other general exercises that help strengthen the core and spine include:  

  • Simple walking. But, be sure to walk with good posture by keeping your shoulders straight, head up and your stomach held toward you.
  • Low impact aerobic exercise. Helps elevate your heart rate, improve circulation without putting pressure on the spine. It also relieves stress, muscle tension and stiffness.  Low impact exercise includes dancing, walking on a treadmill, using an elliptical, or stair-stepping machine, swimming or bicycling.

Correct movement. Just moving properly throughout your day can help you prevent the strain of poor posture on your spine. Many of us sit, stand, bend forward, stoop and squat throughout the day. It’s important to move smoothly and fluidly as you change positions. Avoid sudden jerking, twisting motions of your spine and too-deep squats that put pressure on the lower back, hamstrings and calves.

Weight Maintenance

Maintaining a healthy weight helps your spine, back and neck more than you may realize. A heavy, pendulous abdomen, a heavy rear, or large, pendulous breasts, can pull your spine out of balance, putting strain and tension on neck and back muscles which causes pain.

Too much overall body weight makes it difficult for your body to move fluidly and smoothly, causing you to put strain on lower back, legs and feet.     

Maintaining a Neutral Spine for Better Health

Staying in neutral posture most of the day allows your spine to move freely without pressure on vertebral discs. Nerves can then exit between them without becoming pinched or irritated.  They’re then free to send the proper signals to all the organs of your body, muscles, ligaments and tendons in the correct manner. As a result, you stay healthier and reduce the risk of chronic injury or illness.

Neutral spine position allows your body to perform in the tension-free, fluid movement that nature intended. And, you can go through your day without pain and stiffness, feeling great, enjoying your activities and increasing your productivity.

Sources:  

  1.  http://www.neutralposture.com/_site/neutralBody.php
  2.  https://www.health.harvard.edu/pain/4-ways-to-turn-good-posture-into-less-back-pain
  3.  https://ehs.ucsf.edu/maintain-neutral-posture
  4.  https://www.nhs.uk/Livewell/Backpain/Pages/back-pain-and-common-posture-mistakes.aspx
  5.  https://www.relaxtheback.com.html
  6.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rv2woojl-KM
  7.  https://www.spine-health.com/wellness/ergonomics/good-posture-helps-reduce-back-pain
  8.  https://acatoday.org/content/posture-power-how-to-correct-your-body-alignment
  9.  https://www.bodybuilding.com/exercises
  10.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7h_WtBWu2vY

Ice vs Heat: Which Is Better For Pain?

This October, the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA) is raising awareness of the dangers of opioid use and addiction while looking at safer alternatives for treating chronic pain.

The Centers for Disease Control recommend physical therapy as a safe, nonopioid alternative to pain management. Relax The Back was founded on the principles of the McKenzie Method of Mechanical Diagnostics and Therapy (MDT). We strongly believe in the power and importance of movement and self-care.

MDT emphasizes active involvement and educating patients in order to minimize visits to the clinic and diminish pain quickly without turning to medications. Through back and neck care education, patients are able to self-treat the present problem and minimize the risk of a relapse. This also allows patients to manage the pain themselves when symptoms occur.

One easy, natural, and affordable option for treating back and neck pain is ice and heat. Cleveland Clinic has put together this infographic to show when ice or heat is better for your specific pain. Understanding your pain symptoms will help find relief at home.

We offer a wide selection of hot and cold therapy products that can relieve tension and stiffness, relax muscles, and bring relief to everyday life. Stop by your local Relax The Back store or visit us online at relaxtheback.com to learn more about our product solutions.

Ice vs Heat Which Is Better For Pain Relief

Back Care Essentials For Pain Relief

 

Back Care Essentials For Pain Relief

October is National Spinal Health Month. Our spines are our core, connecting muscles, ligaments and nerves throughout our body. This means spinal health a key component in your overall health.

Studies indicate poor posture is a main cause of back and neck pain. Poor posture can cause damage to the vertebrae, joints, and spinal discs due to increased pressure being placed on the spine. This can lead to neck and back pain as well as pain in weight bearing joints such as your knees and hips. Poor posture has other effects on your health such as decreased energy levels because of restricted blood and oxygen flow and digestive problems such as acid reflux.

Fortunately, there are non-surgical solutions when it comes to treating most back and neck pain symptoms. Founded on the principles of the McKenzie Method, we believe maintaining a self-care routine and actively learning how you can better your back and spinal health is the best way to achieve long lasting improvement of back and neck pain.

Add our back care essentials into your self-care routine for lasting relief.

  • Theracane ($30) Release muscle tension where you need it most through targeted pressure.
  • Roam Rollers (as low as $15) Improve flexibility and strength while relieving muscle stiffness and tension.
  • Treat Your Own Back/Neck Books ($9/each) Learn the importance of how different positions when seated, reclining, and sleeping affect our spinal health.
  • Real EaSE Neck Support ($23) Find deep relaxation and comfort in your neck and shoulder muscles.
  • Medibeads for Relax The Back (as low as $24) Soothe aching muscles with heat therapy.
  • The McKenzie Original Lumbar Roll™ ($16) Alleviate lower back pain wherever you are. Our portable lumbar cushion provides firm support and spinal alignment.

October also celebrates Physical Therapists and Chiropractors for their work in restoring movement in people’s lives. They are an excellent resource for those requiring a conservative, non-surgical, care specialist.

National Physical Therapy Month: #ChoosePT

blog-pt-month

October is National Physical Therapy Month. Each year, the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA) recognize and celebrate physical therapists assistants and physical therapists who help improve people’s lives through movement. Physical therapists also help people who are suffering from osteoporosis, stroke, sprains, arthritis, and so much more.

This October’s campaign is focused on choosing physical therapy over opioid pain medication. #ChoosePT raises awareness of America’s opioid epidemic and the dangers of prescription opioids while providing information on safer alternatives for treating chronic pain conditions.

Since 1999, sales of prescription opioids have quadrupled even though the amount of pain that Americans report has not changed overall. In relation, as many as 1 in 4 people who receive prescription opioids long term, for non-cancer pain, struggle with addiction. These are just a few of the staggering statistics of opioid use in America.

In response to these recent studies the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has released guidelines and recommendations for prescribing medication. It is understood that if properly dosed, prescription opioids are an appropriate treatment option in certain cases such as cancer treatment, palliative care, end-of-life care, and certain acute care situations.

For other pain management situations, Physical Therapy is recommended as a safe, non-opioid alternative. Move Forward PT provides a few reasons why patients should choose physical therapy over pain medication:

  • If the risks of opioid use outweigh the rewards: Potential side effects of opioids include, but are not limited to, depression, overdose, addiction, and withdrawal symptoms when stopping use. With these risks in mind, the CDC guideline states, “opioids should not be considered first-line or routine therapy for chronic pain”.
  • If patients want to do more than mask pain: Physical therapists treat pain through movement, helping patients improve or maintain their mobility and quality of life. Physical therapy offers benefits that will help patients live a pain-free and active life for many years while opioids offer a short-term solution to reduce the feeling of pain.
  • If pain is related to low back pain, hip or knee osteoarthritis, or fibromyalgia: The CDC explains there is “high-quality evidence” that supports exercise as an effective treatment plan for these types of conditions.
  • If pain lasts 90 days: If you are suffering from pain symptoms for 90 days or more, it is considered “chronic”. This leads to an increased risk for continued opioid use. The CDC guidelines recommend and prefer non-opioid therapies, such as physical therapy, for chronic pain.

If you’re suffering from pain and discomfort, consult your doctor and ask about all treatment options including non-opioid therapies. The APTA also makes it easy to find a physical therapist in your area.

Follow along all month on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest for more physical therapy tips and information.

Acupressure Therapy: Key Pressure Points For Relief

 

Acupressure is an ancient alternative medicine technique that involves applying physical pressure to key healing points along the body. It is a key component of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM). The goal is to bring relief to areas causing pain, tension, and stress-related ailments. These points run along energy-carrying pathways called meridians. They are the same pathways used in acupuncture, which involves applying pressure and heat to these same points with thin needles.

When the balance of the pathways is disrupted, pain and discomfort can occur. By pressing on the acupuncture points, we can help restore health and balance to these pathways. Acupressure therapy is commonly used to relieve sinus headaches, allergies, and back pain, reduce muscle tension, and improve quality of sleep. While massage therapists and other “bodywork” practitioners often use acupressure techniques, there are some that you can learn and try for yourself.

Take a look at the graphic below to find key pressure points that will relieve certain ailments and pain. Applying pressure for 10 to 30 seconds to these areas can help you find relief.

Acupressure Therapy: Key Pressure Points For Relief

National Physical Therapy Month: #AgeWell

physical therapy

Each October, the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA) commemorates National Physical Therapy Month to recognize physical therapist assistants and physical therapists who help restore and improve motion in people’s lives. Physical therapists can also help with arthritis, obesity, osteoporosis, stroke, sprains, and much more.

This October, the #AgeWell campaign focuses on healthy aging and the different ways physical therapists can help individuals gain and maintain movement, overcome pain, and preserve their independence. The APTA will also highlight the different actions adults can take to prevent or delay many conditions and health issues associated with aging.

If you’re wondering if seeing a physical therapist is right for you, we’ve gathered a few reasons why it’s a good option:

  • Physical therapists can improve mobility and motion by creating personalized treatment plans to help reduce the risk of injury, prevent falls, and improve one’s balance.
  • Specific exercises based on your injury, no matter which part of your body is injured, can help you manage pain and discomfort, without expensive medications or invasive methods.
  • Research has shown that physical therapy, combined with comprehensive medical management, can be just as effective as surgery when it comes to relieving stiffness and moderate to severe pain from back, neck, and knee injuries.
  • In addition to helping with illness and injuries, a physical therapist can create a plan based on your specific fitness goals to help restore health and wellness, as well as prevent injuries.

Follow along all month long as we provide more tips and information on aging well with the help of physical therapists. Find more information on physical therapy at MoveForwardPT.com.  The American Physical Therapy Association also makes it easy to find a physical therapist in your area.

7 Myths About Physical Therapy

Each October, physical therapists and physical therapists assistants are recognized for their hard work and dedication to restore and improve motion in people’s lives during National Physical Therapy month (NPTM). Lead by the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA), this month is intended to recognize the work of these trained specialists who help people restore or improve mobility, reduce pain, and stay fit and active throughout their lives.

At Relax The Back, we want to thank physical therapists and physical therapists assistants for all that they do and for referring our products to patients to aid in pain relief.  The role physical therapy can play in our lives is sometimes misunderstood. These misconceptions can discourage people from seeking out a physical therapist in their area.

Move Forward PT is debunking some of these myths to help people find pain relief in their daily lives:

Physical Therapy Myths

Why Physical Therapy?

Often we do not think about or appreciate our ability to move freely and without pain until physical impairments or disabilities occur. These may be due to illness, injury, or muscle stiffness, to name a few.  Physical therapists are trained to restore mobility and functional ability, as well as prevent injury and assist in overall health and wellness of their patients. If you are wondering if physical therapy can help you, here are some reasons why it is a good choice:

  • Avoid Surgery: When it comes to relieving stiffness and moderate to severe pain from knee, back, and neck injuries, research has shown that physical therapy, combined with comprehensive medical management, is just as effective as surgery.
  • Eliminate Pain: No matter which part of your body is in pain, physical therapy can alleviate and help manage pain and discomfort through specific exercises based on your injury, without invasive methods or expensive medications.
  • Improve Mobility and Motion: Physical therapists create personalized treatment plans to help improve one’s balance, reduce the risk of injury and prevent falls.
  • Health and Wellness: In addition to helping with injuries and illness, a physical therapist can create a plan specific to your fitness goals to help restore your health, as well as prevent injuries.

Physical therapists can also help you with arthritis, obesity, osteoporosis, stroke, sprains, and much more. Find more information on physical therapy at MoveForwardPT.com.  The American Physical Therapy Association also makes it easy to find a physical therapist in your area.

 

National Physical Therapy Month & The McKenzie Method

Each October, the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA) commemorates National Physical Therapy Month (NPTM) as a way of recognizing the impact physical therapist assistants and physical therapists make in restoring and improving motion in people’s lives.
Earlier this year Robin McKenzie, a pioneer of musculoskeletal disorders and their treatment, passed away after a courageous battle with cancer. Robin developed the McKenzie Method of Mechanical Diagnostics and Therapy (MDT) in 1950.
The McKenzie Method is based on the idea of self-care and patients managing their own pain. The MDT system consists of the following:

  • Assessment: A well-defined algorithm leads to simple classification of spinal-related disorders and is unique to MTD. Disorders are addressed according to their unique nature with mechanical procedures utilizing movement and positions.
  • Treatment: In order to restore function and independence, minimize visits to the clinic and diminish pain quickly, MTD uniquely emphasizes active patient involvement and education.
  • Preventive measure: Educating patients to self-treat the present problem minimizes the risk of relapse and gives patients the skills to manage the pain themselves when symptoms occur.

Robin believed that self-treatment was the best way to achieve long lasting improvement of neck and back pain. MDT is recognized worldwide as a standard for management of low back pain as well as the basis on which Relax The Back was founded. Robin made great strides in the field of physical therapy and his legacy will live on through the McKenzie Institute International. You can find more information on the McKenzie Method and the McKenzie Institute International at McKenzieMDT.org.