Proactive Tips for Your Spine Health!

Being proactive is important when it comes to your health. You go to the doctor regularly. You exercise. You maintain a healthy weight. What if you could be proactive to protect your spine? It’s estimated that almost 80% of Americans will experience low back pain. Be proactive about your spine health with our tips:

  • Keep it Low
    Low-impact exercises such as walking, swimming, and yoga are great ways to strengthen your spine. Doing these exercises on a regular basis not only increases your strength but is a great way to maintain a healthy weight, another tip for being proactive in your spine health.
  • Focus on the Core
    Stabilize your spine by strengthening your core muscles. These are the muscles which surround and support the spinal column. As well as supporting the spinal column, these muscles also help in stabilizing and minimizing compressive forces on the spine, forces which often contribute to back pain. Check out our previous blog on core strengthening.
  • Practice Posture
    Head straight, flat back, feet on the ground with a slight bend in your knees if you are sitting. You may know what good posture is, but do you practice it? Bad posture causes a strain on your back, affects circulation and can lead to severe back pain.Are you sitting at an office desk slouched over most of the time? This can take a huge toll on your spine. Check out our tips of office posture.
  • Be Careful When You Lift
    Lift with your legs, not with your back. Make sure when lifting heavy objects that your feet are planted on the ground and squat down. Avoid twisting and turning your spine by leading with your hips and feet, taking it slow.
  • Travel Safely
    Whether you sit in the car long hours during the day or are going on a road trip, protect your back right in the car seat. Check out our tips to travel safely.
  • Sleep Well
    Sleep should be restful, not painful.  The best sleep positions would be on your neck or on your back. Not laying on a stack of pillows which can cause unnecessary strains, find one fluffy pillow that is comfortable and supportive. 

With these tips, you can be proactive in keeping your spine healthy! Are you already experiencing back pain? Schedule an appointment with one of our spine specialists!

Why Dr. Zaslavsky Loves Cervical Disc Replacement:

  • Maintains normal range of motion of the cervical spine:
    Patients love that their neck feels mobile and moves freely immediately after surgery.
  • There is less risk of one of the disks above or below the surgery degenerating:
    This means fewer people will require a second procedure 10 or 15 years down the road. With the fusion, the chance of needing another surgery is probably about 10 to 15%.  With the replacement, it could be as little as 5%!
  • No bone graft and no fusion mean the ability to go back to activities much earlier!
    Because we’re not waiting for a fusion to occur there are no limitations in the postoperative protocol. You can move your neck freely immediately after surgery and start to resume your activities as soon as you are physically comfortable. Many times physical therapy is not necessary for these reasons.

Overall the patients love that their neck feels natural and that their pain is gone almost immediately.   The rapid return to function makes the procedure extremely rewarding for our patients and also for Dr Z!

Dr. Zaslavsky’s 5 Quick Tips For Preparing for Cervical Surgery

  1. Read about the procedure the doctor recommends! Knowing what the procedure is will help you address the right questions in order to prepare for surgery and alleviate anxiety.
  2. Take lots of vitamin C and stay away from sick contacts. I want you to go into surgery healthy to minimize the risk of complications.
  3. Get lots of rest in the weeks before surgery.  This will recharge your internal battery and promote a healthy recovery process to go smoothly.
  4. Try to decrease your use of pain medications. Your body becomes tolerant of the substances and they will be less effective in treating your post-surgical pain.  There are other alternatives, ask your physician about them.
  5. Try to relax. If you’ve done your homework and picked the right surgeon, that should put your mind at ease. Stress will decrease the healing response and is not helpful to you before your procedure.

What is Causing Your Neck Pain? 4 Things We Do Every Day

Is there a constant pain in your neck that just doesn’t ever seem to go away? You haven’t experienced an injury, so why is your neck bothering you?
 
Often the explanation is not easy to decipher and diagnosing the cause can be frustrating. Never dismiss potential “self-inflicted” causes of neck pain.
Here are 4 everyday things we have all been guilty of and ways to correct the bad habit:

  1. Sleeping on your stomach: In order to sleep on your stomach your head must turn; the neck was not created to stay in that position for hours at a time.  Correct the problem by sleeping on your back or side with the right support.
     
  2. Holding your cell phone with your shoulder: This position can pinch nerves in your neck resulting in pain, numbness and tingling throughout the neck, shoulder, arm, or hand. Try using an earpiece or headset regularly, you will be surprised at the difference it will make.
     
  3. Looking down. Whether you’re angling your head down to view your computer screen or using your phone all day, you are putting a lot of pressure on your neck. The regularity in which we engage in these activities adds up and can damage for your neck over time. Correct this by concentrating on good posture. If at a computer raise the screen so the top of the screen lines up with your forehead. If using your phone, hold it higher to decrease the angel of your neck.
     
  4. Carrying items only on one side. Carrying your purse, brief case or backpack consistently on one side can lead to stubborn neck pain and arthritic conditions in your spine. Start being conscious of what side you carry these items on and regularly alternate.

The neck (or cervical spine) is intended for strength and nerve communication. There are several complications that cause not only neck pain but can irritate the head, shoulder, arms and hands.

Follow us on Facebook as we continue our video series by our own Dr. James Zaslavsky.

If you have back pain or back problems, make an appointment with one of First State Spine’s specialists for recommendations on which exercise program would be best for you.

It’s time to get a handle on your spine health and live free of pain! However, always check with your physician to see if these tips are safe to follow based on your health history.

3 Road Trip Tips For Summer Travel

Do you have a bucket list for your summer? Maybe it includes lazy days in Rehoboth, catching waves in Wildwood, heading to Washington D.C. to check out some museums or up to New York to catch some shows. The U.S. Department of Transportation estimates that 91% of summer travel is done by driving in the car; with an average mileage of 284 miles. As a Delawarean, you probably agree that one of many great things about Delaware is we are relatively close to many great attractions. As you get ready for your summer adventures, remember these road trip tips to stay safe, comfortable and protect your spine!

Clear the Area
Ever get ready to go and realize you have room for everything but your feet?! To stay safe, you need to have a clear area. Your feet should be able to rest at a 90-degree angle and have room to stretch for blood circulation throughout your ride. Make sure your seat is also clear. Avoid sitting on phones and wallets, or resting against your bulging purse or cooler.

Customize Your Seat
You are going to be sitting for a while, so adjust the seat for your body. Make sure you can sit upright, without having to lean back and forward continuously. Tilt your seat up just a tad so your knees can rest comfortably at a 90-degree angle on the ground but also take pressure off your spine. Support your lower back by adding a pillow, inserts or cushioned object so it can rest comfortably.

Stop Every 2 Hours – Stretch!
The best thing for road trip success is stretching! Stretch before, stretch during, and stretch after. We understand that once you go, you just want to get there; but scheduling a 15-minute stop every 2 hours should be a minimum to help relieve tension in your body.

With these tips we know your road trip will be a success! Happy Traveling from the team at First State Spine!

If you have back pain or back problems, make an appointment with one of First State Spine’s specialists for recommendations on which exercise program would be best for you.

It’s time to get a handle on your spine health and live free of pain! However, always check with your physician to see if these tips are safe to follow based on your health history.

BACKPACK BASICS: Prevent Back & Neck Pain

BACK TO SCHOOL: Backpack Basics

Regardless if your child is off to college, high school or their first day of kindergarten one item on top of everyone’s back to school list is a backpack. Kids’ backpacks easily get weighed down and can quickly cause back & neck pain if they’re too heavy and carried all day.

Here are some backpack basics from your trusted team at First State Spine:

When buying a backpack, pay attention to the following:

  • Avoid the Sling – we know all the cool kids have one, but this style puts all the weight on one shoulder, which can cause pain in the back and neck.  Always go for two straps so weight is distributed evenly!
  • The Straps – the straps of your child’s backpack should be wide and padded so they do not dig into shoulders.
  • Think Lightweight – Everything going in the backpack is heavy enough, so the backpack itself should be light.

When wearing a backpack, prevent back pain by doing the following:

  • Use those Lockers – encourage your child to make frequent stops at their lockers throughout the day and not carry everything with them all day.
  • The 10% Rule – The AAOS recommends that a child shouldn’t carry a backpack that exceeds 15%-20% of their body weight. Use 10% as a conservative percentage, better safe than sorry!
    Backpack Weights
  • The Straps – The backpack should fall roughly two inches above your child’s waist so tighten the straps appropriately. In addition, use both straps to distribute the weight evenly.
  • Use those Arms – remind your child that they don’t have to carry it all in their backpack. If for some reason they don’t have time to stop at their locker, they can carry a couple books in their arms.

The team at First State Spine wishes everyone a great school year ahead!

If you have back pain or back problems, make an appointment with one of First State Spine’s specialists for recommendations on which exercise program would be best for you.

It’s time to get a handle on your spine health and live free of pain! However, always check with your physician to see if these tips are safe to follow based on your health history.

CYCLING: 3 Ways to Keep Your Spine Safe!

CYCLING: 3 WAYS KEEP YOUR SPINE SAFE!
Cycling is an excellent form of exercise that is safe for your spine as long as you do it correctly. Follow these important tips to ensure you are protecting your spine on your next ride:

Cycling

1. Get the Right Fit
It is crucial that your bike is fit correctly for you. Is your seat the right height? Are your handlebars close enough to your body? What about your pedal position? Any of these could cause an incorrect riding posture resulting in unnecessary back pain. Go to a local bike shop and have an expert determine the proper fit and make adjustments as needed.


HiRes_Cycle Graphic

2.  Loosen Up and Keep Those Gears in Check
First, be sure to warm up your muscles before getting on the road, making them less prone to injury. Second, allow your body to better absorb any shocks that may jar your back by not gripping the handlebars too tight and by keeping a slight bend in your elbows. Lastly, know your limits! Do not push yourself with higher gears as this could strain your lower back.

3.  Flexibility and Core Strength
Core strength and flexibility is crucial in avoiding back pain while cycling. Your core muscles keep you balanced as you ride so it is not hard for them to become fatigued. In addition to core strength, cyclist who have little flexibility in their back and hamstring muscles are much more susceptible to strains and other lower back problems. Make sure you incorporate core exercises and stretching into your workout regimen to keep you free from injury on your next bike ride.

Happy Cycling from the team at First State Spine!

If you have back pain or back problems, make an appointment with one of First State Spine’s specialists for recommendations on which exercise program would be best for you.

It’s time to get a handle on your spine health and live free of pain! However, always check with your physician to see if these tips are safe to follow based on your health history.

Back pain during running: Tips for long distance runners

Running FSSLow back pain and stiffness is common among runners and is often contributed to mechanical inefficiencies. Here are some tips to prevent low back stress during a long distance run:

Stretch Those Hips
The hip flexors must be flexible enough to allow hip extension equal to the trunk. Make sure your stretches combine flexion, extension, and abduction for both hips while protecting the lower back.

Wear Proper Footwear
Wearing improper footwear that does not provide sufficient shock absorption is a contributing factor to back pain for runners. It is imperative to look for shoes with good shock absorption.

Pay Attention to Your Arm Swing
Practice a strong forward and back arm swing. Keep in mind an efficient arm swing will create no more than about an inch of trunk rotation in each direction.

Hinge at the Hip
Sustaining forward-trunk momentum is an important component of low back pain prevention. This position allows the hips to extend without putting pressure on the lower back.

Lumbar Stability
A lumbar-extended position is necessary; it helps position the pelvis and hips for optimal form.

RunningPositionFSS

Use these tips to ensure you reduce the stress on your back, and maximize hip mobility and strength over the course of your long distance run. For all you runners braving the Broad Street Run or Delaware Marathon over the next couple of weeks, GOOD LUCK from the team at First State Spine!

Sitting in an office chair with back pain right now?

FSS Office Syndrome InfographicDid you realize back pain is often caused by ordinary work activities such as sitting in an office chair? Prolonged activity and poor posture are major contributors to “office syndrome”. We created this infographic for the many people who suffer from back pain due to poor ergonomics. Make sure to print it out as a constant reminder for a healthy spine!

6 Tips for a safe, injury-free work out

Protecting your back may not be a priority when you start your workout routine. However, it is imperative to remember that while strengthening one muscle group, you could be damaging another. In many cases, it is your back.

Tweaking your routine can help ensure that you’re protecting your back from injury. Here are 6 tips to protect your back while you workout:

1. Warm-Up
Your muscles will be stiff and more susceptible to injury without a warm-up. Before you start your workout spend at least 5 minutes doing mild exercises like side bends and trunk rotations. These moves get you ready to go!

2. Stretching
That seated floor stretch you’ve been doing since grade school could be causing you to low back pain. Reaching for your toes this way could compress the lumbar spine. Instead, try stretching your hamstring by lying on your back. Raising one leg toward the ceiling, knee slightly bent, with your other leg straight on the floor. Place your hand behind your knee (slightly above or below the actual knee joint) and gradually pull your leg toward you for 20 seconds, then switch sides.

3. Planks
Support your abs as though you are about to take a punch to the stomach. Contracting your core as though you are filling that space rather than sucking it in will better support your spine and back muscles.

4. Sit-Ups
Crunches and sit-ups are effective exercises, but they put a substantial pressure on the low back. Try doing them on a stability ball. This supports your back and allows for a fuller range of motion. This method also incorporates the hips and gluteus; which helps reduce tension on the spine.

5. Running
Running is an excellent workout, but poor form can lead to a sore back and neck. Whether you are running indoors or out, keep an upright posture with a slight forward lean and always maintain a straight-ahead gaze.

6. Cycling
Cycling is a wonderful low-impact cardio exercise, however many cyclists experience back pain. When you ride squeeze your glutes, drop your shoulders away from your ears, and bend your elbows slightly to help absorb shock. Make sure you not only push, but also pull the pedals as you cycle.

Rewards of Rowing

Many people would like to get in better shape and be more active. Jogging, swimming, lifting weights, or maybe Zumba come to mind. There is another, lesser known sport which is fun and beneficial that can be recreated in both gym and outdoor settings, rowing.

Benefits of Rowing

  1. Scalable to any fitness level. The harder you work, the more resistance you experience.
  2. Rowing is a full body functional movement. Many joints and muscles are worked through a large range of motion.
  3. It builds muscular endurance in the low back. Training muscular endurance in the low back has been shown to improve low back pain.
  4. Rowing requires excellent sitting balance. The rower builds an awareness of the position that the back is in, and the strength and coordination to keep it in a strong position while working hard. This carries over tremendously into everyday life,
  5. Rowing is impact free. It can be excellent cross-training activity for runners and those with stiff, sore joints.
  6. You can row at the gym. Use a rowing machine at the gym to diversify your cardio workout and improve upper body endurance.
  7. It’s fun!

Squash the Holiday Blues

It’s that time of year again; holiday season! The holidays should be a season full of joy and laughter, however, they can also bring on stress that you may not usually experience. Those who experience chronic back pain, may have a different perspective of the holidays. Instead of being in high spirits, those in pain may suffer from the holiday blues. Often chronic pain can lead to depression. You should enjoy the holidays and don’t succumb to the holiday blues this year. Spine-Health give us some tips to help reduce your holiday stress!

  1. Talk with friends on the phone, or over coffee.
  2. Talk with other people who suffer from back pain or chronic pain.
  3. See your family doctor and take proper precautions to reduce any added back pain cause by stress.
  4. Carry extra weight may contribute to back pain. Improve your diet and exercise routine but still make sure to enjoy the food at your family gatherings or work party,
  5. Set goals! One of the best feelings in the world is setting goals and achieving them. Make sure to set goals within your reach and do not overextend yourself. That can lead to stress.
  6. Plan a gathering or holiday party. It is so important to surround yourself with people you love during the holidays.
  7. Hug somebody! A study was published stating hugs increase oxytocin and reduce blood pressure in women.
  8. Give your back proper support by going ergonomic.
  9. Get enough sleep. If back pain is preventing you from sleeping well at night, it may be time for a new mattress. DO your research to find the best mattress for your back.
  10. Enjoy the Holidays!

Best Pillows and Positions for Neck Alignment

Getting a good night’s rest is so important not just to be able to function properly the next day but for one’s overall well-being. After a good night’s sleep, you want to awake feeling refreshed and relaxed. You should never have to wake up feeling still and in pain. If you ever wake up in the morning with a stiff neck and/or back you may need to reevaluate your sleeping position as well as your pillow. According to an article from Harvard Special Health Reports, there are two sleeping positions that are easiest on the neck and back: “on your side or on your back. If you sleep on your back, choose a rounded pillow to support the natural curve of your neck, with a flatter pillow cushioning your head.” If you are unsure of the right pillow to help support your body when you sleep, take a look at these additional tips for the side and back sleepers:

  1. Use a down pillow. This fluffy feather filled pillow can conform to the shape of your neck. These pillows do not last forever and will need to be replaced frequently.
  2. If fluffy is not your personal preference, try using a pillow made of memory foam, which also conforms to the neck while providing more firm support.
  3. Avoid stacking your pillows as extra added height is not good for the neck alignment and can cause you to wake up with a stiff neck.

If you take these tips into consideration, you will be on your way to a peaceful night’s sleep!

Summer Vacation Car Safety

Summer vacations are right around the corner, which means, long hours spent in the car for many. You want to enjoy your vacation and arrive to your destination safely. Unfortunately, not all car rides go as planned. According to Consumer Reports, a rear-end crash occurs every 17 seconds in the U.S.A. Rear end crash can also lead to whiplash when your neck is not protected. “Whiplash is a sudden, moderate-to severe strain affecting the bones, discs, muscles, nerves, or tendons of the neck (Medical Dictionary.” An article in Consumer Reports provided some of the best ways to prevent whiplash.

  1. Adjust the head restraint: The top of the headrest should reach the top of your ears and as close as possible to the back of your head.
  2. Don’t forget to wear your seatbelt: According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, seat belts are the single most effective traffic safety device for preventing death and injury and can reduce the risk of crash injuries by 50 percent (NHTSA). It also helps to keep you in position and can keep your neck form quick sudden movements.
  3. Sit upright: if you are not sitting upright and against the headrest, how is it supposed to keep you from a neck injury?
  4. Position yourself for a crash: If you see a crash coming—or hear the squeal of tires behind you—and have time to react, lean back so that your head is touching the head restraint and look straight ahead. This will minimize any whiplash effect (Consumer Reports).

Unfortunately not all accidents can be prevented, however, whiplash can. The neck is the most susceptible region of the spine when it comes to trauma such as a car accident. This is why it is so important to take all preventative measures to protect your neck and spine.

Did you know that arm/leg pain can be linked to spinal problems?

If you are experiencing neck pain along with arm/leg pain consisting of numbness or tingling, the cervical spine may be the culprit. Even though the pian is affecting your arm function, it does not mean that is where the problem originates. “Because of complex interactions between the spinal comlumn and the nervous system, disk injuries may cause arm and hand pain (Livestrong.com).” Neck pain radiating down the arms is often caused by cervical spinal stenosis or a herniated disk.

Disk herniation is the breakdown of a disc, causing the inner core to leak through the outer portion of the disc. The weak spor in the outer core of the intervertebral disc is directly under the spinal nerve root, so a herniation in this area puts direct pressure on the nerve (Spine-Health).

The herniated disc commonly occurs after motor vehicle accidents, fall from a height, heavy lifting and other work related injuries.

If you are suffereing from the symptoms below, contact us at First State Spine today! We will help you find the root cause of your unexplained arm/leg pain.

  • Stiffness, pain, numbness or weakness in the neck, shoulders, arms, hands or legs
  • Severe deep muscle pain and muscle spasms
  • Weakness in certain muscles in one or both legs

Sources: WebMd, Livestrong.com & Spine-Health