Category Archives: Back Support Blog

Modern Vitamin Schedules and How They Work in Your Favor

Has your doctor told you that you should be eating more nutrients? Has it been suggested that you cut out carbs? Lower your sugar intake? And increase the amount of vitamins you take in every day? For picky eaters – or those who prefer the same types of meals – it can be incredibly difficult to make these dietary changes. Or if you do make them, it often means eating foods you dislike or forcing yourself to take down less-than-tasty shakes.

This is also one of the main reasons modern society has taken to the use of vitamins – to gain well-rounded nutrition without the hassle of adding rare fruits and veggies to one’s daily diet. (Or learning how to cook them.) It’s sound logic, and folks of all nutrition backgrounds and needs are still benefiting from vitamin regimens today.

How to Choose the Best Vitamin

In today’s market, there is an incredible number of vitamins and brands available for the choosing. Recipes that include organic gummies, personalized pill packs, mix-in supplements, and more. This can also make it an overwhelming choice to decide which brand you should choose.

In order to narrow down the process, you can start by determining what type of vitamin consistency you prefer. Do you like taking pills? Chewing gummies? Drinking a supplement? Or a combination of the above? Once you determine this preference you can work to narrow down your vitamin choice even further.

Next, research various brands and what they have to offer. Are you working with a nutritionist? If so it’s likely that they have their own recommendations. You can also look within your circle of friends to see if any of them work as a company representative. (With growing brands, selling nutrients has grown into a viable second career for many.) Or take to the Internet and start researching toward what you think might be best for your nutritional needs. Check for brands that offer quizzes for an accurate way to learn what your body is lacking.

Getting the Best Benefits Possible

In order to get the best possible benefits from your vitamin routine, it’s best to stay consistent. These substances are specifically designed to take in on a daily basis, which means that in order to get your best results, you should also take them every single day. (Or as often as the instructions suggest.) Over time, your body will adjust to these nutrients and can better break them down through digestion, etc. You might not even notice the gradual change. Though it’s still important to pay attention to overall mood and how you feel – when the body is receiving all of its vitamins, you are far more likely to feel energetic, healthy, and full of good spirits. Even if having an off day.

You should talk with your doctor or healthcare professional about what vitamin regimens will best suit your needs. They will have the proper knowhow and background to help you come up with a successful plan. A nutritionist is also a good source of information in dealing with your individual needs. Or, you can talk with your vitamin representative to find a knowledge-ready source.

There are ample health benefits that can come from proper nutrition. When the body has everything that it needs to function and run smoothly, you will notice ongoing health perks such as good mood, easy digestion, efficient vitamin break down, and an increase in everyday health.

Have questions or comments? Let us know. Or stay tuned for upcoming posts and learn more toward your journey of proper vitamins and nutrition.

Fall Factors and Your Biggest Seasonal Allergies

Throughout the fall, we are often reminded – in the harshest way possible – that fall allergies are still a thing. They cause our nose to run, our eyes to water, our throats to be scratchy, coughing round-the-clock, and so on. And most oftentimes, it’s taking place from the moment we wake up, to the moment we fall asleep. But when these symptoms not only start, but continue for weeks on end, it’s safe to say that fall allergies are very much upon us. When a “cold” can’t be slept away, it’s often time to decide that it’s not a cold at all – and that the effects might be far longer lasting. And dependent on the weather, rather than germs. What we might not stop to consider, however, is what causes them. But by working to pinpoint what ails us, we can reduce allergy symptoms before they even begin to take place.

Some of the most common triggers include:

Leaves – Sure they’re pretty while changing colors, but once they hit the ground, they’re a breeding ground for common allergens. Dust and all types of air particles (not to mention whatever’s growing on the leaves themselves) collects and hides within leaf piles. And there it sits until they’re collected.

Open Windows – It might be nice out and sound like an affordable way to cool off (or warm up) the house, but it also means letting all types of air particles into your living space. Rather than risking cold-like symptoms, spring for central heat or air. It’s a much more healthy way to breathe.

The Wind – A windy fall just might be the worst type of fall. Not only does it mean you have to deal with all the allergens already in your yard, but also the ones that are blown in from miles away. When windy, try to keep your home as airtight as possible. It can also be helpful to use an air purifier for extra allergy relief.

Décor – As cute as certain fall grasses, acorns, squashes or gourds, etc. might look inside the home, they could also be containing serious allergy triggers. This can also include lesser-known side effect causes, like candles or artificial scents. If you’re suffering from allergy-like symptoms that don’t lessen once inside the home, it might be best to avoid such décor items altogether, or opt for faux versions. (Which will also allow you to use them year after year.)

Being Cold – It can be hard to keep the thermostat too level when outside temperatures fluctuate greatly. However, when it becomes colder but you’re not ready to crank the heat, put on an extra layer of clothing. This will help keep the body regulated, while eliminating side effects like a runny nose. (Or if not completely eliminating it, to a certain point.)

Being Outside – No one wants to be a hermit, but some days it’s just smart to stay inside. Check local forecasts and if a particular count is slated to be high, it might be a good day for inside activities instead. You can also have an allergy test performed so you know what airborne particles cause you the most grief, and therefore, which ones to stay away from.

Fall allergies are certainly no picnic. But by better understanding what causes them, you can work to protect yourself from ongoing symptoms. Between avoiding outdoor triggers and keeping the interior clean, you can greatly reduce fall allergens, and therefore, the symptoms they cause.

Look into these methods and more this fall in order to keep your home as allergy free as possible.

Schools are Now Implementing the Standing Desk

If you haven’t yet heard of the standing desk, it’s been an ongoing change to offices everywhere. And it’s sweeping the nation, among health gurus and long-term sitters alike. It works by creating a workspace that one can stand at and reach properly. The keyboard, mouse, etc. are all within easy reach. Must like any traditional desk, just this time around, you’re simply standing instead.

The perks, however, don’t come in height, but with one’s health. By standing, it’s been shown that muscles work harder, more calories are burned, and perhaps most importantly, you aren’t placing weight on the lower back for the majority of the day.

For years, it’s a setup that companies have been implementing. Oftentimes giving workers the choice between a standing or a sitting desk. With certain models even offering a transition between the two. Even the White House is looking to make the switch into standing models, releasing that their budget is $700,000 in order to upgrade for the entire presidential staff.

However, it’s now an idea that’s branching out into schools. This week the state of California announced that certain schools were implementing standing desks for their students. And doing away with chairs.

Elementary School Getting the Standing Treatment

Now incorporated into 19 of the school’s 22 classrooms, in just a few months Vallecito Elementary School will be a completely standing school. The remaining three rooms are on their way to being transitioned to new desks, according to administration members of the San Rafeal school.

And the kids are pretty excited about it. By staging new activities and making good use of their standing time, teachers say it’s a positive move. One that even gets the students more excited about learning. They play games at their standing desks, are able to move about more freely, and so on. Meanwhile teachers say it’s a nice change of pace to not have to worry about clanking chairs, or taking time so that students can align themselves just so.

Students are also more alert, as they’re not given the opportunity to let their leg stiffen. A fact that was a common teacher complaint before, causing them to create movement activities in order to get kids to perk back up.

In Practice

But exactly what is it about standing throughout the day that helps improve health so thoroughly?

Through ongoing tests and plenty of data to back it up, it’s been shown that standing desks hosts a wide range of benefits. Aside from those that keep kids alert, their newfound upright habits also:

  • Reduce the risk of obesity
  • Reduce the risk of cancer
  • Reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes, as well as additional issues with the metabolism
  • Reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease
  • Increase life expectancy
  • Increase energy levels and movement throughout the day

Bringing Controversy

With every new practice, there are also claims that a product might not be as good as we think it is. And the standing desk is no different. There is also research supporting that the desks simply haven’t been around long enough to prove what it boasts. Or that standing isn’t quite as good as obtaining intermittent movement and exercise throughout the day.

Which studies prove to be true has yet to be seen. Either way, however, there’s certainly an argument that standing desks aren’t bad. And as teachers have pointed out, the ongoing energy boosts are real, allowing their students to get more done, and their teaching to be more efficient. In all likelihood, it’s a trend that will continue to expand across the U.S., especially throughout schools.

Look Out for These Halloween Health Risks

In just a few short weeks, the streets will be filled with candy-seeking kids. Adults will be in costumes, residents are there to hand out treats, and business owners will parade smiling groups of kids. These and plenty more orange, spice-scented fall traditions will be taking place. All of which is part of a time-honored tradition known as Halloween. Some of our seasonal favorites, however, leave us more apt to injury or poor health. From a number of different angles. What’s more dangerous, though, isn’t those facts themselves, but our failure to identify potential health risks.

In order to keep your best interests in tact throughout the entire Halloween season, remember to keep these potential risks in mind. As well as practices to keep their effects at bay. No matter how serious or insignificant they might become.

Halloween Health Risks

Costume-Related Injuries

Many of these instances have been the start of funny remember-when stories throughout the years. Face paints that caused zits. Heavy accessories that brought on an aching back. Or maybe cardboard shoes that didn’t support half as well as their description outlined. Whether minor or serious, however, steps can be taken to avoid costume-caused ill health.

When choosing a character to dress up as, consider your options, along with potential health risks. Then ensure you will be comfortable and protected for as long as you choose to be in costume.


Kids will pull pranks on Halloween. It’s inevitable. By expecting this fact, and then looking out for toilet paper in yards, water balloons splashed, or pumpkin guts spread across a road, you can avoid any potential side effects. Anywhere from a comical Scooby Doo-like fall, to something far more damaging.

Eating So Much Sugar

In short or long-term this can be dangerous. Candies are full of artificial flavors, chemicals, and of course, sugar. While consuming sparingly might do little to the body, while binges or frequent bouts can cause much deeper issues. Like slowing the digestive system, one’s metabolism, or throwing blood sugar out of whack.

A Serious Scare

When frightened, the body undergoes large amounts of stress. If taken too far, this can lead to something deeper, like high blood pressure or a weakened heart valve. Obviously these are extreme results, but ones that can build over time. Talk to your doctor if you’re worried about being scared into sickness.

Food Allergies

Parties are full of treats and fun dips, most of which are harm-free. However, one of the biggest trends with Halloween fare is to jazz up foods with dyes or other props. Making them look spookier than their original forms. With this transformation you should pay extra attention to ensure you’re not eating anything that might cause harm. Ask hosts for a quick ingredient rundown, or check labels thoroughly when purchasing from the store.


Along with types of foods, themed drinks are another holiday favorite. Both those that are made with booze and alcohol free. One thing they do have in common is that most are full of sugars. (Added with candy and you’re likely taking in more sweets than you even realize.) Remember to digest plenty of water the week of Halloween, or as any subsequent parties are taking place, to stay hydrated. And to help sugars flush through efficiently.

Personal Safety

There’s likely to be more going on than usual around Halloween, so stay on the lookout for your own health. Take precautionary measures into account, and avoid potentially dangerous situations. It’s a method that should be realized year round, and given additional attention during high-risk dates.

What 8 Glasses of Water Can Do For You

Eight glasses can seem like a lot of water. Considering it’s an amount you’re supposed to drink every day, not just today – can make it seem like even more. So much so that people actually avoid consuming this much liquid. Claiming it causes too many trips to the restroom. Or that they “need” flavor in their beverage. Maybe they just feel water logged after consuming more liquid than they’re used to taking in.

Whatever the reason, the majority of folks simply don’t drink their eight glasses on a regular basis. And – it’s likely that they don’t even come close. Opting, instead, for coffees, sodas, teas, or even energy drinks instead. Over time, this is a habit that can work to dehydrate your body, even robbing cells of much-needed moisture.

Why So Much H20?

More than half (60%) of your body is made of water. Cells, organs, and more all thrive on the substance, and need it in order to remain working and healthy. Without water, our bodies would not only be unable to function, they wouldn’t exist.

Additionally, keeping plenty of fluids in your body allows you to:

  • Flush out toxins
  • Replenish liquid counts in organs and cells (water leaves the body daily through sweat, breathing, and waste)
  • Keep areas like ears and nasal passages moist and working properly
  • Allow cells to move fluidly throughout the body

Without proper moisture, none of the above can take place.

Exact Numbers

It can be argued that those of different sizes will need different amounts of water to keep themselves hydrated. However, the eight glasses of eight ounces each rule is easy to remember – so it’s stuck. And to this day, remains a common rule of thumb. Others argue that all liquid can work to replenish the body of its fluid count. Oftentimes this is true for beverages that are free of sugar or caffeine. While those that contain sugary substances can actually pull water from the cells – essentially setting you back on water intake goals. From drinking more liquid.

To avoid these types of beverages, read labels and avoid unnatural sugars or excessive amounts of caffeine. Anything that comes in a can is likely a main offender, while not everything that claims to be healthy actually is. Or, schedule a time to talk with a medical pro about what concoctions will help vs. hurt your daily water count.

If you’re looking to be more exact with your water intake, there are actually more concrete numbers you can follow. For instance, it’s recommended that men consume about 13 cups every day, which comes out to about 3 liters. And for women, 9 cups, or 2.2 liters per day. In contrast, the 8 glasses of 8-ounces each rule comes out to about 1.9 liters. Actually slightly less than the more specific count – a shocking fact for those who already think recommendations are set too high.

Another avenue is to meet with a professional nutritionist or your medical doctor in order to get a more customized idea of how much you should be drinking. You can also go over which substances will help keep you hydrated vs. those that will actually lower your water intake.

Drinking eight glasses of water might sound overwhelming, but it’s also a routine that allows for some incredible health benefits. And according to the hydrated ones among us, the results more than speak for themselves. If nothing else, it’s certainly a method that won’t hurt – and considering it’s virtually free, drinking water is a tactic every health-conscious person should consider when working toward better health.

Substances That Dehydrate You Most in the Heat

The hotter it gets outside, the more liquid you need to ingest. You sweat at a much heavier rate (in order to help keep yourself cool), and it’s likely that you’re much thirstier as well. In order to replenish itself, the body lets you know it needs water in the quickest way it knows how. To get you to want to drink it. But heat isn’t the only factor that contributes to summer thirst. So does the very beverages you drink. When caked with sugars and other chemicals, you can actually get thirstier while you drink. It’s an event that might sound counterproductive – or like it’s leading to the opposite of what you’re trying to reach – but it’s also evident within some of America’s best-selling beverages.

Without the necessary levels of water within our bodies, all sorts of functions lose their abilities. Digestion slows down, the immune system can’t work as it should, skin doesn’t look as healthy or rejuvenated, energy levels can be lowered, and that’s only the beginning. Over time, dehydration can pile upon itself and only increase symptoms. Basically, you just don’t feel like yourself. A fact that can be easily reversed through simple dietary adjustments. Like drinking more often, and drinking healthier beverages.

How to Drink for Better Hydration

To stay hydrated, it’s best to start by drinking plenty of water … which can’t be cut with sugars or caffeine. (At least not without doing so yourself, otherwise it loses its pure and recognizable title.) However, plain water isn’t for everyone, at least exclusively. While you should always drink some each day – talk with your doctor to gain more information on the subject – some of us just need a little more flavor to get us through the day.

If and when your taste buds start wanting more, explore your healthy drink options and get more out of each sip.

Drinks that dehydrate you the most include:

Alcohol – It might be satisfying to drink a cold beer in the sun, but it’s also a move that comes at a high cost. Because alcohol causes frequent urination (and in extreme cases, vomiting), it’s actually robbing your body of much needed moisture and nutrition. Remember to drink alcohol sparingly when in high heat.

Caffeine – Generally ok in moderation, caffeine has been known to pull hydration directly from the body. This is done by a number of ways: causing frequent urination, interacting with the body by introducing chemicals, and by satisfying a craving for liquid … but without providing hydrating benefits. If coffee or tea are must-haves, consider decaf versions as an alternative.

Sodas – Both regular and diet versions of soda are contributors here. Once you take a sip, they tell the body it’s thirstier than it actually is, causing you to keep sucking down the sugar, whether or not your body actually wants it. A tricky little move, but also one that’s helped companies sell thousands of sodas.

Carbonation – Also an offending party. If possible, choose versions of your favorites that don’t contain the bubbles, for instance, flat tea or unflavored water. That way you can still enjoy moisture (with flavor), but without robbing your body of its water percentage.

Salty foods also make one thirsty on a consistent basis (not always a bad thing, depending on what we’re drinking), as do meals coated with fish oil(s), desserts, and more.

By being aware of these substances and how they contribute to your overall health, you can make the decision to avoid substances that rob water content, or make necessary adjustments in order to stay as hydrated as possible.

Back Support Belts

Six Back Support Belt Choices That Could Save Your Spine on The Street Or In The Dirt, But Which Is Best?

by Scott Rousseau, photos by Dave Searle & Gina Ciolo

Excerpt taken from Motorcycle Consumer News, March 2012. (click here to read full pdf here)

There are hundreds of back support belts on the market today, including motorcycling specific styles ranging from basic motocross-style kidney belts to more substantial belts designed for long-distance road riding. Some motorcyclists believe that weightlifter-style belts are the best choice, while others swear that the utility-style belts, such as those worn by warehouse workers, are the hot ticket. So, we compiled six belts that represent the various styles of back support belts on the market today and put them to the test.

Our findings? When it comes to managing back pain, anything is better than nothing, but some models that we tested did stand out, and one of them offered just the right combination of support, comfort, fit and value to earn our MCN Best Buy recommendation.

MCN first presented the BackA-Line Dynamic Support belt as one of our Innovations of the Month over a decade ago, in our June 2001 issue. The belt’s basic design hasn’t changed since then, and it hasn’t needed to.

The Dynamic Support features a patented, rigid lumbar support pad that covers virtually the entire lower back area (see inset)—the only belt in this test to do so. This support pad is gently curved on the inside surface and provided with a channel to avoid direct contact with the spine. The pad’s shape is designed to encourage the natural curvature of the lower back for proper posture while offering lumbar and kidney support.

The curved back area of the Dynamic Support measures 8.25″ top to bottom at its tallest point. The belt is initially closed via a 4.25″ wide strap that uses hook-and-loop material. An additional 2″ cinch strap wraps across the abdomen, through a steel loop and doubles back for added security and support and is also secured by hook and loop material.

10 Things You Should Know About Fibromyalgia and Myofascial Pain Syndrome

Learn About Fibromyalgia and Myofascial Pain Syndrome

FMS (Fibromyalgia Syndrome) too often dismissed as the newest fad disease. It was actually first described in 1816 by Dr. Balfour, a surgeon.More than half of all FMS patients undergo unnecessary surgery as a result of misdiagnosis.The Official Diagnosis (Copenhagen Declaration) defines FMS as a painful but not articular (not in the joints) condition predominantly involving muscles. It is the most common cause of chronic widespread musculoskeletal pain. The essential symptom of FMS is pain. Older patients are more troubled by fatigue and depression.

Fibromyalgia discriminates against women. More women than men have FMS, but MPS (Myofascial Pain Syndrome) affects men and women in equal numbers

Fibromyalgia is a biochemical disorder. It is, among other things, a systemic neurotransmitter dysregulation with many biochemical causes. Neurotransmitters are the information highway between the body and the mind.

Myofascial Pain Syndrome is a neuromuscular condition. MPS happens because of mechanical failures. MPS patients have trigger points all over their bodies.

Myofascia is a thin, almost translucent film that wraps around muscle tissue and is the tissue that holds all the other parts together. It gives shape and supports all of the body’s muscles. It continues past the muscle and blends into the bone.

Trigger points occur primarily in the myofascia. When muscles are in a state of continued tension they cannot get the blood and oxygen they need, and so produce excess waste that can’t be removed. This creates an area in the myofascia starved for nutrition and oxygen, and loaded with toxic waste. This area is called a trigger point. Trigger points are toxic waste dumps. Trigger points cause muscle strength to become unreliable. Ever drop something unexpectedly or have a leg give way? That’s a trigger point at work.

Traumatic FMS can be caused by auto accidents, repetitive motion disorders or degenerating discs and may show up as tender points clustered around the damaged area in addition or instead of the 18 standard points.

The effects of low back pain from myofascial trigger points can be as bad or worse than low back pain caused by a herniated disc. Make sure your doctor knows about trigger points. Try to find a support group, as there are many others suffering with you.

Reprinted with permission from

A Better Way To Sleep

Simple Tips To Improve Your Sleep

The quality of your sleep has a major impact on the quality of your life. During periods of rest and sleep your body attempts to counteract the everyday effects of stress and pain. Sleep charges your battery and rejuvenates you so you can participate in each day’s activities with enthusiasm. If you wake up rested and refreshed, it’s easier to start the day with a positive attitude.

During an average week, you spend about as much time sleeping as you do working, so it is important to make the most of sleeping hours. In order to make the most out of your sleep, you may have to change some of your customary sleeping habits. Try these simple suggestions to improve sleep starting tonight:

  • A parallel neck and chest promotes deep breathing during sleep. This is better than tucking the chin in, which stretches the neck.
  • Proper neck and head position restores and supports a normal back curve. Rounded shoulders reduce lung capacity.
  • An open position relieves pressure on internal organs. This is preferred to a tucked position which compresses the organs.
  • A curved spine restores and supports normal lower back curves. A rounded back reverses the curve of the lower back, stretching muscles and ligaments.
  • Bend legs slightly to allow for optimum blood flow through the legs to the heart. Knees sharply bent reduce circulation to the legs.

A Better Way To Sleep Part 2

How to Achieve Better Sleep – Part II

by Dr.Scott Donkin

May factors contribute to the quality of your sleep, including the foods you consume, your emotional state and the condition of your bedding.

Diet: Eat balanced meals at regular times. Avoid caffeinated products after 3 p.m.. Coffee, tea, colas, chocolate and many common pain relievers have caffeine as an ingredient and may affect your ability to sleep. Since nicotine also stimulates the central nervous system, smokers may want to quit well before bedtime.

Alcohol, a depressant, can also affect the quality of your sleep. A nightcap may make you feel drowsy, but it may also keep you from achieving a deep sleep, which in turn may cause you to wake often during the night.
A light bedtime snack comprised of food high in carbohydrates may help you become drowsy. Avoid foods that are spicy or high in fat as they can keep your digestive system overactive.

Relax and enjoy: We would all like to escape the stress and strain on our emotions that everyday life can bring. It is often difficult to put your thoughts away as you try to sleep. You can, however, learn to relax.
If your muscles feel tied up in knots or if your mind continues to whirl at a fast pace, you may need to try some relaxation techniques. As you lie in bed, stretch your body and imagine each part of your body letting go of the tension you’ve generated through the day. Let your thoughts float. Pleasant imagery can help you get the feeling of relaxation and warmth that promotes restful sleep.

If you are tossing and turning after 20 minutes or do not feel drowsy, don’t continue to lie in bed. Get up, go into another room and occupy yourself with a relaxing activity like reading until you feel sleepy.
About bedding: Don’t forget that the environment you sleep in is also very important. Make it quiet, dark and slightly cool. Avoid drafts and fans that may blow directly on you as you sleep.

Your bedding should be large and firm enough for comfort. When purchasing a bedding set, lie down for a full five minutes (with you partner if your share a bed). Don’t be intimidated by store surroundings. Your comfort is what really matters. The Better Sleep Council recommends replacing a mattress every eight to ten years.
If you are unsure what type of bedding would work best for you, consult with a doctor or chiropractic that has a thorough understanding of your body mechanics.

Dr. Scott Donkin is an expert in occupational health and wellness with a successful private practice in Lincoln, Nebraska. He is the author of Sitting on the Job, How to Survive the Stresses of Sitting Down to Work – A Practical Handbook ($15 plus $4 S&H); 1-800-552-6347.

Back Health Questions

Common Questions Regarding Back Health

Answers By Scott W. Donkin, D.C.

Q.What is the best position for sleeping – back or front? I have minor back pain on occasion and am curious if sleeping on my front is any worse than sleeping on my back? It does not seem to matter, although I sleep better lying on my front. Thanks for the help. -Mike

A: Although stomach sleeping and back sleeping are common positions, the most common and preferred position, in my opinion, is side sleeping. There are several ways to sleep on your side advantageously, and several ways that could cause problems. As with any sleeping position, the unique contours of your body must be supported in good alignment by your mattress and your pillow. For example, during side sleeping the distance, the thickness of the hips, the waist, the rib cage, the shoulders, the neck, and the head are all different. These contours must be supported by your mattress and pillow in such a way that your hips and shoulders are not in a twisted position and the spinal column is in a position that is parallel with the floor and not made to curve downward or sideways. In addition, the relative thickness or width of the hips is usually quite a bit different than the relative width of the knees when they are held together when sleeping on your side. If this distance varies too much the tendency is for the upper leg to drift over the lower leg, and this results in some tension or twisting in the hips during sleeping. It is advantageous to try a knee pillow so that the tendency to twist the hips by dropping the top leg over the lower leg is eliminated.The Contour Leg Pillow May Help side sleepers.

The common problem with selection of neck pillows for side sleeping is that the distance between the shoulders, the outside of the shoulder and the neck must be filled with pillow in order to maintain a good and comfortable position. Also, the pillow should be recessedto cup the head as this also has a different width than the neck. If the pillow is too thin and does not present an appropriate contour, the tendency is to drop the head towards the bed or jam the shoulder that is in contact with the bed closer to the body; thus, compressing your shoulder, your collar bone, and the lower part of your neck. Another aspect to consider when side sleeping is that if you sleep predominately curled up in a ball, the curves of your lower back and neck are reversed from what their normal position is. Sleeping curled up is okay occasionally, but if it is a predominate posture it actually adds to strains that you may encounter during the day in your waking hours while sitting in a car or at a work station in a slumped forward position. Sleep should be a time when your body is able to repair itself from the stresses and strains of the day and allow you to become recharged for the next day’s activities. It may seem like a daunting task to change a sleeping position, but habits can change gradually over time. If you initiate a different sleeping position when your first going to bed, then over time this will influence your sleeping positions when your not aware of your body postures.

Q.I have been suffering with deep pain on my lower left back. Painkillers don’t seem to work. I have undergone several physical therapies but got no relief. Four years ago, I had a left knee total replacement. Do you think my back problem arises from that? What is the best medication to take to ease the pain? Also, what other solutions can you suggest? Do you think I need any surgery at this time? -Saulmat

A.Following a total knee replacement, it is common for you to favor that knee when walking and moving about during the day and also while sleeping. The technology of total knee replacements has improved tremendously over the years, but recovery is still often painful and requires a concerted effort during the rehabilitation phase in order for a full recovery to be achieved. While you are favoring your knee during the recovery phase, the altered movements can definitely affect your back as well as your ankle. If a mechanical imbalance occurs that you are unable to correct during your rehabilitation phase, then you may be left with mechanical difficulties in your back that result in pain. If you are unable to follow through with your complete rehabilitation schedule you may also have less than full function in that replaced knee. If either of there is the cause, it is best to have your body mechanics evaluated to see if this is the source of your trouble.

Q.I have had sciatica for 5 years and finally had L5S1 fused, but nerve scarring remains so I am still in pain. Ironically, what caused this was trying to be physically fit. I thought I was strengthening my abs by doing sit-ups the old fashioned way, twisting and touching the opposite elbow to my knee. I didn’t realize it at the moment, but this had more devastating effects to my disk than all the tennis, running, and poor lifting techniques.-Don

A.Can doing sit-ups cause back troubles? Your situation is unfortunately all too common. We’ve seen many cases where an individual had well defined, six-pack abdominal muscles and also excruciating back pain. There is a difference between looks and function. Even with good intentions, if you use your head and neck as a handle to pull your body forward when doing abdominal crunches or other exercises, while this does tighten abdominal muscles, it opens the joints throughout the back part of the lower back and neck. This exertion can actually force a disc in between the vertebra to become damaged and move out into the nerve space between the vertebra. It sounds as though this is what happened to you. If this is the case, then it is very important for you to clearly understand your optimum body mechanics, which includes body movements and postures during all phases of your day, so that you can minimize the wear and tear rotation in the spinal joints as well as the supporting muscles and ligaments. Perhaps your question and history will help others to avoid this excruciating problem.

Q.What are the 10 steps I need to do to make my back better? I have a herniated-bulging disc, numbness, burning and tingling in my both legs. Can you help me?-GJB


  • f you are suffering from chronic back pain, understand that if you do the same things you’ve been doing, you’ll probably continue to get the same result. In order to change the result, you first have to change your mind and that means you have to start thinking and looking at your condition in different ways in order to find out the solution that is appropriate for you.
  • Whatever therapy or regimen or combination of activities that you do, always keep in mind the ultimate goal of having a better back and experiencing less pain and difficulty.
  • Seek professionally assistance when needed. Initially you must determine if the cause of your trouble is mechanical in nature, that is due to friction, irritation, or pressure in the joints, bones, muscles, ligaments, and nerves, or if your pain is referred from a source further away, such as kidney trouble or other disease processes. If you find that your troubles are mainly mechanical in nature, then it is very important for you to understand clearly how your body works so that you can understand what may be perpetuating your difficulties. For example, discover what the optimum body positions and postures during standing, sitting, and sleeping, and compare your real postures to those optimum positions.
  • Have a skilled health care professional help you learn and access your body postures and movements because you may be too close to the situation to evaluate it yourself.
  • Question everything and keep asking questions until you fully understand the answers to your questions and the direct application to your own condition and lifestyle.
  • Consider that body balance, flexibility, and strength are all important components of having a healthy back and that flexibility usually must come before strength. If you have areas of decreased flexibility and you strengthen the areas around that decreased movement, then often you create more restriction.
  • Stretch regularly and often. Make sure that collectively the stretches you do on a regular basis encourage movement in all directions.
  • Deep breathing on a regular basis is also beneficial as deep breathing in itself helps improve posture, increase circulation, and increase oxygen intake to your body.
  • Remember that subtle changes can have cumulative rewards. If you are experiencing acquired difficulties it could be something relatively simple and often overlooked that you can then change to improve your condition.
  • Don’t give up. Determine the risks of treatments and therapies verses the benefits before you make your final decisions on what you should do. Be sure to weigh all of your options, which include traditional and alternative methods. Find others like yourself who have had similar circumstances and have succeeded. Although your solutions may be different, the fact that others have overcome their troubles should give you inspiration to continue your quest.

Q.I am a 40-year old female. I have previously had three back surgeries. My first back surgery was in 1980, when I was only 19-years old. My second back surgery was three years ago and again three months ago right before my fortieth birthday. I feel worse than ever. In my last surgery, I had a spinal fusion and three discs replaced with titanium discs. My surgery was done through my stomach because of so much scar tissue in my back from previous surgeries. Ever since my stomach was cut to perform my back surgery, the left side of my stomach, around my back, down my left leg, and down into my pelvic area are completely numb. This hurts so badly. I just wish that I had it to do over again. I would definitely do things different and go to a specialist in this field (in the spinal field) instead of just an orthopedic surgeon. I just received my Contour Pillow and Leg Pillow through the mail today, and I am hoping that this will give me at least some relief from the excruciating pain that I have to live with every day of my life. -Lisa

A.While your back condition has had a devastating affect on your life, I commend you for your willingness to look for ways to help yourself. Please read the previous question for suggestions for helping make your back better. Carefully read the information inside the Contour Pillow and Leg Pillow packages, so that you can understand their optimum use. I sincerely hope this helps you.

Dr. Scott Donkin is an expert in occupational health and wellness with a successful private practice in Lincoln, Nebraska. He is the author of Sitting on the Job, How to Survive the Stresses of Sitting Down to Work – A Practical Handbook

Back Pain Facts

by Amy Smith

Fact:Nearly 80% of the population will be experience back pain at some point during their lives.
Fact:Stretching can help you ease a sore back because it elongates muscle tissues, which in turn helps decompress the vertebrae, improve blood flow and increase the delivery of oxygen to the back. Remember to stretch when you wake up, after you’ve been sitting for awhile and before you start exercising. [Source: Prevention]

Fact:Approximately 45% of Americans with chronic neck pain attribute it to a motor vehicle accident. Each year some 3 million whiplash injuries are reported. [Back on Track, Dr. Steven Horwitz, May 2001]

Fact:Cold helps reduce swelling and numbs painful areas. Heat helps increase blood circulation and relaxes sore muscles. Limit applications of either to 20 minutes. [Consumer Reports on Health, Sept. 2000]

Fact:Back pain usually stems from a strain or minor tear of the muscles and ligaments that support the lower back. Sometimes heavy lifting or bending wrong can cause an injury. Many incidents of back pain can be treated with over-the-counter pain relievers, cold to reduce pain and swelling during the first day or two, then a heating pad. Rest for a couple of days, then start stretching and doing gentle exercise. Inactivity can make you feel worse. See your doctor if pain or discomfort continues. [Consumer Reports on Health, May 2000]

Fact: Never say never. Everyone reacts to diseases, drugs and treatments differently. Every doctor has seen “hopeless” cases turn around. For all of the advances in medicine, the human body remains wondrously strange and full of surprises. [Gregory White Smith, author of Making Miracles Happen]

If you are among the many who suffer, take heart. Selecting the proper pillow may be a simple and effective way to relieve cervical pain and improve quality of life by way of sleep. Look for a pillow that matches the natural curve of your cervical spine. Traditional fiberfill or down pillows tend to flatten beneath the weight of your head, and aren’t shaped to match the curves of your neck. Pillows made of foam material hold their shape better and are often made to mirror the curves of the neck.

Back Saving Tips For The Gardening Enthusiast

Prevent Back Problems While gardening

by Sue Sarko

As the glorious springtime season approaches, many of us begin to think about gardening. For some, gardening is one of the greatest pleasures life has to offer. Those of us who live in colder climates look forward to finally being outside, planting beautiful flowers and shrubs, and tending to the lawn. But gardening enthusiasts who suffer from back pain look forward to the season with some trepidation. Well here’s some back-friendly news that is sure to brighten your day: You can greatly reduce the risk of back injury by following some simple advice! It’s true, gardening does not have to be the back-breaking hobby that it was once thought to be, provided that certain guidelines are followed.

First, sensible planting can reduce much of the hard work associated with gardening and upkeep of the lawn. Try planting low maintenance shrubs and perennials, especially in areas where accessibility is a problem. Choose plants for ground cover to reduce the need for continuous weeding and reduce the size of the lawn that would otherwise demand regular mowing and edging. Avoid planting shrubs, perennials and ground cover around tree bottoms where end of the season clean-up is difficult; remember, you will need to rake leaves out of these areas in the fall. Instead, consider mulching and plant a ring of annuals around the bottom of a tree. Annuals can and should be pulled up at the end of the season, making clean up and raking a breeze.

Don’t skimp on gardening tools. Well-designed tools can be a tremendous help in reducing the potential for back pain. Digging can be particularly harmful to those who are prone to back problems. Consider purchasing a specially designed tool with a spring and lever action to take the “ouch” out of this sometimes back breaking element of gardening. Some manufacturers make spades, forks and other gardening tools in various lengths and sizes to avoid straining the back. If you can’t find these size specific items, at least choose lightweight, long handled gardening tools, preferably made of stainless steel to reduce friction.

Gardening can be a strenuous activity, so exercise prior to can go a long way toward preventing “horticultural” back pain. Try stretching your muscles and doing some warm ups to prepare your body for the tasks ahead. Once you are working, let common sense be your guide. Don’t stoop over; bend at your knees instead. Try not to work too far in front of yourself. Keep your work close, so that your elbows stay bent and your shoulders aren’t forced into a hunched position. And don’t forget to take a break every 15 minutes or so.

Follow this simple advice, let common sense be your guide and DON’T OVERDUE IT! You’ll have a wonderful, rewarding season in the garden, the results of which you’ll enjoy for many years to come.

Degenerative Cycle of Back Pain

Once a person has injured his back, it is very easy for him to slip into a degenerative cycle. Often times the person does not feel much like getting up and about, and yet in most cases, moderate exercise/activity can be the most helpful tool in recuperation. Here’s how it often goes:

  • Generally, at the onset of physical pain, activity is reduced.
  • This reduced activity results in weaker muscles and less support for the spine.
  • With less spinal support, vertebrae can become misaligned, and discs and ligaments may deteriorate. With that, the threshold of pain drops even further than it was with the original trauma.
  • As spinal components deteriorate from inactivity, range of motion tends to decline.
  • As range of motion declines, more muscle strength is lost and the spine loses even more support.
  • Continuing loss of muscular support can cause even more spinal degeneration, and the cycle continues.

In order to prevent this degenerative cycle from taking over your back, you likely need to remain active. Medical attention is absolutely necessary, however following a thorough examination by your doctor and after being given his blessing, returning your back to full strength is crucial to recovery. Here are some guidelines to follow for both acute and chronic back pain.

Acute Back Pain (Recent Onset of Back Pain)

Ideally a person with acute back pain should be performing spine-specific exercises within a few days. Waiting longer can cause the injury to persist longer and has the potential to jumpstart the degenerative cycle.

Chronic Back Pain (Sustained, Ongoing Back Pain)

Small back muscles that maintain the lower back’s curvature generally go unused in cases of chronic back pain. This can lead to muscle atrophy, shrinking and weakening muscles and a loss of coordination. Gentle, spine-specific exercises can quickly restore strength to back muscles.

As always, consult with your doctor as to the specific types of exercises that you would benefit from most.

Exercise Your Way Through The Work Day

Simple Exercise at Work

There are many times throughout the day when you can counteract some of the tension and strain that build up while you work. Micro breaks are very important and can be used to effectively counteract tension buildup and fatigue in muscles and eyes. The break may be momentary or last up to a minute.

Try these micro break exercises to refresh your body and improve your comfort and productivity:


  • Change your focus by looking at an object that is more than twenty feet away. Look out the window or at a picture on the wall that is far away.
  • Take a moment to lightly place the palms of your hands over your eyes while they are closed. Hold this position for 30 to 60 seconds. Avoid pressing your palms into your eyeballs.

Neck and Shoulders

  • Shrug your shoulders up toward your ears or roll your shoulders backward and forward in circular motions.
  • Turn your head slowly to one side, then to the other. Tilt your head slowly to one shoulder, then to the other.

Arms and Hands

  • If you do a considerable amount of work with your hands on a keyboard, frequently stretch your fingers, hands, wrists and forearms.


  • If you sit for long periods of time, take a moment to check and adjust your posture or push back into your chair’s back support to stretch.
  • Stretch your leg muscles by straightening your legs and moving your ankles and feet.

Good News For Allergy Sufferers

For All Allergy Sufferers – This is for You

Pillows are a tremendous breeding ground for allergy-causing bacteria: lint, dander, mold, mildew and dust mites. In fact, researches estimates that 25% of the weight of a 1 year old feather pillow is made up of dust mites and dust mite droppings! You can’t reduce night time allergies if 1/4 the weight of your pillow is dust mites!

The Aller-Soft Hypo-Allergenic Pillow Cover

Control allergens with comfort of 100% cotton! Revolutionary technology of AllerSoft Cotton fabric allows for total breath-ability with the feel of the finest cotton linen – all while providing the ultimate in dust mite relief and protection. This is a great option for anyone who wants want a cool natural cotton product and tend to be hotter when sleeping. 100% cotton fabric is a certified allergen barrier and has a soft, jersey knit feel and membrane protection for allergy control.

  • 100% pure cotton for the ultimate in comfort without sacrificing efficacy, no added chemicals or harsh treatments
  • Mean flow pore size diameter of 4.91 microns makes this fabric one of the most effective barriers against pet dander, dust mites, bed bugs and other harmful allergens
  • 3.4 oz per square yard with 280 threads titched per square inch
  • Uniquely samphorized to prevent shrinking and maintain the integrity of the pore size through multiple washings!
  • Air permeability reading of 5 which indicates a wonderfully cool fabric
  • Buy in quantity and save! – Order 2 or more and we’ll take 15% off each one!
  • All covers are sewn with a “safety” double stitch and at least 12 stitches/inch
  • Made in USA, latex free, machine washable, Lifetime Manufacturers Warranty

Help Sore Knees

Simple Exercises for Sore Knees

by Sue Sarko

The knee functions as a hinge for bending and straightening the leg, and allows us to twist and turn as we move. As such, it is highly vulnerable to injury, strain and overuse. Strengthening the muscles around the knee can help to protect the joint, decreasing the possibility of pain, stiffness and overall vulnerability. Exercise can increase your range of motion and ease daily living activities. Following are some ideas for knee strengthening exercises, but proceed with caution. If you experience any pain whatsoever while performing these exercises, stop immediately and seek medical attention. If you are under a doctor’s care consult him/her before starting this exercise regimen.

Leg Extensions: This exercise strengthens the inner thigh muscle to help balance the pull on the knee joint from the outer thigh, which is usually stronger.

  • Sit against a straight back chair.
  • Straighten one leg and hold for one minute, then slowly lower it down
  • Bend your knee and lower halfway back to the floor. Hold for 30 seconds
  • Return foot to the floor and rest
  • Repeat and work up to five repetitions per leg.
  • Increase resistance by adding ankle weights over time

Straight Leg Raises:This exercise strengthens the thigh muscles to help support the knee joint.

  • Sit on the floor against a wall with your legs straight in front of you and your toes pointing upward.
  • Lift one foot off the ground while keeping the leg straight and hold for 10 seconds, then slowly lower it back to the ground.
  • After a momentary rest, repeat.
  • Work up to 3 one minute holds per leg

Step-Ups:This exercise helps to strengthen thigh muscles just over the top of the knee joint.

  • Stand in front of a bench or stairs, some type of surface that’s about two feet off the ground.
  • Step up with both feet and straighten your knees, then step down.
  • Repeat at a steady pace. Work up to 25 times.

How Poor Back Support Contributes To Neck Aches and Strains

Avoid Poor back Support

The single most common reason for neck pain is poor posture, while seated, resting, sleeping, etc.. Sitting for prolonged periods hunched over a computer, for example, can cause aches and pains, as can poor sleeping posture. Many people respond to stress by tensing up their neck muscles, which over time, can lead to neck pain as well as headaches. All of the above can cause painful conditions such as neck strain, neck soreness and aches, back pain and more.

Neck strain is most often the result of sleeping in an awkward, unsupported position. This puts tension on the muscles that run along the back of your neck. If you experience neck stiffness upon waking in the morning, nack strain may be the symptom. A good way to relieve the pain and loosen muscles is to stand under a hot shower and let the water run on the nape of your neck. Press your chin to your chest to stretch out those neck muscles for about 30 seconds. Then hold your head back, pause, and flex forward again. Now roll your neck from side to side a few times. This should help to ease the stiffness and pain.

It has been estimated that 70% of all pinched nerves are caused by poor posture. Basically, a pinched nerve means that a disc that sits between two nerves in the neck has probably been bumped out of place. In addition to the pain that you feel in your neck, you may also experience some numbness and/or a tingling sensation in your arms and hands. You’ll need to seek medical attention for this one. Your care giver will likely prescribe neck-stretching exercises to alleviate pain and improve your neck’s muscles to keep the disc in place. Something you can do at home? Improve your posture. Be sure that your head doesn’t bend forward too much. When you are seated in proper posture, you should be able to draw a straight line from your ears to your shoulders on down to the hips.

Below Are Some Additional Ideas That You Can Do At Home To Help Cut Down On Neck Pain

  • Take a bath towel and fold it lengthwise. Wrap it around your neck before bedtime
  • Try aspirin, naproxen or ibuprofen to relieve pain and inflammation – use as directed
  • Massage your neck muscles
  • Relax – Take deep breaths, shrug your shoulders
  • Support your head and neck all night long with a pillow designed for orthopedic support of head, neck and spine.
  • Use a quality neck pillow for head and neck support while traveling, relaxing or almost any sedentary activity.

How To Prevent Lower Back Pain

Tips to Prevent Lower Back Pain

Contributed by Dr. Steven M. Horwitz

Approximately 80% of the population in the western world will experience low back pain during their lives. Low back pain represents the single greatest expenditure of health care resources in our society today. It results in millions of dollars of lost work every day. Most low back pain is preventable.

It is often caused by lack of exercise, overuse, poor posture and poor work or exercise positioning. Obesity causes low back pain by increasing weight and pressure on the spinal discs in the lumbar region. Smoking also contributes, causing decreased blood flow to the spine and decreased bone density. The good news is that many of these issues can be corrected with proper back support. Use a quality cushion designed for proper back support.

How arthritis contributes: Understanding the anatomy of the spine is necessary to understand the cause of pain. The spine is composed of 24 movable bones called vertebrae, 5 of which make up the low back region called the lumbar spine. The function of these vertebrae is to bear weight, as well as to provide a protective covering for the spinal cord. Between each pair of vertebrae are cushions called discs, which help absorb compressive forces and contribute to the movement of each joint segment in the spine.

These vertebrae and discs work together to create motion in each spinal segment. Because they do move, the joints can move out of alignment and cause irritation and pain. If these misalignments are not corrected over time, spinal arthritis may develop due to the wear and tear caused by the improper motion of the segments. Chiropractic adjustments remove these misalignments and restore proper function, thereby helping to prevent the process of arthritis from occurring in the spine.

How disc injuries contribute:vertebra are shock-absorbing cushions called discs. The spinal cord runs behind the discs and is encased within each vertebra. Between each vertebra is a hole on either side through which the spinal cord branches to communicate with the rest of the body. In the lumbar spine region, these nerves go down the legs, as well as to several organ systems, including the reproductive systems, the colon and the bladder.

The outer portion of the disc is formed by a strong material called the annulus fibrosis, which is composed of concentric rings of cartilage. These rings receive nutrients through osmosis, as they have no direct arterial or venous supply. The nucleus pulposis is the center, gelatinous portion of the disc. It can be pushed outward when compressive forces are applied to the spinal column. As the body changes positions, the discs change their shape constantly.

Over a lifetime, the disc can be damaged by acute injuries (car accidents, falls, etc.) or chronic problems (poor posture, incorrect body movements, etc.) which cause the outer annulus portion to weaken and eventually tear. When this occurs, the nucleus pulposis begins to bulge out, which may cause pressure on an adjacent nerve. This creates pain either in the direct area of the spine or along the path of the compressed nerve (i.e.: down the leg or into the groin region).

How to prevent low back pain: The key to low back pain is prevention. Smoking and obesity both are contributors to low back pain. A proper warm-up before exercise, along with a period of time for stretching after exercising will help to prevent injuries. Stretching and strengthening of the core (abdominal, lower back and oblique muscles) is essential for the prevention of low back pain. Always be aware of posture at work, as well as with every day activities in order to avoid injuries over time. Something as small as this can make a huge difference. Finally, make sure your back is in proper alignment. Chiropractic care can prevent arthritis from forming in the spine and prevents low back injuries, both acute and chronic.

Steven M. Horwitz, D.C., of the White Oak Chiropractic Center in Silver Spring, Maryland, is a graduate of both Cornell University and the National College of Chiropractic. He is certified as a Chiropractic Sports Physician, Strength and Conditioning Specialist, and Personal Fitness Trainer. He served as the chiropractor for the 1996 U.S. Olympic Team and was appointed by the Governor to the Maryland Council on Physical Fitness. Dr. Horwitz is the author of You Can Be Fit and is a popular guest on many radio programs. An avid athlete, he has run marathons and is a champion bodybuilder.

How To Ride Safe – Protect Your Back While Biking

When Riding a Bike, Protect Your Back

To reduce the risk of back strain, a bike must be set up properly for your body. Visit a bicycle shop where a professional can help you determine which bike is best for your frame. When purchasing a bike, there are four significant variables that must be addressed:

  • Correct frame size should leave at least one to two inches of space between the top bar and the rider’s crotch when the rider straddles the bike with both feet flat on the ground.
  • Seat height is right if the rider’s leg can almost straighten out completely when the pedal is at the bottom of its arc. When pedals are in the three and nine o’clock positions, the kneecap of the forward leg should be right over the pedal. If it’s not, slide the seat forward or back accordingly.
  • Seat position should be angled so that the front part is slightly upward.
  • Handlebars should be level with or just below the top of the seat. If you place your elbow against the tip of the saddle, the tips of your extended fingers should just touch the handlebar.

The type and quality of bike that you buy can matter a great deal. For example, a racing bicycle’s low-drop handlebars place greater strain on your back and neck, where as mountain bikes have straight handlebars that allow you to sit more upright, placing less strain on your back. Lean over in your chair, then sit back in a straighter position and you’ll see what we’re talking about. Plus, mountain bikes have fatter tires that absorb more shock and provide more cushion for the ride, a great way to care for bad backs.