Category Archives: Back Support Blog

Making Sense of Herniated Discs

What is a Herniated Disc?

by Sue Sarko

Why are spinal discs so important? Often, in fact 80% of the time, back pain problems stem from the spinal discs. Discs are extremely important, because they play a central role with regard to the spine’s mobility as well as its stress capacity. Discs are what allow us to twist, turn, bend and move. They provide us with our flexibility, and also act as shock absorbers for the spine’s vertebrae.

How does a disc herniation occur and what are its symptoms? Under stress, the inner material of the disc may swell, pushing through its tough outer membrane. All or part of the disc’s core actually protrudes through that outer membrane which, in turn, causes pressure around the surrounding nerves. This can cause quite a bit of pain. Symptoms, however, vary depending on the location and the extent to which the disc material is protruding. Often times, the pain can cause difficulty walking. If the sciatic nerve is involved, pain in the thigh and lower leg may occur. Something as simple as a sneeze, for example, might send pain shooting down the leg into the calf and ankle area. Disc herniations most commonly target men under the age of 50. They almost always occur in the lumbar, or lower spine area. Very rarely (about 10% of the time) are herniated discs seen in the neck and shoulder area.

My Aching Neck!

Neck Pain Stats and Help

by Sue Sarko
Millions of Americans suffer from chronic neck, shoulder and upper-back pain. Usually the problems start with an attack of muscle tension across the shoulders or along the sides and back of the neck. Over time, the tiniest strain can trigger a painful spasm. Sleeping in an awkward position can make matters worse. If your pillow isn’t right, morning stiffness sounds the alarm.Improper sleep postures and stress due to uncontrolled movement of the cervical spine (the segment of the spine that is located in the neck area) can lead to a condition known as Plastid Deformation, a result of prolonged stretching of the connective soft tissues of the neck. Such stretching may ultimately result in improper alignment of the vertebrae of the cervical spine.

The neck is a network of muscles, ligaments, bone and cartilage. During sleep, muscles and ligaments relax and the cervical spine, if left unsupported, is under attack. Stress, in the form of poorly controlled movement and improperly supported sleeping positions can cause a person to awaken tired and sore.

Here are some compelling statistics: Research suggests that 80 million people in the U.S. and Canada will suffer from neck pain this year, of which 30 million will suffer with chronic neck pain at any given time. 34.4% of the adult population suffer with neck pain and associated headaches any given year. 13.5% of adult women and 9.5% of adult men suffer with chronic neck pain at any given time.

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.

Pillow Talk

Talking About Bed Pillows

Contributed By AJ Smith
Let’s have a little pillow talk. When was the last time you paid a little attention to your pillow? You probably haven’t even thought about it beyond washing the pillow case. But just like you change your toothbrush occasionally, so should your change your pillow. Try these suggestions:

  • Do you know the average head weighs between ten and twelve pounds? Make sure your pillow is well made with quality materials so your head will be properly supported during eight hours of sleep.
  • The natural curve of your neck must be supported and allow the spine to remain in alignment. A good pillow can help relieve an array of ailments, like stiff necks, aching shoulders and even snoring. Make sure your pillow is up to the job.
  • Your pillow needs to be high enough to support the space between your head, shoulder and the bed when you are sleeping on your side. When side sleeping, use a pillow between the knees to align the hips and reduce pressure points.
  • Dust mites thrive in warm environments. Make sure your air out your bed and pillow each day. You might even want to try an anti-microbial pillow case.
  • For rest, relaxation and comfort, don’t use a pillow that’s too thin or stack too many pillows together. Find a pillow that supports you without going flat or losing its shape.

Preventing Back Problems Through Proper Posture

Preventing Back Problems

Over 95% of adults exhibit poor posture practices through forward head carrying and rounded shoulders. Sooner or later, most are likely to develop physical problems as a result. Postural misalignment is a soft-tissue/ muscle problem, not a bone problem, as is commonly thought. Muscles dictate where bones go and also have the ability to hold the bones in place. So when the spine is out of alignment, muscles must work harder to keep the body functioning, which can in turn, cause overuse, strain, stiffness and pain. Whether back pain problems are a direct result of poor posture or not, (often times they are) back pain sufferers can almost always benefit from polishing up their postural habits. Proper posture is also a terrific way to prevent back problems from occurring in the first place.

During proper posture, the neck should support the head, keeping it aligned with the rest of the spine in balanced posture. Shoulder blades should be level, as should the hips and buttocks. The pelvis should be tilted forward slightly. During proper standing posture, a line dropped from the ear will pass through the shoulder joint, the middle of the hip, just behind the knee and in front of the ankle.

The neck has a slight natural curve, and the lower back, or lumbar area has two curves as well. Proper posture preserves all three curves in their natural state. In fact, when the spine is supported in this fashion, it is self-sufficient, and requires very little help from the surrounding back muscles. That said, it is easy to understand how poor posture can cause muscle strain, soreness and backaches.

Correct posture is important regardless of your body’s position – standing, sitting or lying down. When sitting down, be certain that the three naturally occurring spinal curves are maintained. When lying down, the spine must be kept in proper alignment. It is important to avoid propping the head with an arm or extra pillows. Propping will almost certainly throw your body out of alignment.

Simple Tips For Relieving Stress

Everyone Can Use these Simple Tips for Relieving Stress

People with chronic illnesses or chronic pain need to learn to manage stress. Here are some simple tips for reducing everyday stress from the experts at the National Multiple Sclerosis Society:

  • Simplify your life. Relax a few of your standards. In other words, let the grass grow.
  • Plan ahead in situations that could cause stress. For example, if you expect to be in a situation in which you’ll have to be waiting, take a book with you.
  • Make plans for extra sleep before family gatherings or important events.
  • Learn to say no.
  • If old interests and activities become more difficult or too time consuming, replace them with new ones that fit your current needs.
  • Do the unpleasant things early in the day so that you don’t have to worry about them.
  • Don’t try to answer the phone on the first ring. Let it ring. Consider buying an answering machine.
  • Schedule rest periods. Knowing that you are going to rest on a regular basis can stop you from feeling guilty about not completing a task.
  • Learn to revise time schedules. If you told a friend you would meet at noon, and are running late, is there any reason the appointment can’t be changed to one? Finally, work toward the award for “Has the Best Sense of Humor.” It never hurts to be able to laugh at yourself.

Sleep Solutions : How Sleep Changes With Age

Sleep Changes as We Age

Written by: Sue Sarko
The individual amount of sleep needed each night does not change with age, but the amount of sleep that people actually get does. Starting at about the age of 40, the amount of sleep that the average person gets decreases by about half an hour per decade. People over age 60 typically sleep an average of only 5 hours per night, but it’s the ability to sleep that diminishes, not the need. Older people tend to have a more difficult time maintaining sleep, but falling asleep does not seem to be a problem. A healthy sleep cycle consists of three phases. We progress from light sleep to deep sleep to rapid eye movement, (REM), when dreaming takes place. This cycle repeats itself throughout the night every 90 minutes, but in older people, the amount of deep and REM sleep drops dramatically and the amount of light, easily disturbed sleep increases. Add to this the fact that older people are also more likely to have health problems that interfere with their ability to sleep, and it’s easy to see why this can be a problem.All of that said, listed below are some simple things that can be done to counteract this phenomenon:

  • Avoid evening exercise. Try to get your work out in by 4 p.m. so that your system has time to settle down before bed.
  • Stay away from caffeine at least six hours before bed.
  • Avoid alcohol in the evening. The effects may help you to fall asleep faster, but you’ll have a harder time staying asleep as the night goes on.
  • Try to finish drinking liquids at least one hour before bed.
  • Block out disturbances by closing curtains and wearing a sleep mask.
  • Maintain a comfortable room temperature.
  • Consider using a white noise device.
  • Try to get outdoors during the midday. This will help to keep your internal clock on schedule.
  • Make sure that your sleeping surface supports your body in it’s proper anatomical position. You want a pillow and mattress or mattress overlay (quality foam mattress Topper) that mirrors your body’s natural curves.