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  • Writer's pictureDr Jeff Garofalo

Three Spinal Tips to Prevent Neck and Back Pain.

As always please contact your healthcare provider before doing anything suggested in this blog to make sure you are healthy to perform any of these exercises or therapies.

Don’t fix what isn’t broke is the phrase I hear all the time in the office. Okay let’s go with it for a moment and maybe make it just a touch better and say let’s prevent your spine from breaking in the first place. That is called preventative maintenance, and usually will keep your back healthier by doing something pro-active instead of reactive.

Let me give you three tips to prevent your back from getting into a bind in the future.

Tip 1. Stretch at least 3 times per week both your neck and you lower back

People ask me all the time why their spines go out of alignment and the answer is because you are designed to move, but you don’t always move correctly and as a result muscles tighten and shorten, and they will pull the bones out of alignment more frequently. If you will stretch at least three times per week you can hold your spine in alignment longer and prevent your neck and back from breaking down and causing pain.

Neck Stretch: Stand or sit tall with your nose level to the ground and your shoulders rolled back. Take one arm and bring it over your head with your hand on the side of your face. Slowly tilt your head to one side and feel your neck muscles stretch. Hold for a count of 30 seconds and then perform the same for the other side.

Low Back Stretch: Sit on a chair and bend one leg over the other. Put one hand on your ankle and the other on your knee. Sit tall and slowly lean forward where you should feel a stretch in the top and middle of your rear end. You are stretching the piriformis muscle which will help keep your hips in alignment. You then want to switch legs and stretch the other piriformis muscle.

Tip 2. Ice or heat that is the question!

My general rule is that if the neck or back injury is a brand new hurt yourself injury than you need to ice right away as that will take down the inflammation and pain.

If the neck or back pain has been there before and it keeps re-occurring, then you need to do a combination of heat and ice. I recommend that you do moist heat for 10-15 minutes either hot shower, bath or hot towel and then use ice right after for another 10-15 minutes. This is called contrast therapy and helps first relax the muscles that might be tight and in spasm and then the ice will calm the inflammation and pain down. I don’t recommend you use a heating pad because that heat is superficial and brings all the blood to the surface of the skin where you will dehydrate the deep joints and cause future pain. By using moist heat, the water will drive into the skin and move deep into the joint relaxing muscles and bringing just enough healing blood into the joints.

Tip 3. Work on the Curve of Your Neck it will Save Your Entire Back

The neck should be in the shape of a banana with the open side pointing to your rear end. When you have a curve, it puts the bones in place from neck to rear end creating a healthy and normal spine. The problem with our necks and backs begins when we start to lose the curve in our necks. This causes the bones to unlock from top to bottom and creates damage in the muscles, ligaments, joints, discs, and finally the nerves. We lose our curves in our necks by looking down often and not working on creating the curve in the neck. To counter the effects of loss of curve in the neck I recommend you daily build the curve back. Now those in my practice should be doing your specific exercises with our spinal specific exercise equipment to build back the curve. Those that aren’t patients can roll up a towel and put it under your neck so that the back of your head rolls over it and touches the ground in a nice curve and hold for 5 minutes daily. This will help prevent the loss of the curve and keep your neck and back healthy.

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Dr. Jeffrey Garofalo is the Clinic Director of the Midwest Disc Clinic in Shipshewana In. He has been practicing chiropractic for 20 years and has helped thousands of spine sufferers feel better non-surgically.

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