5 Habits for Spinal Self Care
As a chiropractic clinic, we believe in the power of keeping your spine healthy. With thousands of nerves connecting to your spinal cord and from your tail bone all the way to your brain, your back and spine are massive components in your nervous system, which transmits signals between your brain and different parts of the body.
Needless to say, if your spine isn’t in proper alignment, it can cause problems such as:
- pain in lower back, neck, knees or hips
- excessive fatigue
- numbness or tingling in the hands or feet
If you feel like you’re experiencing these types of problems, it’s probably time for you to call a chiropractor. But if you’re in between visits or simply want to form good habits for a healthy spine, here are five habits that can help your spine feel great:
One of the best ways to keep your spine healthy is to stretch every day. Simple stretching for 2 minutes a day can do wonders for your back and your whole body. Here are some simple ones to try, holding each pose for about 10 seconds.
- Toe Touch – Bend forward and touch your toes (or as far down as you reasonably can reach)
- Standing Quad Stretch – Stand straight and tall and pull your right foot up behind you and hold. Feel the stretch through the front of your leg. Switch.
- Seated Twist – Sit on the floor with your legs extended straight in front of you. Bend your right knee, and reach over with your left arm to hug it. You can even place your left elbow on the outside of your right leg. Feel the stretch in your right glute and your back. Hold for 10 seconds and switch.
For more stretching ideas, check out this 10-minute daily stretching sequence from FitBit.
If you sit in an office chair all day and then go home and sit on the couch to watch TV, you might notice your back feeling tight. Interestingly, rest isn’t always good for your back, and too much inactivity can cause muscle weakness that leads to strained muscles and pain. If your back is in good shape, exercise can help keep your back muscles limber and flexible. Look for exercises that engage your core. Strengthening your back and abdominal muscles will help keep your spine healthy and strong.
Sit and Stand Tall
Having improper posture can make it hard for your spine to stay in proper alignment because it increases the stress on the ligaments holding the joints of your spine together. Unfortunately, many of us have never had great posture, so our muscles aren’t accustomed to holding up our torsos correctly.
At your desk, sit all the way back in your chair and put a small cushion or even a rolled-up towel behind your lower-mid back. This is to support the natural bend in your spine. Make sure your knees are level with your hips or even a bit higher. Your feet should be able to rest flat on the floor. Make sure your arm rests are at the appropriate height so your shoulders stay low at the proper position.
When standing, keep your back straight as if someone was pulling your hair or you were balancing a bottle on your head. Tuck in your chin, and keep your shoulders back. Keep your hips directly below your torso. Over time, you should begin to notice a difference in your posture. Your spine will thank you!
We should all spend about 8 hours asleep every night, but if you’re sleeping in an unhealthy position for your spine, that means that you’re risking improper alignment for a third of each day.
If you sleep on your stomach, your spine is misaligned from your neck down. Try to sleep on your back, maybe with a pillow placed under your knees. The next best option is to sleep on your side; you can place the pillow between your knees.
If you’re experiencing back pain alongside anxiety, there may be good reason for that. Similar to poor posture, anxiety often causes your muscles to tense. Maybe you notice you’re holding your shoulders too high; alongside back pain, this type of physical stress can cause tension headaches.
Instead of allowing your anxiety to affect your back, treat the root issue. Practice simple breathing exercises like 4-7-8. Inhale for a count of 4 through your nose; hold it in for a count of 7; and exhale for a count of 8 through your mouth.
Keep your spine healthy and strong by practicing these five steps. If you want to jumpstart your results, see a chiropractor at Tuck Clinic for relief from back pain. You might not get it right away, but by building healthy habits, your spine is sure to thank you for it.
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At-Home Self-Care Part 1: 3 Ways to Control Inflammation
Pain may sometimes feel like a difficult thing to overcome, but when you have the right resources to support you, the outcomes speak for themselves. We’re kicking off our spinal self-care series to empower our patients to take their treatments a step further at home. We can help you in the clinic, but at the end of the day, it’s up to you to create habits that help you heal. Let’s begin with exploring how to control inflammation.
When it comes to identifying the source of pain at its core, it’s often a result of inflammation. Inflammation is your body’s response to damaged cells, irritation and strain, and pathogens. When activated in the body tissues, muscles and joints can experience swelling. Chronic inflammation can also result in wearing down of cartilage between your bones, causing long-term chronic pain.
One of the most important steps to reducing pain is controlling inflammation. Let’s talk about the three steps you can reduce pain at home.
1. Choose Ice Over Heat
While a heating pad may be the first thing you reach for when you experience pain because of the temporary relief it brings, heat can actually worsen your inflammation because it increases blood flow to the area. If you do choose to heat your back, you should always follow up with ice to dull the pain and reduce swelling.
When applying ice to an injured lower back, make sure the ice pack is wrapped in a thin towel to avoid direct skin contact. Apply ice for 20 minutes and take a 40 minute break before reapplying to avoid damaging your skin and keep the ice pack cool enough to be effective. Ice is most effective in the first 72 hours after an injury, but can also provide relief of soreness after a treatment or physical activity.
2. Modify your Activity Levels
It’s likely you know what strains your back and what doesn’t. Whenever possible, avoid or modify activities that are known to increase your pain. Try not to spend too much time sitting or standing and avoid lifting. If you’re unsure about what to avoid, your chiropractor can give you tips.
Bedrest can be tempting when you’re experiencing chronic pain, but laying around can lead to improper positioning of your back. While it may provide temporary relief, avoiding movement can continue to weaken your back and lead to an extended healing process.
3. Consider Active Rest
“Active rest” may sound like a confusing concept, but balancing your rest with light activity is the key to recovery. Consider limiting high impact movements and exercises that could worsen your injury. Rest is important, but some maintaining some amount of exercise is necessary to help things return to normal.
Low impact aerobic exercises and stretching are great ways to release pain-killing endorphins and pump nutrients into injured tissues. Low impact exercises include swimming, using an elliptical or stationery bike, or walking. If you find that your back is still feeling strained after these activities, try to find something new.
We’ll talk more about therapeutic stretches and exercises that can help you strengthen your muscles on your own time later in this at-home self-care series. These methods, paired with regular chiropractic adjustments can have you well on your way to healing and living a better life.
If you’re ready to take control of your spinal self-care, the doctors at Tuck Chiropractic would love to help you on your journey! Schedule an appointment today.
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The Serious Effects of Stress on our Bodies
As we become ever more connected through technology, zipping around in cars and tapping away at our phones, we’ve become busier and busier. “Society as a whole is completely stressed out,” says Dr. Anna Flynn. “We have a schedule that prescribes what we do from the moment we wake up to the moment we go to bed.”
And oftentimes we bear this stress day in and day out, and except for a week-long vacation at the beach once a year, never take time to recuperate and recover from that daily stress.
As Dr. Flynn explains, there are three kinds of stress that manifest themselves in our minds and bodies.
Physical stress is related to your body. If you sit at a desk, drive, or stand all day, or do a job that requires you to lift heavy items, your body is under physical stress. Any of these activities can put a strain on your neck, lower, and upper back.
Chemical stressors are the things in the environment like harmful fragrances or unclean air that we breathe in or things we consume, such as processed foods, artificial sweeteners, sugar, and alcohol in excess.
Even if you haven’t noticed the first two types of stress in your life, most people can relate to emotional stress. You experience this type of stress if you’re too busy running from one place to the next, especially common now in the holiday season, as well as from a toxic work or home environment.
A Never-ending Loop
“All three types of stress are equally bad, and they can all cause damage to our overall well-being,” says Dr. Flynn. “And our bodies cannot differentiate the differences between them and simply perceive all of them as stress.”
Stress is a normal physiological response designed to keep you safe in the event of a perceived danger. So when you have a perceived stress, a signal from your brain is sent to stimulate our stress hormone (like cortisol) to be released. When the hormones are released, it causes our heart rate and blood pressure to increase, readying us for the “perceived danger.”
“Where the disconnect is,” says Dr. Flynn, “is that so many people have multiple layers of stress in their lives that this loop never gets turned off. Eventually it starts to take a toll on your health.”
The Physical Signs of Stress
Ongoing stress like this can result in negative effects on different systems in your body:
- Nervous system/muskuloskeletal: muscle tension, tightness in back/spine, neck stiffness, and back and neck pain
- Cardiovascular: high blood pressure and abnormal heart rhythms
- Gastrointestinal: such as GERD, gastritis, ulcerative colitis, and irritable colon
- Mental health: depression, anxiety, and eating disorders
- Skin and hair: acne, psoriasis, eczema, and permanent hair loss
- Gastrointestinal: GERD, gastritis, ulcerative colitis, and irritable colon
“As chiropractors, we understand that all of these systems are connected with one another,” says Dr. Flynn. “And oftentimes it’s the neck and back pain that keeps us from engaging in healthy behaviors like sleeping well and exercising regularly.”
Chiropractic adjustments release muscle tension, realign your spine, and improve blood circulation, all things that help your brain turn off its stress response. Plus not having that nagging pain in your back can certainly help your body return to a more relaxed state.
If you’re experiencing some of these physical effects of stress, the chiropractors at Tuck Clinic can help you get back to feeling better so you can live better.
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Tips to Avoid Pain on the River
Biking and hiking are some of the most popular outdoor activities that we get to enjoy in Southwest Virginia, but we feel there’s one outdoor activity that may be overlooked: kayaking or canoeing!
Our area is lucky to have a wide variety of rivers and creeks that active outdoor lovers can enjoy. Because kayaking is typically a more relaxed sport, sometimes we can unconsciously injure ourselves in the process. Here are a few quick tips to avoid pain after a river float.
Our number one piece of advice when spending a day out on the river is to stay hydrated! Although many people like to pair their floats with a cold beer, it’s important to drink even more water.
Sitting out in the sun all day can easily dehydrate even the biggest water drinkers. Hydration is key to protecting the discs in your spine and making sure you don’t feel groggy and worn out the next day. You should increase your water intake from the recommended minimum of 64 ounces a day to counteract the heat and sun.
Protect Your Lower Back
Let’s be honest. Kayaks and canoes aren’t made to be the most supportive or back-friendly. In fact, most canoes don’t even have backs to their seats. It’s important to maintain good posture when spending hours in your boat. If you find yourself slumping in your seat or leaning forward while paddling, make sure you straighten up.
A padded seat or cushion can help provide extra support and comfort. If your kayak doesn’t come with a supportive seat built in, purchase a cushion for it!
Strengthen Your Core and Torso
Whether you’re on a swift moving or lazy river, constant paddling throughout the day can take a toll on your upper body and core. Many people find their shoulders, arms, and stomach are sore after a full day of rowing.
Make sure you’re using a proper paddling technique to reduce the strain on your arms. It’s best to have your two paddles slightly off center from each other. Most paddles will let you tilt them to three different degrees. While paddling, maintain good posture and use your torso to do the work by rotating slightly, taking the pressure off of your arms. The stronger your torso, the less pain you’ll be in afterward so do your best to focus on these areas when exercising if you’re an avid paddler.
Ready to get out on the blueways of Southwest Virginia? Check out this handy guide on your options from Visit Virginia’s Blue Ridge!
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Dr. Tuck is Elected President of the Virginia Board of Medicine
One of the ways Tuck Chiropractic leadership strives to provide quality, patient-centered care is by supporting the progress of the healthcare community at large. Having a voice on a multi-disciplinary platform that focuses on better care for all is just one of the many ways we make that happen.
Tuck’s History on the Virginia Board of Medicine
In 2017, Dr. Tuck was appointed to the Virginia Board of Medicine by Governor Terry McAuliffe for a second, four-year term. While serving on this board, Tuck has collaborated with 17 other board members across medical disciplines to oversee competent patient care through licensing of healthcare professionals, guiding and enforcing standards of practice, and educating practitioners and the public on important health care matters.
New Heights in Leadership
In 2018, he served as the Vice President of the Board. In 2019, he has been elected to lead as President of the Board!
We couldn’t be more proud of all of the hard work Dr. Tuck puts in to making sure tomorrow has a better health care environment than today. Dr. Tuck will be representing the unique non-pharmacological approach to medicine as a chiropractor. We look forward to seeing the impact he can make on initiatives like the opioid epidemic and integrated care models.
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10-Second Exercises to Improve Posture
Bad posture can be a main source of pain in the neck, shoulders, and upper back. Our doctors enjoy educating their patients about the importance of exercising to improve posture. It’s not about good or bad posture, but more about meeting the patient’s needs. Here are a couple of easy tips that you can do to work towards improving your posture.
Standing Wall Exercise
- Starting in a standing position, lift your leg off of the ground. Keep your knee bent at a 90 degree angle.
- Lift your leg up to be in line with your hip.
- Hold for 10 seconds (or as long as you can).
- Switch legs and repeat.
90 Degree Standing Leg Lift
- Start with your back against the wall.
- While resting your back on the wall, move your feet away from the wall about 8 inches. Keep feet shoulder width apart.
- Close the space between your back and the wall by moving your belly button towards the wall.
- Hold for 10 seconds and repeat.
Both of these quick and easy exercises are designed to improve your core strength. A strong core can help prevent slouching which causes strain on the lower back.
If you’re looking to improve your posture try out these 10 second exercises! If you want to schedule an appointment with one of our chiropractors for more therapeutic and strengthening doctors, we’re here to help!
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Planes, Trains, and Automobiles: Pain-Free Traveling
Do you know what’s worse than needing a vacation? Being in pain on your vacation because you injured your back on the way to your destination!
Depending on your mode of transportation, our backs usually bear most of the pressure of traveling. Here are a few tips to help alleviate the pain of traveling, and how to it from beginning.
Get Comfortable Immediately
If you’re not in a rush to get going, take the time to plan out how you will be sitting. Make sure that your body is comfortable before your vehicle, airplane, or train starts moving. Starting off in a good position will prevent any immediate trigger of pain.
Some modes of transportation may make moving a little more difficult than others. For example, there are moments when you need to remain seated on a plane to keep yourself and fellow passengers safe. However, you should always take advantage of the moments when you are permitted to get up and move around. Even if it’s just to stand in line for the bathroom.
Trains, on the other hand, let you move about freely. So get up whenever you feel your muscles starting to tense. And when you’re driving, stop as frequently as possible to stretch out those lower back muscles. And if you can’t stand, check out these seated stretches you can do between stops (or traffic back-ups).
Bring Back Support
Lumbar pillows, rolled up towels, and footrests can be your best friend when traveling.
Preventing back pain is all about posture and supporting your spine. If your legs are not positioned at a right angle when you’re siting on an airplane, ask for something to use as a foot rest to keep your feet propped up and your knees bent at a 90-degree angle. This positioning keeps stress off the lower back. When it comes to lumbar pillows, sit them at the base of your lower back to take some of the pressure off your spine and prevent strain. If you forgot to bring a pillow, a rolled up towel or item of clothing will suffice.
Sometimes we get so caught up in the details of our travel plans that we forget to check in on our bodies. Consider adding “comfort” to your traveling checklist and have fun this vacation season!
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Staff Spotlight: Jeri Plott
For seven years, Jeri Plott visited our Bedford clinic to seek care from Dr. A.J. LaBarbera for general back pain. Fast forward to today, Jeri has been working as a Chiropractic Assistant for Tuck Chiropractic for 9 years!
Formerly a X-Ray and Sonogram Technician, Jeri really liked the idea of having the opportunity to get to know her patients instead of taking a scan and sending them on their way. She first joined the Bedford clinic and transferred to our Botetourt location to work with Dr. Anna Flynn two years ago.
“The difference is that I would see that patient one time and never see them again,” says Jeri. “Here, I build a relationship with the patient that come in here. I can see their improvement on the pain that they’re being treated for.”
Each day, Jeri supports our patients and doctors by assisting patients with their consultation and paperwork. She also helps patients with electrical stimulation or ultrasound therapies before their adjustment and enters patient notes so that the doctors are fully prepared to care for each patient.
Her favorite part of the work day is when she sees her patients smiling.
“When they say they’re happy to come in here, that’s awesome to hear!” says Jeri. “When they say you guys treat us like family, that’s hitting one of my main goals: to make them feel comfortable.”
Jeri believes it’s Tuck Chiropractic’s culture focusing on patient centered care that makes all the difference. Our chiropractic assistants and doctors work hard to see patients on the day they need to be seen, not in a few weeks after their injury.
“Patients are really surprised when we’re able to get them in that quickly.”
Beyond the focus on our patients, Jeri also appreciates the emphasis on employee support that the leadership provides. After almost a decade at Tuck, she’s witnessed many changes in the organization that better support the workload and workflow of each clinic and their employees.
To top it all off, Jeri says she has a great doctor to support: “I work with Dr. Anna Flynn. One day we were talking to another doctor and just looked at each other like – ‘We make such a great team!'”
Jeri would recommend any of the doctors at Tuck Chiropractic to help you work through your pain. Whenever asked about whether someone should make that first appointment, she advises patients to at least come in and consult with a doctor to see if they can help. In the end, it will help your overall wellness and resistance from injury.
Beyond the walls of the clinic, Jeri enjoys family life with her husband, 3 children, and 2 grandchildren. (It will be 3 in June!) She loves antiquing and making and decorating cakes in her free time!
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Bike Where You Live: New River Valley
Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past few years, you may have noticed that biking has taken hold of the outdoor culture of Southwest Virginia. Recently named “America’s East Coast Mountain Biking Capital“, Virginia’s Blue Ridge is the perfect place to take your fitness routine outside.
The doctors at Tuck Chiropractic Clinic aren’t immune to the hype. In fact, we recently got the chance to swap biking stories at a full-team training event. Now, we’ve decided to share some of our favorites starting with biking options in the New River Valley!
Biking in the New River Valley
Dr. Lee Matthis is the resident biking expert in the New River Valley. After treating the Virginia Tech Cycling team for 5 years, he decided to explore the world of endurance cycling for himself.
“There’s something about being out there by yourself, with the wind going past your ears. It helps you brush out the cobwebs physically and mentally,” reflects Matthis. “You get the runners high without the impact you put on your body from running.”
The natural geography of the New River Valley makes it ideal for all kinds of road and mountain biking. It doesn’t hurt that the beautiful scenery is endless.
Family Friendly Bike Trails
Ellett Valley Recreation Trail runs from Christiansburg to Blacksburg and is an ideal road for anyone to ride because it’s flat. Taking Luster’s Gate Road, you can ride from one side of the Valley to the other with low traffic. Length: 4-5 miles.
Huckleberry Trail is another great place for families to ride. It’s a foot and cycling path that runs from Blacksburg to Christiansburg and was recently expanded to pass over Pepper’s Ferry Road by the mall. It’s great for casual cyclers.
The Wilderness Road Ride is a popular event hosted by the local chapter of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. It provides another opportunity for family friendly biking in the New River Valley. Trails vary between 5 miles through Bissett Park to 100 miles depending on your level of commitment.
Endurance Biking Options
If you’re looking to take your solo biking up a notch, there are plenty of challenging options in the New River Valley area.
The Mountains of Misery is an annual bike event that is as challenging as it sounds. While there isn’t an event in 2019, we hope the event will return for 2020. The ride is over 100 miles long with 11,000 feet of total elevation gain. We hope you like hills!
Another extended bike event falls on Move-In Weekend at Virginia Tech. As the roads fill up with students, bikers take to the hills for a 100 mile bike run. The trail takes you through the Burke’s Garden Century route with a mixture of flat and mountainous road.
Whether you’re looking for a light, easy bike ride or a more endurance focused challenge, the possibilities are endless in the New River Valley. You may even spot Dr. Matthis getting his cardio in with his family one weekend!
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How Does Chiropractic Care Fit Into Holistic Wellness?
At it’s heart, chiropractic care seeks to provide healing from the inside out with non-invasive methods and no chemicals. Through manual adjustments and supplemental therapies, chiropractic care can reduce pain and inflammation throughout the body using only what the body already possesses to heal.
Because of these unique methods, many people use “alternative medicine” to describe chiropractic care, but we prefer to look at it as part of a holistic approach that should be integrated with other methods of care.
What is Holistic Health and How Does Chiropractic Contribute?
Holistic medicine, by definition, is a “form of healing that considers the whole person — body, mind, spirit, and emotions — in the quest for optimal health and wellness.”
By treating the person as a whole, instead of just focusing on a single ailment or body system, the individual should be able to achieve optimal health. Holistic healthcare follows a special set of beliefs about health and wellness of the human body:
- People have innate healing powers – pharmacological methods are not always needed.
- You should treat the person, not the disease – focusing on the disease limits the scope of healing.
- Treatment should fix the root of the problem, not just the symptom.
- Healing should take a team approach.
These are all tenets that the chiropractors at Tuck Chiropractic Clinic stand by.
What Other Holistic Methods Can Supplement Chiropractic?
Expanding on the concept of a team approach, one discipline of healthcare should never work in a silo. We have long advocated for an integrated care model centered around the patient’s individual needs. We work with primary care practitioners, physical therapists, neurosurgeons, and many more doctors – but our collaboration doesn’t stop there. Coordinating care with other methods of holistic health can take the benefits of chiropractic care even further.
Many of our doctors supplement their care with holistic techniques like acupuncture or dry needling, massage therapy, and manual stretching. They provide diet and fitness counseling that can further their healing. We can even help you discover homeopathic or naturopathic solutions to help patients take control of their holistic health at home.
The combination of all of these different methods of care and wellness can contribute to the holistic health of the individual – from reducing stress to healing pain, to improving gut health – we’re here to help. Start on the path of holistic wellness with a consultation at a Tuck Chiropractic Clinic near you.
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