Spinal Arthritis and Back Pain: Causes, Symptoms, and Effective Treatments

Ever notice you have feelings of pain and stiffness in your lower back and hips, especially after periods of inactivity? How about neck pain and fatigue? This combination of pain could be an indicator of a more serious and chronic condition, spinal arthritis

While the name alone is jarring, the condition is very treatable. It’s important though, to completely understand what spinal arthritis is, and get an accurate diagnosis. Let’s start off with a working understanding: spinal arthritis is an inflammatory condition that mainly affects the spine, although other joints may also be affected. The symptoms can be unpredictable: they might get worse, improve, or even stop altogether. The good news: the symptoms that are causing you so much pain and discomfort can be effectively managed. 

So what happens when spinal arthritis strikes? Who is most likely to get it…and most importantly, what you can do to ease your symptoms?

A Closer Look Spinal Arthritis

Also known as ankylosing spondylitis, spinal arthritis causes inflammation of the spinal joints (vertebrae) that can lead to severe, chronic pain and discomfort. Because spinal arthritis can sometimes cause the vertebrae to fuse together, patients suffering from spinal arthritis sometimes walk with a noticeable, hunched-over posture.

Spinal arthritis affects men more often than women, with symptoms typically starting in early adulthood. While spinal arthritis has no cure, treatments can ease your symptoms and slow the progression of the disease.

The areas most commonly affected by spinal arthritis are:

  • Hip and shoulder joints
  • The joint between the base of your spine and your pelvis (sacroiliac)
  • Vertebrae in your lower back
  • Places where your tendons and ligaments attach to bones (entheses), especially in your spine
  • The cartilage between your breastbone and ribs

Causes, Complications and Risk Factors of Spinal Arthritis

The origins of spinal arthritis are somewhat mysterious; there is no known, specific cause. However, we know genetics play a role, and people who have a gene called HLA-B27 have a higher risk of developing ankylosing spondylitis.

In cases of severe spinal arthritis, the body’s attempt to heal actually results in a new bone-forming. Slowly, this new bone bridges the gap between vertebrae and eventually fuses entire sections together. Those parts of your spine become stiff and inflexible. 

Additional complications may include:

  • Eye inflammation (uveitis): rapid-onset eye pain, sensitivity to light, and blurred vision are hallmarks of uveitis. 
  • Compression fractures: during the early stages of ankylosing spondylitis, it’s possible your bones may thin causing vertebrae to crumble and making stooped posture more pronounced. 
  • Heart problems: ankylosing spondylitis can cause an inflamed aorta, enlarging it, and distorting the shape of the heart’s aortic valve, which impairs its function.

When Should You Seek Medical Treatment?

If you have low back or buttock pain that came on slowly, gets worse in the morning, or awakens you from your sleep in the second half of the night, it’s wise to consult a medical professional. 

In general, you should always see a doctor when symptoms start affecting your daily living. Planning life around your symptoms, putting activities on hold, or sitting on the sidelines due to pain are clear indicators it’s time to make an appointment. Don’t try to navigate your symptoms on your own.

Chiropractic Care for Ankylosing Spondylitis

Chiropractic manipulation often provides excellent relief from the symptoms that are causing you pain and discomfort. (Keep in mind that chiropractic manipulation should be limited to the non-acute inflammatory stage of spinal arthritis, so as not to injure any connective tissue.)

Because chiropractic care focuses on each patient’s individual circumstances and medical history, every treatment plan looks a little different. However, in addition to targeted chiropractic adjustments, exercise is often an integral part of an effective treatment plan for ankylosing spondylitis. Simple activities such as body extensions, range-of-movement, and stretching exercises can produce powerful results for many patients.

Finally, because chiropractic treatment does not include medication, it can be safely combined with other treatments making chiropractic care treatment of choice for many arthritis patients.

Are you ready to finally find some relief from your back stiffness and pain? Make an appointment with us online or by calling our office at (626) 469-7478 to learn how we can create your customized treatment plan. 

This article is for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for in-person advice or care from a medical professional. For diagnosis and treatment of your specific condition, schedule an appointment with our office.


The Causes & Best Treatment For Piriformis Syndrome

Hip pain. Pain and numbness that runs down the back of the legs. Pain and tingling in the center of your butt. Pain. Pain. Pain! 

If you can relate to these symptoms, chances are you’ve been suffering from piriformis syndrome on some level. Though the symptoms can be highly uncomfortable and seemingly constant, there are some simple, at-home methods to help get your recovery process jump-started. Let’s dive in. 

What Is The Piriformis?

With symptoms that can range slightly in location, it’s important to understand what the piriformis is to better grasp its reach within the body. The piriformis is a band-like muscle that runs diagonally from the midline base of your spine to the outer hip bone. This means that the piriformis is responsible for any hip rotation and turning of your legs and feet. It helps us walk, stabilizes our movement, and overall helps us maintain balance and control of movement. In short, it’s a pretty well-used muscle–and one you’ll want to protect!

The tricky caveat to piriformis syndrome is its placement in relation to the sciatic nerve. The sciatic is a long nerve that travels through and under the piriformis muscle. It also runs down the back of the legs, and eventually branches off within the feet, making its extension delicately intertwined with the piriformis muscle.  Sounds complicated…is it?

The Significance of the Piriformis Muscle

The piriformis is a prime target for high-repetition injury. When it is overused without the proper recovery time, symptoms of piriformis syndrome can manifest in a couple of ways. The most common response is for the muscle to tighten substantially, causing compression of the sciatic nerve. This can cause highly uncomfortable spasming. Other symptoms of piriformis syndrome include pain around the outer hip bone, pain in the center of the glute, and pain that travels from the glute down the back of the leg. 

Because the piriformis is in such a high-use area, it’s fairly easy to succumb to at least some form of piriformis syndrome. Extended sitting, running, and intense exercises can all lead to some level of piriformis syndrome if you’re not careful. It’s important to understand how to best take care of this muscle in order to keep movement pain-free in the long-term.

How To Prevent Piriformis Syndrome

Of course, the best way to manage piriformis syndrome is to prevent it before it begins. Though it can be difficult to completely eliminate your chances of developing piriformis syndrome, it’s a worthwhile endeavor. Once the piriformis has experienced the previous injury, it becomes much easier for piriformis syndrome to become reoccurring or even chronic. 

Many instances of piriformis syndrome stem from overuse with poor form. When you’re running and exercising, be sure to practice good form and avoid uneven surfaces that may compromise your ability to hold a steady posture. Also, make sure that you have a substantial warm-up and cool-down routine to help your piriformis muscle ease in and out of intense activity. 

How To Relieve Piriformis Syndrome Pain

If you find that your pain increases with certain activities or with sitting, try changing your routine to counteract these previous habits. Many have also experienced relief by using ice or occasionally even heat on the affected area. 

There are also some great physical therapy exercises and stretches that, when performed regularly, can significantly help relieve the pain and discomfort that stems from piriformis syndrome. Be diligent in your use with these, and you could see real results. 

How Chiropractic Can Help Piriformis Syndrome

Consistent chiropractic treatment can offer significant relief to those suffering from piriformis syndrome. Between a combination of spinal and extremity adjustments, chiropractic care can help to take the pressure of overly tight areas, realign your body, and keep your nervous system functioning properly. When your spine is out of line, it has a more difficult time communicating properly with your entire body. Adjustments can help to keep your healing process on track.

By scheduling regular chiropractic care, you can help to keep your body’s response system in tip-top shape. Your chiropractor can also help prescribe the best at-home exercises to implement to quicken your recovery time. During the initial evaluation, we will go over your symptom history in detail and construct a treatment plan that you are completely comfortable with before moving forward. Don’t put off your healing; schedule an appointment online or call (626) 469-7478. 

This article is for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for in-person advice or care from a medical professional.


The Link Between Posture and Neck Pain and Headaches

You know the feeling— when you wake up, it’s the first thing to greet you. When you go to bed, it’s the last thing you think about. Small movements throughout the day act as reminders of its presence. Achiness and fatigue seem to dominate your waking hours. 

If you’re struggling neck and shoulder pain from poor posture, you know just how much havoc it can wreak on both your body and mind. Who would have guessed your parents were doing you a favor when they told you not to slouch? 

Posture not only affects the way your body feels in general but can also be a key contributor to some pretty nasty headaches along the way. The good news? This is totally treatable with the right conservative care. 

Your Posture And Pain: Neck And Shoulders

Though poor posture can certainly stem from chronic injury cycles, it can also arise from normal lifestyle choices. From labor-intensive jobs to desk jobs, you may be susceptible to poor posture if they aren’t mindful of your form. If you experience upper body tightness and neck strain after a long work week, you may want to look at your posture at work— and how you relax at home.

The tricky part is the symptoms from poor posture compound over time, slowly. If you find yourself with your head gazing down for long periods of time or slouched over – like at a computer or reading on a mobile device– this puts undue stress on your neck. The muscles, ligaments, and tendons within and around the neck can become strained and the pressure can lead to some wicked tension headaches. These headaches can feel dull and achy and often get worse when turning your head from side-to-side. In more severe cases, disc degeneration can even occur. 

Think about it this way: poor posture (also known as ergonomics) forces certain muscles in your neck and shoulders to overwork in an effort to compensate. And while one day of poor posture isn’t going to be too much of an issue, years upon years of it can actually cause some serious damage when left uncorrected. 

Proper Posture At Work

In general, most people with desk jobs struggle to maintain good posture throughout an entire workday and workweek. This is in a big part due to the fact that we were made to move, not to be as sedentary as some of these jobs seem to encourage. However, we know that the modern world makes a good amount of this work a necessity. So how can you ensure you have a healthy posture throughout your shift?

One main solution to this is quite simple: move. You just have to be intentional about it, as this usually isn’t built into the job description. What does this mean?  Take many small walk breaks. You can make these breaks as a lap to the bathroom, the water cooler, or to say hi to a co-worker. Take simple opportunities to move and use these moments as a chance to reset and check in on your current posture. We promise, the more you do this, the more habitual it will become. 

Depending on your office policy, you can also look into using a sit-to-stand desk. The subtle differences between sitting and standing have been known to not only help engage different muscles to maintain good posture but also boost productivity. Score!

How To Build Long-Term Proper Posture 

Maintaining good posture is a long-term game. Just like one day of poor posture won’t do you in, one day of good posture won’t correct years of doing it wrong. To reap the benefits from good posture, practice and consistency are key. 

Practice Proper Form And Ergonomics

Shoulders back and down. Head gazing straight ahead. Abdominals engaged. Lower back flat. Most of us know how to engage our bodies in proper posture, however, the trick is being mindful enough to maintain good form throughout our busy days, especially when we start to get tired. Practice proper form by bringing yourself back to the present during small movements throughout the day. For example, when you bend over to pick something off the ground, do you round your back and get a headrush when you stand back up? Or, do you squat, engaging your abdominals, while keeping your back straight? Psst: the correct answer is the latter. 

Consult With A Medical Professional

When you’re beginning a new health routine, it’s always best to consult with a medical professional first. Your practitioner can help make sure that there aren’t any bigger underlying issues at play that you may not see, and also help to customize your plan for you. That’s important! Each of us brings different health histories to the table, so a one-size-fits-all approach is never the answer when you’re looking for long-term health solutions. 

Stay Mobile – And, Get In A Routine

Again, we know that this one sounds simple, but it’s important! Our bodies were made to move – so use ‘em! Staying active in general will encourage mobility and grant many other health boons along the way. 

There are also some great, simple at-home exercises that you can employ to help encourage your posture. Again, your medical professional can help you figure out the best exercise routine to implement for where you’re at in your journey.

How Chiropractic Can Help Your Posture

Through the use of adjustments of the spine, neck, and extremities, chiropractic can help to realign the body and provide relief that can be so desperately needed to help correct poor posture and maintain good posture. Stiffness in one area of the body can affect so much more than just that one area! Chiropractic care can help not only address the pain points you may be experiencing from poor posture but also help give the rest of your body the attention that it also needs through this process.

These gentle adjustments help to decrease inflammation, relieve pressure, reduce nerve irritability, and ultimately allow your entire body to relax and allow healing to take place. By working consistent chiropractic care into your routine, you can help your body maintain better posture, therefore increasing your overall quality of life. That’s a huge win-win. Your practitioner can also help you work in appropriate at-home exercises to accelerate your progress outside of office hours.

Whether you’re looking to tackle your posture problems or are looking to get help proactively, chiropractic care can help. Schedule your appointment online or call (626) 469-7478.

This article is for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for in-person advice or care from a medical professional.

Woman Using Exercise Ball in Gym

Take Control Of Lower Back Pain With These 3 Exercises

If you’ve been plagued by lower back pain and discomfort, you’re not alone. An astonishing 80 percent of adults experience lower back pain at some point in their lives. Not to mention, it is also the leading cause of job-related disability and is cited as the number one reason for missed work time. For a condition that is so incredibly common, it seems that many people feel ill-equipped to manage their everyday symptoms. 

Perhaps an overarching issue with managing back pain is that the discomfort makes complete rest tempting, when in fact the real gains come from incorporating the right exercises into your routine. Certain movements can help to strengthen the muscles around the back to better support your spine and lower back in return. We’ve rounded up some of what we feel are the most effective and easily implemented exercises for lower back pain. Let’s get started.

Bird-Dog Repeats

This exercise is great to counteract lower back pain because it helps with balance and stabilization– two things that protect your back and counteract weakness along with the pain associated with it. 

To perform this exercise, start on your hands and knees and engage your core muscles. Lift and extend one leg directly behind you, holding for five seconds. Then, repeat this movement on the other leg. Continue to alternate legs and, when you are comfortable, start also extending the opposite arm at the same time as the leg. While you’re doing this exercise, be sure to keep your core engaged and your back flat. Be careful not to raise your limbs past a point where you can maintain control of your lower back positioning. Repeat this exercise 8 – 12 times within pain-free limits of motion. 

Wall Sits

Grab a friend and try some wall sits! This exercise can be a really fun challenge, and it just happens to be a great tool to help combat lower back pain. 

Lean back and flatten your back against a wall. Slowly slide down until your knees are partially bent, keeping your back against the wall and your core engaged. Hold this for about 10 seconds, then slide back up the wall for a break. When you’re ready for another repeat, slide back down and time yourself again. Repeat this 8-10 times.

This movement helps to strengthen both your core and your leg muscles, two systems that contribute to helping your spine and backstay protected and happy. This is a great exercise to keep in your routine even after back pain has passed.

Knee-To-Chest Movement

This one may sound simple, but it can pack so many benefits for your lower back! This light stretch can help coax some of the tight, spasming muscles around your back to unlock a bit. Trust us, that’s a very good thing! 

Start by lying on your back with both knees bent. Engage your core, and try to flatten your back toward the ground. Keeping your back flat on the ground, bring one knee up toward your torso; reach out with your hands, and give it a gentle pull toward your chest to deepen the stretch and hold for about five seconds. Slowly lower your leg back down, and repeat this with your other leg. 

Note: if you’re one of many people who is particularly tight and having difficulty with flexibility, you may find it challenging to reach out and grab your knee as you lift it. In this case, simply use a towel for assistance. Wrap the towel around the base of your knee and use the ends to gently pull your leg closer without compromising your lower back form. This is a common yoga move to help people advance through movements that they may struggle with at first.

Movements To Avoid 

Though the movement is good for your lower back, there are certain exercises that can exacerbate existing pain. Always use pain and discomfort as an indicator when performing new activities, but also be aware some movements may be best to avoid altogether. These include standing toe touches, leg lifts, and any movement that involves twisting of your back.

How Chiropractic Can Help Lower Back Pain

Regular chiropractic treatment is another great conservative care option for not only overall health but also back pain. The gentle adjustments that your practitioner can apply during an appointment help to realign the spine and extremities for better overall function. These adjustments not only help your whole body feel better, but they can also fend off inflammation and even help support your immune system. This is especially important while your body is in the healing process. Not to mention, your practitioner can help you pinpoint which at-home exercises may suit your injury best. 

By scheduling regular chiropractic care, you can help to keep your body and your immune system in tip-top shape. During the initial evaluation, we will go over your health history in detail and construct a plan that you are completely comfortable with before moving forward. Don’t neglect your health; schedule an appointment online or call (626) 469-7478. 

This article is for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for in-person advice or care from a medical professional.


Sedentary Lifestyle Linked to Poor Health

Do you spend hours sitting at a desk while working? Does your day involve staring at a screen for focused periods of time? Do you notice your posture struggling with the surprising demands of sitting? 

You’re not alone. The average American now spends more than 10 hours per day in front of a screen. As computer-based jobs continue to grow in prevalence, it’s not unexpected. However, the ramifications of sitting for this significant portion of our time are much more serious than many of us may give credit. 

Implications Of A Sedentary Life

“Sitting is the new smoking.” This phrase has been coined to help the general population understand the gravity of the toll that prolonged, consistent sitting can have on our bodies. It can be understandably difficult to fully grasp just how serious sitting can be. After all, it’s necessary for everyone to rest and sit at times! However, the issue we’re facing today is the drastic amount of time that our population is sedentary. This sitting “epidemic” has been strongly correlated back to heart disease, type 2 diabetes, some cancers, and other chronic illnesses. In short, it’s time to start paying attention. 

Gradual weight gain. Did you know prolonged daily sitting significantly impacts the number of calories your body is able to naturally burn? Even if you’re not working out per se, walking consistently throughout the day significantly increases general, healthy caloric burn. As our modern society is engineered toward sitting more, our collective normal caloric output is decreasing drastically. This lifestyle change has contributed greatly to significant weight gain. 

Poor posture, chronic pain. On top of unnecessary weight gain, prolonged sitting can also severely impact posture. Bad posture puts undue stress on your joints and certain muscles, which can easily lead to chronic pain. In fact, ongoing back pain is the leading work-induced disability, as well as the highest cited contributor to missed workdays. When we’re sitting, it’s easy to hunch forward, usually toward the screen we’re looking at. A forward head positioning can put undue strain and stress on your muscles, as well as contribute to shoulder and back pain, and more frequent headaches. When this behavior is perpetuated day after day, it can become problematic. Chronic poor posture and back pain due to poor posture can also make necessary, healthy movement and activity are more and more uncomfortable. 

Everyday Ways To Improve Posture, Even At Work

If your job requires you to sit at a desk for long periods each day, don’t fret! There are plenty of simple, accessible ways to improve your ergonomic sitting situation for your long-term health right in your office. 

Swap out your chair. For starters, you can swap out a normal chair for a large exercise ball. The slightly unstable surface helps to keep your core and spine engaged in a much different way than a chair allows. Don’t feel like you need to go cold-turkey though; you can still keep your chair around to swap between time on the ball. Changing it up like this throughout the day may seem like a minor action, but the small movements it requires your body to go through can yield big benefits long-term.

Stand while working. Many have also found relief from using a sit-stand desk situation. On top of taking better care of your spine, these desks have also been linked to improved collaboration, job satisfaction, and managing or even reversing health problems. They are becoming more and more common in modern workplaces that are prioritizing the health of their employees. 

Take stretch breaks. You should also try to take small walking and stretching breaks. Get outside for a casual stroll during lunch. During the crunch hours of the day, use water and bathroom breaks as an excuse to move and also do some gentle stretching. If you’re more confined to your desk area, consider practicing some basic yoga poses. There are many online tutorials that walk you through basic stretches and only require the space that a small cubicle may give you. 

Practice mindful posture. When you do find yourself sitting, be proactive about your posture. Think about sitting with your shoulders back yet relaxed, an engaged core, and feet firmly planted on the ground. Reference this infographic for more tips on how to properly sit and incorporate small movements to help your body throughout the workday.

The Role Of Chiropractic With Posture

Though many people work with a chiropractor to help with back pain after it has begun, it can pay huge benefits to use as preventative care as well. When you’re sitting for a significant amount of the day, it’s good to be as proactive about postural health as possible. Chiropractic care and adjustments of the spine can help realign your body to keep your nervous and immune systems functioning properly. Ongoing chiropractic care can also help you maintain good posture more easily throughout the workday by keeping your spine aligned.

If your work requires a healthy dose of sitting on a daily basis, it may be valuable to consider working chiropractic care into your routine as a preventative measure. If you’d like to schedule an initial evaluation to get you started, we would be happy to get you on our patient calendar. Schedule an appointment online or call (626) 469-7478. 

This article is for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for in-person advice or care from a medical professional.