Back Pain

Back Pain – Keep Your Head Up

Every once in a while I am at a meeting, talking with some one or reading something and I literally have a wow moment. About fifteen years ago I was at a meeting listening to a renowned occuloplastic surgeon. He shared that he always has his patients do a particular exercise after lower lid surgery and has never had an ectropion since that time. It made so much sense that I adopted it and it’s been a wonderful addition to that part of my practice. These ‘pearls of wisdom’ can be hard to find, particularly at medical meetings. I can sit and listen for an entire weekend and not find one pearl. Pearls are best found listening though. And the best way to find em is to listen to successful people in their trade that have been doing what they do for a while. So here is a great pearl.

I was out with a running friend, Dr. Mark Davis this past Saturday morning. My daughter Morgan came with us since she was in from college for the Thanksgiving break. Morgan has been suffering with an upper back stabbing ‘bone on bone’ pain for months, maybe a year on and off. Morgan describes it as along the posterior spine, mid line upper back lowest point of the back of the neck. Mark says yep, we see a lot of it. Here is his explanation. ‘The head weighs 25 – 35 lbs. And the posterior paraspinal muscles simply are not designed to support that kind of weight. They are designed for stabilising the weight as one turns one’s head this way and that. Apparently with the onset of the science of ergonomics body positioning was improved as it related to personal computers. College students that study either at lap tops (apparently the most recent culprit) or long hours over books with their heads bent over over fatigue these small muscles. Muscles such as the Multifidus (I didn’t remember that one from anatomy – he did). After they fatigue the stress transfers to the ligaments between the spinous processes and one winds up with chronic inflammation, sort of a tendinitis in the back of the lower neck. Answer, better ergonomics. get a separate screen and put it up so that you are looking at it instead of down. This plus resistance training with perhaps kettlebells that are great for the posterior chain.

What turned out to be interesting for me is that general surgeons that operate standing and looking straight down are at particularly high risk of cervical disk disease after years of flexing their necks forward and getting huge pressure on their disks. Fortunately I operate looking forward or up (under breasts, tummies or faces 🙂 although I do have to twist my body which causes other issues, a different blog. When I turned about 48 presbyopia kicked in and I needed reading glasses for near work. luckily my optometrist suggested bifocals with an extra large lower part so that I had a large field of view. What it does is encourage me to keep my head up if I want to see close. Thinking back I use to have that same pain sometimes that resolved with bifocals! The other thing that happened this week was while running again (yeah I’m kinda into it) on a treadmill this time because the weather sucked I developed the same pain after a 45 minutes and realized that I had been looking down at the console too much. A trainer friend of mine told me that it is very important while running to not let your hips rock back and upper body fall forward while running, and keep your head up. Now I know why.

Dr. Mark Davis is a practicing Chiropractor in the Clear Lake area of Houston.


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