Health-E-News November 2016
empowering you to optimal health
Should you Ditch Your Pillow?
One of the best parts of falling asleep at night is snuggling up to your favorite pillow. For some, it’s the fluffy part of the bed that their head can sink into, while for others, they prefer something a bit firmer for better posture throughout the night. If you’ve ever woken up with back pain or neck pain, you’ve likely considered that you have chosen the wrong pillow for your body.
Waking up with stiffness in your neck, shoulders, or back is an unpleasant feeling and makes it difficult to go back to sleep in the middle of the night or a challenge to get up in the morning to start the day. While the cause could be physical issues or your choice in mattress, in many cases it’s actually the pillow causing the problem. Take a look at why many are actually choosing to ditch their pillow instead.
What does nature have to say about it?
To begin, it’s important to remember that you weren’t born using a pillow. Infants and toddlers are not using pillows and yet adults have adapted to expect a pillow for a comfortable night’s sleep. Even in nature, the only animal using a pillow under their head to sleep is the human, while no other animals require a prop to sleep.
How pillows got their start
While it’s always important to look at why we do the things we do that affect our health, sometimes it can help to look at where things started and how they have evolved. Pillows were actually used first by the ancient Mesopotami or modern day Iraq around 9,000 years ago.
Oddly enough, it wasn’t anything soft like we use today; they were using pillows made of wood or stone to offer support and elevation for the head. Rather than using a pillow for comfort like we do today, they were creating a way to elevate their heads to avoid insects crawling into their ears and the wealthy wanted a way to prevent anything from happening to their elaborate hairdos. It eventually became a status symbol for the affluent to own more than one pillow.
Eventually, people in Europe ran with the idea and added a soft option with the help of Roman and Greek cultures. Only the wealthiest had pillows and they were shown off as decoration before eventually turning into something everyone could get. Today, it has become a modern necessity that we can’t live without despite its start as something many didn’t own.
Should I be using a pillow?
While it functions nicely as a sleep aid, many are choosing ones that are too big, too thick, and too fluffy to be healthy. While these are beautiful and comfortable, they aren’t working well with our physical bodies and can affect the spine. An overly fluffy pillow can be tolerated on the side, but laying on the back can cause the head to move into strange positions which hurts the neck muscles and the health of the spine.
Since the best sleep position is on the back with the head held in a neutral position, the verdict is that no pillow would be the healthiest way to sleep. Only a small amount of neck support would need used which could be done with a rolled up towel. This small cushion will help with the natural curve of the cervical spine without being as drastic as a regular pillow. Your regular pillow would not be able to cradle the head right which means your cervical spine is bending forward.
If you are a side sleeper, the pillow only needs to be as thick as your shoulder while your head and neck would need to be in a neutral position, accomplished by the firmness of the pillow. Using your arm may be the best solution if you can’t find a neutral position for your head using different pillow options. If you still don’t want to part with a regular pillow, you can use it between your legs to keep your hips and thighs in a neutral position while you sleep.
If you’re uncomfortable with the idea of ditching the pillow, you may just need to retrain your head and neck on proper posture while sleeping. Use these tips to make sure you are sleeping with the proper pillow for your health.
If you are confused about which pillow is best for you, ask us.
Keeping Concussions to a Minimum in Young Athletes
When you are a parent of a child that is interested in sports, you are likely excited about the new life skills and development that is bound to happen for your child through the experience. On the flip side, you may be worried about the potentials dangers associated with playing sports, including the time-commitment and more seriously, the injuries.
You can’t deny that there is a change of injury in any sport and that the time commitment involved will affect other areas of life, from homework to family time. For most parents, the risks are minimal enough and the benefits of playing sports are high enough to want to have their children included in a team.
One of the best things parents can do for their young athletes is to be proactive to avoid serious injuries such as concussions in order to keep the risk at a minimum. From incorporating the “buddy system” to wearing the right gear, here are some tips for young athletes to make sure you are keeping the likelihood of a concussion to a minimum.
What causes a concussion?
There is nothing worse than experiencing a bang to the head during a contact sport whether it’s from another player or hitting the ground. Even with a helmet, there are times that physical activity can be enough to cause a concussion.
Those young athletes that are very involved in contact sports are more likely to end up with a concussion, which is essentially your brain shaking and rolling inside the skull. Having the brain jarred inside the skull from a fall or blow to the head is how a concussion occurs, leading to physical symptoms of headaches, changes in mood, and disruptions in sleep. The only way to minimize the possibility is to be educated on concussions and to take precautions with your young athletes.
It’s important that you start being proactive with your young athletes when it comes to concussion risks and safety measures. For example, having your children get involved with a “buddy system” will allow you to put your fears at ease knowing that your child will have a teammate to report to when experiencing any symptoms of a concussion.
This teammate would then report to your child in the event that he or she is experiencing concussion-like symptoms including any blows to the head, dizziness, and light-headedness. This “buddy system” would make it easier for your children and the other young athletes to get the assistance of an adult, coach, or teacher if a potential concussion has occurred.
Another way your young athletes can be proactive is to start wearing all of the appropriate gear. If you have been putting off purchasing a helmet or you are wearing one that is too big, it’s time to get the appropriate size and fit for your child. A helmet isn’t going to stop concussions from happening, but they can definitely protect your child from serious head injuries and reduce the chance of a concussion.
Along with the right gear, it’s important that your child and the other athletes are playing far, practicing good sportsmanship, and tackling properly through training. Strengthening the neck during training will also help to reduce injuries, but having proper instruction in the contact sport is the most important part.
Lastly, your young athletes need to be just as educated as you are when it comes to concussions. Understanding the causes of concussions will help your children to play safer with other teammates and to protect themselves.
Learning the symptoms of a concussion and having a teammate to talk to if symptoms occur will make it easier to get help right away in the event that one takes place. Have your child work with coaches on instructions, teammates on proper tackling, and a physician for communication on physical health and recognizing concussion symptoms.
While it may cause parents fear to have their children involved in a contact sport, the benefits of being a part of a team should outweigh the risks. Keep your child educated, aware, and proactive to reduce the chances of concussions during their time in sports.
A Drug-Free Way for Pregnant Women to Relieve Sciatic Pain
Pregnancy comes with plenty of joy, but it can also come with plenty of pain. Many pregnant women experience nerve pain throughout the legs, which is known as sciatica.
The largest nerve in the body is the sciatic nerve, which runs under the uterus and down the legs. As the baby begins to develop, it may put pressure on this nerve, which may cause pain, muscle tension, and sacroiliac joint dysfunction.
Relieving sciatic pain doesn’t have to involve taking prescription drugs. Here are a few ways pregnant women can relieve this pain without drugs.
The right stretches will help to relieve your sciatic pain during pregnancy. This is, of course, a natural solution and perfect for women trying to avoid nasty pain-killing drugs. Some of the stretches best suited for sciatic pain include:
- Hip Flexor Stretch – Start by kneeling on the floor. Then, step one foot in front of your body and shift your weight forward. You should feel the stretch in the back of your hip.
- Seated Piriformis Stretch – Start by sitting on a chair and putting one ankle on the opposite knee. Then, lean forward and feel the stretch in your backside.
- Table Stretch – Start by putting your hands on the table and leaning forward. Then, pull your hips away from the table to feel the stretch in your back.
Another great choice for relieving sciatic pain during pregnancy is yoga poses. There are several poses perfect for helping to stretch the back and areas most likely to suffer from sciatic pain. Some of the best yoga poses include:
- Pigeon Pose
- King Pigeon Hip Stretch
- Simple Seated Twist
- Standing Hamstring Stretch
- Standing Twist
- Cobra Pose
Most of these poses can be performed on a floor mat or with a table or chair. Be careful with yoga when you’re pregnant. The wrong poses may cause issues or you or the baby and could cause even more pain. Avoid any deep twists, backbends or poses asking you to lie on your back.
If you’ve tried stretching and it has only helped a little bit with your sciatic pain, it may be time to see a chiropractor. Chiropractors have the ability to adjust your body so that it can better heal itself. Chiropractic care for sciatic nerve pain provides a non-invasive, drug-free alternative treatment.
Other natural ways to treat sciatic pain in when you’re pregnant include:
- Lie on the opposite side of the pain
- Avoid standing for long periods
- Don’t lift anything heavy
- Heat/cold packs on the area
- Elevating one foot
Chiropractic Care Can Slow Down Adolescent Idiopathic Scoliosis (AIS) Progression
Adolescent Idiopathic Scoliosis can be associated with headaches, breathing and pain throughout the body including back, neck, hip and knee pain. If you suffer from any or multiple of these scoliosis related symptoms, chiropractic care can help.
About 1-3% of children between the ages of 10-16 are affected by AIS. It is usually defined as a lateral curve of the spine that is bigger than 10 degrees, as well as rotation of the vertebra. While a typical spine will represent a straight line, those with scoliosis can expect to see more of an “S” or “C” shape in an x-ray. While there is no definitive cause for scoliosis, many factors including bone abnormality at birth, abnormal muscles or nerves can play a role in idiopathic scoliosis.
A 21 year old female went to see the chiropractor for the first time and complained of back pain. She noted that walking or standing more than an hour increased her pain and when asked about the sit of pain, she pointed to her lower thoracic and upper lumbar spine regions.
She was advised to begin chiropractic care 3 times a week for the first 3 months, then 2 times a week for the following 3 months. Her treatment plan consisted of adjustments, traction and exercise in order to reduce the forward head posture, and essentially improve the lateral curvatures in her spine.
After her first 3 months of care, her thermal scan showed improvements and her pain scale reduce from the initial 4/10 to 0/10. Her results showed a reduction in progression of structural and postural changes of her spine. Overall, her physical pain, postural, structural and quality of life was improved after just a few moths of chiropractic care.
Nektalov, B. (2012, March 22). Improvement in a Patient with Scoliosis Undergoing Chiropractic Care: A Case Study. Maternal & Family Health, 31-37.
If you suffer from symptoms associated with scoliosis, know that there are numerous studies that display that there are benefits of chiropractic care to help those who suffer from scoliosis.