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The Spring season usually brings young athletes back onto the playing fields or engaging in team competitions, but it can also sideline them with back pain. In fact, up to 30% of youth athletes will experience back pain at some point during their sporting years. So how can you tell if your child has just a minor muscle ache, or something that requires treatment?

The good news is the disc problems that often plague adults typically don’t affect adolescents. Instead, the primary cause of lower back pain for teen athletes is a stress fracture in one or more small bones in the lower lumbar region. Unlike a fracture that happens from a traumatic event such as an accident, stress fractures are overuse injuries. Football players, dancers, gymnasts, lacrosse, and baseball players are at higher risk for this injury due to the repetitive movements and hyperextension of the lumbar back involved in these sports. But any adolescent who has a rapid increase in a high-impact activity is susceptible over time.

Here are some signs that your child’s back pain could actually be a stress fracture:

• Persistent pain in the lower back that radiates in the buttock
• Pain that lasts for several weeks
• Pain that gets worse with activity, but eases with rest
• Difficulty standing or walking

If your teen exhibits some or any of the above symptoms, have them clinically evaluated at our office. When caught and treated early, most stress fractures will resolve completely.

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It’s long been known that yoga can play a positive role in keeping the back strong and healthy. Regular practice helps stretch and strengthen back muscles and reduce back pain when the asanas are done right. But if you’re new to yoga, or haven’t been on the mat for a while, you could potentially cause or increase back pain by improperly performing common positions. Here are some substitute poses and modifications to use so your yoga practice is more helpful than harmful.

1) Standing Forward Fold (Uttanasana)
While forward bends are good for you, they can be challenging if you have tight hamstring muscles. Combat this by using blocks if your hands don’t reach the floor easily. The support from the blocks will help you lengthen the spine and also prevent other problems.

2) Upward Facing Dog (Urdhva Mukha Svanasana)
Substitute Cat Cow pose instead for a lesser chance of putting excessive pressure on the lumbar spine. The slow and controlled movements of this asana activates each segment of the spine to improve mobility.

3) Four-Limb Staff Pose (Chaturanga)
Lack of core strength with this position increases the chance of your spine getting compressed. Best to skip it and move into Hollow Body position. This core strengthening pose teaches proper body alignment, not only preparing you to eventually perform Chaturanga, but also helping to improve daily standing, sitting, and walking.

4) Crescent Pose (Anjaneyasana)
It’s common for people to overarch the lower back with this pose to compensate for lack of hip flexibility. The better way to perform this position is to keep your back knee bent vs. straight.

5) Revolved Side Angle (Parivrtta Parsvakonasana)
If done incorrectly, any twisting pose can lead to low back pain. Make a modification for this asana by bringing one knee to the floor for stability. Then twist, bringing your hands together.

6) Seated Forward Fold (Paschimottanasana)
While good for stretching hamstrings, forward folds can also create low back strain if performed improperly. Fix it by engaging your quadriceps to lengthen hamstrings, and add a slight microbend at the knees.

7) Boat Pose (Navasana)
The mistake often made with this pose is a rounding through the upper and lower back which can hurt your back when done excessively. Instead of lifting the legs, a safer bet is to bend the knees and either touch your toes down to the ground or place your feet flat on the mat.

8) Wheel Pose (Urdhva Dhanurasana)
A full backbend such as Wheel pose requires a lot of spinal mobility and overall flexibility, so it should be worked up to gradually in your practice. A more gentle version, Supported Bridge pose, provides similar benefits minus the chance of injury.

9) Plow Pose (Halasana)
When done properly, this asana provides a deep stretch for the lower back. However, it could also have an adverse affect on the cervical spine if you don’t have the right technique. Modify this pose by placing a block under the sacrum and lifting your legs up toward the sky or against a wall to reap the low back benefits.

10) Corpse Pose (Savasana)
Often a favorite, this final resting pose at the end of class is designed for deep relaxation. But sometimes lying flat on a hard floor can be uncomfortable. Get more comfort by using a small pillow or rolled-up blanket under your head, and place another rolled-up blanket under your knees to protect your lower back.

Read more and see helpful photos here.

Video Credit: Vanderbilt University

Close to 80% of all adults will develop back trouble at some point in their lives; and back pain is currently the leading cause of world-wide work disability. But a team at Vanderbilt University aims to change those statistics in the not too distant future. Their solution? Smart Underwear.

While the concept may sound strange at first, these engineers have taken technology to a whole new level in designing an undergarment that can reduce the spinal stress that affects the lower back when lifting.

Typically, a certain amount of “load” gets transferred down the body through the spine when picking up or carrying something. A person wearing smart underwear would tap the device, and a portion of that load would travel through the elastic band instead of the back muscles–reducing strain and ultimately back pain. In test studies, the smart underwear reduced back muscle activity by up to 43 percent.

Though not yet available for purchase, the Vanderbilt team expects their garment to come on the market within the next year. Read more.

Don’t let the cold winter weather prevent you from exercising. While chilly temperatures and dark days are an easy excuse to break from physical activity or your regular workout, staying active all year long is an essential part of keeping your spine strong and healthy—and contributes to overall health.

Here are 4 ways to keep moving and maintain back health no matter what the weather:

1. Create a home gym: This can be as simple as buying some hand weights or an exercise ball, and a yoga mat. Use online sites such as YouTube, or fitness apps to find and follow workout routines you like.

2. Use the stairs: Climbing the stairs is an excellent way to burn fat and get your heart rate up. Bypass the elevator this season and take the stairs at work, in commercial buildings, and at public places whenever possible.

3. Play an indoor sport: Basketball, tennis, rock-climbing—there are plenty of options for solo and team activities in every community. Take advantage of the opportunity and challenge yourself by trying something new.

4. Walk or Dance: If you don’t have access to a treadmill, walk the mall. Or blast some of your favorite tunes and have some fun dancing. If you play about 6 songs, you’ll have put in a 15-20 minute workout.

For additional tips on how to stay active during the winter season, click here.

If you’re traveling this holiday season, you may be surprised to know that luggage-related injuries affected more than 85,000 people in 2017, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission.

Carrying and handling heavy luggage can put you at risk for back strains and other injuries that could easily be prevented. Here are 5 Holiday Travel Tips to help reduce back problems and move safely as you head out for the holiday.

  1. Buy the right luggage: Look for pieces that are lightweight and not bulky– and consider packing in several smaller bags vs. one large one.
  2. Lift bags properly: Stand alongside your luggage when lifting it, bending at the knees and lifting with your leg muscles. Then hold it close to your body.
  3. Avoid twisting: It’s tempting to twist when lifting and carrying your luggage—but it’s a common cause of injury. The better route is to point your toes in the direction you’re going, and turn your entire body in that direction. Also, carry luggage in both hands rather than one hand off to the side in order to decrease spinal stress.
  4. Don’t drag rolling suitcases up the stairs. Always carry them up, instead.
  5. Use a back pack: Find a good quality one and be sure to use both straps rather than slinging it over one shoulder. Don’t fill it more than 10-15% of your bodyweight— and even less if you are prone to back problems.
Source: Health Day

Listen to our own Dr. Krishn Sharma share expert advice on NBC New York about kids’ sports injuries, pressures to play, and the best way young athletes can avoid future harm.

Surrounded by a culture built on “giving their best” and being highly competitive, many student athletes play through their injuries and are reluctant to let coaches and their parents know, or seek treatment. This can have long term consequences, according to Dr. Sharma, who advises kids not to “tough it out” and instead, get help. The sooner players address their injuries and seek treatment, the stronger the outcome for getting back to the game–and playing competitively over the long term, he says.

In addition, Dr. Sharma believes the trend of kids playing only one sport all year long is detrimental because kids need to cross train developing bodies to help protect against injuries. Involvement in multiple sports is one of the best ways to avoid more harm. Watch the full segment on NBC here.

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A University of Nevada, Las Vegas study published last month in The Journal of Physical Therapy Science  found that gender and posture are among the most significant risk factors in developing “iPad neck.”

As technologically use rises, we’ve seen an increase in what is referred to as “text neck” or “tech neck.” Neck strain that is caused by prolonged periods of time spent sitting at your desk hunched over a computer, tablet or cell phone. Symptoms include: stiffness, soreness, or aching pain in the neck, upper back/shoulder, arms/hands, or head. This most recent study focused on 412 UNLV students, staff, faculty, and alumni tablet users and showed:

  • The prevalence of symptoms was higher with younger adults versus older adults
  • Women were over 2 times more likely to experience symptoms than men
  • Subjects with a history of neck and shoulder pain reported an increase in symptoms during iPad use

Tips For Prevention

Make note of your posture – flexing the neck for a long period of time can put too much pressure on your spine

Sit upright in a chair with good support – avoid laying on your side or slumping forward

Use a tablet stand – keep your iPad upright versus laying it on a flat surface

Strengthen your muscles – include exercises in your workout routine that focus on strengthening your neck and shoulders

Find out more here.

Screen Shot 2018-06-11 at 1.11.43 PMScoliosis is a common disorder in children & adults, which causes the spine to curve to one side. It can affect any part of the spine, but the most common regions are at the level of the chest and the lower back.

In most cases, scoliosis is not painful, but in some situations it can cause back pain. If the condition is severe, it can interfere with the efficiency of the heart and lungs, and cause chest pain or shortness of breath.

Scoliosis is caused in part by genetics and in part by other factors not well known. The condition does not come from carrying heavy things, athletic activity, sleeping/standing postures, or minor lower limb length inequality. The usual onset for scoliosis is in adolescence, between the ages of 10 – 15 years. Although both boys and girls can develop scoliosis, it is more common in females.

Possible Symptoms In Adolescents:

  • Head looks slightly off center
  • Ribcage is not symmetrical – the ribs may be at different heights
  • One hip is more prominent than the other
  • Clothing does not hang properly
  • One shoulder, or shoulder blade, is higher than the other
  • Individual may lean to one side
  • Leg lengths are uneven

Possible Symptoms In Infants:

  • A bulge on one side of the chest
  • Laying curved to one side consistently
  • Shortness of breath and chest pain due to heart and lung problems, in severe cases

Find out everything you need to know about scoliosis on Spinaldoctor.com and in this article on Medical News Today.

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As the weather gets warmer and golf season nears, it’s time to think about getting your back ready to hit the links. Check out these 5 tips from Golfweek to help you keep your back healthy this spring:

1. Prepare With A Proper Warm Up — Choose exercises that use the same movements of a golf swing. Try doing airplane twists, golf practice swings and arm circles.

2. Include Lower Body Training — Golf isn’t just about upper body strength. Be sure to work the large muscles in your legs. Strong quads and hamstrings can help with correct posture and prevent a muscle imbalance between the upper and lower body.

3. Focus On Upper Body Training — Chest, back and upper arm muscles help create power in your golf swing. Include training exercises that strengthen the latissimus dorsi, rhomboids, pectorals and triceps to help reduce stress placed on your lower back.

4. Train Your Core Training — The muscles in your lower back, abdominals, buttocks and thighs make up your core. Besides keeping the body in alignment, core muscles are the primary muscles used to execute the torque and twist of a golf swing. A strong core strengthening routine can reduce the stress placed on your back during the motion of your swing.

5. Work On Overall Flexibility — Help reduce your risk for injury by working to increase your range of motion. In golf, one side of your body is used over and over during the backswing and the same hip is used during rotation. It is important to incorporate a stretching routine for your whole body to help balance out overuse due to repetitive motion on one side.

Have Americans lost the art of bending? The way we bend can put undue strain on our backs. When picking an article up from the floor, most Americans look down, bend at waist and reach towards the floor. This causes the back to form an unnatural curve like the letter “C” and is commonly referred to as a “Waist Bend.” Waist bending puts stress on the disks in the spine, which can lead to injury and pain.

In many other countries, people bend differently than Americans. This can be seen in photos from around the world. Men and women are bent over performing tasks, but their backs are straight, almost parallel to the ground. This type of bending at the hips is called “Hip Hinging” or “Table Bending.” With table bending, the spine stays in a neutral position allowing the larger hip and leg muscles to support the body’s weight.

To find out more, about the Biomechanics of Bending, listen to the interesting NPR Health News audio segment above or check out the accompanying article on NPR.

How To “Hip Hinge” or “Table Bend”

  1. Place your feet about 12 inches apart.
  2. Keep your back straight.
  3. As you bend your knees, allow your pubic bone to move backward.
  4. Fold over by allowing your pubic bone to slide through your legs, down and back.

Click here for more info and a visual demo.