Got Foot or Ankle Pain? We Can Help!

As a Structural Chiropractor, I oftentimes see people with foot or ankle injuries and pain, many of them sports-related, but most of them directly linked to something that in many cases, gets overlooked by other chiropractors, physical therapists, orthopedists, and even podiatrists: a pelvic imbalance, or leg length discrepancy, with a secondary left-to-right weight imbalance. For example, if you weigh 200 pounds, you should be carrying 100 pounds on the right and 100 pounds on the left, give or take 5 pounds. For example, 102 and 98 would be OK, but if you are carrying 110 lbs on one side and 90 lbs on the other, then, “Houston, we have a problem.”

That imbalance would be like going to Home Depot with your pick-up truck, buying 500 lbs of concrete, and loading 300 on one side of the truck and 200 on the other. Not only would your drive be uneven and difficult, but the side carrying the most weight would lead to accelerated wear and tear. The human body is no different. The side carrying more weight will overtime develop pain and dysfunction in the weight-bearing joints, primarily the foot, ankle, knee, and hip, eventually also affecting the low back.

Some common causes of foot/ankle pain:

Plantar Fasciitis: an inflammation or irritation of a band of tissue that connects the heel to the toes. Treatment consists of foot and heel stretches and wearing shoes with proper support. Cold laser therapy can help as well.

Bone Spurs:  spurs typically develop from wearing the wrong type of shoe, an unusual walk or posture, or from running. They are abnormal growth, usually on the bottom of the heel, and are treated with shoes that have a shock-absorbing sole, orthotic inserts, heel pads, physical therapy, or cold laser therapy. As discussed before, optimizing weight distribution is crucial if you were looking for a permanent solution. Otherwise, it will only progress and worsen over time.

Tendinitis: occurs due to mechanical imbalances and repetitive irritation, wherever there are tendons in the body. Treatment can include rest, physical therapy and corrective exercises, cold laser therapy, and ice/heat.

Ankle Sprains: The most common ankle injury, sprains occur after a fall or when the ankle is twisted. When not properly treated, even a mild ankle sprain can lead to chronic pain. Symptoms include swelling, tenderness, pain behind the ankle bone, or even pain that spreads into the foot. Treatment for mild ankle sprains includes rest, ice/heat, compression or bracing, and elevation. Mechanical traction and corrective exercises can also help, as well as cold laser therapy to prevent scar tissue formation and chronicity.

So how do we minimize the risk of ankle and foot injuries? Here are a few tips to optimize foot and ankle structure and function:

  • Wear properly-sized and fitted shoes—Your feet have a natural tendency to become flatter and wider as you get older so be sure to have them properly measured each time you buy shoes.
  • See a foot specialist if needed, for a proper assessment. A podiatrist or orthopedist specializing in feet/ankles is your best option. As bipeds, we spend a great part of our life on our feet, so checking our mechanical and structural foundation is always crucial in achieving optimal health. Your specialist may recommend gait analysis, arch supports, and orthotics.
  • If overweight, shed some of those extra pounds, as that extra weight adds to the compressive forces on your entire body while you are standing or sitting, which in turn contributes to and accelerates the wear and tear on your joints.  The primary joins affected can will usually involved feet, ankles, knees, hips, and low back. The more the excess weight and the longer the time, the more joints will be affected.

As a structural chiropractor, while we focus primarily on the spine and nervous system, it is imperative to address your body’s mechanical foundation: your pelvis and your weight-bearing joints, including your feet, ankles, knees, and hips. Optimize their structure, and you will see a significant improvement in their function and in your overall health.

If you are looking for options to deal with your injuries, or have any questions, call us at 714 540 6792 for a free virtual or in-person consultation, which is simply a conversation with our doctor, to see if we can help!

Sciatica: A Literal Pain in the Butt

What is sciatica?

Sciatica refers to pain caused by the sciatic nerve, the thickest nerve in the body.  It usually radiates/shoots from the lower back into the leg, often below the knee and into the foot. Sciatica is most common in people 30-50 but can happen at any age.

What causes sciatica?

The most common cause is a bulging or herniated disc in the low back (see our previous blog on Disc Injuries). Discs are tire-like structures that sit between the bones of the spine. If the outer rim of the disc tears, due to trauma or repetitive pressure, the jelly-like inner portion of the disc can come out and irritate (like battery acid) or compress the nearby sciatic nerve.

Another common cause is Piriformis Syndrome, in which a tight or spasming piriformis muscle can compress the sciatic nerve.

How do you know if it is sciatica?

  • Low back pain that shoots into the buttock or leg, worsened by coughing/sneezing.
  • Weakness, numbness, or tingling into the leg.
  • Diminished reflexes and sensation in legs.
  • When you go see your chiropractor, physical therapist, or other doctor, you will be evaluated, some hands-on testing done where they check for signs of sciatica, and then there may be x-rays and an MRI involved.

How do I treat sciatica, naturally?

  • Rest: if the pain is excruciating and incapacitating, lying down for short periods can help, but prolonged bed rest does not. As soon as you are able to, get up and slowly walk around to loosen up muscles and stimulate some blood flow.
  • Ice: can help reduce swelling and inflammation, as well as break the pain-spasm cycle. 15-20 minutes applied to the painful area can help. Do as often as needed.
  • Minimize/Avoid sitting: Since sitting increases pressure on the discs, avoid or at least minimize prolonged sitting or driving.
  • Chiropractic: can help restore proper function to “stuck” portions of the spine via gentle specific adjustments, while minimizing pain without drugs or surgery.
  • Physical Therapy: can help restore proper length and strength to muscles. Your therapist will develop a program to stretch tight muscles, strengthen weak muscles, and address other structural abnormalities.
  • Acupuncture: can help reduce pain and inflammation.
  • Corrective Exercises: like Physical Therapy, corrective exercises will restore flexibility and strength to the indicated muscles. At Atlas, we offer Corrective Pilates, which is safe, effective, and will address not just the pain, but also the underlying structural issues that led to the pain as well.

If you are looking for a permanent solution for your sciatica, or have any questions, call us at 714 540 6792 for a free phone or in-person consultation, which is simply a conversation with our doctors to see if we can help!

A Layman’s Guide to Disc Injuries

It’s a gorgeous sunny day, you’re sitting in the car, top-down, minding your business and listening to Justin Bieber whine about the trials and tribulations of being a young, studly, handsome, world-famous millionaire, when you hear some screeching tires and...BOOM! You just got rear-ended, now your neck and back are on fire and your hand feels numb.

You’re doing chores around the house, and as you bend over to pick something...BOOM, you hear a popping sound and are brought to your knees by razor-like back pain.

Sound familiar? If so, you may have just sustained suffered a disc injury. While many of us have had disc injuries, there is much confusion about what they are, how to treat them, or how to prevent them from happening in the first place. In this blog, we will discuss what they are, how they happen, what the different treatment options are, and how to prevent them from happening.

First, a quick crash course in human anatomy and a description of what a disc is. The disc is a spongy cushion that separates the vertebrae. They act as shock absorbers, allow the spine to pivot and move, and also act as “spacers” between the discs. There’s an outer portion called the annulus, and a fluid-filled, jelly-like inner portion called the nucleus pulposus.

So what exactly is a disc herniation? A herniation, sometimes referred to as a “disc bulge”, “disc protrusion”, “blown disc”, or “slipped disc”, is an injury in which the soft center of a spinal disc (the nucleus) pushes through a fissure or “crack” in the outer lining. Two examples to describe them are a “flat tire”, or also a jelly-filled donut that you squish and the “jelly” seeps out. That “jelly” is like battery acid to the nerve, which is why people with herniated discs often times have “burning”, sharp-shooting pain, numbness, and weakness into the arms and hands, if it’s a neck herniation, or into the legs and feet if it’s a low back herniation.

How do they happen? The short answer is trauma. Disc injuries are a result of trauma, in some cases “macro trauma” (massive forces, short time) such as a car accident, a slip and fall, or a sports injury, and in other cases “microtrauma” (low forces, long time), resulting from prolonged sitting, repetitive stress, or postural imbalances.

What are my treatment options? The answer to this depends on several factors:

  • size of the disc herniation
  • location
  • “internal architecture” of your spine
  • personal preferences

You are oftentimes presented with a multitude of options, from non-invasive, conservative approaches to more invasive methods such as epidural steroid injections or even surgery. The larger and more severe the injury, the more aggressive the treatment recommendations will be.

First, let’s explore conservative approaches. In some cases, the pain from a disc injury can resolve on its own. Rest and a “wait-and-see” approach can help some people, but more often than not, a menu of options that may include a combination of chiropractic, physical therapy, ice and heat, cold laser therapy, and corrective exercises can provide not only pain relief, but a diminishing risk from further injuries, by improving structure and function, and by protecting and rebuilding the muscles that also act as shock absorbers to the spine.

Chiropractic: can diminish pain and improve function by improving alignment and mobility of the spine and surrounding joints.  Can also minimize further disc damage by restoring symmetrical weight distribution from left to right.

Physical Therapy / Corrective Exercises: can improve muscle function by restoring flexibility to tight muscles, increasing strength to weak muscles, and restoring normal muscle firing patterns. If muscles are weak, tight, and not firing properly, the impact and trauma experienced will directly affect the disc, without the first line of defense that the muscles can oftentimes provide if they are functioning properly. Think of well-functioning muscles as “shock absorbers” that can help minimize trauma on the joints.

Ice/Heat:  Ice can have an analgesic and anti-inflammatory effect, while heat can reduce stiffness while increasing blood flow to the area.

Cold Laser Therapy: uses the healing properties of light to help diminish pain and inflammation while stimulating healing.  It does this by stimulating ATP production within the mitochondria (aka the “powerhouse”) within each cell. It’s painless, safe, and has virtually zero side effects, and can reduce the need for pharmaceuticals.

Aggressive approaches may involve ESIs (epidural steroid injections), and in some cases, different types of surgeries that can go from a microdiscectomy, in which they remove just a small portion of the damaged disc, all the way to full disc removal and replacement, in many cases accompanied by fusion of the vertebrae. While surgical techniques have come a long way over the last several years, the goal should be to exhaust all conservative approaches before taking on the cost/risk of major surgery.

If you are looking for options to deal with your disc injuries, or have any questions, call us at 714 540 6792 for a free virtual or in-person consultation, which is simply a conversation with our doctors to see if we can help!

5 Ways to Conquer Tech Neck

Chances are, you’re reading this on your phone or laptop and are slouching in a less than ideal posture. (You just straightened yourself up just now, didn’t you? Good.)

Nowadays, our dependency on and overuse of technology, especially cell phones, is wreaking havoc on human posture, leading to a loss of the naturally-occurring curve in the neck, which helps support the head. This can create internal structural changes in your spine that can lead to significant problems over time.

The condition has become so common, so prevalent that it has been dubbed “Tech Neck”, and also goes by several other names:

  • Text Neck
  • Anterior Head Syndrome
  • Forward Head Posture
  • Military Neck

While in the short term it can cause muscle strain, neck pain, and headaches, among other things, over the long term it can lead to more serious health challenges such as radiculopathy (nerve pain due to compression/irritation), and even accelerated degeneration of the spine, i.e. osteoarthritis or degenerative disc disease.

A few facts: the human head weighs 8-12 pounds. Every inch of forwarding head posture can increase the weight of the head on this by an additional 10 pounds. The joints and muscles of the neck, shoulders, and upper back have the job of supporting this weight, keeping it balanced and centered. When sitting in a slouched position with your head jutting forward, there’s an additional load placed on the muscles, which in turn can fatigue and transfer the weight low to the vertebrae and especially the discs, magnifying the strain which over time will lead to wear and tear and eventual degeneration.

How do I know if I have Tech Neck?

  • Neck or shoulder pain
  • Headaches/Migraines
  • Tension or stiffness in shoulders, upper back
  • Tired vision towards the end of the day.
  • Tingling or numbness in arms or hands.

What Should I Do?

Correcting your posture is something that’s under your control, so awareness and correcting it should be your first course of action when you feel tech neck affecting you. Also, here are some recommendations to minimize your risk of tech neck:

  1. Reduce your phone usage.  (I understand this is difficult given the prevalence of digital addiction, but even a small reduction can have extremely beneficial effects.)
  2. Minimize sitting and slouching.
  3. Optimize your work station ergonomics. Keep your device at eye level more often relieves the stress is that places strain on your neck and upper back.
  4. Restore muscle balance: strengthen your weak muscles and stretch your tight muscles. Usually, your pecs and upper traps are right, and scapular stabilizers are weak, allowing the forward collapse of the shoulders, which will further exacerbate the Tech Neck.
  5. Go see your chiropractor and get X-rays to see IF you suffer from tech neck, and if so, how severe it is. Once you have identified the problem, you can establish a course of action to correct it.

Call us at 714 540 6792 for a free consultation, which is simply a conversation with our doctors to see if we can help!

Neck Pain

What Are Some Inexpensive Home Remedies for Back Pain and Neck Pain?

While almost every human will experience neck, back pain, or even sciatica at some point in their life, there is seemingly an endless number of “miracle cures”. Which ones work? Which ones don’t? How do we separate fact from fiction?

First, let’s list some of the more common causes of back or neck pain: postural issues, excessive computer or phone use (aka “tech neck”), tight muscles, sleeping wrong, sports injuries, and car accidents.

  • Ice - If you need short term pain relief until you can get in to see your chiropractor, the simplest, most commonly used approach is ice. You can either use an ice pack that is pre-made and sold online or at any pharmacy or make your own by putting 10-12 ice cubes in a ziplock bag and applying them to the sore area as needed. You apply it over the sore spots for 15-20 minutes, as often as needed. The ice can help relieve pain, reduce inflammation, and even break up muscle spasms resulting from the injury.
  • Heat - A heat pack can also provide relief from neck and back pain. Moist heat is preferred, and you can make your own “heat pack” by dipping a small towel in hot water and applying it to the sore spot. Apply to the sore spots for 15-20 minutes, as often as necessary.
  • Gentle Stretching - Sometimes back and neck pain can occur due to muscle stiffness and tightness, so gentle stretching can relieve tightness and improve range of motion.
  • Deep Breathing - Sit in a dark, quiet room and take deep breaths in, for 6-10 seconds on the IN phase, and another 6-10 seconds on the OUT phase. Repeat for 15-20 minutes.
  • Natural Anti-Inflammatories - Turmeric, green tea, bromelain, and magnesium, can all be used as natural pain relievers
  • Creams - Capsaicin and Arnica creams can be used safely, and also can provide some much-needed relief from neck and back pain.
  • TENS Units (aka “electrostim”) - Small, battery-operated devices that deliver electrical impulses that flood the nervous system and block pain signals. They are inexpensive, safe, and user-friendly, and can be a great source of pain relief as an alternative to drugs.

Of course, these are only temporary forms of pain relief. Make sure to visit your chiropractor for a complete evaluation to pinpoint the exact cause of your neck and back pain, and to provide a permanent solution that will not only relieve your pain but prevent it from becoming a recurring problem.

Call us at 714 540 6792 for a free consultation, which is simply a conversation with our doctors to see if we can help!

Car Crash

Have You Been in a Car Accident? Read This NOW!

Can auto accidents cause concussions? Can a crash set forth a domino effect of health challenges that can lead to multiple sclerosis? Can a low-velocity fender bender lead to serious injury?

If you answered YES to all of the above, give yourself a high five. 🖐
Statistically, the average American will get into 3-4 car accidents in their lifetime. Fortunately, most accidents are mild to moderate and do not result in serious injuries or fatalities. Unfortunately, they can, and often do cause structural changes in the spine and surrounding tissues (muscles, ligaments, tendons, and nerves), even when the impact occurs at low speeds. These changes, if left untreated and unaddressed, can lead to a lifelong injury, chronic pain, loss of function, and a loss of the ability to do the things we love to do the most. This would put your life at a much higher level of suck. No Bueno.

So what should you do if you are involved in a car accident? First, breathe. It’s going to be OK.

At the accident:

  • STOP. By law, we are required to stop if there is an accident that results in injuries or damage to the cars themselves.
  • Help the injured.
  • Prevent further accidents. Move out of the way of oncoming traffic, if possible. If on the freeway, stay in the car and immediately call 911 or the highway patrol.
  • Exchange information with the other driver. With camera phones available, the easiest thing is to take a photo of the person's insurance card and registration. (Technology rules!)
  • Get the names and numbers of witnesses.
  • If your car is driveable, drive to the nearest repair station or home. If it's not driveable, get it towed. (Personally, I think AAA is the smartest money you can spend. For less than the price of a crummy dinner, AAA covers many things, among them car towing in case of an accident.)
  • Seek medical attention, the sooner the better. Immediately is best. Go to an ER for serious injuries, or to your chiropractor as long as there are no cuts, lacerations, or other serious injuries not involving the spine.

After the accident:

  • One of the most important factors in determining how quickly and how well you'll recover is the time you wait to be seen. The longer you wait to start treatment, the higher the probability of chronicity. Because so many people wait until there is neck or back pain to see a doctor, many hidden injuries can rear their ugly head days, weeks, and sometimes even months after the impact. Regardless of the presence or absence of pain, go see your doctor of chiropractic or medical doctor, preferably one with experience in handling personal injury (PI) cases. Do it. Now.
  • A great chiropractor or MD with post-accident treatment experience will almost always take x-rays, do an evaluation, and provide treatment as needed. Referral for further imaging will also be discussed, as MRIs and CT scans might be needed to rule out disc herniations and other injuries not seen on standard x-rays.

Atlas Wellness Center Goals

  • Short term: Getting you out of pain.
  • Mid-to-long term: Prevent the injuries from becoming chronic and causing disability.

2pac vs Biggie. Lakers vs Celtics. Ice vs. Heat

While even the so-called experts can't seem to agree on ice-vs-heat initially, my 20+ yrs of experience in working with auto accidents victims, (and sports injuries as well) has shown me that every human is different; certain people do better with ice, others with heat, and many more with a combination of the two. Use them as needed, 15-20 minutes of each, as often as necessary. The ice will help break up the muscle spasm that results from the accident, and also act as a local anti-inflammatory and mild analgesic (pain control), while the heat will increase blood flow and relax tense muscles.
Also, REST. Even in low-speed collisions, a 100-lb (or even 200-lb) human is no match for the thousands of pounds of the cars involved. Even the smallest cars are more than 2500 lbs. and a pickup truck or SUV is oftentimes more than 4000 lbs. Physics, in these cases, is NOT our friend. Quite the opposite. Allowing your muscles, ligaments, tendons, and other injured tissues a chance to rest and recover is crucial in order to heal properly. Neurologically, your entire body, and even your brain have been rattled, and they will need time to replenish and reset. You may have noticed after an auto accident, your body seems to require more sleep in order to function. I’m not to because it does. Be kind to your body—get off the phone, put it on airplane mode, and go to sleep earlier than you normally do.

Lastly, the million-dollar question that I oftentimes get from patients when they’ve been in an automobile accident: should I get an attorney? The short answer: probably.

First, let’s discuss the downside of getting an attorney. There will be paperwork. Lots of it. And phone conversations. And maybe even meetings. Also, you'll be paying typically 1/3 of the settlement as legal fees to the attorney.
Now, the upside of working with a reputable law firm. First of all, auto accidents should never be a DIY project. The laws are intricate, and the case-by-case basis of each accident makes these waters potentially difficult and confusing to navigate. With an attorney, you will ensure that you will not be screwed by the insurance companies, who are a BUSINESS with a zero-sum mentality: a dollar saved on your case is a dollar returned to their shareholders. They have an army of attorneys, paralegals, adjusters, and other experts who know all the tricks and intricacies of the trade, and they know how to use them to their own advantage, by minimizing your injuries and us, the resulting settlement. With an attorney, you’ll be assured of fair compensation and a much better settlement than if you attempt to handle your case yourself.

Bottom line: When you’re involved in a car accident, assemble a “Dream Team” of professionals who are well-versed in the nuances and idiosyncrasies of personal injury. A chiropractor, an MD, and a personal injury attorney are a great start so that you can sit back and focus on what really matters: your health and your future.

If you ever need names of great doctors or attorneys or have any questions regarding auto accidents or any types of personal injuries, feel free to send me a PM, and we can discuss privately or you can call Atlas Wellness Center, my office, at 7145406792 and ask for a no-charge consultation. I’m always happy to help friends (and even enemies) navigate the uncharted waters of post-accident chaos. Holler.