What is Spinal Decompression?

Back pain is pretty common these days especially with all of the desk jobs and long hours sitting.  We have begun to be more sedentary than we ever were before.

If you have had chronic back pain you may have considered spinal decompression therapy.  There is surgical and non-surgical decompression. Lets look at the advantages and risk of each option.

What is Non-surgical Decompression:

Nonsurgical Spinal Decompression is a form of traction that is low force stretching of the spine which opens up the disc space and gets more blood and spinal fluid to the discs.  This will help get the proper nutrients providing growth and healing.  This is really great for bulging discs or herniations.  Taking the stress out of the disk will allow the bulge or herniation to retract a bit and not put so much pressure one the spinal cord.  It is normally not painful and patients normally feel more relaxed and lighter after the treatment.

This is how it works:

A harness is placed on two places on the body to provide stretching of the spine.  You can either be on your stomach or back.  The doctor will then customize a treatment plan on a computer for a specific treatment time.  Treatment times can be from 30 to 45 minutes.  Depending on the severity of symptoms and type of ailment, a patient may need 20-30 treatments over a 5 to 7 week time frame.

When is it not okay to have this procedure?

1. During pregnancy

2. Fractures

3. Tumors

4. Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm

5. Fusions of the spine

If you do decide to have Spinal Decompression Surgery (if other measures have not worked out), there are different types that may be considered.

  • Diskectomy:  A portion of the disk is removed when it is putting pressure on the nerves or spinal cord
  • Laminectomy: Removal of the bone to increase the spinal canal.  This can be a very large removal or a small removal.  Be sure to let your surgeon know you would like it to be as minimal as possible.  You don’t want your full spinal cord exposed without protection, that is what the bones are for.
  • Foraminotomy/foreinectomy:  Removal of bone and tissue around the foramina to expand the space between the bones and the nerve roots.
  • Osteophyte removal: These are bone spurs that can be removed to make sure it doesn’t impinge on the nerves or spinal cord.

What can happen after the surgery?

  • Infections to the spinal and surgical entry area
  • Bleeding (inside or outside)
  • Blood clots can occur
  • Anesthesia allergic reaction
  • Nerve damage
  • Tissue damage
  • Paralysis
  • Death

As you can see, surgery can be very dangerous and should only be considered as a LAST resort.  Many people opt for surgery first and in many cases, it does not solve the symptoms at all and can create more problems to the area.

Always try other options like chiropractic and massage, they can help relieve inflammation that may be making the spinal canal smaller and relieve a lot of problems.

How Do Musicians Effect The Nervous System?

Musicians must practice long hours and often times develop what is called a repetitive strain injury (RSI).  This can be anywhere in the body from the jaw, arm, leg, hand, fingers, low back, shoulder.  This can greatly effect their jobs and keep them out of work for long periods of time because the discomfort is too hard to deal with while working.   Unfortunately, a lot of musicians and people in general think that discomfort will go away on its own.  If you are experiencing discomfort in your body, it means there is a problem.  Your body is trying to tell you something and is trying to protect itself from further damage by giving you pain or some kind of discomfort so you don’t make your injury worse.

Most times, I see people who have pushed it so far that they now can’t play and can’t work and they want fast results.  Unfortunately, what has happened is an injury and injuries take time and dedication to heal, not to mention stay incident free.

So, how do RSIs happen?

Lets begin by letting you know that the brain and spinal cord (Nervous System) control everything in your body.  That means your organs (heart/lungs), glands (release hormones/substances), tissues, immune system.  As you know, your brain is involved in everything so this should make sense.

Stress interferes with your body, especially your nervous system.  When your body can not get rid of stress it stores in the body and presents itself as a symptom.  There are 3 different stress:

1. Physical: Stressful lifestyle choices like sitting slouched (posture), falls or accidents etc.

2. Chemical: Bad food, pesticides, toxic chemicals in the body (smoking/junk food)

3. Emotional: Stress from Family, work, relationship, death of a loved one or animal

Continued stress from these different areas will cause the body to tighten up and effect your posture, spine and muscles.  Then the nervous system will be effected and then will effect all the areas that the nervous system sends signals to.  This is called a subluxation.  Subluxations untreated will lead to diseases, sickness and discomfort in the body.

What is fairly common is for me to hear people say they felt great before and had no problems and then the symptom suddenly appeared.  Problems arise when the stress keeps happening and nothing is done about it to release it from the system.  Playing an instrument for 8 or more hours per day is stressful to the body.  Eating foods that aren’t good for you causes more stress, then if you are worried about anything else will effect the body as well.  Everything starts building up and the body will give you some signals.  It may be tight or you may feel a tweak or shock for a second and then it goes away.  This is a warning sign of things to come.  Don’t ignore this or next time it will be a harsher signal.  The problem is that people feel these signs and they ignore them until there is so much discomfort that they can’t deal with it anymore.  This is a great example of how built up stress will effect everything and lead to sickness and discomfort.

We can help by getting rid of such stress in the body.  We not only do any physical tests we need to do, but we have a diagnostic machine that tracks stress in the body.  It is non-invasive and will let us know where this stress is storing in the nervous system.  Pretty cool huh?   Give us a call today to make an appointment and see how we can help release stored stress in your body and keep you playing and feeling great at the same time!

If I Have Little Damage To My Car, Can I Still Be Hurt?

Yes, a vehicle weighs a ton and you are very small in comparison.  Think of being tackled on the street by a 200lb. person and you can imagine being hurt right?  Well, a car weighs way more than that and even though you are strapped in and have airbags, it is still a large mass that has slammed into you.  This causes damage.

A study conducted by Charles Carroll, M.D., Paul McAtee, M.D. and Lee Riley, M.D. revealed that: “The amount of damage to the automobile bears little relation to the force applied to the cervical spine (neck) of the occupants.”

Like I mentioned earlier, the damage to a car is different to the damage to a person.   Even if there is no pain immediately, the impact can lead to pain later on.

Please give us a call at (650) 353-1133 so we can evaluate you using our technology that has been used by cardiologists and personal trainers on professional athletes and astronauts.

Are backpacks good for my child’s posture?

Kids carry heavy backpacks with school supplies.  Many times the backpack is carried over one shoulder pulling on one side of the neck.  This causes one shoulder to be higher than the other.  This can start to cause postural problems, headaches and neck pain.  Also, because the load is so heavy, kids often bend over pushing their head forward causing more stress on the neck and shoulders.   Research has come back showing that kids backpacks can be up to 30% of their body weight.  That is pretty heavy and to carry this load several days a week can have some huge affects on the body!

Prolonged stress on the back not only causes upper back and neck problems but lower back problems because of the strain on the spinal column.  Posture can be greatly affected because children are still very flexible and growing.  Please choose ergonomic backpacks that put less stress on the back and shoulders and ALWAYS have both straps around the shoulders to prevent unnecessary stress on the body.  This will enable your child to have a fighting chance against postural problems in the future!

Here are some things to look for when buying a backpack:

– Padded backs to help reduce pressure on shoulders, arms and back.

– Belts for the hip and chest to aide in proper weight distribution.

– Multiple compartments so that items can be placed in the pack with better balance and distribution plus keeping them secure and easy to access.

– Stabilizing compression straps on the sides and bottom to help secure and compress the contents.

– Reflective patches to increase pre-dawn or night safety.

Hope this helps!

6 tips for managing Ankylosing Spondylitis

What is Ankylosing Spondylitis?

Ankylosing Spondylitis (“AS”) is also known as Mari Struempell disease or Bechterew’s disease.  This is an inflammatory arthritis that results in fusion of the spine, pelvis and sacral joints.  It can affect other joints in the body as well.  Spondylitis is defined as inflammation of the joints of the body.   When AS forms on bones, it begins to grow more bone and eventually fuse the joints together causing pain, stiffness and decreased movement in the body.


Joint pain in the low back is the most common symptom but may be ignored and called “growing pains” because signs and symptoms can occur at 15 years of age or younger.  Other symptoms are

1. Stiffness especially in the morning in the Sacroiliac joint and spine,
2. Aches in low back which interrupt sleep
3. Pain that goes down the legs and groin area
4. Pain in the morning, after waking up
5. Aches in buttock, neck, shoulders, hips and upper back
6. Weight loss and fatigue
7. Eye inflammation, heart, lung, nervous system, bowel dysfunction
8. An increase of the curve of the thoracic spine may occur.

What can be done to decrease the symptoms of AS?

A. Flexibility exercises to keep the muscles and tissues moving as much as possible.
B. Keep weight within normal limits to keep the strain off of the joints of the body
C. Avoid quick movements which may inflame the body
D. When pain and stiffness occur, use heat.
E. Swimming, yoga and pilates is the best exercise for AS
F. Omega 3 rich diet.

What can your doctor do to help with this problem?

1. X-rays can show fusion of the joints to confirm the diagnosis of AS
2. Assist with an exercise program to keep mobility and correct posture
3. Massage and muscle therapy included in the treatment plan to increase flexibility

Keeping proper movement and flexibility in your body can drastically decrease the affects of AS.  Chiropractic care that incorporates soft tissue work can keep you healthy and functioning at the highest level possible.

This was presented by Dr. Amie Gregory, D.C. of Precise Moves Chiropractic in San Carlos, CA

The Affects Of Tight Hamstrings

A lot of patients that come into my office have tight hamstrings and think it is normal to feel a pull in the back of their legs when bending forward.  This is not normal.  Sure, there may not be any problems right now but in time, the muscle can cause several dysfunctions.  Tears, low back and sciatic pain (because the muscle attaches to the lower portion of the hips), and pain or tears in the back of the knee may occur.  The hamstring muscle is really three muscles.  The semitendinosis, semimembranosis and biceps femoris.

What causes hamstring tightness?
Sure, genetics can play a part but in most cases it is caused by improper or not enough stretching.  There are easy stretches that only take about 6-10 minutes and can prevent tears and problems in the future.  Stretching before and after an athletic event helps in maintaining a flexible muscle so it is recommended to do so every time you engage in a sport.  Here is a common stretch that is easy to do.

  • Sit on the floor with one leg straight
 and the other bent with the foot pressing against the inner portion of the outstretched leg
  • Keep your back straight as you lean forward through the hips 
to one the straight leg side
  • Hold (don’t bounce) for 25 to 30 seconds
  • Switch sides

Doing these exercises will prevent injuries and keep you low back loose preventing injuries.

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome Reasons And Results

What is Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome is hand tingling, numbness and pain. Females more commonly have the condition.

Normally, Carpal Tunnel occurs with people who perform jobs that require repetitive hand movements. Typing, flexing or extending the wrist for long periods of time are very commonly the cause. It can also occur with a muscle or tendon pressing on the nerve or if a bone in the wrist is out of place. Preventing pressure on the median nerve will decrease inflammation in the area and alleviate the problem.

Carpal Tunnel is a “tunnel” made by bones and tissues in your wrist. Bones in the wrist (“carpals”) move and slide to form a tunnel on the palmar surface of the wrist. The median nerve goes through this tunnel into the fingers. The transverse carpal ligament goes over the nerve and provides protection and lubrication to the joint. Sometimes this ligament gets tight and presses on the nerve if muscles, tendons and bones are not in the place they need to be or if there is swelling in the region. Carpal Tunnel can also occur in cases where people sleep with their hands bent for long periods of time.
How do I know if I have carpal tunnel?

1. Numbness, tingling or pain in the hand

2. If an electric shock occurs on the thumb or the long fingers (excluding the pinky)

Initially, symptoms will come and go. Numbness, tingling and pain will occur for short periods, then go away. This is a warning signal! If left without treatment, it will get worse and the symptoms will come back more severely and may last longer and interfere with sleep. Easy tasks may become difficult. You may not be able to button your shirt like you used to or open a pickle jar without pain. You may also begin to drop things easily.

So what can we do to help

To find out if you have this problem, we will talk to you about your symptoms and discuss your medical history. We will perform orthopedic tests to determine if this is indeed Carpal Tunnel Syndrome or another nerve affecting the area. Here is some of what will be performed:

  • Tests to determine weakness in the muscles of your hands
  • Bending and holding your wrists in positions which begin to test the median nerve in your hands
  • Testing the median nerve to see if symptoms occur

There are several traditional forms of treatment that have been applied by practioners in the past. Wrist braces, anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen, ceasing activity on the wrist or corticosteroid injections. Some of these may work but if they don’t, surgery will be recommended. What happens is cut or thin out the transverse carpal ligament. This can expose the nerve to injury and have the symptoms reoccur.

Chiroractors want to help you naturally without the use of drugs or surgery.

What chiropractic does is to make sure the body is aligned properly so the median nerve is not impinged or irritated. We can do this by working with your muscles, tendons and bones. We can prevent unnecessary surgery, steroid shots which have been proven to impede healing and NSAIDS which have to be filtered out by your internal organs which can put an added stress on those areas.

Chiropractors have a high percentage of success with Carpal Tunnel Syndrome and most extremity issues!

Please call today if you are experiencing any discomfort. We can help.

Dr. Amie B. Gregory, D.C.

Sport and extremity chiropractor located in Redwood City, CA and surrounding areas.

The importance of good posture

To most people, “good posture” simply means sitting and standing up straight. Few of us realize the importance of posture to our health and performance. The human body craves alignment. When we are properly aligned, our bones, not our muscles, support our weight, reducing effort and strain. The big payoff with proper posture is that we feel healthier, have more energy, and move gracefully. So while the word “posture” may conjure up images of book-balancing charm-school girls, it is not just about standing up straight. It’s about being aware of and connected to every part of your self.

Posture ranks right up at the top of the list when you are talking about good health. It is as important as eating right, exercising, getting proper rest and avoiding potentially harmful substances like alcohol, drugs, and tobacco. Good posture is a way of doing things with more energy, less stress and fatigue. Without good posture, you cannot really be physically fit. Without good posture, you can actually damage your spine every time you exercise.

Ideally, our bones stack up one upon the other: the head rests directly on top of the spine, which sits directly over the pelvis, which sits directly over the knees and ankles. But if you spend hours every day sitting in a chair, if you hunch forward or balance your weight primarily on one leg, the muscles of your neck and back have to carry the weight of the body rather than it being supported by the spine. The resulting tension and joint pressure can affect you not only physically, but emotionally, too, — from the predictable shoulder and back pain to headaches, short attention span, and depression.

Poor posture distorts the alignment of bones, chronically tenses muscles, and contributes to stressful conditions such as loss of vital lung capacity, increased fatigue, reduced blood and oxygen to the brain, limited range of motion, stiffness of joints, pain syndromes, reduced mental alertness, and decreased productivity at work. According to the Nobel Laureate Dr. Roger Sperry, “the more mechanically distorted a person is, the less energy is available for thinking, metabolism, and healing.”

The most immediate problem with poor posture is that it creates a lot of chronic muscle tension as the weight of the head and upper body must be supported by the muscles instead of the bones. This effect becomes more pronounced the further your posture deviates from your body’s center of balance.

To illustrate this idea further, think about carrying a briefcase. If you had to carry a briefcase with your arms outstretched in front of you, it would not take long before the muscles of your shoulders would be completely exhausted. This is because carrying the briefcase far away from your center of balance places undue stress on your shoulder muscles. If you held the same briefcase down at your side, your muscles would not fatigue as quickly, because the briefcase is closer to your center of balance and therefore the weight is supported by the bones of the skeleton, rather than the muscles.

In some parts of the world, women can carry big pots full of water from distant water sources back to their homes. They are able to carry these heavy pots a long distance without significant effort because they balance them on the top of their heads, thereby carrying them at their center of balance and allowing the strength of their skeleton to bear the weight, rather than their muscles.

Correcting bad posture and the physical problems that result can be accomplished in two ways. The first is by eliminating as much “bad” stress from your body as possible. Bad stress includes all the factors, habits, or stressors that cause your body to deviate from your structural center. Bad stress can result from a poorly adjusted workstation at work, from not having your seat adjusted correctly in your car, or even from carrying too much weight around in a heavy purse or backpack.

The second is by applying “good” stress on the body in an effort to move your posture back toward your center of balance. This is accomplished through a series of exercises, stretches, adjustments, and changes to your physical environment, all designed to help correct your posture. Getting your body back to its center of balance by improving your posture is critically important to improving how you feel.