Some simple relief for a pain in the neck CARROLL COUNTY SENIORS

October 28, 1992|By Linda Lowe Morris | Linda Lowe Morris,Staff Writer

It was 26 years ago that Martha Stenger was standing near some men putting up a partition at the Lord Baltimore Hotel where she worked. Suddenly the partition gave way and fell on her, breaking several ribs.

"A smaller person would have been killed," she said.

Since that time she has been bothered by occasional pains in her back and neck. But last week she got some relief after doing a simple exercise taught to her at the North Carroll Senior Center.

"I raised my head up four times and all that stiffness left me," Ms. Stenger said.

The exercise was among several taught as part of a lecture on the relationship between posture and pain given by Reisterstown chiropractor Keith Miller.

Problems with posture are the causes of most headaches, back and neck aches, and even such things as dizziness and ringing in the ears, Dr. Miller explained. "When you understand posture, you understand how to make aches and pains go away."

There are two things that the body always wants, he said. It wants the head to be over the body's center of gravity and it wants the eyes to be level.

If you are carrying heavy packages or balancing a child on your hip, you will automatically twist your neck to get your head back over the center of gravity. Dr. Miller demonstrated this and told his audience of about 20 people that they could feel this for themselves the next time they picked up anything heavy.

And if your eyes aren't level, he continued, you will get two different images from your eyes.

"If you leave it that way, the brain will unplug one eye."

Our bodies will twist into all kinds of contortions to keep the head balanced over the center of gravity and the eyes level. Twisting this way repeatedly over a lifetime causes many neck and back aches later in life, he said, so routinely avoiding these kinds of contortions will have long-term benefits.

But the body has three built-in shock absorbers that help to get it out of pain, he continued. These are the arch in the foot, the curve in the back and the curve in the neck. Anything that you do to strengthen and support these three shock absorbers will help alleviate pains in the body.

To help strengthen the arch in the foot, get a golf ball and roll it around under the foot for a few minutes once a day.

"That will break up all the adhesions from walking around for all those years," he said.

The curves in the back and the neck are connected.

"Put your hand on your back just above your belt line," he said. "Now look down and you'll feel your back get tighter. Look up and you'll feel your back get looser."

To support the curve in the back, he recommended that people get a pillow and put it behind them when they're driving or sitting for a long time.

"Find the bottom rib and then put the pillow so that the bottom of the pillow sits on the hips. You should feel the bulge of the pillow at the level of the bottom rib," he said.

"That's an easy thing to do and it doesn't cost much," he added.

For the curve in the neck, Dr. Miller recommended a neck pillow.

"There are fancy pillows you can buy. But you can also just roll up a towel so that it's roughly 3 inches in diameter. Put rubber bands at either end to hold it together."

Sleeping with a rolled-up towel under the neck helps alleviate the stiffness that many people feel in the morning.

For people who stand or walk all day, Dr. Miller offered a simple stretching exercise. He took two chairs and put one in front of him and one to his left side. Holding the chair on his left side to balance himself, he put his right foot straight out in front of him and placed it on the other chair.

"You should feel the tension in the right leg, but you should not feel that tension above the belt line," he said. "Make sure the foot on the floor is in exact line with the raised leg and hold that position for two full minutes. You can do it while you're talking on the telephone."

Do the same exercise reversing the chairs and raising the opposite leg.

He then showed a volunteer from the audience how she could become stronger by standing with her feet shoulder-width apart and pointed straight ahead instead of standing with her feet at an angle.

Looking straight ahead and then slightly upward would give her even more strength, he said.

"You're straightening out the twists in the back by pointing your feet ahead. And putting your head back puts the correct curves in your neck and back. You can get up to 40 percent stronger this way. That's a good thing to remember when you're lifting something."

Dr. Miller went on to tell the group how to lift properly.

"Never twist your back and bend at the same time," he said. "You can blow a disk out just picking up a handkerchief that way."

Instead, he continued, "get as close as you can to what you're lifting. Throw out your buttocks behind you. Bend your knees and do all the lifting with your knees.

"Hug the load, and when you turn, turn with your feet, not your hips. Then the first step in putting it down is to throw your buttocks out again."

The worst thing you can do when you're in pain is to stay in bed, he added.

"When you're not moving, you're not getting nutrition into the ligaments." The best way to get an injury to heal, he continued, was repeatedly to put a little bit of weight on it and then take it off.

Nerves go from the spinal cord to every part of the body, he explained. Standing and moving correctly helps keep the nerves from being pinched.

Dr. Miller recommended that the seniors take some sort of stretching or flexibility classes.

"The thing to remember about your body is, if you don't use it, you lose it."

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