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Monday, 28 November 2011

Practice Safe Snow Removal

When you consider that a shovelful of show weighs 5-7 pounds (often more with our wet snow!), you quickly realize how much weight you need to move to clear your sidewalk or driveway.  Shoveling snow can be a pain in more ways than one.  Here are some tips to help keep your back in top shape this winter.

Don't Let the Snow Pile Up:
If the weather report calls for an extended period of snowfall, its tempting to just wait until the snow stops to shovel.  However, frequent shoveling witll allow you to move smaller amounts of snow at once. This will be far less strenuous in the long run.

Pick the Right Shovel:
Use a lightweight pusher-type shovel.  In situations where a small metal shovel is better, try spraying it with Teflon to keep snow from sticking to it. 

Push, Don't Throw:
Always push the snow to the side rather than throw it.  That way you avoid lifting heavy shovelfuls of snow, and sudden twisting or turning movements.  If you are piling snow up and need to lift it, walk the snow over the the pile and place it on top instead of throwing. 

Bend Your Knees:
As in any lifting activity, you need to use your knees, leg, and arm muscles to do the pushing and lifting.  While doing this, keep your back straight.

Take A Break:
If you feel tired or short of breath, stop and take a rest.  Your back is much more prone to injury when you are out of breath.  Stop shoveling immediately if you feel chest pain or back pain.

If you have back pain that is severe, or presists for more than a day after shoveling, give us a call at Back Home Chiropractic.  If you start to have chest pain that is severe, see a medical doctor immediately.

Dr. Jeff Marshall, BScKin, DC

Thursday, 27 October 2011

Wear it Light, Pack it Right!

Many kids wear backpacks daily.  Whether you are heading out after school with the kids or sending them off to school, theres a good chance they will be wearing a backpack.

You are probably carrying something as well.  Maybe its a purse, a suitcase, or your own backpack Knowing how to choose, pack and lift backpacks, shoulder bags and luggage can prevent them from becoming a pain in the back.

These CCA approved guidelines will help to spare your back:


Choose carefully: Go for lightweight vinyl or canvas. Pick a pack that has two wide, adjustable and padded shoulder straps, along with a hip or waist strap, a padded back and plenty of pockets.

Pack it properly: Make sure the backpack contains only what is needed for the day or the activity. Distribute the weight of the contents evenly. The total weight of the filled pack should be no more than 10 to 15 per cent of the wearer’s body weight.
Wear it right: Both shoulder straps should always be used, and adjusted so that the pack fits snugly to the body without dangling to the side. Never sling a backpack over one shoulder. You should be able to slide a hand between the backpack and the carrier’s back.

It’s a fact! More than 50 per cent of young people experience at least one episode of low back pain by their teenage years. Research indicates one cause is improper use of backpacks. So pack it light and wear it right!


Choosing a Shoulder Bag: Whether your bag is a purse or home to your laptop, choose one with a wide, padded adjustable shoulder strap.

Packing a Shoulder Bag: Divide the contents among multiple pockets to help distribute the weight and keep items from shifting. Your bag should not weigh more than 10 to 15 per cent of your body weight.

Carrying a Shoulder Bag: Don’t always carry your bag on the same shoulder, switch sides often so that each shoulder gets a rest. Try not to lift the shoulder on which the purse is carried, ideally wear the strap across your chest.

Choosing Luggage: Look for sturdy, light, high-quality and transportable pieces. Avoid purchasing luggage that is already too heavy when empty. Choose a bag with wheels and an adjustable handle when possible.

Packing Luggage: Over-packing is a pitfall. Ensure your luggage is never too heavy for you to pick up.

Lifting Luggage: Place carry-on luggage into the overhead compartment by first lifting it onto the top of the seat. Use your knees, not your back to lift!

The Last Word: Carrying a heavy load that is poorly distributed can cause a number of problems including muscle strain, headaches, neck, back and arm pain, and even nerve damage. It pays to pack it light and wear it right.

These simple tips will help prevent back pain due to backpacks, purses, and/or lugagge.  If you have any questions or concerns, please contact us at 747-0844 or stop by the clinic in Bidgood's North Plaza in The Goulds. 

Dr. Jeff Marshall, BScKin, DC, CSCS

Monday, 8 August 2011

Training Your Abs and Core For A Healthy Back

When people start going to the gym, often having a fit midsection is among their goals.  However, the most common types of exercises that people do for their abs are not healthy for their spines.

 While at the gym, the two most common exercises I see people do are crunches with rotations (touching your elbow with the opposite knee) and side bends (where you bend to the side while standing with a weight in your hand). 

These exercises will certainly work the core muscles.  The issue with these exercises, and others that involve repetitive movement of the spine, is that they place alot of pressure on the discs over many repititions.  The movements that place the most stress on the discs are flexion (bending forward), rotation, and compression.  Both the Side Bend, and Crunches (along with similar exericses) create exactly these type of forces.  Over time, these repetitive strains on your discs can lead to injury.

When you think of the main function of your abs and other core muscles, it isnt to repetitively flex or bend.  It is to hold your body upright and stable for long periods of time.  Research into low back pain has shown that the endurance of spinal stabilizers is one of the most important factors to be addressed in maintaining spinal health.  In order to train endurance, while minimizing stress on the spine, I always recommend training abs in a neutral position.  The four exercises I most commonly recommend for this purpose are the Bird-Dog, Dead-Bug, Front Plank, and Side Plank.

1. Bird-Dog
- Pull your belly button down and brace your abs
- Breathe normally throughout exercise
- Concentrate on holding a neutral spine and not allowing it to move
-Hold position shown for 1-2 seconds, then slowly alternate and repeat
- Perform 10-15 repetitions on each side for three sets every other day.  If you reach a point where you can no longer maintain a neutral spine, its time to end that set.

2. Bird- Dog

- Kneel on all fours and pull in your belly button
- Raise your right arm and left leg and hold for 5-10 seconds
- Breathe normally
- Repeat on the same side three times, then alternate
- Concentrate on keeping your back flat, and not allowing your hips to rotate

3.  Front Plank
- Hold your belly button in
-Hold this position for as long as proper form can be maintained. 
- Breathe normally while keeping your belly button in and abs tight

4. Side Plank
- Hold your belly button in
- Breathe normally while keeping your belly button in and abs tight
- Make sure to keep your body straight.  ie. Your hips in line with your shoulders when looking from the front and from above.

As I said, these are the four exercises I most commonly recommend to train spinal stability.  These exercises are useful for people of all fitness types.  However, it is important for those with existing back problems to consult a professional before starting these types of exercises.  These people may benefit from treatment and/or starting at a more basic level. 

If you have any questions or would like to book an appointment, please call us at 747-0844

Dr. Jeff Marshall, BScKin, DC, CSCS
Contemporary Medical Acupunture Provider
Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist

Thursday, 21 July 2011

Quick Tests for Running/Walking Shoes

Now that the weather has warmed up and summer is finally here, many of us are trying to get outside as much as possible.  In order to make those walks and runs safe, it is important to choose a good shoe.  Every persons feet are different, and there are many considerations in choosing the perfect shoe.  The following is simply a few quick tests you can do at the store (or on your current shoes) to see if they will give you the proper support.

Shoe Flexibility Test:

Your foot is made up of many bones and joints that all work together to move you forward.  The joints of your foot are designed to bend at specific points.  This test makes sure that the bending of the shoe happens at the right place.  Bend the shoe as shown in the picture above.  If you cannot bend the shoe or if there isno resistance at all, do not purchase the shoe.  This means that the shoe is either too rigid, and will not provide enough support.  A major movement point of your foot is at the balls of your feet, and the shoe should only bend at this point,  There are often grooves on the under side of the shoe at this point to allow flexibility.

Dish Rag Test:

This test is performed just as it sounds.  Just try and wring out the shoe like a dish cloth.  This is another test of stability of the shoe, and it should not twist around very much.  A small amount of "twist" is ok.

Pinch Test:

When performing the pinch test, look for shoes that have a “rigid” heel counter to ensure that your heel is stable in the shoe.  Take the two sides of the heel with your thumb and forefinger and squeeze.  You should be met with resistance. 

Shelf Test:

This is more of an observational test. This test tells if the boot (upper part) of the shoe contributes to stability.  If your shoes look like the shoes above (boot falling in), dont buy them or buy a new pair.  This tells you that the boot is not contributing to the stability of the shoe.  This is especially important for sports where there are alot of side-to-side movements. 

These are general quick tests for picking running/walking shoes.  If you have flat feet, excessively high arches, bunyons, toe problems, etc, you may benefit from a more detailed evaluation.  In these cases, Custom Orthotics may be prescribed. 
If you have any questions, or would like us to take a look at your shoes please give us a call at 747-0844

Dr. Jeff Marshall, BScKin, DC, CSCS

For more info about our clinic, visit

Thursday, 23 June 2011

Desk Workers Syndrome

Desk Workers Syndrome (sometimes called Student Syndrome) refers to a common pattern of symptoms among people who spend alot of time at a desk.  This postural pattern is referred to as Upper Cross Posture.  This "Upper Cross" refers to the cross formed when drawing a line between two sets of tightened muscles and also through the set of muscles which are weakened.

You have a very complicated set of joints and muscles which allow you to look around.  As with most systems, the more moving parts there are, the more potential there is for problems.  Holding your head too far forward puts excess strain on the muslces of the neck, which leads to tightness of the muscles at the base of your skull and the muscles that raise your shoulders.  Also, constantly working in front of your body with your arms internally rotated causes the chest muscles to become tight.

As these muscles tighten, other muscles will "turn-off"(reciprical inhibition).  This happens because when muscles are activated on one side of a joint, they are inhibited on the other.  Imagine lifting a weight with your bicep. Your tricep will automatically turn off so you can perform the movement.  Your neck and shoulders are no different.  If this happens for hours on end in the same direction, you end up with pain and dysfunction. 

Upper Crossed Posture can lead to a variety of pain and instability problems.  This includes shoulder pain, pain around the shoulder blades, neck pain, headaches, and pain and numbess in the arms. 

A great preventative exercise that we give many patients with this type of pain is the Brugger.  In order to do this exercise, sit on the edge of your chair.  First, tuck your chin straight back while keeping your eyes level, giving yourself a nice double chin.  Second, while keeping your head in place, bring your shoulder blades down and together with your palms facing forward.  Third, hold this position while taking three deep breaths. 

Sometimes, the pain associated with Upper Crossed Posture is a result of joint restrictions in your neck.  Holding the same position for a period of time causes joints to not move like they should, which can lead to pain.  This contributes to muscle tightness, as muscles will typically tighten up to protect an aggravated joint.  The joints at the base of the skull can also be affected, which in combination with everything else, can lead to headaches in a predictable pattern.  These patterns are pictured below.  The good news is that these headaches typically respond quickly to a combination of myofascial release and manipulation of affected joints.

So be sure to do your Brugger exercise and to take your eyes off your screen as you do it.  This will help your neck, back, shoulders is also good for your eyes.  If the pain has already begun, and this doesn't make it go away, come see us at Back Home Chiropractic.

Dr. Jeff Marshall, BScKin, DC, CSCS

Friday, 17 June 2011

Several Causes of Sciatica

Most people know that Sciatica means you have pain that shoots down your leg.  However, many people are not aware there are several possible causes of Sciatica. 
The term "Sciatica" is a description of symptoms, not a clinical diagnosis.  Sciatica simply means there is an irritation of the sciatic nerve, which is the major nerve that runs from the back down the back of your leg.  This nerve can be irritated by: disc herniation, joints in the low back, tight muscles, and other reasons.  Proper and specific diagnosis of the cause of Sciatica will direct specific treatment.
Recently, I saw a patient who presented with buttock and leg pain.  They were very concerned about having a disc herniation, and was very relieved when I found it was the piriformis muscle which was causing the sciatica.
Piriformis Syndrome can cause buttock and leg pain.  Another sign that the piriformis may be involved is relief when walking with your foot turned outward.  This is the case because externally rotating the hip will reduce the stretch of the piriformis, therefore irritation on the sciatic nerve. 
There are many physical tests, along with a detailed patient history, a Chiropractor can use to determine the cause of Sciatica.  Once a diagnosis is made the treatment would depend on the individual case, but may include: Myofascial Release, Spinal Manipulation, Medical Acupuncture, Custom Orthotics and Specific Exercises. 

Dr. Jeff Marshall, BScKin, DC, CSCS
For more information about Back Home Chiropractic, Visit or call 747-0844