Leg Cramps

Have you ever been sleeping soundly or quietly relaxing on the couch after a hard day at work, only to be jolted awake by  painful leg cramps? Well, you are not alone. Nearly everybody has experienced painful leg cramps at some point in his or her life. Just to make things more complicated, there may be different reasons why leg cramps can occur. For example, pregnant women seem to be prone to muscle cramps because the needs of the developing baby throw off their balance of body fluids. As well, people who exercise for long periods of time or very intensely will throw off their balance of water, sodium, potassium, lactic acid, and glucose, which affects muscle contractions and can result in painful muscle cramps. The most common reason I see leg cramps occurring in my patients is a simple lack of stretching the muscles.

If you have severe leg pain, you should get a professional opinion to determine if what you feel is just an ordinary muscle cramp. If you suspect the pain is caused by something else, like a blood clot, see your medical doctor or chiropractor immediately. They will examine the area and make the appropriate referral for more diagnostic testing if needed.This is a brief description of what a typical muscle cramp should feel like:

  • they are usually in the leg or foot, and occur during rest or sleep.
  • the cramps do not occur in both legs at the same time.
  • the muscle often twitches for a few seconds before and after the cramp.
  • intense pain comes on suddenly and is usually relieved by standing on or stretching the    leg or foot.
  • a knot in the muscle is often seen or felt.
  • sometimes the affected muscle is tender for a few days.

For a select few people, it may not be possible to prevent these cramps completely.  However, for the average person, the cramps will decrease in severity and how often they occur if the affected muscles were stretched regularly. It would also help if you drink enough water during and after exercising to replace what you lost as sweat.

Ordinary muscle cramps cause no permanent harm. However, if symptoms persist or you think that the pain is not just a muscle cramp, have it examined by a medical doctor or chiropractor right away.

Back and Neck Pain After Camping

camping back pain

On summer weekends, there are many people who head out camping. Although you might think that camping is a relaxing and sedentary activity, I still seem to have numerous people walk into my office on the following Monday morning with severe back or neck pain after a weekend of camping. Therefore, I would like to make a couple suggestions to help you avoid this from happening to you.


When you go camping, it is typically impossible to take your favorite ultra supportive mattress with you. This does not mean you have to sleep on the hard ground. Sleep on something that will offer a little cushion and support to your back. A sleeping “foamy” is typically light, portable, and will be the most durable. Even a good air mattress is better than nothing. However, an air mattress is likely to pop if exposed to rough or sharp surfaces. If this happens during the night, the result may be that you sleep directly on the ground and wake up with a sore back


If you can, take your favorite pillow with you wherever you go. Using a completely different pillow or a rolled up pair of jeans is just asking for a stiff neck in the morning. If you do not have your favorite pillow, try to keep your neck in a neutral position when sleeping. If you sleep on your side, you neck should not be bent sideways toward the ground. If you sleep on your back, your neck should not be bent backwards. Basically, if you imagine the position of your neck and head while you sit up straight in a chair, this is the position your neck should be in when you are lying down. It is also very important to not sleep on your stomach. When you lye on your stomach, you have to turn your head to either side, in order to breathe, and keep it there all night. This is far from a desirable position for your neck and can result in some serious pain/stiffness in the morning.


If you have been experiencing mild back or neck stiffness for the week or more prior to going camping, you may wish to address this before you go. If there is already mild stiffness in the joints of your neck or back and you challenge these joints even more by sleeping on a hard surface or without a pillow, you are even more prone to having problems. Before heading out for a relaxing weekend camping by a lake, see your chiropractor. He or she is specifically trained to do “adjustments” or “manipulation” to restore the proper movement to the joints of the back or neck so that you are less vulnerable to waking up sore.


To further prevent neck and back problems from putting a damper on you weekend of camping, visit my website www.merrittchiro.com and check out the neck and back stretches and exercises.

Spinal Decompression

For the past few years, I have been utilizing “spinal decompression” in my practice. This modality has greatly assisted me in the treatment of neck and back pain. More specifically, it is used primarily for the conservative treatment of conditions that occur in the spine, such as: herniated disks, sciatica, degenerative disk disease, degenerative joint disease, and osteoarthritis. Many practitioners around the world are starting to use this very same form of treatment in their medical, physiotherapy, and chiropractic practices with great results.

Did you know that the discs and joints in your back and neck can be the source of up to 70% of back, leg, neck and arm pain? Fortunately, non-surgical “decompression” or “traction” is quickly becoming a mainstream form of conservative treatment of these problems. 

The decompression or traction process allows stretched or torn tissue fibers to heal and tighten. Pressure that builds up on your discs and nerves is relieved by drawing areas of herniated discs apart or back into place. This is accomplished by creating negative pressure, causing a vacuum effect. The vacuum effect accomplishes 2 things:
1) The jelly-like fluid found in the center of the disc that has protruded or herniated outside the normal confines of the disc may be “pulled or shifted back into the center of the disc” where it belongs.
2) The vacuum within the disc stimulates the growth of new blood vessels that supply blood to the disc. This may result in pain reduction and healing of the disc at the injured site.

Patients lie on the padded table, fully clothed, while wearing a comfortable harness used to traction the neck or the low back. The amount of force used during the traction can be as gentle or firm as needed.  In fact, most patients find the treatment quite relaxing.

Decompression or traction has a relatively quick initial response. Patients who will have good success with this form of treatment tend to feel a sense of relief within 2-6 sessions. Full relief usually does not exceed 15 sessions. Traction, along with good posture, chiropractic manipulation, and exercise, can be a recipe for effective spinal pain management.

Just so you know that what I am saying is valid and that decompression actually works, I have included a few brief descriptions of the recent research on the topic.

In a study of 219 patients with herniated discs and degerative disc disease, 86 per cent who completed the therapy showed immediate improvement and resolution of their symptoms; 92 per cent improved overall; five patients (two per cent) relapsed within 90 days of initial treatment.”
      Glonis T, Grotecke E. Spinal Decompression.  Orth Tech Review 5(6):36-39; Nove-Dec 2003.

“Decompression therapy, addresses both primary and secondary causes of low back and referred leg pain. We thus submit that decompression therapy should be considered first, before the patient undergoes a surgical procedure which permanently alters the anatomy and function of the affected lumbar spine segment.”
      Eugene S, Kitchener P, Smart R. A prospective Randomised Controlled Study of VAX-D and TENS
      for the Treatment of Chronic Low Back Pain. J Neuro Research 23 (7); Oct 2001

“We consider decompression therapy to be a primary treatment modality for low back pain associated with lumbar disc herniation at single or multiple levels, degerative disc disease, facet arthropathy, and decreased spine mobility.  We believe that post-surgical patients with persistent pain or “failed back syndrome” should not be considered candidates for further surgery until a reasonable trial of decompression has been tried.”
      Gose E, Naguszewski W, Naguszewski R. Vertebral Axial Decompression Therapy for pain associated
      with herniated or degenerated discs or facet syndrome: an outcome study.
      J Neuro research 20(4): 186-90; Apr 1998

Chiropractors Can Treat Headaches

tyra looking stressed

If you have a headache, you’re not alone. Nine out of ten Americans suffer from headaches. Some are occasional, some frequent, some are dull and throbbing, and some cause debilitating pain and nausea. What do you do when you suffer from a pounding headache? Do you grit your teeth and carry on? Lie down? Pop a pill and hope the pain goes away? There is a better alternative. Did you know that chiropractors can treat headaches?

New research shows that spinal manipulation, the primary form of care provided by doctors of chiropractic, may be an effective treatment option for tension headaches and headaches that originate in the neck. A report released in 2001 by researchers at the Duke University Evidence-Based Practice Center in Durham, NC, found that spinal manipulation resulted in almost immediate improvement for those headaches that originate in the neck, and had significantly fewer side effects and longer-lasting relief of tension-type headache than a commonly prescribed medication. Also, a 1995 study in the Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics found that spinal manipulative therapy is an effective treatment for tension headaches and that those who ceased chiropractic treatment after four weeks experienced a sustained therapeutic benefit in contrast with those patients who received a commonly prescribed medication.

Headache Triggers

Headaches have many causes, or “triggers.” These may include foods, environmental stimuli (noises, lights, stress, etc.) and/or behaviours (insomnia, excessive exercise, blood sugar changes, etc.). About 5 percent of all headaches are warning signals caused by physical problems. Ninety-five percent of headaches are primary headaches, such as tension, migraine, or cluster headaches. These types of headaches are not caused by disease. The headache itself is the primary concern. “The greatest majority of primary headaches are associated with muscle tension in the neck,” says Dr. George B. McClelland, a doctor of chiropractic from Christiansburg, VA. “Today, Americans engage in more sedentary activities than they used to, and more hours are spent in one fixed position or posture. This can increase joint irritation and muscle tension in the neck, upper back and scalp, causing your head to ache.”

What Can You Do?

The American Chiropractic Association suggests the following:

• If you spend a large amount of time in one fixed position, such as in front of a computer, on a sewing machine, typing or reading, take a break and stretch every 30 minutes to one hour. The stretches should take your head and neck through a comfortable range of motion.

• Low-impact exercise may help relieve the pain associated with primary headaches. However, if you are prone to dull, throbbing headaches, avoid heavy exercise. Engage in such activities as walking and low-impact aerobics.

• Avoid teeth clenching. The upper teeth should never touch the lowers, except when swallowing. This results in stress at the temporomandibular joints (TMJ) – the two joints that connect your jaw to your skull – leading to TMJ irritation and a form of tension headaches.

• Drink at least eight 8-ounce glasses of water a day to help avoid dehydration, which can lead to headaches.

What Can a Doctor of Chiropractic Do?

Dr. McClelland says your doctor of chiropractic may do one or more of the following if you suffer from a primary headache:

• Perform spinal manipulation or chiropractic adjustments to improve spinal function and alleviate the stress on your system. Provide nutritional advice, recommending a change in diet and perhaps the addition of B complex vitamins.

• Offer advice on posture, ergonomics (work postures), exercises and relaxation techniques.

This advice should help to relieve the recurring joint irritation and tension in the muscles of the neck and upper back. “Doctors of chiropractic undergo extensive training to help their patients in many ways – not just back pain,” says Dr. McClelland. “They know how tension in the spine relates to problems in other parts of the body, and they can take steps to relieve those problems.”

In closing, dont suffer with chronic pain at the head and neck. Remember that chiropractors can treat headaches! For more information on tension headaches, click on the this link and read another article from this website.

This article was taken from The American Chiropractic Association. It is their policy that this article may be reproduced non-commercially by doctors of chiropractic and other healthcare professionals to educate patients.

Fibromyalgia, Difficult to Diagnose

Over the past four to 18 years of operating a chiropractic practice in Merritt, I have been treating an increasing number of patients with a broad array of symptoms that fulfill the criteria of a syndrome called “fibromyalgia”. Patients with this syndrome are becoming more numerous every year. This is partly due to the fact that more health care practitioners are becoming educated on what exactly it is and making the diagnosis more frequently.

The average fibromyalgia patient suffers for years and spends thousands of dollars on medical or alternative therapies before receiving an accurate diagnosis. Typically, patients receive an inaccurate diagnosis, resulting in more than half of them undergoing unnecessary surgery. Have patience with your health care practitioners; it is very difficult for an accurate diagnosis to be made. Patients can come in with different symptoms every visit, which often do not seem related to each other. These can vary from headaches, irritable bladder/bowel, dysmenorrhea, cold sensitivity, restless legs, numbness or tingling, exercise intolerance, weakness, sleep problems, chronic fatigue, morning stiffness, multiple tender points, blurred vision, falling, itching, pelvic pain, hearing loss, to muscle aches and pains. The most commonly described symptom is pain. This is by no means an all-inclusive list of symptoms that a fibromyalgia patient may experience, as there are many more. To make things even more confusing, the signs and symptoms can, and frequently do, fluctuate from hour to hour and day to day.

It is important to understand that fibromyalgia is not a catchall “wastebasket” diagnosis. It is a specific, chronic, non-degenerative, non-progressive; non-inflammatory, truly systemic pain condition –a true SYNDROME. It is not a DISEASE. A disease has a known cause and well-understood mechanism for producing symptoms. For example, rheumatoid arthritis is a specific type of arthritis that can be distinguished from other types of arthritis through x-rays, blood tests, and specific signs/symptoms. We know a lot about how it happens and there are specific forms of treatment that often help. In comparison, fibromyalgia is a SYNDROME. It has a specific set of symptoms patients’ experience and signs that the health care practitioner can identify, all occurring at once.  There are no blood tests or other laboratory tests that allow an accurate diagnosis.

To be diagnosed with fibromyalgia, your health care practitioner must be able to identify 11 of 18 specific points on the body that are abnormally tender. The official definition requires that the tender points must be present in all four quadrants of the body –the upper right, upper left, lower right, and lower left parts of the body. You must also have widespread, pretty much continuous pain and some of the previously mentioned symptoms for at least three months.

Patients may on occasion be improperly diagnosed with fibromyalgia. For example, patients may have pain only on one side of the body and not necessarily in the upper and lower limbs. Unfortunately, some patients may be given a diagnosis of fibromyalgia by a health care practitioner simply because he or she cannot figure out what is really wrong.  The safest bet is to take the initiative to become informed on the subject so that you can work with your healthcare practitioners in determining what treatment route to pursue. Personally, I have found that regular chiropractic treatment can help decrease the severity of the ongoing fibromyalgia symptoms. If you have any questions about how a chiropractor can help with your fibromyalgia, or any other physical problem, please contact your health care provider or chiropractor.