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Five Ways to Prevent Stiff Joints in the Morning

Ever wake up and feel so sore you’re not sure you can get out of bed? Morning joint stiffness is a common complaint among older adults, and several changes contribute to this symptom as we age.

One major cause of this pain is drying cartilage — the spongy cushioning that helps to absorb shock. A decline in production of synovial fluid can also mean joints are less lubricated. Additionally, stiff tendons and weak muscles become even tighter due to lack of activity during sleep. Finally, the symptoms of arthritis, a condition commonly associated with aging, can be more severe in the morning.

No matter what’s causing your morning pain, you don’t have to live with stiff, achy joints every day. Here are a few ways to get your joints going at the same time you do.

1. Stretch in Bed

Pop right out of bed upon waking up and you’re sure to feel like the Tin Man. Instead, try a few gentle stretches while you’re still lying down to gradually wake the joints up. Start by moving your neck from side to side, then stretching the upper body. Rotate hands and wrists in small circles, then activate the shoulders and elbows with similar gestures. Continue this circulation slowly down the body, including hips, knees, ankles, and toes in a way that feels good to you.

2. Take a Hot Shower

Make your way to the shower after climbing from bed. Turn the water temperature up to the highest comfortable setting, then allow your stiff joints to reap the soothing benefits of heat. Stay under the spray for at least 10 minutes to expose your joints to both water and the steam, which can help reduce inflammatory agents that contribute to arthritis.

3. Move Throughout the Day

Vigorous exercise may feel like the last thing you want to do with sore joints, but low-impact physical activity is one of the best treatments for joint pain. It strengthens supporting muscles, boosts bone strength, provides energy, and can help control your weight to reduce the strain on your joints. Regular movement also promotes restful sleep, giving your body the opportunity to repair overnight. Work with your care provider to come up with a plan that incorporates low-impact aerobic exercises, such as swimming or cycling, as well as stretching and strengthening moves.

4. Try an Anti-Inflammatory Diet

According to the Arthritis Foundation, following a Mediterranean-style diet can reduce inflammation that causes joint pain and stiffness. The dietary approach prioritizes inflammation-fighting agents, such as omega-3 fatty acids in fish and monounsaturated fats in nuts and seeds. It incorporates antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables, as well as beans and whole grains. It also limits processed foods, which often contribute to inflammation.

5. Assess Your Mattress

While the right mattress can alleviate joint pain, the wrong one can aggravate it. If you’re getting the recommended eight hours of sleep, mattress quality becomes even more compelling, as you’re spending a third of your life there! The Sleep Foundation recommends models that provide both cushioning and support, prevent sinking, and keep the spine in proper position.

At Alliance Spine and Pain, we don’t just mask joint pain or stiffness with medication — we use individualized treatments to prevent or relieve them. To find out how we can ease your joint pain and stiffness, schedule an appointment online or by calling (770) 929-9033.

Woman stretching at desk

Why Your Spine Health Really Matters

Oftentimes, we don’t give much thought to our back health until something goes wrong. Perhaps it’s persistent neck pain, or a twinge in your back, but a sudden ailment can draw attention to the state of your spine. 

Caring for this central part of your body is just as important when you’re not experiencing any issues, however. Here’s why your spine deserves the same careful regard as any other aspect of your health.

The Spine’s Functions

Acting as the body’s main structural support system, the spine holds us upright. It connects all parts of the skeleton — head, chest, pelvis, shoulders, arms, and legs — and bears the weight of your entire upper body. 

In addition to its vertebral bones, the spine is also made up of elastic ligaments and spinal disks, which allow it to bend and twist. This flexibility also provides mobility throughout the whole body. Among its main key functions, the spine also serves as a balance system and shock absorber, thanks to its unique S-shape. 

The bones of the spine also protect a key component of the central nervous system— the spinal cord. The spinal nerve roots located there connect a series of peripheral nerves that branch off and extend to the extremities. To safeguard this critical nerve network, cerebrospinal fluid encases the spinal cord along with layers of protective membranes, all shielded by your vertebrae.

The Importance of Spinal Health

Keeping your spine healthy is one of the most important preventive health measures you can take. Certain spinal conditions can hinder your mobility, resulting in a loss of independence or a reliance on assistive devices. For example, the pain from a sciatica can be caused by degenerative disc disease or narrowing of the spinal column, and it irritates the sciatic nerve. This condition can cause immense pain while walking, standing, or even sitting. 

A stable spine has greater flexibility, meaning it allows you to move naturally and freely without pain. But an injured spine can make it challenging to lift, reach, stretch, or complete other everyday movements.

In fact, back and neck pain are the most common causes of physical pain in the U.S., and are responsible for the greatest number of doctors’ visits, outside the common cold. Back conditions are also the most common reason for disability in the U.S. 

Taking care of your back is therefore not just a matter of preserving long-term health, but of protecting your livelihood, too.

Tips for Maintaining a Healthy Spine

While we can’t always control whether we’ll develop spinal conditions such as osteoporosis or arthritis, there are plenty of things we can do to boost spine health. Here are a few to start practicing now.

  • Lift carefully. Keep objects close to your body as you lift them, and use your leg strength to bear the weight instead of your back.
  • Practice good sleep posture. Aim to keep your spine in its neutral alignment while you sleep. You may need to put a pillow between your legs if you’re a side sleeper, under your knees if you’re a back sleeper, or beneath your hips if you sleep on your stomach.
  • Maintain a healthy weight. Excess weight puts added stress on your spine. Follow a nutrient-rich diet and exercise regularly. As an added bonus, mixing strength, stretching, and aerobic activities will help keep your back more resilient against injuries.

Our team at Alliance Spine and Pain promotes spine health by addressing the root causes of back issues. We use state-of-the-art therapies to address a wide range of back issues. Schedule an appointment online or by calling (770) 929-9033.

Smiling family enjoying a holiday meal together, discussinghow to avoid chronic pain flare-ups over the holidays.

How To Avoid Chronic Pain Flare-Ups Over the Holidays

The holidays are an amazing and cheerful time for many of us. However, for some, this joyful season can be more difficult due to chronic pain. From extra time spent on the couch to cold temperatures outside, there are a number of factors this time of year that can make chronic pain worse. Keep reading for our tips on how to avoid chronic pain flare-ups over the holidays!

Keep Moving 

Many people think of the holidays as a time to crash on the couch and they end up spending more time resting than being active. While it is certainly important to relax and rest, it’s equally as important to keep your body moving. 

If daily walks or strengthening exercises help keep your chronic pain at bay, don’t stop these habits for more than a day or two at a time. You can easily incorporate movement through walks, bike rides, or hikes into holiday plans by inviting friends and family to join. Alternatively, if you prefer to get this exercise in solo, plan to do it first thing in the morning to avoid conflicts with holiday plans.

Whatever your time constraints or holiday plans look like, there are ways to continue your exercise regimen and remain active. You just have to make it a priority!

Watch What You Eat  

During holiday gatherings like Thanksgiving, it’s easy to pile your plate up high with all kinds of goodies. While we want to encourage you to enjoy without guilt, remember to do so in moderation. 

Over-indulging not only leads to digestive discomfort but even causes chronic pain flare-ups, which takes away from your holiday fun. If your pain management or general health plans established by your doctor involve specific dietary restrictions, be sure to discuss with them how best to stay on track during the holiday season.

Mind the Temperature  

For some people, cold temperatures can cause major issues for pain flares. If this is true for you, keep time outside to a minimum and be sure to bundle up when you are outside.

If pain caused by cold weather becomes serious or unbearable, it’s important to talk with a pain management specialist. They can work with you to develop a management plan and ensure your holiday season isn’t spent suffering. 

Moderate Alcohol Consumption  

While the effects of alcohol may lessen symptoms of chronic pain for some people, they can make things much worse for others. This reasoning is why it’s important to pay close attention to when your chronic pain flares up and what behaviors might be associated. 

Did your pain feel worse the morning after drinking heavily? What about after having a glass of wine? Tracking your habits and how they relate to chronic pain can identify what could be causing your issues. Be sure you share these observations with your doctor to help inform your management plan.

If the holidays are a major issue for you due to chronic pain flares, our pain management specialists are here to help you focus on what matters most during this season. Reach out to us by clicking here or by giving us a call at 770-929-9033 if you have any more questions on how to avoid chronic pain flare-ups over the holidays.

Woman going home. Tattooed young woman holding towel while going home after running in the morning, wondering about walking long distances without hurting your body.

Tips for Walking Long Distances Without Hurting Your Body

Walking is a fantastic exercise for increasing your heart rate, lowering stress levels, and improving overall health. However, many people think there’s no technique behind walking.

That’s not the case, especially if you’re walking frequently and for long distances! In fact, if you do end up walking long enough without the correct posture or technique, you could cause harm to your spine, hips, feet, and joints. Plus, using the right technique can make a world of a difference in your speed and performance! 

If you’re a huge fan of walking and what it does for you, keep reading below to learn tips for walking long distances without hurting your body.  

Perfect Your Posture 

Just as posture is important for runners, so it is for walkers! Here are some tips for using the correct posture when walking:

  • Stand up tall and straight. No leaning forward or backward. 
  • Your feet should be about hip-distance apart. 
  • Keep your toes pointed forward. 
  • Have your eyes 10 to 20 feet in front of you. This should mean your chin is parallel to the ground.
  • Avoid arching your back. 
  • To engage your core muscles while walking, suck in your stomach. (However, don’t suck in too much that you are uncomfortable! )
  • Relax your shoulders. 

Watch Your Stride 

When you’re used to walking to get from point a to point b as quickly as possible, your strides are naturally long. However, for the purposes of walking for exercise, you’ll want to shorten your stride. Not many people think to make this change, but doing so will protect your hips, knees, and Achilles tendons! 

So, next time you’re out on your walk, consciously think to take smaller steps. It may take longer, but you’ll be keeping your body safe. 

Use Your Arms 

Walking uses a majority of the muscles in your body, except for your arms. Make the effort to include them in the endeavor!  It will help increase your heart rate and burn more calories. To do this properly, hold your arms at a 90-degree angle and swing them backward one at a time, in line with your stride. 

The Right Shoes Are Key 

Wearing the right type of shoes can prevent the soreness and discomfort that often comes from walking long distances. The right padding, support, and fit makes a world of difference. So, try out different options before you commit to one pair, and make sure you break them in for at least five hours around the house before taking them on a long walk. 

If taking long walks does result in injury or discomfort or have further questions about walking long distances without hurting your body, our pain management specialists are here to help you get back to doing what you love. Reach out to us by clicking here or by giving us a call at 770-929-9033.

Female runner running at summer park trail . Healthy fitness woman jogging outdoors, showcasing the proper posture for running.

Proper Posture for Running

When it comes to running, posture is extremely important. If you want to lower your risk for injuries, keep your level of soreness down, and also protect your joints so you can keep running, posture is vital to focus on. Running with poor posture can lead you to hurt yourself or feeling sorer than necessary the next day. Plus, running with the right posture will help improve your time.

The posture experts are here to help all runners stay injury-free and enjoy this healthy activity. We’re describing the proper posture for running below.

If You Run, Follow These Steps for the Best Posture

For the best possible posture for running, keep all of these tips in mind:

  • Avoid Bouncing: If you’re bouncing a lot when you’re running, that means you are spending too much energy lifting yourself off the ground. Focus on keeping your stride low to the ground, land softly on your feet, and run lightly.
  • Hands at Your Waist, Arms at Your Side: This tip is pretty straightforward. You don’t want to tense up your fists, because that tension will move up to your shoulders and your neck. As well, don’t keep your arms up closer to your chest because it will spend your energy up quicker.
  • Head-Up: You may be tempted to watch your feet while running to avoid tripping. However, it’s better to look about 10 to 20 feet ahead of you. It will avoid adding tension to your neck and shoulders too.
  • Relax Shoulders: If you tense up your shoulders too much, it’ll lead to them feeling sorer after your run, which can discourage you and can even restrict your breathing. So, remember to relax them and don’t hunch them forward too much.
  • The Z Angle: This term refers to the proper posture of running as if you’re running with the right form it’ll make a z shape with your body. To do this correctly, ensure that your hip is parallel to the top of your pelvis, your hip is straight to the ankle of the leg that is running, and that your feet land firmly on the ground so your ankle doesn’t curve up too much.

If you have any more questions about the proper posture for running, Alliance Spine and Pain is here to help. Reach out to any of our pain care specialists by clicking here or by giving us a call at 770-929-9033.

Overworked Black Businesswoman Massaging Nosebridge At Workplace Having Eyesight Problem, Selective Focus, wondering How Stress and Fear Can Impact Your Pain.

How Stress and Fear Can Impact Your Pain

We’re all living in a stressful, unprecedented time. As the coronavirus impacts everything we know around us, it’s extremely common to feel stress and fear. Our favorite restaurants are closed, we need to stay inside all the time, and we can’t hug our loved ones. On top of all of that, the new stresses of working from home or dealing with less income have also arrived.

Needless to say, it can be rough. Even worse, stress and fear can cause more issues down the road if you’re dealing with chronic pain, which one in five Americans reportedly do. 

That’s why the experts at Alliance Spine and Pain are here to help. We’re explaining below how stress and fear can impact your pain and what you can do to help. 

Constant Fight or Flight Mode 

When you’re stressed or afraid, your body’s natural chemical reaction is to go into fight or flight mode. However, since you aren’t necessarily in need to fight or flight, your body gets confused by this and constantly stays in that mode. 

That means your body is always tense as all your muscles remain poised to strike or start to run. When you have chronic pain, this is a horrible thing for recovery and management. It’s best to relax your muscles as much as you can, but fight or flight mode is the direct opposite of that. 

Discourages Positive Mental Health 

When dealing with pain management, working on your mental health is a vital part of the process. When you’re feeling anxious or sad, your pain can often be increased or morphed. Added stress and fear only negatively impacts your mental health, therefore tampering with your back pain. 

Physical Side-Effects

Those with high-stress levels often report experiencing damage to their heart, irritable bowel syndrome and other issues with their digestive system, and even decreased fertility. When you’re already dealing with chronic pain, these combined physical effects can only make your initial symptoms feel worse. 

What Can I Do to Fight Against How Stress and Fear Can Impact Your Pain? 

To prevent the side-effects of stress and fear creating more issues with your chronic pain, here are several tips we recommend for coping:

  • Speak with others: Tell your trusted loved ones how you’re feeling. Oftentimes, they’ll understand what you’re going through and give you much needed advice, love, and attention to get you feeling better. 
  • Go to therapy: Dealing with chronic stress can often be a sign of an undiagnosed mental health issue. Speaking with a therapist can help you understand where your stress comes from, provide tips and tricks for how to deal with it, and also give you the tools to prevent the stress from arriving in the first place. 
  • Practice Self-care: When stress shows up, it’s best to lean on what brings you happiness and joy. That’s where self-care best practices come in, which means indulging in activities that make you feel happy and calm. Whether it’s pulling out the yoga mat or putting on a face-mask, don’t feel guilty for taking the time to love yourself so that stress will melt away. 

If you have any more questions about how stress and fear can impact your pain, Alliance Spine and Pain is here to help. Reach out to any of our back-strengthening specialists by clicking here or by giving us a call at 770-929-9033.   

A happy senior couple indoors at home, doing exercise on the floor to strengthen their back.

Simple Exercises An Elderly Person Can Do to Strengthen Their Back

When you’re older in age, it becomes easier to rest more and work out less. However, it’s important for your overall health to stay active and keep exercising. Doing so has plenty mental benefits as well as physical, such as keeping your mobility up and preventing pain later down the road. 

Don’t fall into the temptation to spend more on the couch! Get up and do some workouts to keep your back happy and healthy. To make this easier for you, the experts at Alliance Spine and Pain have put together a list of simple exercises an elderly person can do to strengthen their back. 

Try These Five Exercises An Elderly Person Can Do to Strengthen Their Back

All of the below exercises directly impact and strengthen your back. Whether you want to do them from the comfort of your own home or at the gym, the choice is up to you. 

  • Back Extension: Also called the superman, this exercise requires you to lay down flat on your stomach. Lift your chest up and pull your legs and back off of the ground. Hold for a few seconds and then rest before starting again. 
  • Bent Knee Raise: Lay down on your back. Have your feet flat on the floor with your knees bent. Raise one of your legs up to your chest, and repeat on the other side. You’ve done two bent knee raises! 
  • Bridges: Start off in the same position for the above exercise. This time, however, you will raise your hips off the ground until you make a straight slanted line with your body. Hold for as long as you can and then release. For an extra challenge, squeeze your abs when you lift your hips. 
  • Curl Ups: Similar to a sit-up, this exercise requires you to be on your back. Rest your feet flat on the floor with your knees bent. Curl your spine off the ground until you’re sitting up straight. Continue to do as many reps as you feel comfortable doing! 
  • Sit Backs: Essentially the opposite of the curl up, you start this exercise sitting on the floor. Have your knees bent up and your feet flat on the floor. Cross your arms over your chest and slowly start to sit back until you are resting on the ground. Sit back up and do it all over again. 

If you have any more questions about simple exercises an elderly person can do to strengthen their back, Alliance Spine and Pain is here to help. Reach out to any of our back-strengthening specialists by clicking here or by giving us a call at 770-929-9033.  

A female worker working from home, reading Tips on Being Active During Self-Quarantine on her digital tablet with a mug of coffee.

Work from Home: Tips on Being Active During Self-Quarantine

It’s an understatement to say right now is a crazy time. Between changing your entire routine and not being able to see your loved ones face-to-face, there’s a lot to balance. But self-quarantining and working from home is vital in the fight to slow the spread of the coronavirus. If you find yourself doing either or both, know you are making a wise decision that benefits the greater good.

But how do you stay active when you’re stuck inside? Or how do you keep working on best pain management practices in the comfort of your own home? The experts at Alliance Spine and Pain have the best tips and tricks on how to make the most of your work from home time, including how to remain active during self-quarantine.

How to Work from Home and Stay Active and Pain-Free

Spend time setting up your desk perfectly. You will want to invest in a good chair that will help you maintain the correct work posture, or maybe you can set up your computer somewhere that allows you to stand.

Make sure to take breaks every hour. Whether that includes staring at something other than your computer screen or maybe even walking up and down your stairs, it’s important to not spend all day sitting at your desk.

Create a schedule that includes regular workouts. While it can be easy to do what you want when you want in the comfort of your own home, it’s important for your productivity and your health to create a schedule. That way, you can make sure you’re getting everything done you need to be, plus making time for your breaks and regular workouts. Don’t drop that healthy habit just because you can’t go to the gym. There are countless resources available to keep you moving inside your own home, like online dance classes or YouTube workout videos.

Stay away from the snacks. While it can be extremely tempting to hit up your pantry and eat all of the food you might have stocked up on for the quarantine’s sake, don’t. On top of probably not moving more if you’re working from home, eating whatever and whenever you want is a recipe for gaining weight and feeling sluggish. Keep to your three meals a day and include one or two healthy meals in-between.

Self-quarantine doesn’t mean you can’t venture outside. Plan to spend some time walking around your neighborhood or stretching in your backyard or patio. As long as you avoid contact with other people, you’re still following the self-quarantining rules.

Alliance Spine and Pain Centers is actively monitoring the current Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. The health and safety of our patients and employees remain a top priority and we will follow the CDC recommendations to help prevent exposure and spread of the virus. Click here for more information.

Please call your physician before coming to the office for an appointment if you develop symptoms of fever, cough, & shortness of breath, have been in close contact with a person known to have COVID-19, or have recently traveled from an area with widespread or ongoing community spread of COVID-19.

Thank you for your cooperation for the safety of yourself and others.

Friends stretching together in the park, knowing the benefits of stretch before and after working out.

Why It’s Important to Stretch Before and After Working Out

When you’re focused on getting to the gym or hitting the road for a jog, sometimes the last thing on your mind is stretching. All you want to do is feel the burn and strengthen your body without anything getting in the way, but the best thing you can do for your health before working out is to carve out a few minutes to stretch.

Taking the time to stretch before and after your workouts has incredible benefits for both your exercise regimen and your body. To learn what those advantages are, keep reading.

Benefits of Stretching Before Working Out

  • Reduces Risk of Injury: One of the major reasons to stretch before working out is to reduce your overall risk of injury while exercising. When you stretch before jumping into cardio or before lifting a weight, your muscles become more flexible. This increased flexibility will give you a more efficient workout. Usually, when an injury occurs while exercising, it is because the muscles are not properly stretched beforehand.
  • Prepares the Body: In the same vein of thought, stretching and getting your body slowly moving before the intense part of your workout prepares the body for what is coming next. As mentioned, your muscles loosen up and strengthen prior to be able to handle whatever exercises you put it through.
  • Improves Overall Performance of Workout: Loosening and strengthening your muscles before the workout boosts overall workout performance. Looser muscles require less energy to work, plus a more flexible body can go further in your exercises. If you want a better burn with your workout, then stretch before you get started.
  • Improves Posture: A key component of working out properly is using the right posture. That means squatting correctly or moving in the right manner when running. Stretching helps to maintain those healthy poses and keep your body in that posture while working out.

Benefits of Stretching After Working Out

  • Promotes Circulation: When you stretch after an intense workout, you’re encouraging your blood to flow more. This means increased circulation and more blood to the muscles that you just worked on, helping to create the below benefits.
  • Relieves Aches and Pains After Working Out: The best benefit of stretching after you work out is that it helps to minimize the pain and soreness in the muscles that you just used. Stretching them out helps to reduce the tension they were holding onto, encourages them to relax, brings back their full range of motion quicker, and frees up any stiffness in the area. This means you won’t have to be as sore the next day and can get right back to the gym quicker.
  • Decreases Pain, Especially in the Lower Back Area: If you ran for quite some time or did a lot of weight lifting, this usually puts a significant amount of strain on your lower back. But when you stretch after working out, you are reducing that strain and helping to put back mobility and flexibility into that region, plus all the other areas of your body that you stretch.
  • Reduces Stress on the Mind and Body: Stretching is a fantastic self-care strategy that not only reduces the stress your body might be carrying after an intense workout, but it also helps to reduce any stress your mind might be harboring onto.

If you’re struggling with managing pain while working out, the experts at Alliance Spine and Pain Centers are here to help. Give us a call at 770-929-9033 or click here to schedule an appointment.

Hands toasting red wine and friends having fun cheering at winetasting experience - Young people enjoying harvest time together at farmhouse vineyard countryside - Foucus on glasses with blurred woman

Food and Wine Issue

As we look ahead to the Fall Season in South Fulton county, there are many events to celebrate the changing of the seasons with our neighbors. There are numerous music, craft, and art festivals planned in neighborhoods all throughout South Fulton county. At the heart of any celebration is good food and fine wine.

As your neighborhood pain physician, I bring good news to all the wine lovers out there. Over the past decade, there have been numerous studies published in reputable academic journals that tout the health benefits of wine, especially red wine.

Moderate wine drinkers, defined as 1 glass daily for women and 2 glasses for men, have a 34 percent reduction in mortality compared to beer and spirits drinkers as reported by a Finnish study published in the Journal of Gerontology. This suggests that it is not simply the alcohol content of wine that extends the health benefits, but rather there was something unique to red wines that provided the benefit. Red wines contain a compound called resveratrol and other antioxidants that protect against heart disease. The grapes used to produce red wines sourced in the Mediterranean and southwest France appear to have more potent antioxidants than wine produced elsewhere. That glass of cabernet sauvignon is now associated with a reduction in your risk for colon cancer, cataracts, and cognitive decline.

If you consume your wine with a cheese pairing, you may be doing even more for your health and waistline than you ever imagined. Many people associate cheese with cakes, breads, and other diet-busting foods. However, cheese (cheesecake does NOT apply) also contains a very healthy compound called butyrate that helps to boost metabolism and encourage the growth of good bacteria in your gut. Additionally, the high calcium and protein content of cheese helps to preserve your bone health especially in the aging populations that are frequently diagnosed with osteoporosis.

With that said, I am compelled to remind you that the health benefits of red wine consumption only applies to “moderate” consumption. Over-consumption of any kind of alcohol is associated with increased risk of addiction, hypertension, cirrhosis, stroke, and depression. So, drink in moderation and eat with your nutritional needs in mind.