Safer Pain Relief

by Ruth A. McKinney, DC

Pain isn’t always a bad thing. It’s actually your body’s way of telling you when something isn’t right. Pain that has been present for only a few days is considered acute. Chronic pain lasts much longer, usually at least several months or longer. Either way, it’s important to pay attention to these warnings and take appropriate action.

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Numerous over the counter and prescription medications are available for pain relief. While it’s tempting and easy to turn to these, they come with a price. The FDA (Federal Drug Administration) warns that people who take NSAIDs (ibuprofen and naproxen) have a higher risk for stroke and heart attacks. The risk increases the longer these drugs are used. NSAIDs are also linked to stomach ulcers and bleeding.

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Acetaminophen (Tylenol) is used to treat fever and pain, but it doesn’t reduce inflammation. While it’s gentler on the stomach, it much easier to overdo this over the counter medication. It is the most common cause of acute liver failure in the United States. Hundreds of products contain acetaminophen, and combining them can cause inadvertent overdose.

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Stronger medication is available in the form of opioids. They safely help control acute pain, such as pain you experience after surgery. Side effects include constipation, nausea and vomiting, dizziness, drowsiness, and addiction. Opioids are among the most dangerous prescription pain medication because they are so addictive.

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Everyone experiences pain differently. Pain can impact us on a physical, psychological and emotional level. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) recommends trying different methods of pain relief including non-prescription remedies and procedures as first steps.

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There are many types of pain, and many types of relief from pain. It’s not a one-size fits all process. Many health care providers offer effective alternatives for treatment of acute and chronic pain. For musculoskeletal problems Chiropractic care is extremely effective at managing the cause of pain. Treatment in a Chiropractic setting might include manipulation, therapy modalities, and exercise.

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A number of easy do it yourself treatments are also available. Topical creams and gels containing menthol create an icy hot sensation that blocks pain signals from reaching the brain. Depending on whether the condition is acute or chronic, cold or hot packs can block pain signals. They also reduce inflammation and increase blood flow to promote healing. In addition, research also shows that exercise helps to reduce pain levels.

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It’s important to understand the full range of options for muscle and joint pain relief – and the associated risks and side effects. Even if being pain free isn’t possible, it’s critical to use the safest, most effective solutions for your circumstances.

To learn how Chiropractic provides safer pain relief call our office at 423-485-8480.
When it comes to your health, we’ve got your back!

Symptoms: The “Check Engine” Light

by Ruth A. McKinney, DC

 

The Merriam Webster dictionary defines a symptom as subjective evidence of disease or physical disturbance, something that indicates the presence of bodily disorder.    Most people tend to use the words ‘sign’ and ‘symptom’ interchangeably.  Evidence like a rash that can be observed by a doctor is a sign.  Things that can only be felt by the patient such a low back pain or a headache are symptoms.  All signs and symptoms in the body mean something is out of balance.

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As modern health care has progressed and become more sophisticated, our society has become more dependent on the doctor and technology to identify health problems.  Chronic symptoms are those that last a long time, and are seen in conditions like asthma and diabetes.  Relapsing symptoms are those that have occurred in the past, disappeared, and then come back again.  Asymptomatic conditions have no symptoms at all.  For instance, someone may have high blood pressure and initially they may not realize it.

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While pain or a symptom is often the first sign something’s wrong, it’s actually the last thing to happen in the malfunction chain reaction.  Online symptom checkers are often inaccurate and inconsistent, and can increase the patient’s anxiety and worry in addition to simply not feeling well.  An accurate diagnosis can really only be made by a health care professional.

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Instead of focusing on symptoms as a way to determine your overall health, focus on prevention.  You are currently driving through life in the very sophisticated vehicle called human body.  It’s very good at hiding bad news, and you can have any number of disease processes occurring including heart or vascular problems, high blood pressure, cancer and diabetes without initially having significant symptoms.  

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Good health is one of the most important things anyone can have.  Many people take their car in every 3,000 miles for an oil change because they know that doing so helps the car to run better and last longer.  Yet they neglect to have simple health checkups and treatment that could prevent small problems from becoming major life changing situations.  Absence of pain and symptoms is not an indication of good health.   Don’t wait for the “check engine” light to come on.  A Chiropractic checkup can help to detect imbalances and restore spinal health.

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To learn how Chiropractic helps with many symptoms call our office at 423-485-8480.

When it comes to your health, we’ve got your back!

Being Grateful Keeps You Healthy

by Ruth A. McKinney, DC

It’s a good time of year to consider the things you are grateful for. Being grateful not only makes you feel better mentally and emotionally, it’s actually good for your health. Research shows that practicing gratitude can boost immune resistance, lower blood pressure, and improve sleep.

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Patients with greater levels of appreciation and a positive attitude have been demonstrated to have better heart rates and lower blood pressure. Studies show keeping a “gratitude journal” reduce dietary fat consumption by as much as 25 percent. Grateful people also have lower biomarkers for inflammation, a factor that makes heart failure progress more rapidly.

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Studies have shown that gratitude can boost your immune system. Grateful people have a lower level of the stress hormone cortisol by over 20 percent. Researchers observed students who described themselves as hopeful and found them to have more disease fighting immune cells in their bodies.

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Higher levels of gratefulness were found to be related to 25% quality better sleep and 8% more sleep time, less fatigue, better mood, and more self-confidence. Having a practice of daily gratitude could also reduce the effects of aging on the brain. Studies show that in stressful situations people who have a grateful disposition recover more quickly both physically and mentally.

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Making health a priority and realizing the value of good health comes more naturally to those who are grateful. You’ll be more likely to exercise regularly, eat in a healthier way, and practice better preventative healthcare. With a healthier body you will experience clearer thinking, feel more happy and optimistic, and have a brighter outlook on life.

Gratitude can have a positive impact on your physical, mental and spiritual wellbeing. Take time to be grateful today and every day.

To learn how Chiropractic helps keep you healthy call our office at 423-485-8480.
When it comes to your health, we’ve got your back!

Whiplash and Chiropractic

by Ruth A. McKinney, DC

Whiplash occurs when the head and neck are suddenly forced backward and then forward, putting the cervical spine through rapid motion and extreme bio-mechanical stresses.  Most cases of whiplash are caused by car accidents with rear-end or front-end collisions. Other causes of whiplash are impact sports such as football or a slip and fall incident where extreme acceleration-deceleration forces might be applied to the neck.  

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The most common symptom of whiplash is neck pain, which can feel like mild to extreme aching, burning or tingling.  Reduced movement and stiffness, headache, and upper and mid back pain can occur. There could also be radiating tingling, weakness, or numbness down the shoulder and/or arm.

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The severity of the car crash doesn’t always correlate to the severity of the injury.  Vehicles can show very little outward damage, but if the car doesn’t crumple up and absorb the energy of the impact, the resulting whiplash can actually be worse.  Whiplash injuries have been recorded in incidents where the speed at impact was less than 30 miles per hour.

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Sometimes people who have been involved in motor vehicle accidents don’t realize regions besides the neck have been affected.  An evaluation of the spine as a whole can reveal other injuries.  In addition to a history and physical examination, your chiropractor may order x-rays to determine the health of joints, discs and bones.  The results of all the tests are used to develop a plan to treat the injuries.

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Treatment for whiplash in a chiropractic office often includes several things.  Gentle manipulation of the joints restores proper biomechanical function.  Physiological therapeutics (PT) reduces pain, muscle spasm and inflammation, and speeds the healing process.  Exercise helps to stretch tight muscles and joints, and strengthens tissue that has been weakened by trauma.  

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Most whiplash cases involve sprain/strain injuries of muscles, tendons and ligaments.  It actually takes twice as long to heal these soft tissue injuries as it does to recover from a broken bone.  Six to eight weeks for healing is common, and most people recover within three months.  Early diagnosis and treatment is critical to achieve the best outcome.  Long-term effects of untreated whiplash are chronic pain and loss of function, permanent damage to the vertebrae and nervous system, as well as accelerated degeneration of the cervical spine.  Don’t wait, see your chiropractor as soon as possible following a whiplash incident.  

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To learn how Chiropractic helps with whiplash call our office at 423-485-8480.

When it comes to your health, we’ve got your back!

Headaches

by Ruth A. McKinney, DC

Headaches can be a real pain in the neck. Although there many types, there are four common types of headaches including migraine, sinus, cluster and tension. Nearly everyone experiences a headache now and then. Defined as a pain in any area of the head, the cause, length and intensity of the headache can vary. They can occur every once in a while or more frequently.

If you have a tension headache, you may feel a dull, aching sensation all over your head. It isn’t throbbing. Tenderness or sensitivity around your neck, forehead, scalp, or shoulder muscles also might occur. Anyone can get a tension headache, and they’re often triggered by stress.

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Because Chattanooga is one of the top ten cities in the U.S. for allergy problems, many of my patients suffer from sinus headaches. The buildup of pressure caused by inflamed tissue will lead to aching around the eyes, cheeks and forehead that may worsen with bending down or
straining.

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Migraine headaches can cause throbbing in one particular area that can vary in intensity. Symptoms can include a pounding headache, nausea or vomiting, metallic taste in the mouth, and sensitivity to light. This type of headache can be triggered by many things including specific drinks or food, stress, not enough sleep, and changes in the weather.

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Cluster headaches are much more severe but thankfully far less common than migraine or tension headaches. Because they are so severe they are often referred to as “attacks” that occur in cycles of weeks or months. They occur more frequently in women than men. They cause of cluster headaches is not well understood but seems to stem from the part of the brain that regulates automatic body functions.

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Treatment depends on which type of headache you’re experiencing. A hot shower or moist heat applied to the back of the neck may ease symptoms of infrequent tension headaches. Warm compresses on the face, use of a humidifier, and use of saline nose spray or wash can relieve sinus pressure headaches. Migraine headaches often improve in a calm and quiet environment with low lighting, and by drinking a caffeinated beverage. Most importantly, get a
chiropractic adjustment. Keeping proper biomechanical and nerve function allows your body to operate properly so it can recover from the negative effects of a headache.

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To learn how Chiropractic helps with headaches call our office at 423-485- 8480.
When it comes to your health, we’ve got your back!

High Heel Shoes – What a Pain!

by Ruth A. McKinney, DC

High heel shoes were originally designed for men riding horses to keep their feet from slipping out of the stirrups. Somewhere along the way women picked up the fashion, and the rest is history. A stylish pair of 4-inch heels can complete an outfit. The suffering caused by high heels doesn’t stop many women from wearing them regularly, but at what cost?

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Wearing heels causes your ankles to bend as though you’re standing on your tip toes. The most common problem caused with wearing high heels are bunions, the painful lump on the side of the big toe. Hammer toes (bent toes) and metatarsalgia (pain of the middle three toes) are also associated with high heels.

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Wearing three to four inch heels puts a great deal of stress on knee joints, increasing the probability of developing osteoarthritis, a chronic degenerative condition affecting millions of Americans. The higher the shoe heel, the more the knee bends when the foot strikes the ground, putting greater pressure on the knee joint. Being overweight makes this situation even worse. Walking with your knees slightly bent puts 200% more strain on your knees.

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Heel height is less important than the slope of the shoe. To decrease foot strain, choose a shoe with a platform sole which distributes your weight more evenly across the entire foot. A thicker heel will decrease the risk of ankle sprains, and a wider toe box provides more room for the toes. If you’re going to wear higher heels, make sure they fit snugly so that your foot doesn’t slide back and forth causing blisters.

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Women are three times more likely than men to wear shoes that are too small. Super high heels cause wear and tear on feet and ankles, knees, hips and spine, increasing the likelihood of developing osteoarthritis. Take your heels down a notch and give your feet a break!

To learn how Chiropractic can help foot and leg pain call our office at 423-485-8480.
When it comes to your health, we’ve got your back!

Ice vs Heat: Which One Is Right?

When something hurts, is it better to use ice or heat?  It’s common to suffer from a headache, strain your back, or pull a muscle or ligament.  Most of us don’t get through life without some wear and tear.  Ice and heat are easy and natural ways to relieve pain.  

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In general, ice (cryotherapy) is used for acute injuries less than six weeks old.  It helps to reduce swelling and inflammation, and numbs pain.  Symptoms from strains, sprains, tendonitis, and bruises can safely be relieved with application of ice to your skin.  Almost any situation where tissue has been inflamed by trauma is a candidate for ice.

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  • Ice packs come in a variety of sizes and shapes.  When ice is first applied it will feel really cold.  Next it will feel almost burning or aching.  Finally, it will feel numb.  When it’s numb, it’s time to remove it.  Generally, it will take ten to fifteen minutes to get numb depending on how thick the area is.  Gel packs are great for wrapping around a smaller area.  If you don’t have a gel pack, try a bag of frozen corn or peas.  Ice cubes in a baggie with a bit of water also works well.  

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  • Apply ice to the affected area three to four times a day for the first 48 hours, or until the inflammation, swelling and tenderness is gone.  Use ice massage to treat elbow and heel problems.  Freeze water is a small paper cup.  Then peel off the top of the cup until the ice is exposed.  Massage the painful area until it’s numb, usually three to five minutes.

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  • Heat is most often used for muscle pain and chronic pain (duration of longer than six weeks).  It relaxes tight muscles and increases blood flow.  Trigger points (knots in muscles) usually respond well to heat.  Joints with arthritis and worn cartilage can also be improved with heat applications.

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  • Dry heat and moist heat are the two most commonly used types of heat.  Both should be warm but not hot.  Neither should be used on swollen or recently bruised tissue.  People with diabetes or multiple sclerosis should not use heat therapy because they have a higher risk of burns and other complications.   Take a hot bath or shower for moist heat.  Use a microwave hot pack or a heating pad for dry heat.  Heat application can last a bit longer than ice therapy, generally 15 to 30 minutes.  

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To learn more about using ice and heat call our office at 423-485-8480.

When it comes to your health, we’ve got your back!

Natural Treatment for Seasonal Allergies

by Ruth A. McKinney, DC

While Chattanooga has been voted one of the 16 best places to live in the U.S., it’s also one of the ten worst cities for allergies.  Changing weather patterns have caused warmer temperatures and higher pollen counts, resulting in earlier and longer pollen seasons.  If you have itchy eyes and a runny nose, you’re suffering from allergy symptoms.

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A good way to begin “pollen management” is to keep it out of your house.  Each time you leave your house you are bombarded with pollen.  When you return home, take your shoes off outside or near the door to avoid tracking in pollen.  If you have a pet that goes outside, wipe them down with a damp towel when they come back inside.  Consider keeping your pet out of your bedroom during allergy season.  Take a shower to wash the pollen off your body and hair.  Rinse your sinuses with a saline rinse. Make sure you go to sleep on a clean pillow case.  Place a small HEPA air filter in your bedroom so you can breathe filtered air during sleep.

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There are several effective herbal supplements that are good alternatives to over the counter medication.  Butterbur is helpful for treatment of cough, asthma, hay fever, and headaches.  Green tea is a natural antihistamine that will help with congestion.  Licorice root increases the body’s production of natural steroids that help lower inflammation and over reaction of the immune system.

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Eating healthy and clean is always good for your body.  Drinking more water and hot tea or soup will help loosen mucus congestion.  Spicy hot food and herbs like hot ginger, cayenne pepper, and fenugreek will also clear nasal passages.  Eliminating dried fruit and dairy products like cheese will reduce swelling of the blood vessels in your nose.  Cucumber, melons and bananas can also make symptoms worse.   Because it contains our local pollen, two tablespoons a day of honey from the Chattanooga area helps improve symptoms.

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Treating allergy symptoms takes a combination of tactics, patience and persistence.  Whether you suffer from ongoing allergies or seasonal allergies, these natural remedies should help you get out there and enjoy life again.

To learn more about Natural Treatment for Seasonal Allergies call our office at 423-485-8480.

When it comes to your health, we’ve got your back!

Better Health This Year

Are you sick and tired of being sick and tired?  Now is the time to improve your health by making healthy lifestyle changes.  Here are seven fast and easy steps to feeling better physically and mentally.

Walking for exercise is easy and doesn’t cost a penny.  Start at a comfortable pace, then gradually pick up speed.  With a brisk pace, you’ll travel three to four miles per hour.  You should be able to carry on a conversation, but still be breathing hard.   Start with fifteen minutes, and add about two minutes each time you walk.  A pedometer or fitness band will help you keep track of your mileage.  Benefits of walking include a stronger heart, lower blood pressure, and stronger bones.  The better and deeper sleep that results from exercise will boost your outlook on life.  Walking burns calories, and can help you lose up to 25 lbs. in a year.

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A balanced diet provides the fuel for your body to function correctly.  Most of the calories you consume should be from vegetables, fruits and lean protein.  Along with exercise, your diet can help you maintain a healthy BMI (body mass index) and reduce the risk of conditions such as heart disease and diabetes.  Start with small changes like switching to whole grain foods.  Eating breakfast will help to jump start your metabolism for the day.   Resist salad dressings and desserts when eating in restaurants.  Drink more water, at least half your body weight in ounces each day.  Someone weighing 200 lbs. should drink 100 ounces of water each day.  Make sure to have healthy snacks available which will help you bypass the vending machine and fast food.

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A healthy lifestyle includes 7 to 8 hours of sleep each night.  Sleep deprivation contributes to high blood pressure, heart disease and stroke.  The average adult in the United States currently get less than seven hours of sleep.  To get better sleep start by keeping a schedule of waking up and going to bed at the same time each day.  Avoid naps and don’t have drinks with caffeine after 5pm.  Eat your last meal or snack at least two hours prior to bedtime.  Make sure your bedroom is dark and cool.

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Stop smoking!  Nothing good comes from tobacco use, and it’s the leading cause of preventable disease and death in the US. Cancer, heart disease, emphysema and bronchitis are just of a few of the serious health issues caused by smoking.  There are over 4,000 chemicals in tobacco including 43 cancer causing compounds.  Nicotine is actually a highly addictive drug that takes only ten seconds to enter the brain.  It causes blood vessels to constrict which raises blood pressure, and it causes increased levels of fat and sugar in the blood stream.  Smoking shortens life expectancy by at least ten years.  Nicotine replacements and behavior modification make it easier than ever to break the habit.

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Stress is a silent killer.  It can contribute to conditions such as diabetes, obesity, heart disease, and high blood pressure.  It’s not your imagination that you feel worse when you are anxious.  Stress causes a physiological chain reaction that results in the manifestations of all kinds of symptoms.  To counteract stress, slow down and concentrate on taking five deep breaths.  Take a time out for five minutes of quiet.  Give yourself a hand massage, or rub your feet over a golf ball.  Use a calming visualization and quiet your thoughts.

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Having a positive attitude helps you cope with the stress and strain of everyday life.  It changes the way your body works both chemically and neurologically resulting in a healthier internal environment.  Practice seeing “the glass half full” side of a difficult situation.  Use positive words instead of negative words both to yourself and when talking to someone else.  Put on a smile because it releases neurotransmitter “happy hormones” in your brain.  List five things you are grateful for.  Stay off your phone and don’t check social media.  Make your day amazing!

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Adopting healthier lifestyle habits doesn’t happen at once, it’s a process that happens over a period of time. Setbacks along the way are normal but they provide opportunities for learning and growth.  Practicing your new habits will become easier to sustain on a regular basis. That is the goal of developing a healthy way of living, allowing you to live a fuller life.

To learn how Chiropractic can help with better health this year, call our office at 423-485-8480.

When it comes to your health, we’ve got your back!

Introducing Functional Dry Needling

by Ruth A. McKinney, DC

We are proud to introduce a new service that will radically change treatment of acute and chronic pain problems that may not be responding to other types of care. Over irritated muscles frequently have palpable nodules or “knots” called trigger points in tight bands of muscle fibers that result in pain. Functional Dry Needling resets these trigger points which allows the body to heal pain, muscle spasm and inflammation.

A trigger point is a small spasm in the muscle. Many times, you don’t know you have one until someone presses on it and you feel the knot. Included in the muscle are two types of nerves fibers. Motor nerves allow the muscle to function by sending a message to cause the muscle to contract and relax. Sensory nerves allow for the perception of hot, cold, numbness, tingling and pain. Nerves fire a small electrical charge that tells the muscle what to do or feel. Trigger points are painful because the fibers of the muscle that are in spasm are also constantly pressing on the sensory nerve fibers.

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Nerves that are being pressed on by a spasm can send pain to another part of the body. For instance, trigger points in the neck and upper back can cause pain and numbness down the arm and hand like that of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. Trigger points in the lower back, pelvis and hips can cause pain symptoms down the back of the leg like Sciatica.

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By gently placing a very small needle directly into the trigger points Functional Dry Needling allows the electrical impulse to “discharge.” This has a calming effect on the nerve and allows the muscle spasm to relax. It increases blow flow which allows for faster healing. Many patients who receive this treatment report relief from pain and experience better movement even when other types of treatment have failed to help them. This can really improve the quality of life. There is a difference in Functional Dry Needling and acupuncture. Dry needling uses very thin acupuncture-type needles to treat musculoskeletal issues based on modern neuroanatomy science. Acupuncture practitioners follow traditional Chinese medicine principles.

Functional Dry Needling has been used to successfully treat shoulder and upper back pain, neck and low back pain, elbow tendinitis, carpel tunnel symptoms, plantar fasciitis, and many other acute and chronic issues. To learn more about Functional Dry Needling call our office at 423-485- 8480.

When it comes to your health, we’ve got your back!