Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Cervicogenic Headache

By Dr. John A. Papa, DC, FCCPOR(C)
Cervicogenic headache is defined as a headache which has its origin in the area of the neck.  The source of pain arises from biological tissues such as muscles, ligaments, joints, and nerves that have become injured and/or irritated.  When these structures become stimulated, their nerve endings send pain signals from nerves in the neck to the head.
Cervicogenic headache is a relatively common cause of chronic headache and has symptoms similar to those seen in other well known headache disorders such as migraine and tension type headaches.  For example, both migraine and cervicogenic headaches affect females more than males, with headache symptoms generally located unilaterally (on one side of the head).  These headache sufferers may complain of severe pain, head throbbing, sensitivity to light and sound, and nausea.  Neck pain and muscular tension are also common symptoms in tension headaches, migraine attacks, and cervicogenic headaches.  The problem of symptomatic overlap in these common and frequent headache types makes the accuracy of precise diagnosis difficult.  Furthermore, the fact that an individual may have two or more headache types co-existing at any one time further elevates the diagnostic challenge.
Cervicogenic headaches are usually unilateral (occasionally bilateral), and can be experienced in several different regions of the head including the base of the skull, the forehead, or behind the eyes.  The intensity of pain may fluctuate from mild to moderate to severe on a daily basis.  Individuals with cervicogenic headache may also exhibit physical signs of altered neck posture and restricted range of motion of the neck.  Headache symptoms can be triggered or reproduced by active neck movements or passive positioning.  Tenderness can also be palpated in the neck and upper shoulder region with muscular trigger points spreading pain upwards into the head.
The cause of cervicogenic headache may be singular or multi-factorial.  This may include a whiplash injury, sports injury, arthritic changes, chronic postural strain, stress, and fatigue.  The evaluation and assessment of headaches should include a proper medical history and physical examination.  Serious causes of headache symptoms must be ruled out before appropriate treatment can be administered.
After a diagnosis of cervicogenic headache is made, the goal of therapy is to minimize headache frequency and diminish levels of pain associated with each episode.  Treatment and management options that have demonstrated effectiveness include: postural correction, joint mobilization and manipulation, acupuncture, soft tissue therapy, and rehabilitative exercises.  Trying a variety of therapies or combination of therapies may be required to find relief.  It should be remembered that many patients who are diagnosed with migraine and tension headaches may also respond to these treatment strategies.
For those suffering from headache symptoms that may be interfering with their activities of daily living, a qualified health professional can prescribe appropriate therapy, rehabilitation, and self-management strategies specifically for your circumstance.  For more information, visit
This article is a basic summary for educational purposes only.  It is not intended, and should not be considered, as a replacement for consultation, diagnosis or treatment by a duly licensed health practitioner.

Friday, March 25, 2016

Your Whole World Is On Your Shoulders

Ontario Chiropractic Association

Now that your little one is born, you’re learning what putting baby first means to your body.

While that’s normal, taking care of your health is equally important.
Let’s face it – lifting an infant several times a day is hard work, and can create damage to your back if you’re not careful. With a baby in one arm and a diaper bag on the other, keeping the stress off your lower back is another balancing act to master. Luckily, a chiropractor can help you.

Did you know?
A study in the Journal of Orthopaedics reported that 50-90% of pregnant women will likely experience lower back pain. This pain may persist after giving birth if you don’t take action.

Keep your back healthy at home
Here are some ways to reduce the risk of back and neck pain:
  • Lighten your load - Choose a diaper bag that distributes weight evenly across your body to limit the stress of isolated muscles.
  • Stretch your body - While your baby is old enough for tummy time, join them on the floor and do some exercises to stretch your neck and back.
  • Feed comfortably - When nursing, avoid hunching and keep your baby close to you. Also choose a comfortable, upright chair with a pillow.
  • Keep your baby close - Don’t stretch your arms out – bring your baby close to your chest before lifting. Consider wearing your baby on your front so you can alleviate the strain on your back.
  • Keep tub trouble at bay - Avoid reaching or twisting when bending over a tub. When kneeling, use a non-slip mat to protect your knees.
Exercises/stretches to help alleviate your back pain at home:
  • Shoulder openerBreathing deeply and calmly, relax your stomach muscles
    Let your head hang loosely forward and gently roll from side to side
    Bring your hands up to your neck and gently massage the back of your head and neck
    Drop your arms to your sides, relax your shoulders & slowly roll them backward and forward for 15 seconds
  • CrossoverStanding with feet shoulder width apart, raise your hands
    Bring your right elbow across your body while lifting your left knee
    Touch elbow to knee, remaining upright and repeat alternating sides for 15 seconds

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Solutions For Overcoming Poor Sitting Posture

By Dr. John A. Papa, DC, FCCPOR(C)
An ideal posture allows an individual to maintain an efficient, strong, and balanced position while interacting and adapting to their physical environment.  Good postural habits can help decrease abnormal and excessive physical strain on the body, thereby minimizing the chance of injury.
Unfortunately, modern technology has significantly influenced our daily postural habits, which has resulted in having people sit more often and for longer periods of time.  Individuals exposed to these sitting positions may adopt a poor posture that includes losing the natural hollow of the low back, rounding or slouching of the upper back and shoulders, and a forward head poking position.
Less than ideal posture puts cumulative compression, stretch, and shear forces on the body.  The cumulative effects of sitting are often offset by the body’s ability to compensate.  However, even in the absence of pain, these compensatory changes may begin a vicious cycle of unbalanced motion, muscle and joint stress, and secondary areas of discomfort.  As a result, the physical consequences of chronic poor posture can lead to symptoms such as muscle and joint stiffness, nerve pain, headaches, shoulder pain, neck pain, upper and lower back pain.

Listed below are some potential solutions that can minimize the chance of postural injury, specifically as it pertains to the sitting position:

1.    Pay attention to how you sit by making sure weight is evenly distributed in your seat, your shoulders are not rounding forward, and you are not slouching.  Your head should be resting on your torso and not poking forward.

2.    Take a break from sitting with 10 to 30 second stretch or posture breaks every 20 to 40 minutes.  Some activities such as computer work, talking on the phone, and business meetings can also be done while standing.

3.    The use of a properly designed workstation (i.e. adjustable chair and desk), along with ergonomic tools and assistive devices (i.e. speakerphones, foot stools, lumbar supports) can help maintain mechanically advantageous positions while working in a seated position.

4.    Avoid unnatural positions such as looking down, awkward twisting, or slouching for long periods of time as this can cause unnecessary strain.  A simple solution may be to bring your smartphone, tablet, or book closer to eye level, or adjusting your seat position to help you maintain a more natural/neutral position.

5.    Engaging in regular physical activity and exercise can keep your body strong and help overcome the effects of cumulative strain associated with poor posture.  Exercise activities can include general cardiovascular conditioning, along with postural, stretching and strengthening exercises for the neck, shoulders, upper and lower back regions.

Prolonged sitting and poor posture can undeniably cause real physical change and breakdown in the body.  If you have ongoing pain as a result of postural strain, you should contact a licensed health professional who deals in the diagnosis and treatment of these conditions.  For more information visit

This article is a basic summary for educational purposes only.  It is not intended, and should not be considered, as a replacement for consultation, diagnosis or treatment by a duly licensed health practitioner.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Tips For Managing Stress

By Dr. John A. Papa, DC, FCCPOR(C)

We are all bombarded with stressful events and situations everyday.  Unfortunately, many of us are not so good at dealing with stress, and whether we realize it or not, stress can be impacting our health in a negative way.

Researchers estimate that stress contributes to as many as 80% of all major illnesses, including cardiovascular disease, cancer, skin disorders, metabolic disease, and infectious ailments of all kinds.  Symptoms of stress may include but are not limited to: fatigue, dizziness, chronic headaches, irritability, depression, low self-esteem, changes in appetite, weight gain, digestive problems, breathing difficulties, chronic pain, insomnia, muscular weakness or tightness, and recurrent colds or infections.

Being able to effectively manage stress can have a significantly positive impact on overall health.  Below are some useful tips that can help individuals manage their stress levels.

1.    Identify a common or persistent stressor.  Once this is done, one must then move to confront and resolve this stressor whenever possible.  This is not always easy but is much more productive than letting ongoing stress affect your health indefinitely.  There are certain stresses and situations that we simply cannot do anything about, so don’t fret about things beyond your control.

2.    Exercise is one of the most powerful tools in helping one deal with stress.  Not only does it make you physically stronger, it also has the benefits of releasing excess tension, building self-esteem, boosting immune function, and stimulating the body’s natural pain killing chemicals called endorphins.

3.    Fuel your body with a nutritionally balanced diet that is rich in fruits and vegetables, and low in trans-fat.  This will serve to tone down your body’s negative response to stress.  Significant and positive changes can also be made to your eating habits by cutting down serving sizes, eliminating unhealthy snacking, and minimizing foods that can be detrimental to your health.

4.    Eliminate bad habits.  Engaging in bad habits such as excessive alcoholic consumption, drug use, and smoking, only serve to amplify stress symptoms, regardless of how comforting some individuals might find these behaviors in times of stress.

5.    Getting enough sleep is crucial in letting your body recharge, refresh, and recuperate.  The average adult requires six to eight hours of restful sleep each night.  As little as three days of sleep deprivation has been shown to significantly compromise productivity, create problems in relationships, and contribute to numerous health problems.  Restful sleep keeps your body strong and is essential for helping cope with stressful situations.

6.    Find a good network of friends you can trust and rely on.  Talking to others in times of stress can be very comforting and therapeutic.

For additional information on diet, exercise, managing stress, and improving your health, visit

This article is a basic summary for educational purposes only.  It is not intended, and should not be considered, as a replacement for consultation, diagnosis or treatment by a duly licensed health practitioner.

Friday, March 11, 2016

Laser Therapy

Class IV K-Lasers deliver specific red and near-infrared wavelengths of laser light to induce a therapeutic effect within the body. The painless application of laser energy has been shown to:
  • decrease pain
  • reduce swelling/inflammation and
  • enhance tissue repair
It does this by increasing microcirculation, allowing more red blood cells with oxygen to reach injured tissues to help with healing. It will also increase venous and lymphatic drainage from the injured region. At the cellular level, it stimulates enzymes which will improve the rate at which energy is made in the cell. More energy in the cell means a quicker healing process.

Numerous studies show that Laser Therapy can help with:
  • Low Back Pain & Sciatica
  • Neck Pain & Headaches
  • Mid & Upper Back Pain
  • Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
  • Muscle Strains & Spasms
  • Repetitive Stress Injuries
  • Osteoarthritis & Bursitis
  • Shoulder & Elbow Pain
  • Wrist & Hand Conditions
  • Hip & Knee Pain
  • Ankle Sprains
  • Plantar Fasciitis & Heel Pain
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Sports Injuries
  • Auto & Work Related Injuries
  • Post-surgical Healing

What Are The Specific Benefits of Using K-Laser?

  • World’s first four-wavelength Therapy Laser stimulates a wide variety of tissues
  • Uses continuous and modulating frequencies to promote pain control and healing
  • Has a SuperPulse mode for deeper therapeutic penetration
  • Delivers a higher power allowing for greater dosage and resulting in shorter treatment times
  • Utilizes presets that result in more consistent and safe treatment outcomes
  • The K-Laser is Health Care Practitioner (HCP) operated which means patients get professional expertise and knowledge at all times during treatment. For example, the HCP can incorporate interactive range of motion movements during treatments for optimal access to target tissues.  The HCP can also make any other therapeutic changes as needed during the Laser treatment.
For more information on K- Laser Therapy visit:
The New Hamburg Wellness Centre is accepting new patients!  No referral is required.

Monday, March 7, 2016

What Smoking Does To Your Musculoskeletal System

By Dr. John A. Papa, DC, FCCPOR(C)

The musculoskeletal (MSK) system includes the muscles, tendons, joints, and bones of the body.  Cigarettes contain many harmful chemicals, including nicotine and carbon monoxide which negatively affect the physical health and integrity of the MSK system.  Included below is a summary of those affects:
1.    Smoking decreases bone mineral density (BMD) and increases the risk of osteoporosis and future fractures.  Studies have shown that nicotine reduces the blood supply to bones, slows the production of bone forming cells, and decreases the absorption of calcium.  Post-menopausal women who smoke have greater spinal osteoporosis than non-smoking counterparts.  Among men, a consistently lower BMD at all bony sites is observed regardless of when in their life they smoked.  In addition, a relationship between cigarette smoking and low BMD in adolescence and early adulthood has been identified.
2.    Smoking delays healing times for bony fractures and soft tissue injuries such as rotator cuff tears.  Nicotine has been shown to decrease the production of fibroblasts (the main cells responsible for tissue repair).  In addition, the carbon monoxide found in tobacco smoke reduces oxygen levels in the body which is critical for all tissue healing.
3.    Smoking contributes to an increase in spinal problems.  The reduced blood circulation found in smokers deprives spinal discs of vital nutrients which can lead to premature degeneration.  Smoking may also provoke disc herniation through coughing.  Studies demonstrate a definite link between smoking and low back pain that increases with the duration and frequency of the smoking.  Exposure to secondhand smoke during childhood may also increase the risk of developing neck and back problems later in life.
4.   Smoking increases pain levels.  Smokers complain more often of MSK pain than non-smokers.  Studies indicate that smoking makes individuals more susceptible to sensing pain at lower thresholds.  In addition, smoking causes general damage to the MSK system through direct chemical irritation, chronic inflammation, and restricting blood and nutrient flow.
5.   Smoking causes stress and de-conditioning in the body.  For optimal functioning, your muscles and joints need a steady supply of oxygen-rich blood.  Smoking not only stiffens your arteries, it also decreases the rate at which oxygen and carbon dioxide are exchanged in the blood.  Other side effects of smoking include fatigue, lung disorders, impaired healing, and chronic pain.  Impaired healing means that injuries affect you for longer than usual, and healing from surgeries or infections can be problematic.  These side effects can lead to inactivity, which causes deconditioning.
Scientific evidence has established links between cigarette smoking and its detrimental impact on the MSK system.  However, it is never too late to try and quit smoking.  Some of the negative health aspects of smoking start to reverse after a smoker quits.  Those looking for help in trying to quit should speak to a medical professional.  Valuable resources can also be found on the Health Canada and Canadian Lung Association websites.  For additional information on health and wellness, visit
This article is a basic summary for educational purposes only.  It is not intended, and should not be considered, as a replacement for consultation, diagnosis or treatment by a duly licensed health practitioner.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Understanding The Inflammatory Process

By Dr. John A. Papa, DC, FCCPOR(C)

The inflammatory response is a natural phenomenon that enables our bodies to fend off various disease-causing organisms, harmful toxins, and physical injury.  It is a protective and restorative process that helps keep us healthy - most of the time.  Unfortunately, when inflammation becomes excessive or uncontrolled, we begin to see chronic inflammation which can lead to poor physical health.  Learn more about how the inflammatory response can affect your health.

When you catch a cold, sprain your ankle, or are exposed to an environmental pollutant such as cigarette smoke, a chain of events are triggered in your body known as the “inflammatory cascade”.  The familiar signs of normal inflammation - local redness, swelling, heat, pain, and loss of function - are the first signals that your immune system is being called into action.  Pro-inflammatory hormones are released at the injury site, which stimulates the release of white blood cells, antibodies, and other chemical compounds that help initiate the healing and repair process.  Inflammation that starts and ends as intended signifies the proper and essential inflammatory response.

Chronic inflammation occurs when there is an inflammatory response of prolonged duration (weeks, months, indefinite).  It is accompanied by simultaneous attempts at healing and repair and inevitably causes tissue damage.  Over time, it may become more difficult for the body to heal and repair tissue in areas of chronic inflammation.

Symptoms of chronic inflammation can include persistent pain, fever, fatigue, weakness, and irritability.  Chronic inflammation has also been linked to undesirable health conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, symptomatic osteoarthritis, and irritable bowel syndrome.  Listed below are some natural ways to manage and avoid chronic inflammation:

·        Use the right fuel:  Avoid foods that can be a source of chronic inflammation in the body such as refined sugars, trans fats, and allergens.  In contrast, omega-3 fats which are found in fish oils have an inflammation suppressing effect.  Anti-oxidants, found in most fruits and vegetables are natural compounds that help protect the body from harmful free radicals and inflammation.
·        Exercise works like medicine:  Endorphins released by the body during exercise can have anti-inflammatory properties.  Exercise also regulates insulin levels and body weight.  Being overweight increases inflammation in the body.  Fat cells are efficient factories for producing key inflammatory elements, and burning calories through exercise shrinks those cells.

·        Sleep and stress management:  Poor sleep quality increases body inflammation.  Regular restful sleep allows for important biological systems to recover and recharge.  Prolonged stress, whether it is emotional or physical, can be a source of chronic inflammation.  Finding an effective outlet for dealing with stress is important for managing this source of inflammation.
·        Be mindful of your habits and environment:  Avoiding exposure to pollution and toxic fumes such as cigarette smoke will help minimize inflammation in the body.
·        Treat muscle and joint injuries:  These injuries can be a major source of inflammation.  Many individuals experience the benefits of therapies such as acupuncture, massage therapy, and chiropractic care for these structural causes of pain and inflammation.
For additional information on natural inflammation management and improving your health, visit

This article is a basic summary for educational purposes only.  It is not intended, and should not be considered, as a replacement for consultation, diagnosis or treatment by a duly licensed health practitioner.