Understanding Sciatica

by Justin Phillips

As a chiropractor, sciatic nerve pain is a primary symptom that I help to relieve on a daily basis. Recently, I’ve gotten a lot of questions about “What is sciatica?” and “What can be causing it?” Sciatic nerve problems can present themselves very differently and can be produced from many different regions. I would like to explain exactly what it is, what causes it, and how it can be treated.

  1. Facts about Sciatica?
    1. The sciatic nerve begins in the lower part of your spine, and runs all the way to your toes
    2. Sciatica can be defined as – pain, numbness, or tingling that radiates along the path of the sciatic nerve
    3. Can range from a mild ache, to a sharp burning pain
  1. Where is it coming from?


The nerve can be irritated at many different regions. The main causes that most patients commonly hear is from a herniated disc or arthritis. I have many patients who have sciatic nerve pain but their discs and bones are very healthy………so where it is coming from? The path of the sciatic nerve exits the spine and runs through muscles in your hip and behind your leg, then through & around your knee, and finally to your foot. This means that it is very likely that the pressure on the sciatic nerve isn’t coming from the bones or discs, but from muscles instead. These muscle spasms can be brought on by the spine and hips rotating out of alignment.

  1. How can it be fixed?
    1. First, you need to figure out where the problem is
      1. Exam, x-rays, orthopedic testing
    2. Depending on the location, your care can differ
      1. Disc herniation – chiropractic care, inversion tables, staying hydrated
      2. Arthritis – chiropractic care, staying active, losing weight, overall movement
      3. Misaligned hips/spine – chiropractic care

The common course of care for sciatica should always involve chiropractic care. Natural care of the spine should always be your first option, not surgery. In most cases, the body can be improved, if not completely fixed, through natural health care and surgery will never be necessary. So, if you are suffering from any sciatic nerve related symptoms, immediately consult your local chiropractor to see what course of action is best for you.

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

Rib Misalignment

                                                                                                                   rib cage

by Justin Phillips

As chiropractors, the daily challenges we face commonly fall into certain recognizable patterns that many patients present with. These patterns or symptoms are most commonly low back pain, neck pain, and headaches just to name a few. However, this is not always the case. The rib cage is an area that goes overlooked often when it shouldn’t because it is critical to the stability of the spine. Rib joint misalignments or subluxations are common but can be tricky to catch.

It is important to remember that the ribs attach at both the spine, as well as the sternum and their primary functions are to protect the lungs and support the spine. Because there are 2 attachment sites, they can “slip out” in either place. More commonly, ribs misalign posteriorly, or at the spinal attachment, and this can cause a few of the following symptoms:

  • Dull achy pain
  • Tenderness during palpation
  • Sharp, stabbing pain (if more serious)
  • Shortness of breath
  • Pain with coughing/sneezing
  • Sharp pain when taking a deep breath

It is important to remember that rib adjustments usually are not painful, however, it is common to be sore the following day but afterwards tend to feel better quickly. Making sure the ribs remain in the correct position can be tricky depending of the severity of the misalignment. Most rib subluxations can be corrected in just 2 or 3 visits. However, if you are suffering from a chronic condition (lasting weeks-months), correction can take up to 2-3 weeks. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, consult your family chiropractor immediately because your recovery will greatly depend on how quick your spine and rib joints are re-aligned.

Wallets & Sciatica

by Justin Phillips

For most men, the back pocket has always been a go-to spot for stowing your cards, cash, change or receipts. It is very easy to get in the habit of cramming “one more thing” into your wallet and sitting on it all day. When handling patients’ concerns, I am frequently asked, “How did this happen?” For men, with a history of sciatic pain or rotation of the hips, the most common answer is, “You’ve been sitting on that wallet for 15+ years.”

Think of it this way……a study performed by Ergotron, a global manufacturer of furniture and mobility products, showed that Americans are sitting an average of 13 hours a day. When you are seated, your hips and spine rotate forward and most of the pressure in on the bottom of the hip. Hopefully, during this time, everything is level. Placing a thick wallet in your back pocket causes your hips to immediately tilt, forcing your spine, ligaments, and muscles to compensate for the imbalance. This tilting & compensation creates unleveled hips, a crooked spine, and tight muscles. Now, repeat that position for 13 hrs/day……….for 15 years!


Not only does your wallet force your hips to tilt, but it puts direct pressure on the piriformis muscle and sciatic nerve. Piriformis syndrome, which is a common problem seen by chiropractors, is defined as compression or irritation of the sciatic nerve directly from the piriformis muscle. Other names for this condition is “wallet sciatica” and “fat wallet syndrome”.

Here are some tips on changing the way you carry your wallet:

  • Use a “front pocket” wallet or money clips. This might also save you money in the long run since you can’t carry as much.
  • Take it out of your pocket while sitting. If you can’t get rid of it, at least take it out of your pocket while driving or sitting at home/work. Stow it in your desk or console.
  • Rotate sides. This is the worst “solution” to the problem because you are still putting a stress on your back. At least, it will alternate stress to different sides.

front wallet

Carrying a thick wallet in your back pocket is a primary example of how little habits can create big problems down the road. This is one of many topics that I cover daily with numerous patients in order to maintain a healthy spine and a healthy life.

Functional Dry Needling


by Justin Phillips

One of the most common problems that I face as a Chiropractor is muscle knots, trigger points, and chronic muscle tension. Through Chiropractic care, we can realign the spine thus allowing the muscles to calm down. However, there are times when a muscle is so chronically tight, that it can take a long time for it to relax. This is why Functional Dry Needling is now available at Total Health.

Functional Dry Needling involves a thin needle, often same needles as acupuncturists, being inserted directly into a muscle ‘trigger point’ in order to stimulate the healing process more rapidly. Muscle spasms cause constant cycles. In this cycle, pain causes muscle tension, which causes inflammation, which causes trigger points, which causes pain……….then the cycle starts over again. Dry Needling INTERUPTS this cycle and stimulates healing.


Other conditions that can benefit from Dry Needling include:

  • Neck/back pain
  • Headaches
  • Sciatica
  • Tennis/Golfer’s Elbow
  • Hip/Knee pain
  • Tendonitis
  • Foot pain
  • Sprain/Strain injuries
  • Athletic performance

The most common questions asked are “Does it hurt?” and “How often does it take to see results?” Most people do not feel anything during the procedure. The procedure is intended to produce a local “twitch” response which can feel like a very brief (less than a second) muscle cramp. Typically, an acute issue will take between 1-4 visits to see lasting results. However, chronic muscle spasms can take approximately 8-15 visits. You can receive Dry Needling treatments as often as daily depending on the severity of the issue.

Most people go through life under the impression that “This is just what I’m going to have to deal with” or “These knots have been here forever and they aren’t going anywhere.” This is not true. Muscle tension is a result of some form of internal problem that is commonly fixed by Chiropractic Care and now, with the addition of Functional Dry Needling therapy, we can see results even faster.

Back To School

                                                                                                     billy madison

by Justin Phillips, D.C.

It’s that time of year again when we all begin preparing differently for the return of the school season. For the children and young adults that will be GOING to school in the next few weeks, remember that it inherently brings on new stressors to the body and we have to be more aware of our daily habits and routines. School brings up different issues that some may not think about and I would like to address these along with some tips to help.

  1. Backpacks


School-goers will start filling bags with heavy books and carrying them around all day. Try to pull the shoulder straps tight so your bag is lifted higher and if your bag is equipped with a waist strap, use it.

  1. Studying/Reading


Studying and reading causes your neck be pulled forward, thus losing its curve. This causes increased stress on the upper back muscles and possibly leading to headaches. Remember to take hourly breaks stretching the neck and shoulders for just 30 seconds.

  1. Sleep

Waking up earlier can cause you to lose out on valuable sleep, which is when the body is recovering from the day. Get in bed at a reasonable hour and try to not set your alarm late enough so you don’t hit “Snooze” multiple times. A long, uninterrupted sleep is the goal.

  1. Eating Healthy

Some schools have healthy food options, but definitely not all of them. Since you are not eating at home during lunch now, remember you have to make a special effort to pack or prepare healthier lunches to keep your body and mind sharp throughout the day.

  1. Desk Computers


Computers are used much more in daily school activities now. Make sure that you have correct posture when on a desktop computer. This involves lifting the monitor and remember this motto: “Ears over Shoulders over Hips”. If you do this, you will be in a healthy posture and prevent back aches.

Remember, when school begins and our schedules change, we must make an extra effort to maintain our health. If you are aware of these changes and take the necessary steps to overcome them, the changing schedule will not change your health.

Chiropractic Care during Pregnancy


by Justin Phillips, D.C.

Finding out that you are going to have a child comes with many different emotions……happiness, anxiety, uncertainty, worry, fear, and excitement just to name a few. One major worry is how your body is going to respond to a baby growing inside of you. The body is an amazing mechanism that can compensate for dramatic changes and adjust to many different stressors. Going through pregnancy causes many changes physically and chiropractic care can help those changes go smoothly with more comfort and less pain.

During pregnancy a hormone called Relaxin is increased in production primarily during the 1st trimester and at delivery. One major result of the increased Relaxin release is the relaxation of the pelvic ligaments to allow the pelvis to expand in preparation for the growing baby. It is important to make sure that the body is expanding in correct alignment to decrease stress on muscles and pressure on nerves. If your body starts to favor one side, many issues including numbness, pain, and weakness will occur. Regular chiropractic care will help maintain a balanced body and aligned spine. This will stimulate the nervous system to enable proper function of the reproductive system, thus supporting the needs of your baby throughout the pregnancy.

The frequency of recommended chiropractic care changes with each patient’s specific needs. However, this is a general rule to go by:

  • No Pain – 1 visit/week until the last few weeks. Closer to the birth date, increase to 2-3 visits/week
  • Pain or Other Symptoms – 3 visits/week for at least 3-4 weeks, even if symptoms resolve sooner. After initial corrective care, 1 visit/week.

Babies also love to move around and change positions while they’re growing. This is a healthy and normal activity but there is a possibility of the baby falling into what’s known as Breech position, or feet down position. A specific chiropractic adjustment known as the Webster Technique has shown to relieve uterine constraint, thus allowing the baby to move more freely. The baby can flip positions as late as 39 weeks, but there is a much higher rate of success the earlier you receive care. If you are concerned about your baby’s position, consult your Chiropractor immediately.

Chiropractic care is extremely helpful throughout pregnancy, but there are many different things you can do on your own as well. Proper care of your body throughout the day is vital to a healthy, comfortable pregnancy and birth. Here are some daily tips to consider:

  • Make sure you are switching sides (sleeping, sitting, carrying siblings, etc)
  • While seated, try to avoid crossing your legs and periodically rock your hips back and forth to keep them loose.
  • Avoid wearing heels
  • Increase your daily water intake
  • Swimming and yoga are great forms of exercise during pregnancy

Feeling Better While Driving


by Justin Phillips, D.C.

It is SUMMER TIME…….school is out, and a lot of people are preparing for vacation. If you are a vacation driver and not a flyer, it is very important that you take the necessary steps to prevent back pain while in the car. The last thing you want is to arrive at your destination, and your lower back pain is severe for the first 2 days. Here are some tips to make sure you are doing everything you can to feel better while………and after……….you make the long trip.


  • First, move your seat all the way back, lower it to the floor, and recline it back 30-40 degrees
  • Start by lifting the height until you can comfortably see the road and your knees are level with, not above, your hips.
  • Next, scoot the seat forward until you can COMPLETELY press the pedals without pulling your back off the seat.
  • Bring the back forward to about 100-110 degrees, this is basically just slightly past sitting straight up.
  • Bring the headrest forward until you can rest you head on it without feeling like you are leaning backwards.


  • Bring the wheel down and forward until you can reach it without extending your elbows or shoulders. This will reduce stress to your neck and upper back by letting your arms relax.


  • For additional support, you can try a very basic lumbar mesh support. Follow the link below to see an example:



  • Try to stop and take a quick break about every 2 hours. This might increase your travel time by 20 minutes but will make a big difference in your pain level and overall stiffness once you arrive.


  • Guys……..take your wallet out of your back pocket!

All these tips are going to help you feel better while you’re driving, which will help you to drive safer, and arrive at your vacation relaxed and ready to have fun! And always remember…. “When it comes to your health, we’ve got your BACK”

Keeping Kids Well Adjusted

by Justin Phillips, D.C.

Many people don’t realize this but children, yes even infants, need chiropractic care just as much as adults……..maybe even more so.

A common question I am asked by patients is, “How did my spine get this bad?” The answer is either from an injury/trauma, or more commonly developed over time through your daily habits and routines. As adults, our bodies have been through a lifetime of daily routines and difficult positions that create issues in the spine. The spine gets misaligned, muscles then develop tension, nerves are compressed, and then we start to feel daily pains. These issues are correctable through chiropractic care, but what about preventing these issues from developing by taking care of the body as its growing? Keeping your child’s spine routinely adjusted and in correct alignment can both prevent future problems as well as correct current issues.

From the day we are born, our muscles and ligaments need to be developing around a straight spine. The birth process can be very traumatic for infants and they often need to have their spines checked to make sure they are perfectly aligned. As kids are growing, they are also falling causing numerous bumps and bruises. For this reason, regular checkups are necessary to prevent further issues.

Also, very commonly, children deal with recurring issues such as ear infections, constipation, intestinal gas, and difficulties sleeping. Every nerve exits the spine and not only runs directly to muscles of the body, but also control every organ in the body. Therefore, these issues can all be helped and/or corrected simply by allowing the nerves of the body to function at 100%.

Chiropractic care for infants/toddlers/children is different from that of adults. Below I have listed some the differences in their care:

CHILDREN                                                                     ADULTS

very GENTLE adjustment                                              adjustment style DEPENDS on the patient

bones move EASILY                                                        bones MAY be difficult to move if prolonged tension

issues are QUICKLY resolved                                       issues may take weeks-to-months to completely resolve

maintenance care typically 1x/3-6 mos                   maintenance care typically 1x/month

So you see, while the style of care and frequency is different for young children than that of adults, it is equally important in order to both resolve current issues and, more importantly, prevent future issues from developing.

For a detailed video of a routine toddler adjustment, visit our testimonial page at: http://totalhealthhixson.com/index.php#videos.

The Truth behind Carpal Tunnel Symptoms

by Justin Phillips, D.C.

On a daily basis, I see patients who are dealing with a certain degree of numbness or tingling into the hand and fingers. Most people will attribute these symptoms to CTS, or Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. The Mayo Clinic defines Carpal Tunnel as a hand and arm condition that causes numbness, tingling and other symptoms due to a pinched nerve in your wrist. What most people fail to realize, however, is that the nerve traveling through the Carpal Tunnel in your wrist travels through many different areas before it even gets to the wrist…………and all of these can pinch the nerve!

median-nerve2 brachial plexus-4 (3)

Anatomy: Nerves of the Arm

Let’s begin with the path of the nerve that causes Carpal Tunnel symptoms. The actual nerve getting ‘pinched’ is called the Median Nerve. This nerve has roots that originate from spinal segments C5-C7; that is the 5th, 6th, and 7th bones in the neck. Next, these nerve roots, along with others, form the Brachial Plexus, a webbing of nerves that run from the neck, under the collarbone, and eventually becomes the 3 nerves that innervate the entire arm……….radial nerve, ulnar nerve, and median nerve. The median nerve then passes through the elbow joint and muscles of the arm before finally passing through the carpal tunnel in the wrist.

Possible Problem Areas

Now, let’s go through the path of the nerve and discover where problems can arise.

  • Neck
    • First, and foremost, issues in the neck effect the median nerve at the roots. Whiplash injuries, arthritis, degenerative disc disease, or just a loss of the cervical curve can all cause pinching of the nerves between C5-C7.
  • Shoulder
    • The brachial plexus travels directly underneath the collarbone. Many shoulder issues causes one shoulder to be lower than the other. This changes the angle of the collarbone and can put direct pressure on the brachial plexus.
  • Elbow
    • The median nerve travels through the elbow joint which is a common source of pain. Any elbow problems can also directly affect the nerve.
  • Wrist
    • Finally, the nerve passes through the wrist where there is a possibility of the nerve being pinched in the carpal tunnel.

Care for CTS Symptoms

It is best to first let your chiropractor evaluate the entire path of the median nerve to determine where the problem is occurring. Chiropractors not only correct misalignments in the spine, but are also thoroughly trained to adjust any joint of the body. Many times, the problem is occurring well before the wrist and a future surgery can be avoided. Carpal Tunnel surgery should always be used as a LAST RESORT. It is always better to first look to correct the problem naturally before considering drugs or surgery.

Daily Tips for Sleep-filled Nights


by Justin Phillips, D.C.

As we get older, have more kids/nieces & nephews, get more responsibilities, and overall create more limitations on our time, a “good” night’s sleep becomes increasingly important. Have you heard the statement, “Early to bed, early to rise….makes a person healthy, wealthy, and wise”? This simply means that a good night’s sleep is the foundation to a healthy, happy, and productive life. Without good sleep, we go through each day a little foggy, more exhausted, less productive, and can’t wait to get BACK in bed. Developing good sleep habits doesn’t start at night, it begins the moment we wake up.


Lose the Snooze. By repeatedly hitting the snooze button until you drag yourself out of bed, you may think you’re making it easier to wake up. However, all you’re really doing is fragmenting your sleep. Think about it, which would you rather do……..sleep for 8 hours straight, or for 1 hour 8 times? A long uninterrupted sleep will best prepare your mind and body for each day.

Turn on the Lights. The best form of light is the sun. If it is dark or cold out, artificial light is still better than keeping things dark. Exposing yourself to bright light early in the day has been shown to improve sleep as well as daily alertness and productivity, even if it is artificial.

Get some Early Activity. This doesn’t have to be running or working out. Go for a walk with the dog, stretch or do light yoga, play with your kids, or jog/walk on a treadmill while catching up on emails. This does not have to be intense, but getting your blood flowing and nerves firing early will keep you alert during the day and help prepare your body for nighttime.


Work hard and Stay Focused. If you’re going to be at work, you might as well get as much accomplished as you can while you’re there. There’s a saying that goes, “If you want to make an easy job seem much harder, keep putting off doing it.” Getting work done early will decrease the mental load for the rest of your day and procrastination will only make you more stressed, thus sleeping much worse.

Keep Your Spine Aligned. Routine chiropractic adjustments will not only keep you healthier and more active throughout the day, but set up your spine and muscles for a more relaxing experience in the evening. Many people have difficulties getting comfortable in bed and/or move around constantly. Keeping your spine correctly aligned will help you get comfortable in bed and have a better night’s sleep.


Eat Right. Eating most of your carbs at dinner has shown to shorten the sleep onset. This basically means that packing carbs into dinner can help you fall asleep faster. Also, try to eat some form of animal fat and/or olive oil, which are both great sources of oleic acid, which aides sleep induction.

Turn off the Screens. Turn off all screens (laptop, tv, tablets, smartphones) at least an hour before bedtime. All these devices emit blue light that interrupts melatonin, which is the hormone that tells our body it’s time to sleep.