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Posture Perfect

With the increase in technological devices of late, posture has been a recurring theme in physical health news more and more. You may have even heard the term “text neck”. If you’ve ever been to a physical therapist or a chiropractor you may have even heard more sophisticated terms like “Upper Cross Syndrome” and “Lower Cross Syndrome.” If you’ve been to Pilates, yoga or barre classes you’ve also probably heard about pelvic tilts and “tucking.”

We know that a good posture is healthy for us. But, you may be asking yourself – what exactly is good posture, and how can I maintain it?

Good posture looks like this. 

Your ears should be in the middle of your shoulders – and your shoulders directly over your hips – and all of that in-line directly over your ankles. Be sure and keep your shoulders down and back, too – not rounded forward. When you’re in a good posture position, you should notice:

  • Your spine should make a gentle ‘S’ curve.
  • Your pelvis should be level and your weight should be evenly distributed through your feet.
  • You experience no pinching in your lower back.
  • You feel no discomfort or excess weight in your heels or the balls of your feet.

 

The affects of not maintaining correct posture can be significant. Bad posture can lead to pain, injury and even degeneration of the spine. So, take heed and be mindful of your posture in during everyday activities – including how you are holding your head and neck while texting.

Stay tuned for more in our series on posture – the positive, and negative, affects it can have on your health.

Break the Injury Cycle

You’ve recently recovered from an injury, so you started a new workout program, and now you’ve just suffered another injury. Sound familiar? You’re not alone. It’s a common problem that lots of people face. The trick to breaking the cycle is in understanding the cause.

Exercise and rehabilitation is predicated on the SAID principle. This refers to the Specific Adaptation to Imposed Demand. Let’s break it down. We all have our own unique stress line – that limit within each of us that, if breached, will result in injury. This holds true for each system in our body – cardiovascular (heart, blood vessels, lungs) and musculoskeletal (bones, joints, muscles, ligaments, tendons). When we start a new exercise program, we start stressing these two systems. We push too hard and we suffer injury, don’t push hard enough and we don’t gain any results. So how do you overcome this conundrum? Strike a balance on exertion load over time.

When we safely exert ourselves up to the point of our unique stress line, our bodies adapt over time to tolerate increased levels of strain – elevating our individual limits. Think of it like this – you get winded while walking to get the mail, but you keep doing the activity for a week and in the end, you’re less winded over time. On the flip side, exerting yourself below your systems’ stress line, and your body has no reason to adapt and adjust. The key is to operate between the lines.

Here are a few injury risk signs that indicate need for increased recovery time:
  • Experiencing pain during your activity
  • Experiencing pain after your activity
  • Muscle stiffness the next day

It’s important to listen to your body and not overdo it. The concept of “no pain, no gain” is a fallacy. When starting a new program, it’s a good idea to meet with your chiropractor or physical therapist. They should evaluate your fitness, sleep patterns, and diet – and can help you learn the best movements for your fitness level to avoid risk and injury.

Food Can Make Us Strong

In honor of National Nutrition Month, I’d like to share a few thoughts on one of trickier health subjects – food.

Food is, at its core, emotional. It’s tied to all kinds of emotions. Emotions can be positive, happy, warm and fuzzy. But they can also be negative, sad, guilt-ridden and bring about compulsive behavior. The science on nutrition is very difficult, because it has so many factors and variables involved. Not to mention, it’s a very popular topic, and just one new study can launch a myriad of commentary from wellness blogs to news publications, and everything in between. What gets lost in the mix is that the new study is just that – one new study – but sometimes it is treated like the latest, broadly accepted scientific opinion. Remember when carbs were good for you… and then they weren’t… and then they were good again?

With so many different types of dietary models: Paleo, Atkins, Vegan, etc., it can be hard to figure out what’s right for you. There are merits behind so many of them, but the way we think about what we eat is what’s most critical.

Too often we think of food in black and white – as bad for you (but delicious and wonderful) and good for you (but so unappetizing).  A few weeks ago, I enjoyed opportunity to discuss nutrition with a patient in the office. Her name is Christa Bennett, and something she said really struck a chord with me.  She was telling me that she doesn’t talk about food with her children in terms of good or bad. Instead she frames it like this: “is it strong food or weak food?” It made me think – will this food make me strong or make me weak. I really liked it.

When we think of food in terms of good or bad, we are placing an emotional value on it. This isn’t always a healthy thing for our bodies, our minds, or our hearts. Let’s take a note from Christa. As we sit down to our next meal, consider what’s on the plate. “Will this make me strong? Will it make me weak?”

Try to incorporate a few of these foods and tips into your meal prep routine:
  • Fish or poultry three or more times per week
  • Whole grains and fruits daily
  • Vegetables – lots and lots of vegetables
  • Healthy fats, like olive oil
  • Pair proteins with fats
  • Design meals that feature a variety of rich, vibrant colors

We want to eat better so we can feel better, and we want to eat food that tastes good. But we can do without the calorie counting, countless hours preparing in the kitchen, and ultimately feeling deprived and hungry. With a little bit of will power and some slight adjustments to how we think about food, we can feel strong and fuel our bodies right. I have been getting ready for a new jiu-jitsu belt test lately and eating a lot of strong foods, because I want to feel strong. And thanks to Christa, I do. I hope you do to!

 

Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Back

Sleep is important. Yet, despite our awareness of sleep benefits, we often don’t make getting enough of it a priority. Sleep loss costs the U.S. $4.2 billion dollars a year – an equivalent of 1.2 million work days a year. But there is more to sleep than getting enough. How you sleep can be just as important to your health.

Stomach sleeping.

Many people sleep on their stomachs. And while stomach sleeping can help with snoring, it can also exacerbate and prolong neck and shoulder pain from a recent or recurring injury.

Side sleeping.

Side sleeping – with your arms below chest  level – is better. But, also brings risk of waking with numbness and tingling in your arms from having them in the wrong spot. I recommend sleeping on your side with your arms down, and your legs almost straight, with a pillow between your knees. Many people have a tendency to bring their chin toward their chest in this position. Try to keep your neck straight, and be sure your pillow is thick enough to keep your spine straight. Side sleeping requires a thicker pillow than sleeping on your back.

So, what’s the best sleep position to cover by best?

Back sleeping.

As a chiropractor, I like back sleeping with your arms down best. It keeps your spine straight and level. This is the ideal position for back health and injury recovery. Tucking a pillow below underneath your knees can be a good extra measure as well. However, if you snore or have sleep apnea, this may not be the best position for you.

So, be sure to get your sleep – and be mindful about how your body is feeling when you wake up – you might need to make some adjustments. If you have pain or stiffness when you wake that’s a good sign that you’ve some adjusting to do. When we wake we should feel our best.

Healthy Life, Healthy Back

Patients often ask: “What caused my problem and how do I keep it from returning?” The origin of a condition may be easily identified as an accident or injury. However, more than half the time, the exact cause is more difficult to pinpoint – because the problem was generated by a series of seemingly harmless events and circumstances (e.g. your posture; increased activity; mild repetitive strains; etc). In fact, most conditions are started by a “recipe” of irritants rather than any single “ingredient”. From a slight increase in your daily exercise routine coupled with less than ideal posture in an old office chair, to a few extra trips up and down the stairs and layering on the Spring chores, all add up to: “Ouch, my back…!”

When life’s physical demands exceed your body’s tolerance for those challenges, muscle, bone, joint and nerve problems begin. So, how do you prevent recurring injury?

Here are five tips to help keep the back strain away.

  1. Lift with your legs. The strongest among us are still at risk of back injury when we lift heavy objects incorrectly. Be sure to squat down, grab the item and use your leg muscles to lift up.
  2. Exercise your core. Your core muscles are key to supporting your lower back. Low-impact activities, like walking, will get your heart-rate up, deliver increased oxygen to your spine, and help keep your middle fit.
  3. Practice your good posture. Much like poor posture can lead to painful back problems, good posture can help prevent injury and strain. Set reminders for yourself throughout the day to check your posture – get up and walk around from time to time – and avoid slouching.
  4. Reduce your stress. We hold tension in our back muscles, and this type of constant stress can cause back pain. Try introducing stress-relieving activities into your daily routine – meditation, yoga, tai chi – the list of options is long. The trick is finding something that works for you.
  5. Be the healthiest You that you can be. Think of your spine as an indicator of your body’s overall health and well-being. So, practicing activities that have a positive affect on your health will also have a positive impact on your back. Drink lots of water; minimize alcohol; avoid nicotine; and limit inflammatory foods (sugar, flour, dairy, processed meats, fried and saturated fats).

Of course, prevention is always the best measure to keep your body pain-free. But, if you do encounter a mishap, partnering with your physical therapist and employing these measures to help increase strength and flexibility can also help increase your threshold for future injury.

 

Fitness Apps and Trackers: Is Technology Right For You?

Technology is everywhere. We consume tons of media on our phones. We adorn wearable tech that improves our posture. Sleep apps (Rested, Sleep++, Sleepbot) that use motion sensing, sound, and a smart alarm help us measure our sleep quality. All are agreed – there are some great innovations that have entered the marketplace in recent years. But there’s so much to choose from. How can we determine which technology is best to support our health and fitness goals. The trick is in finding what’s right for you.

Let’s start with apps. They are varied in scope and features. You can get some for free, while some cost extra for upgraded features.   They all work best when you’re faithful about putting in your data every day. If you’re the type of person who doesn’t like to mess with data and numbers, these apps may not work for you.  Here’s a closer look at three technology options:

 

  • Myfitnesspal – Like most apps, it requires you to manually input data each day, but lets you track your exercise, food and weight, and helps to create a calorie budget based on your goals. It also syncs with several other popular media and fitness devices, and even plays music while you’re working out.
  • Strava – This one is geared for the competitive runners and cyclists, allowing you to compare your achievements to everyone else using the app. This can be a great boost if a little competition is what you’re going for.
  • Spotify – A new player in the fitness app game, Spotify is allowing premium members to search for songs based on your running pace so you can use music strategically to help you train.
If you find that using an app is causing you stress and anxiety, or affecting your self-esteem, it’s a warning strategy is not good for you.

Fitness trackers are another tool for supporting your fitness goals. The philosophical idea behind them is “that which is measured, improves.” However, a new study revealed that people who used fitness trackers actually lost less weight than a control group that didn’t. The trackers and apps rely on an algorithm to determine your ideal caloric intake – but, in many cases, this one-size-fits-all approach doesn’t get it right. So, while you may be moving more, you also may be eating more.

It takes years of research and dozens, if not hundreds, of research papers before the scientific community is able to achieve consensus on what truly works and what doesn’t. These devices are only a few years old, so those studies are far from over – until then, research should be used merely as a guide to help shape personal opinions. If you want to try a fitness tracker, go for it. If it helps you, that’s great. But, if you find yourself using an app or following a tracker without the results you wanted, try making modifications. These tools should help to take the guess work out.

This technology is new and all devices currently on the market have quite a way to go before they will fulfill their promises.

While the technology gets a little better each year, it will likely still be a while before we can rely on them completely. They are a good starting point. But, if you think fitness technology might work for you, be sure to read reviews first – the good, the bad, and the ugly. If you are using one but not getting the results you want, talk to your healthcare provider about help in finding a support solution that’s right for you.

Patient Centered Care: Putting the Patient First

Lots of medical Practices and hospitals promote a patient-centered approach. It’s a hot buzzword in healthcare right now. But, what does that really mean? The IOM (Institute of Medicine) defines patient-centered care as: “Providing care that is respectful of, and responsive to, individual patient preferences, needs and values, and ensuring that patient values guide all clinical decisions.”

Patient-centered care is a custom tailored approach. It takes the individual patient into account when making care recommendations. While the practice of medicine uses a great deal of science, not all approaches will work well for every patient. That’s where this approach comes into play.  It’s more than just following intuition and the available science. It takes unique patient preferences into account – from individual challenges to lifestyle factors. As care providers, we need to listen to our patients and prescribe programs that adapt to their needs and align with what is realistic for them.

So, how do you know if your healthcare provider is truly taking a patient-centered approach? Check these three cues:
  1. Are they asking questions and engaging in a discussion around your holistic health situation?
  2. Does the program prescribed fit with your lifestyle, and feel realistic and attainable for you?
  3. Have they listened to you? Do you feel heard?

Your health and well-being requires action on both your part and that of your healthcare provider. You will achieve better results when you follow the requirements within a customized recovery and wellness plan. So, look for a partner when seeking medical assistance – and,  remember, when choosing a healthcare provider or a hospital, look for a patient-centered approach.

10 Tips to Keep Your New Year’s Resolutions

Keeping your New Year’s resolutions. It’s tough – we’ve all been there. You gain so much clarity at the end of another year and you find your focus – determined to (finally) achieve those targeted goals. January is welcomed in with a surge of excited anticipation at how amazing everything will be once you hit those goals. Then, February comes. Sticking to those resolutions may be tough but, with a little help, we can do it.

2017 New Year's ResolutionsHere are 10 tips to help you stay the course and rise to the resolutions.
  1. Keep it attainable. Set specific, measurable, attainable, realistic (SMART) goals. This will make the process manageable. Trying to lose 100 pounds is steep goal – but trying to lose 5 pounds per month, is a realistic goal that you can measure your progress by. Celebrating the smaller victories will only fuel your motivation to continue.
  2. Skip the fancy fitness trackers. A large study just published in the Journal of the American Medical Association reveals that people tend to actually gain more weight while using these trackers, because they overeat when they feel they are burning more calories.
  3. Exercise moderately, but stay away from the super intense workout routines. Advertising for some of these intense programs focuses on the incredible results you could enjoy. However, the reality is that most people are more likely to get injured in one of these programs than reap the rewards. Start an exercise program gradually and give your body time to adapt. When you are ready for the high intense activities, try working under the supervision of a trained professional.
  4. Get more sleep. Sleep helps you to be happier; to think better; to heal faster; and to get more out of your workouts. Maybe you’re already getting the great-8 – and you wake up feeling energized for the day without the aid caffeine – but if that doesn’t sound like you, take note and plan for more sleep.
  5. Make informed buying decisions.  Getting to the gym can be a hassle, and you’re convinced that if only you had the exercise equipment at home, you’d be on it every day. But, did you know that there are lots of resources on body weight exercises that you can do without spending any money? If you are in the market to outfit your home gym, be sure to do your research and buy from a reputable brand dealer.
  6. Pass up the sports drinks and diet sodas. Sugar is not your friend, and we’ve all heard about losing electrolytes while working out – but unless you’re in the middle of an endurance competition or training session, your average run or exercise class isn’t going to deplete you. You’re just sabotaging your hard work with unnecessary sugar and calories.
  7. Practice willpower. Willpower is like a muscle – the more you use it, the stronger it gets. The toughest choices are easiest to make earlier in the day when you’re fresh and your resolve is strong. Set yourself up for success. Make the tough choices early in the morning and take it easy on yourself at the end of the day.
  8. Walk more. Walking is great- it helps lubricate your joints; relieves pressure on the spine from sitting; burns calories; and helps clear the mind. So take that empty parking spot at the end of the row and take a few laps around the office – it will help keep you moving towards those goals, plus your joints will thank you.
  9. Receive regular adjustments. Once you’re injured, the risk of re-injury increases. Seeing your chiropractor for proper adjustments regularly can result in a lower incidence of re-injury. Keep your body tuned in good alignment, and don’t forget about the physical therapy.
  10. Smile. Smiling can lower your heart rate, and reduce blood pressure and stress. It causes endorphins to be released and elevates your mood. Smiling also lowers pain and can improve relationships with people around you. Plus, it’s a lot easier to smile than frown, and your face will thank you for it!
With these tips, we hope you keep all of those resolutions – and wish you all the best for a happy, healthy and fit 2017.

Five Chiropractic Myths Busted

Chiropractic Myths BustedWe’re not your average chiropractic clinic – with an integrated health and wellness approach, physical therapy, and lifestyle counseling offered as well – yet some popular misconceptions about chiropractic still rise to the surface. So, we thought it might be helpful to bust a few popular myths on the topic.

Chiropractic Myths Busted:

  1. All they do is “crack” backs.
    • While it is true spinal manipulation is a frequent part of care that a chiropractor provides, it isn’t the only thing we do. Chiropractors are spinal and musculoskeletal specialists, and diagnosis is our primary role. We identify your injury, and what caused it, and provide a clear plan on how to overcome it.  In addition to manipulation, chiropractors also provide soft tissue treatments, physical therapy modalities, therapeutic exercises, nutrition counseling and lifestyle advice.
  2. Chiropractic manipulation is dangerous.
    • While it is true that no treatment or intervention is without risk, chiropractic manipulation is safe. The most common side effect is soreness.  Another common misconception is that manipulation of the cervical region can cause a stroke.  However, there has never been any scientific evidence demonstrating causation. Far more dangerous and common complications may come from the use of prescription and over the counter medications. Specially trained osteopaths and physical therapists also perform spinal manipulation – and we pay far less in malpractice premiums.
  3. I will have to go forever.
    • Not true. Most acute injuries will respond to a focused course of care. Some limited evidence shows that regular spinal manipulation decreases the risk of low back pain. So, many patients choose to get regular adjustments – like you might get a regular massage or visit the dentist.
  4. Chiropractic care is expensive.
    • Most insurance plans cover chiropractic care and even Medicare covers part of your care, which is good since patients are responsible for more and more out of pocket expenses with higher deductibles and copays than ever before.  Chiropractic and physical therapy treatment plans are often far less expensive than traditional care, and we can more accurately diagnosis and treat your injury for less than the cost of a single MRI. Pain medication also comes with dangerous side effects, and only masks symptoms, while chiropractic care and physical therapy actually fix the problem.
  5. Chiropractors only treat back pain.
    • While chiropractors frequently specialize in low back pain, chiropractors treat most musculoskeletal injuries from work injuries, whiplash, headaches, to hip and knee pain. Some chiropractors specialize in sports injuries, as we do in our clinic, other in vestibular and balance dysfunction, chronic pain, peripheral neuropathies and so on.

At the end of the day, if you’re suffering from pain, a visit to a chiropractor may be just what the doctor ordered.

Learn and Win

“I never lose. I either win or I learn.” I was struck by this quote from Spartan (an obstacle race course and fitness group) the moment I read it. It’s probably the closest thing I’ve seen to a real credo to live by: embrace setbacks as an opportunity to learn, instead of rejecting them as a personal failure.

Learn and WinSetbacks happen. They happen at work, at home, at the gym. They happen along our everyday road to success. And guess what? That’s okay. It’s okay to make mistakes, and it’s okay to miss the mark – and to fall down – and to be hurt. An old Japanese proverb expresses a similar sentiment: “Fall down seven times.  Get up eight.”

When we accept that we will make mistakes, we learn that we will fail before we can succeed.

“I either win or I learn” takes that important acceptance one step further: you can turn that fall, or that fail, into something valuable if you are open to learning from it.  I’ve since adopted this credo and apply it to my every day life – helping me to overcome the challenges we all face. Like mom always used to say: if at first you don’t succeed, try and try again.

Learning from our past is an important lesson. I know it’s been true for me in a number of different ways. It was true when I was trying to lose weight; when I was training for my black belt; training for a Spartan race; it was true in graduate school; and it has been true in my professional life as well.

While my list of Do’s is long, my list of Don’ts is short:

  • Don’t keep repeating what’s not working for you: learn what’s not working, and why, and change it.
  • Don’t kick yourself because your diet isn’t showing results; think about where and how it’s not working, and try something new.
  • Don’t get discouraged when others don’t understand or deliver on your expectations; ask yourself how you might communicate your intentions differently.
  • Don’t hurt your back the same way twice; learn how your injury came about and ensure you move your body differently next time – and call us for help!

Most of all, don’t give up because you’ve tried and failed. Try it again, but try it differently. Fail differently.

Win or Learn…words to live by.