People often make reference to their sleeping habits as the culprit for different aches, pains and ailments. Whether it’s a stiff neck, a headache, or back pain, chances are you’ve heard people chalk up various discomforts with a vague, “Oh I must have slept funny.”
So how much truth is there to this widely used explanation? Can the way we sleep noticeably impact our comfort and alignment? And what can we be doing to avoid the pains of “funny” sleeping?
Dr. Adam Tanase, a U.S-based chiropractor and blogger offers some answers. We liked his blog post “How’s Your Pillow Posture?” which does a great job of outlining some of the consequences of poor sleep posture for your spine. The questions addressed in his article are commonly asked by chiropractic patients who suffer chronic back and neck pain. So take note, and if you’re experiencing consistent discomfort when you wake up, consider adjusting your sleep posture.
How many pillows should I sleep on? The number of pillows isn’t as important as the alignment of your body. Dr. Tanase is right to emphasize the importance of sleeping with your forehead, nose and chin lined up with your spine. Need a visual? He provides a helpful link here. Usually the optimal neck angle (which is none at all) can be achieved with a single thick pillow.
What’s the best sleep position? Similar to his pillow guidelines, Dr. Tanase stresses the importance of sleeping in a position that supports a straight and balanced spine. Sleeping on your stomach is the worst choice, as it puts stress on the supportive structures of the spine, and forces you to twist your head at an extreme angle in order to sleep and breathe freely.
If you can help it, opt to sleep on your side or your back instead and remember to keep your body as straight as possible.
What damage can I do to my back by sleeping incorrectly? Poor sleep posture can worsen existing irritations and misalignments and can produce noticeable damage over time. Some of the conditions you might suffer include muscle spasm, postural distortion and thinning of your vertebral discs. The side effects will be chronic pain in the back, neck and arms. That sounds like a pretty good reason to adjust your posture to us!
On a grim note, Dr. Tanase reminds us these types of spinal decay are irreversible- so don’t delay. Take sleep posture as seriously as you do office ergonomics- just think of how many hours a week you spend positioned for sleep. This gives you an indication of how seriously sleep posture can impact your chiropractic health.
Improving your posture and office ergonomics isn’t difficult. With a few minor adjustments and daily habits, you can prevent regular, ongoing mild to severe back pain and muscle strain. Since these are such seemingly minor tweaks to our routine though, often we underestimate their significance and the positive effect they can have on our health. Dr. Sara Solomon’s blog does a good job of quickly summarizing the importance of making posture a priority in the workplace, emphasizing that when sitting at a desk for several hours a day, you should pay special attention to your lumbar lordosis.
Lumbar lordosis is a fancy word for the small of your back. You may have heard the term “lumbar support” before, particularly when shopping for a desk chair. Your lumbar lordosis naturally curves inward, unless you’re sitting and slouched forward –in which case that curve is lost. As Dr. Solomon advises, it’s important that you sit up straight to maintain the curve of your lumbar lordosis and avoid lower back pain. Supporting your lower back with the right chair or pillow can help you stay upright and comfortable without much conscious effort.
When we slouch –especially for long, uninterrupted work days- it increases the work that our muscles are doing while we’re relatively immobile. Slouching puts a much higher strain on the joints, discs and muscles of the upper body. So when you pull your shoulders forward and move away from the upright support that the lumbar lordosis requires, remember that those lower back muscles are using up more energy to take on the work of supporting themselves. In other words: sore muscles aren’t only a pain; they’re also a drain on your much-needed energy supply.
Here’s what you can do to support your lumbar lordosis and avoid lower back pain.
- Check out Dr. Solomon’s posture correction guideline.
- Adjust your backrest so that it cradles your lower back.
- Purchase a lumbar roll or use a rolled towel to offer additional support.
- Exercise your core to strengthen the muscles of your back.
- Stretch muscles that get tight, cramped or sore throughout the day.
- Have a chiropractic assessment to ensure that there are no mechanical issues with your spine that may be contributing to poor posture.
As we always advise, remember to take frequent short breaks to stand up, stretch and move around. When you pair poor posture with immobility you’re almost guaranteeing yourself back pain. With these small changes implemented in your daily work life, you can keep yourself upright, supported and content. And remember- a more comfortable employee is a more productive one!
To some, the word “meditation” connotes relaxation, calm, and introspection. For many others however, the practice falls outside their comfort zone. You may feel confused or awkward, or simply unfamiliar with taking time out for yourself on a regular basis. In truth however, meditation is a fairly flexible practice –it truly is whatever you make of it. Plus it’s one of the most widely accessible and completely free therapeutic activities you can do. Without the necessities of equipment, money, or even very much spare time, excuses for not trying meditation are slim!
Still skeptical? Skim this list of 100 benefits of meditation until one jumps out at you. While all of these are not expected or typical outcomes, the potential exists for meditation to impact many areas of your well-being, whether as a mood stabilizer, a heart rate slower, or an emotional outlet. And if a simple practice can yield so many different psychological, physical and spiritual benefits, it’s definitely worth a try.
While many of us think of meditating as a stress buster, research conducted by Harvard Medical School suggests that the health benefits of meditation may be greater than anyone initially conceived of. In a study, participants who regularly practiced relaxation techniques like meditation were found to have more active disease-fighting genes than those who’d never tried any such thing. It turns out our genes are very responsible to our behaviours and environment. When we create the optimal conditions by relaxing and meditating, many of these genes activate over time.
Since these types of genes are responsible for fighting inflammation and killing diseased cells, it would seem that meditation has the potential power to boost your immune system. The tangible health perks don’t end there. Medical studies have demonstrated that meditating has the potential to boost fertility, ease irritable bowel syndrome, help with chronic pain management, and lower blood pressure.
The scientific support for these important health benefits has begun to inch meditation into mainstream health practiced. Don’t be afraid to join the trend. The key is to redefine meditation so that it means something accessible, uplifting and useful to you personally. Your meditation practice could be as simple as taking time out to stretch, breathe deeply and sit silently for a few minutes when you get home from work. It could be ten minutes spent sitting with your eyes closed in the sun, or a deeply spiritual practice that you conduct with your family and peers. You might also try a group yoga class which can be a rewarding opportunity to try meditative practices with group support.
If your child is a fussy eater with a limited palate, it can be tough to tell if they’re getting the nutrients they need. While children’s vitamins are a common choice for parents with picky eaters, there are also plenty of creative ways to sneak nutritious foods into tasty, kid-friendly foods. Here are some tricks that might work for you:
Tasting plate: Chop foods into tasty bite-size portions and put them into a bento box or a partitioned plate. This gives the meal variety and colour while making the foods less overwhelming. This type of meal also encourages healthy food play. If your child gets tired of munching on one item, it’s easy to move to the next section, or to combine flavors, textures and tastes.
Smoothies: These are a big hit with many children, and a great way to sneak in lots of fruit and veggies. Try blending spinach, avocado, beets or carrot juice with your child’s favourite fruits and some yogurt. This will produce a tasty and hearty smoothie with lots of hidden nutrition. Try to mix fun colours and experiment with different ingredients and thicknesses to find what works for your family.
Sauces: Another great hiding spot for healthy foods! Puree vegetables right into your sauces so that they can’t be picked out by little fingers. Add some spinach, squash, carrots, pumpkin or nutritional yeast to the blend.
Modified sweet treats: Find a recipe that offers a healthier take on a treat your kids love. If you know they’ll be biased, don’t bother telling them what’s inside! Here are three recipes that people swear by:
Instead of chocolate pudding try avocado chocolate pudding
Instead of ice cream try banana soft serve
Instead of cake try sweet potato brownies
For a frozen treat try these peanut butter, jam, banana popsicles
Give them a try! Last but not least- check out our Picky Eater Workshop, led by the newest member of the Thrive Health team, Nutritionist Aviva Allen! Details below:
Picky Eater Workshop with Aviva Allen:
Date: Thursday April 25
Location: Thrive Health
110 Eglinton Avenue East
Join Nutritionist Aviva Allen as she discusses how to best support your picky eater(s): learn how to support them to try new foods, avoid conflict and stress at the table, incorporate more nutrients into their diet and choose appropriate supplementation. Cost is $30.00. To register call Thrive Health at 647.352.7911 or visit www.avivaallen.com
In a recent blog post, Chiropractic Wellness Care pointed out that even though older adults and seniors are likely to experience back pain, they are less likely to seek chiropractic care than younger adults. This means that older generations are resigning themselves to chronic discomfort and pain that could be gently and effectively treated.
So what’s preventing older adults from seeking treatment? We have a few ideas.
Fear of the unknown: Since therapies such as massage and chiropractic have grown in popularity and become more mainstream relatively recently, elderly patients may not be familiar with these treatments at all. Even if they’ve heard of chiropractic, they may simply not think it’s appropriate for them, or may have some distrust for a treatment that sounds too new or experimental for their taste. In truth, chiropractic is a great option for older adults, as it optimizes the immune system and can help to ward off illness, in addition to soothing and realigning the spine and other joints.
Skepticism about chiropractic’s effectiveness: As the article points out, to optimize the results of chiropractic, regular adjustments should be paired with healthy lifestyle habits. For some seniors, nutrition and moderate exercise are not the priority that they should be. With a holistic approach to health, older patients can see improvements not only in their pain levels, but also in their gait, posture and balance. All of these factors can help improve their mobility and comfort, and by extension, their quality of life.
Failure to see chiropractic as a treatment for various conditions: Many may not realize the breadth of health conditions that chiropractic targets. The article makes a point of noting chiropractic’s effectiveness at improving symptoms of many conditions suffered by aging patients. These include osteoarthritis, a weakened immune system, and spinal degeneration. As we’ve mentioned on the blog before, many acute conditions can be improved by chiropractic as well- including headaches and dizziness.
Fear that adjustments will be too rough: Older and more fragile patients have a common fear that chiropractic will hurt or even harm them. In fact every gentle adjustment is tailored to the patient’s needs and current physical state. A good chiropractor will also talk in detail with a patient and address any concerns prior to manual adjustments, so there is always time and willingness to put any lingering fears at rest.
One of chiropractic’s major goals is to optimize wellness and help patients simply feel better on a daily basis. In advanced age, this is particularly important for enhancing quality of life and helping senior patients to stay active and well. Although this article begins by mentioning back pain, in truth chiropractic can help to improve everything from energy to mobility to sleep quality. And above all –the overall health goals of chiropractic care do not discriminate based on age!
Mothers put their children before anything-if you’re a parent, this probably isn’t news to you! The love, commitment and protectiveness we feel toward our children is truly transformative. But how much are moms sacrificing in the name of maternal love?
The degree to which moms are neglecting their own needs in favour of their families’ is impacting both their day-to-day wellness and long-term health goals. The worrisome results of a recent survey reveal that Canadian moms are not taking great care of themselves, instead prioritizing other responsibilities and the health of their children at a personal cost.
So what are moms foregoing in favour of their family duties? The research found that mothers will put off visits to the doctor, exercise and personal pursuits to better serve their children. Moms also make healthy eating a bigger priority for their families than they do for their own diets.
These are troubling findings- though easy enough to believe and understand. What’s important for moms to remember however, is that self-care is an important part of being a good parent. Here are some reasons why.
1. Taking care of yourself will lower your stress. Getting too wrapped up in your maternal duties can cause major burnout. Between bake sales, daycare, soccer lessons and laundry, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. Without planned breaks you not only lose some of your personal fulfillment and pursuits- you can also begin to feel like you’re on a hamster wheel with no end in sight. The tasks and chores and everyday trials will never stop- so you need to. Instead of waiting for a break, take one. This will help you calm down, refocus, and return to your other tasks with more clarity and balance.
2. You’ll boost your energy. When you stop making things like nutrition, sleep and exercise priorities in your life, your energy is (unsurprisingly) going to dip. So don’t think of these things as sacrifices for the greater good- see them for what they are: unfair denials to yourself that will prevent you from being an active and energized parent. You need to fuel and strengthen your body properly for one of your most important jobs: being a mother.
3. You’ll see a rise in your mood and an increase in your patience. A rested mom is a calm, rational and patient one. You may not realize how a lack of sleep, a sore back, or low blood sugar are affecting your mood –and by extension, your parenting. Prioritizing your health will help you to keep a clear head, which is important in your role as disciplinarian, adjudicator and teacher.
4. You’ll set a positive example. Think about what your personal neglect is communicating to your children. By making their health a priority but not your own, you may be unknowingly teaching them double standards, or suggesting that their learned behaviours end with adulthood. Try taking a more holistic approach by demonstrating that things like good nutrition and sleep schedules are important for kids and grown-ups alike. In adulthood we also often mimic the parenting styles with which we were brought up. If you’re stretched too thin your children may come to view this as a normal expectation of parents and adults.
5. You have a responsibility to yourself and your family. Being an active, available, present parent requires that you be healthy. If you want to be around for your children for many years to come, it’s never too early to start taking your health seriously.
A lifting guide for new moms from BabyZone provides parents with an important reminder: many mothers suffer from repetitive stress injuries from the daily physical demands of lifting, carrying and loading their infants into the car seat, high chair and crib. Preoccupied with the demands of newborn care and postpartum recovery, many moms easily overlook the fact that the regular care of a new baby can take its toll on many parts of the body, including neck, upper and lower back, arms, hips and knees.
A guide such as this is an important resource for learning how to avoid injury and muscle strain. In addition to complementary care such as regular chiropractic adjustments and massage therapy, we highly recommend following an informed set of lifting guidelines. Here are some of the best practices found in the article that we support and advise to our new moms as well.
When carrying a car seat: many moms make the mistake of putting the car seat handle over their forearm. They lean sideways at the hip to accommodate the bulk and weight. This strains muscles in the back and will eventually cause pain to the arm holding the seat. Instead, grip the handle with both hands and carry the car seat in front of your body. Avoid standing and holding the car seat when it isn’t necessary- if you pause to chat outside your car, put the car seat inside first, or set it down at your feet.
When lifting your baby out of the crib: Make sure to lower the railing. BabyZone’s guide is right to point out that lifting and holding the infant at arm’s length puts too much pressure on your spinal disks. Your arms will tire much more easily the further the baby is from your body. Instead, lower the railing, bring baby close to you, and lift from your knees.
Another common mistake occurs when lifting your toddler up onto your lap. Most moms will lean forward and pick the child up while still seated themselves. BabyZone warns that this increases the weight of pressure on your spine anywhere from 3 to 10 times! To your spine, you’re no longer lifting a 15lb toddler- you could be experiencing as much as 150lbs of stress to your spinal discs.
Instead, get on the floor with your baby. Kneel on one knee and lift using your whole body. Then sit down together on the chair or sofa.
With any of these daily lifting scenarios, be mindful of your own discomfort- if you start to feel recurring pain or think you’ve injured yourself, don’t ignore it! Repeatedly stressing the same muscles and discs could exacerbate the problem quickly. Instead, treat your body well, be careful when lifting, and remember that caring for an infant or toddler can be a major physical demand.
One of the reasons we’re big-time advocates of chiropractic is that it’s useful for treating such a wide variety of conditions- many of which you probably wouldn’t think a chiropractic adjustment could fix. Many new patients think of chiropractic as a solution to chronic and crippling health problems and misalignments. But chiropractic is also a useful therapy to treat and prevent the most common complaints you can think of, including acute conditions like colds and headaches.
Headaches affect many people in different ways. In the course of your own experience you’ve probably encountered many types of pain in different locations, including the temples, forehead, top of the head, base of the skull and behind the eyes. There are tension headaches, pressure headaches and full blown migraines. No matter which type of headache-sufferer you are however, you would likely agree that headaches are irritating at best and debilitating at worst.
While reaching for an over-the-counter drug may help to ease the discomforts of your headache in the present, we’re advocates of finding a “bigger picture,” more long-term solution. With a chiropractic consultation you may discover that the root of your headaches is actually a lifestyle or health factor you’d never previously considered.
What you might not know is that spinal manipulations have consistently been known to improve headaches. Misaligned vertebrae and muscle strain resulting from poor posture can cause severe discomfort and contribute to the frequency and severity of headaches. These headaches are classified as cervicogenic, and benefit enormously from chiropractic adjustments.
Chiropractic adjustments coupled with massage therapy can also be highly therapeutic for misalignment and stress that are affecting your posture. When your body physically realigns and relaxes, it’s easier for your mind to follow suit. That means that these treatments can decrease your tension and encourage the release of feel-good endorphins, reducing or largely eliminating stress-related headaches.
While stress may be tricky to control, there are a number of other headache triggers that you could manage effectively- all it takes is some investigating. For example, your headaches could be related to ergonomics, caffeine or blood sugar. With the right lifestyle alterations, these would cease to be a problem. A consultation and a second opinion could be just the thing you need to determine which “headache type” you suffer from. No matter what your type, your goal should be to treat the cause, not just the effect.
One of the most overwhelmingly common first-trimester symptoms among pregnant women is –as we all know- morning sickness. The degree to which women experience nausea and vomiting will vary, not only woman to woman, but also from pregnancy to pregnancy. Some women will experience severe and intense morning sickness during their first pregnancy and milder, shorter-term nausea the second or third time around. This can make it hard to predict what your palate will and will not tolerate, at a time in your life when your health and nutrition are critical.
So what’s the deal with morning sickness?
When you get pregnant, your hormones peak. Estrogen and hCG begin to circulate in your bloodstream, and they’re at their highest concentration during the first three months. These hormones are believed to take the lion’s share of responsibility for triggering nausea, but evidence shows that other lifestyle factors can sometimes exacerbate pregnancy side effects as well, like stress, an empty stomach and fatigue.
While “morning sickness” is the term we often use for nausea and vomiting during early pregnancy, these symptoms can strike at any time of day, and certainly don’t encompass all symptoms (as anyone who has been through a pregnancy already knows). Heartburn, exhaustion, cravings and aversions can all affect nutrition and appetite as well.
What if I’m not eating enough (or keeping enough down?)
Naturally nutrition is a major worry for women who suffer from intense and prolonged nausea and vomiting. Sometimes women will even lose weight during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy, which can be very alarming, especially for a first time mom. The good news is that in the initial weeks of pregnancy, your baby is getting most of his or her nourishment from nutrients already stored in your uterus.
Still, the full course of a pregnancy places completely new and important nutritional demands on the expectant mother. Here are some ways to ensure that your body is getting the nourishment it needs to take you and your baby through a healthy pregnancy.
Get plenty of sleep: If you have any opportunity to adjust your sleep patterns to cover your typical bouts of nausea, go for it! If you’re consistently nauseous at 7am, try going to bed later and sleeping until 8. If you get hit with morning sickness every day at 10am, plan for a snack and a nap at 9:30. For most women however, this isn’t an option- either because symptoms are too severe to sleep through, or because work and other commitments prevent so much rescheduling. In this case- sleep when you can. If you can take a 30 minute nap before dinner, do it. If you can get to bed earlier in the evenings, do it. Feeling overtired can sometimes make nausea feel even worse.
Avoid triggers: Since pregnancy nausea is often triggered by foods and smells, over time you may be able to identify the foods that consistently make you recoil. This can be difficult if you’re experiencing many different cravings and aversions. If it feels like a different food is setting you off each day, try keeping a “trigger” log. Monitor these foods for patterns or a common thread that you may have overlooked –are the turn-off foods primarily from one food group? Are they all breakfast foods? Do they have a similar texture? These might clue you in to some useful and consistent aversion factors.
Check with a health practitioner about herbal solutions. Always consult before taking a herbal course of action, but many remedies have proven effective at combating negative pregnancy side effects. These include ginger, elm bark and mint.
Supplement your diet with shakes, vitamins, or nutritional supplements. Again, make sure you consult with a health practitioner if you plan to take supplements. However, if you know you’re short on protein or vitamins from your diet, toss some ingredients into the blender or juicer.
Keep snacks on hand- Choose something dry and bland like crackers or dry cereal. Sometimes when women wake up they find that eating something immediately can help to offset nausea. Avoid any snacks that are heavy or flavourful. Keep it boring until the hormone-storm settles!
Hydrate. To make up for lost fluids, make sure that you drink plenty of water. Hydration is critical when you’re pregnant, and it helps to facilitate the absorption of nutrients to the fetus. Drinking lots of fresh water can also help to reduce swelling and retention.
Part of the challenge of meeting your nutritional needs and effectively managing morning sickness is the sheer unpredictability of it. After a few weeks of getting more familiar with your symptoms, you’ll be equipped to work out a plan of action. Occasionally women will suffer debilitating nausea for a sustained portion of their pregnancy. If you’re suffering this severely, we urge you to talk to a natural health practitioner! With the right assistance, you can regain activity and productivity while finding the right strategies to stick to a nutritious diet.
If, in spite of your very best efforts, you, a partner or your child has come down with a cold or the flu this winter, diet will play an important role in recovery. For this reason you need to be conscious of a few key nutritional guidelines to speed up recovery and continue to strengthen the immune system. Here are some general best practices for diet and nutrition during recovery.
The obvious: drink those fluids! As most people know, taking in plenty of fluids is key for flushing out toxins, staying hydrated and eliminating the by-products of your illness. To prevent dehydration, drink plenty of water and pure fruit juices. Avoid diuretics such as tea and coffee, and you may wish to avoid dairy which can trigger congestion and produce phlegm.
Eat easily digestible proteins. This will help to keep your energy up, and help to give you strength for recovery. If you don’t have much of an appetite, nut butters or eggs are easy-to-eat choices and are also great for kids. Avoid anything high in fat like cheese or red meat, or things that may trigger an upset stomach.
Avoid alcoholic drinks, even as you start to feel better. Chances are you won’t be doing any drinking while you’re sick, but even in the early or late stages of illness, alcohol should be avoided. Not only does it dehydrate, alcohol is also a strain on your liver which is busy doing the work of detoxifying your body.
Eat vitamin-rich foods. Aim to get plenty of vitamin C and zinc. You will also want to maintain your usual levels of regular minerals and nutrients as much as possible by eating salads, vegetable soups and antioxidant-rich foods. Fruit and vegetables may not be palatable to you, so try a smoothie instead. Consider using spinach, kale, beets, berries, bananas and oranges. Add a scoop of protein powder or nut butter if you haven’t had much else to eat. This will go down smoothly, and won’t irritate a sore throat.
When you’re feeling better, remember to eat smart to boost your immune system. Yogurt is a great choice, as its probiotics can help to fight off disease-causing germs in the intestinal track, and maintain healthy gut bacteria. Garlic is thought to be another immune-booster. Its key ingredient allicin fights infection, and it may ward off certain intestinal cancers. Omega-3, found in salmon, mackerel and other fish, is a great anti-inflammatory that also protects the lungs.
In addition to a carefully planned and nutritious diet, make sure to get plenty of rest, avoid strenuous activity and monitor symptoms closely. If you’d like more information on immune-boosting protocols, Dr. Heins works with families to help them find a nutrition plan to optimize health and wellbeing at any age. Winter may be on its way out soon, but frequent changes in temperatures and unpredictable weather can make many anybody a target for illness. Prioritizing a nutrient-rich diet is one of the best ways to keep your family healthy.