By Dr. Lindsay Grieve, DC
Becoming a mom has been such a life-changing experience for myself. As a “modern-day” mom I try to be a variety of things for my son: role model, health advocate, provide a loving & nurturing environment and help my son grow up and develop into the person he was meant to be. Oh and did I say fun? I want to do all of the above and also be remembered as the “fun mom”….am I asking for too much?
With all those objectives in mind I make an effort to prepare healthy meals, incorporate fun activities, play dates, get him to bed in a timely manner, teach him to move his body, challenge his mind and exercise his brain. Yes you read that right, exercise his brain!
There is so much growth and development that happens in a child’s first year of life. By the age of 1, the brain grows 2.5-3x it’s size from birth. 1,000 to 100,000 brain synapses are formed in the first year of life alone. By the age of 2, the brain reaches 80-90% of it’s adult volume. And by the age of 6, they have formed almost all of the major sensory and motor pathways they will need for their entire adult life. That is an immense amount of growth and development in a short amount of time! There are a lot of things, particularly in modern-day, that can interfere or hinder a child’s normal growth and development: birth trauma, skipping milestones (ex: going from sitting straight to walking, missing the crawling stage), overuse of “screen-time” (iPad, computer, cell phone, video games, TV, etc), lack of movement and stress.
Did you know movement and brain function are inter-related? A large study conducted in California assessed 1 million students over a 10 year period and found that just 20 minutes of walking improved a child’s ability to concentrate and improved their overall performance on an academic test. Movement and cognition happen in the same parts of the brain and use the same pathways. Our ability to think, control our emotions, pay attention, understand math, learn to spell and use language are all related to our body’s ability to move well.
What if I told you that you can help stimulate your child’s brain by doing specific exercises? When we practice movement patterns we build nerve pathways and establish connections in the brain. A study was conducted in 2003 that looked at the effect of 6 months of brain-coordination exercises on kids with learning difficulties. The children who were in the exercise group had significant improvements in reading, writing & comprehension, dexterity and speech fluency. When they followed up with those kids 4 years later the children had still maintained those same improvements….it’s long lasting!
Tonight try these 3 brain stimulating exercises with your little ones. (Some of the exercises may be challenging at first but the exciting thing is, the brain will catch on.) Get down on the floor with your kids and and make it a fun activity. My son has a blast doing them and some of the exercises are even challenging for me too! We aim to do the exercises every other day.
Log Rolls: great for stimulating the vestibular area of the brain.
Have your child lay on their stomach with their arms out overhead. Keep the body straight and try and encourage them to use their abdominal muscles to slowly roll onto their back. Continue rolling back and forth and work up to 12 rolls to each side.
Inch worms: Great for increasing central muscle tone and overall increasing stimulation to the whole brain. This exercise incorporates cross-body movement which connects the two halves of the brain.
Have you child lay on their back on the floor with their arms at their side, knees bent and their feet flat on the floor. Instruct them to roll one shoulder up and backwards well pushing a little with their feet. This will drag and push the body along the floor. Then roll up the opposite shoulder and do the same. Continue the exercise for 2 minutes.
CrossCrawling: This is great for integrating the left and right sides of the brain. All actives of the brain require input from both sides of the brain and this movement is essential for optimal brain function for all forms of learning: Reading, thinking, math behaviour, emotional control and planning. Cross-crawling is also essential for training the eyes to cross the midline and for the eyes to focus and track.
Get on your hands and knees. Move the opposite arm and leg forward at the same time. Try to focus on your hands when you do this exercise. Continue for 60 seconds.
For more information and video demonstrations of the above exercises, check out Dr. Lindsay Grieve’s website and blog: www.drlindsaygrieve.com
We’ve all heard it since childhood- “straighten up!”, “stop slouching!” When we’re kids, we think our parents and teachers are just picking on us, but as adults we start to see the effects of many years of slouching and the chronic issues that follow. Although most people are concerned with the physical appearance of slouching, the consequences are much more profound than a rounded upper back.
If you sit at a computer all day, chances are that you already know that poor posture can cause pain in your joints and muscles. Poor posture can also be responsible for numbness and tingling or weakness in the extremities and can certainly lead to body aches and headaches. What most people don’t consider is what is going on in the inside. Slouching and slumping can actually cause compression of organs, making it more difficult to breathe, digest our food, eliminate toxins from our bodies and can cause a number of symptoms including fatigue and digestive disorders.
Taking care of your spine today, means better health tomorrow. Take the time and make the effort to care for your spine so that you will be strong, healthy and pain-free later on in life! Follow these six steps to straighten up:
1. Get up:
Take breaks from your desk every 30 minutes. Even if you just stand up and walk around for a minute or do some light stretching, this gives your body a chance to relieve the tired muscles that work so hard while you’re sedentary.
2. Invest in a good chair:
Because we all come in different shapes and sizes, an adjustable chair is a great investment to be sure that it will fit your body perfectly. Get something with good lumbar support to be sure that your low back is protected.
3. Take a look at yourself:
When sitting in your chair, your hips, knees and elbows should be at least at 90 angles and your feet should be flat on the floor.
4. Practice awareness:
Making and breaking habits is a tough thing to do. Place a post-it on your computer screen to remind you to straighten up (you don’t even have to write anything on it, you’ll know why it’s there). You should be trying to keep your ears over your shoulders and your shoulders over your hips.
5. Get moving:
Joining a yoga or pilates class can be a great way to support your spine through both strengthening and stretching.
6. Get your spine checked:
After major traumas (car accidents, serious falls and sports injuries) and minor traumas (repetitive stress, prolonged improper sleeping, sitting or standing positions), spinal bones can become misaligned and stuck, which can also affect posture. A chiropractic examination will allow your chiropractor to see if there is something biomechanical that may be interfering with your ability to achieve proper posture.
It’s overwhelming caring for a new baby, particularly with so much advice about the best health practices for newborns and infants. One of the reasons we advocate for infant chiropractic is its offer of a gentle preventative care that helps at reducing and improving such a wide range of common infant health problems. Rather than offering up another trick or treatment for a specific infant health concern, chiropractic can be a smart way to support overall development and health in your baby. Here are some of the major benefits of chiropractic care for infants and children.
Optimizing the Nervous System
It’s no secret that the importance of chiropractic has much to do with the nervous system. When the nervous system isn’t in optimal condition, its communication channels break down, affecting the health of various areas of the body. The same is true for babies- as they develop, the health of their nervous systems is critical. When the nervous system isn’t able to command the body properly, that biological communication-breakdown can result in a number of symptoms that are common in babies: colic, fussiness, poor sleep habits and difficulty breastfeeding to name a few.
Alleviating Nerve Irritation
We tend to think that babies and children are free of nerve and muscle irritation, but this isn’t always the case. Sure, many lifestyle factors accounting for nerve irritation don’t affect babies (like stress, bad posture and poor ergonomics), but emotional stressors, difficult births and use of forceps during delivery can all affect an infant’s nerves too. In fact, some studies suggest that there’s potential for nerve irritation to the baby while still in the uterus, as a result of problematic movement and positioning.
Fostering Cranial and Spinal Development
Many babies experience cranial trauma during birth as well. As a result, chiropractic care in early infancy is important to gently encourage proper growth following the physical impact of birth, and to foster healthy spinal and cranial development. Another important consideration: during the first year of your child’s life, the spine is developing faster than at any other life stage, as it shapes and lengthens by 50 percent. It’s best to make sure that your child’s spine is properly aligned and prepared for this major growth spurt.
Many parents recognize early infancy as a critically important time for a child’s development. Chiropractic care can offer a gentle, effective course of treatments to best support babies’ healthy growth by both targeting specific symptoms and optimizing overall health. For more information from Dr. Jennifer Wise about chiropractic for infants and children, check out her article on TogetherMoms.ca here.
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.
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.
Do you ever experience pain in your feet, knees, shins or heels? This could be the result of misalignment and uneven weight distribution in your feet. The way that you stand, rest your weight and walk all affect the mechanics of your feet, and in turn can impact your entire body.
Your feet are a complex system of bones, ligaments, muscles and tendons working together to support your body. The arches are under enormous stress and strain every day. If arches lose their ability to flex and return to their normal shape, your feet will not be able to properly absorb the shock of walking. Over time, this added stress can cause break down in the joints of the feet and the rest of the body. Enter: orthotics.
You don’t have to be an athlete to benefit from a gait assessment and orthotics. If your weight isn’t evenly distributed when you stand upright, you’re not alone. Many people are inclined toward either pronation or supination:
Image source: http://ow.ly/hkN0t
Over-pronation: This occurs when the foot rolls inward because of the angle of the heel bone, and often the arch collapses. Weight is borne primarily on the inner sides of the feet.
Supination: This is opposite to pronation, and refers to when the foot rolls outward, lifting the heel from the inside of the foot, and re-distributing weight so that the forefoot and big toe lift slightly off the ground.
Orthotics are custom-shaped inserts for your shoes that help to correct and compensate for the misaligned movements and position of your feet. While many people visit a podiatrist for orthotics, a chiropractic assessment is worth considering instead. A chiropractor can help to treat your entire body, and identify which lower body pain is in fact related to foot movement and weight-bearing. Chiropractors will use a number of techniques to better understand the mechanical functioning of your feet, but will also help you address and understand the root causes for other sites of pain.
These diagnostic assessments are particularly important for pregnant women. During pregnancy, the stress on your feet and arches increases as you grow and gain weight over a relatively short period of time. During the nine months that you’ll carry your baby, your feet may change shape, and you might notice pain in your knees and ankles. Custom orthotics can help to prevent post-pregnancy damage to your feet and to improve comfort.
For more information and diagrams about orthotics and foot biomechanics, we like this blog’s comprehensive and highly visual overview. When you’re ready for a better assessment of your own stance, foot alignment and walking biomechanics, give Dr. Wise a visit!
Sore back? Aching knees? Pelvic pain? Chiropractic can help!
We recently came across a fantastic article from Birth Without Fear about why chiropractic is so helpful to women for enjoying an optimal pregnancy and birth. This post makes the important suggestion that women should never feel like they are out of options when suffering from intense pregnancy symptoms. Although certain physical effects of pregnancy are to be expected and tolerated, their severity and frequency can certainly be soothed and managed with the aid of chiropractic.
We appreciated the detail with which Birth Without Fear explained how specific muscle tensions and subluxations can produce negative outcomes and hindrances during pregnancy and birth. Some of the targeted problems for adjustment that were mentioned include:
1. Body imbalances that can produce a misaligned pelvis. Certain subluxations can cause your thoracic spine and lumbar spine to bend in opposite directions. As a result, one side of the pelvis can be raised, which can cause problems when your baby tries to re-position for birth. And, as with many imbalances, an uneven pelvis will cause a pregnant woman to unevenly distribute her weight to different joints and muscles. This can make those pregnancy aches and pains much more aggravated than they would be otherwise.
2. Nerve tension that causes inflammation and stress. When the muscles surrounding your spine get tighter, more stress is put on the nerves along the spinal column. These are important nerves; they exit the spine and lead to many critical organs and glands. If these nerves experience sustained tension and pressure, the stress could potentially lead to degeneration of these other vital body parts.
3. Thoracic, lumbar and sacral nerve pressure that decreases blood flow. When there is excess pressure exerted on your nerves, it can limit blood flow to the kidneys, liver and other vital organs. The article stresses the dangers of compromising the functioning of these organs. One possible result is the leaking of protein into the urine, which is a sign of preeclampsia. Undue pressure can also tighten your uterus, making it difficult to effectively labour and dilate.
Thanks to Birth Without Fear, for this enlightening article that does the important work of detailing why it’s so important to have a chiropractic assessment during pregnancy. Many pregnant women want to do all they can to ensure they have a healthy pregnancy and a delivery that doesn’t stray too far from their birth plan. While some elements of childbirth are certainly unpredictable, one component you can control is the care you give yourself leading up to your due date.
Expectant mothers consider chiropractic and massage as ways to relieve their immediate physical distress such as back pain and poor circulation. They may not know about the many other important benefits of undergoing an adjustment, and the link between chiropractic and an effective, healthy delivery. This connection is very important to us at Thrive Health, as we specialize in young family care. Our resident chiropractor Dr. Jennifer Wise is experienced and uniquely trained through the International Chiropractic Pediatric Association to care for women during pregnancy with gentle and specifically tailored chiropractic care.
If you’re expecting, drop in and see what we can do to improve your pre-natal health and comfort. We’d love to meet you!
UBC blogger Thea Treahy-Geofreda poses a good question in her article about the little-known benefits of chiropractic for overall health. The truth is most people don’t make any association between chiropractic and common acute conditions like a head cold. Most will only connect chiropractic with things like back pain.
One of the best parts of this article is the extended analogy the author uses to explain the preventative health benefits of chiropractic for total-body health. She encourages readers to think of the human body as a car that needs a functioning control system. This system sends information to all of the vehicle’s separate components –everything from the engine to the high beams.
How’s your engine running?
If one of those connections were to come loose, sure your car would still function, but it wouldn’t be operating at 100 percent effectiveness. The same thing is true for your body, whose control system is the central nervous system. In order enjoy optimal health, your central nervous system must be free of interference and maladjustments. When we’re below optimal health, our systems are more likely to be infiltrated with the cold virus.
Before you end up reaching for those cold meds that knock you out, optimize your health. Check your spine alignment, go for regular adjustments, eat properly, and take measures to reduce stress. The article does a great job of advocating these natural techniques for overall health. Preventative care in the form of therapies like massage, medication and chiropractic adjustments make you feel and function better. In addition to improving posture, sleep and relaxation, these therapies keep your system running at its best, and boost your immune system too.
Taking a defensive approach to health is smart, natural, non-invasive and effective, so give yourself a tune-up at every opportunity!