By Dr. Kristin Heins
Summer weather allows us all to spend more time outdoors. We are encouraged to increase outdoor activity and many of us prefer to take in some time outdoors while being active anyway. With increased walking, running, hiking or swimming you may end up with new injuries or even aggravating old injuries or conditions.
It is always best to see a licensed health care practitioner to attend to your case specifics and format an individualized plan; but, below are some quick tips to help you make the most of the increased activity potential that summer affords while reducing the chance of injury or body strain.
Dr. Jennifer Wise, D.C.
- Know your limits: gradually increase endurance activities and take rest days after increased exertion.
- Stretch: Be sure to follow a stretching routine that addresses targeted areas to help prevent strain injuries.
- Attend to your symptoms: If your body is sending you messages it is hurt – listen. See your doctor, naturopath, physiotherapist or chiropractor to have an assessment to see what needs to be done to best heal and resolve the issue.
- Stay hydrated: Lactic acid builds in muscles after exertion and causes stiffness and soreness. It requires proper hydration to be best eliminated so make sure to drink before and after activity.
- Supplementation: If you have inflammatory conditions it may be useful to get on a supplementation regime to assist in optimizing you management of it. This way you can stay as active as possible in a non detrimental way.
I know it’s been a long time since we’ve thought about many outdoor activities, but the exciting truth is that it’s finally almost time for those “May flowers”! If you’re planning on gardening, keep these tips in mind to avoid injury:
Try going on a short walk to loosen up your muscles and get your blood circulating before beginning gardening.
2. Stretch before and after your gardening session.
The Ontario Chiropractic Association recommends starting with these stretches to avoid injury. Hold all stretches for 15 to 20 seconds. Stop if it is painful.
- Thigh Stretch: With one hand on the wall or a tree, bend your left knee then reach back and hold your ankle with your right hand. Pull your heel toward your buttocks and hold for 30 seconds. Relax and repeat with the other leg. To stretch the back thigh muscles (hamstrings), with one hand on the wall or a tree put one foot on a chair, stump, or step. Slowly bend forward from the waist until you feel the pull at the back of your thigh. Hold for 30 seconds. Relax and repeat with the other leg.
- Back Stretch: Sit on a chair and slowly bend your body forward from your hips, putting your head down and resting your hands on the floor. Hold, then relax.
- Shoulder Rolls:
With your arms hanging loosely at your sides, slowly rotate your shoulders in a circular motion forward, then backward.
- Wrist Extension: Hold one arm straight out as if you were giving a ‘stop’ signal, use your opposite hand to hold this position. Hold. Repeat with the other hand.
- Wrist Flexion: Hold one arm out in front, palm down. Bend your fingers until they point toward the ground. Use your opposite hand to hold this position.
3. Lift with Care.
For any heavy lifting always try to recruit some help. If you must lift alone, please remember these basic rules:
- Stand close to the load to be lifted
- Place your feet shoulder-width apart
- Keep your back straight
- Squat down to the object’s level and test the weight of the load
- Use the strength of your leg and arm muscles to smoothly and slowly lift the load
- Keep the load close to your body
- Pivot to turn and face the intended direction of travel. Proceed with the load
- Avoid twisting your body while carrying the load
- Bend your knees and slowly lower the load to its intended place
Remember to have your spine checked by your chiropractor- you may not always feel a subluxation, but if you are starting with a spine that is misaligned or not moving properly, you will be much more likely to experience an injury. Come in and see Dr. Wise for a Spring tune-up
Did you know that there are many different types of headaches? The most common types of headaches include:
- Tension-type headaches
- Cluster headaches
- Cervicogenic headaches
This post will focus on tension-type headaches, as they are one of the most common types of headaches suffered by adults. These headaches are often described as “band-like pressure” or “tightness around the head”.
Some common signs and symptoms associated with tension-type headaches include:
- Chronic fatigue
- Difficulty concentrating
- Difficulty falling asleep
- Mild sensitivity to light or sound
- General muscle aches and pain
What Causes Tension-type Headaches?
There are many factors that may contribute to the onset of tension-type headaches. How many of the following factors apply to you?
- Eye strain
- Cold/sinus infection
- Muscle tension around the head and neck
Most of these triggers are lifestyle factors, which we are able to modify on our own. However, chiropractic care has also been shown to be an effective approach to help battle these nasty headaches!
Research has shown that chiropractic adjustments are effective in reducing the intensity and frequency of tension-type headaches, as well as reducing the usage of over-the-counter medication.
If you are suffering from tension-type headaches, the following 5 steps can help:
- Manage your stress: One way to manage your stress is to plan ahead and organize your day.
- Relaxation Techniques: This may include deep breathing exercises, listening to music, or yoga.
- Diet and Exercise: Eating healthy and exercising often. Quitting smoking is also very important to help reduce the onset of headaches.
- Heat or Cold: The application of a heat or cold pack around the head may provide some relief.
- Chiropractic Care: Chiropractic treatment can assist with muscle tension and postural correction to help re-align the body for optimal functioning!
Boline PD, Kassak K, Bronfort G, Nelson C, Anderson AV. Spinal manipulation vs. amitriptyline for the treatment of chronic tension headache: a randomized clinical trial. J Manipulative Physiol Ther. 1995 Mar-Apr;18(3):148-54.
Fumal A, et al. Tension-type headache: Current research and clinical management. Lancet Neurology. 2008;7:70.
Pluta RM. JAMA patient page: Tension-type headache. Journal of the American Medical Association. 2011;306:450.
To read more about tension headaches, click on the link below.
When people experience pain and discomfort, they will often first assume a muscle-related problem such as strain, tightness or micro-tears is responsible. As the Chiropractic Blog points out however, soreness and numbness are also often caused by a nerve-related problem. Without a proper diagnosis and treatment from a chiropractor, the root cause of your pain can go overlooked.
What causes nerve irritation and pain?
From SpineUniverse: “Why Pinched Nerves Cause Neck and Back Pain” http://ow.ly/kNgAN
You’re most likely experiencing trapped or pinched nerve fibres. This is one of the most common nerve-related conditions that clients present with. Essentially a nerve in the spine becomes compressed between two bones or discs, resulting in the pinched, tingling or numb sensation you may be familiar with. A chiropractor will locate the trapped nerve and make careful manual adjustments to ease the pressure, realign the discs and free the nerve.
Another common condition is a trapped nerve. This occurs when a nerve has adhered itself to surrounding soft tissue, likely as the result of a certain repetitive movement. The motion causes friction between the nerve and nearby muscles or ligaments, creating sticky scar tissue. Consistent muscle contractions can also deprive the nerve of oxygen.
Although this could be taking place in your own body for a long time, you might not notice symptoms until the condition has worsened significantly. At the onset of symptoms you don’t want to further delay treatment by mistaking the problem for something else- so don’t assume anything. It’s always best to see a specialized practitioner who can properly identify whether your pain can be traced to a muscle problem, a pinched or trapped nerve, or both.
Your chiropractor will use gentle chiropractic adjustments to restore motion to the joints, which will relieve pressure from the nerves and allow muscles to function more effectively and without nerve-related discomfort. It may take several treatments to fully treat the problem, to eliminate pain, and to regain full mobility. Since the site of a compressed nerve is often very sensitive, a chiropractic treatment may be slightly uncomfortable at first. Your practitioner will be gentle however, and you’ll soon find that accurately diagnosing and treating the problem site results in major pain relief.
Regardless of whether you have a muscle or nerve problem, it’s important that you seek the right treatment to see lasting results and avoid long-term adverse effects.
Massage is a widely respected and integrated therapy. Its effects have been tested on patients with arthritis, drug addictions, mood disorders, cancer, and more. We’re still learning everything it can do. While we continue to discover more about the physical benefits of massage and its usefulness for a variety of chronic and acute conditions, one major news item was recently discovered: Massage has a proven anti-inflammatory effect on muscles.
A study conducted on the quadriceps muscles of several active participants revealed that the act of massage releases anti-inflammatory signals that improve the ability of muscle cells to make new mitochondria. This converts food into energy and can help speed tissue repair.
An analysis of the muscle tissue of both groups of participants (those who had been massaged and those who had taken no treatment) revealed no discernible differences, further confirming that massage is a safe and effective way to treat muscle pain.
Massage can do a lot more than help you avoid taking an anti-inflammatory. It’s also a great therapeutic option for those suffering from headaches, insomnia, anxiety and fibromyalgia. In addition to the physical benefits that it offers by improving circulation, helping to facilitate muscle tissue repair and reducing pain, massage is a uniquely therapeutic experience. An hour of massage offers clients a chance to focus on their body’s physical sensations and responses in a way we don’t often have time to do. Massage also triggers the release of mood-elevating endorphins, and encourages meditative practices like closed eyes, deep breathing, and total body relaxation. All of these factors help to make massage more than a therapy- it’s also an escape, and a mental break that many of us are craving.
With mounting hard evidence of the undeniable benefits of massage therapy, we should encourage a shift in perspective that embraces massage as a critical part of our ongoing health and wellness journey.
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.
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!
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!
There are a lot of funky words that Western communities have had to acquaint themselves with when it comes to alternative medicine and health: yoga, reiki, pilates, Ayurveda, feng shui. Here’s a word you might not be quite so familiar with: moxa. Associated with acupuncture, the buzz word is short for Moxibustion, a traditional Chinese practice that targets a range of ailments including digestive disorders, arthritic pain, and asthma.
The Chinese believed that the application of heat and even burning to targeted parts of the body can increase circulation and encourage restorative properties. In fact, some traditional moxa treatments actually entailed burning and blistering the skin at targeted points on the body. Don’t worry though- today, Western versions of the treatment will typically only involve warming the areas of the body to be treated. Instead of directly applying a flame or lit paper to the skin, modern moxa keeps heat close to the body without contact.
Here’s how a moxa treatment session will typically go: rolled leaves of plants like mugwort, ginger and mulberry are crushed and either wrapped in paper like a cigarette, or densely packed to resemble a cigar. At Thrive Health, Dr. Heins uses the latter, avoiding potential for burning paper accidents. The “cigarette” is lit at one end and depending on the practitioner, the stick is either held above the body or carefully placed on the skin. Sometimes the moxa stick is rotated or tapped against the skin as well. At Thrive, our moxa treatments never touch the skin, but have the same intended soothing effect. Patients find moxa to be deeply relaxing.
Moxa is believed to soothe and improve a variety of ailments and health conditions. The healing powers of moxa are derived from its perceived ability to provide the body with the necessary balancing “yang” energy. This energy is believed to direct the body’s movement and temperature. Moxa can also be useful in treating a pregnant woman whose baby is presenting breech, and for helping to ease post-birth pelvic and lower back pain.
Heating Needle Moxa
In this alternative form of moxibustion therapy, dried mugwort is rolled and placed on the head of the acupuncture needle. The practitioner then lights the roll which burns slowly in an upright position while the needle stays inserted in the target point. The heat from the burning mugwort travels through the needle and deep into the muscles. This is effective for arthritic muscle and joint pain.
As with many alternative and Eastern therapies that have been adopted by different trained Western health professionals, treatments and procedures will vary slightly from practitioner to practitioner. The patient’s condition is the primary factor in determining which form of moxa will be most effective, so your practitioner will have to assess the best course of action for your individual case.
Moxa can be a wonderful way to soothe and restore a targeted area or muscle by returning an equilibrium in energies to the body. If you want to avoid synthetic, over-the-counter medications for pain relief, moxa is definitely worth a try.