It’s All in the Core

March 16, 2011

One of the best ways to protect your back, minimize episodes of low back pain, and support your chiropractic treatment is to strengthen your core muscles. Contrary to popular belief, that does not mean simply doing hundreds of sit-ups a day. Your core muscles consist of a number of muscles found from the center of your ribs (rectus abdominus) all the way down to your hamstrings in your legs. Therefore in order to strengthen all of these muscles you need a variety of exercises to target each one. There are an unbelievable amount of exercises and miracle pieces of equipment out there promising to give you those washboard abs, but you have to be careful which ones you choose because some of them may actually do your body more harm than good. Below are 5 exercises that are excellent at focusing on the core muscles without putting harmful stress on your back. As with any exercise program please consult a healthcare professional before beginning a new program.

Plank – Plank is a yoga pose that doesn’t involve any equipment and is fantastic at strengthening the core. Lie on your stomach and raise yourself up so you are balancing on your forearms and knees (for a great challenge balance on your forearms and toes). Tighten your abdominal muscles and be sure to keep your head inline with your back and to keep a flat back. You will find yourself in a position similar to a push-up without the movement. Do not let your stomach sink towards the ground or push your bottom up into the air. Hold for 15-30 seconds and lower. For an additional challenge try to lift one leg slightly off the ground and hold, then repeat with the opposite leg.

Side Plank – Similar to plank but it concentrates more on the oblique muscles. Lie on your side and raise yourself up so you are balancing on your forearm and knees (or feet). Push your hip up into the air but be careful to keep your body in a straight line. Do not roll forward or back. For an additional challenge balance on your hand and feet and raise the opposite hand into the air.

Bridge – Lie on your back and bend your knees, keeping your feet parallel with your shoulders. Tighten your abdominal muscles and lift your hips off the ground until they are in line with your knees and shoulders. Hold for 15-30 seconds.

Quadruped – Start on your hands and knees, with your hands directly below your shoulders and your knees directly below your hips. Make sure you keep your back flat and keep your head in line with your back. Tighten your abdominals and slowly extend one arm and the opposite leg out until they are in line with your back. Hold for 15 seconds then return to starting position and repeat on the opposite side.

Superman – lay on your stomach with your arms stretched out over your head. Slowly lift your chest, head and arms up into the air and hold for 15-30 seconds. For an additional challenge lift your legs up into the air at the same time.

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Top Ways to Battle Fatigue

March 1, 2011

Fatigue is rapidly becoming an epidemic in today’s society. Due to our busy lifestyles people are not getting enough quality sleep at night and as a result are going through life in a fog, constantly wishing they could just lie down and take a nap. Not only is this lifestyle less enjoyable but it can also be detrimental to your health. Being tired has been linked to weight gain, high blood pressure, and decreased immune function. Fatigue is also one of the most common causes of automobile accidents and it will leave you feeling irritable and moody. So for your sake and the sake of those around you it is important to discover what is making you so tired and try to eliminate the source of the problem. Some of the top reasons that people feel tired during the day are:

1)      Being Over Caffeinated: One cup of coffee or tea a day is not a bad thing, but once you reach for that second or third cup it begins to start a vicious cycle. The extra caffeine can raise your heart rate and blood pressure and keep you from falling asleep at night. Stay away from caffeinate foods like chocolate and soft drinks, especially in the afternoon and evening.

2)      Being a Couch Potato: It seems like an oxymoron that doing nothing can make you feel tired but it is true. Exercise raises your metabolism, burning more calories and giving you more energy and not just the physical kind. Exercise increases the production of dopamine, a mood enhancing hormone. So if you are feeling down the best cure is to get up and doing something. It will give you energy throughout your day and also help you sleep better at night.

3)      Being Dehydrated: If you feel like your head is stuck in a fog and you have a dull ache in the base of your skull chances are you are not drinking enough water. Over half of our body is composed of water, and it serves as a medium to control our bodies function. If water levels drop too low your body cannot perform the metabolic functions as it should.

4)      Having Poor Posture: Standing up straight not only looks impressive but also has huge health benefits. Poor posture put a tremendous amount of abnormal pressure on the nervous system and the muscles of your body. By not standing or sitting properly you cause your body to work overtime just to keep you in an upright position. Have your spine and posture checked to see if is correct or if you are putting undo stress on your body everyday.

We all have busy lives and many things to accomplish during the day. The best way to get the most out of each day is to have a healthy lifestyle and that starts by getting a good night of sleep.  So be sure to catch some ZZZ’s tonight!

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Tips to Prevent Childhood Sports Injuries

February 15, 2011

1.) Start kids w/ activity & skill sports at a young age

2.) Match a child’s maturity level w/ league level

       Match a child’s size w/ league level

       Match a child’s size w/ type of sport

3.) Improve coordination / Skill

4.) Improve technique

5.) Don’t play while tired

6.) Don’t over train / rest

7.) Maintain a healthy weight

8.) Correct muscular imbalances

9.) Cross train

10.) Improve core strength

11.) Improve diet

12.) Stay hydrated

13.) Warm-up vs. Stretching

14.) Increase muscle mass

15.) Increase strength

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Avoid the Hump

February 10, 2011

We all have that aunt, uncle or grandparent that we love dearly but pray we will never end up looking like because of that hump they have on their back. Is it inevitable that as we age we will begin to resemble the Hunchback of Notre Dame…absolutely not! But in order to ensure this you have to start taking the proper steps now.

The hump is medically referred to as Dowager’s Hump. It is caused by a hyperkyphosis, or abnormal outward curvature of the thoracic spine. It is generally brought on by osteoporosis of the spine. With age the bones of the spine begin to weaken due to bone loss.  If there is too much pressure on the anterior portions of the bone they will begin to wedge or fracture and cause a hump like appearance in the upper back. It is found in men and women and like osteoporosis if the proper steps are taken it is completely preventable.

There are two main steps you can take in order to prevent a Dowager’s Hump from forming:

1)      Maintain strong healthy bones – it is a biological certainty that as we age our body less easily absorbs calcium and actually starts resorbing it from our bones. Therefore it is important that we do what we can to build up our calcium supplies and slow the process of resorption. One way to do that is to take in more calcium and the other ingredients like magnesium and Vitamin D that our body needs to absorb it. The best way to do that is to eat foods from nature that contain these essential nutrients and if you are not getting enough from your food, supplement your diet with a high quality supplement. Another way to ensure strong healthy bones is through weight bearing exercise. Bone grows to stress, so if you put good stress on your bones by doing weight bearing exercises they will begin to thicken and become stronger.  As a result you will have more bone mass as you get older.

2) Improve Posture – posture is one of the biggest predictors for Dowager Hump development.  If you do not maintain good posture throughout your life then you are constantly placing abnormal stress on the spine. As stated earlier, it is this abnormal pressure that accelerates the development of osteoporotic compression fractures. One of the most common abnormal postures in society today is Anterior Head Syndrome – where the head sticks out forward past the shoulders. This is largely due to prolonged time staring at a computer.  Believe it or not this is very hard on your body. Every inch your head is in front of your shoulders equates to 10 times more force that the muscles, nerves, and bones in your upper back are supporting that they shouldn’t have to. Along with the neck pain, shoulder pain and headaches this can cause, it also leads to the formation of a Dowager’s Hump. Have your posture checked by a professional that focuses on posture and the structure of the spine before you start to look like your great Aunt Mary!

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What is Scoliosis?

January 27, 2011

The spine is an amazing structure; it provides support for the entire body. From the side the spine takes on an S shaped appearance with forward curvatures in the neck and lower back, and a backward curvature in the mid back region. When viewed from behind however the spine should be perfectly straight. In this configuration the spine is best able to support the body and protect the nervous system. When the spine develops an abnormal curvature to the side, it is referred to as Scoliosis.

In a small number of cases scoliosis is thought to be caused by a leg length discrepancy or a birth defect in the formation of the spine. But in the vast majority of cases there is no known cause and it is classified as idiopathic. Recent research is pointing towards a genetic defect as the main culprit.  Scoliosis is more common in young, thin girls, especially dancers and gymnasts.

However, with no known cause, early detection is the best defense against scoliosis. It is most commonly detected during a growth spurt in adolescence. As the child begins to grow, the curvature worsens and thus becomes more evident. In the past, regular scoliosis screenings were done in schools across the country. However these screenings are becoming rarer and rarer and as a result the spinal curvature is not detected as early.  This robs the child of valuable time to work towards preventing the curvature from getting any worse.

Traditionally minor scoliosis is treated with a “wait and see” approach.  In many cases the curvature will progress.  At this point a rigid brace is sometimes prescribed.  Rigid bracing does nothing to correct the curvature, and only rarely stops the progression, at which time surgery is then recommended.  Surgery is always a last resort.

However now there is another option for those diagnosed with Scoliosis, the SpineCor flexible dynamic brace.  SpineCor’s approach is to brace the individual as soon as the curvature is diagnosed to be above 15-20 degrees.  The brace itself is soft, dynamic, and unnoticeable under clothing.  An individual wearing the brace is actually encouraged to move unlike a rigid brace.  SpineCor bracing gets better results too!  If caught early enough, progression of the curvature can typically be stopped or even corrected, leaving the prognosis of surgery much less likely than rigid bracing or doing nothing at all.  For more information visit the Scoliosis Center of North Carolina.

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Probiotics – Bacteria That Does a Body Good

January 3, 2011

Probiotics: What are they and exactly what can they do for you? Probiotics are various strains of “good” bacteria that are normally found throughout your body, especially in your digestive tract. There have been numerous research articles published recently on how these “good” bacteria can help with many of the aliments that are plaguing America today, such as irritable bowel syndrome, intestinal infections, cold and flu, eczema and even vaginal and urinary tract infections. Probiotics have also been shown to improve your immunity and help you recover faster from infections.

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The Plague of the Computer Era

December 18, 2010

Whether it’s called carpal tunnel syndrome, repetitive stress injury, or cumulative trauma disorder, wrist, hand, elbow, shoulder, neck and back injuries continue to be an almost unavoidable plague for workers using computers in manufacturing, service and office settings. Ideally we should all try to limit the number of hours we spend plugging away at the keyboard, but unfortunately for most of us that is not an option.

However there are a number of small steps that everyone can take to help to protect your body and prolong your working life. With just a few simple adjustments you can prevent taking unnecessary medications or even surgeries.

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Oh Baby – My Back!

October 25, 2010

From the day they are conceived until they leave for college children put an enormous strain on your body, especially your back. Although you would do anything in the world for your children, if you don’t look after yourself you may find yourself physically unable to keep up with them and provide them with everything that they need. As the primary caretaker, the health of your family starts with you, so you have to look after yourself. The following are five of the major stressors that caring for your children put on your back and ways to counteract or prevent problems from occurring. 

1) Pregnancy – How can carrying a bowling ball around your belly for 9 months not be a strain on your back? Pregnant women generally experience lower back pain and sciatica (pain down the leg) as the load on your spine increases throughout the pregnancy. The increased weight can cause shifts in your spine. Taking pain killers during pregnancy is not only dangerous for the baby but also will not remove the stress. Stretching is very important for the health of everyone’s spine but particularly when you are pregnant. Pre-natal yoga is a very safe and effective way to help you stay limber. Chiropractic care is also a fantastic, gentle way to realign the spine and remove the source of the pain. Chiropractic care has also been shown to help with labor.

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Positioning Yourself for a Good Night’s Sleep

October 25, 2010

It is not only the type of mattress that you sleep on at night that can cause pain and stiffness in the morning, but also the position you sleep in.By making simple changes to your sleeping position you can take the strain off of your back, avoid aggravating a backache, or both.

First off, the absolute worst position you can sleep in is on your stomach. I know there are a lot of stomach sleepers out there cringing right now, but by sleeping on your stomach at night you have no choice but to forcefully turn your head to one side or the other for hours at a time. This position is extremely hard on your neck and can lead to tingling in the hands and fingers because of the increased stress on the nerves in your neck. If at all possible, it is highly recommended that you sleep on a firm mattress in either a back or side position.

While sleeping on your back it is advised to place a pillow under your knees to help ease stress on your lower back. In addition…     Read More Here…

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Carpal Tunnel Syndrome – It isn’t all in the wrist!

October 12, 2010

Most people have heard of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome before, but not everyone knows exactly what it is or what really causes it.  The Carpal Tunnel refers to a tight canal or “tunnel” at the base of the palm that contains a number of nerves and tendons which pass from the forearm to the hand and fingers. The main nerve that travels through this tunnel is the median nerve and when this nerve is pinched or irritated it can cause a variety of symptoms to appear. The most common symptoms associated with carpal tunnel are numbness or tingling in the hands and fingers, sharp shooting pain in the wrist and forearm or difficulty making a fist or gripping small objects. Carpal Tunnel Syndrome is most commonly seen in assembly line workers or people who spend a lot of time sitting at a computer.

Although the main cause of carpal tunnel syndrome is thought to be a narrowing of the tunnel due to inflammation of the tendons caused by repetitive use of the hand or wrist, there are a lot of other causes for the symptoms that are commonly overlooked. The median nerve which is the main culprit for the symptoms can become pinched in locations other than the wrist. The nerve originates in the neck and can thus become compressed in the neck itself or the shoulder, elbow, or wrist.  Many times people suffering from what they believe to be carpal tunnel turn to surgery, only to discover that their problem was not coming from their wrist. Their symptoms were actually being caused by a problem in the cervical spine. Hundreds of patients can avoid unnecessary surgery by consulting a chiropractor before they agree to be cut open. The latest statistics show that full resolution of symptoms is achieved in less than 60% of surgeries. It is not uncommon for symptoms to return within two years of surgery if repetitive stress continues through routine use of a person’s hands at work or at home. Save yourself the risk and costs of surgery by consulting a chiropractor and trying conservative treatment first. After all, there is no turning back once you go under the knife.

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