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Self-manipulation could be creating your pain, not helping it

Spinal adjustments have been studied for years as being extremely effective for relieving neck and back discomfort. So, if you wake up one day with lower back pain, should you just “crack” your back yourself? Absolutely not! And there are several reasons why.

The most obvious reason to shy away from self-adjusting has to do with the fact that chiropractors go through many years of extensive training on how to analyze the spine and adjust specific spinal misalignments. When a person self-manipulates their spine, they are unsure which bones have misaligned and in what direction those bones have misaligned. Sometimes, several bones move during a self-manipulation when only one bone was misaligned and needed to be adjusted. Surprisingly, spinal bones can misalign in a number of ways. Without objective analysis, there is no way to tell exactly how the bone has misaligned which means there is no way to self-adjust that bone back into its proper alignment.

Although there is very little research regarding self-manipulation, one of the proposed dangers of self-adjusting is the overstretching of the muscles and ligaments that support the spine due to excessive force. The repetitive movement and force required to self-adjust can also cause the muscles to become fatigued and impair their ability to protect the spine as they routinely do. This is one of the many reasons why chiropractors spend so much time perfecting their technique, to ensure that an adjustment is given safely and effectively. When it comes to self-manipulation, the overstretching of the muscles and ligaments and the fatigue created within muscles that support the spine is associated with spinal instability. It is proposed that the instability created by self-manipulating the spine can lead to or perpetuate chronic pain.

While the immediate release of self-adjusting can be satisfying initially, the result is not long-lasting. The “ahhh” feeling of an adjustment can be correlated to the release of carbon dioxide gas during the adjustment. But the immediate good feelings are only temporary, because within 15-30 minutes, the gas is reabsorbed and leaves the person feeling the exact same way as they did before the self-adjustment. This can create the habitual need to self-manipulate many times throughout the day which again, can lead to hypermobility and instability, ultimately leading to chronic pain. If a spinal misalignment is the cause of pain and/or discomfort, then specificity is key in creating long-lasting results. Adjusting only the spinal bones that are misaligned (at a frequency much less than the several times per day seen with self-manipulation) may help address the underlying structural issue causing the discomfort, without creating instability.

Because there are so many factors that go into a safe adjustment, chiropractors spend years learning how to analyze and adjust spinal misalignments. It is always our recommendation to discontinue any and all self-manipulations due to the possible dangers, and to never let somebody manipulate your spine that has not been trained to do so. It’s best to leave it to the experts!

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Doing this one thing will increase the success of your 2016 New Year’s resolution

January 1st is always filled with the resolutions of many, most of which include goals of starting fresh and working to achieve a higher level of health. But we all know what happens come February and March. Slowly but surely, the majority of resolutions are abandoned and our old habits kick in. Before we know it, we are at the end of another year, and not much has changed. There is one thing you can do to increase your success next year: START NOW!

The truth is, most of our resolutions are so grand that they easily become unrealistic to implement in one day. A common resolution we hear is, “I want to exercise 6 days per week starting January 1st!” For someone that is not currently exercising at all, there is a large gap between where they are and where they’d like to be, and it becomes challenging to achieve success in that situation. Starting now would improve the opportunity for success because that person could work their way up to exercising 6 days per week by January 1st. They may start at 3 days per week for the first two weeks, 4 days per week for the next two weeks, and 5 days per week for the two weeks after that. When January 1st hits, they are ready to bump their routine up to 6 days per week. But let’s be honest, going from no exercise to 6 days per week is near impossible for the average Joe!

Even if your New Year’s resolution is a baby step towards becoming a healthier you, starting now will increase your chance for success. Most of us have heard that it takes 21 days to form a new habit. The truth is, it may actually take longer for some of us. Starting your resolution now gives you over 40 days to figure out the kinks so you can consistently meet your goal in 2016. New habits are hard to form, and in the first few weeks you may forget to drink that extra water or eat your healthy snack. Those few times of not reaching your goal can be enough to derail your resolution for the rest of the year if you wait until January 1st to begin. So how great would it be to work out the details before your resolution actually starts?

Be sure to consider the logistics of how your resolution will work with your lifestyle. If the average workday allows for 30 minutes of exercise, a goal to exercise for 60 minutes three times per week is unrealistic. There is always a time component to resolutions no matter what the resolution is, so plan accordingly! And if you are into resolutions, choose one that will change your life. The greater the impact this successful resolution will make on your life, the more likely you will be to follow through! So what are you waiting for? Let’s make 2016 the best year yet by starting those healthy habits now!

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A grateful heart is a healthy heart

heart-cholesterol-800x450Okay, so the truth is that a physiologically healthy heart is not scientifically created by being grateful. But it is true that many health benefits accompany thoughts of gratefulness, and your heart will be full when you take the time to reflect on all that you have to be thankful for! With the Thanksgiving holiday near the end of the month, November is notorious for exercising gratitude. But what would happen if we focused on having a grateful heart all 365 days of the year instead of just during November? Researchers are saying that an attitude of gratitude is rewarded with better health which is why we should be appreciative year round!

For starters, a grateful tendency is linked to optimism which is known for boosting the immune system. One study found that those characterized as optimistic maintained healthy levels of the blood cells responsible for protecting the immune system as compared to their pessimistic counterparts. As we approach the winter months, gratefulness is an easy way to give your immune system a little boost to help protect against winter-time sickness.

Many times when we think of health, we think of physical health; but emotional health is also positively impacted by gratitude. Gratefulness has been promoted for years as having a mood-elevating affect and creating happiness. But did you know that there has also been an inverse relationship found between gratitude and depression? This means the more grateful a person is, the less likely they are to become depressed. Gratitude also helps us manage stressful situations more appropriately. And although stress may seem like an emotional health challenge, high levels of stress can also affect the body physically. High levels of stress increases the stress hormone cortisol, which can wreak havoc on your body by weakening the immune system, slowing down healing processes, and destroying healthy muscle and bone. Help keep your cortisol levels balanced by simply being grateful!

Gratitude has been shown to help people sleep better, improve self-esteem and self-worth, and cope better during a time of loss. Grateful people have even been shown to take better care of themselves in terms of exercising more regularly and eating healthier. So how can you practice gratitude and increase your health? One of the easiest ways is to write down 3 things you are grateful for in a daily gratitude journal. If a daily task seems impossible for your busy schedule, then focus on 5 things weekly. To get the family involved, you could make a Gratitude Jar and fill it with all the things you and your family are grateful for. Positive self-talk is also a great way to increase the gratefulness you should feel for simply being you. There is no person on this planet exactly like you, so remind yourself how special you are and reflect on some of things you have done well recently!

Starting a regimen of gratitude can be challenging, but with so many health benefits including the emotional happiness associated with thankfulness, it will be worth overcoming those challenges and practicing that attitude of gratitude!
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Daylight Saving Time could impact your health!

The “fall back” portion of Daylight Saving Time adds an extra hour to one magical day per year. This year, it happens to be on Halloween night when the clocks turn back at 2am on November 1st. How could this scenario get even better, considering we’re adding an extra hour to Halloween!? Well, what if you could improve your health, too? Good news- You can! Use that extra hour to get good rest instead of partying with the ghouls and goblins! Here are just a few of the many reasons why sleep should be on your list of priorities:
  • Sleep promotes healing. While you sleep, your brain triggers the release of Human Growth Hormone (HGH). This hormone is responsible for growth in children, and is also responsible for tissue repair and restoration. The release of this hormone can help you heal from minor injuries such as cuts and bruises and can also help you recover from things like inflammation, muscle soreness, and injured areas that may be contributing to pain.
  • Adequate sleep increases your learning capabilities and memory. If you’ve ever had a sleepless night, you can probably remember the fatigue that accompanied that lack of rest. With sleep deprivation, your nervous system can start to feel tired and over-worked, causing an inability to recall previously learned information. This is a major reason why everyone always suggests a good night’s rest before a big meeting, sporting event, etc.! Sleep is also important after a day of learning. The resting period allows your brain to process and retain new information that has just been learned.
  • Getting good rest can help you control your weight. The reason is really two fold- If you are tired, you are less likely to be and stay active. Also, healthy sleep is consistent with the release of healthy levels of the hormone Leptin. Leptin controls the feeling of hunger; when you miss out on sleep, your levels of Leptin decrease, causing you to be hungry. And since most people satisfy the feeling of hunger, this can lead to unnecessary weight gain.
  • A restful night can sharpen your attention span. When adults don’t get healthy rest, we feel tired which can lead to decreased productivity at work and at home. When children don’t get enough sleep, they get hyperactive which can lead to trouble at school. This is why sleep is so important for adults and children!
  • Sleep can promote emotional stability. A healthy night of sleep can help you feel refreshed and increase your mood, allowing your body and mind to manage stressful situations more appropriately. This will decrease the likely hood of random bursts of emotion- bursting into tears, snapping at a friend, or even uncontrollable laughing.
So how much sleep should you get? It is recommended that the average adult get between 7-8 hours of rest each night and school-aged children around 9-11 hours. Infants and toddlers are recommended to have 9-10 hours of sleep each evening, supplemented with an additional 2+ hours of napping throughout the day. This is just a general guideline and can change with various factors. With decreased sleep quality and previous episodes of sleep deprivation, these numbers may increase. We encourage you to perform a mini experiment to determine the perfect amount of sleep for you body’s needs. With all the amazing health benefits that sleep provides, it is worth the effort to not only find how many hours you do best with, but also make it a priority to get good rest every night!
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You have to go forever – The Chiropractic Myth

It’s always fun to meet and get to know the people that make up our amazing community. When people learn that we’re chiropractors, we get an array of responses. We mostly hear about their problem areas, chiropractic experiences, and how chiropractic has positively impacted their lives. But sometimes, we get a look of fear with a response of, “I’ve never been- I heard that once you go, you have to go forever.” While this is a common myth in chiropractic, it’s not necessarily true.

The goal for many traditional chiropractors is to help their patients manage pain. Unlike traditional chiropractic, our office is focused on helping our patients achieve normal spinal structure through tonal correction. Let’s be clear- this does not mean perfect spinal alignment. However, just like there’s a normal range for things like blood pressure and blood sugar, there’s a normal range when working to correct spinal structure. As our patients go through what we call their initial phase of care, the goal is to make structural changes in the spine so that their spinal alignment is within or closer to that acceptable range.

When the body can communicate with itself appropriately, it functions appropriately- it’s as simple as that!

To review anatomy- the spinal cord runs down through the spinal column, and each spinal nerve branches out between the vertebrae. Chiropractors work with the spine because of that intimate relationship between the spine and nervous system. When the spine shifts beyond its normal alignment, this can lead to many possible secondary conditions, including pain. On the contrary, when the spine is in alignment, it puts the nervous system in a state of ease without added tension on the cord or nerves. When the nervous system is free of the added tension caused by spinal misalignments, it’s able to function more optimally. This means the messages being sent from your brain to the rest of your body, and from your body back to the brain are able to travel through the nervous system effectively and efficiently without disruptions. When the body can communicate with itself appropriately, it functions appropriately- it’s as simple as that!

We often times find that when our patients achieve a more ideal spinal alignment, many of the secondary conditions they were experiencing before they started chiropractic care begin to diminish or completely resolve. This is not to say that the adjustment treated or healed whatever condition they presented with. However, by addressing spinal misalignments and removing stress on the nervous system, the brain and body are able to adapt and reorganize. This allows your body to function at its best which can many times result in the reduction of secondary conditions!

At the end of the initial phase of care, many of our patients achieve a normal spinal structure and their spine becomes stable in that healthy position.  Our patients then have the option to continue with what we call a protection plan which is geared towards protecting and maintaining the positive structural changes made during the initial phase of care. Physical trauma, stress, and toxins are the three biggest contributors to spinal misalignments. It’s near impossible to say that any of us don’t experience these things on a regular basis. So just like you perform maintenance on your car regularly to keep it functioning properly, we encourage our patients to be checked on a maintenance basis to prevent chronic spinal misalignments caused by trauma, stress, and/or toxins. By maintaining proper spinal alignment through a protection plan, we are avoiding the need to continuously “fix” a patient which would require them to go back through an initial phase of care all over again.

The truth is we’d rather not adjust you!

The truth is we’d rather not adjust you! WHAT!? You heard right! We actually prefer not to adjust you because this means that your spine has stabilized in its proper alignment and the nervous system is functioning without disruption. We use a very specific analysis that determines whether or not an adjustment is needed. If there are no objective indicators, and an adjustment is not required on that visit, we’ll celebrate your victory with you, knowing you are continuing on the path towards greater health and healing!

We work hard together with our patients to help them achieve a stable spinal structure and allow them to decide what the best option is for them moving forward.

With that being said, our goal is to help our patients achieve and maintain proper spinal structure so that the nervous system can function optimally. Rather than forcing patients to stay under care forever, we work hard together with our patients to help them achieve a stable spinal structure and allow them to decide what the best option is for them moving forward. More often than not, our patients choose to protect the investment they just made in their spinal structure and overall health. They never want to go back to the way they were before regular chiropractic care, and it becomes an exciting thing to prevent secondary conditions and to maintain health!

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Position Matters! Sleep Optimally

We frequently have patients asking what they can do at home to help them hold their adjustments. Amongst other things, picking an appropriate sleeping position is extremely important, especially since many patients experience secondary conditions such as neck discomfort after “sleeping funny”.

So what’s the best sleeping position? As you may know, there are three main sleeping positions- stomach sleeping, side lying, and back sleeping. Let’s take a closer look at each.

Stomach Sleeping

Most of you have heard us say that this is the least desirable sleeping position. Unless you have a specialized pillow which allows you to lie face down while sleeping, the only way to comfortably breathe while stomach sleeping is by turning your head to one side. This can put abnormal stress and tension on your spinal cord, and can result in a tonal shift (or misalignment) within the spine.

Even if you do have a specialized pillow for stomach sleeping, this position is still unfavorable. These special pillows are generally wedge-shaped to allow extra space for your nose and chin while lying face down.  Sounds great in theory, but this added wedge places your spine into hyperextension, causing tension on your spinal cord. Because a neutral spine is best when choosing a sleeping position, again, stomach sleeping is not recommended.

Side Lying

Sleeping in a side-lying position is one of the easiest ways to create a neutral position for the entire spine. However, there is one key component that makes this statement true- the proper pillow height. What pillow do we recommend?  Sorry to disappoint you, but there’s no one pillow that works for everyone. Keep in mind our bodies are all different- the broadness of our shoulders, head width and arm musculature are all different and all affect which pillow is best to use. With that being said, we are more concerned with the ability of a pillow to create a neutral spine than what brand it is or what material it is made of.

Side Lying2As the picture depicts, it is important to choose a pillow the supports the head in a way that creates a neutral spine. When looking at someone from behind, we want to be able to draw a horizontal line down the entire length of the spine, without any bumps or tilts. A pillow that is too flat or even too full can prevent achieving that neutral spine. Don’t be afraid to try the pillow out before you buy it!

One last piece of advice about side lying- to help maintain a neutral pelvis, try placing a pillow between your (preferably bent) knees.

Back Sleeping

Back sleeping is another position easy for keeping a neutral spine, but again, the proper pillow must be used. To maintain the normal curve of the neck, it is important to choose a flat pillow if you are a back sleeper. A fuller pillow could cause the chin to tuck towards the chest, increasing the tension of the spinal cord.

How can choosing the right pillow affect my low back?

There’s a big emphasis on proper positioning of the head while sleeping by using the correct pillow. It is easy to draw a correlation between improper head alignment and neck pain, but how can that affect your low back? Great question!

It’s important to remember that the spinal cord attaches at the very top and very bottom of the spine. Those spinal segments directly affect the tone or tension of the spinal cord, and when the spine is in its proper alignment, the tone of the spinal cord is ideal. Let’s say you have been sleeping incorrectly, and as a result, you experience a tonal shift in your neck. There is now an increase in the tone/tension of the spinal cord. Sometimes secondary conditions are felt in the areas of those tonal shifts, so in this example, in your neck. However because there is increased tension throughout the entire spinal cord, you may actually feel secondary conditions in the low back. Remember we said that the spinal cord attaches at the very top and the very bottom of the spine, so a tonal shift in the neck may create tension or “pulling” in the low back, leading to low back pain.

 

Sleep is essential for our bodies and can specifically affect mood, healing, and energy levels. Make the most of it by correcting your sleeping position- you may experience better sleep, and equally as important, reduce spinal subluxations!