Public Health: Teach Children What it Means to Eat Right.

Many of us were never taught what eating healthy is. Children learn their eating habits Colorful Foodfrom their parents. It is a learned behavior. It is not a chore. It’s not yucky. It doesn’t mean taking vitamins, or supplements. (If you have to take those every day it means that you are eating wrong.)

We as a culture have gone so far away from eating right that we have forgotten how. Most individuals who want to eat right feel the need to research it so that they know what to do. Now, if the culture around you has not taught you how to prepare foods like this then research may be needed. There are thousands of diets out there that will tell you what and how to eat.  All of them seem to be backed by scientific research and all of them will probably be proven and disproven multiple times over the next few years.  I recommend moderation in your diet. I have found, when you ask people how to eat better they already know. They’ll tell you that they should be eating less and what they should be eating is more vegetables and fresh food not processed or fast food. The principle is that basic.

Eating right will help reduce our risk of cancer, diabetes, heart disease, and a host of other diseases. If we teach our children this habit then in a few generations these diseases could actually become rare rather than the most common diseases in our country.

Public Health: Be Healthy From the Start

Teach our children that breastfeeding is important and healthy by explaining to them why we do it and what the benefits are that they can look forward to seeing in themselves and their children when they do it.  We don’t need to have a big public breastfeeding rally, but this part of life should be discussed with children and not kept a secret from them until they have their first child.

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From the National Public Health Week Website:

  • Breastfeeding is recommended for at least the first year of a child’s life, and exclusively for the first 6 months. Longer lifetime durations of breastfeeding are associated with decreased risks of maternal breast cancer, ovarian cancer, Type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease. In addition, longer durations of breastfeeding are associated with decreased risk of many common childhood infections and sudden infant death syndrome, as well as chronic conditions in offspring such as obesity, Type 1 diabetes, and leukemia.
  • Prenatal care can help keep mothers and their babies healthy. Babies of mothers who do not get prenatal care are three times more likely to have a low birth weight and five times more likely to die than those born to mothers who do get care.
  • Globally, an estimated 43 million preschool children were overweight or obese in 2010, a 60 percent increase since 1990. And children’s early-life experiences, such as lack of breast feeding, too-little sleep and too-much television can increase the risk of obesity later in life. That’s why early child care providers have such a crucial role to play in turning around the obesity epidemic.

Real Preventative Health Care Means Teaching Children

Public Health Nerd Alert: National Public Health Week 2014.

This week is National Public Health Week!  I am a huge supporter of Public/Preventative Health even though I disagree with the way it is usually presented (in the form of vaccinations, screenings, and government legislation or mandates).  I strive daily in my practice to improve the health of the public.  

How do you prevent or reduce obesity, diabetes, the flu, high blood pressure, cavities, STDs, low back pain, cancer, etc…?  The answer is not a vaccine, or early screening.  The real way to prevent most disease, injury and illness is by teaching our children how to live well.  Their bad habits are not as deeply ingrained as adults.  We’ve all tried to change our eating habits or get into shape, quit smoking, strengthen our posture or any number of other bad habits that affect our health.  Most of us have failed more often than succeeded.  I’m not encouraging giving up as adults.  Don’t stop trying to improve your health, but teaching children will also help you.

We may not be able to change the world instantly, but teaching a few children can change the world  in a generation.  Every generation wants to improve life for the next generation.  We want our children to have it better and to be better than we were.  If we worked hard to teach our children behaviors that help reduce health risks, in a few generations obesity and high blood pressure could be rare conditions.  This week I will present some small ideas to teach children that can have a huge impact.  Teach one child and see the difference.

adults-like-childrenGet kids off of the couch.  One way to do this that is beneficial for you is to invite them to play with you.  That means that you have to get off of the couch or out of the computer chair and go show the children how you played as a child.  Build a blanket fort, dig in the sandbox, chase a ball, wrestle in the grass, climb a tree, pull out your old skateboard or bike.  Being active will help prevent everything from obesity and high blood pressure to diabetes and low back pain. Our bodies are designed to move.   We develop painful, and at times, life threatening conditions when that design is inhibited. When you improve your function, your symptoms also improve. Chiropractic is here to facilitate and support that design.  Teach children to move.  Ask your chiropractor for help.

Is Popping Your Knuckles/Back/Joints Bad For You (Part II)?

My prior post on this topic had so many comments that it had become bloated and difficult to follow. I will attempt here to summarize the answers to those comments and also add new insights that I have gained in the years since that prior post.

Joint motion is good.  Here is an excellent summary quote from The Mayfield Clinic for Brain and Spine: “Good joint motion is essential for the health and nutrition of the discs and joints because it permits the exchange of nutrients, fluids, and waste. Good motion helps reduce pain, muscle spasms or imbalance, and improves nervous system function and overall health. Without movement, discs and joints may degenerate more quickly than normal. Motion also reduces the formation of scar tissue, which can lead to stiffness and degeneration.”

The issue is simple sometimes our joints make noise when they move.  Noises are OK.  The old wives tale that popping your knuckles will give you arthritis is just that, a tale.  With that said, knuckle cracking is not a good habit.  There are 4 major noises that joints make and the general rule for all of those noises is, that if it doesn’t hurt, it is probably fine.  Here they are…

The Break – This one hurts and is therefore bad. When bones break they make a noise.

The Thunk – This one can go either way. The best example I can come up with is a dislocated shoulder. It thunks going out and then thunks coming back in, but one hurts and one makes it feel better.

The Twang – It’s like strumming a guitar string. You’ve seen people with their ankles or wrists popping over and over. It doesn’t hurt, but the ligaments or tendons are being strummed or popped over a bump or restriction of some sort.

The Pop – This is the one that the most people refer to with chiropractors. The popping is not perfectly understood.  The current thinking is that it is a cavitation. The pressure increases in the joint space causing the nitrogen or other gases to be “popped” from the liquid to gaseous form. It takes a refractory period before this can happen again. That’s why you can’t pop your knuckles immediately after doing it, but have to wait for a time before they will pop again

Popping your knuckles or any joint is not bad for youAnything to excess is bad. You should not be popping any joint, all the time. I’ve seen people who every 30 minutes or so will take their head and twist it “crackle”. Every time you take your joints that far it puts stress on the joint capsule.  Stress by its self is not bad as with exercise it can lead to improvement, but if it is over done you can hurt yourself.

Let me address popping your own joints as a form of treatment.  A Chiropractor will assess specific joints, find restrictions and adjust them sometimes getting a pop.  If you try to adjust yourself you will likely end up getting some popping sounds somewhere, but you will probably only get temporary relief, if any at all.  You can also make things worse by producing a hypermobility around the area that is stuck.  

I encourage you to stretch and take your body through all of the ranges of motion that you can.  That will often solve your problem.  If stretching does help, that is great. If range of motion exercise does not solve your problem then seek chiropractic help.

Here are some of the most common questions asked in the past and their answers.

Q: How much is too much popping.

A: There is no answer for everyone.  If you think you do it too much, you probably do.  Track your symptoms. Make a little list of each that you are concerned with.  Write down what the symptoms are, when/how often they happen and anything that you do on your own that makes them feel better or worse.  You might find the cause and be able to make a change that resolves the symptoms on your own or you might be the best informed patient your doctor has seen in weeks.

Q: What should I do if I pop my knuckles/back/joints too much?

A: First see a chiropractor to see if there is something wrong that you should address physically.  If you can remove the cause then you won’t have to worry about popping.

If this popping has become habitual or obsessive for you and is not due to some underlying condition then you can try behavior modification.  Habits are always easier to break with support, and professional help may be useful to you.

Q: Can you tell me what’s wrong with my popping knuckles?

A: It’s very difficult and illegal to diagnose over the internet and without an examination.  I provide this information as educational.  It should not be a substitute for seeing your chiropractor.

UPDATE: Scientific American presents an interesting article reviews some of the research on the topic of knuckle cracking.

RSIs & Chiropractic Treatment

Chiropractors should treat RSIs by trying to address as many factors as possible.

A doctor of chiropractic will usually focus on structure and function of the muscles and joints stressing that improper motions can cause strain, inflammation, and stiffness. He will usually address the improper motion with chiropractic manipulative therapy (see previous post on what an adjustment does). In addition to manipulation, a chiropractor may give you exercises to help retrain your mind, muscles, and joints in proper motion.

There are many things that another person cannot do for you to improve your health, but a good doctor should attempt to address them. He should try to educate you regarding proper preventative exercises and proper ergonomics. He may refer you to a physical therapist if major retraining is needed. He may consult or refer you to a movement specialist such as an instructor in the Alexander technique or the Feldenkrais method. Both of these will help you learn how to perform your tasks properly whether it is playing a musical instrument or typing at your computer.

Your doctor should also educate you on how often and what to do to take breaks. Wrist Extensor StretchHe should be able to show you stretches to relieve pressure, and even provide documentation to your employer that will allow you proper breaks, and may, if implemented, improve productivity across his company. As an employer you could bring a chiropractor in to give these instructions to all of your employees this may even improve workers compensation rates.

Your doctor should also ask about the rest of your life. Chiropractors are well trained as health care providers, though they specialize in manipulation. They should be able to help you with an exercise routine, diet, and general health, or at least refer to someone who can. Your diet is important. A chiropractor, without additional training is not a nutritionist, but can give you some general advice, or even identify possible problems with your diet. The same goes for exercise and overall health.

As a chiropractor and massage therapist I work with musicians who often have RSIs. I work in cooperation with their trainers, medical doctors, physical therapists, and anyone else that I feel can help them. I believe that your care is the most important thing in my practice, and if I don’t already know a provider that meets your needs then I need to meet a new colleague.

What Does Chiropractic Adjustment Do?

This is a common question to chiropractors.  Chiropractic manipulation is not just joint popping. In fact the audible pop doesn’t even need to occur for a successful adjustment, though it often does, and some patients and doctors like to hear it. Research has found that “pop” or not, the same benefits are experienced.

The mechanism of why manipulation works is not fully understood. One thing that is understood is that it does work. Most of the simple explanations are incomplete or just plain wrong. The most recent research points to a more complex reason for the therapeutic effects of chiropractic manipulation. Many things are occurring at the same time that provide the benefits. There are some known things that can begin to explain why manipulation works. Here they are presented in no particular order.

1. Manipulation can reduce pressure on the nerves. Your nervous system is the control center of your body, and it is not without weaknesses.  Nerves and nerve bundles are soft tissue.  They don’t function well under physical pressure.  In fact it has been shown that inflammation, a bulging disc, or fragment floating around can interfere with proper nerve conduction.  The stuck joint as discussed previously can also physically be stuck pressing on a nerve, or could be causing inflammation that is pressing on the nerve, or could just be moving in a way that rubs the nerve.  In any case.  The adjustment can cause a relief of this pressure. through movement of the joint to the correct position, or motion.

2. Proprioceptive stimulation triggers the release of endorphins. These endorphins cause a near instant and temporary relief similar to pain medication making you less aware of the problem. This “trick” of the body can cause a secondary benefit, that of relaxing local tissues such as trigger points or tight musculature that may be “pinching” nerves.

Image by: Luis Solis

3. Manipulation provides improved nutrient supply. The cartilage and other structures inside of a joint have no blood supply. These structures get their nutrients through motion. The blood supply goes to the outside of the joint and nutrients move into the synovial fluid of the joint. Joint motion moves this fluid around thus providing fresh nutrients to all parts of the joint. If a joint becomes “locked down” by muscle spasm, scar tissue, a cast, or any other means for a prolonged period of time the joint begins to feel stiff. You know the feeling of needing to stretch after sitting in the car for a long time.

The facet joints in your spine are particularly vulnerable to this problem because they work in tandem and because of the body’s amazing ability to compensate. Your facet joints all work together, if one is injured it can become locked down to prevent further injury. When this happens you may get the desire to stretch or move your back. This usually works, but if all of the other joints compensate for the problem joint and take that added stress of movement on themselves then the problem joint stays locked down. Specific manipulation induces full range of motion and synovial fluid movement.

4. Neuromuscular retraining.  The brain also records these proprioceptive signals from the joints motion. Especially for chronic conditions the brain is in need of retraining regarding the motion of that joint. Manipulation takes a joint through its full range of motion. This new input is then stored and replayed in the brain, similar to muscle retraining that physical therapists will do, or physical training of athletes, when the body has done the motion enough times it “remembers” it.This retraining provides a functional correction that may provide pain relief.

Many other benefits have been observed, and still others suspected.Research is still going on and much more is needed.

Repetitive Stress/Strain Injuries…A Series

Our bodies were designed to move, to function, repeatedly. In a normal, healthy body using proper motion there is no such thing as a repetitive strain injury (RSI) like carpal tunnel syndrome or tennis elbow. RSIs only happen when our bodies are used improperly. Just as a screw driver makes a lousy hammer our body and it’s parts have specific functions. You can use the back of a screwdriver to hammer in a nail, but it won’t be as effective and you may damage the screwdriver.

RSIs have many factors in their development. As implied in the name there is more than one stress or strain that we put our body through before we notice the injury. Some (not all) of the many factors in RSIs are; improper motion, too great a load, inadequate recovery time, inadequate nutrition, poor overall health and poor nerve function due to subluxation. None of these factors are truly separate, but it is easier to discuss each of them that way.

  • Improper motion – Our joints and muscles work best in a certain way. If we try to make them work a different way we may be successful, but not without a cost in efficiency and or injury. We all know that we should lift with our legs and not with our backs. Our back could do it, but we put a greater strain on the joints, discs, and muscles of our spine, and it is an inefficient use of energy. It puts us in a position of possible injury.
  • Too great a load -Structurally when we lift something heavy our joints and our muscles are stressed and may be damaged. If not extreme, our bodies can cope with that, they build up the muscle and bone and we become stronger. If we lift something too heavy for our muscles or joints we are likely to be injured.
  • Inadequate recovery time – When we stress our bodies they need to recover, resupply, and possibly repair. Some times that takes seconds, and sometimes it can take much longer. Our bodies have a ready supply of energy that can be used, and when that supply is exhausted we have a back up supply (our fat). It takes time for our body to move these chemicals and their waste products into and out of the cells that need them. If we do not give our body the needed time for recovery we are more likely to be injured.
  • Inadequate nutrition – Our bodies will use what ever they have. Some things supply better building blocks, or more efficient energy. You are what you eat. If our body does not have the best supplies then it cannot function properly, and improper function leads to injury.
  • Poor overall health – Have you ever noticed that fit people can do things easier? They recover faster, they lift more, they run farther, and if they eat the wrong food sometimes their body is able to cope with it better. If our muscles and joints are strong and well used then they are able to do more work, if not they will likely get injured.
  • Subluxation – If your nervous system is not functioning efficiently all of the other body processes will be less effective and more likely to be injured.

If you have a RSI you need to address all of the factors related to it. You need to make sure that you are moving properly if it’s carpal tunnel syndrome from computer use, you need to address how you hold yourself when you type, how long you type without rest, if your body is in good condition, what kind of diet do you have, is your keyboard right for you, do you have proper nerve function to handle the stress?

It is not always easy to see all of the factors of a RSI. That is one reason to seek professional help. Someone trained to work with the structures affected by RSIs. Chiropractic is a good choice. Chiropractor’s training has an emphasis on the structure and function of your body. They have less training when it comes to your liver or pancreas, but when it comes to motion, a chiropractor should be your starting point.

Next time…What does chiropractic treatment do and, why is it effective for RSI?

My Back Hurts When I Take a Breath

I’ve had a lot of patients present with rib problems. They didn’t know it was a rib problem. So I thought I’d put out a little bit of information about it.

People come in complaining of back pain, and after an exam we determine that the source of pain is the rib head articulation. When I explain that to patients they ask me how their ribs could be hurting. The answer is not simple just like any medical explanation, but I’ll try to simplify. Your ribs attach to your spine with 2 joints per rib. Those joint complexes just like any other joint can be sprained, strained, inflamed, irritated, or just plain sad. As with other injuries these can happen because of a trauma, or over time with repetitive stress. The joint attachments are not the only thing that can be injured, but that’s what we’re talking about so we’re going to rule out fractures, tumors, and scary stuff like that.

How do you know if you have an injured rib joint complex? The most important way would be to come see me (http://www.sandyutchiropractic.com) or another qualified chiropractor and get it examined. If you are wondering, “is my back pain a rib problem?” then you already have back pain and should see a chiropractor anyway, but here are some common symptoms to indicate rib joints. Rib dysfunction pain is usually a sharp stabbing pain, that you just can’t get rid of. It can affect everything you do. It hurts to take a deep breath, raising your hands over your head or even laughing reproduces the pain. The pain can go all the way around the chest or to the shoulder.

The good news is that rib dysfunction is usually a very quick easy fix. You can often get immediate and complete relief with just one adjustment. AND, it feels so good when it goes away.  I love fixing patients with this problem, because it’s one of those easy times when patients walk in with pain and skip out with a smile.  So, don’t delay see your chiropractor today. :)

Chiropractic New Years Resolutions

IMG_3036It’s that time of year again.  New Year, new you, a blank 365 page book to write.  How your year will go is all up to you.  Of course you can’t control everything, but you can always choose to do and be the best that you can with what you have.

Your body is one of your greatest assets, and if it’s not performing at its best then nothing will be as good as it could be.  That raise that you’re going to get is useless if you can’t enjoy the activities it will allow.  The best vacation ever is ruined by back pain that sidelines you.

On the other side of the scale even mundane things are so much better when you feel not just pain free, but healthy.  How much more can you get done when you come home after a long day and still feel energized?  It’s so much more fun to be able to play with the kids all day rather than dragging behind them with a headache.

Talk with your chiropractor and see how you can work to your health goals.  They can help you lose weight, quit smoking, touch your toes again, get those headaches or back pains under control or even improve your golf swing or race time.  Anytime you see your chiropractor you should set a goal with them, discuss a plan, and then carry it out with their help.  Goals are always easier to achieve with outside support.  Let your chiropractor support your health this year.  Start now.

Chiropractors Manage It, But You Didn’t Know – Obesity

IMG_27012Obesity is a gateway condition leading to such heavy hitters as coronary heart disease, type 2 diabetes mellitus, various types of cancer, gallstones, and disability. It is within the scope of practice and training for chiropractors, and is a perfect fit for the chiropractic treatment model.  Regular chiropractic appointments allow for follow up, increased accountability, and provide needed structural care for your changing body.

Most people know when they are overweight, but some don’t, and even more don’t know what the term overweight means. The classifications for weight usually involve a screening system such as Body Mass Index (BMI).  BMI attempts to estimate percentage of body fat. The calculation to determine BMI is mass divided by height in meters squared (kg/m2). There are many BMI calculators that will do the math for you. The National Institute of Health has a great one that you can use.

The corresponding classifications are:

Classification BMI Score
Underweight Below 19
Normal 19-25
Overweight 25-30
Obese 30-40
Morbidly Obese Greater than 40

People are overweight for different reasons, and each reason needs to be addressed differently.  The best way to manage weight is the way that works for you. There is no one method that works for everyone. Most diets are safe and work, but usually only lead to temporary weight loss. It is important to choose the method that you want to use so that you have responsibility and accountability.  The most important thing to address is willingness. Most importantly the person must desire to lose weight and be willing to begin the process. Most people know it’s bad to be overweight and know that they should lose weight, but guilt or poor self-image are not helpful motivators for true lifestyle change. You will not be able to lose weight until you really want to and are willing to accept assistance. 

Goal setting should start simple and be written. The more actions that you take (even small ones) the more likely you are to accomplish your goal, so even accomplishing the simple goal of not drinking soda for one meal is a success that you can build on. Some simple suggested goals are: asking 3 people to help you, signing up for a race or event, or even setting a goal to write down some goals. Goals don’t have to be big and the more goals achieved the better you feel about being able to accomplish future goals.  Goals can be as easy as parking at the far end of parking lots whenever going shopping. For more examples of how to increase physical activity visit ChooseMyPlate.gov or see your chiropractor.

In any change of habit or self-improvement it is always a good idea to enlist friends. They are good to be accountable to. They are good support, and may even join in the cause.  If the lifestyle isn’t maintained for long enough or enjoyable enough to make permanent, then the benefits will also be short lived. It is important to make changes permanent. 

Chiropractors may give guidance and suggestions or just provide education to a patient on nutrition or the risks of obesity. All chiropractic schools provide basic nutritional education, but most do not provide the education required to adequately address eating disorders such as Bulimia or Anorexia.

Some great financial news is that most insurance companies recognize weight issues as a health condition and will pay for your treatment.  Some will even provide help with gym memberships.  In an effort to decrease costs one provision of the new health reform law requires insurance companies to cover obesity screening and counseling with no patient cost-sharing. The New year is an excellent time to discover a new you.  Go see how your chiropractor can help.