Posts for: May, 2015
By Editorial Staff
Behind smoking, obesity is the leading cause of preventable death in the United States – and the way we're going as a nation, it soon might be No. 1. Here are four easy ways to make sure you or someone you know doesn't end up a statistic.
It's a daily plan to improve your life by keeping your weight at a healthy level.
1. Motion Matters: You can't beat exercise when it comes to weight management, and for two simple reasons that bear constant repeating: 1) The more calories you burn, the more weight you'll lose; and 2) muscle feeds metabolism, which burns calories even when you're not doing anything (even while you're sleeping). Plus, the more you exercise, the less time you have to sit on the couch, snacking on obesity-promoting chips, sweets and other nutrient-deficient foods.
Action Step: Don't think you have time to exercise regularly? Here's a simple strategy for sitting less and moving more.
2. Portion Potion: Actually, there's no magic trick or potion when it comes to portion control – it's a simple formula of "don't overeat" that prevents packing on the calories / pounds. Often, we overeat because we haven't eaten enough throughout the day; by the time we do, we're so famished that we eat whatever we see (and too much of it).
Action Step: Here's a great slideshow you can use as a guide to portion control and healthy eating.
3. Sound Asleep: If you think sleep doesn't impact weight, think again. Production of hormones that regulate appetite suppression and fat storage are influenced by sleep. What's more, poor sleep can lead to stress, fatigue and more awake time – factors that can severely compromise your diet and fitness plan. Face it: Sleep poorly and you're setting a dangerous course for weight gain.
Action Step: Develop a nighttime routine to ensure you get the sleep your body and mind need.
4. Stress Solution: It's fitting that we end with a discussion about stress, because if you think about it, stress impacts your ability to achieve all of the above: exercise, proper eating and restorative sleep. Stressed out? You might obsess about what's bothering you instead of sleeping; or you may try to relieve your stress by indulging in your favorite comfort foods – to excess. When we're stressed, you may find it more difficult to get to the gym or stick to your exercise routine.
Action Step: Try these 10 great ways to reduce stress. Trust us, you're worth it.
By Perry Nickelston, DC, FMS, SFMA
You may have heard the saying, "the eyes are the window to the soul." There is another saying in the world of chiropractic, "your spine is the window to your health." How can the condition of your spine divulge so much information about overall health? Your spine is the central support column of your body and its primary role is to protect your spinal cord.
Think of it like the foundational frame of a house holding everything together. If the frame becomes dysfunctional many problems will begin to manifest themselves. The house begins to develop cracks, shifts, and structural problems. When your spinal foundation becomes dysfunctional you develop aches, pains, injuries, and other health related issues. The good news is you can do a simple spinal health checklist to determine if you may benefit from the expert intervention of a chiropractor or other healthcare professional. Becoming familiar with simple spinal anatomy, structure and function will help empower you to take control of your health.
Your spine is composed of 24 bones (vertebrae); 7 in the neck (cervical spine), 12 in the middle back (thoracic spine), 5 in the lower back (lumbar spine) and the base tailbone (sacrum). Your soft spinal cord is encased inside these 24 moveable hard vertebrae to protect it from injury. Your spinal column has three natural curvatures making it much stronger and more resilient than a straight design. There are cervical, thoracic, and lumbar curves designed with precise angles for optimum function. However, these curves are different than the abnormal curves associated with scoliosis and postural distortions. You may remember getting screened in school or your doctor for scoliosis when they had you bend over and touch your toes. This was an early checklist for spinal abnormalities. Through life's stresses, genetics, trauma, injuries, and neglect the spine can develop dysfunctions in these curvatures and the body must compensate by changing posture as a protective mechanism.
What are some of the compensations your body develops and what can they tell you about spinal health?
Rounded Shoulders: This is a very common postural distortion resulting from more sedentary lifestyles. Hunching over in front of a computer screen hours on end simply feeds this dysfunction. This poor posture pattern adds increased stress to the upper back and neck because the head is improperly positioned relative to the shoulders. Common effects are headaches, shoulder, pain, neck pain and even tingling and numbness in the arms because of nerve compression by tight muscles.
Uneven shoulders: One shoulder higher than the other is indicative of a muscular imbalance or spinal curvature. You probably see this one on most people where one shoulder is migrating up towards the ear. Stand in front of a mirror and you can easily see if this asymmetry is present. You may also notice that one sleeve is longer than the other when you wear a shirt. This asymmetry is a common precursor for shoulder injuries, headaches, neck pain, elbow injuries and even carpal tunnel syndrome (tingling in the hands).
Uneven hips: Hips that are not level are like the foundation of a house that is not level. You begin to develop compensations further up the body so you remain balanced when walking. You develop altered spinal curvatures, shoulder positions, and head tilts. Your body has one primary purpose of maintaining symmetry and balance and it will do it whatever way is necessary. Signs of unbalanced hips may manifest in abnormal shoe wear typically on the outside edges and pants will fit unevenly in the leg length.
When you visit a chiropractor for a spinal evaluation some of the things they will search for during your evaluation are underlying signs of spinal damage that you can't see. Spinal x-rays are a safe and effective way to get look at your spine for damage or potential problems. Just like a dentist takes an x-ray of your teeth to see if you have cavities or problems with the bones below gum line. If problems are detected, corrective or preventive measures can be implemented to help your body function at optimum.
Degenerative Disc Disease (DDD): This is not a real disease in the terms of how we think of them. DDD is term used to describe degeneration and excessive wear on the soft tissue disc structures between the spinal bones. It may come with age or from biomechanical asymmetries in movement causing excessive wear from overuse. Sort of like uneven treads on a car with imbalanced tires, one may be worse than the other. Although the degeneration cannot be reversed, once discovered there are strategies your chiropractor can implement rebalancing exercises and therapies to help prevent further damage.
Osteoarthritis: The breakdown of the tissue (cartilage) that protects and cushions joints. Arthritis often leads to painful swelling and inflammation from joints rubbing together. The increase in friction causes a protective pain response and excessive swelling where the body attempt to add artificial cushioning via swelling.
Herniated disc: A herniated disc is an abnormal bulge or breaking open of a protective spinal disc or cushioning between spinal bones. Patient's may or may not experience symptoms with a herniated disc. Disc diagnosis is conformed via a special imaging study called an MRI (\Magnetic Resonance Imaging) which observes soft and hard tissue structures. You cannot see or confirm a suspected disc herniation via normal spinal x-rays.
Spinal stenosis: The narrowing of the spinal canal the open space in the spine that holds the spinal cord. Stenosis is a more severe form of arthritis that typically causes radiating (referred pain down the arms or legs) from an irritated or compressed spinal nerve.
If you experience spinal pain, tingling, numbness, weakness, muscles spasms or swelling near your spine or arms and legs consult a healthcare professional. These are all warning signal signs from your body that something is wrong and needs your attention. Pain is how your body communicates its function with you. A car has dashboard warning lights that tell you when the car has a problem. If you chose to ignore the signals bad things are going to happen. Your body has its own warning light system. Start checking for the warning lights. Ignore them at your own risk.
The Right Position Makes All the Difference
By Dr. David Ryan
More than 90 percent of all office workers use a personal computer, but whether they use it correctly is debatable. By "correctly," I'm not referring to whether they know how to download files, format documents, troubleshoot error messages or prevent e-mail viruses from attacking. I'm talking about having your computer monitor, keyboard, chair and workspace organized in a way that promotes productive, pain-free work and discourages repetitive-stress and ergonomic-related injuries. In 1997, work-related musculoskeletal disorders had reached 275,000 cases annually.
In 2009, that number is expected to exceed 14 million. Musculoskeletal disorders related to computer use include neck pain, tension headaches, lower back pain, and carpal tunnel syndrome, just to name a few. The affect on the economy is devastating, accounting for an estimated $20 billion in direct costs and more than $100 billion in indirect costs every year.
Your Keyboard Height
When you are in a seated position and sitting up straight, the position of the keyboard should be at the height of your elbows or below. Most people will sit with a keyboard height approximately level with their abdomen. This forces the shoulders to remain in an elevated or shrugged position, which activates a large muscle in your back - the trapezius muscle - and can result in a great deal of pain if that position is held too long. The trapezius muscle extends from the back of your skull to an area just above your lower back and runs laterally from shoulder to shoulder. It is literally the cross that we all bear, particularly when it's stressed or injured.
An easy test: Have someone stand behind you as you are seated. Let them poke your neck and back muscles with their fingertips, and hold pressure in any area that is sensitive on your neck and across the top of your shoulders. While they are still applying pressure, raise your hands and reach out, simulating typing on a keyboard. You are likely to feel an immediate increase in pain at all the points their fingertips are pressing on. Now try the same test, but bend only at your elbows; don't reach your arms out or raise them. Chances are you are going to feel significantly less pain by keeping your arms down and bending only at the elbow.
Raising the height of your chair is the easy fix for this problem. Other situations may require a more aggressive approach, such as installation of a swing arm that allows for adjustable positioning of the keyboard. Keep in mind that the computer mouse should be at the same appropriate height of the keyboard.
Your Monitor Height
Another common problem is the height of your monitor. The top of your monitor should be at the level of your eyebrows or top of your head. Some individuals have to place their monitor on a stack of large books to maintain the appropriate height. If you are having trouble seeing your monitor and maintaining a forward position of your head, it is likely that you will end up suffering the consequences of poor postural position. Looking down or straining your head forward to see the monitor will likely aggravate your neck and back muscles.
Your Chair Height and Sitting Position
Attempt to maintain flat-footed placement on the floor to help with overall balance while sitting. Your objective is to maintain proper posture while sitting by allowing as much contact between your body and the chair. It is important to try to sit back in the chair as far as possible and to maintain contact with your shoulders against the back of the chair. The backs of your upper legs and your buttocks should completely contact the base of the chair.
It will also help a great deal if you learn to sit while holding in your lower abdomen for extended periods of time. This helps support the soft tissue of the lower back, which is actually under more strain in a seated position than when you are standing.
Also try to change positions from time to time; depending on your employer and type of job, you may even be able to stand up and continue working for 4-5 minutes every so often. This allows for proper circulation Some employers have offered standing workstations as an alternative to sitting for long periods of time. Research has shown that employees who work at a standing workstation for a minimum of 60 minutes per day have 70 percent less musculoskeletal complaints. (Believe it or not, there are even workstations that come complete with a treadmill, so employees can walk while they are working!)
Small Changes, Big Benefits
It may seem like an oversimplification, but learning to sit up straight, suck your stomach and keep your keyboard at the level of your elbows and below are easy ways to minimize your risk of chronic and repetitive-stress injuries at the workplace. That's good news to you and your employer. In this high-tech world of computers, it might be worth your time to consider these common-sense approaches, instead of buying a $150 ergonomic keyboard.
Many companies have developed an ergonomic program designed to help reduce the factors associated with musculoskeletal fatigue and injury. Research has shown that workers who are compliant with these guidelines have increased productivity, efficiency, and morale. Companies have also noticed a decrease in reported injuries illnesses, workers' compensation costs, sick days and employee turnover. The bottom line is that neither you nor your company can afford to sit back (no pun intended) while you practice poor workspace habits and increase your risk for injury. And remember that these ergonomic safety tips also apply to the home, where most people now have computers as well.
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome: Not Just for Computer Users Anymore
Carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) is a common condition associated with repetitive tasks such as computer keyboard use. But what if you don't work on a computer much and are still experiencing wrist and hand pain symptomatic of CTS? Recent research suggests a more reliable source of the problem, albeit also related to positioning: improper sleep position. Most people who sleep in the fetal position (curled up on one side) sleep with their wrists in a fully flexed position (bent backwards under their chin, resting next to their chest). This can cause pressure that ultimately leads to CTS. The most common orthopedic test for CTS is called Phalen's test. Flex both wrists fully and place the back of your hands firmly against each other; an increase of pain in the wrist and/or hand is considered a positive test. Talk to your doctor for more information.
David Ryan, BS, DC, a former two-sport professional athlete with more than 20 years in the health care field, is on the editorial review board of Muscle & Fitness magazine and is a chief feature writer forBodyBuilding.com. He has been the medical director and co-chairman of the Arnold [Schwarzenegger] Sports Festival since 1997.