Why Is Sitting So Bad For Your Spine?

“Sitting to the spine is like sugar to the teeth.” 

Have you heard this saying from a Chiropractor or health professional yet? I laughed when I first heard it, but it’s true. Although sitting can be one of a variety of postures we put ourselves in throughout the day, when prolonged, (for, let’s say, 8 hours at your desk!) it’s harmful to the spine for several reasons:

 

 

When sitting you put 30 to 40% more pressure on the discs in your lumbar spine.

Your vertebral discs play an important part in the overall health of your spinal joints. Read this blog post to find out more. When you sit for long periods of time the pressure on the discs in substantially increased, and this added pressure can lead to break down of the tissues, essentially accelerating the degenerative process.

Sitting causes loss of lumbar lordosis.

Your spine is designed to have curves, 4 of them, to give you structure, strength, and help your body adapt to the forces of gravity. When your spinal curves are healthy, your body will move the way it is designed to. When you sit for long periods of time the curve in your lower back (lumbar spine) shifts the other way. This loss of curve creates problems! Decreased strength, decreased range of motion, less stability, and shifting muscle patterns to compensate increased disc pressure.

Tight hip flexors, weak gluteal muscles.

Have you ever noticed that after sitting for too long, when you go to stand up you feel really stiff and sore, and even sometimes find it hard to properly stand up? Tight hip flexors causes this! When you sit for too long your hip flexors get tight, and your gluteal (butt muscles) become weaker. When these 2 muscles groups are compromised, you will gradually develop other problems in your back and hip joints.

Change in breathing pattern and subsequent organ compression.

Try sitting, and really accelerating a poor posture. Hunch your shoulders forward, round your middle back. Now try taking a nice full deep breath. How does it feel? Now sit up straight, arching your shoulders slightly back, and gently pushing your ribs forward. Try taking a nice full deep breath now. Notice the difference? When you sit for long periods of time the optimal functioning of many internal organs can be compromised, leaving you feeling more drained than you should be.

What can you do?

Consider how many hours a day, and then per week, you are sitting.  Even if you are highly active working out five days a week, for 20-90 minutes a session, you’re still sitting more hours then you are sleeping, training, or simply moving.  Those hours add up.

The biggest change you can make is to simply be aware that prolonged sitting is not good for you, and with this awareness start to slowly change your lifestyle. How can you vary your positions throughout the day? If there is a time you are sitting and doing something, can you do it in a different position? Could you stand up? Walk around? If you  need to be sitting, give yourself stretch breaks every 40-60 minutes. Get creative and do what you can to move more, sit less. Check out this video of 3 ways to lower your stress at work for some other ideas.

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Chiropractic & Concussion Management

As a chiropractor and parent I’m happy we now have more information about diagnosing, treating, and most importantly preventing concussions.  I’ve witnessed the effects of it when my oldest son suffered a mild concussion while playing hockey. During his evaluation with our family physician after his hit, when we discussed protocol for managing his recovery, the first thing our physician said was “I hope you’re planning to adjust him”. With both my son’s parents being Chiropractors, you can bet we were!

 

 

Why is spinal care important when there is a concussion?

If you watch any footage from sporting injuries, with any hit to the head there is often a twisting of the neck that also occurs. It’s impossible for the head to move any direction without any movement of the neck, try it! All the rotation and side to side bending we have in our necks comes from the upper spinal joints.

With any concussion the impact to head is what is of major concern, and rightly so! Your brain is the most important organ in your body, always responding to the needs of your body and coordinating many functions simultaneously.   However, the importance of assessing the vertebrae in the upper neck cannot be forgotten, and many experts like Dr. Ted Carrick (who I’ve been fortunate to do some training with) agree that including appropriate spinal care is a key to recovery.

After a hit to the head, many internal systems can be challenged, and in many cases the vestibular system (balance and coordination) can be affected. When your body’s position sense is disrupted, the brain will adapt by trying to keep things level, and in doing so there will be subtle shifts in the position of the neck and head as a biomechanical  consequence, which creates added strain on surrounding joints and all the associated muscles.

The body is a self regulating organism, and if the sense of position balance is disrupted, the nervous system will compensate for something being innately wrong by changing the head posture so that it feels like things are still level. This changes the alignment of the vertebrae in the neck and causes reduced movement of the spinal joints, which can then create secondary problems such as neck stiffness and pain. I see this all the time in people in my practice, whether they’ve had a concussion or a minor impact, or sometimes even just because of chronic postures, faulty ergonomics, sleeping positions, and high levels of stress.

If someone you care about suffers a concussion, consider adding chiropractic care to their recovery protocol. Addressing the movement of the spinal joints will reduce the effects of the brain injury on the surrounding tissues and muscles, minimize their symptoms, and promote full recovery. 

Need help? Get in touch!

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Using a Ball To Improve Your Mobility and Ease Muscle Tension

Ready for an easy mobility exercise you can do anywhere, anytime to help you feel your best! Try using a ball to improve your mobility, ease muscle tension and release muscle knots that may be creating stiffness and affecting your healthy range of movement.

There are mobility tools you can pick up, more elaborate devices that have knobs on them or that you can also put in the freezer, but in my experience, using a  simple ball you might already have in your house can be very effective.

Try a simple tennis ball, lacrosse ball, baseball, or my favourite, the little blue foam balls that kids play mini-stick hockey with.  They all have different sizes and density, so depending on your preference or type of injury one might be better suited for you. They are inexpensive to pick up so you can always have a few on hand to test out. I have a bowl with a variety of them in my practice and together with my patients we will often test a few out and see what’s best for their intended use.

Using a ball is an easy self massage technique that can support your body’s recovery from an injury or add to the care you are receiving from your Chiropractor. It’s always best to speak with your Chiropractor first to make sure this type of massage technique is right for you.

Wondering how to do this? Check out this video where I demonstrate it.

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3 Conditions That Could Be Causing Your Back Pain

In this blog post I described the difference between disc bulges and herniation,  and what you can do if this is happening to you. One of the many reasons you should consult with a health professional and not “Dr. Google” is that there can also be other problems in the body that create some of the same symptoms, and without someone doing a thorough health consultation and examination you might be choosing the wrong course of care, and finding little relief.

When it comes to the back pain, there are two other situations that can trigger symptoms similar to disc herniations:

  1. Discogenic pain which is pain radiates from the disc without any disc problems like a bulge or herniation. Annular fibres of disc are tough but tiny tears in the tissue from spinal subluxations can create inflammation and joint irritation.
  2. Lack of proper mobility in the hip joints will create faulty movement mechanics in the lumbar vertebral joints. This added strain will lead to added strain on the discs, which can then develop tears or inflammation as mentioned in the point above.
  3. Piriformis syndrome, where one of the deep muscles in your buttocks becomes  inflamed. Spasm of this muscle will constrict blood and nerve flow in the surrounding tissues, and can also trigger lower back disc bulge type symptoms.

What can you do?

Find help! I’ve seen hundred of people in my practice find relief from back pain after a thorough assessment and appropriate chiropractic care.

You’ll find more information about how Chiropractic can help you in some of these posts:

Always happy to answer your questions and provide a complimentary 15 minute consultation, reach out if you have questions or are looking for some relief

http://drmelissa.ca/2015/07/feet-ankles-or-knees-sore/

http://drmelissa.ca/2016/11/leg-pain-the-chiropractic-approach/

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Get More Greens! Easy Pesto Recipe

I had a great time at the Collingwood Farmer’s market this past Saturday talking about health, and how to get more dark leafy (super healthy!) greens in your diet!

The tips I shared included:

  1. Chop and prep your greens after you get them. You’ll find it easier to add them to a salad, stir fry throw them into a smoothie or add them to a sandwich if they are ready to go
  2. Use big leaf greens as a wrap instead of bread with your next ‘sandwich’.
  3. Make Pesto!

It’s so easy, and with no extra preservatives, colours or artificial flavours, it’s better for you too!

2 cup kale, spinach or swiss chard

2 cloves of garlic

1 cup oregano or basil

1/4cup walnuts, sunflower seeds or pumpkin seeds

1/3-1/2 cup cold pressed olive oil  (We used Tuscan Herb from the Collingwood Olive Oil Company)

1/4 salt

*I’ve bolded the items we used at the market, for those of you who tasted it and want to recreate the same one!

Place all ingredients in food processor and chop on low setting.  Once finely chopped, add in 1/3 cup olive oil while the processor is running. Transfer to glass jar and store in refrigerator or freezer. Notice unlike traditional pesto recipes, this one does not contain any parmesan cheese. It can be added, but is not necessary, making this version a great option for vegans.

You’ll notice the recipe guidelines are a little vague, that’s because it’s a versatile recipe and one you can modify depending on what is available seasonally at your market or in your own garden! Pesto can also be very smooth or slightly chunky, depending on how you are going to use it and your own preferences.

Used on pasta, sandwiches, or as a condiment in countless ways, pesto is a wonderful way to add a savory dose of more greens into your diet! It also freezes well and will give you a little bit of summertime freshness in the fall or winter months.

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The Basics Of Infant Spine Development

One of the first conversations I have with all the parents in my practice is what to expect with their child’s spinal development, and this overview has always been a helpful foundation for them to understand their child’s progress moving forward. I hope it helps you too.

There is a reason for every developmental stage in the human body – the body knows what to do and your child will always try to advance themselves unless there is a reason they cannot. The body has an amazing innate intelligence that governs and directs all functions in the body, this belief is at the core of chiropractic.

When it comes to the spine, there is a very sequential order to the development of infant motor patterns. There is a reason infants don’t come out and start walking, and why they need to sit before they crawl or stand. We need to respect this process, and not force it. If development not progressing the way it naturally should be, we then need to look for the potential causes, find them, and restore balance so development can continue.

A healthy adult spine has 4 curves, but only two are present at birth: the thoracic (mid back) and sacral (tailbone – which at birth is not actually yet 1 bone but 4 separate pieces until it matures). Curves in the spine are essential because they help us stay flexible and balanced, and help absorb stress through gravity and daily activity. Curves in the spine develop as an adaptation to gravity – and this is a crucial step in how muscles develop the strength necessary for stability. An infant develops the curve in their neck when they begin to lift and support their head, and the curve in their low back when they sit. This happens during the first 6 months.

Once infants can sit independently they have gained substantial strength in their torso, and their next step is to start to push themselves up and develop strength in their hips and legs, which gets them ready for creeping and then crawling. After continuing to build strength and mobility in their hips, legs and arms through crawling (and figuring out how to coordinate their arms and legs moving at the same time!) they are ready to start pulling themselves up to take their first steps. 

This is the natural order, the way the body was designed to mature, and what occurs for 90% of children I see in my practice.

Sometimes there are minor traumas to their infant spine (from the birth process, accidents, incorrect diapering, too much time in car seats, not enough tummy time, toxicity) which impede this healthy development, and that’s where  Chiropractic comes in! Children respond easily and well to appropriate and gentle spinal care from Chiropractors who have special training in pediatric development, anatomy, and neurology, and parents are equally thrilled with the results they see in their children. 

Is your child progressing in this way? I hope so! If not let us know we’re always happy to answer your questions or concerns and offer 15 minute complimentary consultations to help you see if this practice is the right fit for you.

 

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New Parent Posture!

Are you dealing with ‘new parent posture’? Your new baby arrives in the world, and for the first few months you spend many hours feeding them, rocking them to sleep, and staring down at them lovingly while they are in your arms. Then, after a few weeks of this consistent posture, you find yourself with some pain and stiffness in your neck and shoulders. Sound familiar?

I call this “momma posture” but I know many dads that also can relate to this!

Truth is, physically there isn’t much difference between staring down at your phone or laptop and staring down at the newest addition to your family!

The posture is the same, which results in a tremendous amount of strain on the muscles in your neck and the associated vertebra in both your cervical and thoracic spine.  Here are a few tips to help minimize this strain for you:

Switch arms when holding baby. This is good for you and good for them! Your arms will get a rest, and you’ll develop strength in both arms in this position. Your child will also benefit in that their vision, hearing and sense of body position (think brain development) will also get stimulation from both directions.   Carry your baby right from the beginning so that you easily develop strength to hold them as they progressively gain weight. *Read this blog post on why  babies should be in their car seats only when travelling.

Use a variety of slings and carriers. I’m a huge fan of baby-wearing because it’s good for a child’s physical and emotional development, but also because in my experience it can make life as a parent easier! With your child securely attached to you your hands are free to hold the hand of another child, pick up your groceries, fold laundry, work on your laptop, or do anything else! Using different types of carriers minimizes the repetitive strain on your spine and shoulders and will help prevent injuries. When choosing a carrier there is always 1 specific guideline I give all parents watch this video

Stretch your neck and shoulders! When not looking down at your child, think about reversing the position of your neck. Tilt your head forward and back, turn your head side to side, roll your shoulders in circles forward and back, and hold your hands behind your back and open up your chest for a really great stretch. Doing these moves will help break up the repetitive strain on the muscles in your neck, upper arms and shoulders to compensate for forward postures. .

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Cold Water Immersion & Your Health

When cold showers were first mentioned to me as a supportive health practice, my first reaction was “NO WAY”. Like you might be feeling reading this, the thought of being cold was not something that excited me, but at the time I was recovering from an acute muscle strain and I was open to whatever would help me heal the fastest. Now I’m converted.

In addition to supporting your cardiovascular health, regular cold water immersion give you these added benefits:

 

Improves Lymphatic Circulation – Your lymphatic system is an effective network of vessels that essentially cleans up the waste in your body. Unlike your cardiovascular system though, there is no ‘pump’ to keep lymphatic fluids moving well. Your body instead relies on the effective contractions of muscles to support this function (yes this is why you need to be moving your body everyday too).  Cold water immersion helps this process because it causes your lymph vessels to contract, forcing your lymphatic system to pump lymph fluids throughout your body, essentially flushing the waste out of the area. This then triggers the immune system’s white blood cells to attack and destroy any unwanted substance in the fluid. By supporting the lymphatic drainage you’re supporting your immune system, which supports your overall health.

Reduces Muscle Inflammation – When you exercise and push your body to gain additional strength, endurance and power, you’ll develop microscopic tears in your muscles in the process. When the body goes into repair mode you’ll gain new muscle, but the process often involves some soreness known as delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS). This is normal, but not fun. Cold water immersion has been scientifically shown to help counteract this. Since I’ve been doing cold showers after intense training sessions, the amount of DOMS I experience during recovery has dramatically decreased. This is also something I recommend when people are dealing with an acute injury. Similar to using an ice pack to help control the amount of inflammation, cold water immersion lowers the temperature of the damaged tissue and constricts the blood vessels, which reduces swelling and inflammation. It also temporarily numbs the nerve endings so you’ll feel less pain, which is much better for your body than taking a muscle relaxant or anti-inflammatory medication. If you love physical training, or if you’re dealing with an acute injury, cold water immersion will facilitate faster recovery.

Boosts happiness – I will admit, what keeps me taking cold showers is how great I feel afterwards! Invigorated, energized, and completely refreshed anytime of day.  Cold water triggers a flood of mood-boosting neurotransmitters in your brain, which makes you feel happier. It’s even been shown to be an excellent supportive practice to help reduce symptoms of depression. The science explaining what happens in your body is fascinating, you can read more about it in this article here.

Supports Weight Loss – While nothing replaces healthy clean eating and consistent exercise, consistent cold water immersion boosts your metabolism because your body needs to work harder to keep you warm, burning calories in the process.

If there is ever a season to give this a try, it’s summer!

It’s a great way to beat the heat and quickly cool your body temperature, with so many other added benefits to support your overall health.

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What’s The Difference Between a Disc Bulge & Herniation?

Often times these two terms are used interchangeably, but they aren’t the same problem. Vertebral discs are securely attached between two vertebrae (no, you can’t have a “slipped disc”) and they are made up of 2 parts: tough annular fibres that surround an inner nucleus (semi fluid gel). For simplicity with people in my practice I often use the metaphor of a jelly donut: think of the inner nucleus as the jelly, and the ‘dough’ as the outer annular fibres.

Disc bulges: This is when some disc material moves because of faulty joint mechanics and subsequent degeneration. Think of a jelly donut, that has slight pressure put upon it so that the dough bulges out the sides slightly, but not enough pressure that some of the jelly comes out. Disc bulges can happen with absolutely no symptoms, but if the spinal joints are not encouraged to heal, further problems will develop.

Disc herniation:  This is what happens next, following excessive tension on the disc fibres, often over years, a bigger problem develops. Remember the jelly donut?  Now it’s been under enough to pressure, for long enough, that some of the jelly inside starts to squeeze out. Disc herniation’s can cause sciatic type pain because of how they will bulge out and put pressure on the nerve going down the back of the leg. The nerves coming off the spinal cord in the lumbar spine are highly complex, and depending on which area of the disc is herniating, the pain pattern can also affect the side or front of the leg, and travel all the way right down into the feet.

WHAT SHOULD YOU DO?

The good news is that Chiropractors can provide great care and great results! In my 16 years in practice I’ve seen many people find complete recovery and enjoy an incredible quality of life without any pain or discomfort. If you’re suffering with back pain, it could be attributed to problems within the discs, and treatment will depend on your goals and the approach you take to your health.  Do you react, prevent or pursue wellness?

You can prevent both disc bulges and disc herniating from happening with spinal care, core strengthening, proper lifting techniques, watching your stress level and choosing a high quality diet.

If your approach to caring for your body is more “I’ll fix it when it’s broken” and you seek to support your health only when there are problems then certainly consider radiating pain down your legs, any loss of mobility, as signs there is a problem. If you’re also having changes in bowel or bladder function, consider that a next level warning sign.

Questions? Reach out. You can be feeling and functioning better! Often times the hardest part is taking that first step.

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My Summer Adventure First Aid Kit

I love summer!  I love getting outdoors with my sons on the trails or at the beach, even though it’s starting to get a little tougher to recruit them to spend time with me in their teenage years with their own sports involvement, jobs and their own friendships, time together outside is consistently what I’m aiming for.  At all ages, during every season, there are minor injuries that can happen, and I’m often asked how I deal with them in my home.

In our home there are no pharmaceuticals, harsh chemicals or commercial preparations, period. The majority of minor scrapes, bruises, burns, rashes, I have always been able to support with some of the items listed here, as well as herbal medicines, foods, fluids, rest, and spinal adjustments, particularly if there has been a tumble or fall or sports collision. Based on my training, I am comfortable handling many injuries but we have still made trips to the ER for stitches and broken bones! 

Here’s what I keep in my home, and in a pack that I can easily throw into a basket or backpack if we are heading out the door.  Please remember, if you’re ever in doubt about how to handle an injury or illness, get in touch with me, contact your medical doctor or head to the emergency room for further advice. 

Arnica cream or Traumeel – for aches and pains, to help reduce inflammation

Arnica 30c (homeopathic remedy) – for bites, bruises, cuts, broken skin, burns, scalds, nosebleeds, stings, sprains, fractures, muscular aches and pains, (or virtually any injury to the body)

Aconite 30c (homeopathic remedy) – for fear, anxiety, restlessness, sudden illness, intense pain, shock.  Give it to any child who has been hurt or traumatized in any way

Chamomilla 30c (homeopathic remedy) – for teething, insomnia, earaches, digestive troubles, anytime they need

Band-Aids, gauze, wet-wipes (for traveling only, when at home I just have soft rags and water or peroxide for disinfectant)

Tweezers, Ice packs

Hydrogen Peroxide, Rubbing Alcohol – Basic disinfectants, but the best way to clean a wound is to first wash your hands, then wash the wound with mild natural soap and water. This is what I use 95% of the time!

Witch Hazel – Strong natural antioxidant and astringent; good for disinfecting and promotes healing. Also helps with itching and inflammation

Bach Rescue Remedy –  A flower remedy designed for shock, trauma, any type of anxiety.  Can be taken orally. Very relaxing and soothing.

Calendula cream – Great healing salve for cuts, stings, burns, scrapes and scratches, any skin irritation. Easy to find at any natural health store or at markets throughout the summer!

Olive oil – soothing to the skin and a great carrier oil for using essential oils. Coconut oil is also a favourite. Use about a 1/4 cup combined with 6-10 drops of the essential oil. Essential oils are highly concentrated and should not be used directly on the skin. There are so many essential oils of benefit to keep in your home, these are my top 3:

Tea Tree Oil: antibiotic, anti fungal, antiseptic and antiviral

Eucalyptus: antibiotic, analgesic (pain relieving), antiseptic, and anti-inflammatory 

Lavender: antiseptic, antibiotic, analgesic, antiviral, anti fungal, antidepressant, healing, and sedating

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