Sleep Considerations For A Healthy Spine!

Sleep is the time during which your body can focus on the activities of growth and repair. My hope is that you are sleeping 7-8 hours, and that during this time your body is in fact healing and recharging, but the position you sleep in, the type of mattress and pillows that you use can do more harm than a good night’s rest! Let’s review some of the considerations for each of these:

Mattress

Without proper support of your spine while you are sleeping you can create strain on the muscles and ligaments, and cause the spinal joints to become irritated. If you wake up in the morning uncomfortable or with low back pain, but can stretch and get rid of it, likely the mattress is not right for you. In general, other types of back pain will stay consistent throughout the day, and will be affected by different types of movement and activity.

When shopping for a new mattress determine your budget and needs, then do your homework before you go to the store. There are different types of mattresses, such as inner spring, latex, or memory foam, and it can be helpful to understand the benefits of each before you start testing them out. There are concerns about the fibres or composition of some mattresses, environmental and toxicity concerns with some of them, so be sure to learn as much as you can so that you can make a choice you are comfortable with. Most stores have a good return policy, be sure to take it vantage of it if you’re not comfortable on it after a series of nights.

Pillows

The type and number of pillows you use will either support your neck and all the spinal joints, ligaments and muscles, or cause damage! Your head should always be in a neutral position if you are sleeping on your side or back. Problems arise when people either use too many or too few pillows: With too many pillows the neck can be too elevated, hyper-flexed and tilted upwards, with too little support (a really flat pillow) the neck can be tilted back too far. One pillow usually sufficient it should have enough fluffiness to give you comfort, but not stretch your neck too far up her too far down, right in the middle at neutral is best. Memory foam pillows are great because they will contour to your shape. A good pillow can be expensive but it’s worth the investment to find a pillow that’s best for you.

Which Position Is Best To Sleep In?

An easy answer for me here: Side, or back. Never on your stomach!
When you sleep on your stomach you need to rotate your head one direction, and when you stay in this position for 7-8 hours you will strain and stretch the muscles in your neck. When people tell me they wake up in the morning with muscle spasms, extreme tension, and lack of mobility it’s often because their head was twisted to one side all night log. Another concern with sleeping is the position of arms. When you sleep with your arm up over head, you’ll develop shoulder injuries due to the lack of circulation, and interestingly this position also causes the lumbar spied to become compressed. Both are problems for the spine!

Sleeping on your side or back is always preferable. If you feel this is uncomfortable or causes any strain (see your Chiropractor to correct the problem!) but you can also place a pillow between your legs, or under your knees to see if that helps.

If It’s Not Broken…

So many times when I speak with someone about what I do, they comment “I would hate to know what you’d find in my spine, it’s probably a mess!”.  This attitude still surprises me.

The attitude “if it’s not broken, why fix it” does not apply to the human body.

Some of the sickest people on this planet have no symptoms and “feel fine”. We all know people who seemed to be fine but then suddenly are diagnosed with a major illness. People who ‘suddenly’ have a heart attack, stroke, are told they have cancer.

Waiting for your body to give you symptoms is like waiting for a bomb to go off…everything is quiet until suddenly there is a huge impact.

I cannot tell you how illogical this seems to me, but I certainly didn’t always look at health this way.

Like many people, I too viewed things differently, only responding to challenges in my body with medications. Luckily, 20 years ago, a shoulder injury forced me to see a Chiropractor, and from that point on everything changed. Not only my own health, but my attitude about it.

The Chiropractic approach is just that – an approach to supporting your body from the inside-out in every way.  Giving the body what it needs from the top-down (neurological function from the brain through the spinal cord), as well as all the other ingredients necessary for optimal function….food, hydration, movement, love and social connections, sleep, purpose and passion!

Chiropractic is not just an adjustment or treatment for a symptom, it’s an approach to looking for the causes of problems in the body, rather than just reacting to them.

Waiting for something to happen before you take action often makes the healing take longer, and requires more investment of your time and resources.

People who choose to make chiropractic care a regular part of their life understand this, but they also see the profound changes in their health, and are more empowered to be in control of their body. It’s a beautiful thing to watch in my practice and something I will never tire of.

People often hear me say “health comes from choice, not by chance”. Choosing to honour your body and give it what it needs on a consistent basis is one of the wisest decisions you can ever make.

If you’re still struggling with some aspects of your health, ask for direction.

If I can’t help you, we’ll find someone who can.

Life is short. Give yourself the gift of better health so that you can live more fully.

– Dr. Melissa

Forget Resolutions, Why Not Set a WORD instead?

Anytime is a great time for making changes in your life, but there is something special about the start of a new year. Whether you feel you need to make some drastic changes, take a few small steps in a new direction, or simply get back into an established routine, commit to doing something  this month to live a better life. I’ve never found resolutions work, and I stopped setting them years ago. Instead, I love this concept and have been implementing consistently. Maybe this year you might want to give it a try!

Think about your aspirations – what do you want for the year ahead? Is there an overriding theme that comes to mind for you? Can you sum up your intentions in a single word? I bet you can.

A great word can set the tone for your actions and keep you focused.  A word can also serve as a reminder of what’s important when everyday  ‘life stuff’ frustrates us. For example, when my sons were young and I wasn’t in practice, my word was “Nurture”.  It reminded me of my focus on raising my sons and looking after myself.  It allowed me to accept that my career aspirations would be fulfilled at a later date, and that the little boys in my kitchen were simply more important for the time being. In other years the words “Grow”, “Balance” and “Focus” have worked well for me.

A great word sets your intention and will help manifest the people, places,  opportunities (and challenges!) to help you achieve your goals.  A good friend recently shared her story of using theme words during the past few years. “Abundance” was her focus at one time and she grew her business substantially. “Love” was her focus another year, and she met the man she married.  Metaphysics aside, what you focus on tends to happen!  The simple act of awareness can powerfully  keep you oriented towards actions that support your goals, and make you more likely to attract success.

Your ‘word’ might come to mind easily.  You may already have one that has been running through your thoughts repetitively, especially if you have set resolutions or goals for yourself. If not, carve out some time in your week to think about it. Sit quietly and reflect.   Journal if it helps you sort out your thoughts, or, on a blank sheet of paper simply write down words that depict your hopes and dreams for the year ahead. Something will pop out at you, or you may notice a pattern in the words you write down. Don’t over-think it!

Friends, colleagues, and people in my practice have shared their words with me for added support and accountability. Here’s some of their theme words to get you started:  Relate, Believe, Focus, Simplify, Build, Mindful, Refresh, Rejuvenate, and Fun.

Once you have your ‘word’ write it down where you can see it regularly. Use it as a password so you have to consciously think about it many times a day. Place post-it notes all over your home if you need to. Get creative and do what works for you – and share your ideas! I’ll tell you my word!

One word is easy to remember. Pick one for yourself and let it shape the months to come.

Set an intention for what you want 2017 to mean to you, choose a word to define it, make deliberate choices and take action! I’m here to help if you get stuck 😉

~ Dr Melissa

Holiday Fit Tips!

id-10065565There are lots of opportunities during the holiday season for indulgent foods, extra alcohol, and with the busier pace many people find themselves moving, workout routines can also slip away. However, this doesn’t have to be how you spend your December! You can celebrate, indulge and still feel good! 

These two tips might help you: 

Move Your Body Everyday – Physical activity makes every system in your body work better. Instead of taking a break from your exercise routine during the holiday season, keep it up! Or consider getting started! You don’t have to wait until January to resolve to get in better shape.  The fact is, exercise is simply something most people have to build into their lives, work into their schedules. You will always find something better to do with your time!(Trust me, I make excuses and procrastinate sometimes too! Ask my trainer!) Exercise helps relieve stress and prevents weight gain.  Moving your body will always give you a boost, even just a some stretching or a brisk walk will rejuvenate your body and mind.

Eat Regularly & Prepare for Outings – If you are going to  a party or dinner, don’t starve yourself all day in anticipation.  Doing so will  slow your metabolism, leave you ravenous and more likely to overeat later in the evening. Instead, eat small meals or snacks throughout the day and you’ll be less likely to overindulge when you are out. If you are planning on consuming alcohol be sure to increase your intake of water to compensate for the dehydrating effects.

Healthy holidays ARE possible. If you make a few small adjustments to your habits you’ll feel good throughout the season. If you need a few tips to maintain your emotional wellbeing read this blog post too! 

What’s Your Intention This Holiday Season?

id-10065565Set an intention.

But first, be realistic and consider:

What’s happening in your life these days? Where are your children or extended family in the current stage of their lives? Given their ages and interests, what do you want the holidays to look like for you?

Every year our lives are a little different, and it’s important to change our expectations accordingly.

Maybe you have a holiday planned, maybe there is someone in your family who having a tough time, maybe your grieving a loved one? Maybe there has been a change in your home or work life somehow?  Maybe your finances are more strained than usual?Depending on your reflection on these areas of your life and the people in it, you might want to adjust your plans and celebrate a little differently this year.

Decide what you want the holidays to mean, what your priorities are, and how you want feel? And then I want you to write it down.

Choose 3-5 words or perhaps write a brief statement or sentence, then put it somewhere you can see it. You can get creative with this! Make it look pretty or decorative if you like, but what really matters is that you will see it and be reminded of what you wrote. Whether you post it on your fridge, put it on your phone, or write it in a journal that you will look at every day, this is the most important step!

When you have an intention to refer to, it will help you make solid decisions about how you spend your time and money this holiday season. You’ll feel better about your choices because they will be more realistic with your current lifestyle, and this will ease your mind, and help you find more JOY (and less stress) holiday season.

Holiday Connections

ID-10067023We all need social connections, it’s part of our fundamental design as human beings, and research has also shown that having friendships supports our health! However, during the holiday season many people are ‘overstimulated‘, ‘overcommitted’, and ‘overwhelmed’ with too many events.  This can leave people feeling emotionally and mentally drained, and certainly getting  a lot less sleep than they would like! 

What can you do to avoid this? 

Be choosy about how you spend your social time. Be assertive and learn to say no to situations that will upset you.  Decline invitations (if you can do so without grossly offending the invitee) that create unnecessary emotional stress, or will simply burden your schedule and shortchange you of sleep. 

At the other end of the social spectrum is loneliness.  With changing family dynamics, different living arrangements, and simple geography for some people, many are left alone during the holidays.  If you feel lonely or isolated consider getting involved in different activities, volunteering your time at seniors homes, food banks or other organizations geared towards helping others. Reach out to people who may find themselves alone during the holiday season and consider including them in your plans. The rewards will be far greater than just the social stimulation.

You CAN celebrate, and still feel good in January! Make a few adjustments in your social calendar and you will enjoy the holiday season and start 2017 in good health.

Clear It Out With Chiropractic!

id-10090288I never knew once in practice I would get so many email, calls and texts from happy mothers who report that after their child’s adjustment their bowels were working better! We all know how uncomfortable constipation, diarrhea or any gastro intestinal dysfunction can be. There can me many causes of these ailments, such as food sensitivities, dehydration, stress, food poisoning…lack of movement within the spine and nervous system!

Chiropractic isn’t a ‘cure’ for anything, but rather a way to support the body so that it can heal from within. When there are misalignments in the spine (subluxation), particularly in the lower spine where the nerves branch off the spinal cord and supply energy to the digestive organs, it will lead to dysfunction. When we restore proper joint movement through a chiropractic spinal adjustment, this also relieves tension within the nerves and allows them to function the way they were designed to. The colon works better, the heart works better, the lungs work better, your legs work better, and so does your brain, reproductive system and virtually every other part of your body!

If you’re struggling with digestive system complaints it’s time to take a look at the cause and start restoring proper function to your whole digestive tract. Chiropractic care will remove any structural imbalance, and then we can work at examining your diet, stress levels and making some other adjustments to your lifestyle so that your body can heal from the inside out.

 

A Wall Of Gratitude

img_2842We’ll celebrate Canadian Thanksgiving this weekend and are reminded to offer thanks for the ‘bounty’ in our lives; to reflect on the many blessings, and plant seeds for future prosperity.  Every year I encourage people in the practice to share something they are grateful for on our ‘wall of gratitude’ and it’s such a beautiful thing. It becomes so much more than just the act of writing the gratitude note, because when others read all the notes on the wall, they laugh, share a sentiment, and leave with a smile on their face.

Let’s remember that this holiday is not the only time we should be practicing gratitude.  It’s good for your health and something to be done on a daily basis!

Research shows the feelings associated with gratitude, appreciation, love and caring enhance health. When you find one thing, however small, to be thankful for and hold that feeling for as little as 15-20 seconds, many subtle and beneficial physiological changes take place inside you:

~ Levels of stress hormones cortisol and adrenalin decrease, supporting many organ systems and boosting your immune system

~ Coronary arteries relax, increasing the blood supply to your heart. Heart rhythms become more harmonious, affecting other organs and lifting your mood

~ Breathing becomes deeper, increasing the oxygen level of your tissues

People who regularly practice gratitude report higher levels of alertness, enthusiasm, determination, attentiveness and energy when compared to those who do not.

“A Man becomes what he thinks about all day long.”~ Ralph Waldo Emmerson

What you dwell upon expands. If you focus on what you don’t have, that’s all you will see. Focusing your thoughts on victories instead of defeats will help you develop an attitude of gratitude and a greater sense of self-worth.

Make gratitude part of your life by adopting more thankful thoughts or making the time to write them down. A powerful exercise is the use of gratitude journal to reflect on day-to-day success, or simply take a few minutes to think of 5 things you are grateful for in your life.  My sons and I do this at dinner every night. They aren’t always so eager to comply, but I won’t let them eat until they each share at least 3 things they are grateful for so that usually gets the conversation started!

Before you exit this post, right now, take a couple deep breaths and think of 5 things you are grateful for. Once you start thinking about it, a funny thing happens, often you won’t stop at just 5….

Get In Your Garden!

Finally the weather is warming up and many people are getting ready to get their hands in the dirt to plant some seedlings, flowers and have some fun in their garden! Working outdoors in your garden and yard is a great form of physical activity, even better if it’s something you are passionate about. However every year people come into the practice because they have inevitably irritated their body or  strained a muscle somehow! To protect your body and avoid injury, consider some of these tips when stepping out to get your garden started this season:

  1. While mowing the lawn, keep your head up and stand directly behind the mower so you can keep your hips and shoulders in line with your spine. Push the mower uphill rather than pulling. Always use both hands rather pushing  or twisting with one.
  2. When working in the dirt, crouch down, sit on a stool, or squat instead of bending at the waist which can strain the joints in the low back.
  3. Bend your knees when lifting anything so that you can use the strength of your legs.
  4. Keep yard waste bags close to your body while lifting them. 
  5. Hold a rake with one hand at shoulder height, one hand at waist level and walk or drag the pile.

Most importantly, vary your tasks and take breaks when necessary.  Avoid staying in prolonged postures involving the lower back and neck.

Your best bet for protecting your back? Consider regular Chiropractic care! Waiting until symptoms appear before taking care of your body often can make the problems worse, ultimately causing them to take longer to heal. Chiropractors assess your posture and spinal joints to ensure they are moving properly and that your body is physically balanced. The results people experience from regular spinal care are profound, and the increases in their quality of life measurable….which allows you to keep playing in your garden or in any other hobby you enjoy! 

What Do Chiropractors Do When Our Children Are Sick?

It’s highly unlikely we’ll give them any medication or rush them to a walk-in clinic. Instead, we honour the innate wisdom of the body and it’s power to heal from the inside-out.

Each illness a child experiences helps to strengthen and enhance their natural immunity. Rather than suppress their symptoms we encourage the immune system to process the bacteria or virus as effectively as possible by supporting cellular function.

My sons are 12 and 8 years old, and have never had any medication whatsoever. Do they get sick sometimes? Of course they do, but at a much lower frequency than many of their peers. They eat really well, get plenty of rest, are active, happy, and get adjusted regularly!

When they get a cough, cold or some congestion, this is what I do:

– Adjustments to correct spinal subluxations to remove nerve interference (daily).

– Encourage added sleep and rest.

– Keep them home from school until they have no fever and their energy is back.

– Supplementation with vitamin C, vitamin D, and a high quality multi vitamin.

– Eliminate all refined sugars and dairy products from their diet, keep foods simple and nourishing.

– Offer increased fluids, nutrient-dense smoothies, and warm herbal teas.

– Mix some olive oil with a few drops of the essential oils of tea tree and eucalyptus, rub into their chest and under their collar bones to encourage drainage of the lymph glands in those regions.

– Offer natural raw honey to soothe the throat.

– Have them gargle with salt water (1/4 tsp sea salt with 1/2 cup water) to flush bacteria out of the mouth and to ease discomfort in the throat.

– Offer lots of love, comfort, and reassurance!

I’ve also found that illness is always a great teaching moment with them. Helping them understand how their bodies work, what is happening when they have a fever, and are coughing/sneezing, and what their body needs to feel and function well is a lesson that everyone needs!

This approach has never failed us, and I am confident that their developing brains and bodies are stronger for it.  Next time your children are ill, consider supporting their body naturally, and working with health professionals who can help you along the way.