Ice Or Heat? What’s Best?

The best answer to this common question is “It depends on your injury”.  

Inflammation is part of the body’s natural healing response and is actually a positive reaction. With any injury, tissues are damaged, and your body adapts by sending more blood to the injury site. With this increased blood supply, inflammatory cells such as leukocytes and macrophages get to work releasing proteins which clean up and heal the injured site. The area is tender and sore, (which is a reminder for you to be gentle using it!) but your body is effectively trying to repair the damaged area. Keep in mind though, inflammation and pain is your body’s way of telling you to stop and take action. The purpose of inflammation needs to be respected because essentially it is a protective response from the body to prevent you from doing further damage to yourself.

When you apply ice to an injury, the blood vessels constrict, temporarily limiting the blood flow to the injured site. The cold temperature inhibits the pain response, so although ice can often provided some pain relief, it can also delay healing.

When you apply heat to an area, the blood flow increases which can help deliver more oxygen and nutrients to a more chronic problem and support healing. However, for this reason, too much heat can also contribute to further inflammation. Applying heat can help with muscle aches, pains and general stiffness but should never be applied to a new injury or an area that is painful or swollen

So what should you do?

Again, it depends on the injury. If you have a new injury such as a strain or sprain, and you feel you need some pain relief, applying an ice pack is a good option to provide temporary relief (certainly what I recommend more than taking a muscle relaxant or ibuprofen) and it will help the healing process.

Keep these tips in mind:

  • Choose a chemical ice pack, bag of frozen vegetables, ziploc bag with ice cubes in it, and protect your skin by placing clothing or towel between you and the pack
  • 10min on/10min off cycles throughout the day (NOT consistently, your body needs breaks to effectively use the therapeutic benefits. When you apply ice to the injured area you will either feel relief or mild discomfort due to the cold. Often the sensations you feel with icing is pain-tingling-numbness. Once the ice is removed at the 10 minute mark, the area should be numb. The body will then react to re-warm the area with gentle blood flow to supply the tissues with oxygen and nutrients. This reaction will not occur if the ice is left on too long.
  • Ideally ice should be applied as soon as possible after injury, and in cycles for the first 72 hours of acute trauma.

Remember, the body knows best! As far as healing goes it’s best to let inflammation run its course.   This will take time, perhaps even longer than you would like, but ultimately you will be rewarded with improved and more complete recovery.

Bumbos & Jolly Jumpers – Are They Good For Your Child?

As much as I am a believer that what your child really needs is you, food, clothing, shelter, and your love and attention (and not all kinds of fancy contraptions), but I remember my sons early years and there are certainly some contraptions that can make your life as a parent a little easier! However, when it comes to using baby gear, we want to ensure is that they are in fact offering benefit and not creating any harm. Considering these suggestions can ensure your wee one grows healthy, strong, and straight!

Before you read any further, I suggest you read this post about the basics of infant development, it will help you understand your baby’s growth and make better choices for using all types of baby gear.

Bumbo – I find these highly useful, but only for a very short period of time.  When I’m adjusting infants it can be convenient to have them sit in these little seats, and surely parents find them helpful at home too, especially when starting to introduce foods.  This is an important timing consideration: when infants are ready to start solid foods, typically around 6 months, they are often ready to start sitting on their own too, and this is precisely when a bumbo seat can be useful, once they have started to exhibit signs of sitting independently.

If you rush this, and place your child in a seated position before they are  able to sit on their own, it can impede the development of  necessary muscle tone for sitting, creeping and crawling.  Many babies will develop bottom scooting (not ideal) to try and get where they want to go, which is not good for joints or development of lower body and torso tone.

Children are unique, so it’s important to watch your child! Once they have started to sit with some assistance (4.5-6 months) it’s ok to use a supportive device like a bumbo, but I don’t recommend them before that milestone.   

Jolly Jumpers Placing infants in an upright position before they have gained the strength in their core, hips and legs to do so on their own can lead to instability within the spine and hip joints. This is main reason why the majority of Pediatric Chiropractors do not recommend infants be placed in jolly jumpers prior to this developmental stage, if at all. The premature stress they place on the hip joint can lead to problems in the spine and nervous system later in life – many of which we see in our practices and need to correct!

Now if you think jolly jumpers are the most fantastic thing in the world, we encourage you to either wait until they can hold their head up and have complete neck support; or even better, consider waiting until they are crawling until introducing them. Remember that children should be no heavier than 28 lbs when in these devices, they must be securely attached as per the product guidelines, and infants should certainly never be left unattended while in them.

Giving Your Child A Competitive Advantage in Sports

Many athletes I care for initially seek injury rehabilitation when they come in, but soon discover the benefits of chiropractic spinal adjustments to support their performance, not only in the sport endeavours but also in their everyday lives. I love the work I do because on a daily basis I get to watch people surpass their physical goals because proper mechanics and posture are restored, joint mobility dramatically improves, and optimal neurological function returns with Chiropractic care.

Athletes of every skill level, in every sport, both male and female, and at every age benefit from increased stamina, strength, flexibility, coordination, agility, balance, position sense, and muscular power.  Combined these improvements help reduce overuse injuries, minimize the effects of repetitive strains, and maximize performance.

How is this possible?  I’d love to bore you with the details neurophysiology and the fascinating research, but I’ll keep it simple and leave you wit this statement from Roger Sperry, a Nobel prize winner for his work on brain research who I believe captures it best in this brief statement:

“90% of the stimulation and nutrition to the brain is generated by movement of the spine. The more structurally distorted we are, the less energy we have for metabolism, for healing and thinking.”

Given the improvement associated with spinal care, it’s not much of a surprise that professional athletes have a Chiropractor on their health team.  It’s also one of the top reasons people of all ages who are chasing their children around, want to be more comfortable  working or enjoying time with their loved ones include a Chiropractor on their personal health care team.

I often tell people I care for in my practice that my job is to help them expand their abilities to perform.  Spinal care is not just for when you are injured, it’s necessary to optimize your health in every possible way. Bodies with healthy spines perform better – in sporting events, recreational activities, and life!

5 Ways To Boost Your Baby’s Brain

Know the Developmental Milestones

The movement, behaviour and language your baby should ideally be demonstrating at different ages are called age-appropriate developmental milestones. Although I always remind parents that children are growing in different ways simultaneously (language, emotional awareness, motor skills, comprehension etc) and it’s important to avoid constantly comparing your child to others, knowing these kinds of milestones can be a useful guide to help ensure your infant’s brain is wiring and firing in an ideal manner, and whether to take action if your baby needs additional help.

 

Massage Your Baby

Massage time can be a great way for parents to connect with their child (especially dads!) but it also provides wonderful brain stimulation. Compared to other senses, an infants sense of touch is highly developed from the moment they are born, and touch is something they will always respond to. Alternate soft, all-over body massage with firmer pressure holds, working slowly down one arm, across the torso and down the opposite leg to the foot. Repeat this on both sides. This massage is great for calming the nervous system, particularly if your child is upset or over-stimulated when it is time for sleep. Read this post on how to do this with your child.

Give Them Sensory Experiences

Whenever possible, introduce new sensory experiences to your infant. Let them play with a range of objects which have different textures, temperatures or that make different sounds. As parents we sometimes joke that kids don’t need a ton of toys, everyday household objects often work just as well, and it’s true! Use the everyday world to excite their senses; have them run barefoot on the grass or sand, dip their fingers and toes in water, or play with rustling leaves. Let them play with your pots and pans, utensils, and other safe everyday household objects that won’t cause them any harm. Give them time to explore freely (but supervised!) so they can process the new sounds, textures and sights and integrate their next moves without any adult intervening and showing them what to do.

Minimize Your Child’s Exposure to Toxins

I first started thinking about toxins in my home when my oldest son started to crawl. Suddenly I was aware of everything he would start touching and putting in his mouth, and I knew there might be chemical irritants to his developing nervous system. Once I started changing our cleaning solutions, it became easier to continue making other small changes the more I learned. Pollutants in our modern environment—for example pesticides, heavy metals, herbicides and fumigants—have been linked to abnormalities in behaviour, perception, cognition, and motor ability during early childhood, even when exposure is at so-called harmless levels. Try to provide your child with a toxin-free environment. Educate yourself about the metals and harsh chemicals that are in the everyday products such as prescriptive and non-prescriptive drugs.

Have Your Baby’s Nervous System Checked!

To maximize your infant’s nerve function, have them assessed by a Chiropractor  skilled with children. Clinical studies indicate that rapid growth of the entire brain occurs during the first year of life. The Journal of Neuroscience (2008) states that, although the first year of life may be a period of developmental vulnerability it may also be a period in which therapeutic interventions would have the greatest positive effect. One of the reasons I love working with children is because they heal so fast! If you’re curious about how chiropractic might help your child book a complimentary visit to meet Dr. Melissa Longo and ask any questions you may have.

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.

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!

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.

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

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

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

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.

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.