How Do I Explain Chiropractic To A Stranger?

Recently I was interviewed on a Facebook live show about health and wellness and this question came up, and it’s actually something I encounter frequently! I may be at a social event, public talk I’m giving, or even just waiting in line at the grocery store!

As much as I love to talk about all the other health benefits with Chiropractic, improving movement and body mechanics is something that most people can understand. Usually, the conversation starts with movement, and how spinal care improves function and mobility while also reducing inflammation and pain.

As a Chiropractor my role is to assess the alignment and movement of the spine and all related joints to ensure that the body is moving the way it was designed to. If there are any imbalances, then I correct them with specific chiropractic adjustments and provide lifestyle recommendations to support ongoing healing and minimize the recurrence of problems. The results are incredible.

With segmental spinal adjustments you get improved movement, less inflammation, less pain, but also the stress on your entire system is reduced because of the changes within your brain that occur with every adjustment. This is Powerful! With proper spinal joint movement pathways to your brain are also stimulated, resulting in better function of every single cell in your body. (You can read more about the effects on the brain in this post, or this one!)

With Chiropractic care movement and mobility improves quickly, but so do many other functions within the body. It’s not uncommon for people to tell me they are sleeping better, have improved digestion and elimination, are thinking more clearly, and are feeling like they have more energy.

Ready to consider Chiropractic for your family? Reach out. I’m happy to have this conversation with you in person 🙂  Book your consultation here

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What Should You Eat?

Sometimes I forget how much my own lifestyle and the food I choose has changed over the years, and that for many people there is still such confusion about what a ‘healthy’ diet is.

I get it, with so many diet fads, weight loss trends, and constant new research it CAN be confusing. Not to mention the fact that every human being has their own biochemistry, deals with stress, and may have some toxicity in their body, so some ‘healthy’ foods may be problematic for one person and great for another.

 

My observation is that many people are typically over fed and undernourished, consuming calories, and sometimes too many, that don’t really provide cells with what they need to thrive.

I’ll often work with people in my practice on their foods, helping them make some changes in support of better health, and the first step is always this one:

Choose REAL food, and avoid processed and packaged food. This means Plants (vegetables!), local meats, seasonal fruits, and healthy fats.

It’s super simple. If you start with this, you can’t go wrong. You’ll give your body food that is nutritious and not full of added sugar, salt, artificial ingredients, colours or preservatives.

Shop at local markets, buy from farmers as much as you can.

Choose organic as much as possible.

Prepare your own meals.

Do I have an opinion on other diets? Sure do. I’ll often recommend different programs or books for different people in my practice depending on their situation, but most people just need to get back to eating real food.

Today you can start with these simple guidelines, and when you’re ready or feel like you have a different health goal or maybe a health challenge to overcome, reach out and we can find something that might be more suitable for you.

As I tell the kids in my practice “Junk food makes junk bodies!”

Choose to give your body what it really needs and you’ll never look back. Your energy will improve, you’ll sleep better, likely you’ll lose weight and start to want to make other positive steps toward a healthier lifestyle.

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Can Chiropractic Help With Breastfeeding Challenges?

I’m a huge proponent of breastfeeding. It’s nature’s perfect food for a growing child, and benefits the mother and child in so many ways. What’s always been interesting to me though, is that for something so natural to human development, it doesn’t always come easy. Many women in my practice have struggled with breastfeeding, and with my two sons I think I dealt with every challenge known! Still I was able to breastfeed them both until they were almost 2, and can easily say I had a great experience with it overall.

One of the reasons infants might not be able to nurse effectively is because they cannot easily turn their head or open their mouth equally on both sides. The great news it that this is easily remedied with gentle care from a Pediatric Chiropractor.

Do you notice your child fusses more with one breast more than the other?

Seems to pull off the breast or you can feel their latch is not as strong on both breasts evenly?

Do you find you have to adjust their position when feeding them on one breast?

Do they still seem hungry after feeding them on one side more often?

If you can answer yes to any of these questions, consider Chiropractic care. It may be that a few adjustments are all that is needed to help your child reap all the benefits of breastfeeding for as long as you both choose it.

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How Does Stress Affect Your Spine?

Rarely a day passes in my practice without the topic of stress coming up. Sometimes people share what’s on their mind, other times I can just tell by what I observe in their body and the changes in their spine.

People think I have super powers, and I have been called ‘magical’ at times, but after a few laughs I always remind people that it’s a more scientific than that.

How Does The Body Adapt To Stress?

The body is an amazing organism with a built-in system to help us adapt to something our brain perceives as stress. Regardless of what the stress is (this can be rushing your children out the door to school, driving in poor weather, trying to meet work deadlines, an argument with your partner, or anything!)  our body always responds to stress the same way: muscles tighten, cortisol is released, organs react, tissues deteriorate, and the body starts to break down! This process will first cause dis-ease (lack of function and harmony in the body), then dysfunction, then symptoms, then illness, which is what I observe clinically.

Why does this matter to me as a Chiropractor?

Because stress affects the spine!

Spinal subluxations are caused by STRESS – physical, chemical and mental/emotional. If we only address the subluxations with adjustments, we might not be addressing the real cause of the problems with your health. It would be like chasing the effects of stress on your body, rather than really dealing with the cause. My observation in the past 16 years has been that the choices people make outside the practice (exercise, nutrition, sleep, good relationships, positive thinking, hydration etc.) have a huge impact of the results they will obtain with chiropractic care.

It’s Better To Adjust The Cause, Rather Than Treat The Effects

Finding the cause of stress in your body and helping you make positive changes is part of my goal with each person in my practice. At THRIVE my mission is to help people do just that – THRIVE! In all aspects of their health and life. This is why there are so many other opportunities to improve your health in this practice that complement spinal care. It’s this type of holistic care that helps people I work with make longer lasting changes to their health.

Attend a workshops, join one of our group programs, borrow a book from our library, watch the videos, take responsibility for your health and empower yourself with more information.

You deserve to stress less, and feel and function your best. Your body is always either moving closer to dis-ease or closer to pure health, and this is largely dictated by your lifestyle choices you make every single day.

Are you doing everything that you can? We are here to help. Check this other blog posts too:

https://drmelissa.ca/2016/02/living-with-a-happy-heart/

 

Check out our upcoming boost your brain and body event October

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4 Ways To Stress-Less About Your Child’s Lunch

It wasn’t too long ago when I was making lunches for my sons, and able to control the majority of food and beverages that they put into their bodies. At 16 and 12, it’s a little different now.

Whole foods, locally grown and in season are great starting points for family health. However, trying to combine healthy choices with the preferences of your child, and potentially the influences of other children can be a challenge for many parents. I’ve been there too. As a health professional I found it especially challenging because much of my work relates to building health in the body, and with everything that I know it’s been hard at times to not get fanatical about food!

 

Here’s what I learned, and what I still do with my sons:

Get your children involved. When my sons were younger they always came to the farmers market with me, we visited local farms, had our own plot at a community garden for a few years, and they’ve always been in the kitchen with me cooking. Now I give them a list of food to prep for dinner the nights I’m busy in practice, and they are actively involved in choosing meals for the week. I doubt they would have this appreciation for food had we not spent hours together when they were younger.

Start Early. I often joke with my sons that at least I was able to make sure their food was super nutritious in their earlier years when their brain was rapidly growing! Offer your baby, toddler, and child an abundance of healthy food and they will grow into healthy kids with an appreciation for healthy food.

Model good choices.  You can’t expect your children to choose vegetables, fruit, lean protein, good fats, if they never see you eating them! Your children might not always eat the meals you prepare (been there) but they are always watching and learning. Lead the way as the adult and stay consistent as much as possible. If you are going to indulge on occasion (and yes you should) talk to them about balancing healthy options.

Which leads me to my last point…

RELAX about it. Consider your child’s food intake for the whole day. Most of you are familiar with my 80/20 approach to a healthy diet – make 80% good choices and leave 20% for items that “have no nutritional value but taste good”. My boys lunches include a fruit, vegetable, sandwich/main of some type and then some kind of packaged, processed item that their grandmother buys them! They understand the importance of good food, but I have learned to focus on feeding them a solid breakfast and dinner, and loosened up about that middle meal. If you focus on the quality of their other meals during the day, and over the whole week, you can safely oblige their tastes for school lunches and still feel you are providing them with the solid nutrition for growing minds and bodies

Looking for a little inspiration? Take a look at some of the books in the practice lending library, and take one home to borrow.

This is also a topic at our Healthy Families Collingwood monthly gathering! This Saturday September 27, 10-11:30am. Join me for coffee and a conversation with other families about helping your children have a successful school year.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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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