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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Stay Hydrated In The Heat! My Best Tips

Your body is approximately 80% water, and it requires an on-going supply to stay hydrated, especially in the warmer months when we perspire more. Water contributes to our cellular composition, and is essential to flush toxins out of our body at all times, but especially during a cleanse.  Drink a minimum of 5-6 8 oz glasses per day of pure water, and clear fluids such as herbal teas, broths, and diluted juices.

Beware of fluids that further dehydrate your body such as caffeine, sodas, and alcohol. If you simply cannot give them up, make it a routine to counter your cup of coffee or tea with a glass of water when you’re done.

I always recommend keeping water in various places so that it’s easily accessible and will subtly remind you – a glass in various rooms in your home, a bottle in the car, at your desk.

When at home, I often pour a glass and carry it with me to whatever room I am going to and then leave it there, and before I start my day in my practice I strategically place glasses of water in the various places I know I will be in.

If you’re not fond of plain water try adding fresh herbs or fruit to it! Recently at an event we made “spa water” and filled a beautiful glass pitcher with grapes, strawberries, and orange slices. The water became lightly flavored and it certainly looked lovely!  

Other combinations I have tried are:

~ lemon slices and a few springs of fresh rosemary

~ lime slices and fresh mint

~ cucumber slices

~ green apple and ginger

Experiment and create your own!

Herbal teas are delicious and can be highly nutritious depending on the blend. They can be consumed hot or cold. Avoid black teas or excessive amounts of green tea which has some caffeine in it.

Fresh fruit and vegetable juices are great too!

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Get Connected! Why Relationships Are Important For Your Health

We are innately social beings and we all long for connection with others. Relationships bring joy, laughter, and often empathy to our lives, but more than just fun times, studies have shown that friendships help us live better and even longer!

A Harvard study found that physical impairments were less likely to develop in those who have many friends. In fact the results were so significant, the researchers concluded that not having close friends or confidantes was as detrimental to your health as smoking or carrying extra weight! Another group of researchers found that people who had no friends increased their risk of death, while those who had the most friends cut their risk by more than 60%!

When our lives get hectic social time seems the first thing to be cut out, but that’s exactly when we need it the most.

Make time for the friendships you have, but be open to meeting new people too. Considering joining a club or picking up a new hobby.  Explore your interests and find others who share them, chances are you will have more in common than you might initially think!  Random encounters with people we cross paths with can bloom into the most rewarding relationships, but you have to start with being open to meeting others and the possibility of a new friendship starting.  Whether its in your work environment, grocery stores, banks, gas stations, coffee shops, schools, airports – anywhere your life takes you, be it within your own community or out in the great big world, there are plenty of people for you to connect with. 

It sounds terribly cliché, but when you are nice to people they are generally nice back, and you can also meet some very interesting people who just may become your friends. 

So go ahead! Smile at a stranger. Offer a helping hand. Have a random conversation. Chances are you’ll both benefit!  Surround yourself with people who are happy and have a strong sense of purpose. 

The more social connections we have, the better one’s overall health. Check out the video on this topic here

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Quick, Easy & Delicious Meal For Anytime of Day!

I’ve started doing some food demonstrations at the Collingwood Downtown Farmer’s Market, and the first one was a success!

Our focus is to highlight ingredients that can be found at the market, and how simple it can be to create a nutritious and delicious meal using local produce. Other scheduled days I will be there include July 7, July 21, August 18 and September 15.

 

This past Saturday I shared my favourite go-to recipe, here it is!

Dr. Melissa’s Anytime Salad

The great thing about this salad is that you really can make it anytime for any occasion using whatever local, seasonal produce is available. Be sure to choose a variety of colourful vegetables, mix up the type of protein, and try any combination of oils and vinegar that appeals to you. The possibilities to enjoy this healthy salad with different ingredients is endless!

1 Cup/handful of greens (your choice: kale, spinach, chard, beet greens, salad mix)

3/4 cup protein (ie. beans, chopped chicken/turkey/steak, hard boiled eggs, tuna, salmon,

3/4 cup assorted chopped seasonal vegetables

Dressing:

2 TBSP  Tuscan Herb Olive Oil (Collingwood Olive Oil Company)

2 TBSP Sicilian Lemon White Balsamic Vinegar (COOC)

Pinch sea salt, ground black pepper to taste

*use a 50/50 ratio for your olive oil & balsamic, and use any combination you like!

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Emotional Stress & Your Spine

Stress comes up almost everyday in my practice, not only in what people share with me but in what I observe in their body even if they don’t say a thing. There are three different types of stress –  physical, chemical & emotional. All three types of stress affect your nervous system, but whenever I ask people which one has the greatest impact on their health, the answer is always the same: emotional stress! So it’s an important one to understand and try and find solutions for, although certainly not easy.

How does emotional stress create stress in the spine?

An emotional event or trigger happens -> Brain perceives and recognizes it -> Creates a stress response -> Creates muscle tension   -> Pulls your spinal joints out of alignment -> disrupts healthy flow of signals going to and from your brain and regulating all your body.

Chronic emotional stress causes:

  • chronic muscle tension
  • chronic increase in cortisol and adrenalin (stress hormones)
  • increased stimulation of your sympathetic nervous system
  • decreased overall nervous system function
  • decreased immunity

Why is emotional health important to me as a Chiropractor?

Quite simply, because I care about the wellbeing of people in my practice! Clinically though, if there is emotional strain causing stress in the body, which as noted above affects your spine, nervous system and muscles, and we don’t get to the cause and find a solution, we may be missing part of what you need to fully heal.

The heart of my clinical approach is not just responding to the symptoms that your body is creating, it’s also addressing the cause of the problem. For some people this involves changing their ergonomics or a repetitive strain caused by work or athletics. In other cases there is an underlying food intolerance causing inflammation. Most people have some type of emotional stress in their lives, and this conversation comes up consistently.

We might not be able to change some of the circumstances we face, but we can always change our perspective and how we respond. Our brain has to perceive something as stressful in order for our physiology to change, so if we don’t THINK something is stressful, it won’t affect us negatively.

Check out these blog posts with some of my top recommendations on how to change your perspective when dealing with stress so that it doesn’t affect your body negatively:

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

https://drmelissa.ca/2017/09/practicing-gratitude/

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I Love Shoes, But Barefoot is Best!

One day a fews years ago while I was adjusting on a regular afternoon, my shoes were hurting my feet, so I took them off. After adjusting a few people, however, I was, almost instantly, converted. I felt stronger, more sure on my feet, grounded. More purposeful and connected with each adjustment. So I started doing a little research.

I asked some colleagues and was not surprised to find that many of them also adjust barefoot – the simple answer when I asked why? It’s more natural and the way we were designed! I was also surprised to learn so many people in my practice prefer being barefoot, finding it more comfortable on a regular basis.

Many health experts agree that bare is the healthiest state for your feet to be in. Most shoes have no relation at all to the natural shape of the human foot. It’s also been argued that most adult foot trouble would not exist if properly shaped shoes, or better yet, no shoes at all had been used during childhood.

What are the some of the benefits?

– natural shaped feet, including straighter toes free of corns, hammer toes, bunions and callouses in the wrong places

– well shaped legs resulting from a natural and balanced gait.

– a more natural motion, free of weight brought on by shoes

– prevention of blisters, ingrown toenails, and plantar warts – better posture & spinal health!

It’s also been suggested that people who are barefoot tend to be less stressed and authoritative, leading to a more relaxed environment at both home and work. Many cultures believe that the positive energy of the earth, known as chi, prana, is absorbed through the soles of the feet. When you are walking barefoot your body is absorbing this positive energy, allowing you to think more clearly.

AND…there is evidence that the natural motion of barefoot positively affects brain function!!!
Other than the spine, the foot is the region of the body which contains the most proprioceptive sensory receptors, the distinctive nerve circuits that help your brain know where your body is in relation to the space around you. With this abundance of sensory information, the natural unrestricted movement of the feet is vital for overall neurological health!

Given all these benefits, kick those shoes off! Don’t be surprised if you find me barefoot in the office too!

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3 Tips For Your Next Airplane Trip

I love travelling and exploring new places, but getting to the destinations can sometimes be tough on our bodies! Keep these tips in mind on your next trip:

Use Your Waiting Time: There’s plenty of time waiting while travelling, use this time to walk around the airport or do some stretches instead of sitting the whole time, you’ll be sitting long enough while on the airplane! While you’re in your airplane seat, try doing some neck stretches, shoulder shrugs, or ankle rolls to increase circulation and joint movement which is always a good thing. Get up out of your seat too! Take a few extra minutes when you use the bathroom to do a few stretches while you’re standing there. If you’re worried about getting any funny looks, get over that. Chances are you’ll strike up a conversation and get them moving too.

Put Your Feet Up:  Sitting for long periods can cause fluid build up in your legs which can lead to muscle soreness and even blood clots. As soon as you reach your destination lie down on the bed or floor and prop your legs up on the wall or headboard for 15 min. This will help drain the fluid and reduce the swelling.

Move Your Body: Once you reach your destination, hit the gym, get out for a walk, or go for a swim. You might not feel like it if you’re tired and sluggish from travelling, but it will make a huge difference in how you feel. Moving your body will help feed oxygen to your brain and muscles after spending hours in care or plane. Your energy and mood will likely improve quickly too 🙂

If you are visiting and sightseeing, look for programs or tours that incorporate moving  your body. Last year in Chicago we had a ton of fun on a bike tour through the downtown streets and waterfront, and loved how much we learned in the process. Most destinations will offer something similar!

These ideas always work for me, and if you choose at least one of them on your next trip you’ll be pleasantly surprised at how much better you feel once you reach your final destination. Happy travels!

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Challenge Your Brain & Get Smarter!

Your brain is the most amazing and important muscle in your body and has the same requirements to stay strong and healthy – to keep building it you need to challenge it!

Your brain has the ability to constantly grow and change. It can grow new neurons, make new connections, and even learn to inhibit dysfunctional pathways that don’t serve you (such as cravings, addictions, negative thought patterns, hyperactivity, poor memory or concentration, etc.)  It’s a huge topic, but for now let’s just focus on ways to boost it with challenge and activity.

Giving your brain new experiences helps it form new nerve pathways necessary for that activity, particularly if its something you have not done before. Trying new activities is powerful for your brain because doing so stimulates brain centres that have been dormant, or helps create entirely new pathways to complete the task at hand. Your brain is an amazing machine that can adapt to new processes and challenges, you just need to give it the experiences to do so! If you have children in your life, they are some of the best companions with their eagerness and love of adult attention.

Consider trying some of these activities on a regular basis:

  • Learn a new language
  • Do mind games (sudoko, word scrambles, brain teasers)
  • Try a new sport (builds coordination, precise muscle control, memory, strategy, plus increases blood flow to your brain!)
  • Read a book
  • Pursue something creative (painting, photography, sculpture etc.)
  • Try a new instrument (or play one you know), sing, dance
  • Learn to build models
  • Play board games or work on a puzzle

There are unlimited ideas, these are just a few. Like moving your body, it doesn’t matter what you do, just do something that will engage or challenge your brain. Choosing something you find intriguing or joyful will strengthen your resolve to keep doing it…but remember you might not know you enjoy a new activity until you try it!

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Can Adjustments Strengthen Your Brain Function?

Chiropractic strengthens your body in so many ways, but could there be anything more powerful than being able to strengthen your brain?

Check out this study*: 30 subjects received 4 weeks of chiropractic adjustments compared to 10 control subjects. The brain activity was measured by a computer generated and scored test called Microcog. This program tested attention control, memory, calculation, and general brain functioning.

All 30 subjects demonstrated significant improvements in all areas of brain function while the control group displayed no changes.

Restoring healthy joint function does more than relieve your back pain, neck pain, headaches, joint pain, or whatever symptom brings people initially into the practice. It’s the same reason people consistently tell me how once getting adjusted their digestion is better, their breathing improves, they are sleeping better, and feeling calmer.

Consistent chiropractic care supports your health because it restores the connection between the vital intelligence that runs your entire body – the one between your brain and the rest of your body! When this internal power is turned on your body will function and feel the way it was designed to. It’s the simple (and yet very complex!) way your body is designed, and 16 years in practice I never tire of witnessing the healing I observe with the people I work with when proper internal function is restored.

Chiropractic is the largest and most established profession within the new wellness industry. Not just for the sick, wounded and stressed, Chiropractic care can help you thrive physically and mentally.

~ Dr.Melissa

*Kessinger, R. Boneva D.  Neurocognitive Function and the Upper Cervical Spine. CRJ 1996;6:88-89

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