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:

http://Happy Hearts, Healthy People


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!

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! Read! Read! 
    • 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!

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

Make Time To Play!

Life is for living! Are you having fun?

Recreation is defined in the dictionary as “refreshment of one’s mind or body after work through activity that amuses or stimulates play; activity that refreshes and recreates or activity that renews your health and spirits by enjoyment and relaxation.”  We all need time to re-energize and refocus.

When was the last time you did something spontaneous and fun? Do your hobbies make your heart smile? I love being on my mountain bike in the warm months because I feel like a 10-year old every time – even more so when my friends and I put backpacks on and head to the beach! My sons also keep ‘play’ in my life because much of our time together is spent doing so! As they are grow older and their interests change, I’m gaining opportunities to try new activities, which is always bound to make us all laugh! Children are a great reminder for all of us to make time for fun, and often provide us ample chances if we indulge ourselves. I’m going to challenge you to do so!   

Recently someone in my practice noticed all the silly faces the children in my practice on the wall, and she commented that adults seem to lose some of that ability to be silly, and that so many people lose their sense of fun because they care too much what others will think. Perhaps it’s because as adults we can easily get weighed down with responsibilities and lack the time. The good news is we can always reroute and make some changes in support of more balance in our lives. We can choose to prioritize time for fun knowing it’s a step in the direction of better health. Enjoying an activity, time to yourself or connecting with friends, moving your body…are all important parts of a healthy lifestyle.

Time for recreation and play is time worth spent to make the rest of your life more productive, and all your relationships better, including the one you have with yourself.

Making adjustments part of your life is a step towards ensuring you will be able to ‘play’ and enjoy a great quality of life, without being stopped by problems in your body!

This month I challenge you to get out and PLAY more!

~Dr. Melissa

By the way, healthy joints need to move to constantly nourish and cleanse themselves, and exercise is what is needed!  All physical activity supports the body physically, but recreational pursuits are the perfect way to combine fitness with fun.

If aches and pains are stopping you let me know and let’s figure out what’s causing the problem.

If someone you care about is limited in their ability to pursue hobbies, sports or leisure activities, tell them about chiropractic and let’s get them feeling better! We have a huge network of doctors and can easily find a suitable referral for them if they don’t live close by.

How Do I Manage Illness In My Family?

My sons are 15 and 11 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. People often ask me what our ‘secret’ is, and I’m happy to divulge it: They eat really well, get plenty of rest, are active, happy, and get adjusted regularly!

If they develop symptoms that there body is dealing with a bacteria or virus, we honour the innate wisdom of the body and it’s power to heal from the inside-out, and support their own ability to heal. 

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

When they get a cough, cold, or some congestion, in addition to spinal adjustments to support their immune system, here are some other practices I use:

  • 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/coconut 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 1/2c 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! 

Although we have a great team of  doctors to call on if needed, this approach has never failed us, and they have often been back feeling themselves in no time at all.  I’m also confident 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 your body recover from the inside-out. 

Disclaimer: Chiropractic care supports overall health and healing, but is not a cure or treatment for colds and flu.

Balance, Agility & Chiropractic

I’m fortunate to see a variety of people in my practice, including many athletes! Whether it’s just people who want to enjoy an active lifestyle and recreational activities, or highly competitive athletes looking to improve their performance or recover from injuries, I love hearing about their goals and accomplishments.

Many professional athletes have a chiropractor on their sport team, and it’s not just because it helps them stay mobile, prevent injuries, or recover. Many athletes (and many people who have no sports or athletic interest whatsoever!) choose chiropractic because it helps them perform better.


Check out this study: 

Researchers had two groups: Asymptomatic athletes with no acute or chronic injuries were given chiropractic care based on their own clinical findings, and a second group who were athletes, but were the ‘control group’ and were not provided any spinal care.  Both groups were given training exercises.

Researchers measured changes in agility, balance, touch perception, power, and speed, reactions after six weeks of chiropractic care then again at 12 weeks. After 6 weeks they found 10.5% improvement in the chiropractic group, compared to 4% improvement in the control. After 12 weeks their evaluation showed a further 16.7% improvement in the chiropractic group compared to the control group.  The authors concluded that correction of spinal subluxation enables the body to function and perform at a higher level.

Think about where in your day to day life could improved balance and agility help you? Whether you are training for something specific, or just training for life (like me!) remember that a healthy spine and a nervous system that is operating with maximized function is a key component!

Are You Dealing With ‘Text Neck’?

The newest injury that we are seeing as Chiropractors is something that many of you can likely relate to! Even some of the youngest members of my practice!

What is text neck? It’s soreness, pain, lack of mobility in the neck and associated muscles caused by the repetitive motion position that is happening because people are hunched forward while using mobile devices.  Poor posture affects all areas of the body, you can read more about why this happens in this blog post here.

Like other overuse or spinal injuries, if left untreated repetitive strains within the vertebrae in the neck can lead to degeneration, which then leads to a worsening of symptoms such as numbness, tingling and weakness in the hands, wrists and fingers,  increased pain, lack of mobility, and stiffness.

Research from the Journal of Ergonomics indicates that texting can be worse than other smart phone tasks (gaming, reading, internet browsing) because the angel of head tilt tends to be more extreme. They also studied whether there was a difference when subjects were standing or sitting, and concluded that text messaging while sitting was the worst position for neck injury.

You might be thinking ‘what’s the big deal? I look down much of the day doing other tasks as well!’.  This might be true depending on your daily activities, however, what’s common is that when people are using their mobile devices than tend to be on them for a more prolonged periods without moving, which is what complicates things. While holding a phone in front of you are also activating many muscles in your upper neck, back and shoulders while looking down, and although your body is designed to perform this movement, again it’s the prolonged length of time in one position that creates the additional strain.

Staying in this position consistently throughout the day affects your overall posture, other joints, and even your lung capacity and the function of other organs!  Take a minute to think about your posture when you are looking at your phone using this example:

Think of your head as a bowling ball, which weighs 8-12 lbs. Where that bowling ball should be placed on your body for maximum function and the least amount of physical stress is exactly where it was designed to go – above your shoulders. If this bowling ball starts to roll forward (and remember, it’s heavy!) the angle at which it’s on top of the shoulders changes, and with this slight change in angle the pressure and weight does not stay the same, it gets magnified. This places more strain on the muscles in the upper back.

So what can you do?

  1. Raise the phone up when you are looking at it. Change your positions if you are planning on using your device for a prolonged period of time (stand, sit, lie down).
  2.  Take frequent breaks – this is good for both physical and mental reasons!
  3. Give yourself ‘rules’ around phone use (ie. when you will turn it off) . This will affect your body and mind in other ways too, and likely increase how present you are with the people around you. You’ll also be less distracted, more productive, and most people find they are happier when they are ‘less connected’.
  4. Stand up straight! Think ‘sternum up’ so that you naturally position your body in it’s natural posture.
  5. Integrate some neck stretches and mobility into your daily routines. For ideas how to fit in the time to stretch you can watch this video or  read this blog post.
  6. Stay fit! Strengthen your chest and upper back with any physical fitness routines.
  7. Get adjusted! See your Chiropractor to resolve any issues and keep a consistent schedule to help your body perform at its best.

What’s Your Word? Setting Your Intentions For The Year Ahead

I love the start of a new year! To me, it always feels like a chapter of my life is closing and a new one is beginning, and I love celebrating the successes of the past year, reflecting on the challenges, and building excitement about moving forward.  One thing I’ve realized as the years go on, is that no two are ever the same! As my sons grow older, the practice expands, I have new travel experiences or learning opportunities, life constantly evolves. There are always new things to celebrate, things we wish had never happened, and new things to look forward to. Perspective is powerful. You can’t change what life brings you, but you can always choose how you respond. Really, you can.

As you begin 2018 I encourage you to set aside a few moments to think about what you want most for this new year, and consider doing this exercise to help you shape what’s to come.  Rather than set resolutions try setting theme words for the year. A friend suggested this to me years ago, and I’ve been doing it consistently since. I started with 1 word, but for the past 3-4 years I’ve been choosing 3 instead.

Here’s how it works:

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? Or maybe 2-3? I bet you can. Choose a word(s) that can represent many different areas of your life

Why it’s effective:

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 (like now!) 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 as I was rebuilding my life and business.   A great word sets your intention and will help manifest the people, places, opportunities (and challenges!) to help you achieve your goals.  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!

~Dr. Melissa

Give Gifts of Experience

There are many ways to show affection and pamper the ones you love without purchasing ‘things’.  I’ve noticed many people choosing ‘experience gifts’ instead of tangible items consider giving someone you love the gift of time together or the experience of doing something they love.I’ve done this with my sons for the past 6 years and we’ve had many memorable times together such as going to Great Wolf Lodge, a trip to New York City, catching Raptors games, skating on the Rideau Canal (after watching the Montreal Canadians vs. The Ottawa Senators!) and seeing Coldplay perform live.

Now when they make their Christmas wish lists they often include ‘things to do’ as some of their items! For the people in your life, what about vouchers for ski passes, yoga passes, gift certificates for restaurants and cafes? Cooking classes, music or art lessons? Spa services are always a popular choice, and tickets to the movies, theatre, concerts, sporting events are always fun.

Another option is to look around your community for services you use, ones that have made an impact on your quality of life, and consider giving your loved ones a certificate to try out those services. Gifts of health are always well received! I’ve had many people purchase an initial session with me or a series of adjustments for people they care about, and there is a tremendous amount of gratitude expressed to me by the recipients.

If you choose to give gifts during the holiday season, consider ones that are from local stores. Shop within your community if possible and you’ll save on gas, meet new people and support a small business.

But remember, time together is more valuable with the ones we love than any object, and you’ll get the benefit too! Take the stress away from shopping and get creative giving gifts of the heart in other ways this holiday season.