Benefits of Yoga
The practice of yoga can range from a peaceful and meditative experience to a vigorous workout. Each variety has a different level of intensity, but any style of yoga is helpful for increasing strength and flexibility. Another recurring theme is focusing on posture and body alignment, which is why yoga can have great benefits for chiropractic health.
Types of Yoga
- Ashtanga Yoga: This is a more intense form of yoga to challenge your strength and stamina
- Bikram Yoga: Also called hot yoga, it is practiced in a warm room to encourage flexibility
- Iyengar Yoga: Focuses on proper alignment with precise poses and stretching, which is recommended for those with back and neck pain
How it Helps
During a yoga pose, focusing on a breathing pattern helps hold the pose to gently strengthen muscles. Yoga poses are designed to engage back and abdominal muscles, and strengthening those muscle groups gives more support to the spine.
The stretching yoga involves relieves tension from muscles. If you have pain or an injury, muscles that have been carrying stress need to be relieved. Continued stretching will also improve flexibility and range of motion. Yoga poses also improve posture and spinal alignment. Training your body to function with better posture takes pressure off the spine and reduces back pain.
Chronic pain can often lead to a cycle of mental exhaustion and stress. The meditative origin of yoga encourages a quiet, relaxing environment in order to focus on exercise and breathing. The practice of yoga is also a preventative measure. Increasing your strength and flexibility helps your body defend against potential injury.
Where to Start
Patients with back issues who haven’t tried yoga may feel like it is beyond their capabilities, but you don’t need to be limber and flexible to begin. It is recommended to find an instructor who has experience working with patients who suffer from back pain and it’s important to learn by following an instructor before practicing on your own. Many yoga poses have modified versions for beginners or anyone with limitations. An instructor can demonstrate the use of blocks and straps, which help give beginners extra support and balance.
Pain has many forms – you may feel it as a burn, a tingle, a sting or an ache. When pain is physical, your first impulse may be to reach for a pill. Prescription and over-the-counter painkillers can be dangerous and even toxic to your body which is why it’s important to explore alternative, non-invasive treatment options first. Once you receive a pain assessment from your doctor or chiropractor and determine what’s causing your physical pain, there are natural pain relief options that can help more than a pill ever could.
- Ideal for: muscle tension, anxiety, digestive disorders, fibromyalgia, headaches, insomnia, soft tissue strains, sports injuries
There are many different types of massage. After deciding which one is right for you, prepare to reap the benefits. Though many folks are weary at the thought of being touched by a masseuse, studies show that massage is effective for reducing stress, pain, and muscle tension. Some forms of massage can leave you sore the next day, but the massage itself should never feel painful. If any part of your massage doesn’t feel right, speak up right away.
- Ideal for: chronic back pain, migraines, tension headaches, fibromyalgia, arthritis, sciatica
Acupuncture has been used for centuries to treat many conditions and relieve pain. Traditional Chinese acupuncture involves the insertion of extremely fine needles into the skin at specific “acupoints.” This relieves pain by releasing endorphins, aka the body’s natural pain-killing chemicals, by affecting the part of the brain that fuels serotonin, a brain chemical involved with mood.
- Ideal for: low back pain, arthritis, migraines
A study published in Annals of Internal Medicine found that among 313 people with chronic low back pain, a weekly yoga class increased mobility more than standard medical care for the condition. This is because yoga is a mind-body exercise practice that combines breath control, meditation, and movements to stretch and strengthen muscles.
In addition to these alternative treatment methods, it doesn’t hurt to tweak your diet. After all, keeping your immune system strong is critical to keeping the rest of your body healthy. One of the most powerful tools to combat inflammation doesn’t come from the pharmacy; it comes from your food. Try to avoid, or at least limit foods that inflame, such as French fries, soda, red meat, and refined carbohydrates. Instead, reach for tomatoes, olive oil, green leafy vegetables, nuts, fatty fish, and fruits.
Sports Injuries: Spondylolisthesis
As long as sports are being played, there will always be a risk for injury. The injury that most often occurs in gymnasts, football players, and weight-lifters is a crack or stress fracture in one of the vertebrae, called spondylolysis. This fracture occurs because of overstretching (hyperextension) of the lumbar spine from overuse. When the vertebra fails to maintain its proper position in the spine – and the vertebra starts to shift or slip out of place – this condition is called spondylolisthesis.
Spondylolisthesis is a condition that affects the lower vertebrae. It develops when one of the lower vertebras to slip forward onto the bone directly beneath it. This condition can be painful and sports aside, the causes vary based on age, heredity, and lifestyle habits. Spondylolisthesis patients who have severe or “high-grade” slips may experience tingling, numbness, or weakness in one or both legs. These symptoms result from pressure on the spinal nerve root as it exits the spinal canal near the fracture.
It’s important to know that spondylolisthesis may not cause symptoms for years after disc slippage has occurred. However, symptoms may include:
- Persistent low back pain
- Stiffness in your back and legs
- Low back tenderness
- Thigh pain
- Tight hamstring and buttock muscles
- Difficulty standing and walking
Like any condition, physical exams are the first step in diagnosing spondylolisthesis. If you have this condition, you are likely to have difficulty raising your leg straight up or outward during simple exercises. If the pain is severe, the doctor may recommend an MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) scan to clearly display the soft tissue structures of the spine (including the nerves and discs between the vertebrae) and their connection to the cracked vertebrae and (if any) disc slippage.
The treatment for spondylolisthesis depends on the severity of pain and vertebral slippage, but non-surgical treatments can help ease pain and guide your bones back into their appropriate location. In addition to ultrasound therapy, electrical muscle stimulation, hot-and-cold therapy, and massage, your doctor may recommend a physical therapy regimen. During physical therapy, an individualized treatment plan is developed to keep you pain-free and assist you in healing. At first, the exercises you perform may include gentle stretches or posture changes to reduce back pain, hamstring pain, or other leg symptoms. However, as your legs get stronger, more vigorous exercises will be introduced to the process such as stationary biking or swimming. The goal of each exercise is to improve flexibility, strength, endurance, and the ability to return to your daily activities.
As the American population ages, there is increasing interest in the medical community in both ailments which are common in elderly people, and ones which are generation-specific. Among the generation-specific ailments which are of particular interest to physical therapists, massage therapists, and doctors who specialize in the link between the neural and musculoskeletal systems is post-polio syndrome. The worst epidemic of polio started in 1952, and tens of thousands of people suffered paralysis before Jonas Salk developed a vaccine in 1955 and it became widely available in 1957. The survivors of that epidemic have since been on the frontlines of the fight for civil rights for the disabled and often trained their bodies to compensate for loss of muscle function so they could work and enjoy a high quality of life. But as the last Americans with polio enter old age, many are suffering relapses.
How the poliovirus moves from the gastrointestinal tract to the spinal nerve tissue has never been discovered (and may never be if polio is eradicated), but it is known that the poliovirus destroys motor neurons. In many patients, this led to temporary paralysis until patients’ bodies grew alternative neural pathways to restore motor function. However, these alternative pathways were never as stable as the originals, and after decades of use, some are collapsing, leaving survivors once again suffering the paralysis they had previously overcome.
Polio declined on medical researchers’ priority list in between its eradication in most countries and the transitioning of the last major cohort of survivors into old age, and there is no known way of preventing post-polio syndrome. But there are complementary approaches utilizing care providers with a diverse set of specialties. Because patients’ loss of muscle is due to lack of neural access, over-exercising the muscles they are losing access to may cause them to burn through their neural pathways faster instead of strengthening them. Exercise is crucial, however, for the muscle groups they are using to compensate for the ones they’ve lost access to, but patients may be forced to rely on different muscle groups than they are used to if the old way is no longer working.
Orthotists emphasize in their literature that every polio survivor has developed their own system, and their judgments of their individual situations must be respected when recommending braces. Much of the massage therapy for patients with post-polio syndrome is geared toward keeping the compensatory muscles they’re relying on more than ever comfortable and in healthy working order while ensuring that the declining muscles are getting as much nutritional support as possible. It is important when considering complementary forms of pain relief that damage to motor neurons does not necessarily mean there has been damage to sensory neurons, and what is effective for one system may not be relevant to the other. However, people without sensory damage can provide much more information about what is happening to them and have treatments modified accordingly.
Post-polio syndrome is diagnosed through a process of elimination—a person who had polio can still come down with completely different diseases, after all. The exact composition of a patient’s care team will depend on their individual needs, but there will surely be a place for physical therapy and providers of treatments which complement them. Chiropractic and wellness centers also vary in which services they offer, but most provide a large number of treatments which enhance or are central to physical therapy and maintaining a high quality of life.
Health Tips for Desk Jobs
Why Keeping Health in Mind is Important for a Desk Job
Those of us who work at desk jobs do a lot of sitting. This can easily give us sedentary lives considering we are sitting all day, losing energy, and then after work, we are too tired to get in some exercise. In addition, poor desk posture can lead to issues like neck pain, back pain, headaches, frozen shoulder, tight hip muscles, and much more.
Proper Desk Posture
In order to have healthy posture at your desk, you should pay attention to these tips:
- Your computer should be at eye-level so you are not tilting your head up or down to look at it.
- You should be sitting tall with a straight spine, keeping your shoulders relaxed.
- Your arms should be at a 90-degree angle.
- Your lower back should have support. Use a chair with good lumbar support or purchase a lumbar pillow.
- Your legs should be at a 90-degree angle with your feet flat on the floor. Do not cross your legs or ankles.
Getting some movement into your day will help your muscles, bones, energy levels, and even your focus. You can get more movement in by visiting a coworker’s desk instead of sending an email, taking more bathroom breaks (by drinking more water), and taking the stairs. You should try to stand up and move around at least once per hour.
If your office provides lunches or sets out snacks in the kitchen, it can be tempting to indulge. However, try to resist. Daytime snacking is an easy way to add unnecessary calories. Bring in your own healthy snacks like fruit to curb any snack cravings.
When it comes to lunch, you should prepare your own lunches at home instead of eating out or buying what’s in the cafeteria. This way you can bring something healthy and nutritious. Allowing yourself to eat out will bring on too many temptations for fast food. If it helps, set aside one or two days to prep meals for the rest of your week.
In addition to your meals, make sure you are getting in your recommended water intake. It helps to label water bottles with times of the day so you can set goals. Drinking more water will also give you an excuse to get up and walk to the bathroom more (as previously mentioned).
How Your Chiropractor Can Help
If you are feeling sore, stiff muscles, back or neck pain, low energy, or some of the other symptoms previously mentioned, you may not know your desk job is causing them. These are great things to talk to your chiropractor about. He or she can help you understand the connection, develop a plan, and follow through for a healthier you.
With Thanksgiving around the corner, many of us will be traveling high and low to spend time with family. Back pain is one of the most common ailments on the planet, but it doesn’t mean that it should put a damper on your holiday plans. Traveling with back pain can make sitting on a long flight, car ride, or lugging a heavy suitcase feel like torture. This is why we would like to present some traveling tips to reduce back pain.
- Tip #1 – Lift Luggage in Stages
Back strain often occurs when lifting heavy items. For this reason, it is suggested that you move slowly when lifting a heavy piece of luggage and break the action into smaller parts whenever possible. Other important lifting tips include bending at the knees and using your leg muscles (rather than the back muscles) to lift and avoid twisting your lower back while lifting. Additionally, if you are carrying a shoulder bag, switch sides often to avoid stressing on one side of the back.
- Tip #2 – Bring Your Own Back Support
Seats in planes, trains, and automobiles do not provide the ideal back support. A lumbar support pillow can make your seat more comfortable and your trip less grueling. If you don’t have a lumbar support, a jacket, sweater, or a rolled up blanket will work just fine to align your spine.
- Tip #3 – Support Your Back with Your Feet
Your feet need to be placed on a firm flat surface at the right height to avoid transferring stress to your lower back. It is suggested that your knees be at a right angle. This means if your seat is too high it is best to elevate them on a footrest. If you are driving, consider cruise control for a longer drive. This allows your feet to be flat on the floor to alleviate any back pain.
- Tip #4 – Pack Light
Think about it. Every extra item you place in your suitcase is one more thing you’ll have to carry. Make it easier on yourself by packing less and if you are flying, consider checking any bags you can’t easily lift into an overhead bin. It helps to ask yourself questions, such as, “Do I really need a tablet?” or “Do I really need this umbrella?” The less you pack, the more your spine will thank you.
- Tip #5 – Check Your Posture
Your spine was built to move, so it’s safe to get up every now and then to stretch. Sitting in one position for long periods of time will stiffen your back muscles and can lead to achiness as well as muscle spasms. Whether you choose to walk around or sit still, always be sure that your shoulders are straight, your feet are flat on the ground and avoid hunching forward.
Last but not least, we’d like to suggest that you treat yourself! If it’s not too much, consider upgrading your seat if you are on a long flight. Your back will feel much less discomfort in a roomy business class seat (or even in premium economy) than it would in the back of the plane. Another option may be to take yourself to a spa to soothe any lingering aches from your flight. Consider it an early Christmas present. Safe travels!
Combat Stress with Chiropractic Care
We’ve all experienced stress on one level or another. Maybe your heart sinks into your stomach right before giving a presentation, or your level of anxiety increases while thinking of your to-do list. It’s easy to recognize the turmoil that stress wreaks on our mind and body, but what we might not perceive is that even short-lived, minor stress can have an impact on our overall health.
Stress is primarily a physical response. When stress occurs, the body thinks it is under attack and switches to “fight or flight” mode, releasing a complex mix of hormones and chemicals such as adrenaline and cortisol, to prepare the body for physical action. This then causes a bunch of reactions, such as irritability, anger, anxiety, fatigue, and even depression. When factors such as these begin to interfere with your ability to live a normal life, stress becomes even more dangerous.
How Stress Affects Your Systems
Stress is an extremely important indicator of health. The longer stress lasts, the worse it is for not only your physical health but mental health as well. When under stress, different systems of the body become affected such as:
- Musculoskeletal system – when muscles tense up, especially around the area of the shoulders, this can cause headaches and migraines.
- Respiratory system – while experiencing chronic stress, breathing becomes more difficult. Additionally, high stress has been known to cause rapid breath, hyperventilation, as well as asthma attacks and panic attacks.
- Cardiovascular system – ongoing stress causes an increase in heart rate, blood pressure, and hormone levels. When this happens, you risk an increase of a stroke, heart attack or hypertension.
- Endocrine system – while stressed, the adrenal glands produce cortisol, increasing your risk of heart disease and diabetes.
- Nervous system – the “fight or flight” response puts your body in a state of emergency. This causes the heart to beat faster, respiration rate to increase, blood vessels in the arms and legs to dilate, and the digestive process to change.
Chiropractic Treatment Options
To achieve a healthy function of the nervous system, receiving chiropractic care is essential. This is because chiropractors work primarily with the spine, the root of the nervous system through which nerve impulses make their way from the brain to the rest of the body. Proper spinal alignment is the first step for reducing stress which is why spinal adjustments and manipulation are favorable treatment methods.
The adjustments release muscle tension, and this helps the body return to a more relaxed, balanced state. Chiropractic care and other stress relief treatments help to reduce cortisol levels and remove toxins from the body. Other chiropractic treatment methods may include massage therapy, a nutritional wellness program, and exercise rehabilitation.
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