Friday, May 28, 2010

High-Risk Moments for Your Lower Back

When are you more likely to injure your back? Why can you get into more trouble picking up the newspaper than doing something more challenging? What simple steps can you take to avoid injury and pain? Let's get the answers to these questions and more.

Two Critical Moments

When it comes to your lower back and injury risk, there are two critical times when you need to be especially careful. One is first thing in the morning when the joints in your back are actually a little swollen. You are actually taller because the discs have extra fluid in them. A careless forward bend or twist first thing in the morning can do substantial damage to the discs or other structures in your back. It doesn't seem fair that something as simple as bending and twisting, something you have done thousands of times before, can suddenly cause big problems.

The other critical time is after you have been sitting. Long periods in the car or on an airplane can be especially challenging. In this case, the culprit is something called "creep." This means that your ligaments and tendons lengthen to accommodate the position that you have been in. The ligaments and tendons do not provide the proper protection and stability when they have been lengthened by “creep“. When you first get up from sitting, you are at risk. The longer you have been sitting, the higher that risk. If you sit more upright, with good lumbar support, you will have somewhat less risk.

Here are a couple common events that can contribute to lower back pain. Keep in mind that in all of these scenarios, your back was already vulnerable.

Scenario #1: You didn't sleep well last night, perhaps from sleeping in an unfamiliar bed while traveling. After sitting too long, you get up, feel stiff, but ignore it. You sit back down in a soft chair to read the paper, get up and suddenly there’s a sharp stab in the back.

Scenario #2: You get up from sleeping, and sit at your computer. After getting lost in an article you end up sitting far longer than you planned. You get up, and can't stand completely straight.

Even a good night’s sleep on your favorite bed leaves the small joints and discs in your spine extra hydrated. This is because they have been relatively inactive and there is no pressure compressing them (gravity), forcing some of that fluid out.

If you have a good back, none of this matters. If you have a vulnerable back, it all matters. Ideally, when you get up, you should do some kind of activity that warms up and "wrings out" the excessive fluids. One of my favorites is simply rolling on to your back and bringing each knee (right, left, then both) to your chest. This should be done first thing, before even sitting up in bed. As soon as the spine has to work against gravity, the muscle will contract to keep you upright, preventing some of the motion in the spine. Sitting down at the computer, sitting on the toilet, etc., before a short walk or performing some simple movements can get you into trouble.

So, who has a good back versus a bad back? Unfortunately, most of us have bad backs, at least in the sense that they can be subject to injury and pain at any time. In fact, studies suggest that as many as eight in 10 people experience low back pain during their lifetime. That's a lot of back pain already happening or waiting to happen. As you can tell, some scenarios whereby people experience back pain are all too common.

How to Avoid Injury and Pain

Don't bend over immediately after sitting. Sitting, even in good posture, puts you at risk. The longer you sit and the worse the seat, the more at risk you are. Airplane seats can be very risky because it's hard to get up and move around due to the tight quarters. To make matters worse, the minute the plane stops, you bend over to get luggage from under the seat, or reach up, and twist and lift to get your bag from the overhead compartment. After a long sit, give yourself at least a few seconds of backward bending and/or moving around to “reset” your spine. Then you can carefully, using your hips rather than your back, bend over to pick up something.

When you sit, don't slouch. Slouching amplifies the risks, makes it more likely for something bad to happen to your discs or joints or muscles. Sit up straight and keep your back in a neutral position with some forward curve (or lordosis). Using a lumbar support helps maintain this position. This one simple action can make a huge difference but like any habit, will require you to "Just Do It" for a few weeks. If it’s “too late” and your lower back has already flared, call our office today and get relief!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

You Can Prevent Osteoporosis

First of all you probably don’t think of your bones as living tissue, but that’s just what they are. Your bones are filled with “living cells”, some of which make new bone and some of which break down old bone. This process keeps your bones fresh and healthy, clearing out old or damaged cells to make room for new, healthier ones.

However, in some people, bones are broken down faster than they can be rebuilt. This (obviously) is a bad thing, leading to bones that are weak and thin. This condition is called osteoporosis and affects 10 million Americans, mostly women.

Thin bones are more likely to break or fracture which can lead to serious problems. A hip fracture, for example, can cause a person to need nursing home care and potentially disable them for life. Due to the proximity of the femoral artery, hip fractures can even be deadly, pretty serious stuff.

What You Can Do

There are things you can do to prevent osteoporosis. Our bodies build up our calcium stores until we are about 30 years old so it’s best if prevention begins early—during your childhood and teens. This is when you can most influence how strong your bones will be.

That said, it’s never too late to adopt habits that help YOUR bones now, even if your teen years are behind you. Here are some habits that every person should take up, no matter how old they are:

Get enough calcium lactate or calcium citrate and vitamin D. Calcium is one of the main things that make up bone and Vitamin D helps your body absorb calcium. Foods like yogurt, salmon, and almonds are great sources of calcium. Direct sunlight is a great way to get Vitamin D (skip the tanning bed and kill 2 birds with one stone by following the next tip)

Exercise. Weight bearing exercise like walking, running, and lifting weights put stress on the bones, making them stronger.

DON‘T SMOKE. Smokers tend to lose bone faster than nonsmokers. In fact, smokers are 55% more likely than nonsmokers to break a hip.

Don’t drink too much alcohol. Heavy alcohol consumption can reduce bone strength by impairing your bodies ability to process vitamin D. You should be getting a good amount of vitamin D each and every day to prevent osteoporosis.
Be careful with your medications. Some medications like corticosteroids, anti-seizure medications, Cyclosporine A, and thyroid hormones can weaken bones.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Been a Bit Stressed-Out Lately?

Sorry to hear it, but here’s some bad news that might stress you out a bit more. All of that stress you endure is really bad for your health. Stress can impact all aspects of your health, and therefore, your life.

Do you suffer from nagging headaches? Could be stress. Not sleeping well? Could be stress. Back pain, frequent colds, frequent upset stomach? Stress, stress, stress. Even negative thoughts and feelings like anxiety, irritability, sadness, depression, anger and restlessness can be stress related.

Stress can even cause behavioral problems such as under-eating or overeating, drug or alcohol abuse, increased difficulty in controlling your temper, and social withdrawal. Long term exposure to stress can contribute to the development of chronic, life-threatening illnesses such as heart palpitations, high blood pressure and heart disease.

In fact, it’s been estimated that up to 80% of all physical illnesses are related to stress! One of the reasons is that stress is regulated by small glands in your body called the adrenal glands, also known as the “stress glands“. Many things you eat or drink affect these glands, resulting in your body not being able to handle stress, resulting in many health issues.

What To Do?

It’s somewhat of a vicious circle, isn’t it? Life is stressful enough without having to incur even more stress by worrying about what all that stress is doing to your health!

Certainly, there’s no escaping the fact that life is stressful. Eliminating stress from our lives is pretty much impossible and the hectic pace and daily demands of modern life only compound the problem. Fortunately, there are ways to mitigate the effects of stress, and even reduce the amount you have to endure.

Chiropractic Can Help

Chiropractic care can be a very effective means of both reducing your overall stress level, and managing the physical impact of stress has on your health. How can chiropractic help? By assuring that your nervous system functions efficiently, free from any form of interference or irritation.

Chiropractic adjustments help restore proper function to the spine, eliminating subluxations, muscle spasm, joint inflammation and pressure on spinal nerves. When the nervous system is allowed to function free of interference, your body is better able do deal with stress and you become a happier, healthier person!

The sense of relaxation and contentment that most chiropractic patients experience after a treatment is a great way to reduce mental stress. Acupuncture and massage therapy, also available at our office, are also helpful in reducing physical tension and decreasing mental stress.

Take Control of Your Life by Controlling Your Stress

Remember the ‘vicious circle’ mentioned earlier – the effects of stress being continuously compounded by the effects of stress? Well, the circle doesn’t have to turn in only one direction.

By utilizing chiropractic care to lessen your stress and mitigate its impact upon your health, you can make that circle change direction and work in your favor. Instead of accumulating stress, you can experience the soothing relief of stress reduction. And as your body and psyche heals from the relief, you’ll dump even more stress. You’ll be turning that circle the other way – loosening the spring, ratcheting down the tension. Can’t you feel a bit of relief just imagining it?

Why not get the stress relief process started today with a call to our office at (303) 463-0722? You’ll likely feel a bit less stressed just for having made the call, knowing that relief awaits.