20 Fun and Amazing Health Facts.

1 Jan

1.) Women have a better sense of smell than men. 2.) When you take a step, you use up to 200 muscles. 3.) Your ears secrete more earwax when you are afraid than when you aren’t. 4.) The human brain has the capacity to store everything you experience. 5.) It takes twice as long to lose new muscle if you stop working out than it did to gain it. 6.) The average person’s skin weighs twice as much as their brain. 7.) Every year your body replaces 98% of your atoms. 8.) On average, there are 100 billion neurons in the human brain. 9.) The lifespan of a taste bud is ten days.  10.) Dentists recommend you keep your toothbrush at least 6 feet away from a toilet to avoid airborne particles caused by flushing.  11.) Your tongue is the only muscle in your body that is attached at only one end. 12.) Your stomach produces a new layer of mucus every two weeks so that it doesn’t digest itself. 13.) It takes about 20 seconds for a red blood cell to circle the whole body. 14.) The pupil of the eye expands as much as 45% when a person looks at something pleasing. 15.) Your heart rate can rise as much as 30% during a yawn. 16.) Your heart pumps about 2,000 gallons of blood each day. 17.) Your heart beats over 100,000 times a day. 18.) Your hair grows faster in the morning than at any other time of day.  19.) Your body is creating and killing 15 million red blood cells per second. 20.) You’re born with 300 bones, but when you reach adulthood, you only have 206!

The Lower Back, Leg Pain, and Sciatica

3 Dec

The roots of the sciatic nerve exit the spine through several levels in the lower back, join in the buttock region, and travel down into the lower extremities. When pressure is applied to the sciatic nerve in the lower back area, it can generate pain and other sensations down the nerve into one of the legs—a condition we commonly refer to as sciatica.

In younger and middle-aged adults, the most common cause of sciatica is a herniated disk in the lower back in one or more locations. Because of the structure of the sciatic nerve, the characteristics of the patient’s symptoms can direct their doctor of chiropractic on where to look for potential causes in the lower back:

  • S1-2 Level (S1 nerve root): outer foot numb, difficulty walking on toes, weak Achilles tendon reflex
  • L5-S1 Disk (L5 nerve root): inner foot numb, weak big toe and heel walking, no reflex changes
  • L4-5 Disk (L4 nerve root): shin numb, weak heel walking, patellar tendon reflex loss
  • L3-4 Disk (L3 nerve root): medial knee numb, weak walking up steps, weak patellar tendon reflex
  • L2-3 Disk (L2 nerve root): front of thigh pain/numb, weak walking up steps, positive patellar reflex
  • L1-2 Disk (L1 nerve root): groin pain/numb, weak squat and steps, no deep tendon reflex
  • T12-L1 Disk (T12 nerve root): buttock numb, weak lower abdominal muscles, possible spinal cord compression

In sciatica patients under 55 years of age, the two lowest disks in the lower back—the L4-5 and L5-S1—are the culprit 95% of the time. The good news is that a systemic review of 49 published studies found that spinal manipulative therapy, the primary form of care provided by doctors of chiropractic, is an effective non-surgical treatment option for relieve local and radiating pain in patients with a herniated disk in the lower back.

Even though sciatic pain is often initially sharp and severe, most cases can by successfully managed non-surgically within three to six weeks; however, a referral to a specialist or a referral for advanced imaging (such as an MRI) may be necessary to identify additional pain sources if the patient’s pain persists. Surgery is usually restricted to those who have neurological loss and/or bowel or bladder control problems (the latter may become emergent in order to avoid permanency). As with many musculoskeletal conditions, the sooner one seeks care in the course of the disease, the more likely (and the faster) they will achieve a successful treatment outcome.

This information should not be substituted for medical or chiropractic advice. Any and all healthcare concerns, decisions, and actions must be done through the advice and counsel of a healthcare professional who is familiar with your updated medical history.

Health Optimization Strategies

23 Nov

Though some element of our overall wellbeing is defined by our genetics, there is a  lot you can do to live a long and healthy life. Here’s a short list:

  • Get enough sleep. While the average adult needs only seven to nine hours of sleep a night to feel rested, younger age groups usually require much more: infants (0-3 months): 14-17 hours/day; 4-11 months: 12-15 hours/day; toddlers: (1-2 years old) 11-14 hours/day; pre-school (3-5 years old): 10-13 hours/day; school age (6-13 years old): 9-11 hours/day; and teenagers (14-17 years old): 8-10 hours/day. An expectant mother may need additional sleep, especially early in the pregnancy.
  • Exercise at moderate intensity for at least 30 minutes a day (brisk walk, bike ride, jog, yoga, tai chi, etc.). Federal guidelines also recommend strength training the major muscle groups twice a week.
  • Avoid added sugars, sugary drinks, and processed foods. Eat more whole grains, fruits, and vegetables. Not only will it help you maintain a healthier body weight, but you’ll also improve the make-up of your gut microbiota, which can bolster your immune system.
  • Consider supplementation if your diet is deficient in important vitamins and minerals. For example, a 2017 study published in the journal Nutrients reported that vitamin C can enhance the production of B- and T-cells, which are related to the body’s ability to fight off infections. Moreover, the study noted that vitamin C deficiency is associated with impaired immunity resulting in higher susceptibility to infection.
  • When (not if) stress hits, take five slow, deep breaths (in your nose and out of your mouth). Consider mindful meditation or schedule relaxing activities into your day.
  • Engage in social networks (senior centers, church, and book clubs or go to plays, music events, and art galleries with a friend), preferably in person but virtually (phone or video chat) if that’s not feasible.
  • Laughing reduces stress hormones, boosts white blood cells, and keeps you healthy.
  • Wash your hands with soap and water regularly, use hand sanitizer regularly (if it’s not possible to wash your hands), don’t touch your eyes, nose, and mouth; cover your mouth with your arm when you sneeze, and stay home when you’re ill.
  • Spend time in the sun or take a vitamin D supplement. Studies show that individuals with poor vitamin D status may be at an increased risk for upper respiratory infection and impaired immune response.

Of course, if you experience musculoskeletal pain, like neck or back pain, schedule an appointment with your doctor of chiropractic. Typically, the sooner you seek care, the faster you’ll be able to return to your daily activities without pain.

This information should not be substituted for medical or chiropractic advice. Any and all healthcare concerns, decisions, and actions must be done through the advice and counsel of a healthcare professional who is familiar with your updated medical history.

Whiplash and Weakened Neck Muscles

19 Nov

The whiplash process can lead to a number of concurrent symptoms (neck pain, headaches, limited cervical range of motion, etc.) referred to as whiplash associated disorders, or WAD. It’s estimated that about one in five WAD patients will also develop potentially chronic, concussion-like symptoms like brain fog, difficulty concentrating, and other cognitive impairments. A 2020 study shed light on a way to help identify such patients early on so targeted treatment could help keep their WAD from becoming chronic and persistent.

In the study, researchers used resting-state-fMRI (rs-fMRI) to image 23 patients with chronic WAD and compared their findings with assessments used to objectively measure neck disability, traumatic distress, depression, and pain. The research team identified an association between fat infiltration into the cervical muscles and abnormalities in the brain network structure associated with WAD-related neuropsychological issues. That is, the patients with more fatty tissue in their neck muscles were also those with more signs of brain injury or altered brain function.

When deep muscles and associated soft tissue in the neck are injured in a whiplash event, the body may recruit superficial muscles to help stabilize the body and maintain posture. While this can protect the deep muscles from further injury in the short term, it can decondition these muscles over time and allow fatty deposits to infiltrate its tissue.

In another study that followed 141 WAD patients and 40 non-injured subjects for one year, researchers observed that the WAD patients demonstrated a loss in neck muscle strength throughout the year, even if their neck pain resolved and their cervical range of motion returned to normal. Additionally, the patients who had not recovered enough to return to work after a year had an average of 50% loss of strength in their neck muscles.

The findings of these studies suggest that when the whiplash process is forceful enough to  injure the soft tissues of the neck in a manner that leads to abnormal muscle activity that allows important muscles to weaken and for fatty deposits to develop, then the same event can also lead to a potential brain injury, with resulting cognitive symptoms. If so, then identifying WAD patients with cervical muscle weakness early may help doctors uncover which patients may need more substantive care to reduce their risk for ongoing WAD issues. 

Several treatment guidelines indicate that chiropractic care is a great first-choice treatment option for the WAD patient, which may involve a multimodal approach to restore motion in the affected joints and strength in the deep and superficial cervical muscles.

This information should not be substituted for medical or chiropractic advice. Any and all healthcare concerns, decisions, and actions must be done through the advice and counsel of a healthcare professional who is familiar with your updated medical history.

Neck Pain and Upper-Crossed Syndrome

16 Nov

In normal head and neck posture, the center of the shoulder joints are located vertically in line with the bottom of the mastoid processes (the bone just behind the bottom of the ear at the base of the skull) while the muscles on the posterior (or back side) of the cervical spine (neck) act to maintain balance and keep the head back.

Sitting at a computer or using a smartphone for long lengths of time can lead to a muscular imbalance—referred to as an “upper-crossed syndrome” (UCS)—where specific muscles in the upper back and neck (upper trapezius and levator scapulae) and the chest muscles (pectorals) are too tight. These hypertonic muscles “cross” with weakness of the deep neck flexors (in the front neck) and middle and lower trapezius (in the mid-back).  This results in the classic forward head posture and rounded shoulders.

Fortunately, forward head posture can be remedied with exercises to strengthen the weak muscles and stretch the overly tight muscles. Here are a few:

  • Perform a standard push-up (from knees or toes) and when in the “up” position, push further toward the ceiling (feel your shoulder blades spread further apart).
  • Lie prone on a bench and raise your arms overhead to form a “Y”; follow with a “T” by lowering the arms to horizontal or 90°; move to a “W” (bend elbows 90° and lower arms to 45°); follow with an “L” (place arms at your sides keeping elbows bent at 90°, rotate outwards the forearms as far as possible). Squeeze your shoulder blades together, DON’T shrug the shoulders, HOLD each position for five to ten seconds and repeat the series two to three times.
  • Tuck your chin inward and nod; add some resistance—using your thumb/index grasping the chin—resist in BOTH directions (down and up nods). As a posture re-trainer, keep your chin-tucked during the day.
  • Lie on your side, elbow bend 90°; use a hand weight and raise it slowly toward the ceiling and lower it back down (five to ten slow reps); repeat on the other side.
  • Stand in a doorway and hook your elbow on (or grasp with your hand) the door jamb; slowly turn your body away from the door jamb until you feel a strong stretch in your chest muscles. Start low and move your elbow/hand higher and repeat; continue upwards until its overhead. Repeat several times on each side.
  • Look down and side bend RIGHT; reach over with your RIGHT hand and gently pull the head to a firm endpoint; reach with the LEFT hand toward the floor. 
  • Look down, side bend, and rotate your head RIGHT; reach over with your RIGHT hand and gently pull the head to a firm endpoint; reach with the LEFT hand toward the floor. REPEAT on opposite side. Hold five to ten seconds and repeat two to three times.

Upper crossed syndrome and forward head posture can also lead to joint fixations in the cervical and thoracic spine, which can be addressed by a doctor of chiropractic using spinal manipulative therapy. Your chiropractor can also walk you through these and other exercises to restore normal posture, depending on your unique case.

This information should not be substituted for medical or chiropractic advice. Any and all healthcare concerns, decisions, and actions must be done through the advice and counsel of a healthcare professional who is familiar with your updated medical history.

Non-Surgical Care for Shoulder Instability in Young Adults

12 Nov

Shoulder instability (SI) occurs when the soft tissues (joint capsule, ligaments, and labrum) that hold the humerus in the shallow ball-and-socket glenohumeral joint become stretched, torn, or detached. When these tissues are damaged, the resulting shoulder instability is characterized as structural. If instability is caused by abnormal muscle activity that places too much or too little stress on the shoulder joint, the condition is described as functional instability.

In teenagers and young adults, shoulder instability is typically the functional variety, and it can affect up to 2.6% of this population. The most common variety of functional SI among these individuals is posterior positional functional shoulder instability (PP-FSI).

Patients with PP-FSI experience disabling shoulder pain during mid-range movement of the shoulder joint, caused by a muscle imbalance where the external rotator cuff muscles and the posterior deltoid are under-active and the internal rotator muscles are hyperactive. There is also an altered balance of the periscapular muscles. Using functional MRI, researchers have observed that the brain of a PP-FSI patient may send abnormal signals to the shoulder muscles during movement, similar to an infant who hasn’t developed fine motor skills or a recovering stroke or brain injury patient.

The conservative treatment approach to PP-FSI involves manual therapies to help restore proper motion to the shoulder joint, specific exercises to strengthen the muscles that have become inactive, ice and nutritional recommendations to address inflammation, modalities like electronic muscle stimulation to retrain the muscles, and activity modifications to reduce the risk of re-injury during the initial phase of the healing process. Over time, the patient can begin to resume their normal activities, provided movement doesn’t lead to sharp, lancinating pain in the shoulder.

Other musculoskeletal injuries in the shoulder, arm, neck, or upper back that may have preceding or developed following the PP-FSI injury will also need to be addressed in order to return the patient to their normal activities. While surgical intervention may be advised as a first course of treatment for some PP-FSI patients, treatment guidelines typically recommend utilizing non-surgical methods first, of which chiropractic care is an excellent choice.

This information should not be substituted for medical or chiropractic advice. Any and all healthcare concerns, decisions, and actions must be done through the advice and counsel of a healthcare professional who is familiar with your updated medical history.

Short-Term Care for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

9 Nov

While the primary driver for carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) may sometimes be hormonal changes (hypothyroid, pregnancy, or birth control use), type 2 diabetes, or an inflammatory condition (rheumatoid arthritis, psoriatic arthritis, or gout), many patients’ hand and wrist symptoms are caused by musculoskeletal issues that place pressure on the median nerve or restrict its motion. The good news is that chiropractic care is a great fit for the CTS patient, but how much care is needed before the numbness, tingling, weakness, and pain starts to resolve?

In one study that included 22 CTS patients, 19 of whom had CTS in both hands and wrists, researchers observed that the application of only manual therapy techniques to the hand, wrist, and forearm three times a week for two weeks led to significant improvements in pain, function, numbness, sensation, strength, and night awakening. The patients also performed better on the Phalen’s maneuver—a common clinical test used to stimulate CTS symptoms. Best of all, the participants continued to experience these improvements up to twelve weeks after their final treatment!

In addition to the manual therapies involved in the aforementioned study, doctors of chiropractic utilize additional non-surgical techniques such as nocturnal wrist splinting, at-home exercises/stretching, nutritional counseling, and job/ergonomic modifications. Dysfunction elsewhere along the course of the median nerve (such as the neck, shoulder, elbow, and forearm) may also need to be addressed.

If non-musculoskeletal causes are suspected, co-management with the patient’s medical doctor may be necessary. Though several studies have shown that surgical intervention may not be superior to non-surgical care over the long-term, a referral to a surgeon may be warranted if non-surgical treatment fails to produce a satisfying result. For CTS and other musculoskeletal conditions, many doctors of chiropractic will commence care with a short-term approach (such as six visits spread over two weeks, as used in the study discussed above) to evaluate how the patient responds to care and to adjust treatment recommendations from there. In mild cases, the patient may be released from care and advised to return on an as-needed basis. For chronic or severe cases of CTS, additional treatment may be required, though if the condition is too advanced, a full resolution of symptoms may not be possible. Hence, the importance of visiting your doctor of chiropractic for hand and wrist symptoms sooner rather than later!

This information should not be substituted for medical or chiropractic advice. Any and all healthcare concerns, decisions, and actions must be done through the advice and counsel of a healthcare professional who is familiar with your updated medical history.