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The Power of Music on the Mind

28 Oct

Using functional MRI, researchers have observed that music activates the visual, motor, and coordination centers on both sides of the brain. Research also shows that music affects deeper brain areas involving memory and emotion—more than almost any other stimulus. Additionally, music engages less used neural connections in the brain, strengthening them to potentially restore or improve impaired/lost functions.

The American Music Therapy Association (AMTA) notes that music therapists work with older adults to help with dementia, children and adults to reduce asthma episodes, hospitalized patients to reduce pain, children with autism to improve communication skills, premature infants to improve sleep patterns and increase weight, people with Parkinson’s disease to improve motor function, and more.

One of the most publicized music therapy cases involved Congresswoman Gabby Giffords. After a near-fatal head injury, Giffords suffered from aphasia, the inability to speak due to damage of the language pathways located on the left side of the brain. By layering words on top of melody and rhythm and with a lot of practice, new neuropathways were formed, allowing her to regain the ability to speak. Her music therapist, Meaghan Morrow, compared the process to a freeway detour, describing the brain’s ability to form new roads or paths around damaged areas (a process called “neuroplasticity”) so the information can reach the same part of the brain that the damaged freeway once provided.

Dr. Oliver Sacks’ book Musicophilia describes the role of music therapy in managing Parkinson’s disease, which spurred the book and film “Awakenings.” In his book, Dr. Sacks cites an 1871 article by neurologist Dr. John Hughlings Jackson entitled, “Singing by Speechless Children.”

In previous months, we’ve discussed how walking backward can improve memory recall. Other research has found that trying new things or performing activities in a different way can create new pathways in the brain, which may improve brain health. So next time your drive to the store, take a different route. Tomorrow, try holding your toothbrush or your hairbrush with your other hand.

Of course, continue to get regular exercise, eat a healthy diet, get plenty of sleep, avoid smoking, abstain from excessive drinking, and get regular chiropractic care to keep your mind and body in the best shape possible to give yourself the best chance of a long and happy life!

 

 

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.

Detoxing from Social Media and Electronic Devices

30 Sep

The ability to take out a small device and check email, take photos, interact with friends, play games, and answer almost any question seemed like a great idea when smartphones and social media debuted over a decade ago; but in recent years, several studies have looked at the downsides associated with heavy social media and device use.

For example, a 2018 study found that people who use social media platforms for extended periods of time are more prone to make risky decisions. Another study revealed an association between heavy social media use and an elevated risk for physical ailments. Most people are aware of the term “text neck”, which results from spending so much time looking down at the phone that it changes a person’s posture for the worse. Other studies have linked social media use with poor mental health, especially among teens and young adults. One study even suggests that the more someone uses social media, the more likely they are to consult with a plastic surgeon to “improve” their appearance.

The Cleveland Clinic’s Dr. Joseph Rock notes that these issues associated with social media/device use may be due to both how social media changes the brain and the effects of sedentary activity on the mind and body. After all, if you’re staring down at your phone all day, you’re probably not moving your body enough.

One of the big problems with social media is that it produces feelings that keep luring people back for more—to the point where they have difficulty coping if they’re not glued to their device. The best way to determine if you’re using your device too much is to ask family and friends what they think, and if the answer is consistently “too much”, that’s a good indication of a problem. Dr. Rock recommends a “cold turkey” approach to test the addiction intensity. He warns, though it will be initially uncomfortable, it does gradually improve.

Not only will you find yourself spending more time having face to face conversations and smelling the roses, but you’ll probably increase your physical activity levels and take on a healthier posture. If you’re still experiencing some neck/shoulder discomfort, your doctor of chiropractic can show you some exercises that can help retrain your body to sit up straight, which can take a lot of pressure off your neck and upper back.

 

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.

Walking Backward Boosts Memory

29 Aug

We previously discussed how walking backward can strengthen the low back extensor muscles, which can aid in both the treatment and prevention of back pain. According to a study published in the January 2019 issue of the journal Cognition, walking backward (or even watching a video simulating backward motion) may also improve one’s memory.

The study involved 114 people who participated in experiments focused on recalling images, word lists, and even details from a crime scene. Before the recall stage of each experiment, participants were instructed to walk forward, backward, sit still, watch a video that simulated forward or backward motion, or imagine walking forward or backward.

The results revealed that participants performed better in nearly every instance when they either physically walked backward, watched a video that simulated walking backward, or simply imagined doing so. Further analysis revealed that this memory boost lasted an average of ten minutes. While it’s unclear how walking backward benefits memory, psychologist Dr. Daniel Schacter of Harvard University hypothesizes that people may associate backward movement with the past, which may trigger a memory response.

When a crime has occurred, detectives will perform a cognitive interview with witnesses that involves walking them through the crime. Including a backward walking component to the process may allow witnesses to recall more details about the event, which may help solve the case.

Future studies will aim to uncover why this technique improves memory recall and if motion-based memory aids such as this can be applied to patients with cognitive impairments, either from dementia or brain injury.

 

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.

White Rice or Brown Rice or No Rice at All

29 Jul

In today’s world, consumers are inundated with contradicting news about foods that are good for them and foods that can be detrimental to their health. Rice is one such food. Is it good for you? Is it bad? Let’s find out…

In a 2019 study, researchers in India randomly assigned 169 overweight adults (aged 25-65 years) to consume meals that included white or brown rice twice a day, six days a week for three months. The research team used blood testing to measure glucose, insulin, HbA1c, insulin resistance, lipids, and inflammation. The results showed that those who consumed white rice had test results that suggested a higher risk of type 2 diabetes, while those who ate brown rice had blood test results that indicated less inflammation and a reduced diabetes risk.

In 2012 and 2014, Consumer Reports raised concern about the arsenic levels in US rice. In order to determine if rice consumption is associated with an increased risk for cancer, researchers evaluated data from several long-term databases that included dietary and health information involving 45,231 men and 160,408 women who were cancer-free at the start of the study and tested every four years for 26 years.

Overall, the data show that 10,833 men (23.9% of men) and 20,822 women (12.9% of women) developed cancer. Comparing participants who ate <1 serving of rice per week vs. those who ate ≥5 rice servings per week, there was NO significant difference or associations between those who did vs. those who did not get cancer, regardless of the type of rice, cancer type, BMI, smoking status, or ethnic background. Additionally, rice consumption was not associated with cardiovascular disease, which is another leading cause of death in the developed world.

Another interesting study reported that cooking brown rice under high water pressure increased the water absorbency of brown rice without nutrient loss.

Other studies have found that fermented brown rice and rice bran appears to reduce the risk of cancers of the colon, liver, stomach, bladder, esophagus, and lung. In animal models, fermented brown rice/rice bran was also observed to reduce tumor size, though this finding has yet to be confirmed in human subjects.

Doctors of chiropractic often encourage patients to live a healthy lifestyle, which includes eating more of the foods that are good for us and less of the foods that are not. So far, the science suggests that eating white rice in moderation may not hurt you and consuming brown rice may offer some additional benefits.

 

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.

The 25-Second Balance Challenge

24 Jun

Since falls are a major cause of serious injury, especially for older adults, here’s a simple way to objectively measure and improve your sense of balance…

First, stand in a place where you can catch yourself from falling (like behind a chair or in a corner). Place your feet side by side for ten seconds. Then, place the heel of one foot next to your big toe for ten seconds. Finally, rest the forefoot fully in front of the other (like standing on a tight rope) and wait ten seconds. If this process presents no issues, you can proceed.

Stand on one foot/leg for up to 30 seconds with your eyes open. Next, switch legs and repeat the process. Switch back to the first leg, get your balance, and start a 25 second timer. Close your eyes and see if you can maintain your balance for the full 25 seconds. If you must open your eyes and put your foot down, keep track of your time and try the exercise up to three times in a row to see if you can improve. Repeat this on the opposite leg.

The 25-second “cut-off” for “eyes closed” is published as the “norm” for those up to 59 years old. If you are 60-69 years old, the norm drops to ten seconds and if you are 70-79, the norm is only four seconds! This means we NORMALLY lose our sense of balance with age, but that doesn’t mean you should accept it, as retraining your balance system is feasible with the proper exercises.

First, practice the test described above, as it is also a great exercise for improving balance. Other balance challenges can include the use of a balance or rocker board, walking like you’re on a tight rope, walking backward, hopping in place, and stepping up and down on one or two steps. The important thing is to work these exercises into your daily routine. Many of these balance challenges also work well as a great “mini-break”, especially if you have a desk job.

Re-test your balance skills once one or two weeks and see if you can improve your time. You will be surprised how quickly and how much you can improve your balance skills and how much steadier it can make you feel in your everyday activities. Fall prevention starts with knowing your current abilities, and re-testing keeps you motivated!

 

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.

Deep, Slow Breathing for Pain Management?

27 May

Deep slow breathing (DSB) has been widely used for managing various diseases of the heart and lungs as well as for psychiatric disorders including anxiety, depression, and stress-related conditions. There appears to be some research to support DSB as being helpful for pain management, but the results have been inconsistent. However, a 2012 study suggests that how you “think” while practicing DSB may be the key for reducing pain…

In the study, researchers monitored sixteen healthy adults as they performed DSB while in both a relaxed and distracted state. In the relaxed state, participants were instructed to focus only on taking slow, deep breaths while in the distracted state, participants had to actively manage their deep breathing in pace with instructions on a computer screen. In order to reduce any carry-over effects, the active/distracted portions of the study were spaced six months apart and participants were advised to avoid practicing DSB or meditation or to seek any outside education on the topic.

Interestingly, in both circumstances, participants experienced similar reductions in negative feelings (tension, anger, and depression). However, the researchers only observed improvements with respect to pain thresholds, autonomic activity (skin conductance or sympathetic tone), and thermal detection for cold and hot stimuli when participants were relaxed.

Hence, it appears to be important that focused concentration on inhaling and exhaling or “thinking about” each breath in DSB and removing distracting thoughts is KEY to achieving increasing sympathetic arousal and improving mood processing. These findings may help to explain why mindful mediation, or mindfulness, benefits patients and why Eastern disciplines such as yoga, Qi-Gong, and Tai Chi are associated with reduced pain and improved mood.

Doctors of chiropractic often advise patients to reduce stress as part of management process for chronic pain conditions, with DSB being a great choice. This study shows that when done in a relaxed state, not only can patients experience mood-related benefits but they may also be able to reduce the effect of pain on their daily lives so they can perform their usual work and life activities.

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.