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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.
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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.

Can Chiropractic Help GERD?

29 Apr

There is a plethora of research supporting the benefits of chiropractic care for many musculoskeletal (MSK) complaints including low back pain, neck pain, headaches, and more. However, less research is available for non-MSK complaints like gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD. So, what can chiropractic offer patients with GERD, and why is this important?

Normally, when we chew and swallow food, it passes through the lower esophageal sphincter (LES), a ring of muscle that opens to let food pass into the stomach and then closes to prevent food and acids from flowing back into the esophagus. If the LES is weak or relaxes inappropriately, individuals can experience the symptoms associated with GERD, including an acidic taste in the mouth, chest pain, choking, difficulty or inability to swallow, nausea, and/or burning sensation in the stomach and/or chest. More than 60 million Americans experience GERD at least once a month with 15 million adults suffering daily from the condition. The persistence of GERD can damage the esophagus, which can lead to inflammation and a breakdown in the lining leading to erosions, ulcerations, fibrotic scarring, and though rare, it can lead to cancer of the esophagus.

Common causes of GERD include (not all-inclusive): hiatal hernia, in which the stomach slides or rolls up above the opening in the diaphragm allowing acids that normally stay in the stomach to flow easily into the esophagus; excess weight from obesity or pregnancy, which can apply pressure against the stomach promoting acid reflux into the esophagus; a diet rich in fatty and/or spicy foods, chocolate, peppermint, coffee, or alcohol; eating late at night; poor posture (slumped); smoking; certain medications; and stress.

In a 2016 study, 22 middle-aged adults with a history of GERD (mean 20.4 months) received between three and sixteen treatments consisting of thoracic spinal manipulation, diaphragm mobilization, traction of the cardia, and posture correction—all of which can be provided in a chiropractic setting. All but two patients reported significant improvements that persisted up to three months following the conclusion of care.

In addition to the manual therapies listed above, your doctor of chiropractic can teach you exercises and offer nutritional advice to help manage GERD without the use of medications.

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.

Can Brain Exercises Help Those with ADHD?

25 Mar

For many individuals—especially those with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and attention-deficit disorder (ADD)—staying “on task” can be a challenge. Though medications are commonly used as a first line treatment for these conditions, research has shown the benefits may only last for a few years. University of California, Irvine scientist Dr. James M. Swanson even reports that pharmacological interventions for ADHD offer no lasting, long-term benefits. Because of this, researchers have been on the lookout for non-drug treatments to improve mindfulness, and it appears meditation may be one useful approach.

Mindful meditation is the process of sitting silently and focusing on your breathing. If you notice your attention starting to wander, return your focus to your breath. Not only will this help you relax but this practice may improve the connections in the brain circuitry that are responsible for maintaining focus. Dr. Swanson notes that individuals with ADHD/ADD appear to have reduced activity in this area of the brain.

In one study that included 50 adults with ADD, researchers observed that those who participated in mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT) achieved comparable results to standard medications for ADHD/ADD with respect to motivation and inhibitory regulation.

In a 2017 study involving 82 patients with anxiety, researchers found that just ten minutes of mindful meditation helped participants stay better focused on their daily tasks. Researcher Dr. Mengran Xu adds, “Our results indicate that mindfulness training may have protective effects on mind wandering for anxious individuals.”

Mindfulness can also reduce anxiety and depression symptoms, which can also benefit individuals with ADHD/ADD, as the conditions can often co-exist. In one study, researchers found that engaging in one hour of mindful meditation not only reduced anxiety symptoms but also reduced stress and improved arterial function. Doctors of chiropractic often include meditation concepts as part of their treatment recommendations, especially in the promotion of prevention and wellness.

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.

Adding This To Your Diet May Help Your Memory…

25 Feb

Curcumin, a chemical found in turmeric that gives mustard and curry their yellow color, has long been known for its anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant capabilities. Because of its prevalence in Indian cuisine, some researchers suspect that reduced inflammation in the brain from frequent curcumin use may explain why senior citizens in India have a lower prevalence of Alzheimer’s disease and better cognitive performance than older adults from other backgrounds.

In a 2018 study published in the American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry, UCLA researchers examined what effects an easily absorbed curcumin supplement had on memory in individuals with AND without Alzheimer’s disease. The study utilized a double-blind, placebo-controlled study that included 40 adults (age 50-90) who had mild memory complaints. The patients were randomly assigned to one of two groups receiving either a placebo or 90 mg of curcumin two times a day for 18 months. Outcome measures used in the study included standard cognitive tests performed initially and again at six-month intervals, and curcumin blood levels were measured initially and again after 18 months. Positron emission tomography (PET) scans were utilized in 30 of the 40 subjects to determine the levels of amyloid and tau in the brain tissue at the start and after 18 months.

The curcumin group experienced significant improvements in memory and attention skills while members of the placebo group did not. Participants in the curcumin group also performed 28% better on memory assessments and reported mild improvements in their mood. Moreover, their brain PET scans showed significantly less amyloid and tau signals in the amygdala and hypothalamus, parts of the brain associated with memory and emotional functions.

The only reported side effects were mild abdominal pain and nausea, which affected four of the curcumin group participants. The authors are planning a larger study that will include people with mild depression to see if curcumin can also serve as an anti-depressant. It will also allow researchers to assess whether curcumin’s memory enhancing effects will vary according to people’s genetic risk for acquiring Alzheimer’s, their age, or the extent of their cognitive problems.

These preliminary results are exciting, as it appears that taking curcumin could provide meaningful cognitive benefits over the years. Doctors of chiropractic frequently council patients on diet and supplementation through the use vitamin, minerals, herbal formulas, and more, of which turmeric/curcumin is a common recommendation, especially given it anti-inflammatory benefits for musculoskeletal conditions.

 

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.

Can Omega-3 Fatty Acids Benefit Patients with Anxiety?

28 Jan

Omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acid (omega-3-PUFA) consumption has been linked to reduced inflammation, a lower risk for heart attack and stroke, and even improved outcomes for patients with carpal tunnel syndrome. Here’s a benefit that may come as a surprise: ANXIETY relief!

Anxiety is the most commonly experienced psychiatric symptom, and it’s reported that it will affect one in three individuals in their lifetime. Anxiety is characterized as an inappropriate or exaggerated fear leading to distress and impairment and is often accompanied with other psychological disorders, including depression, and is associated with a lower health-related quality of life and increased risk of all-cause mortality.

Classic treatment options include cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) and pharmacological treatments, mainly with selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors. A common problem with treatment is potential medication side-effects (sedation and/or drug dependence), as well as time-consumption and cost factors. This often leads to a reluctance to engage in treatment, which is why these findings regarding a nutritional approach to managing anxiety are so important.

In a recent meta-analysis of data from 19 clinical trials that involved 2,240 participants from 11 countries, researchers uncovered evidence that participants who consumed omega-3 fatty acid supplements reported significant clinical improvements in anxiety signs and symptoms.

Interestingly, the researchers noted that the anti-anxiety benefits of omega-3-PUFAs were stronger in those with clinical anxiety compared with those whose conditions were classified as subclinical or borderline. The research team also observed that participants who were given a higher dose (>2000 mg/day) obtained the best anti-anxiety benefits.

Vitamin D, the “sunshine vitamin”, has also been found to improve mood, especially during the winter months. Moreover, people with low vitamin D levels (70% of Americans) may be more likely to experience anxiety.

Hence, a combined daily supplement of >2000 mg of omega-3-PUFAs AND 2000-5000 mg of vitamin D may help manage anxiety signs and symptoms.

 

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.