Stay Safe During Hot Weather Exercise

If you are a regular reader of these blogs you know that I definitely advocate exercising on a regular basis, but when the summer months turn really hot and humid, you need to be careful to avoid heat related illnesses like heat stroke or heat exhaustion.

Whether you’re running, playing tennis, working in your yard or garden, or going for a power walk, please be careful when the temperature rises.

Exercising in hot weather puts extra stress on your body. If you don’t take care when exercising in the heat, you risk serious illness. Both the exercise itself and the air temperature and humidity can increase your core body temperature.

To help cool itself, your body sends more blood to circulate through your skin. This leaves less blood for your muscles, which in turn increases your heart rate. If the humidity also is high, your body faces added stress because sweat doesn’t readily evaporate from your skin. That pushes your body temperature even higher.

Under normal conditions, your skin, blood vessels and perspiration level adjust to the heat. But these natural cooling systems may fail if you’re exposed to high temperatures and humidity for too long, you sweat heavily, and you don’t drink enough fluids.

The result may be a heat-related illness. Heat-related illnesses occur along a spectrum, starting out mild but worsening if left untreated. Heat illnesses include:

  • Heat cramps.Heat cramps, sometimes called exercise-associated muscle cramps, are painful muscle contractions that can occur with exercise. Affected muscles may feel firm to the touch. You may feel muscle pain or spasms. Your body temperature may be normal.
  • Heat syncope and exercise-associated collapseHeat syncope is a feeling of lightheadedness or fainting caused by high temperatures, often occurring after standing for a long period of time or standing quickly after sitting for a long period of time. Exercise-associated collapse is feeling lightheaded or fainting immediately after exercising, and it can occur especially if you immediately stop running and stand still after a race or a long run.
  • Heat exhaustion.With heat exhaustion, your body temperature rises as high as 104° F, and you may experience nausea, vomiting, weakness, headache, fainting, sweating and cold, clammy skin. If left untreated, heat exhaustion can lead to heatstroke.
  • Heatstroke is a life-threatening emergency condition that occurs when your body temperature is greater than 104° F. Your skin may be dry from lack of sweat, or it may be moist.

You may develop confusion, irritability, headache, heart rhythm problems, dizziness, fainting, nausea, vomiting, visual problems and fatigue. You need immediate medical attention to prevent brain damage, organ failure or even death.

During hot-weather exercise, watch for signs and symptoms of heat-related illness. If you ignore these symptoms, your condition can worsen, resulting in a medical emergency.

WARNING SIGNS:

  • Muscle cramps
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Weakness
  • Fatigue
  • Headache
  • Excessive sweating
  • Dizziness or lightheadedness
  • Confusion
  • Irritability
  • Low blood pressure
  • Increased heart rate
  • Visual problems

If you develop any of these symptoms, you must lower your body temperature and get hydrated right away. Stop exercising immediately and get out of the heat. If possible, have someone stay with you who can help monitor your condition.

Measuring core body temperature with a rectal thermometer is essential to accurately determine the degree of heat injury. An oral, ear or forehead thermometer doesn’t provide an accurate temperature reading for this purpose. In cases of heatstroke, due to confusion and mental status changes, you won’t be able to treat yourself and you’ll require emergency medical care. The most effective way of rapid cooling is immersion of your body in a cold- or ice-water tub.

In cases of heat exhaustion, remove extra clothing or sports equipment. Make sure you are around people who can help you and assist in your care. If possible, fan your body or wet down your body with cool water.

You may place cool, wet towels or ice packs on your neck, forehead and under your arms, spray yourself with water from a hose or shower, or sit in a tub filled with cold water. Drink fluids such as water or a sports drink. If you don’t feel better within about 20 minutes, seek emergency medical care.

IF YOU HAVE SIGNS OF HEAT STROKE- SEEK MEDICAL TREATMENT RIGHT AWAY

If your core temperature is less than 104° F, but it doesn’t come down quickly, you’ll also need urgent medical attention. In some cases, you may need fluids through intravenous (IV) tubes if you’re not able to drink fluids, or not able to drink enough fluids.

Get cleared by your doctor before you return to exercise if you’ve had heatstroke. Your doctor will likely recommend that you wait to return to exercise or sports until you’re not experiencing symptoms. If you’ve had a heatstroke, you may require many weeks before you are able to exercise at a high level. Once your doctor clears you for exercise, you may begin to exercise for short periods of time and gradually exercise for longer periods as you adjust to the heat.

When you exercise in hot weather, keep these precautions in mind:

  • Watch the temperature.Pay attention to weather forecasts and heat alerts. Know what the temperature is expected to be for the duration of your planned outdoor activity. In running events, there are “flag” warnings that correspond to the degree of heat and humidity. For example, a yellow flag requires careful monitoring, and races are canceled in black flag conditions.
  • Get acclimated.If you’re used to exercising indoors or in cooler weather, take it easy at first when you exercise in the heat. It can take at least one to two weeks to adapt to the heat. As your body adapts to the heat over time, gradually increase the length and intensity of your workouts.
  • Know your fitness level.If you’re unfit or new to exercise, be extra cautious when working out in the heat. Your body may have a lower tolerance to the heat. Reduce your exercise intensity and take frequent breaks.
  • Drink plenty of fluids.Dehydration is a key factor in heat illness. Help your body sweat and cool down by staying well-hydrated with water. Don’t wait until you’re thirsty to drink fluids. If you plan to exercise intensely, consider a sports drink instead of water. Sports drinks can replace the sodium, chloride and potassium you lose through sweating. Avoid alcoholic drinks because they can actually promote fluid loss.
  • Dress appropriately.Lightweight, loose fitting clothing helps sweat evaporate and keeps you cooler. Avoid dark colors, which can absorb heat. If possible, wear a light-colored, wide-brimmed hat.
  • Avoid midday sun.Exercise in the morning or evening, when it’s likely to be cooler outdoors. If possible, exercise in shady areas, or do a water workout in a pool.
  • Wear sunscreen.A sunburn decreases your body’s ability to cool itself and increases the risk of skin cancer.
  • Have a backup plan.If you’re concerned about the heat or humidity, stay indoors. Work out at the gym, walk laps inside the mall or climb stairs inside an air-conditioned building.
  • Understand your medical risks.Certain medical conditions or medications can increase your risk of a heat-related illness. If you plan to exercise in the heat, talk to your doctor about precautions.
  • Choose and alternative form of exercise. If you are a runner – maybe try cycling as you create your own cooling effect by moving air over your body – or maybe give swimming a go – but beware of swimming laps in a hot (> 84° F) pool – as you can quickly overheat swimming in water that warm.

I do recommend that you continue to exercise on a regular basis even through this hot month of August, just be smart about it by following these recommendations.

If you have any questions about this blog or your health in general, please feel free to contact me at:  drtomball@performancehealthcenter.com

 

TURMERIC, Not Just a Spice Anymore…It’s So Much More!

I have been seeing Turmeric pop up everywhere these days, whether it be in the natural root form at many grocery stores, or all over at pharmacies and health stores.  There is a big push being made for being one of the best anti-inflammatories out there!

 

If you are someone that has or takes Advil, Ibuprofen or NSAIDS (non-steriodal anti-inflammatory drugs).   more often than not, this may be worth reading through… These over the counter (OTC) medications are really not that good for you and can bring about serious health complications.  That being said, these are the most common over the counter drugs used for chronic pain and out there these days!  Chronic pain can be very debilitating, as well as acute pain and injury, and can have detrimental and adverse effects on one’s quality of life.  However, a majority of people trying to find a “reasonable and workable” solution for pain, usually end up reaching for a bottle of NSAID’s.

 

Most of the population doesn’t know how NSAID’s really work when ingested to help target and decrease pain in the body.  NSAIDS TEMPORARILY block the overflow of production of inflammatory cells/chemicals to the site of pain.  NSAIDS basically “trick” the body into overriding its inflammatory response to an injury.  When this happens the pain also lessens or subsides too.  With inflammation comes pain, if inflammation is removed or “blocked” more realistically, the pain is most likely “blocked” from getting to the area as well.  This helps people to feel better, so therefore they continue to take more of it to feel better.  It also gives false interpretation that the person may be “feeling better” due to having less pain, but the NSAIDS have only “masked” the symptoms and the pain usually returns, but more importantly with the possibility that the person has done more damage to the area injured thinking it was feeling better because of the NSAIDS.  We see this all the time with patients in our office, and it is our job to help educate them about the pros and cons of taking OTC NSAIDS, and when it really is or isn’t necessary.  Aside from this, use of NSAIDS can cause stomach pain, stomach ulcers, indigestion, internal bleeding, constipation, headaches, dizziness, ringing in the ears, and allergic reactions such as hives, vomiting, throat swelling etc.  I mean, why would someone not look for more natural ways to help decrease inflammation, pain and swelling?

There are many natural supplements out there now that help to decrease pain and inflammation (which I will write about in some future articles), but turmeric by far seems to be one of the most powerful.  Turmeric is a plant, and not only one of the most popular spices around, but one of the most powerful super foods.  The root is what is most commonly used in medicine.  Medicinal use of turmeric is dated back over 4,000 years ago, wow!  Today there are many uses for turmeric such as detoxification, promoting radiant skin, mood balancing, supporting cardiac health, decreasing inflammation, etc.  A few of the most important uses of turmeric are reducing pain, being a very strong anti-inflammatory and antioxidant.  Turmeric helps to lower the levels of two different enzymes in the body that cause inflammation, not “block” the inflammation to the area of injury.  Antioxidants also help to fight free radicals that can even potentially reduce some of the damage these free radicals cause in the body.  This helps in regards to the level of inflammation in the body as well, or when responding to inflammation from an injury.  I figured this was a good month to help remind our patients and many others that read the newsletter about Turmeric and its health benefits.  Being that spring, well maybe even summer is possibly here (though, I will believe it when I see it), everyone is getting outside doing yard work, and starting to exercise more, and we have seen an increase of injuries in the office, and wanted some other ways to help our patients feel better naturally when not in the office.

Many turmeric supplements, like other vitamins and supplements, are not absorbed well into the body, so it is important to make sure you are buying turmeric from a reputable company.  As we always say, please be sure to speak to your naturopathic doctor, chiropractic physician or nutritionist in regards to any questions concerning the quality of the supplement you may be taking.  At Performance Health Center we carry a very popular and reputable brand of vitamins and supplements by MetagenicsMetagenics makes a supplement called, Inflavinoids (which I know I have probably mentioned several times over the years in practice), that has turmeric in it as well, along with some other natural anti-inflammatories.  We prescribe this supplement primarily to decrease inflammation in the patient’s body if a patient is dealing with an injury.  It almost acts like a “natural Ibuprofen”.   A patient can take 2-4 capsules 2-4 times a day, just as someone taking some other type of NSAID would.  This supplement helps when people are dealing with chronic back pain, ankle sprains, and even whiplash from an accident, but even helps in many acute situations and injuries as well.  I personally take 1-2 capsules a day for preventive measures to help keep levels of inflammation lower in my body.  I also keep it on hand as it has helped decrease symptoms when I get a headache as well.  There are some other supplements by Metagenics we offer as well that help to decrease inflammation, and that are more helpful with acute injuries, that I will discuss another time.  Until then, this is something you may want to speak to one of us about in the office during your next visit.

Many other chiropractic facilities and medical offices carry the Metagenics brand as well. Should you have more questions in regards to this topic, please feel free me at DrV@PerformanceHealthCenter.com.

 

 

Talk About an Inspiration…OMG!

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I was so excited to write May’s little article I could hardly wait!  I know many times we write about topics that will help improve our patient’s health, or insightful information to help give our patients advice and educate them, but I wanted to change things up a little this month.  Though I was unable to be out on the course for the 2018 Boston Marathon this year, I promise I was there in spirit checking all my patients and friends progress, and keeping track of the race, while doing much over day paperwork.  It’s call multitasking folks J.  I guess if I was going to pick a year to have to miss, this was certainly a good one in regards to the weather, and coldest temperature to start the race in years, if not ever.

While I was away that weekend, I actually had a moment to sit down and read the newspaper.  That never happens, ever!  I usually keep up with the news or current events through my patients, friends, and family.  In the sports section in the New York Times, I came across an amazing and beyond inspirational article, and wanted to share my feelings and thoughts about it this month.  The article gave me the chills reading it.  The title of the article I read on that Sunday before the 2018 Boston Marathon was, ‘It’s Pure Torture.  But It Works.’  I shared the link on my FB page, and I am sure if you go the New York Times website, anyone can find it online.

The article was about a professional triathlete, Tim Don.  For those of you who do not recognize the name, he is the world-record holder in the Ironman, setting that record at almost the age of 40, in Brazil, 2017.  He had obviously qualified for the World Championship in Kona for 2017, and was there on his last training ride 2 days before Kona, when he was hit by a utility vehicle.  Needless to say, the Ironman World Championships in Kona, and his goal to win it was quickly put on hold.  The article itself goes into much more detail about everything.  Tim had what was called a “hang-man’s fracture”.  It is a fracture of the C2 vertebra in the neck, NOT GOOD, not good at all! Reading the article, I am just amazed that he is alive, let alone not paralyzed.  The surgeons gave Tim 3 options, the third option being the best bet if he were going to try and return to any type of professional career after recovery.

Get ready folks, as this is the part that amazes me even more then him not dying or being paralyzed that tragic day, I think…Tim’s fracture somehow was stable, and option 3 was for Tim to be put in a halo device for 6 months.  It is a metal device that is secured to one’s skull by way of 4 titanium screws (that have to be screwed in to the skull)! There are 4 extended pieces that come down to set around his lower neck and shoulders.  The doctor in the article describes it as a “mid-evil torture device, but it works”.  WTF!  He had to basically be still for almost 3 months until he could start moving around and trying to do anything. I cannot begin to imagine how painful all of those days were, let alone after devising a return to training plan that he started to embark on after those few months with is former physical therapist that come from overseas to work with him.

All of this said, and to start trying to sum up a much longer story, though amazing at the least, Tim had set a goal to compete in the 2018 Boston Marathon, and even better, in hopes to have a finishing time of 2 hours and 50 minutes or better!  NO WAY!  I was sitting there thinking and shaking my head reading this article, how is this even possible? I immediately shared this article on social media, and tried to send it to everyone I knew that was running the Boston Marathon this year.  I was hoping people would find this as inspiring as I did, and help to get them through a less than ideal day, 4/16/2018.  And guess what folks, Tim Don finished in just under two hours and fifty minutes.  I followed his story all morning, along with our new American Female Boston Marathon Winner as well.  I know these were beyond less than ideal conditions for 2018, but just 5 years since the marathon bombing, talk about maybe one of the most memorable marathons possibly.

 

I was amazed at how Tim’s body could handle what it did.  I do not go into detail about the amount of pain Tim must have been in, and the article only touches on just a fraction on what I am sure he was really experiencing.  But, Tim’s mind set and determination were unbelievable.  It also helped that he was in tremendous condition, but also goes to show that if the body is healthy and taken care of properly, the ability for a better or even full recovery is more than possible.

 

As I was thinking about the article after reading it, I feel this concept plays into in a lot of what I do on a daily basis for work.  I am always trying to help educate my patients how to take better care of themselves with chiropractic care and Active Release Techniques (ART), PT, and acupuncture.  Whether it be different ways to exercise, stretch, roll, recover or heal, about nutrition, supplements to take etc., I am always trying to impress upon patients how important it to take care of their bodies, as we only get one!  Many or most times this is in regards to a patient coming in seeking help after some type of injury, but in reality it is just important to take care of our bodies just the same regardless of injury, actually more important.  If we all put more emphasis on the “preventive” and “maintaining” part taking care of our bodies, I truly feel we will all be much further ahead in life, and we will all be able to bounce back so much faster in regards to a minor, moderate, or even major injury in regards to Tim Don’s case.

A little side note before concluding this month’s story: Tim Don’s next goal is to race another ironman late spring or early summer to qualify for Kona in the fall of 2018.  GO TIM!!!

 

 

 

 

It’s That Time of Year Again, Boston Marathon Time!

Calling all Boston Marathoners, it’s that time of year!  Spring is in the air, hopefully the snow is done, and the marathon is quickly approaching.  So exciting!!!

Once again, I wouldn’t be doing my job if I wasn’t offering a little advice to all my patients, family and friends on how they can better take care of themselves during this exciting time of year, and the rest of the year, as “marathon-ing” is starting to become an all year round sport.

I cannot stress how important it is that runners and athletes in general be more proactive to take care better care of themselves leading up to a marathon, and in their recovery post marathon as well.   Being proactive pre-race and post-race, whether it being seeing your chiropractor, massage therapist, physical therapist, or acupuncturist, can really help prevent injury from occurring leading up to the race, and certainly help speed up your recovery and get back on the road to training after the race.  There are so many words of advice, tips, recommendations etc., that I am going to just focus on a few things that I have found myself to fall short on after running a marathon or completing a triathlon.

One of the most commonly asked question by a runner or triathlete is, “How long should I wait to run again after the marathon?”.   After my first marathon, I had no clue, and I thought I could just jump back into running like it was nothing!  I mean, I had just completed 26.2 miles of running, I felt like I could do anything!  Boy was I wrong, and it certainly wasn’t the first question I asked.  So…for all of those who are inquiring and don’t want to be like me on the first time around, general rule of thumb seems to be 1-2 weeks depending on how one feels.

A lot of articles say 5-7 days of rest post marathon, which I am totally fine with.  More importantly though, the next few weeks after that initial week should be taken lightly with training as the body is trying to recover.  Usually within 3-4 weeks a runner can return to regular training, or harder workouts, providing there are no injuries that the runner or triathlete is dealing with from before the race, or an injury resulting from the race.  As for triatletes, usually one can get back to swimming right away, as it is not compressive to the body, but I wouldn’t be trying to “kill it” in the pool.  As for the bike, again, less compressive to the body, but listen to your legs and your body, and how you feel over all.  To go a little lighter for a few weeks post-race is not a bad thing.  You can still get some good training and exercise in without destroying your body.

Again, as I have mentioned before, ice baths for recovery post race are awesome.  Most runners inquire about the effectiveness of ice baths and when or how long to soak in the tub of ice for.  The general idea in regards to this type of cryotherapy treatment is that the exposure to cold helps the body fight the microtrauma (tiny little tears) in the muscle fibers causing soreness by the repetitive exercise that just took place.  Constricting the blood vessels for a short period of time can help to flush toxins released by the body during the event, and intern, help to decrease or reduce inflammation, swelling, and breakdown of tissue in the body. I recommend getting into the tub and filling it with cold water around you first (up to your waste), then dumping a bag or two of ice into the water after you are submerged. It is best to stay submerged in the ice bath for about 10 minutes if you can tolerate it.

As always, I am a HUGE fan of a post marathon chiropractic adjustment and Active Release Techniques® (ART) to help realign your body, and set your straight for the rest of the season, or whatever race you have coming up next.  Post-race massage within a few days’ post marathon or whatever race you have done is so important, and something I always do without fail.  Without my chiropractors and massage therapists, physical therapist, and acupuncturist, I do not think I could train the way I do, and keep going after all of these years, seriously!

I really hope some of this information helps you all in your journey to the Boston Marathon this year, or whatever race or competition you have on your calendar in 2018.  And, in particular to the month of April, Happy Boston Marathon-ing to everyone racing.  Think positive thoughts to carry you through that day, and I will be there with you all in spirit!  If you have any questions about pre and post marathon or race recovery, please feel free and contact me at drv@performancehealthcenter.com.

 

Improve Your Posture With These Exercises and Stretches

Most people feel like they could improve their posture, yet they are not quite sure where to start.  I will list some key stretches and exercises that will help improve your posture, but first we need to determine what is causing our poor posture.

Most of us spend too much time sitting. Add up all the time we spend sitting in the car, at home, and at work and it may equal more than half your waking hours. The problem stems from the way we typically sit, or slouch, hours at a time in front of a computer, or behind the wheel of a car, or slumped on the couch at home.  Typical poor sitting posture includes: neck protracted, shoulders internally rotated, hamstrings shortened, glutes and core muscles disengaged. Consistently sitting like this will inevitably lead to muscular imbalances that translate into poor posture.

When you do sit, remember to keep your back straight with your head in a neutral position. Allow your shoulder blades to sink into your back pockets. Align your ears over your shoulders, and your shoulders over your hips to avoid that forward slouch.

Better yet, sit on a stability ball, or replace the chair, even some of the time with a stand-up desk arrangement. At the least, incorporate frequent breaks into your workday to break up extended hours of sitting at a desk.

During your breaks from sitting, stand up and do some muscle activation exercises and dynamic stretches to wake up the lines of communication to underused muscles and to increase mobility in tight areas.

MUSCLE ACTIVATION EXERCISES:

Activate your core by pulling your belly button toward your spine; then raise your arms above your head and lean back slightly while balanced on one leg. Hold it for five seconds; then switch to the other leg.

Activate your hips by standing on one leg and moving your opposite leg back and to the side. Hold for five seconds; then switch legs. Or, stand on both legs and alternately squeeze one glute and then the other, as you sway side to side.

Specific stretches to improve posture:

Open up the chest with a doorway stretch.  Stand in a doorway with your hands on each side of the opening- allow your body to “enter the room” with your hands still on each side of the door opening behind you.  Hold for 30 seconds.

To stretch your back, start with a half wall hang. With your feet shoulder-width apart, place your hands against a wall. Slowly step away from the wall as you slide your hands down the wall until your hands, shoulders, and hips are aligned and parallel to the floor. Push your hands into the wall and pull your hips away from the wall as you feel a stretch in your lower back.

From the half wall hang, move into a full hang to target more of your hamstrings. Move your hands down the wall to the floor and hang with waist bent and head relaxed.

SHOULDER RETRACTION EXERCISE:

The shoulder retraction exercise helps vertically align your head and neck with your spinal column and helps your thoracic spine move into extension. The shoulder retraction exercise is designed to relax your tight neck and pectoral muscles.

Stand up straight and keep your feet about shoulder-width apart and your toes pointing straight ahead. Slowly contract your abdominal muscles to keep your hips in a stable position. With your arms dangling freely at your sides, flip your palms over to face directly ahead and then lower your shoulders down and back so that your shoulder blades move toward your spine. Push your breastbone out and up. Position your head so that it’s directly above your spinal column and then tuck your chin to your throat. Hold this stretch for 20 to 30 seconds. Perform this stretch one time per working hour.

REVERSE SHOULDER SHRUGS:

Perform reverse shoulder shrugs by standing or sitting up straight and keeping your head in a neutral position, directly above your spinal column. In one fluid motion, lift both of your shoulders toward your ears. Then roll your shoulders backward and down as your shoulder blades move toward your spine. This exercise helps extend your upper thoracic spine and opens up your chest. While you’re performing this exercise, you should feel a light stretch in your chest and shoulder muscles. Perform 20 reverse shoulder shrugs two to three times a day, five days a week or more if you’re doing a lot of computer work.

CHIN TUCK EXERCISE:

Perform the repetitive chin tuck exercise to stretch your neck muscles and promote better posture. The repetitive chin tuck exercise targets the muscles in your upper cervical spine, which are situated just below the base of your skull.

Perform the repetitive chin tuck exercise by standing tall and keeping your spine straight. This is your starting position. Keeping your gaze level, pull your head and neck straight back (without tilting your neck backward) and bring your chin to your throat. You should feel a light stretch in the back of your neck, just under the base of your skull. Hold your stretch for five to seven seconds and then return to your starting position. Repeat this exercise 10 times five days a week. To enhance your stretch, you can use your index finger to place gentle pressure on your chin.

My favorite “improve your posture exercise” involves a stability ball, also known as a Swiss ball, this passive stretch should be part of your daily routine.  Lie with your back supported by the stability ball. Plant your feet firmly in the ground, hip-distance apart.  Open your arms to the sides of the room and let them hang so you feel a stretch in your chest muscles. Hold for 20 to 30 seconds.  This exercise feels great as it unloads your spine from gravity and reverses the forward hunched posture we get from prolonged sitting.

To learn these and more Postural Restoration exercises in person, come to my next workshop, Postural Restoration.  Included in the class is a new Stability Ball pumped up for you.

If you have any questions about this blog or your health in general, please feel free to contact me at: drtomball@performancehealthcenter.com

“Rest and Relax” vs “Fight or Flight”

“Rest and Relax” (PNS) vs “Fight or Flight” (SNS)…. I am writing this Blog the week before Super Bowl LII, while most sports fans are thinking AFC vs NFC and which is stronger and who will over power the other.  Well, I want you to consider in your own mind which system in your body is overpowering the other?

What do I mean by that?  Well, we all have both a Parasympathetic nervous system (PNS) and Sympathetic nervous system (SNS), both of which are regulated by our Central Nervous System (CNS).  Which ever one is dominant in you may influence your overall health.  People who are more SNS dominant may have trouble relaxing, they may have hypertension, muscle tension, irritability, and difficulty with digestion and/or elimination.  There are a host of health-related problems from being too SNS dominant, but for the sake of this blog I will highlight how it effects our overall nutritional intake and absorption.

Have you ever switched your focus from what you are eating to how you are digesting? Are you really absorbing all the nutrients from your foods?

The parasympathetic nerves come from the cranial nerves and include the vagus nerve. The PNS nerves perform the following digestive functions:

  • Stimulate the activity of the stomach
  • Inhibit the release of glucose
  • Stimulate the release of the gallbladder to release bile needed to digest fat
  • Stimulate the activity of the intestines
  • Trigger peristalsis, which helps prevent constipation
  • Trigger enzyme production in the pancreas (pancreatic enzymes to break down carbs, protein and fats)
  • Signal if satiated
  • Signal if hungry
  • Need for more stomach acid (HCL), enzymes, bile and peristalsis

The sympathetic nerves do the opposite, including:

  • Inhibit the activity of the stomach
  • Stimulate the release of glucose (increasing blood sugar levels)
  • Inhibit gallbladder function (inhibiting the release of bile for fat digestion)
  • Inhibit the activity of the intestines

Stress impairs our digestive process. Digestion is a parasympathetic nervous system process (PNS) also known as the “rest, digest and repair” nervous system. For maximum health we should be in the PNS 80 percent of the time and the other 20 percent of the day we should be in the sympathetic nervous system (SNS), also known as the “fight or flight” nervous system. Now what percentage of the day do you think you are in PNS versus SNS? What about when you are eating? Resting? Sleeping? We should be in the parasympathetic nervous system when eating but rarely do we sit, relax and focus on eating a meal as they do in most areas of Europe.

If you are a typical type-A personality, over-doer in life, then you may struggle with taking time out of your weekday for a relaxing meal and unplugging. What is the difference? Eating in the parasympathetic nervous system versus the sympathetic nervous system. Digestion is turned off when you are in the sympathetic nervous system. Many of us are living life as a race leading us to be in the sympathetic nervous system 80 percent of the day instead of 20 percent, causing a domino effect of health problems.

So, we know the vagus nerve highly influences the PNS so our vagus nerve needs to be strong in order to help in the digestion process. Remember, we get our amino acids, essential fatty acids, vitamins and minerals from the food we digest and break down, which helps build enzymes, hormones, muscles, bones, blood and our gut biome.

We need to support our vagus nerve and (PNS) to improve our digestion and gut health if we want to be healthier, since good digestion leads to a healthy gut, which results in reduced inflammation and an improved immune system (70% of our immune system is in the gut!).

Stop, pause, slow inhales, long exhales and reset. Take some deep breathes in and out, focus and unplug. Other techniques to boost your PNS: gargling, humming, singing, cold showers, meditation, mindful yoga, and connecting with loved ones.

Our digestion is as important as our diet. To nourish ourselves, we must support our digestion, but also our brain, as the brain communicates to the gut and the gut communicates back to the brain. Anti-inflammation is key to our bodies’ repair, recovery and regeneration, but it doesn’t happen if we are not in the parasympathetic nervous system more often during the day and all night.

Chiropractic adjustments can strengthen your PNS since it deals directly with your nervous system.  Every function of your body is controlled by your central nervous system, and these functions can be disrupted by misalignments in your spine. These are called subluxations. A subluxation creates interference in the function of your spinal nerves, and this can result in impaired functioning of your organs and endocrine system.

So, slow down, take some deep breaths and get regular chiropractic adjustments to keep your vagus nerve and your PNS strong and healthy.

If you have any questions about this blog or your health in general, please feel free to contact me at: drtomball@performancehealthcenter.com

 

Got Enough Snow Yet???

Has your back been aching after an already long winter, and it’s only the beginning of February? Did you ever stop to think that you might be doing it wrong?  Shoveling, that is.  And, if you are not using a snow blower, like many of us are not, me included, you basically have a couple choices when it comes to shoveling snow…Shoveling after every few inches of snow fall, or waiting until the storm ends, and then remove the snow in layers, are the pretty obvious choices I would say.  If shoveling snow after you have waited for it all to accumulate, the please remove only as much snow as you are comfortable lifting and moving at a time.

It is also recommended that you clear your driveway in two stages if shoveling.  First, you should push the snow to the edges of the driveway with a versatile snow shovel (there are various types of snow shovels if you didn’t know, and this is one that is good for throwing, lifting and pushing), then shovel what’s left in the way out of the way.  The more you can push the snow instead of actually lift and shovel the snow, the better! One tip, if you have an uneven pavement, an all plastic snow shovel without a steel edge would be better and less likely to catch and possibly “jar” your wrist, elbow, shoulder, or back.

Even if you have been dealing with shoveling snow on and off your whole life, the basic idea is to work smarter, not harder – avoid unnecessary work!  Clear a path on your way to your car, that way you avoid packing down the snow along the way, and packed snow is much tougher to shovel.  We all know that!  Just look at the last storm we had that packed down a lot of heavy and wet snow, ugh L

Don’t bother too much with the snow close and around your car at first.  Turn your car on to defrost and melt the snow on it, while you start shoveling elsewhere.  It is usually just easier to clear the snow close and around your car later after you have cleared off what is left on your car as well.  To be more efficient, it is better to remove that snow once towards the end as a final touch up.  Remember, every additional scoop you make is extra strain on your body!  If you are in good shape and aiming for this to be a work out, awesome, just please move carefully as well (the same rules generally apply), otherwise one should be trying to conserve movement.

Don’t worry too much about shoveling the snow where your driveway meets the road right away.  As we all know, the plows go by and always fill that area with more snow, lucky us!  If I were you, I would wait until the end to shovel that part, or when the plows have finished, or at least gone by once depending on the size of the storm.  When tackling this part of the driveway, be sure to do it in stages, as the snow will be much heavier to shovel.

Try and have a plan of attack before going out to shovel snow.  It may even be best to break up shoveling into smaller sections and rest in between if needed.  Like stated before, try and clear your driveway in stages, rather than all at once.  Try not to create huge piles of snow while shoveling either, it becomes harder to lift and throw the snow, and can put more pressure on your spine and back.  Another tip as well, make sure you know where your walkways or pathways are, and do not shovel more snow into those areas.  You will in turn have to shovel that snow, plus the snow already there.  There is NO need to move that snow twice!  Our backs are not meant for this kind of work.

 

It is still a good possibility that even following all of this advice and the tips, you could end up with a “bad back” a day or two after shoveling.  That is why you always hear, “Lift with your legs!”.  You want to avoid at all cost putting added stress on your low back, let your legs do the work.  For example, bend your knees to lower yourself to pick up the shovel off the ground, and same goes for accessing the snow.  DO NOT bend your back to reach the snow. After scooping up a shovel full of snow, use your legs to raise yourself back up.  When you are going to stand back up as well with the snow on the shovel, do not have your arms stretched out away from your body, your back will be doing much of the work that way, and in an odd and vulnerable position.  Keep the load of snow close to your body, as it will help to keep stress off your low back.  And one other thing, and I promise to be done talking about shoveling snow (how depressing), ALWAYS move your upper body and upper body together when turning to throw the snow.  NEVER twist or rotate with your upper body only, that is a recipe for a herniated disc, or a very back low back strain.  Okay, I am done ranting on, for now anyway…

Performance Health Center always sends out an email reminder to all of our patients and friends before a snow storm to help remind you all how to perform snow removal safely with a shovel.  It’s because we care, and would rather see you in our office for your monthly maintenance or wellness visit, not because you threw your back out shoveling! If you have any questions or concerns regarding any of this information, be sure to email one of the docs at PHC, or talk to us at your next office visit.  Happy shoveling you guys, and only two more months of winter, but who’s counting?  I sure am!  DrV@performancehealthcenter.com

Tips to Relieve Back Pain

Your first step should be to seek out professional help.  Whether you see your PCP, a Physical Therapist, an Orthopedic Physician, or a Chiropractic Physician, start by finding a professional trained to diagnose and treat back pain.  There are a multitude of factors that can cause back pain, and getting the proper diagnosis is the best place to start.  If you are looking for a non-invasive non-pharmacologic option, Chiropractic has shown in many studies to be statistically the best choice.

 

“Patients with chronic low-back pain treated by chiropractors showed greater improvement and satisfaction at one month than patients treated by family physicians. Satisfaction scores were higher for chiropractic patients. A higher proportion of chiropractic patients (56 percent vs. 13 percent) reported that their low-back pain was better or much better, whereas nearly one-third of medical patients reported their low-back pain was worse or much worse.”       

Nyiendo et al (2000), Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics

 

Keep moving.  Many PCP’s and Orthopedic Physicians recommend bed rest, but this can often make things worse.  We say every day to our patients, “Life is motion”.  We are designed to move each and every day.  Many of our patients tell us the prolonged sitting or standing they do is often their biggest contributor to their chronic back pain.  Let pain be your guide, any movement or motion that does not make your condition worse will usually help it get better sooner.  We find many times the cuase of the back pain are fixated vertebrae- that is they are not moving properly. These “fixations” can be caused by a multitude of factors, i.e. physical or emotional stress, some sort of trauma, poor posture, or even a poor diet can contribute to these vertebral “fixations”, which we refer to as “subluxations”.  Chiropractors are the only specialists that are trained specifically to locate and correct these vertebral subluxations.

If your chronic pain is related to emotional or work-related stress, try some relaxation techniques to help reduce muscle tension.  If your job or lifestyle requires lots of physical stress, make sure to use good posture and be sure to take stretch breaks often.

Exercise regularly- this helps in many ways: gets your spine moving; reduces stress; increases blood flow; and helps strengthen the muscles that support your spine.  What exercises are best for your back?  Well that may be different for each of us, but first find something you can currently do without pain, and make sure it is something you enjoy as you will be much more likely to stick with it.  My people find Yoga and/or swimming to help their chronic back pain, but as I mentioned earlier find what works best for you.  Make sure to warm up properly: including some foam rolling, then be sure to maintain good posture throughout your exercise, and be sure to stretch when you are done.

Get enough rest.  Make sure you have a good mattress to sleep on, and beware of your sleeping “posture” as well.  Avoid sleeping on your stomach as that can cause the neck and head to twist and put stress on your spine.  If you sleep on your back consider putting a pillow under your knees, and if you sleep on your side consider putting a pillow between your knees.

These are just a few more “tips” to help you improve your back pain.  If you have any questions about this Blog or about your health in general, please feel free to contact me at: drtomball@performancehealthcenter.com

 

 

 

What is Posture?

What is Posture?  This sounds like such a simple question, but so many people actually do not know how to simply state the definition of posture.  I was teaching a couple of classes last week during Wellness Week at Wayland Middle School, and Posture was the primary topic, aside from what is health, and what is chiropractic etc.  I was surprised, well…not really, at how many students in the one class could not give a good definition of what posture is.  Now, this may have also been some of the 8th graders being too cool for school just not wanting to participate, but none the less, it got me thinking.  When in the office the following day I started asking patients of all ages what the word posture means, and come to find out, many of them couldn’t answer the question much better than some of the 8th graders that week.  Hence, why I am writing this month about Posture, and next month as well (no surprises in June people, sorry)!

I cringe daily looking around at people and their postural habits, mostly bad habits that is.  I am also talking all ages here, not just the younger population that has become technologically challenged in regards to posture with the overstimulation of IPADS, SMART PHONES, and COMPUTERS.  Never mind the inability to have an actual conversation with another person face to face without one of these devices attached at their hip, or hands, but how about what it is doing their posture?

Okay, now that I have gotten that off my chest, I am sure you are all clenching at your seats wanting to know what Posture actually means…are you sitting down for this?  Well, maybe you should be standing instead, lol.  Drum roll please…straight out of the dictionary…Posture is the position in which we hold our bodies while standing, sitting, or lying down.  This isn’t rocket science folks, but sometimes the simplest definitions can be the hardest ones to grasp.  More importantly regarding the definition of Posture, it is important to maintain good posture for good health. So, the more important definition then Posture, is “Good Posture”.

Good Posture is the correct alignment of the body parts by the right amount of muscle tension against gravity.  If we did not have posture and the muscles that control it, we would just fall down.  Usually, normal posture is a subconscious thing, and we do not even realize we are doing it, which is pretty cool actually.  When our postural muscles are working properly, they help prevent the forces of gravity from pushing us over, or too far forward, or too far backward.  Postural muscles also help us maintain our balance and posture during movement, not just sitting, standing, or lying down.  Good posture helps us to do all of these things and place the least amount of strain on supporting muscles and ligaments during movement and weight bearing exercises.

Good or Correct Posture helps keep bones and joints in correct alignment so that our muscles are used correctly, decreasing abnormal wear and tear of joint surfaces, that guess what, result in ARTHRITIS over time!  For some (BUT NOT ALL) of those people and patients out there that cannot figure out why they have arthritic changes in their body and don’t remember ever doing anything to cause it, bingo! Correct Posture also reduces stress on the ligaments holding the spinal joints together, hopefully minimizing injury to happen.  Correct Posture also allows the muscles to work more efficiently, helping to allow the body to use less energy, and prevent muscle fatigue.  This also helps to prevent muscle strain, overuse conditions, and even back and muscular pain.

For all of my more active patients out there and athletes, posture plays a VERY crucial role in how one moves during daily life and activities, performs or competes.  I bet you don’t see someone with the worst rounded middle and upper back, and rolled forward shoulders snatching (snatch, a very technical Olympic lift for those of you that do not know) more than someone with good posture that is of equal strength or capabilities.

This is a lot of information to take in that I have written in this article here.  I want all of you to really take the time to think about what I have written, and how does having better posture pertain to you and your life, and what you do.  Maybe it means having better posture so you are less likely to have pain as you get older.  That way you can spend more time with your kids playing in the backyard and playing sports with them.  Maybe you are training for a 5k, 10K, ½ marathon, marathon, triathlon, IronMan, or CrossFit competition, and good posture is absolutely a necessity for these types of things, during training, competing at your best, and preventing injury.

Next month I will be discussing how to know if you have good or bad posture, maintaining good posture, consequences of poor posture, correcting posture sitting, standing and lying down, and who can help you to have better postural habits.  So, stay tuned! If you have any questions in the meantime, contact me at, drv@performancehealthcenter.com, or your own chiropractor, massage therapist, or physical therapist for help or advice in regards to your postural habits.  Happy May everyone!

 

 

Strengthen Your Brain With Exercise

Regular Exercise can strengthen your brain.  We all know regular exercise is great for our cardiovascular system, and that it will strengthen our muscles and even increase our bone density, but a lesser known benefit is that regular exercise can make you smarter and protect your brain from shrinkage as it ages.

Research has even revealed that exercise can increase neurogenesis, or the formation of new brain cells, in the brain’s hippocampus.

Research has time and time again shown that people who engage in healthy behaviors such as exercise and proper nutrition are less susceptible to the cognitive declines associated with the aging process.

One study published in 2013 looked at healthy behaviors in nearly 2,300 men over the course of thirty years. Researchers looked at the participants’ behaviors and cognitive abilities starting in middle age tracked their progress throughout old age.

The researchers found that men who practiced certain healthy behaviors were around 60 percent less likely to experience cognitive impairment and dementia as they aged. These healthy behaviors included not smoking, maintaining a healthy BMI, regularly exercising, consuming lots of vegetables and fruits and consuming a low to moderate amount of alcohol.

Here are 5 ways that exercise impacts your brain- (from the December 2016 Team HOTSHOT web site): http://www.teamhotshot.com/blog/5-ways-exercise-impacts-brain/

  • Exercise helps the brain learn and retain – In various human and animal studies, results show that exercise not only helps the brain retain information (i.e., support/improve memory), but also helps the brain acquire new information. While some variances in research findings exists, much of this discrepancy is attributed to the type and duration of exercise prescribed to the study participants.
  • Consistent exercise helps avoid dementia – There is still a great deal we do not know about dementia. However, scientists and doctors are confident in a few preventative measures. Chief among them is healthy living: eat right, don’t smoke, and exercise. Exercise has been shown to slow the effects and reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s, Huntington’s, and Parkinson’s diseases. Even once these terrible diseases strike, exercise has been shown to slow the debilitating functional decline they bring about.
  • Exercise can help ease and prevent depression – Exercise has been shown effective in treating depression and, interestingly, seems to work in a dose-dependent manner much like anti-depressants. The more exercise, the greater the impact. While more research is needed, early studies also point to exercise as a mechanism to avoid the onset or development of depression.
  • Exercise mixed through your day helps concentration – Breaking up tasks such as working on a project or preparing a presentation with some aerobic-style exercise helps improve executive functions like tuning out distractions. Don’t worry, you don’t have to run a marathon over the course of your work day. Just 15-20 minutes of moderate engagement every few hours seems to make a measurable difference.
  • Reduce stress, improve life – While many people self-report a stress reduction after exercise, some scans seem to show an actual, physical shrinking in the amygdala—a part of the brain strongly implicated in processing stress, anxiety, and fear. As nice as stress-free living can be in general, it turns out less stress leads to living longer! That’s right, increased stress is strongly linked to increased occurrence of heart disease, hypertension, diabetes, and memory loss.

If you want to build a better mind, start by working on your physical health first. Go for a walk, start incorporating more fresh fruits and vegetables into your diet and try to give up any bad habits like tobacco use or excessive alcohol consumption. Some of these might be more difficult than others, but your brain will thank you for years to come.

If you have any questions about this blog or about your health in general, please feel free to contact me at:  drtomball@performancehealthcenter.com