Edgemont Chiropractic Blog

If You Feel Tight, Should You Stretch?

Many patients complain of a feeling of tightness and stiffness in their hips, shoulders, back and neck and are frustrated by their repeated attempts at stretching for relief.

Are you actually stiff and tight, or is that just a perception that your brain and nervous system has created to protect you? Recent research suggests that chronic stiffness and tightness may be just a perception as a way of protecting you from further injury. In this research, it was found that feeling stiff does not equate to being stiff.

In my experience, I often see patients who complain of tight hamstrings and hips – they can’t touch their toes because of the tightness they feel in their legs. Yet, when I test their hamstrings and hips while they are laying down on their back when there is no weight bearing load on the spine, the hamstrings and hips are actually quite flexible. Same thing for stiff necks and shoulders.

If your deep spinal and core stabilizing muscles are weak, your nervous system will tighten up your superficial muscles to protect you. Laying down, your nervous system lets these muscles go as there is no need for the added protection, hence more flexibility. If you have repeatedly had back or neck problems, the nervous system will make you feel stiff as a way to protect you from further injury. But if you are not really stiff, so why spend a lot of time stretching the heck out of your back and neck? Maybe there’s better use of your time by doing other things to help.

Interestingly, chiropractic treatment has been found to have quite an effect on the areas of the brain and nervous system that respond to sensation and muscle control. It’s a way to hack into the nervous system to reset the control of muscles. It also has been found to activate the small deep core muscles of the spine.

Proper strengthening exercises are also an excellent way to deal with this feeling of stiffness and tightness. Get some expert advice and use weights to strengthen the necessary muscles.

A little stretching is good, but some people are twisting and pulling on parts of their bodies that are actually making them tighter as the nervous system sees this as a threat and later tightens you up more to protect your spine.

Move well, and move often, but don’t spend a lot of time trying to stretch out your tightness. Find the cause.

 

Healthy Tips & Tricks To Survive the Holidays

With the holidays approaching, don’t let all your hard work over this past year go to waste. Here are some tips to keep in mind while enjoying the holidays to make it easier for you to bounce back in to your regular routine in the New Year!

  • Practice Proper Breathing
    • What is proper breathing? That is a blog post all on its own (which you can read here).  In short if you are unable to take calm, deep, rhythmic breaths through your diaphragm you will resort to short shallow breathes through your neck and chest. This alone can lead to a compromised posture, neck pain, and leads your body to think you are in constant fight-or-flight mode causing your nervous system to be constantly stressed.
    • Before you fall asleep, lie on your back place and one hand on your chest and one hand on your belly. For 5 deep breaths (in through your nose and out through you mouth), breathe in to your belly and have your hand on your belly rise first before your hand on your chest. If your chest rises first you have and incorrect breathing pattern. Just like anything else breathing must be practiced in order for it to become a habit. So keep practicing!
  • Avoid sitting for too long
    • Yes there will be lots of dinners and drinks and gatherings over the holidays which are great! But we were born to move and to minimize the negative impact of sitting stay upright and go for a walk before and after dinner. Don’t let yourself get to comfortable sitting because you will pay for it later.
    • Stay as close to your workout routine as possible. Doing so will make it easier for you to jump back in to the swing of things in January and you will feel way less sluggish about it.
  • Travel Tips
    • If you happen to be travelling over the holidays here are some stretches you can do to help during those long hours driving or flying.
      1. Sit with one ankle on your opposite knee. You should feel a slight stretch in the outside of your hips. This is one you can do in almost any seat!
      2. Squeeze your glutes (aka your butt), even when you’re sitting to keep them awake and working!
      3. Work those ankles. Point your toes up and down during long travel sessions to keep the blood pumping instead of pooling in your legs.
    • Make pit stops or get up from your seat and move.
      1. Give your body a break from being crunched up in a car or in a plane seat. Feel your muscles work and your body stretch.
  • Eat Right and Stay Hydrated
    • Your body needs the proper nutrients and energy to provide it with the best fuel to get through every day let alone the holidays. Enjoy yourself and treat yourself, but don’t forget to drink at least 1L-2L of water each day and get your fair serving of vegetables!
  • Get some sleep
    • Your body needs sleep to rest and recover from the day. Aim to get between 7-9 hours of sleep every night and maybe make it a new year’s resolution and keep it going all through 2018!

Happy Holidays from everyone here at Edgemont Chiropractic Clinic and Have a Happy New Year!

Keep Your Discs Healthy!

 

The intervertebral discs that sit between your vertebrae are critical components of your spine. They act as stabilizers, shock absorbers and spacers between the vertebrae to allow smooth movement and ample room for the spinal nerves to exit the spinal cord and travel to your muscles, skin, organs, etc.

Here’s The Problem With Them:

  1. They lack a blood supply. They are dependent on adequate movement by the vertebrae above and below to help nutrient and waste product transport in and out of the disc.
  2. They have a very limited nerve supply. When internal breakdown of the discs occur, there is often no symptoms or just some morning stiffness in the spine that gets written off as “tight muscles”
  3. They can bulge and herniate, causing neck-arm pain and back/leg pain.
  4. They can degenerate. Internal breakdown consists of micro fissures and dehydration which is evident even in the MRI scans of some teenagers and increases with each decade of life. It’s a part of getting older, like grey hair.
  5. When discs do get overloaded with stress, it’s usually from static compression and repeated bending and twisting of the spine, many of our daily activities.
  6. A disc that degenerates and becomes internally disrupted may produce symptoms as nerves and blood vessels have been shown to grow into damaged discs, resulting in pain responses and muscle tightness.
  7. Not all degenerated discs become painful. We are still trying to understand why.

Here’s How You Can Keep Your Discs Healthy:

  1. Discs do not like sustained static loading or compression. Think sitting, bending over and sedentary activities. Cycling, housework and gardening may fall into this category. Change your posture after 30 minutes of sitting.
  2. They do like dynamic loading or compression. Some studies suggest 30 minutes or more of moderate to vigorous physical activities. Think walking, deadlifts and other exercises in the gym * (see cautionary note below ), and just being active!
  3. Discs can be recharged during the day, like your cellphone battery. See how in a previous post here.
  4. Discs don’t like repeated bending and twisting, especially under load. Learn how to bend and lift properly.
  5. Disc do not like space flight. Cancel your trip to colonize Mars. Over 30% of astronauts have disc herniations within a few weeks of being back in a gravitational environment on earth. You can read more about this here and here.
  • Cautionary note from #2

For every patient I see whose back is helped by workouts in the gym, I see four patients whose problem is because of their workouts in the gym. You need expert advice to train and bulletproof your back and neck properly.

I have worked with the staff at it’s time! Fitness Results over the past 5 years and they are the go-to gym for scientific, up to date workouts that are safe and very effective for my patients with back and neck problems. They get results.

Now, let’s get moving!

 

Back to School. Back to Poor Posture.

Back to School. Back to Poor Posture.

Sending the kids back to school is exciting for everyone at this time of the year. But it is important to be aware of what you are putting in your bags, children and adults!  Whether it is a backpack or a handbag, everyone should be aware of what is going in to their pack.  Carrying a heavy load on ones back or shoulders puts additional stress on the spine.  Add in the uneven distribution of weight with a shoulder handbag, or improper use of the backpack straps and the load can put an even bigger stress, resulting in poor posture.  As you might know, poor posture can lead to a disrupt in spinal alignment, muscle strains, back aches, headaches, neck pain, and even lead to some nerve damage.  Being aware of how to pack a backpack and how to wear a backpack properly, can help prevent some of these negative side effects of poor posture caused by an improper use of a bag.


When packing a bag, it should be known that the bag should weigh no more than 10%-15% of one’s bodyweight. Let me repeat that, 10% (for children under 8 years of age) to 15% (for children over 8 years of age) of your bodyweight!  For a simple example, if someone weighed 100lbs, the backpack should weigh only 10lbs.  The weight in the bag should also be evenly distributed across your body, so those shoulder bags are a BIG no.

 

How to find the right backpack:

  • Look for light weight material
  • Look for wide thick straps
  • Best if the straps and back are padded
  • Look for a bag with lots of pockets and compartments to pack smarter.
  • The bag should not hang more than 4 inches below the waist line, as recommended by The American Chiropractic Association.
http://www.drcolinwilson.com/tag/backpack-safety/

Image created by Dr. Colin Wilson from Northern Vancouver Island.

How to wear the backpack right:

  • Pack heavier objects close to the body
  • Only pack what is actually needed for that day’s adventures
  • Adjust the straps so the bag sits close to your body and is flat (not too snug, you should be able to slide a hand between your back and the bag)
  • Wear both shoulder straps
  • Remember basic lifting mechanics if you have to pick the bag up from the floor to put it on. Hinge at the hips, use your legs and save your back!

A good strong healthy back starts the minute you are born. Be conscious of what you are putting in your children’s bags AND your bags to help keep everyone’s back healthy now and for the years to come.

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Are You Working Your Butt Off? Part 2

Foam Rolling Your Glutes

We will start loosening our hips by using a foam roller on your glutes. I don’t advise using small balls ( eg. tennis ball ) in the glute area because many of the tender spots you are finding are actually nerve endings, which normally hurt if you squish the heck out of them.

So, let’s use a foam roller that will gently roll over a wider surface area without irritating those nerves, which may already be irritated from your lower back problems.

Get positioned as shown in the above photo. Roll back and forth gently, rotating your body a little to get the back and sides of the glutes.

10 times on one side, 10 ten times on the other. Don’t sit on and sensitize those already sensitive nerve endings.

You’re done!

For now….

Are You Working Your Butt Off? Part 1

Or Are You Sitting On It Giving You Back and Knee Trouble?

In today’s fast-paced world, many people are claiming to be working their butt off to stay ahead. But what they are really doing is sitting on their butt most of the day and that may be contributing to their back and knee problems.

The butt muscles are ( or should be), the strongest muscle group in the body. If you are not using your glutes and they are getting weak and flabby, you’re putting a greater demand on your back and knees that can lead to pain, stiffness and immobility. These glute muscle are important!

You can read about the importance of your hips and butt in previous posts here and here.

To get your butt up to speed, a few simple exercises can do the trick, and these will decrease the stress and strain on your lower back and knees.

  1. Foam Rolling your glutes
  2. Squats
  3. Lunges
  4. Glute bridges

Subsequent posts will discuss each exercise and that will help you get your butt in gear.