Wellness Wednesday: Posture is Important!

“A good stance and posture reflect a proper state of mind.”

– Morihei Ueshiba

Your parents were right – Posture is Important!

“Sit up straight!” “Don’t slouch!” – I’m sure we’ve all heard those admonishing words more than once from our mother when we were growing up. And most of us begrudgingly complied with her command having no concept of the anatomical and bio-mechanical rationale behind her persistent prodding. In fact she probably wasn’t aware of all the implications of poor posture herself! But somehow, some way your mother always seemed to know best.

Think about it. The first thing you notice about people is not their eyes, not their hair, not even their clothes. It’s their posture. And it screams messages about who they are. Someone who stands erect gives off an aura of pride and self-confidence, while someone who slumps and stoops looks like he’s ashamed to be taking up space.

Yet looks aren’t the best reason to improve your posture. Health is. What begins as merely an unsightly stance or carriage can lead to authentic health problems if not corrected.

But what is good posture anyway and why is it so important? Basically posture refers to the body’s alignment and positioning with respect to the ever-present force of gravity. Whether we are standing, sitting or lying down gravity exerts a force on our joints, ligaments and muscles. Good posture entails distributing the force of gravity through our body so no one structure is overstressed.

So, here are eight more reasons to have a ‘correct’ healthy posture:

1. Portrays a better, more confident image.

Good posture will boost self-confidence. Try this: take a deep breath and stand straight. Do you feel better? More confident?

Also look around a crowded dining area or cafeteria some time, and notice how many people are hunched over their meals. Then try to spot someone who’s sitting tall in their seat, raising their fork or spoon to their mouth instead of pitching forward to grab the next bite. Doesn’t that look more elegant? Which person looks poised and confident to you?

2. Breathing becomes easier and deeper.

Try this: sit down and bend over and try to breathe in. Notice how it is harder to breathe. This is an extreme example of how our muscles and tendons get over restricted and cause a lessening of depth and ease in breathing.

People are often asked to sit up straight. This rarely has permanent effect because by the time someone needs to be reminded to do so, their body has adapted to be more comfortable in the slouching position. When they attempt to sit up “straight” they actually tighten the already over-shortened frontal muscles and tendons and this causes restrictions in the ease of breathing volume; tightening these muscles even slightly to make oneself more erect causes tightness in the entire upper body and reduces the ease of deeper breathing.

We intuitively do not like this and soon adjust back to where it was easier to breathe. That is why most people that are advised to sit up straight, remain erect for only a few minutes before reverting to the former slouch where breathing is a little easier. Their breathing is still held back from being fully deep, easy and balanced. For them it becomes easier and more what they have become accustomed to.

Often what we perceive as satisfactory is a lack of adequate understanding.

3. Improves circulation and digestion.

Good posture increases lung capacity, aiding oxygen transport and nutrition around the body. Upright open posture also allows more room in the abdominal cavity, this improves your health by allowing your organs to function more easily.

4. Makes you look slimmer and younger.

When having a good posture you will instantly take off 3-5 lbs in your appearance. It will also make you look slimmer, younger and your clothes will look better.

5. Your voice will sound better.

If you maintain good posture when you speak, and are careful not to let your chest “collapse” as you exhale, your diaphragm will open, making your voice sound better.

6. Help your muscles and joints.

Good posture helps us keep bones and joints in correct alignment so that our muscles are used correctly, decreasing the abnormal wearing of joint surfaces that could result in degenerative arthritis and joint pain. It also reduces the stress on the ligaments holding the spinal joints together, minimizing the likelihood of injury.

A good posture allows muscles to work more efficiently, allowing the body to use less energy and, therefore, preventing muscle fatigue. It also helps prevent muscle strain, overuse disorders, and even back and muscular pain.

7. Change your frame of mind.

Posture also affects your frame of mind and your frame of mind can affect your posture. So, when you are well, feeling happy and on top of things, posture tends to be upright and open. In contrast, people who are depressed and in chronic pain, often sit or stand slumped.

Next time you feel depressed or you’re anxious about something try changing your posture, stand up straight and breath deeply. Good posture in sitting and standing makes it easier to breathe fully and naturally, helping both relaxation and concentration. Many Eastern practices, such as yoga and tai-chi, work on posture.

8. Healthy spine

Correct posture is a simple but very important way to keep the many intricate structures in the back and spine healthy. Back support is especially important for people who spend many hours sitting in an office chair or standing throughout the day.

Not maintaining good posture and adequate back support can add strain to muscles and put stress on the spine. Over time, the stress of poor posture can change the anatomical characteristics of the spine, leading to the possibility of constricted blood vessels and nerves.

To achieve good posture you must make it a habit by keeping your shoulders back, abdomen pulled in, your head lifted and chin parallel to the ground. This won’t be easy if you are not used to it because you will have to build the muscles that keep your body in the correct position. It will take patience and practice. When you make a decision to work on your posture don’t expect it to happen overnight but rest assured it will improve and you will see and feel the difference.

So, what are you waiting for? Start improving your posture right now!

Sources: For the full article, please visit http://ririanproject.com/2006/09/29/8-reasons-to-have-good-posture/

Curvesday Thursday: Multi-Faceted Treatment Plan May Alleivate Symptoms of Osteoarthritis

While there is currently no proven treatment to stop or slow the progression of osteoarthritis in the spine, there are treatments to alleviate the pain and other associated symptoms, and for most people the condition will not become debilitating. Some patients with osteoarthritis have minimal or no pain, and may not need treatment. Most people who require treatment will benefit from a combination of lifestyle changes such as exercise, weight reduction, and smoking cessation. Most treatment plans for osteoarthritis focus on controlling the pain and improving the patient’s ability to function. In only the most severe cases will surgery be necessary to treat pain and disability from osteoarthritis.

Medical practitioners often refer to osteoarthritis in the spine as spinal arthritis, degenerative joint disease, or arthritis of the facet joints. Spinal arthritis is relatively common and is most likely to occur in people over age fifty. It represents an ongoing, degenerative process in the spine, and may be associated with a number of other degenerative spinal conditions. In particular, osteoarthritis is associated with degenerative discs in the spine.

Degenerative discs and osteoarthritis often occur hand in hand because the disc and facet joints (the joints in the back affected by osteoarthritis) are both part of the same three-joint complex. It is thought that degenerating discs can place undue stress on the facet joints, thus over time leading to degeneration and formation of osteoarthritis in the facet joints (also called zygapophyseal joints). This may be why the two degenerative conditions are so often seen together.

If the disc as well as the facet joints become painful as a result of degenerative changes in the spine, the condition is often called spondylosis. However, degenerative disc disease and osteoarthritis are different conditions and can occur separately: One can have degenerative discs without any facet osteoarthritis; or one can have facet osteoarthritis without degenerative discs. Osteoarthritis of the spine is unlike arthritis of the hip, knee and other joints, as the pain, aches, tiredness and stiffness does not come from just the facet joints but often also from the degenerated discs and inhibition of the spinal extensor muscles.

Most treatment plans will include a combination of non-surgical options, based on assessing several factors for the individual patient, such as: severity of the osteoarthritis, which joints are affected, nature of the symptoms, other existing medical conditions, age, occupation, lifestyle factors, and everyday activities. In cases where the patient’s osteoarthritis is causing significant pain, it is imperative to address the arthritis pain and bring it down to a manageable level in order for the patient to continue with daily activities and preferably be able to participate in a reasonable level of rehabilitation and exercise.

People with osteoarthritis often find that warmth, through warm towels or hot packs applied to the joint, or a warm bath or shower, can relieve pain and stiffness. Heat is known to help reduce inflammation and swelling in the joints and can help improve circulation. Water therapy in a heated pool or whirlpool may also help. In some cases, cold, through cold packs or a bag of ice or frozen vegetables wrapped in a towel, can relieve pain or numb the sore area. Often, applying heat for 20 minutes before doing an exercise routine or activity, and following up with applying cold to the affected area afterwards, will help alleviate activity and exercise related pain in the joints. A physican or physical therapist should be consulted to determine if heat, cold, or a combination of the two is the best treatment.

Many people with arthritis have found substantial relief from their symptoms through physical therapy and exercise. In fact, exercise is thought to be the most effective non-drug treatment for reducing pain and improving movement for people with osteoarthritis. For those with osteoarthritis, the exercises need to be done correctly to avoid causing joint pain. Specific exercises help strengthen the muscles around the joints (removing some stress from the joints), improve joint mobility and reduce joint stiffness and pain.

It has been demonstrated that back and/or neck pain inhibits extensor muscle function, and thus exercises should be focused on those particular muscles. Regular exercise also has a wide range of side benefits, as it typically improves attitude, promotes a healthy level of blood circulation, helps individuals maintain an appropriate weight, promotes endurance, provides more energy, improves sleep, and can even decrease depression.

The patient may be referred to a physical therapist or exercise trainer by his/her doctor in order to determine the appropriate amount and types of exercise. For most, it is very important to work with an appropriately trained physical therapist in order to learn how to do the exercises correctly.

For chronic symptoms or to provide relief from severe episodes of pain from osteoarthritis in the neck or lower back, manipulation (such as chiropractic or osteopathic manipulation) is recommended. The philosophy for manipulations is that joint dysfunction in the spine can produce pain, and mobilizing the spine joints through manipulations (also called adjustments) can decrease that pain.

Since osteoarthritis is a joint dysfunction, it may respond well to mobilization. Manipulation is most often performed by a chiropractor, doctor of osteopathic medicine or a properly trained and licensed physical therapist. A less forceful kind of manipulation, called traction, may also be used, e.g., gravity traction using adjusting blocks.

TENS or Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation type of therapy uses small amounts of electricity to reduce sensitivity of nerves around the spine. The treatment has few side effects and is non-invasive; however not all patients receive pain relief. Typically, a physical therapist or a physiatrist will prescribe TENS units and instruct that patient on the proper use.

Acupuncture involves inserting ultra-fine needles at specific points on the skin. Most people report a tingling sensation, feeling relaxed or even energized. Some people have found acupuncture helpful for their osteoarthritis pain, and the NIH has found it useful as a treatment for low back pain and many other conditions including osteoarthritis.

Acupuncture is considered a safe medical treatment. For this reason, many physicians and practitioners believe that acupuncture is a beneficial treatment as an adjunct to other medical treatments, and/or as an alternative to medical treatments. In certain situations, acupuncture may be used in combination with conventional painkillers, or to replace them all together.

Patients with osteoarthritis of the spine who are overweight or obese will benefit from losing excess weight. When appropriate, weight loss can greatly reduce stress on weight-bearing joints and limit further joint injury. Weight control during middle age years can also help prevent the onset of osteoarthritis in later years. A healthy diet and regular exercise are needed to help reduce weight. A dietitian can help patients develop a healthy eating program that will help them lose excess weight and maintain the appropriate weight and mix of nutrients needed over the long term. Active exercise, which burns more calories, also assists with weight loss.

One of the most important things a patient can do is take care of oneself and adopt overall healthy lifestyle habits. Examples of specific healthy lifestyle habits include: getting proper amounts of rest, limiting alcohol and caffeine, not smoking, managing stress, and using good body mechanics for everyday activities (such as carrying a backpack instead of a purse and lifting with the legs instead of the back).

It is advisable to consult a doctor about lifestyle habits and recommendations and about programs designed to develop and reinforce these good habits. If you are experiencing back pain that might be caused by osteoarthritis, please call our office at (304) 263-4927 to schedule a consultation and begin a mufti-faceted treatment plan.

Sources: http://www.spine-health.com/conditions/arthritis/osteoarthritis-complete-treatment-guide

State of Our Health in the US

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How do we measure up with the rest of the world on matters of health?

The Journal of American Medicine (JAMA) published in August 2013 the first ever report comparing the State of Health in the US to that of 34 countries on measures of diseases, injuries and risk factors associated with pre-matured mortality, years lived with disability, and disability adjusted life years.

Although it was not surprising to find in this report that chronic disease epidemics continue to spread across the world, but that US is doing much worse than many other countries with similar economic strength. This can be attributed to an aging population, however, a significant amount of data supports key findings of unhealthy lifestyles, diet and environment exposures that constitute the American way of life today are major influencers.

Among many interesting facts presented in this report are these:

• The diseases and injuries with the largest number of premature mortality in 2010 were ischemic heart disease, lung cancer, stroke, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and road injury.
(ALL of these are largely preventable diseases)

• Age-standardized premature mortality rates increased for Alzheimer disease, drug use disorders, chronic kidney disease, kidney cancer, and falls.
(MANY of these are preventable conditions)

• The diseases with the largest number of years lived with disability in 2010 were low back pain, major depressive disorder, other musculoskeletal disorders, neck pain, and anxiety disorders.
(SOME of these are preventable conditions)

• The leading risk factors relating to disability adjusted life years were dietary risks, tobacco smoking, high body mass index, high blood pressure, high fasting plasma glucose (Type II Diabetes), physical inactivity, and alcohol use.
(MOST of these are preventable risks)

So how can we use this information?

By changing our one-size-fits all method of health care to a more patient specific.

“How much better could we do if each patient received a comprehensive individualized functional medicine work-up and therapeutic intervention instead of a prescription? Performing an in-depth examination of the patient’s underlying dysfunctions, identifying the antecedents, triggers, and mediators of disease (including the contributions of environmental and lifestyle risks), and working to eliminate obstacles to healing within the context of a highly effective therapeutic partnership between patient and clinician is what functional medicine practitioners are known for—and that approach may well be the key to reversing and preventing not only diabetes but many other elements of the chronic disease epidemic as well.”Institute of Functional Medicine

Because of its focus on acute care, our current medical model often fails at confronting both the causes of and solutions for the chronic disease epidemic, and must be replaced with a model of comprehensive care and prevention that is systems-based, integrative, patient-centered, and much more effective.

For more information about Functional Medicine, visit our website: Chambers Chiropractic & Acupuncture.

Sources:
http://www.functionalmedicine.org/home/ReportStateofHealth/

US Burden of Disease Collaborators. The state of US health, 1990-2010. Burden of diseases, injuries, and risk factors. JAMA. 2013;310(6):591-608.