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May is “National Correct Posture Month”

“Sit up straight!” “Don’t slouch!” are common demands that we may have heard from family members throughout the years. Now that we are in the smartphone era, it is time to embed those phrases back into our brain. Poor posture cannot only lead to back and neck pain, it can contribute to headaches, digestive problems, breathing problems, and circulation complications. Demonstrating good posture goes beyond standing up straight and requires more than keeping your shoulders back. Since May is “National Correct Posture” Month, we thought we’d take this opportunity to help you improve yours.

Posture refers to the position a person’s body is in while sitting or standing. Think of posture as you would a marriage; for better or for worse. There is no such thing as a perfect posture, but there is a good form and there is a bad form. In reality, it is very difficult to achieve appropriate posture all the time, especially since sedentary activities and the technology that we use, allows us to create recreational habits that are a primary cause of shoulder, neck, and back pain. “Correct Posture Month” encourages people to think about how posture can affect your overall health. Research suggests that poor posture can actually shorten your life. This is because the physical restrictions of lungs and abdominal organs caused by slouching can create a much a higher risk of heart disease, stroke, and respiratory problems.

Advantages of a Good Posture

  • Keeps bones and joints in the correct alignment so that muscles are functioning properly
  • Decreases the stress on the ligaments holding the spinal joints together
  • Keeps the spine in line
  • Prevents muscle fatigue
  • Prevents backaches and muscular pain

How to Improve Your Posture

For starters, it helps to photograph you standing front, back and sideways. This will help you analyze your own alignment. Poor posture displays itself when the head is forward while the back is flat, or while the head is forward with shoulders rounded and a sway back. Tips for maintaining a strong posture include:

  • Stand tall – relax and allow your head to float to the ceiling
  • Stand grounded – make sure that firmly planted on the floor
  • Center your pelvis – arch your low back and tuck in your pelvis.
  • Open your chest – keep your neck lengthened and head tall as you pull your shoulders back down
  • Level your head – look straight ahead and tuck your chin to keep it leveled




Chiropractic Benefits of Yoga

The practice of yoga can range from a peaceful and meditative experience to a vigorous workout. Each variety has a different level of intensity, but any style of yoga is helpful for increasing strength and flexibility. Another recurring theme is focusing on posture and body alignment, which is why yoga can have great benefits for chiropractic health.

Types of Yoga

  • Ashtanga Yoga: This is a more intense form of yoga to challenge your strength and stamina
  • Bikram Yoga: Also called hot yoga, it is practiced in a warm room to encourage flexibility
  • Iyengar Yoga: Focuses on proper alignment with precise poses and stretching, which is recommended for those with back and neck pain

How it Helps

During a yoga pose, focusing on a breathing pattern helps hold the pose to gently strengthen muscles. Yoga poses are designed to engage back and abdominal muscles, and strengthening those muscle groups gives more support to the spine.

The stretching yoga involves relieves tension from muscles. If you have pain or an injury, muscles that have been carrying stress need to be relieved. Continued stretching will also improve flexibility and range of motion. Yoga poses also improve posture and spinal alignment. Training your body to function with better posture takes pressure off the spine and reduces back pain.

Chronic pain can often lead to a cycle of mental exhaustion and stress. The meditative origin of yoga encourages a quiet, relaxing environment in order to focus on exercise and breathing. The practice of yoga is also a preventative measure. Increasing your strength and flexibility helps your body defend against potential injury.

Where to Start

Patients with back issues who haven’t tried yoga may feel like it is beyond their capabilities, but you don’t need to be limber and flexible to begin. It is recommended to find an instructor who has experience working with patients who suffer from back pain and it’s important to learn by following an instructor before practicing on your own. Many yoga poses have modified versions for beginners or anyone with limitations. An instructor can demonstrate the use of blocks and straps, which help give beginners extra support and balance.




Natural Pain Relievers

Pain has many forms – you may feel it as a burn, a tingle, a sting or an ache. When pain is physical, your first impulse may be to reach for a pill. Prescription and over-the-counter painkillers can be dangerous and even toxic to your body which is why it’s important to explore alternative, non-invasive treatment options first. Once you receive a pain assessment from your doctor or chiropractor and determine what’s causing your physical pain, there are natural pain relief options that can help more than a pill ever could.

Massage

  • Ideal for: muscle tension, anxiety, digestive disorders, fibromyalgia, headaches, insomnia, soft tissue strains, sports injuries

There are many different types of massage. After deciding which one is right for you, prepare to reap the benefits. Though many folks are weary at the thought of being touched by a masseuse, studies show that massage is effective for reducing stress, pain, and muscle tension. Some forms of massage can leave you sore the next day, but the massage itself should never feel painful. If any part of your massage doesn’t feel right, speak up right away.

Acupuncture

  • Ideal for: chronic back pain, migraines, tension headaches, fibromyalgia, arthritis, sciatica

Acupuncture has been used for centuries to treat many conditions and relieve pain. Traditional Chinese acupuncture involves the insertion of extremely fine needles into the skin at specific “acupoints.” This relieves pain by releasing endorphins, aka the body’s natural pain-killing chemicals, by affecting the part of the brain that fuels serotonin, a brain chemical involved with mood.

Yoga

  • Ideal for: low back pain, arthritis, migraines

A study published in Annals of Internal Medicine found that among 313 people with chronic low back pain, a weekly yoga class increased mobility more than standard medical care for the condition. This is because yoga is a mind-body exercise practice that combines breath control, meditation, and movements to stretch and strengthen muscles.

In addition to these alternative treatment methods, it doesn’t hurt to tweak your diet. After all, keeping your immune system strong is critical to keeping the rest of your body healthy. One of the most powerful tools to combat inflammation doesn’t come from the pharmacy; it comes from your food. Try to avoid, or at least limit foods that inflame, such as French fries, soda, red meat, and refined carbohydrates. Instead, reach for tomatoes, olive oil, green leafy vegetables, nuts, fatty fish, and fruits.




Sports Injuries: Spondylolisthesis

As long as sports are being played, there will always be a risk for injury. The injury that most often occurs in gymnasts, football players, and weight-lifters is a crack or stress fracture in one of the vertebrae, called spondylolysis. This fracture occurs because of overstretching (hyperextension) of the lumbar spine from overuse. When the vertebra fails to maintain its proper position in the spine – and the vertebra starts to shift or slip out of place – this condition is called spondylolisthesis.

Spondylolisthesis is a condition that affects the lower vertebrae. It develops when one of the lower vertebras to slip forward onto the bone directly beneath it. This condition can be painful and sports aside, the causes vary based on age, heredity, and lifestyle habits. Spondylolisthesis patients who have severe or “high-grade” slips may experience tingling, numbness, or weakness in one or both legs. These symptoms result from pressure on the spinal nerve root as it exits the spinal canal near the fracture.

Symptoms

It’s important to know that spondylolisthesis may not cause symptoms for years after disc slippage has occurred. However, symptoms may include:

Persistent low back pain

Stiffness in your back and legs

Low back tenderness

Thigh pain

Tight hamstring and buttock muscles

Difficulty standing and walking

Diagnosis

Like any condition, physical exams are the first step in diagnosing spondylolisthesis. If you have this condition, you are likely to have difficulty raising your leg straight up or outward during simple exercises. If the pain is severe, the doctor may recommend an MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) scan to clearly display the soft tissue structures of the spine (including the nerves and discs between the vertebrae) and their connection to the cracked vertebrae and (if any) disc slippage.

Non-Surgical Treatment

The treatment for spondylolisthesis depends on the severity of pain and vertebral slippage, but non-surgical treatments can help ease pain and guide your bones back into their appropriate location. In addition to ultrasound therapy, electrical muscle stimulation, hot-and-cold therapy, and massage, your doctor may recommend a physical therapy regimen. During physical therapy, an individualized treatment plan is developed to keep you pain-free and assist you in healing. At first, the exercises you perform may include gentle stretches or posture changes to reduce back pain, hamstring pain, or other leg symptoms. However, as your legs get stronger, more vigorous exercises will be introduced to the process such as stationary biking or swimming. The goal of each exercise is to improve flexibility, strength, endurance, and the ability to return to your daily activities.




Hydration for Health

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Regular Chiropractic Care, a Healthy Spine, and You

In order for your spine to function as an effective biomechanical unit, its various components need to be free of inflammation and able to move through their full range of motion. Spinal vertebras can achieve optimal mobility provided the ligaments that hold them together and the muscles that move them are functioning effectively. Well-hydrated intervertebral discs are an additional requirement for full spinal motion.

By reducing and removing spinal nerve interference, regular chiropractic care helps reduce irritation and inflammation to spinal muscles and ligaments and helps restore optimal spinal mobility. Regular chiropractic care is an important component of overall spinal health, acting together with other important lifestyle choices such as regular exercise, a nutritious diet, obtaining sufficient rest, and drinking sufficient water every day to help you obtain high levels of health and wellness.

According to the U.S. Geological Survey, approximately 71 percent of the earth's surface is composed of water. Similarly, 60 to 70 percent of the average adult human body is composed of water. If you're a 120-pound female, you're made of at least 72 pounds, or 36 quarts, of water. If you're a 175-pound male, you're carrying around at least 105 pounds, or 52 to 53 quarts, of water. In either case, that's a lot of liquid. But that water isn't in your body for ballast. It's there for work. Water provides the medium in which all our physiological processes take place. In other words, water makes our lives possible.

This makes sense when we consider that the proportion of water on earth and in our bodies is approximately the same. Water is the conduit that makes things happen. From the perspective of complex biological organisms, without water there are no organs, no tissues, and no cells. And if there are no cells, there is no life.

Thus, water is essential to our survival. But our internal supply of water is dynamic. We use up more or less water depending on our activities. Of course, being more physically active causes more water to be consumed in metabolic processes such as releasing energy from ATP adenosine triphosphate) molecules.1 Rebuilding ATP supplies requires water as well. Additionally, your kidneys maintain dynamic control over the amount of water in your blood as one of the primary means of regulating blood pH, which must be in a very narrow range of 7.35 to 7.45. Even minor deviations from optimal pH levels can result in symptoms such as fatigue, headache, increased heart rate, muscle pain, and jaundice. Maintaining sufficient water intake is as important a requirement for good health as is regular exercise, a healthy diet, and obtaining necessary rest.

The question naturally arises, how much water should I drink each day? Drinking sufficient water takes a little bit of effort, but there is a big payoff. In fact, the recommendation to drink more water is possibly the most important nutritional advice one could receive. If one is not drinking enough water, any other nutritional improvements will have less of an impact. Specifically, the recommended daily intake for adults is 64 ounces of water each day. This amount is approximately two quarts or half a gallon of water daily.

Importantly, you can never really drink too much water, as your kidneys will immediately excrete the excess. But obtaining too little water is always a danger. Hikers and those living or working at altitude know that by the time you feel thirsty (or your mouth feels dry), it's too late.2,3 The solution is to make sure you're hydrated throughout the day. Such actions will help your metabolic processes and overall physiology maintain a steady state. The result will be increased energy levels all day long and improved long-term health and well-being.

1. Graham MJ, et al: Low-Volume Intense Exercise Elicits Post-exercise Hypotension and Subsequent Hypervolemia, Irrespective of Which Limbs Are Exercised. Front Physiol 2016 May 31. doi: 10.3389/fphys.2016.00199

2. Thornton SM: Increased Hydration Can Be Associated with Weight Loss. Front Nutr 2016 Jun 10. doi: 10.3389/fnut.2016.00018

3. Johnson EC: Hormonal and Thirst Modulated Maintenance of Fluid Balance in Young Women with Different Levels of Habitual Fluid Consumption. Nutrients 2016 May 18. doi: 10.3390/nu8050302



Summer Footwear and Smart Ankles

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"Prehabilitation" and Regular Chiropractic Care

Regular chiropractic care is an important component of all biomechanical rehabilitation protocols. We may consider that "prehabilitation" is even more valuable to a person than is effective rehabilitation. After all, preventing an injury from happening in the first place is that much better than being able to recover rapidly from damage that might have been avoided.

Prehabilitation involves improving a person's physical fitness, including flexibility, endurance, and durability. Common to all these enhancements is regular chiropractic care. By detecting, analyzing, and correcting spinal biomechanical dysfunction, regular chiropractic care helps enable your body to perform effectively physical tasks such as exercise. With regular chiropractic care, the various components of your musculoskeletal system, that is, the bones, joints, muscles, and ligaments, all become much smarter and learn how to function at peak levels. Overall, regular chiropractic care helps you avoid injuries and get the most out of the valuable time you spend exercising.

Summer has arrived and, on the weekends at least, many of us have replaced our boots, oxfords, heels, and pumps with sandals and flip-flops. We want to lose all traces of the long winter and revel in warm, fragrant summer breezes. The summer experience is enhanced by freeing our feet from their long confinement and exposing our toes to the sunshine and fresh air. The only downside is the potential, for some of us, to suffer a foot and/or ankle injury owing to the inadequate support offered by summer footwear.

From a biomechanical perspective, during the eight months or so of the year that you're wearing regular shoes and boots, your feet and ankles adapt to the configuration and support provided by your footwear. In fact, your feet and ankles come to depend on your footwear and your built-in physiological support systems "dumb down." As weight-bearing support is being provided by footwear, your innate neurological mechanisms don't have much to do. These integrated networks receive less information, send reduced numbers of signals, and begin to lose cohesion. The summer switch to flip-flops and sandals withdraws the artificial support, and your deconditioned neurological networks are unprepared to provide the critical services of maintaining integrity of balance and gait. The unwelcome results may include foot muscle strains, depressed foot arches, and ankle sprains. Any of these would seriously impact your summer fun.

Of course, our choice of footwear represents our own personal sense of style and may even be situated in a personal cultural context. We do need to be aware of the impact of these apparel choices on our overall health and welfare, and the availability of actions we can take to restore the optimal functioning of our internal physiological support systems. The primary action is to engage in exercises that enhance the function of proprioceptors, specialized nerve cells found in all joints, especially weight-bearing joints such as the spine, hips, knees, and ankles.

Proprioception is your body's awareness of position in three-dimensional space. Your ability to walk is based on extensive training of the proprioception system when you were a toddler. Ballet dancers and gymnasts take years of daily classes in order to obtain the results of highly efficient and robust proprioception. Even tasks such as writing and typing are based on years of similar training. The good news is that the training we need to make a smooth transition from winter to summer footwear is simple and easy.1-3

The single exercise required is known as the "flamingo" or "stork" exercise, which provides specific training for ankle and foot proprioceptors. You stand near a wall and lightly touch the wall with your fingertips (thus, preventing falls). To begin, stand on the right leg and place the left foot beside the right knee, so that the left knee is bent and facing front. Balance on the right leg and maintain this position for 20 seconds. You'll notice that your right ankle will wobble back and forth as it readjusts to stabilize your weight. Then switch sides, and repeat. This simple method, done two or three times each day during the winter, will maintain the intelligence and awareness of your proprioception system even though you're wearing enclosed footwear. When you break out your sandals and flip-flops in June, right around the summer solstice, you'll be prepared to enjoy the long, sun-filled days of summer.

Hall EA, et al: Strength-training protocols to improve deficits in participants with chronic ankle instability: a randomized controlled trial. J Athl Train 50(1):36-44, 2015

Hale SA, et al: Bilateral improvements in lower extremity function after unilateral balance training in individuals with chronic ankle instability. J Athl Train 49(2):181-191, 2014

Wright CJ, et al: Randomized Controlled Trial Comparing Rehabilitation Efficacy in Chronic Ankle Instability. J Sport Rehabil 2016 Feb 26. [Epub ahead of print]



Today's Forecast

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Regular Chiropractic Care Helps Us Manage a Change in the Weather

Regardless of whether the weather outside is frightful or delightful, your body's internal forecast should resemble a steady state. In other words, ideally you'll be relatively immune from standard variations in temperature, humidity, wind, and precipitation. But many of us are painfully aware of the frequent exceptions to this rule.

Regular chiropractic care helps us counter vagaries in barometric pressure and other atmospheric and meteorological phenomena by detecting, analyzing, and correcting sources of nerve interference. When your nerve system is irritated by spinal biomechanical dysfunction, all sorts of symptoms and physical problems may ensue, including increased sensitivity to changes in weather patterns. By normalizing spinal biomechanics and helping restore optimal function to your nerve system, regular chiropractic care helps us steer a smooth and steady course through the often rough seas of local climate systems.

Regardless of the type of weather, meteorological events have a big impact on all of us. Beyond the sunscreen, floppy hats, raincoats, umbrellas, snow shovels, and de-icers, there are the physiological effects of weather itself. Many of us are all too familiar with the dramatic increase in aches and pains experienced by those who are sensitive to changes in barometric pressure, temperature, and humidity. Importantly, there are several action steps that may be taken to help ameliorate the sometimes significant discomfort and improve the daily living of persons afflicted with "weather pains."

Inflammatory disorders, such as the various types of arthritis,1 are especially sensitive to weather patterns. Arthritic inflammation affects synovial tissue (the layer of cells lining the joint), ligaments that hold joints together, and muscle–tendon units that cause joints to move through a specific range of motion. All of these connective tissues contain numerous pain receptors whose primary purpose is to prevent injury. But pain receptors become problematic when they're firing, not as a signal of potential damage to the joint and its supporting connective tissues, but rather as a response to swelling of the joint structures caused by inflammation. Conditions such as osteoarthritis (when moderate or severe) and rheumatoid arthritis result in ongoing inflammation and, therefore, ongoing pain of greater or lesser degree. Any external process that increases joint swelling will uncomfortably increase arthritic pain. Other conditions with proposed links to inflammation, such as migraine headaches,2,3 are also be susceptible to changes in meteorological phenomena.

As the only way to control the weather we're experiencing is to move to another locale (but as those who move know all too well, each sector of the globe has its own unique climate issues), it's best to employ more practical measures that focus on things we can actually control. These methods are directed toward turning down our internal thermostats, in other words, reducing the sources and causes of physiologic inflammation.

The three primary techniques for reducing one's susceptibility to weather pains are eating a healthy diet, exercising for at least 30 minutes five times a week, and obtaining sufficient rest. In terms of a healthy diet, consuming five portions of fresh fruits and vegetables each day is a primary tool for reducing inflammation. Eliminating preservative- and additive-containing prepared foods is another important step. Gluten is another well-known inflammatory trigger. If you suspect you may be gluten sensitive, you could place yourself on a six-week gluten-free trial and evaluate the results. Exercise is necessary for everyone, and those with inflammatory conditions should consult with their chiropractor or other family doctor to learn what types of exercise they may safely engage in. Finally, those with "weather pains" will greatly benefit from getting an appropriate amount of sleep. Getting by with less rest is not heroic and may be damaging. Seven hours of sleep each night is probably an acceptable minimum, and an average of eight hours of sleep each night will likely result in greater benefit.

These important lifestyle enhancements will not eliminate inflammatory disorders, but they will make the effects of these conditions much more tolerable. These lifestyle improvements will help you better withstand your own climate's weather idiosyncrasies and help support your long-term health and well-being.

Sources

Timmermans EJ, et al: Self-perceived weather sensitivity and joint pain in older people with osteoarthritis in six European countries. BMC Musculoskelet Disord 5: 66, 2014. Published online 2014 Mar 5. doi: 10.1186/1471-2474-15-66

Okuma H, et al: Examination of fluctuations in atmospheric pressure related to migraine. Springerplus 4: 790, 2015. Published online 2015 Dec 18. doi: 10.1186/s40064-015-1592-4

Vencloviene J, et al: Effects of Weather and Heliophysical Conditions on Emergency Ambulance Calls for Elevated Arterial Blood Pressure. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 12(3): 2622–2638, 2015



Chiropractic is the Key to a Better Operating System

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Regular Chiropractic Care and Ongoing Maintenance for Good Health

When you consider yourself as a living organism, your conception most likely includes physiological systems, organs, tissues, and cells. From the perspective of function, your physiological systems are all interconnected. The components of these systems continually talk to each other, exchanging information regarding current status, available resources, and specific requirements. The system that facilitates these ongoing communications is the nerve system, your body's master system.

Your nerve system, via innumerable main lines, branches, and local connections, links your brain and spinal cord with every other structure in your body. But nerve interference can disrupt normal functioning within this exceedingly complex system, causing transmission of necessary information to be delayed or cut off, and by creating errors in the information stream itself. Such problems may cause pain, symptoms, and, ultimately, disease. Regular chiropractic care helps detect and correct spinal misalignments, the most common sources of nerve interference. In this way, regular chiropractic care helps restore more normal functioning and helps us gain increased levels of health and well-being.

A computer’s operating system is the vital component that enables the device’s hardware and software resources to function as one. But when the system is compromised by malware or a computer virus, its performance can suffer or even lead to a total device crash. Our bodies, and the systems that keep us operating, can be compared to the interworking of a computer. Our hardware is our muscles and tissues, our software is nerve signals, and our operating system is the nerve system itself. Just like a computer’s operating system, it is our nerve system that enables our hardware and software resources to function together as one.

The nerve system is composed of the brain, spinal cord, spinal nerves, and the peripheral nerve system, the latter consisting of large, long branches of the spinal nerves and numerous successively narrower and smaller branches of those branches. The brain, as the center of the nerve system, originates signals that coordinate the activities of all the other physiological systems.1 These signals are transmitted down specific pathways to reach specific target structures. These targets – the cells – that comprise the tissues and organs of your cardiovascular, respiratory, lymphatic, gastrointestinal, and endocrine systems, are what keeps you alive. The cells do their job and then transmit responses back to the brain via the nerve system. These responses consist of status reports, requests for additional materials, and other information regarding local conditions. The brain processes this new information and issues new instructions.

It's easy to see how the now commonplace analogy between the brain and the computer came to be. However, it's critically important to recognize that the brain is most definitely not a computer. Regardless of the ability of lightning-quick systems to rapidly sort through huge masses of data, such processing speed and relative accuracy are not the manifestations of intelligence. Rather, these computer feats are wonderful mechanical accomplishments owing to human ingenuity. In the absence of human designers and programmers, there would be no supercomputer.

In contrast, human consciousness utilizes the human brain to arrive at new solutions to problems. These novel solutions are emergent, meaning they could not be predicted by analysis of the information at hand. Computers are not capable of emergent behavior. Thus, our animating principle not only guides the functioning of our bodies, but may also guide our choices, decision-making, and functioning in the world.

Resources:

Banos O, et al: The Mining Minds digital health and wellness framework. Biomed Eng Online 2016 Jul 15;15 Suppl 1:76. doi: 10.1186/s12938-016-0179-9.



Hamstrings, Calves, and Quads

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Regular Chiropractic Care and Safe Exercise

We all want to be injury-free when doing our exercise programs. Of course, stuff happens, but several critical action steps will go far toward preventing exercise- and sports-related injuries. Among these preventive measures: stretching is key. Importantly, regular chiropractic care helps us get the most out of our stretching activities and also avoid injuries that may be associated with the act itself.

In order for stretching to be effective, the joints at either end of the muscle being stretched need to freely move. With respect to the quadriceps and hamstring muscles, those joints are the pelvis, hip joint, and knee. By detecting and correcting limitations of joint motion in the low back and sacroiliac joints, regular chiropractic care helps ensure maximum mobility in the pelvis and hips, and by extension, the knees. By addressing these sources of potential mechanical dysfunction, regular chiropractic care helps us stretch consistently, obtain necessary vigorous exercise, and increase our overall levels of health and wellness.

Many of us are continually amazed at the frequency with which professional baseball players suffer season-threatening muscular injuries. There they are, running hard down the first base line trying to beat the throw from the shortstop or third baseman when suddenly, they pull up lame and must hobble to reach base safely despite their sudden injury. In other scenarios, the batter or runner is not even running full-out, but rather moving at moderate speed, and still they suddenly bend over, grabbing their hamstring or calf muscle.

What's going on with these world-class athletes? Aren't they in great shape and supremely conditioned? Why do so many players get hurt and have to spend significant time on the disabled list? The answer frequently lies in a failure of sufficient preparation, that is, a failure to adhere to a consistent, long-term program of stretching.

This analysis also applies to us non-professional athletes. We want to make sure our exercise efforts are time well spent, and all of us want to avoid exercise-related injuries that slow us down. Despite the best preparations, still injuries can happen, but there are steps one can take to minimize the likelihood of sustaining an injury, regardless of severity. A regular, consistent stretching program will go far toward protecting us from muscle strains that interfere with our activities. The key is to incorporate stretching in your overall exercise program and make sure to devote sufficient time to this important preparatory activity.

The large muscle groups of your legs, your quadriceps, hamstrings, and calves, provide for locomotion and support all activities that are done while standing and even some that are done in a sitting position. The four quadriceps muscles act to extend the knee,1 the three hamstring muscles act to flex the knee,2 and the two primary calf muscles enable you to rise up on your ankle and foot and take a step. If any of these large muscles are not ready to work, injury may result. Stretching prepares your thigh and leg muscles for physical work. Stretching carefully, with intention, will help you succeed in your exercise activities and maximize the health benefits.

Sources:

Pourahmadi MR, et al: Effects of static stretching of knee musculature on patellar alignment and knee functional disability in male patients diagnosed with knee extension syndrome: A single-group, pretest-posttest trial. Man Ther 22:179-189, 2016

Ichihashi N, et al: The effects of a 4-week static stretching programme on the individual muscles comprising the hamstrings. J Sports Sci. 2016 Apr 26:1-5. [Epub ahead of print]

Konrad A, et al: Effects of acute static, ballistic, and PNF stretching exercise on the muscle and tendon tissue properties. Scand J Med Sci Sports 2016 Jul 1. doi: 10.1111/sms.12725. [Epub ahead of print]



Hiking Your Way to Health

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Regular Chiropractic Care and Your Mechanical Advantage

Vigorous exercises such as hiking, running, and walking pose challenges to numerous physiological systems including the cardiorespiratory and musculoskeletal systems. By progressively increasing mechanical loads on weight-bearing structures (including the lumbar spinal vertebra, pelvis, thigh bones, shin bones, and ankle bones), these exercises also engage metabolic pathways involved in production of new bone. Regular chiropractic care helps ensure that your body effectively meets the various physiological demands imposed by our exercise activities.

In order for all our internal systems to work at peak capacity and efficiency, our organs, tissues, and cells must receive and transmit timely information from and to our body's master system, the nerve system. But spinal misalignments may irritate spinal nerves, causing nerve interference and disrupting the free flow of signals across critical neurological networks. Such disruptions may lead to pain, interfere with our ability to exercise effectively, and interfere with our ability to gain the numerous benefits of exercise. By detecting and correcting such spinal misalignments, regular chiropractic care helps our bodies function at optimal levels and gain the most from the valuable time we're spending on our exercise activities. As a result, regular chiropractic care contributes substantially to our long-term health and well-being.

As autumn’s outdoor temperatures begin to moderate, many of us look forward to opportunities for vigorous cardiorespiratory activities that we put aside in the heat of the summer. It's much easier to hike in the spring and fall, even in the peak afternoon hours, because the sun’s intensity is less harsh.

Hiking is tremendous fun and is a wonderful form of vigorous exercise for the entire family, including the youngest through the oldest.1 Hiking combines both cardiorespiratory and strength training activities, which train not only your heart and lungs but also the large muscle groups of your legs, including the quadriceps, hamstrings, and the gastrocnemius/soleus muscles of your calves. However, hiking is not like other forms of exercise. As you cannot really do a hike gradually, it's important to have acquired a good level of fitness before you begin to hike. Also, hikers need to be prepared and take along specific supplies. When you hike, it's best to expect the unexpected, and certain basic supplies are critically necessary.

In terms of fitness preparation, beginning hikers should be able to walk four miles at a brisk pace.2 This will allow you to hike a two-mile trail at a modest incline, covering a total of four miles out and back. Doing such a hike a few times will then provide the preparation needed for increasing your hiking distance. Hiking preparation also includes strength training. In a comprehensive strength training program, you train all major muscle groups once a week. This is done by performing "split routines" such as training chest and back, shoulders and arms, and legs on separate days. Your comprehensive strength training program works synergistically with your cardiorespiratory exercise. Doing one form of exercise benefits the other activity and the result is substantial improvement in your fitness levels. The overall result is that you are appropriately prepared to hike.

Regarding supplies, every hiker needs a backpack. Your backpack will contain a hat, sunglasses, sunscreen, a two-liter water bottle, some trail mix and protein bars, a GPS-capable phone, a map and compass (as low-tech backups to your phone's GPS), and a lightweight rain slicker or waterproof poncho. Each of these items is necessary for a safe and enjoyable hike. You don't want to run out of water or snacks. You don't want to get sunburnt or rained on. And you certainly don't want to get lost. By Murphy's Law, the supply that you neglect or forget to bring, is the one you will need on that hike. The best policy is to always be prepared.

With appropriate preparation, hiking will provide you and your family years of enjoyment of the natural world and will enhance your health and well-being for years to come.

Sources:

Gutwenger I, et al: Pilot study on the effects of a 2-week hiking vacation at moderate versus low altitude on plasma parameters of carbohydrate and lipid metabolism in patients with metabolic syndrome. BMC Res Notes. 2015 Mar 28;8:103. doi: 10.1186/s13104-015-1066-3

Walker JR, et al: U.S. Cohort Differences in Body Composition Outcomes of a 6-Month Pedometer-Based Physical Activity Intervention: The ASUKI Step Study. Asian J Sports Med 2014 Dec;5(4):e25748. doi: 10.5812/asjsm.25748. Epub 2014 Dec 1

Hartescu I, et al: Increased physical activity improves sleep and mood outcomes in inactive people with insomnia: a randomized controlled trial. J Sleep Res 24(5):526-34, 2015


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