Thinking About True Health

What is health?

Many people think that health is simply “feeling good and looking good.” But true health is more than just the absence of disease. According to the Merriam Webster Dictionary, health is “the condition of being sound in body, mind and spirit.” The World Health Organization states that health is a “state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being”.  It is not merely the absence of disease or infirmity. True health is the full expression of life! This is the chiropractic perspective.

Your body is built to experience true health. Your body is smart. It has an intelligence inside of it that has helped it to grow from two cells into the amazing, complex, dynamic being that you are today! These two cells have created a body complete with a very sophisticated nerve system, It stretches for miles, and stores over 100 trillion bits of information. Your nervous system contains 100 billion neurons that send impulses at lightning speed to every cell, tissue, organ and system in your body.

Why, then, does our body sometimes not work the way we want it to?

Why do we experience aches and pains, digestive problems, high blood pressure, depression, or other health challenges? Something is interfering with the body’s natural ability to function, self regulate and mend. This interference is usually caused by stresses and strains that accumulate on our spine on a daily basis, and over time. Examples of these stressors are:

Physical: sitting, bad sleep position, weak muscles, falls, injuries, repetitive strain.
Chemical : medications, environmental, and food chemicals
Mental/Emotional: daily tension that affects our physiology by triggering chemical reactions and creating changes in our physiology.

To be alive is to be under stress.

It is impossible to avoid stress. It is not the stress, but how our bodies respond to stress that matters most in our overall health. Getting enough sleep, exercising, eating a healthy diet, drinking plenty of water, and practicing deep breathing are all ways to help your body adapt to stress. However, your spine, through which your nervous system controls your body’s ability to function and heal, is vital in your ability to adapt. Maintaining a healthy spine – or correcting a less-than-healthy spine — will help you adapt more quickly and be less susceptible to life’s stresses.

Adding regular chiropractic adjustments to your healthy lifestyle will take the pressure off your spine, allow your nervous system to function more effectively, and help you to experience the meaning of true health.

Backpack Safety: Fill it Light, Fill it Right, Wear it Right!

For the past month, we’ve been spreading the backpack safety message far and wide. The first day of school in our town is tomorrow, and I already know that unfortunately, in the months ahead, I will see kids in my office for back pain and postural issues that might have been avoided had they learned the right way to pack and wear a backpack.

It seems our kids are carrying more and more weight in their packs, as they set off for the school day with books, gym clothes, and gear for sports and extracurricular activities. Did you know that your backpack should weigh no more than 15% of your body weight? For a 60 lb elementary school student, that is a mere 9 lbs.

I recommend asking your chiropractor for a backpack screening. We offer free screenings every year for our patients and the general public. A screening involves weighing a backpack (filled as you would fill it for a typical school day), checking the pack for safety (Are the shoulder straps wide enough? Is the pack too big?) and teaching your child how to pack it so weight is distributed properly.

We are offering free screenings on Thursday, September 8 between 2 and 6 pm at our office at 300 Main Street, Groton, MA. Please call us at 978.448.9355 for the opportunity to prevent spinal problems before they start!

Watch Dr. Steve on Around Town, talking backpack safety!

Is Your Laptop Making You Lean?

Often when we do spinal exams on new patients, we find that their heads are leaning forward in front of their bodies. Your head weighs about 11 lbs, similar to the weight of a bowling ball. Imagine trying to walk around all day carrying a bowling ball about six inches in front of you. This would take a lot more effort than carrying the bowling ball right next to your body.

Forward Head Syndrome

Forward head syndrome was commonly seen in older people. However, with the widespread use of laptop computers, extended sitting, handheld video games and smart phones, we are seeing more and more patients who are beginning to show symptoms at much younger ages. Forward Head Syndrome effects much more than just posture. Dr Rene Caillet, a Medical doctor at The University of Southern California, wrote about the following effects of Forward Head Syndrome in his book, “Rejuvenation Strategy.”

You might be surprised to learn how many bodily functions are affected:

1. Incorrect head positioning leads to improper spinal function.

2. The head in forward posture can add up to 30 pounds of abnormal leverage on the cervical spine.

3. Forward head posture results in loss of vital lung capacity. In fact, lung capacity is depleted by as much as 30 percent. Loss of lung capacity leads to heart and blood vascular problems.

4. The entire gastrointestinal system is affected, particularly the large intestine. Loss of good bowel peristaltic function and evacuation is a common condition that comes with forward head posture and loss of spinal lordotic curves.

5. Forward head posture causes an increase in discomfort and pain. Freedom of motion in the first four cervical vertebrae is a major source of stimuli that causes production of endorphins in production many otherwise non-painful sensations are experienced as pain.

6. Forward head posture causes loss of healthy spine-body motion. The entire body becomes rigid as the range of motion lessens. Soon, one becomes hunched.
Forward Head Syndrome can be prevented and corrected by using technology properly and in moderation, getting regular chiropractic adjustments, and doing a simple exercise to help maintain your natural cervical (neck) curve.

Use a desktop computer at a proper height as much as possible. Laptops should be reserved for occasional offsite use if possible. If you use a laptop as your primary computer, shop around for a good laptop base that props it up on a table, so the screen is closer to eye height and your head and neck can remain upright. Do not use a laptop on your lap. No matter what kind of computer you use, get up and stretch at least once every hour.

Limit the amount of time spent playing with handheld video games. This is especially important for young children whose spines are still developing! Also be conscious of the time spent using your smart phone to browse the web or text. Think about how often you are looking down while engaging in these activities.

Try this simple exercise to help restore the natural curve of your neck:

Lay on your back and put a rolled up towel beneath your neck. In the beginning of doing this exercise, use a hand towel rolled up to the size of a lemon. Rest your head back over the towel and allow it to rest there for up to five minutes. Over time you can increase the thickness of the towel and the length of time you hold the position. This exercise is most effective when done consistently over a period of a year.

If you or one of your loved ones clearly has a forward leaning head, get adjusted soon. Adjustments and a simple accompanying exercise can create a tremendous change in your spine and overall health and well-being!

Your health affects Everything you do and Everyone you know

Many people think of health when they do not have it.  They wish they had done things earlier.  This time of year gives us the collective perspective that it is time to wake up to our potential for better life expression through our health and well being.  This excites me because these principles are chiropractic principles.  We chiropractors embrace the concept of personal responsibility and making tiny little drops in the bucket to create future waves of wellbeing.

I love this time of year when we all seem to realize and want to commit to our own well being.  We are making commitments to care for ourselves better.  Please share your health resolutions below so others can get inspired.  The healthier you are, the better your contribution to your family, community and profession.  Thank you for making the commitments you are making!  It makes a difference for all of us.

Stand Tall: May is Correct Posture Month!

Self-Test for Posture Problems

The following tests will help you determine your posture status:

The Wall Test – Stand with the back of your head touching the wall and your heels six inches from the baseboard. With your buttocks touching the wall, check the distance with your hand between your lower back and the wall, and your neck and the wall. If you can get within an inch or two at the low back and two inches at the neck, you are close to having excellent posture. If not, your posture may need professional attention to restore the normal curves of your spine.
The Mirror Test – (Front view) Stand facing a full length mirror and check to see if:
1. your shoulders are level
2. your head is straight.  Look at the bottom of your ear lobes.
3. the spaces between your arms and sides seem equal and your arms rest at your sides.
4. your hips are level, your kneecaps face straight ahead
5. your ankles are straight.  Your feet are pointing straight ahead.
(Side View) This is much easier to do with the help of another or by taking a photo. Check for the following:
1. head is erect, not slumping forward or backwards
2. chin is parallel to the floor, not tilting up or down
3. shoulders are in line with ears, not drooping forward or pulled back
4. stomach is flat
5. knees are straight
6. lower back has a slightly forward curve (not too flat or not curved too much             forward, creating a hollow back).

What does perfect posture look like?

Your head, chest, hips and feet are in a straight line.

From the side, you can easily see the three natural curves in your back;
From the front, your shoulders, hips and knees are of equal height;
Your head is held straight, not tilted or turned to one side;
From the back, the little bumps on your spine should be in a straight line down the center of your back as you stand and when you bend over.

Obviously, no one spends all day in this position. But, if you naturally assume a relaxed standing posture, you will carry yourself in a more balanced position and with less stress in your other activities and better overall nerve function.