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Health

Babies + Kids

Chiro for Kids?

One of the most frequent questions I am often asked by parents is – “Why does my child need to see a chiropractor?”

To keep it short and sweet, I often ask my patients why they come in to see me for adjustemnts? The most common answers include: “to feel amazing”, “to get aligned”, “to make sure my spine is in the right place and that my nervous system is working”. All great answers!

Now think of it this way – babies and kids have spines and nervous systems too! Essentially, the nervous system is like the information highway. It coordinates all types of bodily functions including breathing, digestion and immune responses. If the communication to the nervous system is interrupted or damaged by misalignments (subluxations), we experience all sorts of information errors including pain, headaches, high blood pressure, digestive problems.

In babies and kids, this communication breakdown may show up as colic or irritability, poor sleeping habits, developmental/motor delays, digestion issues, lethargy or low energy, difficulty breastfeeding, asthma and more.   Often, a newborn baby could have experienced a difficult birthing process or suffered from distress during his journey through the birth canal.

Chiropractic focuses on restoring function to the nervous system so that the body can work optimally and efficiently; invariably, letting the body heal itself.

Chiropractic adjustments for adults differ greatly from those performed on babies and are very gentle using light fingertip pressure.

Dr. Jennifer Barham from Australia has written an amazing book called Well Adjusted Babies.  In it she lists reasons why children need to see a chiropractor.  I’ve listed them below:

Top 10 Reasons Why Parents Take Their Children to See a Chiropractor (as adapted by Dr. Jennifer Barham of Well Adjusted Babies.

1. To encourage good neural plasticity

2. To support “first- class “ nerve communication throughout the body – promoting health and well-being

3. To help strengthen their child’s immunity thereby reducing frequency of colds, ear-aches and general illness

4. To help resolve breastfeeding issues and colic

5. To reduce the detrimental impact our modern world has on our children

6. Encourages child to thrive by supporting digestive strength

7. To help improve child’s ability to learn and concentrate

8. To promote body balance – resolving poor posture, and encouraging proper biomechanics

9. To help kids stay fun and light-hearted

10. To help kids stay in tip-top shape

Taking these things in mind – it may be time to have your little one checked by a paediatric chiropractor.

 

Health + Wellness

Fit Mama Friday: An ol’ favourite!

If you haven’t already invested in one of these – the time is now! Stability balls are great for squeezing in an at-home workout when you can’t get to the gym (in my case, a sick baby!).

Research has shown that simply doing crunches on a stability ball boosts activation of the abdominal muscles by 24 to 38 percent. Variations for core workouts include the plank, back extensions and bridges.

At work, trade your desk chair for a stability ball to engage more muscles while sitting thereby boosting strength and burning calories.

Balls range in size from 55 cm to 75 cm. To determine what’s right for you look for a ball that keeps your knees at right angles or your hips slightly more elevated than your knees. Find them at any fitness store, Winners, Walmart or Running Room.

It’s a little bit of awesome in a round ball!

 

Health + Wellness

What’s all the fuss about Fascia?

Recently the term “fascia” has been highly publicized and used by many injury specialists and health practitioners. What is fascia? Is it a new structure in the body that has recently been discovered? What’s all the fuss really about?

Fascia is a thin layer of connective tissue that wraps itself around every muscle, joint and organ in the body. Think of it as a type of plastic or saran wrap for the structures underneath your skin. If you’ve skinned chicken breasts or trimmed meat, you’ve seen it – the whitish thin sheets of tissue between the skin and muscle of the meat. Although fascia is thin, it’s super strong and is responsible for the shape of our body. Often fascia can create tight knots or adhesions which can harden and thicken causing pain and limiting full range of motion. For example, a stiff and painful shoulder can be caused by thickened fascia round the shoulder muscles rather than damage to the shoulder muscle or joint itself.

Although the term fascia has been kicking around the rehabilitation and injury world for a very long time, it is now becoming recognized as an integral component to maintaining a fit, healthy and aligned body. In the last few years the importance of the entire fascial webbing system in the body has been in the spotlight. Something like a spider’s web, the fascial web is an interconnected system in which tension in one part of the body creates distortion for the whole web.

Many practitioners in the health and wellness community including myself, use “myofascial or fascial release” as a form of treatment to eliminate fascial adhesions or “knots” and re-align and rebalance the body.

Although a fascial release session is invaluable to help restore biomechanics and help the body function and move optimally, I often suggest that patients continue this work at home with one simple tool – a foam roller. This rather inexpensive piece of fitness equipment is all that is standing between you and a fascia happy body.

Here’s a great foam rolling infographic with some key exercises to get you started.

Happy Rolling!

How to Foamroll Infographic

Infographic found on greatist.com

Health + Wellness

New Season – New you! Spring into Activity!

It’s the first week of March!  And as I sit nestled on my stool at our kitchen counter with the sunshine pouring in (yay!), I can’t help but get excited about my new fitness goals for this season!

After pretty much hibernating this winter, spring brings more chances to get outdoors and ram up physical activity.  The trick is to ease back into a more active lifestyle – and not overdo it!

Here are some tips to get your body conditioned to more active lifestyle:

  • Stretch: Stretching before and after physical activity helps keep you in action longer. Perhaps even try a dynamic stretch before a run or sports such as soccer and a static stretch after
  • Hydrate: Staying hydrated before, during and even after physical activity helps the body pump more blood to muscles keeping them work efficiently and without injury
  • Sleep: It can be difficult to adjust to the longer days and summer hours in the spring, especially with abrupt daylight savings adjustments.  Sleep deprivation and insomnia often cause injuries and other health problems since a tired body is a weakened body.
  • Eat Well: Adding more activity means a busier schedule!  Don’t forget your fruits and veggies.  The spring season means those heavy comfy meals during winter aren’t needed.  But that doesn’t mean you need less calories!  Be sure to feed your body the good nutrients it needs to sustain your busy lifestyle.

Above all, be sure to set some goals and carve out some time to achieve them this season!  Happy Spring!

Health + Wellness

Spine Strengthening Series: Locust Pose – Salabhasana

Full expression of this posture may mimic a locust at rest, however there really isn’t anything “restful” about this pose.  For yogis, this pose encourages mental focus and determination as well as upper and lower back strength and core stability.  It also helps to stretch and induce blood flow to the elbow joint, which is often repetitively strained (e.g tennis elbow, golfers elbow, carpal tunnel, tendonitis).

The pose has many of the same benefits as Cobra Pose, but is even better for relieving disc related back pain and sciatica.

Essentially a back bend, Locust Pose can serve as a blueprint for finding good alignment in other back bends such as Dhanurasana (Bow Pose) and Ustrasana (Camel Pose). Locust Pose strengthens the back and abdominal muscles and cultivates the mindfulness needed for a balanced back bend.

However, if you focus your attention on how high you go, you may feel strain in your lower back. Instead, you want to distribute your weight throughout your upper and middle back. Although the back muscles contract, you also want to lengthen the spine so that you feel as though you are simultaneously reaching backward through the legs.

Locust Pose – Do’s and Don’ts

The Do’s

  • Place your elbows against your abdomen, making sure they are straight (bending the elbows will only cause more strain and thus more pain)
  • Spread your fingers (only posture in the series where fingers are spread apart) so that they are pointed toward your knees
  • Keep your leg muscles contracted; “the tighter you are the lighter you are”
  • Make sure your hips square and always touching with your arms while lifting legs up
  • Try to shift your body weight to the top of your body (chest and shoulders)

The Don’ts

  • When lifting both legs, avoid separating the legs; keep them glued together
  • Forget to breathe – breathe normally in and out through your nose!

 

This pose can do no wrong! Another fabulous (back-friendly) asana that offers a great way to strengthen and stabilize the spine as well as increase flexibility of the elbow and wrist!

FEEL GOOD, BE GREAT!

Blog-4_Locust-Pose-Pic-300x221

 

Health + Wellness

Bikram’s Spine Strengthening Series and Back Pain

If you are a Bikram Yoga practitioner, you know what I mean when I say “Spine Strengthening Series”. However, for the non-Bikram Yogis, here’s a recap. The Spine Strengthening Series is part of Bikram’s Beginning (Hatha) Yoga Series and includes the following postures (or asanas):

1. Cobra Pose (Bhujangasana)

2. Locust Pose (Salabhasana)

3. Full Locust Pose (Poorna-Salabhasana)

4. Bow Pose (Dhanurasana)

You either love them or hate them….but here’s why you need to DO them!

New research has shown that spinal extension often decreases symptoms of lower back and leg pain often caused by a herniated or bulging disc (which creates pressure on nerve roots causing pain radiating down the buttocks and legs).

These four postures all include elements of spinal extension – or back bending – by lifting the lower extremities (legs), the upper extremities (arms, shoulders), or both.

How does spinal extension help lower back pain? It may seem counter-intuitive, since we associate spinal extension negatively with “scrunching” or compressing the lower back.

But consider that when vertebral discs bulge out, they often bulge backward (posteriorly). Spinal extension wedges open the front of the disc and allows the disc fluid to resettle into its normal forward position. This helps push the disc back into its original position and can diminish the intensity or extent of lower back or leg symptoms.

These postures all help stabilize and strengthen your core abdominal and lower back muscles through the contraction of your paraspinal muscles that support either side of your spine.  This helps prevent future injuries.

Love them or hate them, the postures of the Spine Strengthening Series are one of the best things you can do to maintain a lovely, healthy back!

Over the next couple of weeks, I’ll review each of these postures highlighting do’s and don’ts and their benefits….until then – FEEL GOOD, BE GREAT!

 

Health + Wellness

“First Legs Stretching…Then Lower Spine Stretching….Eventually Whole Body Stretching…”

Currently, I’m in Los Angeles, California at a 9 week intensive Bikram Yoga Teacher Training with 442 other aspiring Yogis.  The motivation behind my decision to embark on this journey came from the many health benefits I continue to witness from patients with chronic conditions who perform yoga.

Time after time, yoga has helped patients with not only musculoskeletal conditions (neck and shoulder pain, lower back pain, sciatica, postural complaints etc) but also those with high blood pressure, menopause, depression and other mental health conditions.  Although studies are still being conducted on the benefits of yoga on some of these conditions, results have been impressive enough that investigators expect yoga will soon become part of the standard treatment for a number of disorders.

For this reason, I decided that the time was right to explore and learn about the various limbs of yoga and its practice.  Particularly, I chose to study a specific form of Hatha Yoga called Bikram Yoga.  Many of you may recognize Bikram Yoga as the “Hottest of the Hot” types of Yoga.  However, Bikram Yoga is a type of Hatha yoga which incorporates a series of 26 poses called Asanas, while relying on 2 breathing techniques, referred to as Pranayama.  The postures are all performed in a heated room to 105 degrees F.  While this may seem ridiculously hot to some, there is a good reason behind this. We’ll get into this in another post (coming soon!).

First, let’s talk about just a few of the many physical benefits of Yoga.

Strengthening

Yoga helps increase strength in very specific muscles.  Holding the positions in yoga requires concentration, focus and specific contractions in many muscles of the body.  Muscle strength improves by remaining in this postures and remaining mindful of the contraction.  Many of the postures in yoga gently strengthen the muscles in the back, as well as the abdominal muscles.  Back and abdominal muscles are essential spinal muscles helping the body maintain proper upright posture and movement.  When these muscles are well conditioned, back pain can be greatly reduced or avoided.

Stretching and Relaxation

Yoga incorporates not just an element of flexibility but stretching also reduces tension in stress-carrying muscles.  Yoga requires that the individual hold gentle poses anywhere from 10 to 60 seconds. Within the pose, certain muscles flex, while others stretch, promoting relaxation and flexibility in muscles and joints.

Posture, balance and body alignment

Yoga poses are meant to train the body to be healthy and supple. Consistent practice and application will result in improved posture, and an increased sense of balance, with head, shoulders and pelvis in proper alignment. Additionally, unlike many other forms of exercise, yoga helps stretch and strengthens both sides of the body equally.  Proper body alignment and good posture also helps maintain the natural curvature of the spine – an important part of reducing or avoiding lower back pain.

There are many more benefits to yoga (both physical, mental, spiritual).  Some studies have suggested that yoga may have a positive effect on learning and memory and other researchers have been studying whether yoga can slow the aging process or improve energy levels.

At Bikram’s Teacher Training I have met a researcher studying Bikram Yoga’s effect on depression at Harvard’s Research Center at Massachusettes General  In fact, they are creating a Bikram Yoga Research Center at Harvard and hope to perform many more studies on the specific effects of this type of yoga on health.

Nevertheless, regardless of clinical trials, there is an abundance of anecdotal claims for the many benefits of yoga. Visit any yoga studio and listen to students after class. Some will even tell you that yoga can help improve marriages and relationships.

The only way to find out what yoga can do for you is to try it for yourself and see first hand the effect it has!

 More from Bikram Yoga Teacher Training Fall 2012 to come!

 

SOURCES:
International Association of Yoga Therapists: “Health Benefits of Yoga.”
American Council on Exercise: “ACE Yoga Study.”
Sarley, D. and Sarley, I. The Essentials of Yoga, The Omega Institute and Dell Publishing, 1999.
SFGate.com: “Doctors study the health benefits of yoga.”