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Preventing Low Back Pain …..the Core of the Matter.

Preventing Low Back Pain …..the Core of the Matter.

There’s a question I get asked a lot when recommending core strengthening to my low back pain patients: “Why are you telling me to work on my core, when it’s my back that hurts?” More often than not, people expect to be given exercises that strengthen the back directly because that’s where their pain is. So why is working on the “front” important and how does it help to prevent future episodes of low back pain?

When we talk about back pain, we have to talk about spinal stability. Before pain happens, there is often a dysfunctional movement pattern present and the result is instability, which leads to pain. For the spine to function efficiently, it needs to be able to bear loads – but it also needs to be flexible enough to allow movement, while remaining secure enough to avoid pain and injury. The repetition of our daily activities and sedentary nature of many of our jobs can interrupt this delicate balance and the result is instability. In order to prevent this, we need to ensure that the muscles surrounding the spine are coordinated and follow a proper pattern of contraction (e.g. abdominal and extensor muscle groups).

Spinal stability and motor control become compromised if muscles are activated improperly. When certain muscle groups aren’t functioning properly, the result is that the surrounding structures have to work harder and take on more of the stress/load and this often results in pain.

The solution? We need to re-activate certain muscles so we can restore proper patterns of movement. Don’t worry, it’s not as painful as it sounds! The key here is not to use just any assortment of core exercises – because with some exercises, we end up adding more compressive load to our spines and can end up making our low back pain worse. It’s important to choose exercises that involve a neutral spine. Here are my favourites:

Exercise 1: The Plank

For core strength and stability. When you’ve mastered this one, you can even add alternating leg raises. But don’t let your pelvis shift or sag in the middle… that’s cheating!

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Exercise 2: Side Bridge

Used to train the lateral musculature. When you get to be a real pro, try going from the forward plank directly into the side plank!

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Exercise 3: The Bird Dog

Used to train and improve endurance of the low back muscles.

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Exercise 4: The Crunch

To improve abdominal strength. This is NOT a sit-up! If it helps, think of it as a “sternal crunch.” The chin stays tucked while the spine is straight and shoulders are raised slightly off the floor. (For more on traditional sit-ups and why they aren’t recommended for those with low back pain, go to:http://www2.macleans.ca/2010/01/19/the-man-who-wants-to-kill-crunches/).

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Exercise 5: Dead Bug.

When you’ve mastered the crunch, it’s time to try out the dead bug. Look out lower abs!

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McGill, S. Designing Back Exercise: from Rehabilitation to Enhancing Performance. 2010: 1-12.

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Why Combine Chiropractic & Acupuncture Treatments?

Why Combine Chiropractic & Acupuncture Treatments?

In many cases, the combination of acupuncture with chiropractic treatments and other types of manual therapy helps to get patients better faster. The big question is why? We know that more treatment isn’t necessarily better.

So why do I recommend combining acupuncture with hands-on treatment? This combination is effective is at least in part, because it allows us to address two systems at once. Chiropractic adjustments and/or manual therapy work mainly at the local (nearby) level of the tissue, while acupuncture achieves its benefits on a more systemic/whole system level.

Effects of Chiropractic Treatment: LOCAL

  • Reduces pain and restores proper motion within affected areas.
  • Nerves and nerve bundles are soft tissue and can become irritated under physical pressure, such as inflammation, a bulging disc, “stuck” joint, etc. Adjustments can help to relieve this.
  • Capsules of facet joints (the joints between two vertebrae) are very sensitive to pain and can become sore if they have become entrapped or “stuck.” Hands-on treatment helps to fix this problem.
  • Facilitates muscle strength and helps to correct dysfunctional movement patterns.
  • Triggers the release of endorphins, which act like natural painkillers, which results in relaxation of nearby tissues and trigger points.
  • Cartilage and other structures inside of a joint receive their blood supply and nutrients through motion (since the blood supply goes to the outside of the joint). If a joint becomes “locked up” by muscle spasm, scar tissue or by other means for a prolonged time, it begins to feel stiff. Manipulation and/or mobilization of the joint helps to move the synovial fluid around, thus providing fresh nutrients to all parts of the joint, as well as removing waste and easing the feeling of stiffness.

Effects of Acupuncture: WHOLE BODY

There is a relationship between acupuncture points and known neural structures in the body, i.e. specific points where nerves interact with the spinal cord and/or meet muscles and tendons and other structures. This interaction is what allows acupuncture to work so effectively.

  • Scientific evidence supports the idea that acupuncture needling induces a chain of events that results in the release of neurotransmitters and neuro-hormones into various parts of the nervous system.
  • This results in widespread and measurable effects on pain relief.
  • Stimulates the release of endorphins, the body’s self-made natural painkillers.
  • Affects the hormonal system by promoting a decrease in inflammation, which helps to promote healing and facilitates pain relief.

Whether you view acupuncture from a traditional understanding or from a more modern medical perspective, it creates balance in the body (also known as homeostasis) while encouraging healing and pain relief.

So the next time you have a sports injury, headache, another type of pain-related complaint, or want to ease the stress of our repetitive daily activities, give the combo a try!

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Getting a Facelift…. (Now you know what we’ve been up to the past few months!)

Getting a Facelift.... (Now you know what we’ve been up to the past few months!)

If you’ve been by the office lately, you may notice that we’ve made a few changes! First, we’d like to thank you for your patience. Because as anyone who’s been through renovations knows, it takes a lot of time and some not-so-pretty days before things come together. Thank you!

For anyone who might miss our old look, you’ll be happy to know that Dr. Anderson’s photography hasn’t gone anywhere. Some of the pictures may be new to you, but as always they’re here to make our office feel a little more like a home.

We have more exciting changes on the way! But as we continue to update our look and add to our services, we’ll make sure one thing doesn’t change: that we continue you to offer you the best care possible.

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The Big Question: Heat or Ice?

The Big Question: Heat or Ice?

We all know what our favourite answer here is. I mean, who wouldn’t prefer grabbing a warm, soothing heating pad and snuggling up instead of that oh, so cold ice pack? (Especially when it’s still snowing in April!) But it turns out that the ever popular “no pain, no gain” may also be true in this situation. So before you rule out reaching into the freezer, you may want to read on.

Cryotherapy is the use of ice to reduce the temperature of tissues directly on or below the surface of the skin. We recommend the use of ice to help manage acute injuries or recent flare-ups of chronic conditions. Ice can be used multiple times a day as long as you follow a “10-minutes on/10-minutes off” pattern. Icing an injury can help to reduce swelling and inflammation, can decrease pain by numbing the area, and may also help to relieve muscle spasms.

And what about heat you might ask? Heat applied to the skin causes blood vessels to enlarge below the surface, which can help the tissues to relax. It may also help to relieve painful symptoms temporarily. Although this doesn’t sound so bad, and most days should be okay, this increase in circulation isn’t always beneficial in acute situations.

So to avoid risking an increase in pain and stiffness, it’s best to follow this simple rule: when in doubt, use ice. Ice may not feel as good at the time, and certainly won’t be as “soothing” as a nice heat pack but your body will thank you later. For athletes who are looking to enhance their performance, the rules get a little more complicated when it comes to heat but for everyday use, this is the best practice.

If you have a new injury and see it starting to bruise or swell, or think you’re having a flare-up of an old injury, grab an icepack! For days when you’re having regular muscle stiffness or tightness or want to warm up your muscles before a massage or chiropractic treatment, using heat should be just fine.

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Inflammation: It’s Not ‘All’ Bad

Inflammation: It’s Not ‘All’ Bad

We hear a lot about inflammation when it comes to injuries and healing. You’ve probably taken an anti-inflammatory medication for some type for an injury in the past? Or maybe you’ve reached for an icepack when you see part of your body start to swell up? If you looked closely, you may have noticed redness and warmth around the injured area and it was probably swollen and painful as well. As hard as it is to believe, we should actually welcome this response – it serves more of a purpose than you might think! Inflammation happens because it is the body’s attempt to repair and heal itself. Think of it as the body’s first line of defense against tissue damage.

The Classic Signs of Inflammation:

Redness – the blood vessels become dilated and widen, which allows more blood into the affected area. This also brings more white blood cells into the area so they fight infection and help to promote repair of the cells.

Swelling – the blood vessels also become leakier, which allows fluid to move out of the vessels and into the surrounding tissue spaces. This helps to promote healing of the surrounding areas.

Warmth – more warm blood flowing into the area can cause the skin to feel warmer to the touch.

Pain – occurs as part of a protective reflex in the body but can also result from direct stimulation of the nerve endings. Chemicals released during the inflammatory response also play a role in signalling pain.

The ultimate benefit of all these changes (and the silver lining for putting up with this less-than-fun process) is that usually, and with any luck, the harmful threat is destroyed and your body can return to normal. Instead of thinking of inflammation as a bad thing, it helps to realize that it’s actually protective.

In a perfect world, inflammation is uncomplicated – the threat is eliminated and the tissue returns to normal, with no evidence of the process remaining. In cases where the damage is more extensive, repair is needed before the tissue can return to function. So in these cases, healing is prolonged and inflammation becomes chronic until repair occurs by replacement of cells and/or scar formation. The optimal outcome of chronic inflammation or of any injury, is for healing and repair to occur, so that the integrity and function of the injured tissue is restored.

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Is Sitting Bad For Your Health?

Is Sitting Bad For Your Health?

I’ve seen a few headlines lately reporting that sitting is as bad for us as cigarette smoking. How is that possible? We obviously know by now that smoking is very bad for our health and can increase our risk for cancer and a number of other frightening diseases, but what’s so dangerous about sitting?

It turns out, the problem here isn’t sitting down and taking a rest for a few minutes, but it’s the increasingly SEDENTARY nature of our jobs and our lives in general. Not only are we sitting at our jobs more than ever, we’re doing less and less physical activity outside of work. And it’s not just that we’re getting lazier – we’re putting our health at risk. It’s not a coincidence that diseases like obesity, heart disease and diabetes are affecting us more than ever. And what’s worse, it’s affecting our teens and kids too.

Our bodies were meant to move! But as activity has decreased and technology has increased, we’ve seen a rise in headaches, back pain and other chronic conditions. Which isn’t surprising because prolonged sitting causes certain muscle groups to tighten and shorten, while others become weak. Once this pattern is in place, pain and/or dysfunction isn’t usually far off.

So what’s the solution? Quit your job and throw out your laptop. Kidding. Quite simply, we need to interrupt this pattern. This means that we need to take breaks every half hour or so: stand up, walk around, change your posture, fidget. Limit your TV and/or screen time when you’re not at work and do the same for your kids. Be more active. You’ll feel better and your body will thank you.

For some easy tips and interesting/scary stats, check out the full article at:

http://www.womenshealthmag.com/health/sedentary-lifestyle-hazards

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