5 Tips to Get Your Body Ready For the Summer

With summer quickly upon us, and temperatures in the Valley already hitting the high 90’s, here are some tips to help you feel confident and look fabulous this summer.

PERFORM SIDE PLANKS, DAILY 

For a stronger, more well-defined core incorporate the Side Plank. The Side Plank is the safest and most effective core-strengthening exercise. The Side Plank primarily targets the oblique muscles on each side of the body. To lose the “love handles” you have to work the obliques. However, this is a full-body exercise that also trains the muscles in your hips, chest, and shoulders. The lumbar spine is designed for stability, not mobility, so repeated moving of the vertebrae in ways they are not designed (as in ab crunches) can predispose you to back pain and possibly even lead to injury, such as a herniated disc.

There are plenty of Side Planks variations to meet everyone’s needs. The Side Plank can be challenging for both the beginner and the athlete. For example, the Side Plank can be made easier by bending and keeping the knees on the floor, or it can be made more challenging by performing a Side Plank with leg lift or you can incorporate a Side Plank Knee to Elbow Crunch, or Side Plank Rotations – performing a side plank on one side, then a regular forward facing plank, then a side plank on the other side.  Here are a few examples: 

WATCH WHAT YOU EAT (Literally)

Studies show that when people ate unhealthy food in front of a mirror, they consumed about ⅓  less of that food. This is because looking at yourself while eating a food you know you shouldn’t be eating causes psychological discomfort. By placing a mirror in front of you as you eat, you can break bad eating habits and strengthen positive eating habits. Watching yourself eat the healthier option can feel good, be satisfying and motivating. 

LET GO OF CARBS

Cutting out processed and starchy carbohydrates from your diet can help you control cravings, cut sodium levels, and help you stay away from unnecessary preservatives which can lead to water retention and bloating. Take a look at the ingredients of the foods you eat. If it contains an abundance of ingredients, especially ones you cannot pronounce, try and stay clear of it. Find out what fruits and vegetables are in season for a guilt-free snack.

DRINK MORE WATER AND LESS ALCOHOL

Assess how much alcohol you consume every week and try to identify days or instances where you can cut back. Decreasing the amount of alcohol you consume will help you reduce the number of calories you consume. Believe it or not, an easy way to get rid of excess water weight is to drink lots of water. You should aim to drink at least half your body weight in ounces each day to stay hydrated and increase your fat-burning potential.

STAND UP TALL 

An easy trick to look up to 10 pounds thinner is as simple as changing your posture. By slumping over, you appear shorter and wider. Standing up straight and engaging your core does more than just change your appearance, it can help relieve headaches, back pain, and help minimize the degeneration of the disks, joints, and cartilage.

Best in health,

Drs. Woolston

How Mobile Devices are Wrecking Our Spines

Nearly everyone has a smartphone or mobile device these days, and while there is some merit to this technology by keeping us more connected – at least virtually – it is wreaking havoc on our bodies. When you look at the posture that people assume when texting, reading email, or browsing social media while on their mobile device or smartphone, you will see their head bent forward and rounded shoulders. They typically hold the device either at chest level or waist level meaning that their hands are together, forming an almost crouch position.

This is very bad for the spine but it creates problems for other parts of the body even beyond the spine. Let’s take a look at some of the common issues that come with bad smartphone posture.

Text Neck

The more you tilt your head downward (just as you do when looking at a smartphone), the more pounds of pressure you put on your neck and back. Your spine supports the weight of your head. The more it is thrust forward, looking down, the heavier your head gets. Consequently, text neck can result in pain in the neck and upper shoulders, headaches, and a change in the curve of the neck. Like other overuse issues, such as tennis elbow or runner’s knee, it can also lead to problems that can get worse over time, including:

  • Arthritis
  • Herniated and bulging discs
  • Muscle strain
  • Pinched nerves
These problems are starting to show up more in younger and younger patients. and many Doctors are seeing many young people with this problem, some even as young as 8 years old.

Some patients report pain while others feel pressure, and others feel tightness. Sometimes the pain will spread throughout the body or from the neck to the arms and hands.

Forearm and Wrist Pain

Even the way you hold your phone in your hands can cause problems. Since you keep your hand in one position for long periods of time your muscles never have a chance to relax. You have several muscles engaged to do this: the forearms, the wrist, and the neck.

If you are experiencing pain, sometimes shooting, in your elbow or wrist your smartphone use may be the culprit. So put the phones away or leave them at home.

Sore Upper and Lower Back

As your neck struggles to support your head which is rolled forward, it stands to reason that you will experience back pain. In fact, both upper and lower back pain have been attributed to smartphone use.

Think about the muscles that run along your spine. They help stabilize it and help control and support your head. When you hunch over you strain those muscles in your upper back. What you may not realize is that similar strain is being put on the muscles in your lower back as well.

SMARTPHONE Thumb

The muscles in your hand are very small but they can cause you a great deal of pain if you frequently use a mobile device. As you type on the keyboard of your smart phone, it can cause problems with tendons and ligament as well as the muscles.

This repetitive stress of the body is caused daily by people who stay hunched over their small phone screen. The repetitive movement of your thumb as it manipulates the device can cause inflammation in the thumb and hand.

Headaches from Tension in Neck and Back

One of the most common ailments associated with mobile device usage is headaches. These headaches can come from tension in the neck, strained muscled in the back, or overworked muscles through the hand and arm into the shoulder. It can also come from eyestrain caused by staring at the screen for extended amounts of time, looking at tiny text.

There is no doubt that mobile device usage is becoming a serious problem in our society today. While there are the people who text while driving or while walking, posing a significant threat to their own and others’ safety, what they are doing to their own bodies is enough to cause alarm.

Chiropractic care can ease the pain and reverse a good portion of the damage that has been done, but if when people continue with the same bad habits the treatment is only temporary. There needs to be a focused effort made to pull people out of their mobile devices, at least a portion of the time, to minimize the structural spinal damage they are doing to themselves.

PAY ATTENTION FOR PREVENTION
The best way to prevent text neck and related problems is to limit the use of your phone. If you do check your device frequently, use your arms to hold your phone directly in front of your face rather than angling your neck to look at the screen.
You can also perform these exercises to relieve tension in the neck and shoulders:
  • Roll your head gently from side to side.
  • Press your head against your hands, first pressing forward, then pushing your hands to the back to press backwards.
  • Stand about 2 feet back from a corner. Place your left arm on the left-side wall and your right arm on the right-side wall, then lean in as far as possible without any pain. Hold the stretch for 30 seconds to work your shoulder muscles.
If you have neck, shoulder or back pain that’s causing problems, the caring spine healthcare providers at Woolston Wellness Center can help. To learn more call 480-556-6797.

5 Things To Know About Text Neck

Remember how your mom always said, “Nothing in life is free”? Well, she was right. High-tech gadgets and smart phones advancing at the speed of light are a modern convenience unlike little else, but the advantages of communication at our fingertips come with a price: text neck.

Here are 5 things chiropractic patients ought to know about text neck, the epidemic that is taking the world by storm:

1. Text neck is caused by poor posture.

Specifically, habitually looking down at a phone or laptop puts extra pounds of unwanted pressure on the cervical spine, causing wear and tear and even degeneration over time. Additionally, in the space between the neck and shoulder is a cluster of nerves. If these nerves are compressed, misaligned, or damaged, the pain is excruciating and difficult to treat.

In short: Text neck puts the head, neck, and spine at risk.

2. Text neck is increasingly common among young people.

Spending as little as two to four hours a day hunched over a smart phone is enough to make a serious impact on the body over time. And though two to four hours may not seem like a long time, it isn’t hard to arrive at two hours by adding several 15-minute or half-hour segments together.

For teenagers, specifically, two to four hours on a smart phone is not unfathomable. Some teens likely spend twice that much time in a given afternoon or the space between classes or over lunch. Consider the impact of 1500+ hours of bad posture in a year. It is no surprise that teenagers are at risk.

The lasting impact of text neck on today’s young people could be costly.

3. Text neck in combination with a sedentary lifestyle is a recipe for disaster.

With hours of looking down at a smart phone often come hours of relaxing on the couch or sitting still. Generally speaking, we aren’t prone to be active when we are engaged in surfing the Internet or texting our friends.

Though the list of ailments for poor posture is long and discouraging, it is made worse by sluggishness or inactivity. The best thing to do is to put the phone down on occasion, stretch, exercise, and return to the technology only once in a while.

The benefits of technology do not outweigh the consequences of inactivity.

4. Text neck can be corrected.

Practicing good posture is the easiest place to start. Making an appointment with a chiropractor is a good move for anyone who is facing the painful side effects of hours spent looking down.

Taking small steps toward better posture can save money and pain in the long run. Choosing to engage in technology as a treat instead of around the clock is a good practice for anyone who wants to live a long and healthy life.

5. Text neck can be avoided.

To be clear: No one is asking anyone to stop using cell phones. Text neck can be avoided without going 1980 on cell phone usage. But avoiding extra pressure on the neck and spine does require forethought and follow-through.

In today’s ever-increasing technological age, choosing to dodge smart phone usage doesn’t happen accidentally. One good strategy is to look with the eyes instead of moving the neck. Another strategy is to ask friends and family to say something when they notice prolonged periods of poor posture.

In short, text neck is nothing to LOL about. Take it seriously and make any necessary changes before text neck gets the best of you. Let us know how we can help by giving us a call today.

Posture and Pain

“Posture doesn’t just reflect our emotional states; it can also cause them,” says Amy Cuddy in a recent New York Times article about the effect that using mobile devices has on our posture.  Cuddy is a professor at Harvard Business School and presenter of the popular TED Talk, “Your Body Language Shapes Who You Are.”

Pain is a subjective and distressing feeling that people perceive when they encounter an uncomfortable experience. Pain can be both a psychological and/or a physiological experience. While psychogenic pain is typically experienced as a result of fear, nervousness, anxiety, doubt, grief or negativity, physiological pain is now days very frequently associated with repetitive motion injuries. A repetitive motion injury occurs when the body’s tissues are repeatedly exposed to loads beyond their functional capacity, which consequently causes many repetitive mini traumas to the tissues.

Considering that the body is a dynamic and adaptable organism, it is very well equipped to compensate for these micro injuries. The main reason that most people don’t view micro traumas as being a severely debilitating factor to their health is because we learn to work around the injury. That is both a blessing and a curse because when an injury occurs in one area, the body will stabilize that body part and will recruit surrounding tissues to perform the intended movement or action. However, repeated musculoskeletal compensation leads to postural distortions; and poor posture, over time, leads to chronic pain patterns.

When in pain, people tend to become more sedentary in an attempt to avoid activities that trigger pain and discomfort, and yet decreased level of physical activity leads to stiff joints and weak muscles which further exacerbates the problem. Chronic pain has become such an epidemic that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services reports that “pain affects more Americans than diabetes, heart disease and cancer combined.”

So what can be done? The first thing needed to create lasting change and success is awareness.  Allow yourself the space to see things as they are, without forming judgments, excuses or rationalizations. Only by acknowledging what is, do you put yourself in a position to do something about it. So perhaps next time you are brushing your teeth at the bathroom sink, you take a look at your posture; or the next time you are sitting at your computer, you notice any tensions in your neck, hands, and low back.  Or maybe when you are standing in the checkout line at the grocery store you move side to side a few times and unattachedly notice if one side feels stronger than the other, and if your feet are nice and relaxed or tight and tense. Whether you are looking to get out of pain or are simply interested in ensuring that you are functioning at a healthy level, raising the level of awareness as to what your body is doing helps you to then take the next step in creating the needed change.  

A recent study published in Journal of Health Psychology concluded that sitting with an upright posture can function as a coping mechanism against stress. From a physiologic standpoint, properly aligned posture significantly decreases the stress on supportive ligaments, tendons and muscles.  And so although you may not be able to make something better immediately, you can take the first steps in honoring your body and wellbeing by acknowledging how well your body moves in space, and then simply noticing what areas need your further attention.   

 

By Dr. Larissa Woolston DC, MA

5 Things to Consider When Setting Up A Workstation

 

ergonomics                      Proper posture at work, or in a home office, is a fundamental part for a sustainable healthy lifestyle. Many people are active and healthy in their personal lives, but pay little attention to their health while at work. Desk jobs and our constant use of technology are pulling us forward – but not in a good way. Sitting for prolonged periods causes us to assume a forward head posture and rounded shoulders, referred to as postural kyphosis. In addition to affecting how we look, this can also cause a decreased range of motion in the neck and shoulders, along with numbness, low-back pain, and neck pain. Consequences of poor posture and unsatisfactory ergonomics often lead to the following:

SPINAL DEGENERATION: Simply put, the body is designed to move, not sit. When you are in a seated position you increase the pressure in the lower back by about 1.7 times your body weight. And this is when you sit properly, if you have improper posture the pressure on the spine increases further. The spine is generally strong enough to tolerate bad posture for about 20 minutes before the vertebral discs start to absorb the pressure.

LOWERED METABOLIC RATE: Sitting is the structural equivalent of metabolic syndrome. Prolonged sitting with poor posture has many negative health consequences; it is a modern-day epidemic contributing to the onset of obesity, cardiovascular disease, and type 2 diabetes. While seated, your metabolic rate is likely to plummet, while your cholesterol levels rise.

IRREVERSIBLE DAMAGE: Our bodies are not designed for a sedentary lifestyle; in fact, we need movement throughout the day to stay stimulated and function properly.  Sedentary lifestyle leading to poor posture is causing millions of people to suffer from chronic low back pain and neck pain, which over time could lead to disability.  Even when people go to the gym and work out for an hour a day, they still suffer irreversible damage to their spine and health if they are sedentary at work.

RESPIRATORY DYSFUNCTION: When people are hunched over, their chest and abdomen become constricted leading to decreased lung volume and resulting in shallower, less efficient breathing.

POSTURAL AGING: The greatest consequence of poor posture is pain and mortality. Research indicates that people who present with an increased curve of their thoracic spine have a higher  level of mortality. A kypohotic spine is commonly associated with elderly people, however, due to greater levels of inactivity among the younger population thanks to sedentary lifestyles and our addiction to electronic devices, this postural distortion is becoming more prevalent in the younger generations.  Poor ergonomic design of your workspace is literally taking years off of your life and accelerating postural aging. As daily levels of activity continue to decline, research suggests that musculoskeletal pain is more common today than it was forty years ago. Consequently, this decrease in physical activity coupled with poor ergonomics and inadequate postural hygiene is a major contributor to the rise in chronic diseases such as obesity, diabetes, and musculoskeletal pain.

Here are 5 things to consider when setting up a healthy and productive workspace:

  1. KEYBOARD should be placed at elbow height. Utilize a keyboard cushion to support your wrist. Keep wrists in a neutral position and avoid excessive flexion of the wrist. Keep wrist in a neutral position while using the mouse.
  2. COMPUTER SCREEN should be high enough allowing you to look straight ahead. Avoid looking up or down for prolonged periods of time.
  3. TELEPHONE HEADSET or SPEAKERPHONE will save your neck.
  4. POSTURE BREAKS taken every 30 minutes for about 20 seconds to stretch and open your arms and chest allowing your head to fall back as well.  If possible take another 30 seconds to get up and walk a few feet before sitting down again.
  5. STANDING DESK, TREADMILL WORKSTATION or ERGONOMIC CHAIR, no matter which one you use, the ear and shoulder should be in alignment, and the shoulders should be pulled back and not rounded. The shoulders should be aligned over the hips, and the hips should be vertically aligned over the knees and ankles. If you are sitting down, knees and toes should both be pointing forward and you should not cross your legs.
 Written by Dr. Larissa  Woolston D.C., MA