Forward-Head Posture: No Laughing Matter

To Your Health
March, 2020 (Vol. 14, Issue 03)

By Editorial Staff

It’s frighteningly easy to spot forward-head posture – and a primary cause of the condition – these days. Just look around. Anyone who consistently uses their cellphone, tablet or computer either has FHP or is likely on their way to developing it.

Forward-head posture has also been coined “text neck,” “tech neck,” “nerd neck” and “iHunch,” among other amusing monikers.

FHP itself is no laughing matter, however; constant hunching of the shoulders, neck and head can not only compromise posture, but also generate pain in those areas. What’s more, recent research suggests FHP can actually influence the brain and the messages it receives, potentially affecting other areas of the body and overall function.

Published in the Journal of Gait and Posture, the study involved 160 participants, split evenly among people with forward-head posture and those with normal head alignment. Participants with FHP and resulting biomechanical dysfunction of the spinal column also can negatively impact the brain, namely nerve impulses that travel toward the brain. Researchers specifically evaluated how feedback to the brain from the upper neck (cervical spine) can be distorted by forward-head posture, finding that problems with this feedback (which then impacts the feedback the brain delivers to the muscles) can potentially compromise proprioception and the vestibular system.

forward-head posture - Copyright – Stock Photo / Register Mark

One consequence: A person with forward-head posture may be at higher risk of experiencing poor balance, upping the risk of clumsiness and/or a fall. But because FHP can compromise the autonomic system overall, the condition can have wide-ranging effects on the body. And of course, that’s in addition to the pain and dysfunction generated by forward-head posture itself. In other words, a major lose-lose situation when it comes to your health.

Fortunately, that’s where your chiropractor comes in. Your doctor can not only treat forward-head posture and get you back on the road to wellness; they can also help prevent FHP from occurring in the first place, and certainly minimize the risk of it recurring. Of course, prevention is also up to you, by reducing the activities that can contribute to FHP. Talk to your doctor for more information.

Fighting the Coronavirus With the Power of Nutraceuticals

To Your Health
March, 2020 (Vol. 14, Issue 03)

By Editorial Staff

The overwhelming majority of news coverage right now deals with the coronavirus: what it is, where it’s spreading, efforts to make a vaccine, who has succumbed to it and how to prevent it.

Here’s a prevention tip you may not have heard about: nutraceuticals.

You may have already observed that many of the deaths from these viruses, whether it be flu or corona (yes, thousands of people die every year from influenza as well), usually involve people with less-than-ideal immunity – older, suffering from a health condition or both. It makes sense, therefore, that anything which would boost your immunity could potentially help prevent coronavirus from advancing beyond a few harmless symptoms to something life-threatening.

What exactly are nutraceuticals? In a nutshell, they’re dietary supplements, compounds or other nondrug entities found in food sources that have benefits beyond basic nutrition. For the purpose of this conversation, we’ll focus on the nutraceuticals that may reduce corona and flu per a recent study published in Progress in Cardiovascular disease, and let the researchers explain their findings: “Nutraceuticals have potential for boosting the type 1 interferon response to RNA viruses.”

virus - Copyright – Stock Photo / Register Mark

Type 1 interferon exerts several important functions, but the most important may be helping protect against viruses in neighboring cells that have not been infected. You can see how a boost in type 1 interferon could help prevent corona and flu viruses from taking hold and causing problems in the body.

So, back to nutraceuticals: Which ones could help? The researchers provide some suggestions based on the evidence: elderberry, zinc, glucosamine, spirulina, lipoic acid, selenium, ferulic acid, N-acetylcysteine and yeast beta-glucan. Your doctor can tell you more about these and other nutraceuticals that can boost immune health, including the food and/or supplement sources.

Young People Love Chiropractic

To Your Health
March, 2020 (Vol. 14, Issue 03)

By Editorial Staff

Here’s one reason of many reasons why: Younger people (ages 10-24) who are experiencing spine pain improve with chiropractic care, suggests research. Pain scores, assessed through the Numeric Rating Scale, which asks patients to rate their pain from 0 (no pain) to 10 (unimaginable pain), decreased significantly following chiropractic management.

Reduced pain scores were reported in all four spinal regions: cervical, thoracic, lumbar and sacral. Spinal manipulation, mobilization, soft-tissue therapy, acupuncture, and other modalities within the chiropractic scope of practice were utilized.

young people - Copyright – Stock Photo / Register Mark

Now here’s one of the many reasons why these findings are so important: Evidence also suggests people who experience spinal pain at a younger age are more likely to experience it when they get older, potentially setting up a cycle of pain and dysfunction that can recur (or even last) over years.

Here’s another reason: While public perception is changing, many people still don’t believe chiropractic is necessary for children, adolescents and young adults. But as research and experience continue to show, chiropractic benefits everyone – regardless of age. Your baby benefits. Your children benefit. Young adults benefit. We benefit. So start them while they’re young, and plant the seeds for a lifetime of health and wellness.

Breakfast Is Good for Grades

To Your Health
February, 2020 (Vol. 14, Issue 02)

By Editorial Staff

With all the talk about weight loss and the benefits of intermittent fasting, sometimes it’s easy to think everyone should be losing weight and skipping meals. Certainly not the case when it comes to the average child. Kids need food – and lots of it, especially if they’re active. That starts with a healthy breakfast; if nothing else, to ensure they perform well in the classroom.

Case in point: a study published in Frontiers in Public Health that evaluated academic performance among secondary-school students based on the frequency with which they ate breakfast. Children who rarely ate breakfast scored, on average, two grades lower in various course subjects (assessment tests) compared to students who regularly ate breakfast. Breakfast habits were evaluated based on self-reports by students on all food and drink consumed over a one-week period (seven days), culminating on the day of testing. Researchers defined “breakfast” as any food or drink containing at least 5 percent of total daily energy expenditure consumed before 10:00 a.m. on a school day.

grade a+ - Copyright – Stock Photo / Register Mark

So, what’s a good breakfast (beyond the energy requirements stipulated above)? It can vary by the child and their preferences. As long as it’s balanced and as low as possible in sugar / processed carbs (both of which will burn quickly and lead to fatigue later in the day), it doesn’t necessarily matter. Just get your child to the breakfast table and send them off to school in a position to achieve.

More Steps = Longer Life

To Your Health
February, 2020 (Vol. 14, Issue 02)

By Editorial Staff

Sounds simple enough – and research is proving it. If you’re a senior, particularly an older woman, remember this simple formula: more steps equal a longer life. That’s the conclusion of a large U.S. study involving more than 18,000 women (average age: 72 years) from the Women’s Health Study. Participants agreed to wear an accelerometer to track steps during waking hours over a seven-day period. Steps and several measures of stepping intensity were variables assessed, and researchers tracked mortality (death) from any cause over a four-year period to correlate steps taken with mortality.

According to findings, published in JAMA Internal Medicine, “as few as approximately 4,400 steps/d was significantly related to lower mortality rates compared with approximately 2,700 steps/d. With more steps per day, mortality rates progressively decreased before leveling at approximately 7,500 steps/d. ” Just as significant, “Stepping intensity was not clearly related to lower mortality rates after accounting for total steps per day.”

family hiking - Copyright – Stock Photo / Register Mark

In other words, it doesn’t really matter how you get your steps as long as you get them! And keep in mind that while this study involved older woman, one can reasonably assume that older men can also benefit from taking a few more steps every day. Talk to your doctor to learn more, especially if you have a health condition that increases your risk of balance / falling issues when walking.

Wanted: An End to Back Pain

To Your Health
August, 2009 (Vol. 03, Issue 08)

4 Ways to Prevent an All-Too-Common Condition

By Kevin Wong, DC

When was the last time you or someone you know suffered an episode of back pain? Chances are it wasn’t that long ago. It might have forced you to miss work, take painkillers, anti-inflammatories or other medication, or just deal with the pain longer than you wanted to. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to do some simple things to try and prevent back pain from happening in the first place? Here are a few easy ones to get you started.

In the new millennium, the health care pendulum has swung from treating symptoms toward prevention. It is a way of thinking that is analogous to going to the dentist for your six-month check-up or taking your car in for regularly scheduled maintenance – you avoid problems before they start, rather than waiting for something to happen and then “dealing with it.” By that time, your car may be in the junk yard and you may be relegated to long-term medication or even surgery.

Back pain is the perfect example of a symptom too many people treat instead of preventing, and the consequences are staggering. It is the most frequent cause of activity limitation in people younger than 45 years old. Approximately one quarter of U.S. adults reported having low back pain lasting at least one whole day in the past three months and 7.6 percent reported at least one episode of severe acute low back pain within a one-year period. Low back pain is also very costly: Approximately 5 percent of people with back pain disability account for 75 percent of the costs associated with low back pain. Americans spend at least $50 billion per year on back pain – and that’s just what gets reported.

Backpain - Copyright – Stock Photo / Register Mark

With all that said, how are you going to prevent back pain? Here are four things you can start doing today to reduce your risk of suffering back pain and its costly (physically, emotionally and financially) consequences:

1. Get Adjusted by Your Chiropractor

Your muscles, bones and ligaments are stressed continuously by normal daily activities: driving, sitting at the computer, lifting your kids, doing exercise and countless other things. These little stresses add up over time and misalign the joints of your spine, arms and legs. The misalignments can then lead to muscle tightness, spasms, joint stiffness and pain. Although chiropractors commonly see patients who are in pain, getting spinal tune-ups when you are feeling “fine” will keep you feeling fine. Adjustments will put the bones and joints into healthier positions, which will also help muscle tone.

2. Practice Proper Ergonomics

Think safety: When you make your everyday activities safe to perform, it will help reduce the undue stress on your body.

This includes having your computer work stations at home and at your office set up properly for your body. Generally speaking, the keyboard height should be the same height as when your arms are comfortably at your side with the elbows bent. The mouse should also be close to your dominant wrist while your arms are at your sides.

Avoid poor posture: Whenever you sit, it is safest to sit on a full-back chair with plenty of support. Crossing the ankles is fine, but do not cross your legs. This puts tremendous pressure on the lower back, contributing to back pain. Also, if you are experiencing low back pain, it’s a good idea not to sit on the couch or sofa, since they are typically too soft and unsupportive for the low back.

Low Back Pain:
One Symptom, Many Potential Causes

(Including the Following)
• Strenuous activity, overuse or improper use (repetitive or heavy lifting, vibration, pressure, etc.)

• Physical trauma, injury or fracture

• Obesity (often caused by increased weight on the spine and pressure on the discs)

• Poor muscle tone in the core or stabilizing muscles of the back

• Tightness, spasm, injury and strain of back muscles

• Joint problems (e.g., spinal stenosis – narrowing of the spinal canal, which compresses the spinal cord and nerve roots)

• Protruding or herniated (slipped) disk

• Arthritis or degeneration of vertebrae due to stress and the effects of aging – osteoarthritis, spondylitis (inflammation of the spinal vertebrae), compression fractures, etc.

Lift properly: When lifting items, use the legs and the trunk of the body rather than the arms. Always bring objects closer to your abdomen or chest, as that is the center of gravity and support for most people. Try to avoid bending the back while you lift.

Sleep well: The most supportive position for the body during sleep is on your back with a pillow under your knees. The next best position is on your side with a pillow between your knees and your head on a pillow that is thick enough to span the distance of your neck to the shoulders. A neck pillow that is too thin will kink the neck and could lead to neck and upper back pain down the road.

3. Exercise Regularly

We all know how important it is to participate in some type of regular exercise. Some of you already do that. Whether it be walking, playing sports or going to the gym, make sure you set up a program that keeps you consistent. Exercise helps the human body in so many ways, but one of the most important aspects involves stretching and strengthening of your back muscles. Often these muscles are referred to as core muscles of the body because they are located very close to the spine.

The core muscles help move and protect your spine when it is stressed or strained. By keeping them flexible and toned, you prevent pain and injuries from happening. When you are developing an exercise plan, talk to your doctor for ideas on what areas of the body you should specifically focus on to get maximum results, both in terms of overall fitness and protecting the back from injury.

4. Avoid Unhealthy Lifestyle Habits

Stress. Emotional stress can cause muscle tension, which can lead to back pain (it also can lead to heart problems, chemical imbalances, an inability to sleep and a host of other bad things).

It’s always hard to maintain balance in your life between work, family and play, but it goes a long way toward helping your emotional stress.

Reducing stress can be as simple as scheduling some quiet time to be alone, doing yoga or meditation, taking a bath or just sitting and doing breathing exercises. Whatever activity you find relaxing or energizing, take time to do it. Down time allows you to unplug from the world and get grounded. It also allows your body to reset itself so you can deal with the next crisis or problem that’s sure to arise.

Poor nutrition. Watching what you eat is another important factor to consider, because excess weight literally “weighs you down,” which can contribute to back pain. Quite simply, losing excess weight in a healthy manner will take pressure off your lower back and reduce stress on the vertebrae.

It is truly amazing that our society is now making an active transition from listening to symptoms or pain to preventative health care. Now is the time for you to be able to take a more active role in deciding how your future health will play out. Armed with the tips discussed above, you can make changes now that will help your back and your overall well-being for years to come. The power of health is in your hands.

The Back Pain Epidemic

Back pain has become an epidemic in our modern society – up to 85 percent of all people will experience back pain at some time in their life, and it is the fifth most common reason for all physician visits in the United States. According to the statistics, if you’re in a room with three other people, one of you has suffered low back pain for an entire day or more in the previous three months and only one of you (if they’re lucky) will avoid suffering back pain at some point in their lifetime.

Kevin M. Wong, DC, a 1996 graduate of Palmer College of Chiropractic West in San Jose, Calif., practices full-time in Orinda, Calif. He is also an instructor for Foot Levelers, Inc.

Fasting: Good for the Heart

To Your Health
January, 2020 (Vol. 14, Issue 01)

By Editorial Staff

Fasting is a buzzword these days because of its potential benefits when it comes not only to weight loss, but also overall health and longevity. Fasting also may be a literal lifesaver for patients who have a heart condition that requires cardiac catheterization – a procedure in which a long, thin tube is threaded from an artery or vein in the groin, neck or arm through blood vessels to the heart.

Catheterization may be done to diagnose a cardiovascular condition, but it also may be done to help treat one, such as in the case of coronary angioplasty or stenting. Regardless, a patient who requires cardiac catheterization generally doesn’t have an altogether healthy heart, which increases the risk of a cardiac event such as a heart attack or stroke.

heart - Copyright – Stock Photo / Register Mark

Enter fasting, which research suggests lowers the risk of heart failure or cardiac-related death in patients who’ve undergone catheterization. Among patients tracked for nearly five years following the procedure, those who fasted on a regular basis were more likely to survive compared to patients who did not fast. Other factors that could have impacted survival rates, such as medications, lifestyle behaviors (including heart healthy vs. risky behaviors) and other health issues were taken into account.

Balancing the Brain

To Your Health
January, 2020 (Vol. 14, Issue 01)

By Editorial Staff

Balance and brain health are two important health variables that can suffer dramatically as we age. Fortunately, research suggests improving one can benefit the other, particularly in terms of their interaction.

Researchers have found that senior patients who perform balance exercises improve brain neuroplasticity – essentially the brain’s ability to restructure itself – and reduce cortical overactivation, both of which can benefit overall balance.

In their study, a summary of which appears in the Journal of Clinical Medicine, researchers divided older adults (average age, 65 years) into three groups: one that performed classic balance exercises, another that performed virtual reality balance exercises, and a control group. The study lasted 12 weeks, and neuroimaging studies were conducted at the beginning and end of the 12-week training period.

balancing - Copyright – Stock Photo / Register Mark

In reviewing their findings, the researchers concluded: “With age, postural control may become more consciously controlled (cortically). Systematic [balance training] of moderate intensity may reverse age-related cortical over-activations and appear to be a factor mediating neuroplasticity in older adults.” They also found that classical balance exercises significantly increased serum BDNF (brain-derived neurotrophic factor), important because “aging or neurodegenerative diseases are associated with a decrease in BDNF expression.” [Italics added]

Getting older? As your doctor for help developing a balance / posture program. Good for your body, good for your brain!

A Pain in the Neck

To Your Health
September, 2008 (Vol. 02, Issue 09)

By John Hanks, DC Far too often, people attribute neck pain to stress and take medication to mask the symptoms. Sound familiar? Fortunately, if you’re a chiropractic patient, you know there’s a better, safer way.

My neck feels OK right now. I can turn my head left and right and down and back. (Well, that bending back thing actually doesn’t feel very good right now.) So, maybe my neck does get a little annoying sometimes. But I have no idea when this periodic discomfort started.

Sound familiar? You’re not alone. A report published earlier this year in the medical journal Spine revealed many people are often a little hazy on when their neck pain started. This monumental study, sponsored by the World Health Organization (WHO), started about seven years ago. WHO launched the Bone and Joint Decade and assigned a special task force the job of reviewing all the research about neck and associated disorders, and then evaluating the best treatment options. They reviewed 31,878 citations, 1,203 reviewed papers and four research projects – it makes me tired just thinking about it.

Neck Pain - Copyright – Stock Photo / Register Mark

Sure enough, most people often don’t remember when their neck discomfort or pain really got started. Researchers concluded, “There is usually no single cause of neck pain.” Unless you have had an injury to your neck like “whiplash” from an auto accident, neck pain usually sneaks up on you. The study notes neck pain is quite common, and most people simply carry on with their activities of daily living. However, about 5 percent to 10 percent of people develop debilitating symptoms. Unfortunately, even among those folks who do not have disabling pain, the majority find their neck pain is stubborn and recurrent to some degree.

The task force also came up with a new classification of neck pain, which seems to be one of those things researchers like to do. They suggested four grades of neck problems, no matter whether it comes from injury, arthritis or any other cause. To paraphrase:

Grade I: Neck pain that doesn’t interfere with living.
Grade II: Neck pain that does significantly interfere with living.
Grade III:
Neck pain associated with a “pinched nerve,” causing radiating pain, weakness or numbness in the arm.
Grade IV: Neck pain associated with tumors, infections, fractures and other serious conditions.

As you might guess, most neck discomfort is Grade I and II. However, what was quite gratifying from the task force report was the acknowledgement of what doctors of chiropractic already know: “Cervical manipulation is a reasonable option for people with Grade I or II neck pain.”

On a near-daily basis, a patient with a significant neck disorder tells me their pain has decreased and they are more functional as a result of chiropractic care. Recently, a patient with chronic neck pain told me he had been sleeping in a recliner chair since he could not get comfortable enough in bed to sleep through the night. “Hands-on” manual treatment in my office finally improved his condition to the point he could once again join his wife (and their Rottweiler) in bed.

Chiropractors “adjust” the joints, muscles and connective tissues of the body in order to improve motion by reducing restrictions and nerve irritation. Concerning patients with Grade III neck problems including “pinching” or crowding of larger nerves, the Spine article suggests more research is needed to identify the best candidates for manual or manipulative treatment. Of course, chiropractors are the recognized experts in this type of care and are best trained to make that determination.

The renewed interest in neck disorders among clinical researchers has spurred some interesting studies. In the March/April issue of the Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics (JMPT), Canadian scientists have shown that arthritis in the neck might affect balance. This could mean that in cases of poor balance or repeated falls among the elderly, treatment of the cervical spine might have value. This could represent a “top down” strategy, which is a bit different from the “bottom up” approach to balance training more commonly utilized in rehabilitation.

Neck Pain - Copyright – Stock Photo / Register Mark

In the February issue of JMPT, a complementary study by New Zealand and Canadian researchers suggested spinal manipulation of the neck can relax muscles in the arms and could be useful in relaxation of the whole body. This implies anything causing tightness in the neck joints also might cause muscle pain in the arms or elsewhere. Since manipulation and manual therapy are primary treatments for neck problems, a doctor of chiropractic should be among the first providers consulted for this type of pain.

So, how fast can a patient with neck pain expect to feel better with chiropractic care? By chance, in the same March issue of JMPT, British authors studied which neck symptoms might respond the quickest to hands-on treatment. Overall, considering all possible neck area complaints, about 70 percent of patients reported immediate favorable responses to manipulation. However, if patients complained about more specific things like headaches, shoulder or arm pain, reduced arm or neck movement, neck pain, or upper or middle back pain, the percentage of those who reported immediate improvement in pain rose to an incredible 95 percent!

The popular humorist Nora Ephron wrote a book titled I Feel Bad About My Neck, in which she describes her thoughts about being a woman getting older. This also has been called the “I Hate My Neck” book. Well, hating your neck won’t make it better, but chances are a trip to the chiropractor will.

John Hanks, DC, is a board-certified chiropractic orthopedist and is certified as a chiropractic sports physician. He currently serves as the senior chiropractic consultant in the Department of Complementary Medicine, Kaiser Permanente, Rocky Mountain Region.

Starting Them Off Wrong

To Your Health
January, 2020 (Vol. 14, Issue 01)

By Editorial Staff

Our children are consuming far too much sugar and they’re starting at an increasingly younger age. That’s a big problem because excess sugar, particularly if it doesn’t come from a natural, whole-food source such as fruit (although too much fruit sugar isn’t good for you, either) can contribute to the same health issues it causes in adults: weight gain, diabetes, cavities and more.

How bad is it? A recent study examined added sugar consumption among U.S. infants and toddlers (ages 6-23 months), using data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES). Findings, which were published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, revealed that during the study window (2011-2016), 84.4 percent of infants and toddlers consumed added sugars on any given day. Yogurt, baby food snacks / treats and sweet bakery products topped the list for infants, while fruit drinks, sugars / sweets and sweet bakery products led the way for toddlers.

baby birthday - Copyright – Stock Photo / Register Mark

Overall, toddlers were more likely to consume added sugars than infants, although the likelihood was high in both groups (98.3 percent of toddlers vs. 60.6 percent of infants). Average daily consumption of added sugars.

If you haven’t noticed, sources of added sugar are everywhere. That reality raises two important points: 1) The more you can teach children of any age to avoid added sugar, the better; and 2) If you don’t, they’ll be more likely to suffer the health consequences of living in a sugar-filled world. For American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) guidelines on sugar consumption for infants and young children, including ways to satisfy their sweet tooth without added sugar, click here.