Health

Me: “Do you stretch?” Patient: “Not as much as I should.” Most people know they should stretch. They know they feel better when they do stretch, but they still don’t. Why don’t people stretch?

They’re stretching the wrong areas and not seeing the benefits that they should.

Some things to consider; you may not be stretching long enough, at the right time, or the right areas.

How long should you stretch?

Most people don’t stretch nearly long enough. When it is time to stretch (more on that in a minute), you need to hold your stretches for at least 30 seconds, 60 seconds if you’re over 40 years old. It takes that long for you to see any real change. Stretching shorter than that means you just did a little warm up, you won’t see any lasting changes to your flexibility.

When should you stretch?

The time of day and what you’re doing makes a big difference in the type of stretching and how long you should stretch. Before you workout, it’s really best to do very short stretches. Literally 3 – 5 second stretches to actively warm up your muscles.

Since muscles, ligaments, and tendons warm up at different rates, it doesn’t do you much good and could actually lead to an injury. Pre-workout, you should do a lighter version of whatever you’re about to do. Playing basketball, do some light dribbling and shooting. Getting ready to go for a run, do a light jog until you feel like you are loosened up.

For this reason, I have to believe that stretching at the end of your day would be more effective in improving flexibility than rolling out of bed and doing a big stretching routine. If you do have to knock it out in the morning, try to walk around a bit first or jog in place. Do something to get the blood moving before you start stretching.

What areas should you stretch?

This is a tough one to answer because it really depends on what you do all day. Your daily activities will determine your posture, your weak areas, your tight areas, and what you should do about them. Since most of our patients are sitting at a computer all day, I’ll focus on that.

Generally speaking, you don’t need to stretch the back of your neck or your lower back. The only areas on the back of your body that you will need to stretch are your hamstrings and your hip rotators. Most areas of your body that are tight are on the front of your body.

You’ll want to stretch your quadriceps, your hip flexors, and the front of your neck.

What’s traction?

I include talks about traction because this is almost always the very next question patients ask, “how do you feel about those things where you hang upside down?” Inversion tables are available at a lot of stores. You can spend a little or a lot, depending on what you’re looking for.

The more expensive ones tend to give you a lot of angles you can hang upside-down from, and they have an easy “turn right side up” button. Cheaper models will require a bit of core strength to return to an upright position.

I do like the idea of an inversion table, but I don’t enjoy them myself. Hanging upside-down is not fun for me, nor is it for everyone. I would recommend visiting a store like Relax The Back. They’ve got a lot of them and you can try them out yourself.

We do lose a lot of disc and joint space during the day due to gravity, so inversion tables make sense. They’re not a replacement for a chiropractic adjustment or stretching but they can be very helpful for a lot of people. Be sure to ask your chiropractor first if you should buy one. They’ll know more about your case and can give you specific advice.

Health

Since the 1970’s and to this very day the conservative message has been that you need to eat less and move more, or simply that you must expend more calories than you consume.

There is five problems with this advice.

  1. All the blame and responsibility is laid squarely at your feet. So it’s all your fault that you are overweight, this allows government and medical authorities to be proud of their sad efforts. Sticking to this same tired old line for over 40 years is just laziness and ineptitude.
  2. Unless you have a laboratory at your disposal it is very difficult to count calories accurately within about 300 per day. Plus counting calories will not only do your head in but it will make you a social bore. Not only that you will stop enjoying food and meal times may become stressful.
  3. It also assumes that all calories are equal. But a 100 calories from a cola drink are not the same as a 100 from some almonds or olive oil or vegetables. Trying to apply Newton’s law of thermos dynamics to a human body just doesn’t work. A scientist would argue that a calorie is just a collection of atoms, and we need to lose more atoms than we eat.
  4. It also assumes that we can gauge our metabolism and know exactly how many calories we are burning throughout the day. You could wear a device that counts calories but again there is room for error.
  5. Life is about so many things, and we certainly don’t want to focus strongly on calories and weighing and measuring food. You can eat, and you can lose weight without counting calories, and it is so easy.

With the exception of vegetables all you need to do is dump all the foods which cause a blood sugar spike and drive up inflammation leading to fat accumulation. These foods are all the carbohydrates less vegetables, plus all the processed foods which hide sugars and inflammation causing industrial vegetable fats.

This comes as a shock to many people but if you do it right you just make the change once and then it’s easy to live with as opposed to doing the low calorie groundhog day adventure over and over, leaving you more disappointed with each subsequent failed attempt.

Don’t give just let the sugar go, it is not your friend, it is your sworn enemy.

Health

By developing three simple habits, you can improve your mental and physical health:

1. Sleep 30 minutes more each day

Increase your sleep about 30 minutes more tonight than you did last night. Stress levels are affected by sleep. Studies show that 90% of people do not get enough sleep. When we do not get enough sleep, we tend to be stressed and sometimes moody. Most people only sleep about 6 to 7 hours. However, we really need 7 to 8 hours of sleep. Try to add an extra 30 minutes of sleep each night. If you have trouble sleeping, try putting on some calm music and lowering the lights. This may help get all the thoughts out of your head.

2. Stretch 30 minutes each morning

Devote 30 minutes to stretching in the morning. If you have back pain, it is important to get up every morning and do your stretches. Many of you might have been in a physical therapy program at some point in your life, and you were given a home exercise program. Where are those sheets with your exercises? I encourage you to pull them out and do your stretches for your back first thing in the morning.

While you are doing your stretches, you could also start working on getting in your water for the day. Drink some water while you are doing your stretches. When the body is tight, you can feel very tense. By increasing your flexibility, you will help to decrease your back pain and decrease that tension. Drink your water and do your stretches.

Stretches for your hamstrings, quads, and lower truck would be great. Hold them for 20 to 30 seconds and repeat five times per set. Depending on the cause of your back pain, other stretches should be included as well.

3. Stress Less

Focus on spending 30 minutes of time to reflect upon the good things in your day. Thirty minutes to think about the things that you are grateful for. Choose 30 minutes before you go to bed in the evenings, after work or whenever, and focus on those things you are grateful for. Find 30 minutes where you can take a walk, get on the treadmill or do some activity depending on your condition. Consider walking outside and reflect upon the things that you are grateful for. This will help to refresh and renew your mind.

Studies have shown that people who are grateful are healthier and more successful, and have less stress. You might want to start keeping a gratitude journal and at the end of the day write down something today that you are grateful for. There might be someone in your life, your spouse, your child, or your parents. You may need to say something good to them about how they have helped you, how you love them, how much you love them, how much you need them, what they mean to you. Use this time to release frustration, and focus about good things.

This simple formula is an easy path to a healthier body and mind: sleep 30 minutes more each night, do 30 minutes of stretches in the morning, and spend 30 minutes reflecting upon the things that you are grateful for.

That’s it:

Sleep More

Stretch More

Stress Less

Do these three things for three weeks, and see how you feel. If you have more positive energy, or you feel better in any aspect, continue these habits daily.

Winifred Bragg, MD is a highly sought after speaker and the author of Knockoutpain: Secrets to Maintain a Healthy Back, a Best Seller on Amazon.

She uses state of the art techniques to provide non-surgical solutions to treat orthopedic problems of the upper and lower extremities as well as conditions of the spine.

Health

When a person develops lower back pain that is significant and persists they eventually tend to see a health care specialist for help. The response and recommendations that the patient receives can vary quite substantially depending upon the professional visited. This article discusses some of the different opinions and therapies that a patient might encounter, as well as current research pertaining to lower back pain.

One of the types of practitioners a person suffering from low back pain might see is a medical doctor (M.D.). A M.D.’s approach can vary from conservative to aggressive. The most common conservative treatment is the use of anti-inflammatory medications. Additionally, physical therapy consisting of stretching and strengthening exercises might be utilized.

A doctor of medicine might also seek diagnostic investigation by having the patient undergo Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) of the lower spine. A MRI is a tool that allows healthcare specialists to see images or views of the anatomy of the lower back. Physical structures seen include the bones of the spine, called vertebrae, intervertebral discs, the spinal cord and its subsequent nerve roots.

A common finding seen on a MRI is an abnormality of an intervertebral disc. An intervertebral disc (also called a lumbar disc or simply “disc”) is a pad or shock absorber that sits between two vertebrae. The most common abnormal finding of a disc is a bulge or protrusion. A more concerning finding would be an extrusion of a lumbar disc.

In the past, a protrusion or bulge was thought to be a significant cause of back pain causation. However studies have shown, definitively, that this is not the case. A research study reported by doctors of the Mayo Clinic, published in the Journal of Neuroradiology in 2014 revealed that MRI findings of disc protrusion and disc degeneration are part of the normal aging process rather than a condition requiring back surgery. The researchers stated that most of the abnormal disc changes are no more significant than “gray hair or crow’s feet around their eyes”.

The best advice for anyone diagnosed with a “bad disc” is to seek conservative nonsurgical, drug-free chiropractic care first. Chiropractic treatment of lower back pain has had much success for over 100 years. Treatment given by doctors of chiropractic consists primarily of spinal manipulation. Spinal manipulation is a manual therapy given by a chiropractor to a patient to realign and correct abnormal movements of the spine and pelvis. These treatments are very safe and can help nearly 90% of cases where spinal mechanics, principally joint dysfunction, are the main cause of lower back pain.

Typically the only people who need drugs, injections, or surgery are those who suffer from infections such as staff, cancer, fractures or the one in 100 disc case that does not respond to chiropractic care.

So the next time you or someone you know is told you need disc surgery seek chiropractic care first and it is highly likely you will be pleased with the results.