Are you ready for another 3,000 miles?

Do you take care of your body as well as you do your car? Read here to find out how they’re related

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I recently had a series of maintenance work that needed to be done on my car. It’s about to turn over 200,000 miles, so understandably, there are things that need to be updated and replaced. There weren’t any active problems, these were all pre-emptive. While it was a bit frustrating that I had to have my car in the shop and spend money on the repairs, I realized how much better it was to have it worked on when I could plan accordingly. If I had waited until the problem happened (timing belt wearing out) the mechanic said I would have been stranded, and it would cost twice as much to fix.

For those who own a car, you can relate to the upkeep and maintenance required to keep it running smoothly. If we get the oil changed, fluids flushed, tires rotated, and regular repairs done on time, the car is much more likely to run better longer. If we wait until something breaks or goes bad on the car, we can usually get by for a while before having to address the problem, but is the problem getting better or worse the longer we wait? WORSE! Not only that, but other parts of the car can start to wear out faster as well.

What does all this have to do with chiropractic?? Our bodies are like a car engine, they require regular maintenance, the proper fuel,  and good alignment in order to work properly. Most people think “If I don’t have pain or an obvious problem, I’m fine, I don’t need to do anything.” Do you wait until your car engine blows up before getting the oil changed? NO! So why should it be any different with your body? If you wait until you have a crisis with your spine, it’s going to take longer to fix, and it will cost more. When you’re in crisis mode, it’s like being stranded by the side of the road with a broken-down car. It cuts into your normal routine: work, family, etc. So, I recommend having regular spinal check-ups. Pay close attention to what I’m saying, did I say you needed regular adjustments? No. Do you have to have your teeth drilled and filled every time you go to the dentist? No, but you have your teeth checked to make sure there’s no problems.

As I have talked about before, just because you don’t have pain does not automatically mean you are healthy and problem-free (Why do I need to see a chiropractor? My back doesn’t hurt). When it comes to your health, ignorance is not bliss. If there’s a problem with your spine or nervous system, it’s best to have it addressed ASAP. Thus, getting your spine checked is important.

In health,

-Dr. Tim Sullivan

Five things you can do NOW to improve your posture

Posture plays a huge role in our overall health. Find out how you can improve your posture!

“Sit up straight!” How many times did you hear that growing up? Well, whoever said it was actually doing you a favor! Posture is more important than most people realize; it even has significant effects on our overall health.

Our body is pretty tough and can adapt to a lot, but it can only take so much. If you have bad posture long enough it is going to severely impact your spine and health in a negative way. The spine is supposed to have forward and backward curves that help absorb and distribute forces evenly. Forces such as running, jumping, walking, catching ourselves after stumbling, or even just sitting. Poor posture (especially stooped or leaning forward) causes straightening of the spine. When these curves straighten out, it puts more strain on the spine, it also causes the discs between the bones to wear out faster, because they absorb more of the force than they should.

So what can you do?

1) Raise your phone up.  I know it may look a little goofy, but holding your phone up to eye level helps take the strain off your neck. One study investigated the effect that looking down at your phone has on the spine. They found that if you look down at an angle of only 15 degrees, the amount of force that normally occurs in your neck more than doubles. If you look down at an angle of 60 degrees, the amount of force increases by 5-6 times (1). 60 degrees is about the same as holding your phone down near your lap while texting or browsing.

2) Create an ergonomic work station. Think about how often you’re on your phone, laptop, tablet, or even desktop computer. Are they positioned so that your head is level and your neck is in a neutral position? Or are they down or to the side where you have to bend and twist your neck to see? Whether you’re at your job, or working on personal stuff,  it is very important to have your computer screen raised up and your chair positioned so you can sit with your hips and knees at 90 degree angles. Make sure your chair has good lumbar support; if necessary, you can use a foam pad, or other type of device to help.

3) Pause and take a stretch break. You don’t even have to get up, you can activate your muscles and get some motion in your spine while in your chair. Sit up nice and tall, draw your shoulders back and down, trying to bring your shoulder blades together. Stretch your neck straight back as far as you can (looking up towards the ceiling), then turn and look to the left and right. The last stretch is to look straight ahead and tip your head, bending it to the side one way and then the other (bending to the left and the right). DON’T stretch your neck by looking down, this is the motion that causes problems in the first place. Also, don’t roll your neck, only do one range of motion at a time.

4) Get up and walk. Every couple of hours or so, make a point to actually get up and walk around. This helps stretch and activate more of your muscles, as well as add motion to the spine. Your spine depends on motion to get the proper nutrients and remove any swelling that may have set in. Stand up as tall as you can, chest out shoulders back. Let your arms swing freely as you walk.

5) Have good sleep hygiene. The best sleeping positions for your spine are either on your back or on your side. Sleeping on your tummy is the absolute worst for your spine! This puts a lot of strain on your neck. If you sleep on your back, make sure that your pillow isn’t too thick, because that will push your head and neck forward. With side sleeping, make sure your head is in a neutral position: your pillow should be just thick enough to keep your head level, not bent one way or another.

It’s impossible to have perfect posture all the time, but making an effort to improve as much as possible will help. The best way to support your spine is with chiropractic care, but improving your posture will help maximize your results. Chiropractic not only helps maintain proper spinal curves, but in some cases it can even restore curves that have straightened out (Before and after x-rays). Have your spine checked before you run into problems, prevention is so much easier and cheaper than correcting a problem.

 

In health,

-Dr. Tim Sullivan

 

  1. Hansraj, Kenneth K. “Assessment of Stresses in the Cervical Spine Caused by Posture and Position of the Head”. Neuro and Spine Surgery Surgical Technology International. XXV

Are you stressed, or stressed out?

Want to know how to handle stress? Get the inside scoop

STRESS! Whenever most people hear the word, they immediately think of anxiety, a twisting feeling in the stomach and tight, sore muscles. However, our body’s reaction to stress helps us kick into gear and accomplish what we need to. This is when the body secretes chemicals like adrenaline that give us an energy boost.

From that standpoint the body’s response to stress is beneficial because it helps protect us from harm. This response helps normalize the body and bring it back to homeostasis (the body’s natural resting state). Thus, to be under stress is not a bad thing, as long as the body can handle it. When the stress becomes too much for the body and it can’t adapt, then we become stressed out. Problems happen when the stress is not resolved and the body continues to be in a state of stress response. For example, if you go to work, and every day you sit in the same spot at your desk directly under an air vent blasting cold air on you, your body has to try and cope with that day after day. Another scenario where problems arise is when the  response needed to overcome the situation is too much for the body. An example of this would be having to get up early and go to work after not getting any sleep for three days straight; the body is in a weakened state, and becomes susceptible to disease.  The body can only do so much for so long before it becomes overwhelmed (1). When we are subluxated (see my previous blog Chiropractic: an effective and low-risk option for healthcare ) our body has the additional stress of nerve interference to deal with, which causes an increase of problems and symptoms. Subluxation blocks the body’s ability to adapt and respond to stress.

So what can we do about stress? The popular advice is to try and reduce the amount of stress in our lives as much as possible. This is a great first step, this can include reducing: the amount of toxic junk food we eat (soda, highly processed snacks, fast food), other toxins like tobacco and alcohol, and also situations that are stressful (e.g. harmful relationships). Limiting the stress in our life is great, but we can never completely get rid of it, that’s just a fact of nature. Even animals have stress: predators, hunger, etc. What we can do is take care of our bodies and give them the best resources and the best care. This includes: eating nutritious foods (especially raw or lightly cooked vegetables and fruits), drinking plenty of water, and having our spines regularly checked by a chiropractor and adjusted as needed to eliminate nerve interference.

Being under regular chiropractic care is a great way to reduce the amount of stress on the body and enhance your body’s ability to adapt to the daily stresses that we encounter. When the brain and body can communicate properly via the nervous system, then the body will self-regulate like it’s supposed to. This is where health begins.

 

In health,

-Dr. Tim Sullivan

1.) McEwen, Bruce S. “Stressed or stressed out: what’s the difference?” J Psychiatry Neurosci 30:5. (2005) 

 

The one thing you can’t forget this summer vacation

What one thing is the most important part of your summer vacation? Find out here

Summertime is here! That means it’s time for vacations and road trips. Long rides in the car can be troublesome for our spines due to the often lack of ergonomic support, and the lack of movement that comes with sitting for extended periods of time. However, there are several things you can do to minimize the harmful effects of long car rides.

1.) Stop and take rest breaks: If you’re like me, you want to get on the road and get to where you’re going as quickly as possible. However, taking the time to stop, stretch your legs and walk around every couple hours is worth it! This helps get motion in the joints and prevent stiffening up of the muscles.

2.) Good lumbar support: The lumbar spine (a.k.a. the low back) normally has a forward curve; we run into problems when this curve becomes straightened out. Some vehicles are equipped with good lumbar support, but most aren’t. When we sit in the car for a while the tendency is to round our low back which reverses the spinal curve. If your car doesn’t have good low back support, there are fairly cheap, removable supports you can use. They come in different materials and designs, but the key is to make sure it’s sturdy enough so that it provides the support you need. I use one that is made with foam, but is nice and firm without being too bulky.

3.) Posture: Good posture is crucial, especially for the neck and upper back. While driving, ideally you should have your hands at the standard 10 and 2 position on the steering wheel, not up high which can cause a strain on your neck and shoulders. You should have your seat positioned so that you can see over the steering wheel easily and not have to lean forward or look down. As much as possible, use the side and rear-view mirrors as opposed to turning your head to look back. Your seat should also be positioned so that you can lean back comfortably and still be in an upright position. Your head should be leaned back against the headrest, this gives the neck support, and keeps it in the proper position.

These are all guidelines that can help minimize the harm of prolonged sitting in the car. However, they are not going to “fix” any conditions or problems with the spine. It’s best to have your spine checked by a chiropractor before you have pain or symptoms, but especially if you have ongoing or worsening problems.

 

In health,

-Dr. Tim Sullivan

 

Why do I need to see a chiropractor? My back doesn’t hurt

When most people think of chiropractors they think of treating pain or back problems. This is totally understandable, since society has stereotyped chiropractic to fit into that bracket. The reality is, chiropractic care is about achieving overall health and wellness by allowing the body to function properly.

Did you know that your body is  self-healing and self-regulating? Think about the last time you got a papercut, the wound closed up and healed all on it’s own, thanks to your body’s healing ability. Do you know what controls the body’s functions and healing ability? The BRAIN! The brain communicates with the body through the nervous system. The nerves come directly off the spinal cord and go out to all different parts of the body. Every single living cell in the body is controlled by nerves, either through direct contact, or chemical signals. When there’s interference with the signal between the brain and the body, the body won’t know how to respond to changes in the environment and it won’t be able to adapt as well. Will you be healthier or sicker when there’s interference to the body’s healing ability?

Our bodies are typically pretty tough. When there’s good communication between the brain and the body, we’re able to fight off sickness and daily stresses and strains that we encounter. We put up with a lot more stress and strains than we realize, these include: sleeping in the wrong position, picking things up improperly, being under a lot of stress, and eating a poor diet. When these problems are around long enough, or if enough problems build up, the body won’t be able to handle them anymore. This is when we start to get symptoms and pain. The spine, which is the body’s main support, bears the brunt of these problems. The bones of the spine (vertebrae) become misaligned and get stuck in the wrong position. When this happens the joints don’t move like they’re supposed to, causing damage and swelling of the surrounding muscles, ligaments, and discs. The swelling puts pressure on the delicate nerves as they exit the spine, causing them to become irritated and not function properly. This is known as subluxation. The organ, gland, muscle, or whatever that is controlled by the nerve, won’t get the proper signal and it will either work too hard or too little. For example, if there’s a subluxation affecting a nerve that controls your stomach, it won’t get the signal from your brain. So when you eat some toasted raviolis, your stomach won’t know to secrete acid and the food won’t get digested, it will sit and rot in your stomach, producing gas, which causes burping, heartburn, reflux, and indigestion. So you could take medications to try and calm the stomach down, but until the nerve interference is removed, the problem will still be there.

Symptoms are the body’s way of letting us know there’s a problem, they don’t just spontaneously begin for no reason. These problems can almost always be traced back to the nervous system. These signs aren’t always painful, however, which can be confusing. How come I need to have my spine taken care of if I don’t have pain? The reason is, most of the time nerve interference isn’t painful. Only about 1/3 of our nerves sense pain, and on top of that we don’t sense something as painful until the irritation crosses our pain threshold. Having a subluxation is like having a cavity in your tooth. You might be feeling fine and pain-free until one day you take a bit of ice cream or a sip of hot coffee and you get a sharp pain in your tooth. You go to the dentist and they say you have a cavity. Was it because you ate the ice cream or drank the coffee that all of a sudden you got a cavity? NO! The problem had been there for a while, slowly rotting away the tooth until it finally reached the nerve and you felt it as pain.

Just because you don’t have pain or obvious symptoms doesn’t automatically mean you are healthy. Thus, having your spine checked by a chiropractor is crucial for addressing problems that might not be painful now, but with catch up with you later in life. Why not take charge on your own terms instead of waiting until you have to get help?

In health,

-Dr. Tim Sullivan

Chiropractic: an effective and low-risk option for healthcare

The current top two leading causes of death in America are heart disease and cancer, respectively. An article just came out this month in the British Medical Journal that proposed a new third leading cause of death: medical error (1). This article compiles information from multiple studies describing estimates of annual deaths in the U.S. that occur from medical error. Conservative estimates for the annual death rate from medical error are around 195,000, with some estimates being as high as 400,000. The authors of this article established the average estimate as being 251,454, which they believe is still below the actual number.

Our bodies let us know when there is a problem. Sometimes the signal is more subtle than others, and if we’re not in tune with what’s going  on we can sometimes miss them. Pain is one of the more obvious signals that can motivate us to take action and make a change. However, there are other signs our body uses to show there’s a problem: indigestion, heart problems, constipation, headaches, numbness/tingling, fatigue, etc. These problems happen for a reason, there is an underlying cause, they don’t just develop spontaneously.

The main difference between medicine and chiropractic is the idea of where healing comes from. Medicine believes that healing takes place after giving a medication or performing a procedure on the body. Chiropractic believes that healing takes place from the inside out; that as long as the brain and body can communicate without any interference to the system the body will be healthy. The fact that medical error can possibly be one of the top leading causes of death indicates that there is imbalance in the healthcare system. Health is defined by the World Health Organization (WHO) as: “a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.” (2) Thus, just because you are not in pain or having obvious symptoms doesn’t automatically mean you are “healthy”.

Chiropractic is ideal for making the leap from symptom-free to healthy. The main goal of chiropractic is to correct problems in the spine or other joints (called subluxations) that prevent the body from receiving signals from the brain. This is done without any invasive procedures or man-made chemicals. Chiropractic unlocks the body’s ability to heal itself; it gets at the root cause of the problem, not just eliminating symptoms. The body’s ability to heal itself is incredible; when we accidentally cut our finger or even break a bone, our body innately has the ability to fix these problems. Just think what would happen if our body couldn’t heal, most of us wouldn’t make it past childhood!  Many ailments that people have accepted as part of their normal lives can be positively affected by chiropractic care if the body is given the opportunity to heal.

There is a time and place for chiropractic, and there is a time and place for medicine. The best scenario is when they work in tandem with each other and focus on the needs of the patient. Chiropractic care is extremely low-risk due to the fact that it doesn’t involve any potentially toxic chemicals or surgical procedures. It is in the best interest of the patient to pursue the most effective and least risky option for care. Thus, whenever possible, chiropractic is a great choice for health care.

In health,

-Dr. Tim Sullivan

 

1.)  Makary, Martin A., and Daniel, Michael. “Medical error–the third leading cause of death in the US.” BMJ 353:2139. (2016) http://davidrasnick.com/Home_files/Makary%202016%203rd%20leading%20cause%20of%20death.pdf. Web. 6/1/2016

2.) http://www.who.int/about/definition/en/print.html 6/1/2016