Why Do I Have All These New Pains?

This time of year, it is very common for strange and unknown pains to start showing up. Are you one of the thousands of people who suffer from unexplained aches and pains this time of year? I see a common pattern this time of year in my clinic. Patients are complaining about old pains showing up again or new pains appearing from seemingly nowhere. And most people don’t know why. If you want to know “the why” read on.

My practice is focused on treating pain and dysfunction. So it is normal for patients to call for an appointment because something hurts. But this time of year more patients are calling for an appointment because all these new and unexplained pains are showing up for them. They have new neck pain, shoulder pain, low back pain or even cramping and pain in their calves. I always ask, “What started the pain?” For most patients they can’t think of a trauma or injury that could have led to their complaint.

But after asking lots of questions and doing a thorough evaluation and treatment I usually can pinpoint the cause of these new complaints. I call it “Holiday Stress and Strain Syndrome”. This is the time of year when people are putting up Christmas decorations and preparing for the Holidays. They put up lights on the house or decorate the tree. So they are up and down ladders and reaching above their heads to hang lights or put up decorations. Sometimes it’s just many hours in the kitchen preparing the Holiday meals.

XMas lights

Anytime you are doing something new or different with your body it can put a strain or stress on it. So it is not a major trauma that causes your pain, but lots of little stresses and strains that become cumulative that start new pains or lead to old ones returning. Up and down ladders can lead to calf pain and leg cramps at night. Click here for a good stretch for your calf muscles.  Reaching over your head to hang lights can stain your shoulders. And looking up to decorate the house or tree can strain your neck. Even standing in the kitchen for longer than you normally do can lead to low back pain from having a weak core.
These are just a few of the complaints I hear this time of year. But remember mental and emotional stress can also lead to physical pain too. The mental stress of the Holidays can lead to headaches or low back pain, to name a few. Our mental state of mind has a physical effect on our body.

So you don’t have to have a big trauma or injury to start the aches and pains to show up this time of year. It can be due to the mental or repetitive stresses and strains that can cause pain to ruin your Holiday plans.

Are You Experiencing Swelling in Your Legs ?

If you have swelling in your legs, feet, arms or hands, you may have a problem with your Lymphatic System. What is your Lymphatic System, you ask? The Lymphatic System is called the “second circulatory system of the body.” Your heart, arteries, veins and capillaries make up your primary circulator system. This is the system that circulates your blood throughout your body, delivering oxygen and nutrients to every tissue, organ, and cell of your body.

Your Lymphatic System is called your secondary circulatory system because it picks up the waste materials and fluids of the body that can’t be sent back to the heart by your veins. This fluid needs to cleaned and purified before it goes back into general circulation. Your Lymphatic System conducts this purification, provides for the transportation of proteins throughout the body, and is the first line of defense against invading bacteria, viruses and toxins.

So why does this system have problems that can cause the fluids to backup and swell your extremities? There can be several reasons, and some include problems with your heart or kidneys. But I want to discuss the mechanical reasons you can have problems with your Lymphatic System, which are unrelated to heart or kidney disease.

Body Cavities

All your vital structures, arteries, veins, lymph vessels and nerve bundles run vertically in your body. You also have 4 horizontal diaphragms that divide the major cavities in your body. The 3 major cavities are your Cranial, Thoracic and Abdominal cavities. If any of these horizontal diaphragms are restricted they will prevent the normal flow of blood and lymph between these cavities. This can lead to swelling in your extremities.

A good manual therapist can evaluate your diaphragms and release any restrictions that may be contributing to the swelling in your legs or arms. You will also need to take corrective action to prevent the diaphragms from tightening back up after treatment. This usually includes corrective stretching and postural changes.

Brain Endurance and the Desire to Exercise

Endurance training causes new mitochondria — the “power plants” that use oxygen and glucose to produce ATP — to grow in your muscles.

 gym-room

This, in a nutshell, is why your endurance improves, because you’re able to keep your muscles aerobically fueled for longer. These adaptations take place mainly in the muscles you use during training: legs for runners, arms and legs for swimmers, and so on.

 

But the muscles aren’t the only place where oxygen and glucose are needed: at rest, your brain sucks up 20 percent of your body’s oxygen supply and 25 percent of its glucose. A neat new study in the American Journal of Physiology suggests that aerobic exercise causes new mitochondria to grow in your brain as well as your muscles, which has a couple of interesting implications. The study was done in mice: an eight-week treadmill running program produced the usual changes (increased time to exhaustion, higher mitochondria in muscles), but also produced a series of changes suggesting that new mitochondria had grown in the brain.

 

One reason this is significant is that figuring out how to boost mitochondria in the brain would be helpful for “various central nervous system diseases and age-related dementia that are often characterized by mitochondrial dysfunction.” That includes, for example, Alzheimer’s disease.

 

The other is the possible role of brain mitochondria in “central fatigue,” which the researchers define as “the progressive reduction in voluntary drive to motor neurons during exercise.”

 

The idea is that your body’s absolute top priority is making sure that your brain ALWAYS has enough energy. During intense exercise, your muscles are using oxygen and energy so rapidly that your brain’s oxygen levels start to drop. To prevent disaster, your brain automatically starts to recruit fewer muscle fibers for a given level of effort, so that more resources can be diverted to the brain. You experience this as fatigue: you’re pushing just as hard as before, but you’re getting slower/weaker. But if you have more mitochondria in your brain, you can make use of available energy more efficiently so you won’t have to shut down your muscles quite as soon.

 IMG_7900

Another interesting wrinkle in the discussion:

What they mean by “voluntary activity” is how much mice, when left to their own devices, decide to run on a wheel in their cage. Researchers have found that the “impulse to exercise” tends to decline with age — so before your body starts to fail, your brain just isn’t as enthusiastic about doing lots of exercise as it used to be. There are some possible hints here that this phenomenon could be linked to declining levels of brain mitochondria. In other words, regular exercise doesn’t just preserve your ability to exercise — it also preserves your desire.

  Alex Hutchinson

This is One Exercise Everyone Should Do!

What do you think of when I say exercise?  Most people think of going to the gym and lifting weights on a machine or with dumbbells.  Yes, strength training is one form of exercise.  But when you look at keeping your body healthy you need to do 3 types of exercise.  This first one is probably the most important when it comes to keeping us mobile and pain free.

Senior couple workout in rehabilitation center. Personal trainer helps elderly couple to do stretching on the floor. Focus on man.

So what are the 3 forms of exercise?

  1. Stretching
  2. Cardiovascular
  3. Strength Training

 

Number one, stretching, is probably the most important exercise when it comes to maintaining our mobility and preventing pain as we age.  If we maintain our flexibility, our body can do a better job of getting us out of bed in the morning or getting in and out of our car without pain.

 

Our body needs to maintain a certain percentage of our normal range of motion as we age.  This allows us to keep moving in our later years.  Our flexibility may not be what it was when we were in our 20’s, but if we don’t work to maintain a normal range of motion our health starts to suffer.  And yes we can regain flexibility as we age.  We just need to use the right techniques to stretch safely. Watch this video on how to stretch safely using a foam roller.

 

You can use static or active stretching techniques.  Static stretching is when you hold a stretch for longer than 10 seconds.  Active stretching is when you use multiple repetitions to stretch but only holding each stretch for 3-5 seconds.  The key with either technique is not to stretch so hard and fast that you engage your stretch reflex.  Your stretch reflex is a protective mechanism in the muscle that prevents you from injuring the muscle when stretching.

 

Both stretching techniques can be effective if you know when and how to use them.  So always talk to a professional that can help you decide what is best for your body.

3 Tips for Feeding Your Brain

The brain is an incredible organ.  Did you know that almost 60% of your brain is made of fat? I guess when we were kids and called each other “Fatheads” we were anatomically correct!brain-

The brain serves several functions including motor control, sensory, regulation and cognition.  It is connected to the spinal cord and then to the peripheral nerves to generate movement and receive sensations from the sensory nerves.  Cognitive function in the brain mainly occurs in the prefrontal cortex.

As we age our brain changes just like the rest of our body.  But there are things we can do to slow the degenerative changes we all face. One of the easiest things we can do is eat right for our brains.  Your brain needs vital nutrients, vitamins and fats to have proper and optimal function.

Watch this video to learn why “Your brain needs Omega-3 fatty acids to function properly”.

  1. You can start with adding more green leafy vegetables to your diet. This will help your brain and your heart.

 

  1. The food that gets the most coverage in the media these days are the good fats. They include Omega-3, DHA and EPA. Low levels of DHE have been linked to increased risk of dementia. So salmon and nuts should be a part of your weekly diet.

 

  1. Olive oil is another source of good fats. Try adding a good cold pressed virgin oil to your cooking or use it in salad dressings. Finally blueberries and red wine are also good brain food. You can add fresh or frozen blueberries to your morning cereal. I like the fact that red wine is good for the brain. Ok, in moderation, like most things. I also don’t suggest putting the wine on your cereal for breakfast either.

Does Your Body Feel Like a Beat Up Hockey Player’s?

hockey

Do you feel like a beat up hockey player in the mornings when you get out of bed?  The hockey playoffs are in full swing.  The final round of the playoffs is on.  Next stop?  The Stanley Cup Championship.  If you watch the hockey playoffs you know how hard the players check each other, fall on the ice, and sprint up and down the ice for 60 minutes.  This would make anyone’s body hurt after a long season.  But the playoffs are now achieving a different, higher level of intensity.

All this intense physical activity can take a toll on a person’s body.  Yes, most of these players are young and healthy.  But I have treated several retired professional hockey players in my practice.  I am currently treating a 65 year old retired, 5 time Stanley Cup championship player.  He played 13 years in the NHL. And boy does his body show it!  When he first can to me for treatment he was as tight as a piece of concreate with steel reinforcements. He had pain from head to toe and his body was abused and beaten up.

But I’m happy to say, with good manual therapy, he is out of pain, back on the golf course and much more flexible.  One of the biggest things that has helped Steve are the stretches that I have taught him, that he executes religiously.

So if you are stiff and sore getting out of bed every morning, know there is hope. With good manual therapy and a willingness to do “Your Homework” you can get your life back.  I call it “homework” for 2 reasons.

  1. Some people think the word “exercise” is a dirty word!
  2. The work you do when you leave my clinic is what make the difference in how fast your body recovers.

We have intelligent bodies that know how to heal themselves. My job as a manual therapist is to remove the barriers that are preventing your body from doing what it is designed to do…heal.   The home work and life style changes you make also contribute to your overall healing process.  So if a retired professional hockey player can get better, know you can too!

Starting a New Exercise Routine? Start Slow, Progress Gradually

What is the biggest mistake I see with patients starting a new exercise routine? They start too fast and too aggressively. When starting anything new- an exercise program, big project around the house or any life change – start slowly.

walkers

From a physiology stand point, your body needs time to adapt to anything new. So start slowly. Let your body adjust to the changes that you are making. As we age our bodies adapt less quickly.  If you challenge your body slowly it will accept those changes gradually. But if you start too aggressively your body will resist the change and not respond as favorably.   If you start too quickly with a new exercise program, your body will rebel by getting very sore and not letting you get out of bed the next morning!

 

For example, if you are starting a new walking program, start slowly. If walking is not part of your routine, start by walking 5 to 10 minutes.  If you are a little sore the next day that is good. This means you’re using your muscles in a new way. Do the 5-10 minute walk every other day until your muscles are no longer sore. Depending on your age and fitness level that may take 1 to 3 weeks.  By starting this new routine slowly you are giving your body a chance to adapt to the changes you are making. After a few weeks of being consistent with your new routine, your muscles will adapt and not be sore.  Then you can progress…gradually.

 

So, if you started a new walking routine for 10 minutes every other day, progress to 15 minutes. Walk 15 minutes every other day for a few weeks, until your muscles are no longer sore at this level of walking. Then progress to 20 minutes of walking, gradually increasing until you hit your goal of 40 to 60 minutes of walking 5-7 days a week.

 

Your body needs time to adapt and change. So give it time and be consistent.  You will get a better outcome and achieve your goals more consistently when you work with your physiology.

Good-bye Cold and Flu Season. Hello Allergy Season.

Now that flu season is easing up, allergy season is in full bloom in Florida.  Oak trees are covered in pollen with pine trees right behind. This means your car will be covered in yellow-green pollen for the next 3-4 weeks.  If you are one of my readers from up north you may have a few months yet for pollen season to start. Keep these tips in mind when it hits your area.

headache

So what does this mean for you?  It depends on your health and your allergies.  I have many patients who suffer from allergies and sinus headaches this time of year.

sinus

Your sinuses are air-filled cavities in your skull, behind your cheekbones, forehead and nose.  But when you have an allergic reaction these sinuses fill with mucus, swell and can block the channels that allow them to drain.  When your sinuses do not drain the pressure builds up and causes a headache. This can also be accompanied with watery itchy eyes, a full feeling in your ears, and swelling in your face.

So what can you do for these sinus headaches?  What I find very effective for my patients is using acupressure points to relieve the pressure and help the sinuses drain.

Watch this video on how to use acupressure points to self-treat sinus congestion and headaches.  When you use these pressure points it can help drain the sinuses and relieve the pressure, thus alleviating the headache.

During treatment, my patients say their pressure points are often sore or tender.  This indicates that the sinuses are full and typically respond well to this type of treatment.  When the soreness eases, your sinuses should drain and your headaches should stop.

5 Tips For Staying Healthy This Flu Season

flu-season (1)

2018 is one of the worst flu seasons on record according to the CDC and it’s not over yet. If you go to the CDC website and ask how to prevent the flu, they recommend getting the flu shot and staying away from sick people. I know the flu shot is important for some people who are at high risk. But how many millions of dollars go to the CDC for them to tell us to “stay away from sick people”?  I was looking for more useful information on how to strength my immune system to prevent the flu. Here are some tips.

 

Help your immune system stay strong. A strong immune system will help protect you from more than just the flu.  Several of my patients who have been regularly using the BEMER Vascular Therapy Device have not gotten sick this year.  The Bemer has been scientifically proven to increase immune function by improving a patient’s lymphatic function and increase capillary blood flow (Watch Video).

 

Many people don’t know much about their lymphatic system. If our lymphatic system stopped working we would be dead in 24 hours! Its main jobs are to;

  • Remove waste products and internal toxins produced by our cells
  • Fight infections as part of the non-specific and specific immune response
  • Drain excess fluids and proteins from the tissues all around the body
  • Absorbs fats and fat-soluble vitamins from the digestive system and transports them into the bloodstream

So since the Bemer improves the lymphatic systems function it stands to reason that patients would be less likely to get colds or flus.

 

The second benefit of Bemer therapy is increased capillary blood flow.  When the Bemer increases blood flow to the smallest blood vessels in the body it means that more red and white blood cells can reach the organs, tissues, and cells of the body.  Blood is responsible for bringing oxygen and nutrients to the cells and tissues of the body.  This insures the body is healthy and strong to fight off any germs, viruses or bacteria by having more efficient white blood cell delivery.

 

Other ways to strengthen your immune system is to:

  • Exercise regularly
  • Get plenty of sleep
  • Stay hydrated

Around the holidays these three things suffer in our routines and thus weaken our immune systems and make us more susceptible to getting colds and flu.

Posture Technology

Have you heard of the latest technology for improving your posture? Smart clothing and smart gadgets. In prior articles I have talked about the role of posture and how it can be contributing to your back or neck pain.  Earlier this month I was on a plane to Dallas to teach a Total Body Balancing course.  I picked up the SKY Magazine and read an article by Amy Paturel about, “Engineering Better Minds and Bodies”.  In the article she discussed functional garments and devices.  Now you may be thinking I am talking about compression garments for swelling. No! These garments are specifically designed to help your posture.

good-posture

“Good or bad posture has dramatic effects on everything from physical performance to mental focus,” according to Carlos Prietto, M.D., orthopedic surgeon and team physician for the University of California in Irvine. If you have postural distortions you have less energy to think and heal.  So these technology companies are developing “smart” clothing that tracks your posture and vibrates if you deviate from correctness.  Other clothing are designed with woven bands of elastic material that gently coaxes the body’s muscles into alignment.  “The bands lay on important muscle groups where they stimulate nerves, enhance circulation and reduce inflammation,” says Bill Schultz, founder of Alignmed .  These garments are designed to enhance mobility and support the body’s natural healing ability.

Other products from PostureTek and UpRight are wearable devices that have electronic sensors that detect when you slouch and vibrate to remind you to sit or stand straight. These are designed to be worm under your normal clothing.  They also come with a computer software that tracks your progress.

Functional apparel is gaining recognition in the market place. In a 2016 study published in International Journal of Occupational Safety and Ergonomics, sedentary computer workers were 13% more productive and had 29% less muscle fatigue when wearing postural shirts.

Anything that helps you improve your health is worth a try.  Nothing will replace good posture exercises to keep your muscles strong and build endurance. If you have a chance give these technologies a try. Let me know what you think and I’ll share your experience in future newsletters.