May 16, 2013 / 5:00 am
The recent tragedy at the Boston Marathon was very interesting from an information point of view for two main reasons. The first one was the incredible flow rate of information that was being produced; people all over the world knew about the events as they were unfolding in real time. Part of this is because the marathon is an international event and there was intensive media coverage present to cover the race, but also because there were thousands of people onsite with access to the Internet who were relaying information as the events occurred. The second reason was the amount of unreliable and ultimately false information that was also released to the public. Mainstream media and social media alike were equally culpable in this regard with newspapers publishing photos of “suspects” who in fact turned out to be high school track athletes and cable news networks trying to get the “scoop” reporting completely inaccurate items. Social media sites; largely driven by the general public also were guilty of falsely accusing innocent people and putting families through much undo distress.
Your Health Information
Similar problems exist when people are accessing their health information. Over the last 15 years, the Internet has completely changed how people get their health advice. When stricken with an ailment or injury, most people will take to the Internet first to make a self-diagnosis and arrive at their health practitioner’s office with an idea in their head with what is wrong. This information is great for the patient, and can be helpful to the practitioner as well, but often leads to some confusion.
Also troubling is the amount of information that gets released by people who work in a health or fitness role who convey information through blogs, tweets and Facebook posts that purport that what they do “cures” or prevents a stunningly long list of disease, injury and sickness. Unfortunately, most of this information has no basis and has not been established through any kind of peer review research at all. When an exercise instructor (let’s say a yoga teacher) leads a class and mentions that a certain pose helped another client of theirs with hip flexibility; that is called anecdotal evidence and is the weakest form of evidence available and should not be considered reliable. It is cherry picking of information because there may have been ten other participants who saw no benefit from completing that pose. Even less reliable is when an instructor claims that a certain pose had a positive impact on immunity in a blog post and the only evidence to back this up is what they heard from another instructor. Undeniably there are many benefits to doing yoga, however it is not specifically yoga that yields many health benefits; it is exercising in general. Most other forms of exercise will yield massive health gains compared to a sedentary population base and there is mountains of peer reviewed evidence to support that.
Nutritional information has the same problem. So many people who are so called experts are actually pushing an agenda to have the products they promote cast in a favourable light. Many products can be very helpful, however starting with a proper diet and consulting with a qualified expert regarding nutrition should always guide your choices regarding nutritional products.
Getting your health information from qualified people and reliable sources cannot be overstated. The Internet is a tremendous resource but you have to be able to sift through a lot of dirt to get to the gold. For any readers of this column, I would be happy to send you a few links on particular areas of health that are interesting to you. Feel free to contact me through the provided email.
Apr 4, 2013 / 5:00 am
One of the most common conditions that patients present to chiropractors with is headaches. Headaches are prolific through society and billions are spent each year on treatment with painkillers and muscle relaxants. Usage of ibuprofen, acetaminophen and naproxen can provide temporary relief, however they don’t do anything to address the actual cause of what is happening. People who suffer from repeated headaches are best served from getting an assessment about the cause of headaches and a chiropractor is an excellent place to start.
Classification: Primary vs. Secondary
Headaches are group into Primary and Secondary (headache due to another condition: trauma, disease, cancer, substance abuse, infection, metabolic disorders). During an initial assessment, if a headache of secondary nature is suspected, it is often a cause for referral to either hospital or another medical provider. Signs and symptoms that indicate a headache is not appropriate for manual treatment include: fever, rash, abnormal mental status or what is known as a “thunderclap headache” (which is worst or first headache ever with sudden onset and very intense).
The majority of headaches however are primary headaches and include migraines, tension type headaches, and cluster headaches. Cluster headaches are quite rare (0.4% of all headaches), more dominant in males and are attributed to vasodilation. Migraine headaches are more frequent in females than in males and most people develop migraine headaches during adolescence or young adulthood. Despite years of research there is no unified hypothesis as to the cause of migraine headaches although it is theorized that migraines are vascular. There are two classifications of migraine headaches:
- Common: 80%; frontal (uni- or bilateral) no aura, 1-3 days
- Classic: 10%, unilateral, auras present, 2-6 hours, often vomiting
Migraine headaches are also unilateral (one-sided) and also have a pulsating quality. They are also aggravated by light, routine physical activity such as walking or for some lying down. Migraines are what are considered moderate to severe in intensity. Many patients respond quite well to chiropractic care when dealing with migraine headaches.
Tension-type headaches are by far the most common and fortunately the ones that tend to respond most readily to chiropractic treatment. Tension headaches are also known as cervicogenic headaches, which means referred to the head from either bony structures or soft tissues of the neck. Causes of cervicogenic headaches include: whiplash, arthritis, sports injuries, poor ergonomics, repetitive activities and weakness of neck muscles. A typical pain pattern for a cervicogenic headache is neck pain and stiffness that would start in the occipital region and travel overhead to the frontal region.
Treatment for cervicogenic headaches includes soft tissue treatment of the postural muscles of the neck and upper back such as the sub-occipitals and levator scapulae. Often times, treatment of these areas will temporarily reproduce the headache symptoms which is indicative that you are treating the right areas. Joint mobilization or manipulation of the upper back and cervical spine can also be a very effective treatment in treating headaches.
While active treatment from a chiropractor is a very effective treatment for headaches, it is also important to make preventative changes to your daily activities such as increasing the strength of your postural muscles and taking a long, hard look at your workspace to determine if those are contributing to your headaches. Again, your chiropractor is a great place to start to seek advice in these areas.
Mar 21, 2013 / 5:00 am
This past winter has seen me become something of a slow cooker enthusiast. Not only are you able to make healthy, hearty meals quickly, the smell you arrive to after work after something has been cooking for 10 hours is unbeatable!
I am by no means a top notch chef, however I have found that making meals using the slow cooker is very easy and by controlling what you put in, can be very healthy. Whatever I make, I tend to add plenty of spices such as turmeric, garlic and ginger all of which have well established powerful health benefits. The last thing that goes in is the bay leaf. The leaf gives the chili, soup or whatever is being cooked, a bit of a flavor that is just right.
Bay leaves come from the Bay Laurel tree (Laurus nobilis), a Mediterranean evergreen. For centuries, laurel and/or bay leaf has been used in herbal medicine due to its anti-inflammatory, anti-microbial, and anti-fungal properties. While there hasn’t been much research done specifically on the benefits of bay leaf itself, many of bay leaf’s compounds and phytonutrients have demonstrated various health benefits.
The bay leaf has been used for years as a natural remedy for various digestive disorders. It can settle the stomach and lessen the severity of issues like celiac disease or irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). It improves digestion in general and can minimize flatulence. There are also enzymes in the leaf that help break down proteins which aids in meat digestion.
A bay leaf compress will help relieve chest or respiratory troubles such as bronchitis, coughing, flu and chest infections. Drinking bay leaf tea will help to induce sweating therefore reducing a fever.
Bay leaves contain the phytonutrient Parthenolide. It has anti-inflammatory properties and can be used for joint and muscle pains or pain from arthritic joints. Simply apply the bay leaf oil to the affected areas.
It is difficult for some to control their insulin do to genetics or poor lifestyle choices. Diabetes is one condition that can significantly affect the body in an adverse way. There are compounds in bay leaves that help to regulate blood sugar levels. Insulin can be processed more quickly, meaning elevated and depressed sugar spikes are prevented.
The most common trigger of immune system failure is usually due to stress. Whether it be chemical, physical, emotional, etc, stress is usually behind sickness. Linalool, a compound not only found in bay leaf but also others herbs like thyme and basil, has been used as a relaxing fragrance in aromatherapy. This calming aroma also has protective effects on our immune system warding off the negative effects of stress.
Additionally, bay leaf’s phytonutrient catechins, eugenol, parthenolide and quercetin help to protect the body from many different kinds of cancer.
Try adding a bay leaf to your next dish to experience the flavor and benefits is has to offer.
Mar 7, 2013 / 5:00 am
I have a confession to make. I don’t really like going to the gym anymore. Now don’t get me wrong, I love, love to exercise. I am one of the lucky people who literally can’t go through the day without doing some form of pretty strenuous activity whether it is running, biking, cross-country skiing or other endurance based activities. However, the last several years has seen me transition away from doing a regular weight or resistance based routine. Some may say big deal; however this is coming from someone who as part of their career arc in healthcare has managed two fitness facilities, worked in a large rehabilitation centre developing fitness programs and is still current with the highest level of fitness certifications available in Canada. I also used to be a gym lover, 5-6 times a week.
I understand that others love going to the gym to get a workout done and would rather drop a 45 pound dumbbell on their foot than go on a 15 km trail run around Knox mountain. Everyone has their passion and doing something is certainly better than doing nothing as it has been shown in many recent studies how literally dangerous a sedentary existence is.
As part of my desire to avoid some of the injuries that are associated with endurance sports, I have been recently literally dragging myself to the local fitness centre to do a functional based weight workout about one time per week. Now this is not a lot to be sure, but it is more weights than I have done over the past couple of years. After a rough start with some lunges and associated hamstring pain for three days a couple months back I am starting to not despise it any longer.
With my professional experience in the healthcare and rehab I constantly remind my patients how important it is to not only exercise, but find a mix of things that you can do to create balance. This not only will help you avoid overuse injuries, it helps to create a mental balance where you do not get sick of doing the same thing over and over again.
The take home message in all this is that it is great to a have fitness passion, I love that! However no single activity be it yoga, crossfit, triathlon or weight lifting is the solution for all ailments, injuries or performance. By all means focus on what you love to do and embrace it. Also set aside some time for the things that you don’t enjoy quite as much because they contribute to making you a more well-rounded, healthier and injury free movement enthusiast.
Read more Back to Basics articles
- From injury to performance Feb 21
- Fix your own back Feb 7
- Effect of pain on function Nov 29
- Why is my hand numb? Nov 1
- Mixing pain medication with exercise Oct 18
- We are designed to move Oct 4
- Dynamic Neuromuscular Stabilization Sep 20
- Eating to lose weight Jun 28
- Dissecting the HCG diet May 31
- Resolving plantar fasciitis May 17
- Fixing that pain in the foot May 6
- Do I need x-rays? Apr 19
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