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5 Ways To Work ON Your Life Instead of IN Your Life

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By now, we recognize the wise distinction that Michael Gerber makes in his book E-myth Revisited: to work on your business as well as (or instead of) work in your business.  I have lived that great lesson myself from all points in the business spectrum, and I’m still sliding myself hand-over-hand toward the happy end of that scale.  I remember reading that book back in 2005 and musing how that book’s three-pronged approach to business could be applied to life in general.  How often do we go through life doing what we think needs doing, all the while ignoring that which can’t be ignored?  As I have matured as a doctor of chiropractic, I can see now where that lesson can be applied to one’s approach to personal health as well.

I have a patient who is an obsessive extremist.  He’s got one of the biggest hearts you’d ever want to meet.  He loves people, he loves life, and he’s a true defender of humanity and a patriot.  When he sees a goal he needs to get, he goes for it, and does not hold back.  He pushes himself past his limits in every aspect of work and play.

He decided to lose 40 pounds and 5 inches around the middle, and despite my best advice to take it easier, insisted on running four times as much as I had advised, lifting weights four times as aggressively, and ate 1/3 less food than he should have to keep up with that kind of effort.  After a month, he was exhausted, light-headed, weak, and had plateaued.  When he asked why, I told him: he put his body in panic mode!  He was so stressed out about getting to his goals that he was throwing off his adrenal glands! His body was holding on to stores for dear life because it thought he needed them for the terrible crisis he was in!  Once he began to eat more and was kinder to his body, he began to lose weight on schedule and regain energy.

I have another patient who is on the opposite end of this spectrum.  She is in her early 50s.  She’s a spunky, awesome lady who loves to enjoy her life and sharing great gobs of happiness with everyone around her.  She has entered the intermediate stage of osteoarthritis in her spine; she has rounded shoulders and underdeveloped muscles from avoiding exercise on a daily basis.  Consequently, she has bouts of debilitating pain in her spine.  She also smokes and loves to eat and drink lots of the best food and drink she can procure, so the excess weight that she carries is centered on her abdomen.  Abdominal fat is a danger sign for a stressed pancreas and heart.

When she comes in for her monthly spinal check-ups (for which I do commend her vigilance), I, being the loving nag that I am, ask her if she’s done the exercises, the stretches, visited the yoga place I told her about, quit smoking, yada yada…I get the same cheerful, “nope…nope…nope…”

But sometimes the spasms come – the, “I-can’t-even-get-out-of-bed-from-the-pain,” spasms.  Those days are long days in the chiropractic office for my dear patient, and I end up seeing her quite a bit for a few days.  I tell her, “It would be a lot cheaper on you if you just stretch, exercise, drink lots of water, quit smoking….” “Yeah,” she acknowledges…

This has gone on for years.  Then, wonderfully, at this month’s check-up, I noticed an extreme difference in her spine!  The muscles were suppler, there was movement in the individual vertebrae, and the adjustment was smooth as butter!  I said, “What are you doing right?”  She grinned and said, “I’ve been swimming in the neighbor’s pool almost every day after work!”

Swimming!  The holy grail of exercises.  If there were only one exercise you could do in the whole world, swimming, is the overall best.  You get aerobic exercise as well as universal strength training, and the cushion of water is great for anyone’s joints.  You exercise your lungs, swimming movements naturally massage your viscera (your organs in your gut), and you come out of the pool feeling refreshed.  Swimming is just fabulous.

That one little change over the course of four weeks improved her muscle tone, her posture, and her spine.  She looked fresher and had a nice bounce in her step that matched her spirit.  Thank goodness for summer and that pool!

However, autumn will be here in a few months, and although it is my fervent wish that my patient continue to swim…well…we’ll see.  Maybe, just maybe, her good health will encourage her to continue.

It isn’t fair to single out my patients, though.  More often than I care to admit (that’s why I am), I am guilty as charged for not living mindfully.  When I get into a project, I let my healthy exercise habits slip, and it can get me in real trouble when that happens – because, my body is my work instrument.  If I can’t use my body, I can’t work!  I have a blog post documenting the time I let bad desk habits really throw me for a loop.  This is the link to it if you want a good laugh and tips on great posture: http://wp.me/p1.

I love living life, too; I love accomplishing my goals, and I love getting “to it,” whatever “it” happens to be.  I have to make myself be mindful to keep balance in all areas of life, and to move on when I spend too much time on one thing.

Life is a series of moments, and they add up.  We make the most impact on our bodies, our health, and our life, doing the things we do every day.  Grand demonstrations of effort yield only fleeting changes if your efforts are not steady and consistent.   So, if you slump in your seat steadily and consistently, you will get osteoarthritis and muscular weakness in key points in your back.  If you sit up and get up to move around consistently and on a steady basis you’re going to have a healthy spine and musculature.

This example may seem like it has nothing to do with business and life, but consider:

Mechanical back pain – and I’m just talking about back pain caused by stuck vertebral joints and muscles that aren’t in healthy condition, not herniated discs and rheumatoid arthritis and conditions like that – account for most of the debilitating back pain that people experience.

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Think about that word: debilitating.  That means you hurt so bad that when you try to move, your pain keeps you from moving.  Unlike the lady I described in the last blog post, you are able to move but the pain you experience is so vast, you can’t will yourself to move! That includes breathing, that includes bearing down to go to the bathroom…everything!

The trigger point problem I had in my intercostals – just one silly muscle knot – and I had every symptom of a heart attack.  How many people go to the emergency room with symptoms of a heart attack and end up with nothing to show for it but thousands of dollars of medical bills for examinations they didn’t need?

Well, I’ll tell you: Americans spend at least $50 billion each year on back pain1—and that’s for diagnosis and treatment for the pain, as well as workers compensation payments and time lost from work.  That’s not considering people who go to the hospital or doctor’s office looking for more serious diagnostic worries like a heart attack, like an ulcer, like a brain tumor, and goodness knows what else that end up being just back and neck pain.

It also doesn’t assume the personal income you lose due to the inability to perform your job because of pain, nor does it account for lost revenue for your company because you or your employee couldn’t work due to medical absence.  So, aside from your health insurance and workman’s compensation premiums skyrocketing, how much more are you losing…from back pain? In most cases, back pain that’s not even from a “serious” back injury that chokes off the full expression of your nervous system and leads to real weakness and loss of use.  That’s even worse!

The realization is astounding, isn’t it? It’s hard to believe unless you have lived through that kind of pain.  Then you get it.

Back and neck pain is like no other pain.  Because the spinal cord and peripheral nerves exit through the spine, when your joints aren’t working well and the muscles of your back are not conditioned well, when they are pushed to that brink, the resulting inflammation affects nerves that run every system of your body. Nothing can work right.  You can even get hot and cold flashes, heart palpitations, hyperventilation, and weak bladder.  It’s just ridiculous.

And what about when we put too much unhealthy stress on our bodies at the expense of equilibrium? Pulling all-nighters, beginning Friday with Thursday happy hour, and even trying to compensate for bad behavior with obsessive, stressful, dieting and exercise will cause short-term delays in your goals and long-term damage from self-induced hormonal and visceral dysfunction.  Remember: the body is a beautiful servant of the mind.  If the mind is in a state of disequilibrium, the body follows.

Luckily, health care spending growth seems to be slowing overall for small businesses (not including spending for the newly-insured); however, it is not reversing, and legislation is only part of the issue.  The other part is us and our lifestyle behavior.

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For small businesses, smoking and obesity are the top direct and indirect health expenditures for employees.  Our government has estimated that annual health care costs for these populations are about $96 billion in health care and a $97 billion a year in indirect cost, including lost productivity for smokers2.  For obesity, it is $147 billion3 in medical costs and an additional $68 billion in indirect cost, including lost productivity.  Associated health care costs for these health care issues are partially paid by small business people and corporations, as well as fellow employees whose rates are higher in a business setting because of the overall risk.  In fact, the Affordable Care Act allows a $0.50 increase per smoker increase by insurance companies, and some legislators are calling for a similar levy for obese people.

It is important to remember that both smoking and overeating are addictions, and they are both physical and psychological addictions. The way that we manufacture our food and cigarettes in this country has a lot to do with their addictive qualities, and the social suggestion that eating and smoking equal happiness are tremendous.  So if you suffer from either, please remember that.  These problems are not impossible to overcome, and the blame is not entirely yours.   Our bodies were never built to ingest the quantity and quality of food that is most common and most affordable in America today, and the food and tobacco industry has their own dirty history of which we are becoming all-too-well aware.

So I hope I’ve made a case that getting lost in your day to day has serious financial and personal implications for you, and given that 1 in 5 of us smoke and 1 in 3 of us is overweight-to-obese, I hope I’ve shown that working on your life is just as important as working in your business.  In fact, they are interrelated.

Here’s some ways you can work on your life as opposed to in your life:

 1: Be conscious of what you put on and in your body, and how you use your body every day.

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This may sound like a nuisance suggestion, but given the amount that you can save yourself, your colleagues and your family in heartache and dollars, keeping a journal where you jot down the brands, types and amounts of food you eat, as well as the brands of products you wash with and use as cosmetics. Keep a ledger of the amount of times you walked and got up to walk, exercised, and just straightened up your back.  If you smoke, be aware of how many cigarettes you are smoking, and when you seem to smoke the most.  As far as eating is concerned, your goal is to eat 5-6 small meals a day, about the size of your fist, and a wide variety of foods. See how close you can get to that. When you get a chance, read the ingredient list of what you put on and in your body.  If you can’t pronounce the ingredients and you have no idea what they are, it’s time to take an inventory of what’s in your house and office.

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2: Take an inventory of what is in your house and office.

First of all, if you wouldn’t eat what you put on your body, it shouldn’t be on your body. You don’t always eat your nutrients or poisons.  Your skin absorbs lotions, gels and liquid materials, and transports their ingredients into your blood stream via a complex combination of nervous and lymph channels. Your skin also excretes waste through your pores; that’s why you smell bad if you don’t wash after a day or two.  Without getting too far off topic, I’m going to make an argument for reverse osmosis water filters in your home and office.  Your skin even absorbs water in the shower or bathtub, and every chemical compound in it.  In fact, when you inhale, you ingest just as much as when you wash6.  Some of those chemicals include antibiotics and pesticides from farming, so those lower your immunity and resistance right there.

The more unnatural chemicals that go in and on your body, the less resistance you can acquire in fighting unwanted habits and addictions.  In fact, a lot of these chemicals produce the addiction to begin with!  So chuck out any food and cosmetics that contains ingredients that you can’t pronounce or easily identify as safe by a simple online search.  Two great websites are veritey.com and environmental working group ewg.com to do that.

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3 Take an inventory of your motivation for continuing harmful habits.

I know what I’m talking about here.  I smoked for twenty years, and loved every minute of it.  I didn’t really want to stop when I did, but my checklist of what was at stake if I didn’t convinced me I ought to stop.  So consider: given everything I know you already know and more, do you really want to smoke?  Do you really want to eat as much as you do?  Why are you doing it?  Are these habits really more important than everything else that you know is true?  What is the cost of not acting on what you know you need to to? How happy are you going to be if you continue to alienate every other principle that is important to you if you continue?  Can you really stop when you want?  If you know you should stop, when are you going to stop?

None of these questions are easy, and all are vital to every aspect of your life. You know they apply to drug (illegal as well as prescription) and alcohol addiction too, but I figured I had better just say that to drive the point home.  If you find yourself grappling with this suggestion, keep in mind suggestion #4.

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4 Don’t do it alone.

You don’t have to be alone in this process.  In fact, addictions speak for themselves using your voice, so it’s actually very important to get help in overcoming them.  I already referenced my friend and colleague Meg Tocantins, who is a hypnotist extraordinaire and who is on a personal mission to demolish the smoking industry single-handedly.  I told her she needs help to do that, too; so you folks can work together!

Work out with a buddy.  In know you hear that all the time, but you hear it all the time because its true.  You know someone who wants to get moving as much as you, so go do activities with them.  There are lots of things to choose from.  Go dancing!  Play golf or go to a bellydancing class.  Or better yet: go swimming!  The local Y has a pool all year round, and so do many gyms.  If possible, find a pool that is cleaned via oxygenation rather than chlorine or other chemical methods, for the reasons stated above.

If overeating and/or eating the wrong things for your body is your problem, first, go to your health care professional and find out what type of dietary effort is best for you.  Not everyone is suited to the Atkins diet, nor is everyone suited for a raw juice program.  Find out your metabolic type and go from there.  Find a system and a support to get you through.  I have a list of folks you can contact in my show notes, but there are literally thousands of health coaches and support groups everywhere.  Go to your church, temple, mosque, tribe or synagogue; check the local library or event listings in your town.  Go to Meetup.com and see if there are any groups listed there.  Make sure the group you attend isn’t or doesn’t devolve into a useless gripe session with no useful support structure.

If you are an employer who is reading this, if you haven’t already, institute a program at work for these efforts. Many insurance companies will actually offer discounts and benefits to companies who institute wellness programs for their employees, and a multitude of health and wellness professionals would literally love to help you with this.  I’m forming a party of health missionaries right now to get started on this type of quest, and so are many others in many places.

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5. Continually remind yourself why you are doing it.

Make a list of every benefit there is of taking charge of what you put in your body to remind you when times are tough.  Keep these reasons handy every time you feel like you are going to slip.  Read continually.  Read as much as you can from experts in the field (I recommend some good books in my show notes).  For employers, I already hinted at the financial and productivity benefits; take an inventory of your staff’s behaviors and your insurance premiums, and weigh the cost of the projected savings when you successfully initiate in-house wellness programs.  You may even find that your staff is grateful that you care.  I mean, beyond the cold numbers, no one wants to see their friends and families suffer from the effects of ill health, hopelessness and depression – because these problems cause plenty of depression and self-esteem issues, believe me.  Just knowing you care enough to help may go a long way in building a corporate culture that will benefit you in the short and the long run.

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Consistency and Change are the Stuff of Life

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“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” — Aristotle
“Consistency is the hallmark of the unimaginative.” ― Oscar Wilde

To be consistent, or to not be consistent.  That is the question.  Actually, this is the cop-out question.

The answer to the cop-out is: Be consistent in effort but not consistent in method.

What does that mean?  It means in order to produce the effects of your dreams you must work consistently toward them.  But change your game along the way to suit the challenge.

I am the first to admit that consistency is one of my greatest challenges.  But I also know that nothing of worth will ever materialize without consistent effort toward its attainment.

For example: I want to gain muscle.  I am in my mid-forties now.  I knew all along that after age 30 muscle mass deteriorates quickly.  But I had no idea of the reality of that statement until now.  My muscle is receding like a coastal waterline just before a tsunami.

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Okay.  I have been known to be a little hard on myself sometimes. However…

“…NOOOOO,” I say! I need to build my muscles!  If I had been consistently working out throughout my adult years, I wouldn’t be in this scrawny position. To the contrary of what I know I should do, I get on a “kick” and go to the gym for six weeks, quit for a year, then go back for six weeks, quit, etc… Suddenly, I went from 21 to 46 years of age.  What happened to the last 25 years of potentially consistent workout time?  When my patients come in for a visit and say to me, “Damn, Dr. Claire.  You need to eat a burger,” I know I’m in trouble.

I have once again completed the 6th week of going to the gym, and I am once again starting to see the results I need. I am also getting that familiar, “ugh; it’s raining out and I have a lot to do,” muttering in the back of my mind.

Let me tell you: the back of my mind has never had good advice for me.

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Bottom line: if I am not consistent now, I am going to follow the fate of many who never consistently did what they needed for themselves.  I could very easily live the remaining 20, 30, 40, 50 years of my life in constant pain, tottering around with the help of a cane or walker.

What’s more, as a chiropractor, I make my living with my body…so what the %&$* am I thinking? Get to work, lady!  Working out is part and parcel with your job!

We all make our living with our bodies.  Isn’t sitting in a chair hammering away at a computer using our bodies? Isn’t truck driving, sales calls, tending to bedsides, running behind children and their activities, international travel and meetings, surveying, contracting, cleaning house, sculpting and piloting using our bodies?

I can’t go to the gym, work out a little, skip years, go back and work out a little, and expect results that are lasting.  I’m wasting my time not being consistent, and if I am not consistent I’m going to die in pain and suffering and as a burden to my husband and daughter.  Nice way to ruin more lives than my own.

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The same goes with eating right.  Eating right for some reason has never been a problem for me, but for many of my patients, it is a real problem.  85% of people who lose weight gain it back within a year.  What do the 15% who keep it off know that 85% of people don’t?

Here’s the answer: once it’s off, you have to develop consistent patterns of eating well in order to keep it off.

The weight loss industry is a multi-billion dollar industry.  According to Marketdata, this year it is up 1.7% to $61 billion dollars.

Let me repeat that.  $61 billion dollars (click here for a link to PRweb’s article on the matter).

Why so high?  Because 85% of people who want to lose weight are not consistent in habit with keeping the weight off. There are big dollars in stop-and-start weight loss efforts.

The only magic formula to a healthy life is consistency in effort.  Once again, I refer back to The Nine Essentials of Health as a guideline for what we should do every day to be healthy.

Nine Essentials of Good HealthNow…here’s a bit of a twist.  Be consistent in effort, but not in product.

This is what the skeptics of consistency mean.  Your body gets used to a routine and will not change in accordance with your will unless you change your tactics along the way.  If you work out using the same weight in the same order for more than two weeks, your body acclimates to the routine and ceases to improve.  You “plateau.”  Similarly, if you eat the same meals every day, your body acclimates to them and ceases its progress.

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This is a universal truth that is applicable to every area of life. The only thing that grows in a stagnate environment are pathogens and parasites.  You can apply this adage to your financial situation, the growth of your business, your relationships with others, your relationship with God and spirit, the seasons, artistic efforts, and your body.

What’s more, we need to cultivate growth and change in all areas of our lives.  Dan Miller, an excellent business coach, made up a diagram of the different areas we need to cultivate in order to live a full and vital life.  He says (and I agree) that we must grow equally in the following areas in order to make a positive impact in our lives and in the world: spiritual, career, financial, social, family, physical, and personal development (click here to download your own copy).

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We must all be consistent in our efforts toward our goals, but must not get caught in a set routine.  If we do, we become inconsequential.  We become insignificant.  We become expendable.  Nature does not need us anymore, except as food for the living. We stagnate, cripple, die, and make room for more vital people and ideas.

Okay.  I am off to the gym.  I am on week 7. Hooray for me!

 

The Nine Essentials of Health #6: Proper Posture

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Straighten your spine, chin forward, tuck in, roll shoulders back and drop them, unlock your knees, point big toes forward, and breathe from your belly — not your shoulders.

“Never name the well from which you will not drink.” It is a line from the fantasy classic, The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley.  I believe Merlin was saying it to Morgan Le Fay, but I can’t find my copy at the moment to clarify and Google isn’t helping me.

Anyway, it isn’t who said it that is of particular interest to me at the moment; it is the meaning.  I take it to mean the same thing as “never say ‘Never.’”  It’s like challenging the Universe.  When you profess to live by a certain code, the Universe will make certain you live or die by your word.   As a chiropractor and health advisor, I have made it my life to advise people to live their lives a certain way – the Healthy Way.  I also have a particular adversity to hypocrisy, so when I do not live up to the standards I set for others, I suffer the consequences about three times as badly as others might who don’t care about living the life that they profess others should live.

With this in mind, I am loathe to report that, at the moment, I feel as if I swallowed an ice pick sideways and that it is stuck in my esophagus.  I feel as if someone made a dolly likeness of me and ran its left shoulder through with a knife.  I feel as if there is a spiky tennis ball in the region of my left breast that is stuck behind my sternum or in my left lung as I move.

None of these harrowing metaphors are real, of course.  What is happening in reality is that my left rib, Rib 3 to be precise, has rotated downward and is impinging on the intercostal nerve that lives between Ribs 3 and 4. Consequently, muscles in the area (most definitively, serratus posterior superior) are spasming like a m****r f****r and setting off trigger points that are causing crazy pain around my lung and heart and close to the nerve supply that innervates my left side, underarm, the length of my arm, and my left pinky — like so…

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…except I’m a girl…

So I’m finding it difficult to breathe, my heart feels inflamed, and my left arm is weak.  If I were anyone else, I’d be in the emergency room thinking I was having a heart attack.  My husband indeed was frightened I was having a heart attack or a stroke. I had to let him listen to my heart and ask me questions like, “What’s your name?  What day is this?  Where are you?” before he agreed not to take me to the hospital.  Had I not answered correctly, I would have had thousands of dollars in tests done, two overnight stays, only go home with a prescription for Percocet after the medical doctors found nothing.

But I know better, and Rib 3 is rotated inferior on Rib 4, because my spine went just enough out of alignment to rotate the vertebrae to which Rib 3 attaches, Thoracic 3 (T3), inferior left.  This in turn twists the rib just enough to impinge on the nerve supply, which in turn chokes the nerves that supply the surrounding musculature, and consequently makes my life a living hell.

Why?  Because I’ve not been practicing what I preach. I’ve been hanging on my laptop writing for hours on end, my arms too high for my seat, without moving around and stretching every half hour.  I got wrapped up in my work and didn’t work out because “I didn’t have time.”  I leaned forward and slumped in my seat for hours.  I got up only when my stomach and bladder complained loud enough to tear me away for a few moments.

I’ve not been paying attention to my side-posture adjustment maneuver at work either. I was taught by the best to pay close attention to the position of my shoulder when I adjust, because I’d be out of a career if I didn’t.  Lately, I’ve been getting ambitiously sloppy.

Also, I’ve been dragging my office with me in my backpack as I travel around anywhere that the MTA can take me.  My backpack is too full for my frame and the straps are not even.  I didn’t stretch before and after I wore it, either.

So, just before bed on Monday, I was cleaning the cookies from my computer and I felt it start – that hideous, involuntary twisting of my musculature just underneath my scapulae.  I literally stopped and told it, “No, no, no!”  It didn’t listen.  Too late.

I lifted my left arm and tried to stretch to the right in a last ditch effort to bargain with my body, to avoid the inevitable.

My body was cruel and unyielding.  “No, Claire; you played the Hypocrite.  Your posture has sucked for days, you did nothing to correct it, and now you pay!”

The level of pain an impinged nerve and a muscle spasm can deliver is beyond comprehension unless you experience it.  Ask any mother giving birth naturally.  Even if it’s a tiny muscle, it can cause absolute havoc with your quality of life.  The pain is not only debilitating, it’s exhausting!

After an almost-sleepless night, with my tail tucked squarely between my legs, I limped off to my friend’s chiropractic office for help.  After a very fine adjustment, Dr. Isaac Lichy admonished me that the pain wouldn’t go away right away, that healing takes time.  I’d also need to come back three times a week for a few weeks until my body was back to normal. Meanwhile, drink plenty of water, take anti-inflammatory enzymes, ice the area and after a few days, apply wet heat…etc…etc…etc…the usual spiel I tell my patients…humiliating but appropriate.

Doctors are the worst patients, they say.  *sigh.* But this stupid episode marks a perfect introduction to The Nine Essentials of Health — #6: Proper Posture

Standing:

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Tuck in your chin. Roll your shoulders back.  Now drop your shoulders. Point your big toes forward. Unlock your knees. Your spine is as aligned as you can get it.  If you’re wearing a back pack, make sure it is appropriate for your height and weight, has great waist support as well as shoulder support, and not full of extraneous stuff.

Don’t give up.  Pretend you are Superman.  Or Wonder Woman.

Maybe not so much Superman here…but Wonder Woman is doing it right.

You may feel awkward at first.  You are not used to standing with proper posture.  You feel pretentious. You feel like you look foolish.  You don’t.  You looked foolish before.  Now you look strong and solid.  You look confident and sexy.  And when you allow yourself, you feel confident and sexy too, don’t you?

Sitting:

Sit straight.  Uncross your legs.  Lift your chest. Put your feet on the floor.  Make sure your knees are at right angles, over your ankles.  Roll your shoulders back.  Now drop your shoulders.  Rest your hands high on your thighs. Again, Your spine is as aligned as you can get it.

Don’t give up.  Don’t slump.  And get up and move around every ½ hour or so.  We were never built for sitting long-term.

Pretend you are important.  Pretend a lot of people depend on your strong form and your Great Work.  Pretend that every turn of your keyboard, your pen, your knife, your hammer, or your steering wheel, is one more step toward saving the world.  You know what?  If you will it, it is!

J. Adam Wilson

Lifting:

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Take your time.  Small manageable boxes are preferable to large unwieldy ones.  Hold the heavy part close to your body.  Your biggest muscles, besides your heart and your tongue, are your leg muscles.  Use your legs.

As you lift, clench your pelvic bowl like you have to go to the bathroom. This will help stabilize and strengthen your low back. This exercise is inspired by a Dr. named Kegel.

I’ll be doing a post on Kegel exercises soon.

Running:

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Straight forward lean, tucked-in chin, foot fall fluid – don’t stomp!  Be like water.

Pretend you are Ethan Hunt running through Shanghai in Mission Impossible III.

 Gardening/Cleaning:

If you’re going to do something dirty, embrace the dirt!  Get in there knees first. Kneel with your back straight.  Don’t lean.  Bring the dirty goodie to you.

Pretend you’re six.

Sleeping.

Sleep on your back and sides. Make sure your neck and back are comfortably supported and in alignment. A pillow between your legs or behind your knees help take pressure off your low back.  Lower pillow height is preferable to a stack of pillows under your head.  Your mattress should be not too hard, not too soft.

Pretend you are Goldilocks.

Shoveling/Pushing:

Take your time.  Opt for many light loads instead of a few heavy ones hoping you’ll save time.  Keep even.  Switch hand position and sides often.  Drink lots of water.  Again: use your legs to push off! Use your whole body.  Don’t twist and throw off-balance.

Pretend you’re a chiropractor.

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My friend Dr. Jennifer Falcone

Good posture in everything you do is day-to-day healthy upkeep for not just your spine, but your knees, shoulders, elbows, feet, hips, wrists, and every other joint in your body.  If you are good to your body from day to day, it will be your faithful and pain-free vehicle in which you live your fabulous life. If you take it for granted and get sloppy and lazy, your ability to function will shorten and diminish much more quickly than you ever anticipated.  And when your body sounds the alarm that you are moving awkwardly towards the point of no return, you will most definitely know it!  The pain feels like the end of the world!  Don’t ignore it with pain killers.  Do something about it (I mean, get to your friendly neighborhood chiropractor and other trusted bodyworkers) and get back on track!

If the instructions in this blog seem impossible for you just out of sheer incomprehension, please set up an appointment with a good chiropractor (me, for instance,) and she or he will help very nicely!  By the by, a massage therapist friend of mine, Selina Rifkin, reminded me that there is a great organization called Feldenkrais that teaches people how to “be” in their bodies.  Here’s that  link: http://www.feldenkrais.com/.

All right; I’m off to Dr. Lichy’s office again. Catch you next time!

Next time: The Nine Essentials of Health #7: Brush and Floss

Truthtime question: Are you sitting up right now?

The Nine Essentials of Health, # 2: Stretch/Exercise

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I believe I have the Neanderthal gene active in my physiology.  I’ve never been tested, but I’m VERY light skinned (I am in fact, pink, because my skin is so translucent that my coloring – apart from my freckles — is due to capillary visibility), we have red hair in my family, and I couldn’t do a split to save my life.

I can’t do anywhere near a split in any direction. I do a “V.”  Or rather, an “A” without the bar in the middle.  But there might as well be a bar in the middle, because I can’t split my legs any farther than an A can flatten itself out and remain an A.

Yet, every morning, I embarrass myself before my mirror, stretching my short little A legs as far as they can go in every direction.  Why?

Because I’m 46 years old and I have run out of time.

I see it.  I stand in the mirror and look at myself. Yes; for a woman my age, I’m pretty darned good-looking.  I’m still proportional, the lines on my face are mostly laugh lines, and I was even carded last summer in Charlotte airport when I ordered a glass of wine (my daughter hates when I repeat that story).

But I take a closer look at myself. I have this bit of jiggle just below my belly button that I know is a signal for low back instability.  Indeed, I have been getting stiff in my lumbar and sacral region after a full night’s rest.  The front of my neck has the beginnings of those tell-tale folds that used to be known as the “dwaddle” on the show Ally McBeal.  The dwaddle is also a tell-tale sign of instability in the cervical spine (neck).  My neck muscles are beginning to atrophy, and when that happens, look out chiropractor! I’m also getting loose in the triceps, which is making me crazy, and my rear-end…well, let’s just say that I’ll report back to you on that in six months.

I walk about four miles a day, like any normal New Yorker.  That’s why I look as good as I do – particularly my legs.  But I’m going through a change of life, and I know that change is signaling a reduction in my ability to hold calcium in my bones.  If I don’t get serious about weight-bearing exercises now, that calcium won’t stay in my bones.

My ligaments and tendons get their nourishment from a “pumping” action as I move.  They lose the ability to receive nourishment over time if I don’t move my body in all directions!  Soon they will lose all flexibility and be as brittle and short as scar tissue. Any free mobility —  and pain free mobility – will be gone!  And that includes the spine.  Once the spine loses flexibility and starts to produce scar tissue in place of healthy tissue, that’s all she wrote.  No more pain-free days ever again! Tons of money at the chiropractor or God forbid, the orthopedic surgeon, and she’s going to tell me I knew better all along.

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She’s right.  I do.  I knew better all along.  In fact, I tell my patients every day that they have to do these things called stretching and exercising. They have to. This isn’t an option.  You have to sleep, you have to eat, you have to go make potty, and you have to exercise and stretch.

Look.  I know how hard it is to get your rump up and make stretching and exercise a priority.  Everything, absolutely everything seems to take precedence!  Getting the kids to wherever, getting to work and back on time for everybody, running that dumb errand that you’ve needed to run forever, just chilling the “f” out after being run ragged all day…stretching and exercising on a regular basis seems as far-reaching a possibility as living on a  luxury cruise liner.

But there is no two ways about it.  You have to do it.  There is simply no other way to be present for your job, your family, and your ability to enjoy your life in any way resembling healthy than to take two hours out of every four-to-five days – that’s eight to ten hours a week — and do this seemingly impossible thing.

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I must tell you: the cushiest patients I have are the ones who have been exercising and just need a quick adjustment to right that little subluxation that popped up in their spine.  It’s so nice, because they are so present in their bodies that I don’t need to convince them the sky is blue.  They tell me: “Doc, the sky is blue, and I need an adjustment here and here and here…”

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I’m playing with the idea of opening an office in a gym.  What a simple, easy life not to have to convince somebody to shell out money for six weeks of three-times-a-week chiropractic care in the hopes that they might be functional at the end of it if they listen to me and just include stretch and exercise in their daily routines!  All I would ever need to do was quick-adjust some bouncy healthy spine and they can say, “thanks doc!” and be all better!  Whew.  Talk about The Life!

What about all that money I could make on the hapless stationary souls who ruin their spines sitting at desks for 10-30 years, or the day laborers who never balance their workaday physical toil with stretching and exercise, or the parents or caregivers who drive minivans full of kids and groceries for 10-20 years…what about all the money I could make off these folks who are now left with wrecks for backs that they want me to “fix” as soon as possible?

I take no joy from telling someone they need a year’s worth of intensive care with me.  They take no joy in that either.  They go crying to their surgeon’s office that their chiropractor tried to rip them off by insisting they needed 18 months’ worth of three-times-a-week care, so they spend tens of thousands of insurance dollars torturing their physical therapist by expecting miracles from them and/or surgery that very often has permanent long-term negative repercussions.  No one wins there except the pharmaceutical and insurance companies.

I’d much rather have the happy occasional patient than the sad invalid who keeps telling me, “I didn’t do anything!  Why am I like this? Why can’t you fix me?”

Because you didn’t do anything. That’s why.  And you’ve run out of time.

I’m not even talking about the other health benefits, like heart, lung, anti-cancer, mental, emotional, digestive, sexual and reproductive, anti-aging, anti-diabetes, on and on and on…

There are not “ifs,” “ands,” or “buts,” about it: you will end up in someone’s doctor’s office, and then the rest of your long life, with calamitous health issues, or you will get off your duff and stretch and exercise 8-10 hours a week.

And I mean, “STRETCH and exercise!” Not just one. You must stretch before and after exercise!  Every day!

There are bags of resources on this, so I will only belabor you with my own website: fitzpatrickspinecenter.com, under the “links” tab, I have mined Youtube for some great examples of dynamic and static stretching. Have at them.

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What’s the best exercise? Fluid-type exercises.  Swimming, hydraulic weight-bearing, marital arts, yoga, Pilates.  What’s the best way to exercise? With professional training, well-rested, well-hydrated, with a not-full-but-not-starving belly, AFTER DYNAMIC STRETCHING! What’s the best post-exercise activity? STATIC STRETCHING! And water.  And a small healthy snack. And more water.

Next time: #3: Proper Inner and Outer Environment.

Truthtime Question: Gallup reports that there has been no major change in the amount of Americans – around 51% — who exercise three times or more a week on a regular basis.  Are you one of them? How often do you stretch and exercise?

 

Heart Health In The Adolescent Athlete

School Running Race

There has been a noticeable occurrence of sudden deaths among athletes in the news in the last few decades.  Finding have shown that the deaths are cardiovascular (having to do with the heart and blood vessels) in nature.  Doctors found that the most common cardiovascular cause was a condition called hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, which is an enlarged heart – in particular, left ventricular hypertrophy — due to inflammation of the heart muscles.

Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy is not to be confused with “athlete’s heart,” or “athletic heart syndrome” which is an enlarged heart due to healthy athletic and fitness training.  The heart, like any other muscle, becomes “pumped” with exercise. Athlete’s heart is a good thing; it is a very healthy heart conditioned to deliver large quantities of oxygen and nutrient-rich blood to the body during extended exercise.

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Despite the fact that hypertrophic cardiomyopathy and congenital heart problems account for most adolescent sudden death syndrome, it does not account for all deaths of this nature.  Besides getting a full checkup from the pediatrician with special attention to uncovering undetected heart conditions, here is a heart-healthy habit that parents can instill in their children to help make certain that their young athlete does not suffer premature heart failure on the field or the court.

Proper Mineral Balance and Hydration

A direct threat to heart health is electrolyte imbalance, which can occur when your child is dehydrated and not eating enough of the right nutrients.  Muscle, including the heart, is over 75% water.  The heart, in particular, has its own electric circuitry that is regulated by proper hydration and electrolyte balance.  Children become dehydrated much more quickly than adults, and the dehydration and electrolyte deficiency that can occur during athletic training and sport events can be dangerous, even life-threatening.  Water levels and minerals like sodium, chloride, calcium, potassium, magnesium, and phosphate in proper quantities and ratios are all necessary for the heart to function properly.

Normally, children should drink ½ their body weight in ounces of water a day.  For example, a kid who is 86 pounds should drink 43 ounces (5 ½ cups) of filtered water a day – not juice, not coffee, not sports drinks. All those can be in addition to the water intake.  If your child trains athletically, that intake should be much greater.

Sweat losses during 2 hours of exercise can equal 2 liters (68 ounces) of fluid or more.  For this duration, your child should drink 8 oz (1 cup) of filtered water every 15 minutes!  The child needs to replenish during training in order to keep hydration at proper levels.  If your child’s coach has a problem with this, then you should have a problem with your child’s coach.

A good rule of thumb for your child athlete is the following chart:

2 hours before exercise                                          2-3+ cups

15 minutes before exercise                                  1-2+ cups

Every 15 minutes during exercise                   1-1.5 cups

After exercise        2-3 cups for every pound lost

Source: American College of Sports Medicine Position Paper, 2006

For the latter, the pounds lost is water weight.  Your child needs to replenish that water weight quickly.  It’s not water weight that needs to come off your child.

To ensure proper electrolyte balance, a snack the size of your child’s fist should be eaten.  The snack should be relatively low in fat and fiber so that your child doesn’t have a bloated stomach while training, and should be relatively high in carbohydrates and moderate in protein.  A good example is an organic fruit smoothie with banana and mango, almond milk and plain low fat yoghurt, or a trusted power bar with no high-fructose corn syrup. If you don’t have access to a holistic physician or sports dietician for guidance here (you can e-mail optimysticliving@gmail.com for my recommendations), visit your nearest health food store for guidance.

After exercise, it is important to eat the proper combination of nutrients during the first 30 minutes. The meal following exercise should be very easy to digest and provide amino acids to help building and repair of muscular tissue and optimize uptake of the nutrients and minerals to the muscles, including the heart (remember: the heart is a muscle!).  Good examples would be a good whey, egg, or pea/hemp sports drink with a teaspoon of sea salt or dulse thrown in.

Following are examples of electrolyte-rich foods (all should be organic and in the case of dairy, raw):

Sodium:  dill pickle, tomato juice/sauce/soup; sea salt (1 tsp = 2300 mg sodium), dulse

Chloride: sea salt, dulse, tomatoes, romaine lettuce, olives

Potassium: red potato with skin, plain yogurt banana

Magnesium: cacao beans/dark chocolate, halibut, pumpkin seeds, spinach

Calcium: raw dairy (yogurt, milk, ricotta), collard greens, spinach, kale, sardines

Phosphate (available in suitable quantities along with the other electrolyte foods) egg yolks, milk, nuts, wheat germ, peas, beans, legumes, mushrooms, cacao beans/dark chocolate

Make sure your child eats balanced, healthy meals consisting of lean proteins, healthy carbohydrates like leafy green vegetables, and healthy fats like omega 3 fish oil supplements, flaxseed oil, and nuts every two hours for four to six hours following exercise.

High school football, running back, 1999, by R...

High school football, running back, 1999, by Rick Dikeman (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

These important steps should help protect your child’s heart while improving overall performance in their given sport.  This advice, however, is only the beginning.  Your child should have a chiropractor who specializes in sports nutrition examine your child’s spine regularly for vertebral misalignment, particularly to vertebra whose nerve roots service the heart, and a trusted sports physician who continues to monitor your child’s physical development.  Adolescents go through drastic changes on the path to adulthood; your child athlete doubly so. Preventive care should be an active partner in your child’s path to optimum health and athletic success.

 

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