Why Does My Back Pain Return??

Many times I’ve heard people or patients of ours talk about their frustrations with their back.  The biggest complaint is that they continue to suffer from recurring episodes of back pain.  Often, as the patient ages, their pain becomes more severe, and the episodes more frequent.  That can be disconcerting to say the least.  Our focus at HealthSource is to help our patients get to the point where the chances of those episodes recurring are as remote as possible.  So let’s discuss why these situations can occur, and what can be done to minimize them.

The biggest reason back pain recurs can be summed up in one word:  Weakness.  Studies have shown that people with recurring back pain or chronic back pain have a group of muscles that need to be addressed.  They are called the multifidi.  They are small intrinsic muscles deep in the back right next to the vertebrae.  They function to create stability so that the everyday micro-traumas, and the occasional macro-trauma, have less effect on the patient.  Unfortunately, these muscles are found to be weak and atrophied (shrunken) in patients with recurring back pain.  So, these muscles need to be strengthened..  Our progressive rehab specifically addresses those muscles to maximize a patient’s spinal health.

Another challenge causing recurring back pain is not following through with a recommended program of care.  Patients sometimes feel they are better before they are completely better.  And when the pain goes away, so does their commitment to finish care.  This leads to incomplete healing, leaving the patient susceptible to further episodes of back pain.  And each exacerbation creates more scar tissue, leading to more challenges for healing to be complete.

Lastly, a patient’s overall health impacts their healing capabilities..  Poor health habits mean poor healing.  It’s as simple as that.  If a patient smokes, is obese, has too much stress, and eats horribly, they will likely have a poorer result compared to a patient that takes better care of their body.  To help with that, we provide a Health Risk Assessment to evaluate a patient’s health habits and help them fine tune those habits to maximize healing.

In short, make sure your care includes proper rehab for your back pain, and you keep your back strong, follow your chiropractor’s recommendations to a “T”, and be sure to keep your overall health rocking for optimum results!

Until Next Time….Be Well!

Dr. Bruce

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Make Today Your Independence Day

 

Happy Independence Day!  Today in America we celebrate 240 years of freedom, and of declaring “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”  I hope you enjoy your day.

Today I also hope you are working on your own personal freedom.  If not, why not start today and declare your independence?  Independence from what?

I am talking about being independent in regard to your health.  If you’re suffering from health issues, you are dependent on something else such as medicine or the medical profession.  If you’re not living a healthy lifestyle, you’ll become dependent on others to care for you sooner rather than later.  If you’re not living a wellness oriented lifestyle, you’ll not be free to enjoy the life you dream of.  Remember, the greatest wealth is health.  Decide today to begin walking toward a healthy lifestyle.  Day by day, minute by minute, declare your independence by making the best choices in how you eat, move, think and rest.  Exercise your freedom of choice, and determine what the last years of your life will look like:  

There Ain’t No Shortcuts

Yes, I said Ain’t.  My elementary school English teacher, Mrs. Sims would have a fit if she saw that in my title.  But it just seemed to be the right choice.  I promise I ain’t going to use that word in this post though, so I hope you ain’t deterred from reading further. Onward we go.

It happens monthly, maybe even weekly.  I see/hear of another shortcut for weight loss.  Sometimes it’s a supplement.  Sometimes it’s a weird diet.  Sometimes it’s a weird activity of some sort. And yes, sometimes it’s even surgical intervention (which while I don’t like at all, may be necessary in extreme morbid obesity cases I think).

Well guess what?  I heard of a new one recently.  What it is doesn’t matter, it just goes to show that our Western culture’s infatuation with the shortcut to health still exists.  The magic pill, the long sought for panacea, the fountain of youth, the…….the…..well you get the point.

And guess what?  It probably works to reduce fat and make one look better.  Yep that’s right, they look better.  The key word here is LOOK.  Notice I did NOT say be healthier.

In 1984, I owned a 1973 VW Beetle.  It was a sight to behold.  It was mostly blue.  It had a yellow door.  It had 2 gray fenders.  It had rust.  I spent about 400 dollars to have it reworked and painted, (yes all one color).  It looked much much better, just like new.  However, if I didn’t change the oil from time to time, clean the carburetor (remember those?), change the spark plugs out when needed etc. then the car would die.  It would still LOOK good on the outside, but would be ill on the inside. And no one would notice as I drove it that the engine was about to blow.

Yep, our bodies are the same. In our culture we want to look good on the outside (botox anyone?).  We want the appearance of health so badly, that we focus on the outside instead of on what makes us truly healthy (or for that matter, what makes us truly sick).  So billion dollar industries are created on this farce of health and wellness.  Yes it’s a farce.  And it’s a suicidal farce at that.

The reality of it is, while we slowly commit suicide by lifestyle in our culture by running to the next magic cure, the answer is really oh so simple.  Simple?  Yes, simple.  And if you read any of my stuff you should know the answer by now.  Eat well, Move well, Think well and Rest well.  That’s it.  There is no other answer.  Oh sure, surgery for some of our self inflicted illnesses is necessary at times when things are too out of control.  But that only puts out a fire, it doesn’t rebuild the structure.  My formula listed above does rebuild the structure.  It’s the only way.

Ok, one more time, repeat after me:  There ain’t no shortcut (my apologies to Mrs. Sims).

Until next time… Be Well!
Dr. Bruce

Part Deux of Beating Stress and Anxiety

I hope you read the first part of this topic already, if not it’s right here .  I will give another good tip today on this topic.  Using multiple strategies together makes a great plan to beat this issue that afflicts so many.  Stress and anxiety  are killers, physically and metaphorically.  So let’s commit to getting started battling it if you haven’t already.

A second method for battling this gnawing issue has to do with movement.  Genetically we are designed to move.  Our office mantra for optimal health states that to BE well, we have to “Eat Well, Move Well, Think Well and Rest Well”.  Moving is as vital as any of the others, and done properly, is an effective tool to battle stress and anxiety.

Personal story here.  When I was dealing with anxiety, and didn’t know it was anxiety, my epiphany that led to my healing began on a Saturday afternoon at my house.  I was at my wits end as to what was going on in my body.  I had ordered an MRI of my brain and neck as the symptoms I was having had me worried (yea, THAT helps with stress doesn’t it?).  They had come back normal.   As I lay on my bed that Saturday,  feeling like absolute crap and not knowing why,  I literally said out loud, “to hell with this” and I got on my treadmill.  I walked, hard, with a lot of incline on the treadmill, for 45 minutes.  I soaked my shirt with sweat.  I got off of the treadmill and thought, “I feel like a new man”.  The difference was amazing.  I’m not sure when I realized that I had stumbled upon a clue, but I know that was the beginning of my healing.

Now I know some of the physiology behind what happened to me then.  When we have stress/anxiety in our lives, the fight or flight reflex (sympathetic nervous system) kicks in, raising blood pressure, heart rate, respiratory rate and more. It is preparing us for action, preparing us for survival in an emergency.  This is a necessary event.

However, when we never have the ability or opportunity to act, when the event never transpires (as in chronic stress or anxiety) it’s almost as if all that stored up preparatory action is for naught.  It sits there in your body, with deleterious effects on your health physically and mentally.  We need to release it.  In our sedentary world, a world that sits an enormous amount of time, and moves very little, there’s not much of an outlet for this stress.  So, we need to CREATE the outlet.

That’s what the treadmill did for me.  Since that day about 10 years ago, I’ve used High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) for my cardiovascular exercise.  If I’m walking, I do intervals where I keep a steady pace, broken up by intervals where I speed walk about as fast as I can.  Sometimes I actually sprint for my interval (there’s a funny sight, a 50 year old man running hard, but not moving fast)  There are many health reasons for using this form of exercise that I won’t go into right now, but suffice it to say it works well and burns off excess energy in a short time frame.  On a treadmill, I don’t recommend walking at high speeds for safety’s sake.  You can do intervals where you increase the incline of the treadmill to increase the intensity of your walk.  I use a 3:1 ratio for my intervals.  This means if I walk solid for 3 minutes, I’d do an interval of more intense walking for one minute.  Find the intervals that work best for you in that ratio.  You can also research online about interval training, there’s plenty of good information available.

For now, that’s it.  So get moving.  Intentionally and intensely.  Note: If you’re not already exercising, make sure your health care provider has cleared you for exercise before beginning.

I’ll have one more tip to share in the next post.

Until then…..Be Well!

Dr. Bruce

Beating Anxiety And Stress Naturally

So I recently had a patient tell me her doctor wanted to put her on medications for anxiety issues.  She said she did NOT want to be put on medicine.  I told her I’d send a message to her about how to deal with anxiety without drugs.  I let her know that she was talking to someone who personally dealt with anxiety, and even full blown panic attacks, about a decade ago, and never had to take a drug.  So, this blog post is for her, and for all that deal with issues like anxiety, stress, and even insomnia, which is often present with these issues.

First let me say that if you are dealing with anxiety issues, it IS real. You’re not crazy.  But it doesn’t have to lead to dependence on medications, because after all, the cause of anxiety isn’t a lack of Zoloft in your body.  So buckle up, there are things you can do about this.  There are three things I recommend that are effective, and each one requires some explanation, so I’ll start with just one in this post.

First on the mental side, there’s an activity I recommend everyone do whether or not they deal with stress/anxiety.  It’s called the gratitude exercise.  Don’t “poo-poo” this idea because it sounds like something from a burnt out hippie.  It really works well.  Here’s how to start your gratitude journal/exercise.

Every night, the last thing you do before you go to bed should be this exercise.  Make sure all the things you have to do before walking to your bed are done, ie the dogs are in, all lights are out except what you need, you’ve been to the bathroom, brushed your teeth etc.  Sit down, and with a notebook, or an app like Evernote, start the exercise.  I want you to be able to go straight to bed when you finish this with no delay.   You need to think of 3 (at least) things you are grateful for from that day.  Write/type them into your journal.  But, don’t just write them down.  The object is not just to make a list. The object is to re-experience what it is you’re grateful for.  So write it down, but write down why you’re grateful for it.  One of my more recent ones looked like this: “Thank you God for a walk today. I exercised and felt better about myself for doing it. Plus it got Sil and I doing things together.  It was great to be outside and moving.”.  Yes I am a Christian and I believe in thanking God for all I get to experience (In all things give thanks).  You don’t have to write it that way, but it’s how I do it.

By writing down why I’m grateful for it, it creates a feeling in me like I’m going through the experience again.  It has been scientifically shown that by re-experience and focusing on things we are happy about or grateful for, it creates the same physiological changes inside us that occurred when the event actually happened.  That’s healthy for you and I.  Conversely, when we relive a negative event, or focus on our worries, it too creates physiological changes inside us, but of the negative variety.  That leads to illness and disease.

I would also suggest, to piggy back on this idea of gratitudes, that you take the first ten minutes of every day, when you first wake, to spend it in gratitude as well.  I call those ten minutes my “Think and Thank” minutes.  What a great way to bookend your days, filling it with gratitude!  And any time during a day when you are feeling particularly stressed or anxious, focus on gratefulness.  Maybe re-read your journal if that helps.

That’s a good start for today.  You can start this today, and I recommend you use this even if you’ve never dealt with stress/anxiety in your life, it’s a great way to retrain your brain to focus on what is going great in your life as it’s too easy for our brains to focus on what’s not quite right.  Watch for the next step to be posted in a few days.

Until next time…Be Well.

Dr. Bruce

The Perfect Storm For Illness

We are in the perfect storm as I type this.  It is the cold and flu “season” if you will.  I use that term season lightly.  Why?  Because really, do you REALLY think the cold and flu viruses have a season where they come in and invade, then go away?  Really???  Of course not.  Those viruses are always around.  They don’t migrate like geese.

But, there IS a season where we are more susceptible to such critters as these viruses.  It IS now.  The question is “Why?”.

Here’s why.  Truly the key to optimum health is our mantra that we often repeat at our office.  “Eat Well, Move Well, Think Well and Rest Well”.  Is there any disease or illness that wouldn’t be diminished by doing these things better?  I think not.

But during the holidays we do none of the above very well.  We have so many sweets around.  Our exercise schedule takes a beating because we are out of our normal routine often (and weather may contribute as well).  There is a significant amount of increased stress during this season.  And certainly we tend to not get as much rest as we would normally get.

One other HUGE additional factor is Vitamin D3.  It is produced via sunlight hitting our bodies.  Here in our hemisphere we are exposed to much less sunlight right now than during other times of the year.  Vitamin D3 has been shown to be involved deeply in our immune system, and most of our culture is low in Vitamin D.  There are solid studies showing keeping one’s Vitamin D levels adequate is better than a flu shot for reducing the flu, and without potential side effects.

So do what you can to boost your immune system.  Fight to keep your exercise program up.  When you’re not at a holiday party, get some good healthy foods in your system.  Practice reducing stress levels (exercise is a top notch way to achieve that).  Get extra rest when you can, and make sure you’re on a solid Vitamin D3 supplement.

Happy New Year Friends.

Until next year….Be well.

Dr. Bruce.

 

Living In Reality: Most Everyone Cheats…..

…..on their health related lifestyle choices.  Some skip a workout.  Or if they go work out, they don’t do it as hard sometimes because they’re just not “into it”.  Some eat a fast food meal from time to time.  Some sneak chocolate chip cookies that their wife makes for some kids that came over to visit their own kids (my personal favorite cheat).

It happens.  Guess what, the holidays are coming.  Pumpkin and pecan pies.  Cranberry sauce.  Stuffing.  Busy schedules.  Late night parties.  Stress from shopping.  It’s all right around the corner.

QUICK!! RUN NOW WHILE YOU STILL HAVE TIME (and your sanity).

No.  Live in reality instead.

Enjoy some (SOME) of the holiday treats.  Get some extra rest when you have a holiday.  Enjoy your time visiting with family and friends.  It’s all part of life.  Just be sure it truly IS moderation.  Be honest with yourself.

I know I’ll be enjoying some tasty treats, some late night gatherings of friends and family, and I might choose to sleep in instead of exercising at times.  But I think the key is, get right back on that horse the very next day, and don’t feel so guilty if you fall off the wagon a time or two.  Just make sure it doesn’t become your new habit.

Don’t beat yourself up.  Don’t totally deny yourself.  Live life in reality.  Enjoy some of the good things in life.  Just remember to not let the good things totally replace the best things for you.

Until next time….Be Well!

Dr. Bruce