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Month: February 2018

Riddle of the Day

Riddle of the day: What does a river, a newspaper, and the human body all have in common?

Answer: Things go bad when their circulation drops.

If water were to stop flowing down a river it would eventually dry up and no longer exist. If nobody subscribed to a newspaper the company would end up going out of business. When the human body reduces circulation a whole myriad of problems can ensue. These are the problems you often hear people, or find yourself, complaining about: joint pain, excessive muscle tension, tendinitis, restless legs, arthritis, low energy, shortness of breath, dizziness, neuropathy, numbness, and tingling.

There is a very simple remedy for many of these issues: it’s called movement. In some cases, it might need to be a specific movement, but for most people a simple walk can achieve wonders. Walking is what drives organic function. When we walk, all of the 206 bones, 360 joints, and over 650 muscles move through the full range of motion in three-dimensional space. The muscles create a pumping mechanism that helps circulate fluids (not just blood) throughout the body. It causes a greater uptake of oxygen and improves the overall gas exchange in our respiratory system. It can also help achieve better hormonal balance, digestion, and state of mind.

Try this little experiment some time when you have been inactive (like sitting at a desk for more than thirty minutes). Before getting out of the chair, perform a mental check-in with how your body feels. Are there any areas that ache or feel too much tension? What is your emotional state? How is your energy level? Are you alert or is your mind tending to wander?

Now get up from the chair and go outside for a five-minute brisk walk. Maintain a gentle awareness of your surroundings and if your body experiences any kind of change. After five minutes, head back inside to your chair, but do not sit down. Stand by your chair and perform another mental check-in. Has anything changed? Are there more or less aches? How much tension is experienced? What is your emotional state? How is your energy level? Are you more or less alert?

If you noticed a change in any of these areas, you have proven the point. The body needs to move on a very regular basis. For most people, it needs to move more than it currently does. The cool thing about this little experiment is that it creates a noticeable change in a very short amount of time. The sad part is that the body will also revert back to its previous state if you sit back down for a long time. The key is to break up your time spent being inactive with short bursts of gentle activity. It will not only improve your circulation, but it will also improve your feeling of happiness. So stop reading this rant and go for a walk.

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A History Lesson

My son and I were recently studying the Revolutionary War and the events leading up to it. We read about the Stamp Act, the Townshend Act, the Quartering Act, the Boston Massacre and the Boston Tea Party. After studying these events he asked me why. Why did these things happen? I told him because the King of England wanted a debt repaid.

I explained that several years earlier the colonists were threatened in the north by the French and local natives, who attacked them and tried to conquer more land. The King of England sent military forces to the colonies to protect them. This cost a lot of money which needed to be repaid. The king tried to get his money back by taxing the colonists, but the colonists had other ideas.

It is very important that we study history in order to understand where we find ourselves today. I relay this story because it is very similar to when a person develops pain in their body. There is always a reason for pain. It does not just appear on a whim. It is a reaction to some action.

I had a man come see me who had been suffering from lower back pain for almost two years. He had tried several approaches to addressing his pain and although some helped there was not one thing that was truly successful.

We began with making a timeline of all of his injuries, significant illnesses, accidents, etc. Trying to get an idea of what occurred before the back pain which might have led to where he now finds himself. There was a basketball injury to his left leg thirty years ago, back in his high school days. That was followed by a left knee surgery to repair an injury he sustained while playing baseball not long after the first injury. The were some other episodes like a broken finger and impact to his right shoulder but the high school injuries were what interested me the most.

When we captured his gait on video we could see quite easily that he was not wanting to place much of his weight over his left leg. Even though his injury had occurred decades ago his body was still moving like it was yesterday. This was causing the muscles on his right side to undergo a lot more work to support him with every step he took. It also meant that his spine was having to adjust to living over his right leg and was never given a chance to experience what life was like over the left leg.

Could this gait pattern have been created thirty years ago and never went away? The answer is yes. Unless proper movement patterns get reestablished the strategy the unconscious mind develops to stay away from pain and future injury will continue. Remember, it took 13 years after the French & Indian war ended for Thomas Jefferson to write the Declaration of Independence. It might take thirteen years for pain to develop from an early injury.

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Case of the Broken Heart

I recently wrote a blog titled, “Posture: Chicken or the Egg.” The basic premise was how posture could dictate a person’s emotional state and vice versa. The simple act of lifting one’s chest could help lift a person’s spirit. Allowing the chest to drop could also encourage depression. Unfortunately, this concept seemed to be confirmed when a onetime client passed away last week.

To protect his anonymity, we will call him Blake. Blake came to see me last autumn because he and his wife were concerned about his posture and his overall health. He was 87 years old and presented a posture that looked like he carried the weight of the world on his shoulders. It was the typical, unfortunate shape many elderly individuals adopt – hunched over, head drooping down to his chest, knees buckling, with poor balance and very small footsteps. Such a posture is usually something that subtly and insidiously takes years to develop. It is not something you would expect to happen over just a couple of months, but that was the case when it came to Blake.

I was shocked when he and his wife told me he had been very active and in very good shape up until the beginning of the summer (just four months before walking in my door). He did not appear to be an active man. I suspected some type of physical trauma must have taken place for his structure to collapse to such a degree. Did he have a fall or injure his back? Did he break some bones or even sprain an ankle? Were there any surgeries or major illnesses in the last year or so? No. Nothing of the sort! Almost overnight he went from an energetic, active man to a weakened, Quasimodo-like figure.

Then his wife told me his passion in life had been to take his Christian studies into the local jails in an attempt to help the inmates turn their lives around. However, earlier in the year, due to circumstances beyond his control, permission to continue his missionary work had been denied. That, she felt, was when his posture took a turn for the worse. He was so emotionally connected to his work, that when it was no longer allowed, he went into a deep psychological and physical depression. Although he experienced temporary improvement with a few exercises, it was ultimately his psyche that was too hurt. Could this have ultimately brought on his demise?

Is it too farfetched and hard to believe? I don’t think so. It was only a few years ago that the New England Journal of Medicine reported about “Broken Heart Syndrome.” Officially called Takotsubo cardiomyopathy (after the Japanese word for an octopus trap, which the affected heart resembles), is a form of acute heart failure. It is often temporary and benign, but can also result in death. Emotional events such as a breakup, the loss of a loved one, the loss of a job — have been attributed as triggers.

This is not to say that Blake died of Takotsubo cardiomyopathy. It is merely to suggest that the mind-body connection is a lot more powerful than we westerners give it credit. It rather suggests that we should continue to strive for elements and actions in our lives which create a sense of peace, self-worth, and happiness. If not for an emotional state of balance but for a higher level of health and wellness.

What elements in your life do you value most? What would happen to your world if they were ripped away? What are the elements in your life that drain your happiness and self-worth? It is not the most pleasant thing to think about, but it may be worth some consideration. Are you able to design an “insurance policy” around the things that matter most and let go of the things that tax your health and happiness? If you can, it may just add years to your life and life to your years.

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Mechanics are to Structural Engineers as…

I feel a need to clear the air a bit. In previous blogs I have written about how doctors, although highly educated in surgical procedures, physiology, and pharmacology, are not educated in certain aspects of human motion and pain management. This is not a slam on the medical profession but merely an observation. Full body biomechanics and kinematic sequencing (how joints move in relation to one another) are not in most medical books.

Overall, doctors and the medical field are truly amazing. The knowledge and technology at their disposal is nothing short of remarkable. If I were to suffer some physical trauma I would not hesitate to seek the attention of an emergency room doctor. However, when it comes to acute and chronic joint or muscle pain, I would turn my sights toward other arenas.

Western medicine’s typical approach to treating such pain involves rest, pain reliever medication, and cryotherapy (apply ice to the pain site). If the pain persists the choice often becomes surgical intervention.

Like a mechanic, doctors will find something that is not operating properly and decide to remove the part and replace it with something brand new. Fuel filter, dysfunctional knee, head gasket, worn out hip, it doesn’t matter; just put in a new one, and we’ll be right as rain. Granted, some people have allowed the deterioration of a part of their body to progress to the point that surgery may be necessary. However, for a large number of people, all that may be required is a little structural engineering to restore the body to a place where joint pain is reduced or eliminated.

This is what we specialize in helping people with. Looking at the body as a whole, integrative, structural unit where one area can have a direct impact on another. We choose to not focus all of our attention on the symptomatic pain site, but pull the lens back to get a better understanding of why the issue is occurring. Where are the stress points? What is not moving like it should? What is moving more than it should? How is mass managed throughout the body?

Just because a person comes in with knee pain does not mean the problem is somewhere in the knee. The majority of time the knee is not the issue, rather it is the recipient of excess force due to another area not generating its fair share. The same can be said for many issues people might seek a doctor’s advice: carpal tunnel syndrome, tennis elbow, rotator cuff pain, plantar fasciitis, etc.

This is not to claim that re-aligning the human structure will be the panacea for all that ails you. However, wouldn’t it be nice to learn a few movements which re-train your body on how to move with less compensation and no pain in lieu of undergoing surgery that may or may not relieve your issues?

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