Omega 3 Fatty Acids – Liquid Gold?

For most people it has never really occurred to them how important essential fatty acids are to their health. You’ll often hear me tell patients to make sure they include good fats in their diet and also in one of my previous blogs where I said to eat more fat. Our modern diet is overloaded with omega-6 fatty acids, but it’s the omega-3 fatty acids that our bodies actually need most of. If you’re like me and you eat a typical western diet then there is a good chance that you could be deficient of omega-3. A deficiency of omega-3 has been related to many of the modern diseases affecting our population, including chronic inflammation, developmental disorders, mental health, cognitive ageing, and weight management, and therefore increasing your understanding as well as your daily amount of fatty acids can improve your overall feeling of health and wellbeing.

So what is omega-3 fatty acid? In human physiology there are three types of omega-3 fatty acids involved. These are ALA (α-linolenic acid), EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid), and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid). These are referred to as essential fatty acids because they can’t be produced (synthesised) by the human body and need to be acquired through diet. DHA tends to be the one we hear about most often in the media. It makes up most of the fatty acids in the human brain and retina, facilitating both cognitive and visual function, and is richly supplied during breastfeeding, regardless of dietary choices by the mother. DHA deficiency has been associated with cognitive decline, as well as severe depression. EPA has also been shown to have a positive effect on those who suffer mental conditions, such as schizophrenia and chronic fatigue syndrome, as well as hyperactivity and attention syndromes, however, perhaps the biggest benefit of EPA is in it’s ability to lower inflammation. Though only preliminary research has been done, it’s been found that ALA may lower the risk of cardiovascular disease, anxiety, and stress levels, as well as a significant reduction in depression.

Although the western diet includes plenty of meat and fish, something to consider is this – when an animal that is normally grass eating (for example a cow) is fed grains, the fatty makeup changes to a more omega-6 makeup, as opposed to omega-3. This can also occur in farm raised fish, where the fish become significantly devoid of omega-3.

Omega-3’s are absolutely essential to the body. Not only are they vital for normal function of the brain and nervous system, but also for normal electrical functioning, cardiovascular system, immune system, joints, and all anti-inflammatory processes, and from the point of view of an athlete, taking fish oil with your normal post-workout meal, whether that be food or a protein supplement, will aid inflammation and speed recovery.

When considering omega-3 supplementation it is important to note the quality of the product and the amount of active ingredients. Krill oil is one of the best sources of omega-3, however many of the supermarket branded products are of a lesser quality, so for a high quality product you can expect to pay more. Personally I like to recommend Dr. Mercola Krill Oil, this is a high quality product which is harvested in unpolluted waters surrounding Antarctica and therefore is free from mercury (found in most seafood and fish in lakes, rivers, streams, and oceans due to burning coal for electricity), heavy metals, and other harmful toxins, and is also a renewable source of omega-3 fats. I’m also a fan of Melrose Omega 18/12 Fish Oil which can be a much more affordable option.

In terms of what dosage you need, it really depends on what you are taking it for and whether or not you have a deficiency or are wanting to maintain levels. For most people just looking to add omega 3s into their diet to enhance their wellbeing, following the dosage recommendations on the supplement packaging will be sufficient enough, with The World Health Organisation recommending a daily EPA and DHA intake of 3,000-5,000mg and a daily ALA (from plant-based sources such as tofu, walnuts, and canola oil) intake of 8,000-11,000mg.

There is current research to support using higher dosages to help treat more specific illnesses, such as mood disorders, depression and anxiety, ADHD, heart complications and cardiovascular health, weight management issues, and respiratory and vascular diseases (plus many more illnesses/diseases) as well as higher dosages to support the development of infants, in particular their eye and brain development. If you want to know more about this you can follow this link to the Mayo Clinic which has some great information on fatty acid requirements.

 

About Dr Belinda Webber

Dr Belinda is a chiropractor in Mt Barker, SA, and can be reached through www.bydesignchiropractic.com.au. She has a background in sports chiropractic and exercise physiology. Beyond spinal correction to keep you functioning at your best, Dr Belinda also assesses and analyses conditions of the foot, knee, hips, hand, arm, and shoulders.

 

Everything you need to know about Vitamin D (part two)

Part Two – How much vitamin D do you need, and how do you get it?

Unfortunately, our natural diet is very low in Vitamin D. To get the required amount through your diet, you’d need to eat almost 700g of salmon, and for most people that just isn’t possible. The best way to increase your levels of Vitamin D is through exposing your skin to sunlight – without sunscreen.

The only way to know how much vitamin D your body requires is to have your blood tested. A general guide though is to expose at least 40% of your skin to the sun for about 10-15 minutes per day during summer. During winter however, this may need to be extended to about 45 minutes. People who are exposed to sunlight each day without sunscreen do not need vitamin D supplements because sunlight promotes a sufficient amount of vitamin D synthesis in the skin. Using sunscreen, however, blocks the receptors in the skin that absorb vitamin D and since the body does not produce it’s own vitamin D, supplementation may be required.

Dose recommendations when using supplements are:

  • Below 5 years of age – 35 units per pound per day
  • Age 5-10 years of age – 2,000-2,500 units per day
  • Adults – 5,000-10,000 units per day
  • Pregnant Women – 5,000 units per day

If you decide to take vitamin D supplementation, you need to take vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol) which is human vitamin D, and not Vitamin D2 which is a synthetic type and highly inferior. If you take high doses of supplemental vitamin D, you may also need to make sure you’re getting enough vitamin K2, as these nutrients work together. Vitamin K2 deficiency is what causes symptoms of Vitamin D toxicity, which includes inappropriate calcification that can lead to hardening of your arteries.

Of course, exposing your skin to sunlight does run the risk of melanoma. However, it has been found that greater exposure to direct sunlight can decrease the risk of melanoma occurrence. Melanoma has been found though to be more common in office workers and in body parts that aren’t exposed to the sun. When your skin isn’t used to being exposed to the sun, that is when you run the risk of sunburn due to overexposure and can result in skin cancer and premature aging. Another risk is showering immediately after sun exposure, as you risk washing away the vitamin D3 formed by your skin which can potentially reduce the benefits of sun exposure.

Once your body has the required amount of sunlight, your body will cease to produce vitamin D due to it’s self-regulating mechanism. Here are some other important factors to be aware of for safe sunlight exposure:

1. Time of day – Unlike UVA rays (which have the ability to penetrate the ozone layer, as well as pollution and clouds and increase your risk of skin cancer and photoaging) which are present all throughout the day, UVB rays (the type required for vitamin D production) are very low in the morning and evening, and are most abundant around midday (between 10am and 2pm). Exposure during these hours will produce the most vitamin D3 when exposed to the sun for a short period.

2. Skin pigmentation – For those who are fair-skinned, vitamin D3 production can be maxed out with just 10-20 minutes of sunlight (or when their skin has turned the lightest shade of pink), however those with darker skin may need to remain in the sun longer.

3. Sensitive body parts – The skin around your eyes is much thinner compared to other areas of your body and since it has a relatively small surface area it should be protected, as it is very prone to photoaging and premature wrinkling.

4. Using soap – Vitamin D3 can take up to 48 hours to penetrate into your bloodstream. When UVB rays hit the surface of your skin, your skin then converts this to a cholesterol derivative, which ultimately turns into vitamin D3, and there is a risk of washing this away before it enters the bloodstream.

So there you have it, everything you need to know about Vitamin D and what you can do about making sure you are getting enough, and next time you go out in the sun for a short period of time, stop and think about whether you really need to be applying all that sunscreen.

Keep calm and get adjusted!

 

About Dr Belinda Webber

Dr Belinda is a chiropractor in Mt Barker, SA, and can be reached throughwww.bydesignchiropractic.com.au. She has a background in sports chiropractic and exercise physiology. Beyond spinal correction to you keep you functioning at your best, Dr Belinda also assesses and analyses conditions of the foot, knee, hips, hand, arm, and shoulders.

 

Everything you need to know about Vitamin D!

If you’ve ever asked me about what supplements you should be taking then you probably have noticed I tend to recommend a particular few to everyone – magnesium, omega-3 fish oil, a high quality probiotic, and vitamin D3. I know it’s been a long time since I last posted, but this topic is so big that I wanted to make sure you got everything.

Vitamin D was once only linked to diseases such as rickets and osteoporosis, and although it isn’t a true vitamin (rather it’s a potent neuroregulatory steroidal group of fat-soluble hormones), it’s now known to be a major player in overall health.  Following is a two-part series on what exactly is vitamin D and why is it so important, and how much vitamin D is needed and how you can get more of the good stuff.

 

Part One – What is vitamin D and why is it so important for my health?

Vitamin D affects your DNA through vitamin D receptors (VDRs) which bind to specific locations in the human genome, and is the only known substrate for a potent, pleiotropic (meaning it produces multiple effects) repair and maintenance hormone that serves multiple gene-regulatory functions.

We have 30,000 genes in our body, and vitamin D has been shown to influence nearly 3,000 of those genes through both vitamin D levels and vitamin D receptors, and as a result it has an influence on many diseases, such as cancer, hypertension, heart disease, autism, obesity, rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes 1 and 2, multiple sclerosis, Crohn’s disease, tuberculosis, septicaemia, ageing, psoriasis, eczema, insomnia, hearing loss, muscle pain, risk of falls, cavities, periodontal disease, athletic performance, muscle strength, macular degeneration, myopia, pre-eclampsia, seizures, fertility, asthma, cystic fibrosis, migraines, depression, alzheimer’s disease, and schizophrenia. It also boosts the ability of the body to fight viral infections like the common cold and flu, helping the immune system to fight and ward off upper respiratory tract infections and helping those with asthma and other respiratory diseases to breathe normally.

It’s a shame that the healthcare system and sunscreen industry has done such a great job of encouraging people to avoid the sun. Vitamin D deficiency is a growing epidemic across much of the world with an estimated 85% of the population said to be deficient, including 95% of senior citizens. Vitamin D is critical for good health and disease prevention, however with the message being out there to avoid the sun as much as possible and the overall cultural trend of spending more and more time indoors during work and leisure time, vitamin D deficiency is now widespread and contributing to many chronic debilitating diseases.

There are 36 organ tissues in the body whose cells respond biologically to vitamin D, including bone marrow, breast, colon, intestine, kidney, lung, prostate, retina, skin, stomach, and uterine tissues, and because of this, vitamin D has been shown to be beneficial towards reducing cancer and decreasing your risk of cancer by more than half. It’s said that having the required amount of vitamin D levels could prevent 30% of cancer deaths each year, which equates to approximately 2 million deaths worldwide. Vitamin D has a proactive effect against cancer by increasing the self-destruction of mutated cells (which, if allowed to replicate, could lead to cancer), reducing the spread and reproduction of cancer cells, causing cells to become differentiated (cancer cells often lack differentiation), and reducing the growth of new blood vessels from pre-existing ones, which are all steps in the transition of dormant tumours turning cancerous.

Vitamin D also has a direct role in your risk of the flu, as it regulates your ability to fight infections and produces over 200 anti-microbial peptides, the most important of which is cathelicidin, a naturally occurring broad-spectrum antibiotic that enhances immunity to microbial infection. There is an inverse association between lower respiratory tract infections and your vitamin D levels, meaning the higher your vitamin D levels, the lower your risk of contracting colds, flus, and other respiratory tract infections. The vitamin D levels in your blood fall to their lowest point during flu seasons and if your levels are too low then you will not be protected by your body’s own antibiotics (antimicrobial peptides), which are released by vitamin D, and you will be more vulnerable to contracting colds, influenza, and other respiratory infections.

A group of Dutch scientists looking at tuberculosis and pneumonia found that measuring the levels of vitamin D in patients’s admitted to hospital could accurately predict their risk of dying from pneumonia within a month of admission to hospital. A high dose of supplemental vitamin D was found to shorten the length of disease and stimulate their immune system. Before antibiotics were readily available, patients would receive heliotherapy (basically prescribed suntanning) for pneumonia and tuberculosis which helped them to recover faster, have less inflammation, and modulated their immune system via calcitrol, the active metabolite of vitamin D, which induces the innate antimicrobial responses in your body and suppresses the pro-inflammatory cytokine responses.

This, of course, isn’t all that is affected by vitamin D levels – successful ageing can also be affected. Vitamin D3, also known as cholecalciferol, which is the “human” vitamin D (vitamin D2 is a synthetic form of vitamin D) has been shown to play a key role in immune regulation and may also protect against the ageing process. Vitamin D3 has been linked epidemiologically to protection against age-related macular degeneration, which is one of the leading causes of blindness. In the outer retina of the eye, a focal point for age-related changes, there is a high metabolic demand which results in a gradual increase in extracellular deposition, inflammation, and cell loss, leading to visual decline. Vitamin D3 aids those at risk of age-related macular degeneration through it’s ability to rejuvenate ageing eyes by reducing inflammation and amyloid beta. Amyloid beta is not just a risk factor for macular degeneration, but is also found in the brains of Alzheimer’s patients. Interestingly, those in the highest 20% of sun exposure have been found to have half the incidence rate of Alzheimer’s disease, and coincidentally it has also been found that 55% of those diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease also have insufficient levels of vitamin D.

Another interesting finding related to vitamin D, is that vitamin D supplementation combined with resistance training may help to decrease your waist-to-hip ratio – a measurement that is far better at determining your risk for type 2 diabetes and heart disease than your BMI (body mass index). Those with vitamin D supplementation improved muscular power in healthy overweight and obese individuals within the first 4 weeks of a 12-week resistance exercise training program, and the elevated vitamin D status was associated with greater losses in waist circumference, therefore potentially helping to prevent type 2 diabetes mellitus in people with pre-diabetes.

Sufficient levels of vitamin D has such great potential for contributions to good health in the adaptive and innate immune systems, the secretion and regulation of insulin by the pancreas, the regulation of heart and blood pressure, muscle strength and brain activity, prevention of cancers, control of seizures in epilepsy, and is absolutely essential for bone mineralisation, intestinal absorption, and metabolism of calcium which is required for strong bones.  Those with vitamin D deficiency also have more days off work due to respiratory infections, a higher occurrence of acute lower respiratory infections (ALRI) in newborns, an increased risk of upper respiratory tract infections (URTI) in those with asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and are more susceptible to viral infections.

As you can see, vitamin D is essential to your health. Part two will discuss how much vitamin D you need and how to get enough vitamin D safely.

 

Until then however,

Keep calm and get adjusted!

 

About Dr Belinda Webber

Dr Belinda is a chiropractor in Mt Barker, SA, and can be reached through www.bydesignchiropractic.com.au. She has a background in sports chiropractic and exercise physiology. Beyond spinal correction to you keep you functioning at your best, Dr Belinda also assesses and analyses conditions of the foot, knee, hips, hand, arm, and shoulders.

Eat more fat!

I’ve had a few conversations lately with clients wanting to know more about diet and nutrition, some want to lose weight, some just want to be healthier, but it seems there is a lot of questions about what is okay to eat, and a lot of disbelief when I say eating meat and fats can be good for you. Time now to dispel some of those myths about fats as well as which are okay to eat, and which fats to avoid.

“Good” fats such as avocados, coconut oil, extra virgin olive oil, nuts (almonds, walnuts), salmon etc, are great for the body. They promote fat burn, build muscle faster, supply your body with essential nutrients, better absorb certain vitamins and antioxidants, and prevent nutrient loss during cooking. Your body can run quite well using fat as an energy source in replacement of carbs, and this is also an effective way to break down fat tissue.

You can even eat bacon! Bacon contains above 40% monounsaturated fat, the same as in olive oil! However, it is best to keep it to only 3-4 days/week.

So what are some good sources of fat? Fats such as grass-fed animal fat, avocado, coconut, olive oil, walnuts, cashews, almonds, pistachios, macadamias, and butter are all are great sources, however examples of sources you should avoid are grain fed meat, heavily processed meat (e.g. fritz), sausages containing gluten, and margarine.

So as you can see, good fats have great nutritional value but as it is still fat, it’s important to be mindful of eating in moderation.

 

Keep calm and get adjusted!

 

Something to ponder…

So we’re almost through the first month of the new year now and I thought that today perhaps I might share a couple of quotes, particularly for those who have set goals for themselves, just to give you something to ponder.

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, ‘who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?’ Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of the universe; your playing small doesn’t serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of all that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we’re liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.” - Marianne Williamson (from her book A Return to Love)

“Embrace this gift of life and extract every ounce of enjoyment out of it. That is the purpose of your existence; to extract, and help others extract, every possible ounce of joy…..Follow your genetic recipe and supply the right lifestyle ingredients; commit constant acts of self preservation and self empowerment, and role model this way of life for others.” – Dr James Chestnut, D.C. (from his book The Wellness Paradigm)

Think about how you felt while reading the words. Are you living your life to the fullest and making the most of every moment? Do you consider yourself a role model to others? Are there aspects of your life you want to improve or do “better”? There is no better day than today to get started.

Last of all, don’t ever let anyone dim your light or take your sparkle.

Keep calm and get adjusted.

 

Dr Belinda is a chiropractor in Mt Barker, SA, and can be reached through www.bydesignchiropractic.com.au. She has a background in sports chiropractic and exercise physiology. Beyond spinal correction to you keep you functioning at your best, Dr Belinda also assesses and analyses conditions of the foot, knee, hips, hand, arm, and shoulders.

Magnesium – why it’s essential to our existence

Not a lot is said about magnesium, yet it’s been estimated that almost 75 percent of us are deficient in this essential mineral with potentially significant health consequences. Magnesium is involved in over 300 enzymatic reactions within the body, with just about all body processes being regulating by 80% of these enzymatic reactions. Magnesium plays a fundamental role in neuromuscular, cardiovascular, immune, and hormonal function, as well as breaking down food and forming new products in processes such as carbohydrate metabolism, fat oxidation, and protein synthesis.

Unfortunately, since only one percent of magnesium is distributed in your blood, it makes testing for magnesium in your body highly inaccurate with only an estimation of levels, therefore tests are usually evaluated for in conjunction with symptoms you exhibit. Early signs of magnesium deficiency include loss of appetite, headache, nausea and vomiting, and fatigue and weakness, whereas ongoing magnesium deficiency can lead to more serious symptoms such as numbness and tingling, muscle contractions and cramps (very common), seizures, personality changes, abnormal heart rhythms, and coronary spasms.

I could list a whole lot of benefits that come with optimal levels of magnesium such as better sleep, improved mood, reduced fatigue and enhanced recovery, bigger and stronger muscles and improved muscle function, better flexibility, improved bone integrity and strength, improved energy conversion of carbohydrates into energy, remineralised teeth, reduction of lactic acid, proper hydration of the body and maintenance of electrolyte levels, improved oxygen delivery to the blood, relief of constipation, improved enzyme function, decreased tissue damage with diabetes, stroke prevention, prevention of heart disease, prevention of period pain…but I think you get the idea.

So, you may be wondering how magnesium can be lost from the body and there are many ways in which this can happen, for example consumption of alcohol, coffee, black tea, grains, soy, most pharmaceutical drugs, calcium supplements, unhealthy digestive system, unhealthy kidneys, diabetes, age…just to name a few. Therefore regular supplementation is a great and reliable way to boost your magnesium levels.

Where else can I get magnesium from? Magnesium can be found in a variety of foods and in particular leafy green vegetables. Fish, yoghurt, and milk have 24 to 90mg of magnesium per serving size. Spinach has 75mg per 1/2 cup, and potatoes and bean varieties have 35 to 57mg per serving. Bananas, almonds, peanuts, and cashews are another great source of magnesium with 35 to 80mg per serving.

How much do I need? It is recommended that a daily intake of magnesium for adult males aged between 19-30 is 400mg and men aged 31 and over is 420mg, whilst for females aged 19-30 it’s 310mg and females over 31 require 320mg. During pregnancy and lactation however, adult females require 310 to 360mg of magnesium daily. In regards to supplements, it is suggested that the tolerable upper intake level for all adults should not exceed 350mg per day. If you’re unsure about what is best for you then make sure to consult your primary health care professional.

And as always, keep calm and get adjusted!!

 

Dr Belinda is a chiropractor in Mt Barker, SA, and can be reached through www.bydesignchiropractic.com.au. She has a background in sports chiropractic and exercise physiology. Beyond spinal correction to you keep you functioning at your best, Dr Belinda also assesses and analyses conditions of the foot, knee, hips, hand, arm, and shoulders.

A Reverse Bucket List?

As we round out the end of 2013 and look onward to what will hopefully be a magnificent 2014 for each and every one of you, perhaps it is time for contemplation of our past achievements. If you could have written a bucket list for all your life experiences, what would you have included? 

Sometimes we look back and feel as though we have done nothing with our lives and forget everything that has brought us to where we are today. So instead of writing New Years resolutions that we usually end up forgetting all about, how about writing a ‘Reverse Bucket List’ for yourself. What have you done in your life so far? What have you accomplished? What are things that make you happy? What are you proud of? What fears have you overcome? What have you done that you never thought possible?

Write a list of all your life’s achievements to date and include things that you might once have written on a bucket list, include the great people you have met, great places you’ve had the opportunity to visit, dreams you once had that you were able to make a reality. Include whatever comes to mind and don’t edit your list as you’re doing so.

Look over your list and feel proud of your efforts and what you have achieved and accomplished. You’ll soon realise you have so much to be grateful for and it will prove what amazing things you can achieve. Let your list inspire you to embrace the challenges and opportunities you are presented with and re-visit your list when you need reminding of the positives in your life or just need a little pick-me-up. 

All the best for a wonderful and joyous new year in 2014. 

Keep calm and get adjusted!

 

 

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“Cheers to a New Year and another chance to get it right” – Oprah Winfrey

Surviving Christmas!

It’s the most wonderful time of the year, with kids jingle belling and everyone telling you “be of good cheer”…

Christmas holidays are typically the busiest time of the year with Christmas shopping, school functions, end of year parties, family gatherings, even birthdays, so for many it can also be very stressful. It’s a time of year where we don’t mind the over-indulging and allow ourselves to gorge on tasty food and drinks with family and friends. In other words, looking after our bodies is something we don’t tend to focus all that much on.

Here at By Design Chiropractic we want you to enjoy your Christmas and also keep your body functioning at it’s best so we have come up with our top ten tips for surviving these Christmas holidays!

  1. Keep your body moving! Make walking or some of your daily stretching exercises part of a regular routine over the holiday period.
  2. Have your kids leave Father Christmas and his reindeer carrots and apples, rather than cookies and beer! He has a very busy night coming up and eating too many cookies can increase those chemical stressors which affect his vital spine and nervous system!
  3. If you’re lugging big heavy presents around, be mindful of your posture and optimal lifting techniques. Remember, lift from your knees not your hips and hold objects close in to your body.
  4. If taking on those yearly renovations or gardening and it’s not something you normally do, make sure you take it easy and listen to your body. If you have reduced range of motion, pain, stiffness, etc., these may be warning signs of your body functioning incorrectly.
  5. According to Nutrition Australia, Australians put on an average of 0.8-1.5kg every Christmas. This doesn’t mean don’t enjoy your food and drinks, just be mindful of enjoying everything in moderation and try to keep to your normal routine.
  6. Alcohol dehydrates your system and can have negative effects on your health and wellbeing when consumed in big amounts. Make a deal with yourself to not drink more than you normally would if it wasn’t Christmas and balance your alcoholic drinks and soft drinks with a glass of water or herbal tea.
  7. Suffering from anxiety, depression, and stress is very common over the holiday season, even if you don’t normally suffer from these. Take some time out to reflect on your successes of the year, what you have accomplished, what you are proud of, and what has made you happy, and take some time to set yourself goals for the New Year.
  8. Taking some time out for yourself or with your family can have a massively positive impact on your spinal health, so take that trip you’ve been meaning to all year, have a quiet getaway, or spend some time working on your favourite hobby. Make sure you have some down time amongst all the craziness of this time of year.
  9. Get enough sleep! I can’t stress this one enough, if you’re constantly getting less than 6 hours sleep then you are running the risk of wearing your body down. It’s recommended that as adults we get 7-8 hours of sleep a night and the silly season can mess with our sleeping routines. Keep yourself on top of your game by ensuring you get the best sleep.
  10. Lastly – Enjoy Christmas and all the joy it brings to you and your families. Whilst there is a lot of focus on the giving and receiving of gifts, just make the most of the time spent with family and friends.

Remember, we are open over Christmas and the New Year so if you do happen to need a Chiropractor please call By Design Chiropractic on 8391 6638 or visit our clinic at 5B 22 Mann Street, Mount Barker for more information.

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“When we recall Christmas past, we usually find that the simplest things – not the great occasions – give off the greatest glow of happiness” – Bob Hope

Looking after your spine in the garden

It’s coming up to that time of year when everyone is starting to get a little stressed about Christmas. The sun is beginning to come out and people are also spending a lot more time outside in their gardens. The more time they spend in their gardens though, the more they realise just how much work they still need to do before their entire family descends on them for Christmas lunch. Not only are you worried about food, drinks, how long ago you should have baked the Christmas pudding, whether Uncle Harry will have one too many beers like he always does and hit on your distant cousin visiting from Sweden, or who will drive Great Grandma Ethel home after all is done, but you’re also worried that your garden is beginning to look like a jungle straight out of Africa.

Gardening is a great outdoor activity and can also be great for your health – physical work whilst enjoying the sun and fresh air as well as the opportunity to be creative. However, most of us are not regular gardeners, and just like going all out at the gym in your first session back after 6 months, going gung-ho in the garden for the first time in months can be very stressful both on the spine and on the body.

gardening-back-pain

It’s probably not surprising that many people presenting with low back pain, sciatica, and bulging or herniated discs, particularly in the over 40s, are able to relate their complaint to gardening. According to the Chiropractors’ Association of Australia, 75% of the DIY injuries presenting to the emergency department occur in a residential setting with the majority of those being gardening injuries.

Common postural problems can all be aggravated and even caused by gardening activities due to the bending over and twisting forces which put strain through the spine, and the potential to spend hours hunched over and carrying items. There is some good news though and that is that many of these problems can be avoided by following 10 simple tips.

1. Warm Up/Stretch - We all know that warming up and stretching is important before physical activity and gardening is no different. Take a few minutes to warm up your muscles and joints. Some basic stretches to get you started include hamstrings and hip flexors, quads, knees to chest, and shoulder shrugs, these will have an overall effect on your body and will allow you to move with greater ease and better movement.

2. Maintain Healthy Posture – The constant bending forward while gardening can strain the lower back and can result in serious injuries, so when possible, stay upright with your head in line with your shoulders. If you suffer from chronic back pain, having a garden with hanging pots or elevated planting beds may be the way to go.

3. Pace Yourself – Gardening involves twisting, reaching, straining, and hauling, and is a lot more challenging on the body than most people realise. Plan what you would like to achieve, give yourself plenty of time to complete it, and don’t do too much too quickly!

4. Take Regular Breaks – Take frequent breaks to rehydrate and to stretch your spine, hips, and neck.

5. Long Handled Gardening Tools – In order to minimise the stressful lifting and twisting, utilise rakes, hoes, and shovels to enable you to do as much work upright as possible.

6. Proper Lifting Technique - One of the most common causes of acute injuries is poor lifting. Make sure you bend at the knees and not your hips and allow your thighs to do the hard work when pushing yourself upright, and keep what you are lifting close to your body to keep your centre of gravity over your feet.

7. Alternate Hands and Feet – When digging or raking, use one arm and leg to exert the bulk of the force and then switch to your alternate arm and leg. Maintaining balance will help prevent overexertion and overstraining.

8. Kneel with Knee Pads – There will be moments when you need to do work on the ground, using knee pads or a knee board will reduce the stress on your low back, as well as being a more comfortable option.

9. Pivot when you move heavy objects - In order to avoid disc injuries when you need to lift something from one side of your body and place it down on the other, be sure to pivot and move your feet rather than twisting at the hips. Bending forwards and then twisting is a movement that will increase the pressure in the low back and make you susceptible to disc bulges and herniations, and moving your feet will greatly reduce strain on your lower back.

10. Use a wheelbarrow - Dirt, soil, bricks, and plants can all be extremely heavy. Be sensible and plan ahead if you need to do heavy work – a good wheelbarrow is designed to help you move heavy objects easily taking the strain out of lifting and carrying.

LadyGardeningFor many of us, gardening is a very pleasurable hobby. To ensure you can continue pain-free for many years to come make sure you use these tips.

For more information about postural problems as well as tips to address them, contact By Design Chiropractic today.

About Dr Belinda Webber

Dr Belinda is a chiropractor in Mt Barker, SA, and can be reached through www.bydesignchiropractic.com.au. She has a background in sports chiropractic and exercise physiology. Beyond spinal correction to you keep you functioning at your best, Dr Belinda also assesses and analyses conditions of the foot, knee, hips, hand, arm, and shoulders.

Why that pain in your arms or legs could be coming from your back..

Pain in your arms and legs can be distracting, like that pain in your shoulder that just doesn’t want to go away or that pain in your buttock radiating down your thigh, or even that recurring hamstring injury you just can’t seem to shake off. Whilst the pain may manifest in your arm or leg (your extremities), often it will actually originate from your spine. 

Let’s focus for a moment on the low back and the legs. All your feeling/sensation and all your motor control of the leg comes from the nerve roots which exit the spine at the lower levels of the lumbar and sacral regions and these nerves extend all the way down to the ends of our toes. When pressure is placed on these nerves, often the feeling we get is what we know as sciatica, which simply put is inflammation of the nerves that exit the low back and run down the legs. This can result in pain in the buttocks, groin, or the leg (usually only on one side and is not uncommon to be felt down as far as the ankle). However pain isn’t always a factor, sometimes the only thing we experience is tingling, numbness, pins and needles, weakness, or burning sensations. 

This also helps to explain chronically recurring hamstring injuries. The nerves that innervate the hamstrings exit the low back at similar levels in the lumbar spine, so if there is pressure being placed on those nerves it can result in what feels like a hamstring strain. If this nerve interference isn’t removed (insert chiropractic here) then those hamstrings a. won’t have their full potential to heal, and b. will keep recurring. From this, we can also deduce that hamstring tightness is also relatable to tightness or poor movement of the low back. 

This of course isn’t to say that all nerve interference occurs at a spinal level. Nerves can be compressed by bones, discs, or muscles and can be compressed at any point along the kinetic chain (the chain of movement between your neck-shoulder-elbow-wrist-hand-fingers, or your low back-pelvis-hips-knees-ankles-foot-toes, for example). The goal is therefore to figure out exactly what is creating the problem and to find where the impingement is happening.

In much the same way, all your motor and sensory loops in your arm are innervated at a spinal level from the cervical and upper thoracic regions. When a signal is sent down a nerve that has been irritated, it can cause similar symptoms to what you might feel in your legs – pain, numbness and tingling, weakness, burning, etc. This is why when you are experiencing pain in the bottom of your neck it’s also common to feel sore in your shoulders or feel like you have a weaker grip in your hands. As said above though this can also be a local issue, for example with carpal tunnel where the nerves are impinged upon in the wrist and hand, and again it’s a matter of figuring out where the problem is. 

Chiropractic can help arm and leg pain by removing interference to the nerves at all levels of the kinetic chain. By adjusting the spine we remove the nerve interference and just like switching the power back on in your home, we can get your nervous system working again like it was intended. Once we have identified the cause of your subluxation (nerve interference/compression), we can get you back out there doing what you love to do best, whether that be gardening, playing football, running a marathon, or simply playing with your kids. Chiropractic care is one of the best and most effective choices for your arm or leg pain.

 

About Dr Belinda Webber

Dr Belinda is a chiropractor in Mt Barker, SA, and can be reached through www.bydesignchiropractic.com.au. She has a background in sports chiropractic and exercise physiology. Beyond spinal correction to you keep you functioning at your best, Dr Belinda also assesses and analyses conditions of the foot, knee, hips, hand, arm, and shoulders.

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