You are only as young as your spine.

floss

Without fail twice a day ,like most people, I spend 2 minutes brushing my teeth, it’s a social norm. It’s hygienic, stops bad breath and prevents our teeth decaying. We value our teeth so much that we will also go for a check-up with our dentist a couple of times a year just in case there is decay or damage we can’t see. And quite rightly so.

But what are we doing to prevent the same decay happening to our spine. After all the teeth and spine are both made of the same material, bone. If you compare the role of both it soon becomes apparent that our spine plays a much more important role in our survival than our teeth. If you had to live without one you wouldn’t get very far without your spine.

Functions of the spine

  • Houses and protects the spinal cord. Communicating signals from the brain to the rest of the body, without which we wouldn’t be able to function.
  • Maintains our frame: This gives us strength, mobility and durability.
  • It is an attachment point for our muscles and ribs.

So the problem arises from the lack of feedback regarding the health of our spine. Unlike our teeth, we cannot see the daily health of our spine. In fact, the scary truth is that the spine can slowly degenerate over many years with no signs or symptoms at all.

 
“But I don’t do anything strenuous enough to cause decay to my spine”.

Unfortunately this is a common misconception, the truth is the less activity you do the quicker your spine is affected by osteoarthritis (degeneration); a moving door hinge will rarely rust. Sitting at work is enough to speed up degeneration in the spine. I have seen numerous people in their mid-20’s and 30’s who present to me with mild to moderate back pain that they attribute to posture and sitting at work. When we look at their spine on X-ray I am shocked at the rate of degeneration. Their spine is that of a 50-60 year old, all because they weren’t looking after themselves. Osteoarthritis of the spine cannot be reversed. Treatment and maintenance can help prevent progression of the degeneration but once you’ve got it, you’re stuck with it.

Rarely though, I am pleasantly surprised and see elderly people who have looked after their spine and have little degeneration and great movement, they are also healthy and happy. So what’s their secret? Consciously or sub consciously they all follow these four key principles

  1. Move often and move safely. Sitting for longer than 20 minutes causes undue stress on the spine. Get up and move as much as you can. Take part in regular exercise; this can be walking, yoga, pilates or going to the gym but move frequently!
  2. Don’t ignore your core. Your core brings strength to your spine. You need it like you need the tyres on your car.
  3. Eat well. A balanced healthy diet is needed for the health of all the cells in the body, including the bone cells. Smoking, excessive drinking and sugary foods deteriorate the health of bone making it easier for them to degenerate irreversibly.
  4. Get a regular check up with a chiropractor. Chiropractors specialise in the function of the spine and nervous system. This is our bread and butter, like a dentist is with teeth. Get a check-up regularly throughout the year to keep you at your best

Doing all the above regularly can make the difference between keeping mobile and having great quality of life into your later years versus being immobile, in pain and house bound. As a dentist once said “you only need to floss the teeth you wish to keep”, so go and floss your spine daily by doing these 4 healthy habits.

 

Written by Dr Callum Forrest MChiro, DC

For more information on how to keep your spine healthy or for the details of a great Chiropractor near you email us at: chiroexercises@gmail.com

New Year, New Strategy

strategy

It’s that time of year again. The post-Christmas / New Year’s blues have truly set in, your email inbox is overflowing, the work is stacking up and to make things worse you’ve made a new year’s resolution to lose weight and get fit which is making you feel constantly hungry. It’s no surprise then that 90% of New Year’s resolutions are broken within the first month.

Well this is how I think we should approach our health for 2016. Pick one small change to your usual routine which is going to benefit your overall health, not 6. Because when the inevitable happens and you break one of your resolutions it won’t be long until the others come tumbling down.

Once you’ve implemented your health change for a month you should be comfortable with the routine you’ve put in place to maintain it. It shouldn’t feel like a chore or be an effort. Now pick another healthy action and add this into your routine. Again do it for a month, get used to it, and get comfortable with the routine. So you now have 2 health routines which you’ve consistently implemented into your life and it doesn’t feel like you’ve done much! If you keep doing this every month you will have made 12 significant health changes by the end of the year. If you had tried to action the same 12 health habits all at once in January it’s fair to say you would be in a worse situation come the end of the year than if you implement one at a time.

Here are 12 everyday actions for you to action to benefit your overall health.

  1. Hydration. Drinking enough water for your body type is one of the most underrated factors essential for good health. Almost every disease state will have chronic dehydration as one of the causative factors. To calculate how much water you should be drinking multiply 35ml per Kg of your body weight. During periods of hot weather or if you’re unwell you can increase this to 45ml per Kg. Now you know the amount for you invest in a drinks bottle. Buy one for work and one for home. Work out how many you need to drink to reach your goal. Little and often is so important. If you drink all your water when you get home in the evenings your body will flush it out.

    35ml x Body Weight (Kg)  = Your daily water intake (ml)

    35ml x Body Weight (Kg) = Your daily water intake (ml)

  2. Movement. Sitting for prolonged periods has been shown to have huge detrimental effects to your health including accelerating the rate of degenerative change (Osteoarthritis) to your spine which is irreversible. Make the effort to get up and move if you’ve been sitting for up to 20 minutes. You can download programmes for you PC which let you know when 20 minutes have passed with a reminder to get up and move. Why not get up and have a glass of water and kill 2 birds with one stone!offcie stretch
  3. Fresh Fibre with every meal. Eat some form of fresh, raw and uncooked vegetables and fruit at the beginning of each meal in your day. This will take minimal preparation and you will notice a difference to your energy levels within a week.fibre
  4. Stretch every morning. Whether you feel it or not certain muscles will get tight after sleep. To ready your body for the demands of the day do a simple Cat Camel stretch every morning to improve mobility and decrease chances of low back pain. Taking part in a yoga class regularly is a fantastic way to keep your body mobile and healthy.

    402d1_ab4d4a74292cf43c_cat-cow.xxxlarge

    Cat Camel stretch

  1. Educate yourself in an area of health you’re interested in. It can be fitness, nutrition, skin care, whatever you fancy but make the effort every day to educate yourself in an area you wouldn’t normally. The best way to do this is read 10 pages or listen to at least 15 mins of an audio book or pod cast in your selected topic every day. The latter can be done on the way to work, during your lunch break or whilst shopping at the supermarket. There are tonnes of fantastic pod casts out there, free to download on every health topic under the sun.podcast
  2. De-stress every day. Stress affects everyone but in different ways. Stress, whether it be at work, home, family etc. causes a cascade of chemicals to be released which if at consistently high levels are dangerous for our overall health. Free to down load 10 minute meditation Apps are great. If you find it hard getting off to sleep try then do in bed at night. Alternatively it can be done first thing in the morning.stress
  3. Reduce your coffee or tea- Caffeine should be limited as much as possible. Try and reduce your intake by 50%. It will be challenging for the first week but your body will quickly adapt and you will not rely on caffeine to keep you awake.coffee 2
  4. Invest in yourself: Get a check-up from a dentist and chiropractor. Prevention is the best medicine. If you wait until you have tooth ache or back pain the cost and time of treatment will be more than if you get a regular check-up.

    Prevention is the best medicine

    Prevention is the best medicine

  5. Make time for breakfast: This often comes down to a time management issue more so than anything else. A wholesome healthy breakfast eaten everyday will not only give you more energy throughout the day it will reduce your craving in-between which can lead to unnecessary snacking but it also it improves gut motility and absorption.breakfast
  6. Plan your evening meals: At the end of the day when we’re tired hungry and have nothing at home to eat is when we make poor meal choices with unhealthy quick to prepare meals often accompanied by over eating. Try and plan your meals for the week so you know what you need to get. Prepare the meals in advance. Make a batch and freeze where possible. Remember your fresh, raw and uncooked vegetables or fruit from number 3!

    Be prepared

    Be prepared

  7. Go for an hour power walk every week. You’ll be amazed at how much energy is needed to maintain a good paced power walk for a whole hour. Doing this on your own can also act as a great stress reliever and de-clutter the mind but getting a friend, partner or family member to go with you is great too. I advise doing this on a Sunday morning.power walk
  8. Minimise your use of laptop’s or tablets directly before bed. These electronic devises emit blue light which ssuppresses the production of the hormone melatonin. Melatonin controls the sleep and wake cycles. A reduction in melatonin at night is associated with sleeplessness. But melatonin suppression has far worse consequences than simply poor sleep it has also been shown to increase the risk of cancer, impair immune system function, and possibly lead to cardio metabolic consequences such as type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome, obesity, and heart disease. So instead of watching your favourite TV programme in bed or catching up on the news on your phone put them down and read something real like a book or magazine.No-sleep-laptop

 If you are serious about making these small easy to do changes to your lifestyle then make a note of each change to its corresponding month in your diary. Also get a friend, family member, work colleague on board as well. It will help you keep accountable to the positive changes you’re trying to make.

 Good Luck!