3 Characteristics Every Doctor Needs to Embrace

You already know this problem: Humans are in the midst of the worst chronic disease epidemic ever faced in our history.

  • Americans are the biggest consumer of weight loss products (80%) in the world, yet still lead the world in obesity and unhealthy lifestyle.
  • More than 70% of adults across the United States are already being diagnosed with a chronic disease and more than 75% of the nation’s healthcare cost being spent on managing and treating these conditions.
  • Nearly every single chronic condition you can think of will not successfully be treated with prescription drugs or surgery. They can only offset the symptoms. This list includes: cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, infertility, hypertension, sleep apnea, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, osteoporosis, depression, anxiety, stress, and many more.
  • Heart Disease continues to kill more people than any other condition despite the fact that more drugs and surgeries are being performed to treat it than ever before
  • Cancer continues to skyrocket and we are spending billions trying to treat it.

Reality Check: We are not getting obliterated by war, famine or disease spread from one person to the next. Today, billions are suffering from biological imbalance. Unfortunately, there’s every sign that things are going to get worse before they get better.

Today is the first generation of kids in modern history that’s expected to live shorter lifespans than their parents. If current trends continue, in two decades, 95 percent of Americans would be overweight and one in three would have diabetes.

So what needs to change?

We need a new approach to medicine, one that emphasizes healthcare over disease management. What would such a new medicine look like?

It would have three characteristics.

  1. It would recognize the exposome as the primary driver of health.
  2. It would embrace an evolutionary and ancestral perspective.
  3. It would apply a functional medicine approach to care.

So let’s look at each of these in a little more detail.

The Human Exposome is the Primary Driver of Health

The exposome is a concept originally proposed by Dr. Christopher Wild in 2005, and it refers to the sum of all nongenetic exposures in an individual lifetime, starting from the moment of our conception through the moment of our death.

For decades it seemed as though genetics would hold the key to human health and disease. Unfortunately, those promises didn’t really pan out. The limitations of using genes to predict and prevent disease became apparent pretty early on (especially following the sequencing of our entire genome in 2003.

Ironically, Craig Venter, who was one of the first to sequence the human genome, was also one of the first to recognize its limitations when he said, “We simply don’t have enough genes for this idea of biological determinism to work.”

We now know that genetics accounts for less than 20 percent of human disease and that the remaining causes are environmental, which is to say, they’re related to the exposome.

The exposome encompasses the food we eat, the air we breathe, social interactions, lifestyle choices, and inherent metabolic and cellular activity.

So what does this all mean?

The bad news is that the choices our parents and even our grandparents made affect our disease risk and our health and that choices that we’ve made—perhaps before we knew as much as we know now—affect our children’s and even grandchildren’s health.

The good news is that genes are not our destiny. Genes have an influence over our health, but changes we make in real time can affect our gene expression and, not only our own health, but if we’re still procreating, our children’s health and their children’s health.

Not everybody who has genetics that predispose them to a higher risk of a particular disease actually go on to acquire that disease or die early, and the environment or the exposome is almost certainly the main factor that determined which of those people that were at higher risk got sick and which stayed well.

So while we can’t control what our parents or grandparents did or our genes, we can control these diet, lifestyle, and environmental influences.

Embracing our Ancestry is Essential for Health

For 66,000 generations, humans ate primarily meat and fish, wild fruits and vegetables, nuts and seeds, and some starchy plants. We were physically active. We didn’t sit for long periods.

We lived in sync with the natural rhythms of light and dark in direct contact with nature and in close-knit tribal and social groups. Both our ancestors and contemporary hunter–gatherers who have been studied were lean, fit, and remarkably free of chronic inflammatory disease. They were also superior to us in nearly every measure of health and fitness, from body mass index to blood pressure to insulin sensitivity to oxygen consumption to vision to bone density.

You might be thinking, “So what? Why should we care about the health of our Paleo ancestors? They all died when they were 30 years old.” It’s true that our Paleo ancestors did have shorter life spans on average, but those averages don’t consider challenges that are largely absent from modern life, including high rates of infant mortality, warfare, trauma, accidents, exposure to the elements, and a complete lack of emergency medical care.

Studies have shown that when these factors were considered, contemporary hunter–gatherers and our ancestors lived life spans that were closely equivalent to our own today, but the difference is that they reached these ages without acquiring the inflammatory diseases that characterize our old age. They didn’t have obesity. They didn’t have heart disease. No diabetes, gout, hypertension, or most cancers. In other words, if our ancestors survived the threat of early childhood and escaped the threat of trauma, they lived long and healthy lives.

So, what happened? What transformed us from a healthy, vital people largely free of chronic disease to a sick, fat, and unhealthy people?

It was a one-two punch, and agriculture was the first blow.

Scientist Jared Diamond calls agriculture “the worst mistake in human history.” Hunter– gatherers were virtually guaranteed a healthy diet because of the diversity and nutrient density of the foods they ate, but once humans settled down and started farming, there was a major shift in our diet. In short – refined carbs went up and quality fibrous vegetable, fat and protein consumption went down.

Vitamin shortages also became common. Our new diet relied heavily on a limited set of crops such as wheat, rice, and corn, and it was lower in more nutrient-dense animal products. This led to diseases such as beriberi, pellagra, rickets, and scurvy that are caused by nutrient deficiency and were rare in hunter–gatherers but became much more common in people living in agricultural societies.

We also saw an increase in tooth decay and anemia due to iron deficiency, increases in infant mortality, and decreases in average bone density. All of these diseases, again, were rarely experienced by our hunter–gatherer ancestors.

The second blow was the Industrial Revolution.

There is no doubt that agriculture led to an overall decline in human health, but the Industrial Revolution was really the knockout punch. It brought us to where we are today when white sugar, flour, and vegetable oil make up over 50 percent of the calories that the average American consumes on a daily basis. We’re more sedentary than we’ve ever been before.

We sit while we work and increasingly even sit while we play. We’re chronically sleep deprived. A third of Americans sleep fewer than six hours per night, which is up from just 2 percent in 1965. We’re working harder than ever. American men and women are working 12 to 13 hours more per week today than we were in 1968. Stress levels are off the chart for most people.

We don’t feel like we have enough time for rest and leisure, and even when we do go on vacation, many of us compulsively check our email and social media accounts.

Finally, many of us live and work in isolating and alienating social environments that are disconnected from the natural world we evolved in and from other people.

The profound mismatch between our genetic heritage and the modern environment that we live in today is responsible for the epidemic of modern disease that we’re suffering from, and it also explains why the Paleo diet and lifestyle have helped so many people.

A Functional Approach to Medicine & Optimizing Health

The third principle of achieving health is that it applies a Functional Medicine approach to care.

As I said before, conventional medicine has some amazing characteristics. It’s remarkable in terms of trauma and emergency medicine and acute care, but again, I think we can all agree it’s not very good at treating chronic disease, which is the number-one problem that we face today.

Functional Medicine is investigative. It treats symptoms by addressing the root of the problem, which leads to more profound and longer-lasting results, whereas conventional medicine tends to be more superficial, in that it masks or suppresses symptoms but doesn’t address the underlying cause, and this tends to create patients for life.

For example, if you have high blood pressure, you get on a drug to lower it, and you’re basically told to take that for the rest of your life, and the same is true for high cholesterol.

Functional Medicine tends to be more holistic. It treats the body as an interconnected whole, and we recognize that in order to treat one part, all other parts must be addressed, whereas conventional medicine is more dualistic. It views the body as a collection of separate parts. In fact, there’s a doctor for every different part of the body, and there’s often very little communication between these doctors or acknowledgement of a connection.

In functional medicine, the patient is respected, empowered, educated, and encouraged to play an active role in their healing process, whereas in conventional medicine, the patient’s opinion is often discounted or ignored, little time is spent on education, and the patient is even sometimes actively discouraged to play a strong role in their healing process.

Functional medicine is integrative. It combines the best of allopathic and alternative treatments. It doesn’t exclude drugs or surgery when they’re necessary but does tend to focus more on diet, lifestyle, supplements, and herbs as the primary interventions, whereas conventional medicine is more limited in its scope. It typically relies almost exclusively on drugs and surgery despite risks, and while it does pay some lip service to the importance of nutrition and lifestyle, physicians are undereducated on these topics and often don’t have much time to devote to them in the typical patient interaction.

Functional medicine is preventative. It’s guided by the ancient Chinese proverb, “The superb physician treats disease before it occurs,” whereas conventional medicine tends to be a little more reactive. It really aims to manage disease after it occurs and often doesn’t intervene until disease has progressed beyond a certain point of no return.

 

How Can Functional Medicine Help Me?

As many of my patients know, I run a busy chiropractic office in Austin, Texas… but I also have a thriving Functional Medicine practice that allows me to consult with and help people all over the US and abroad.

Still, many of my you have been asking me questions surrounding Functional Medicine and what it entails.

My philosophy to health is pretty simple: Move Well, Eat Healthy and Cultivate Happiness.

As a chiropractor, my goal is to make sure that your spine is healthy, your joints are mobile and you have no physical limitations in movement. Functional Medicine allows me to address the other 2 components: eating well and cultivating happiness.

In this article, I’d like to discuss my approach and how it works.

Conventional medicine has a doctor for every part of your body. There are cardiologists for your heart, gastroenterologists for the digestive system, neurologists for the brain and nervous system, podiatrists for your feet, and ophthalmologists for your eyes.

Due to specialization, conventional medicine often focuses on individual body systems, rather than trying to understand the whole person and ultimately that individuals underlying causes of disease and chronic illness.

In light of this, symptoms are used to name a disease and find a corresponding drug. That’s typically your treatment.

  • High blood pressure gets you blood pressure lowering pills.
  • High cholesterol, gets you cholesterol lowering pills.
  • Infections of any kind almost always get you antiobiotics
  • Imbalanced hormones, gets you hormone replacement therapy.
  • Etc. Etc. Etc.

Basically, your symptoms are treated with no regard for the “cause”.

In functional medicine, the goal is to view your body as an interconnected whole, within a larger environment.

In other words, your health is the sum of all nongenetic (your external environment) and genetic (internal environment) exposures in your lifetime, starting from the moment of conception to death. It encompasses the food we eat, the air we breathe, social interactions, lifestyle choices and inherent metabolic and cellular activity.

Functional Medicine doctors recognize that in order to treat one part of the body, all other parts must also be considered. This breaks apart artificial divisions of the body.

What Functional Medicine Addresses

I have a hierarchy of importance for which factors to address when starting with a patient:

  1. Diet, Lifestyle and Environment.
  2. Nutrient imbalance, gut and HPA-axis
  3. Cellular Dysfunction, Toxic Burden, Hormone Imbalance
  4. Chronic Infections and Immune Dysregulation
  5. Treating symptoms for diseases that cannot be fixed

Diet, Lifestyle and Environment 

As a good rule, any doctor interested in improving health should begin with diet, lifestyle and environment. It is what it is and there’s no way to self-medicate, supplement or artificially create what life requires.


Nutrient Imbalances, Gut Infections or Dysbiosis and HPA-axis

There are two reasons why we address this next:

First, these factors are often at the root of, or at least strong contributors, of other pathologies such as hormone imbalances (Low T, Thyroid problems, PCOS, etc), cellular dysfunction (Energy balance, Diabetes, Heart Disease, Weight) and immune dysregulation (autoimmune disease, cancer, arthritis, tissue repair).

Second, even if there are other problems occurring, this will lead to a significant clinical improvement towards helping any other condition.

I believe that up to 80% of health problems can be addressed by simply getting #1 (Diet, Lifestyle, Environment) and #2 (Nutrient imbalances, gut infections or dysbiosis and HPA-axis) in check.

Cellular Dysfunction, Toxic Burden, and Hormone Imbalance

In some cases we have to dig deeper. This involves assessing methylation, heavy metals, mold/biotoxins, impaired detoxification, thyroid, sex and metabolic hormones. Again, most of these problems can be addressed by improving diet, lifestyle, nutrient imbalances, gut health and stress.

Chronic Infection and Immune Dysregulation

Some patients have infections (Lyme, co-infections, parasites) that are pretty nasty and almost always require a more specialized and even integrated (Medical Prescription) approach.

How can you get started?

If you’re interested in a functional medicine consult, here’s my flow:

The consult has 2 parts: A 20 minute case review and an hour to 2 hour case review

STEP ONE: INITIAL 20 MINUTE CONSULT

After purchasing an initial consult, we will setup a time for us to meet over the phone or in person. During this 20-minute appointment, I will interview you to determine which lab tests to order for your Case Review, based on your chief complaints and your history.

This appointment has two purposes: to make sure that I have all of the information needed to gain a comprehensive understanding of the factors affecting your health and to give you a head start on your treatment before you meet with me.

The exact lab testing ordered after the Initial Consult depends on your individual circumstances, but may include:

  • A comprehensive blood chemistry panel. This is the single most efficient, effective and affordable tool for quickly evaluating your health. It screens for a wide range of conditions, including several types of anemia; gut, viral and bacterial infections; insulin resistance and hypoglycemia; liver and kidney issues; and thyroid and adrenal problems. It offers important clues for how to structure and focus your treatment to get the best results. It also provides a baseline of biomarkers that can be used to objectively track the progress of your treatment over time.
  • Additional blood tests for specific conditions, such as high cholesterol, hypothyroidism, autoimmune disease and gluten sensitivity.
  • Advanced stool testing to screen for parasites, fungal overgrowth, bacterial infections, intestinal inflammation, dysbiosis and a deficiency of beneficial gut bacteria.
  • Urine organic acids testing to screen for small intestinal bacterial overgrowth, fungal overgrowth, problems metabolizing fat or carbohydrates, B-vitamin status, methylation issues, detoxification capacity, oxidative stress and neurotransmitter metabolism.
  • Urine hormone testing for adrenal and sex hormone status.

You will also be provided the Case Review health history paperwork to complete.

This paperwork includes:

  • A detailed health and medical history questionnaire
  • A survey of your chief complaints and most important health goals
  • An assessment of your most troubling and frequently experienced symptoms
  • A diet survey and questionnaire
  • A survey of your current supplements and medications

Once we’ve received your lab results and completed the Case Review paperwork, I will give you specific protocols to start working on before moving on to part 2: the case review consultation.

This typically occurs between 60 and 90 days after the Initial Consultation, because some of the labs we use take up to 8 weeks to deliver the results to us after receiving your sample.

STEP TWO: THE CASE REVIEW CONSULTATION

The Case Review Consultation is a 60-minute to 120-minute in-person, phone or video appointment.

Prior to the consultation, I will have reviewed the results from the labs that were ordered along with your Case Review paperwork, medical history, diet and supplement survey, assessment forms and relevant prior lab work. I will also create a Report of Findings, which is broken into three parts:

  • A summary of the underlying patterns that are contributing to your symptoms.
  • An outline of the suggested treatment plan, including dietary, supplement and lifestyle recommendations.
  • Recommendations for further testing (this will typically be minimal, if necessary at all, because of the completeness of the Case Review process)

During this visit, I will present the Report of Findings as well as your treatment plan. I will also review all of your test results with you and answer any questions you have about the findings or the treatment plan.

How to Ease Joint Pain Naturally

Joints form the connections between the 206 bones in the human body. They are a crucial part of human movement.  Without them, we’d be unable to move.

Joint pain is a frustrating and oftentimes debilitating symptom with a wide range of underlying causes.  Joint pain can make it difficult for us to move, imposing a major distraction in our lives, and can even be downright debilitating.

Pain in your joints is usually accompanied by other unpleasant symptoms including joint redness, swelling, tenderness, warmth, limping, joint locking, stiff, weakness and/or a limited range of motion in the joint.

Joint pain is typically caused by the following:

  • Injury to the ligaments, tendons, bones, cartilage or bursae (the fluid-filled sac in your joints that provides a cushion between our bones, tendons and/or muscles). Examples include: rotator cuff (shoulder) tear, sprained ankle, runners knee and bursitis.
  • Joint inflammation due to an autoimmune condition. Examples include rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, lupus, and psoriatic arthritis.
  • Bacteria or fungi can enter your body through your skin, eyes, ears, mouth, nose and mucous membranes and cause joint pain throughout your body.  Examples include the bacteria that causes the following diseases: staphylococcus (staph) infections, strep throat, pneumonia, gonorrhea, tuberculosis, and Lyme disease.

In rare instances, cancer can also be the cause of joint pain.

Now that you know the primary causes of joint pain, let’s learn how to make your joint pain disappear.

Long Term Solutions

Remember the three main causes of joint pain are injury, inflammation and infection.  Our long term solutions for joint pain will focus on preventing and alleviating these underlying causes.  First and foremost: Injury Prevention!

Long Term Joint Pain Solution #1: Learn How to Move Your Body

Learning how to move your body is your surest bet for preventing joint pain caused by injury to your ligaments, tendons, bones, cartilage or bursae.  Here a few tips to get you started:

  • Improve body awareness and posture in everything you do. If you’re a patient of mine, you know that I begin our relationship with how to have good posture. Posture is just a fancy word for position, but your posture is what ultimately determines how healthy your ligaments, tendons, cartilage and bones will age. Do everything you can to improve your position throughout the day.
  • Regularly check in with your body by practicing full body stretching. Take a yoga, pilates or a swimming class that incorporates stretching.  Make a daily habit of stretching at home, preferably in a quiet, soothing environment and especially before and after any strenuous physical activity.  If you have had previous injuries, target those areas because they will be your weakest link.  Be sure to stretch supporting muscle groups as well.  For example, if you’ve had an injury to your back, your neck and hip regions will have compensated to provide support to the injured area.
  • Practice mindful, functional strength training tailored to your current capabilities. Movements like squats, deadlifts, and overhead presses executed properly with a full range of motion can go a long way to preventing joint injury. In fact, loading your joints will demonstrate your body’s current vulnerabilities and give you key insight on what body parts you should be improving. Exercise doesn’t hurt you- bad positioning and unhealthy joints do.
  • Practice joint mobility exercises. Joint mobility exercises will include regular foam rolling, lacrosse balls or trigger points balls, banded/flossing exercises and anything that takes your joints beyond a comfortable range of motion or movement.

Long Term Joint Pain Solution #2: Identify Potential Causes

If you currently experience joint pain and it’s not due to injury, you should try to identify potential causes of infection or inflammation.   Some tips include:

  • Identify autoimmune reactions. Symptoms to look for include any type of unwarranted itchiness, flushed face, neck and chest, nausea or lightheadedness within an hour of eating or drinking.  If you experience any of the following symptoms, you should contact a functional medicine doctor to help you identify a potential autoimmune condition:
    • Tingling hands and feet
    • Numb lips nose and tongue
    • Swelling, hives and swollen ankles
    • Dry eyes and mouth
    • Digestive difficulties
    • Impaired Immunity
    • Low energy, fatigue and generalized stiffness.
  • Identify any hidden infections. Symptoms to look for include bad breath, sinus issues like a stuffy or runny nose, malaise, hot or cold flashes and circulation problems.  Underlying infections can include candida or yeast infections, staph infections, strep throat, pneumonia, gonorrhea, tuberculosis, and Lyme disease.  Your functional medicine doctor can help you identify these and other underlying infections that could cause joint pain.
  • Identify food sensitivities. Look for the same symptoms we talked about for identifying autoimmune reactions.  Headaches, insomnia, mood swings and digestive issues can also point to a food sensitivity.  Try an elimination diet to identify the foods you’re sensitive to.  Another trick is to indulge in foods that you think you may be sensitive to and watch for food sensitivity symptoms, especially within the first hour after eating or drinking. One of the most common food sensitivities I find in people with joint pain is gluten intolerance.

Long Term Join Pain Solution #3: Reduce Inflammation

Reducing your body’s overall inflammation can help you mitigate joint pain.  Try the following techniques:

  • Modify your diet. Increase your consumption of healthy fats like coconut oil, avocados, nuts, eggs, grass-fed butter and meat.  Avoid inflammatory foods and beverages like grains, legumes, sugar, seed oils and alcohol.
  • Avoid humid environments. Humidity can exacerbate whole-body inflammation.  Short of moving to a drier climate, you can try a dehumidifier for your home.
  • Decrease your stress. Cut out unnecessary obligations and take steps to simplify your life.  Avoid multi-tasking and take time for yourself every day. Try meditation or shut off your electronics and immerse in yourself in a tranquil environment like a library or park.  Make sure you get enough sleep.
  • Increase micronutrients and trace minerals. Use natural salts to flavor your food, consume unfiltered juices and eat the skins of fruits and vegetables, especially root vegetables, and take a multivitamin every day.  In general, switch to unprocessed foods since, compared to processed foods, they naturally contain high nutrient and mineral levels.

Long Term Joint Pain Solution #4: Address Nutrient Deficiencies

Nutrient deficiencies can cause a whole host of health problems that contribute to inflammation and joint pain.  If you’re puzzled on what you might be deficient in, consider a test like the SpectraCell Micronutrient test.  This cutting edge method, provides an exact, detailed and comprehensive nutritional analysis.  The test assesses your micronutrient deficiencies at the cellular level by determining how well your body absorbs and utilizes a number of minerals, vitamins, fatty acids, antioxidants and metabolites.  This affects how well and how quickly your body rebuilds and repairs itself.

Contact us to learn how to boost your individual micronutrient levels.

Joint Pain Health Hacks

There are a number of short term solutions that can help you manage your joint pain until you can get to a functional doctor and find the underlying cause.

Joint Pain Health Hack #1: Supplement with Gelatin and Collagen

Gelatin and collagen are the building blocks of your body’s joints.  If have a joint injury, your body will need extra gelatin and collagen to repair itself.  You can try supplementing with gelatin and collagen products like powders, capsules and condensed liquids. You can also supplement the old-fashioned way by preparing your own bone broths (preferably with grass-fed or wild caught meat and fish) and consuming a cup or two per day.

Joint Pain Health Hack #2: Increase Magnesium, Turmeric and trace Minerals

Magnesium is crucial for your body in its ability to transport other necessary nutrients for optimal joint healing.  Try a chelated magnesium supplement or find it in foods like leafy greens, pumpkin seeds, kefir, probiotic dairy, avocados, figs, banana, almonds and even dark chocolate.

Joint Pain Health Hack #3: Soak in Epsom Salts

Prepare an Epsom Salt bath and immerse your body for at least a half an hour, once a week.   This is another method to increase your magnesium intake AND reduce stress simultaneously so you can ease your joint pain. The warmer the water temperature, the more bioavailable the magnesium is for your body to absorb.  This solution is irresistible in winter months.

Joint Pain Health Hack #4: Elevation and Inversion

Elevate joints experiencing pain above the heart multiple times a day, for at least ten minutes.  This transports the accumulated fluid in your swollen joints back to your vital organs where it can be processed and detoxified. It also reduces stress on your joints and is simple way to reduce your joint pain.  A great investment for chronic joint pain is an inversion table.  The inversion table allows gravity to alleviate built-up fluid and pressure in your joints.

Joint Pain Health Hack #5: Aerobic Exercise

One of the keys to alleviating joint pain, is mild, daily aerobic exercise.  This gets your heart pumping which circulates excess fluid away from your swollen joints.  Try walking, swimming, biking, yoga, pilates, or a team sport like soccer, basketball or vollyball. Another benefit of aerobic exercise are its mood elevating effects and its ability to speed healing and take your mind off of your joint pain.

Joint pain affects most of us from time to time, whether it’s from injury, infection or inflammation.  Don’t be discouraged because there’s always a natural, short term health hack that can alleviate your pain.  While joint pain usually affects middle aged to elderly age groups, everyone can benefit from the long term tactics I mentioned above. Following such a plant can help you prevent future joint issues.  Choose solutions wisely and choose solutions that fit well into your lifestyle to ensure consistency.

Spine Hygiene: What’s It all About?

Most people don’t equate the word hygiene with bones or muscles, ligaments or tendons. The word hygiene means sciences, Conditions or practices that promote and preserve health. We observe the meaning of this word when we maintain personal hygiene, dental hygiene as well as mental hygiene in the form of mindfulness, meditation and affirmations. Why not maintain the health or hygiene of the spine? Nothing in the human body with the exception perhaps of the brain does more to ensure the health and well-being of the whole body. Spine hygiene, therefore, is something we must practice and maintain daily for optimal health.

Must?

Yes, must. Studies have proven that a healthful diet and exercise prevent and might contribute to lessening disease. However, proper posture is often overlooked in spine maintenance. That is, it is overlooked until back pain happens, and then it’s the first thing the patient is advised to practice.Promoting and preserving the health of the spine, therefore, must begin with proper posture. The head should be up, chin not tucked into the chest. The shoulders should be above the hips and not slumped forward or pushed back. This maintains the natural curvature of the spine, ensuring the natural placement of the ligaments, tendons and other things stay there.

Lack of proper posture results in headaches, back pain, muscle stress and other problems. Today, most people sit for hours at a time doing their jobs. The above description of proper posture is ideal for sitting jobs. Make sure the knees are bent at a 90 degree angle, the back against the chair back and the feet slightly in front of the knees.

Those who must stand to do their jobs have it a little easier. Standing with the feet hip width apart, tuck in the abdomen so the curvature of the spine remains natural. Shoulders should be above the hips and not rounded or slung too far back in an effort to do it right. The head should be straight up, chin slightly tucked under. This ensures the curvature of the neck portion of the spine or the cervical spine is in its natural place.

Do I Have to Exercise?

You’d have a good idea if you exercised to maintain a healthy spine. Just because we generally don’t think of the spine doesn’t mean it doesn’t benefit from exercise. We’ve been discussing the natural alignment of the spine in addition to good posture to keep it in place. Now, we’re going to discuss gentle stretching exercises to keep the spine, from top to bottom, in healthy shape. You’ll need no equipment for these stretches, but you might need a folded blanket or towel or perhaps a yoga mat if you have one to support the body during these exercises.

To gently stretch the neck, sit or stand as described above. Tip the head onto one shoulder. Slowly and gently let the head drop and swing to the other shoulder. This should look like a pendulum in an old-fashioned grandfather clock. Alternate putting the head on the other shoulder and allowing the pendulum movement to follow its natural course. Repeat this ten times.

To gently stretch the upper to lower back, get onto your hands and knees, hands beneath the shoulders, back straight. Gently bow up the upper back until you feel like an inverted “u”.  Hold this pose for ten seconds. Now sit onto the legs, stretching the arms out in front of you on the floor. The body will look like a puppy stretching, but your behind will be on your legs. Hold for ten seconds. Repeat ten times.

Stretching the lower back prevents back pain. This stretch will benefit the lower and middle spine. Sit on the floor with one leg straight and the other foot tucked into the straight leg. Sitting straight up, stretch both arms toward the straight ankle. Round the back as you stretch. Hold for ten seconds. Repeat with the other leg. Repeat ten times.

Learning to keep the spine as straight as possible is as simple as doing a plank. On hands and knees, place the forearms on the floor, hands gripping each other for support. Lift the legs until the body is resting on forearms and toes. Your head and neck should be in a straight line with the spine. Don’t allow the lower back to droop; suck in the abs to prevent this. Hold for ten seconds and repeat ten times.

A healthy spine is essential to whole body health. Remember your posture, and do some stretching exercises to keep the spine in good shape, and you can enjoy a healthy happy life.

Struggling With Back Pain? Don’t Put Exercise on Pause.

If you’ve ever suffered from back problems, then you know that chronic pain can make exercise feel intimidating. However, you also probably know that back pain can easily become a vicious cycle: Pain makes us feel as though we should rest, which eventually leads to a tight and inflexible back, which leads to more back pain. Many people are surprised to find that regular exercise is one of the most effective ways to stop this cycle.

Most Americans don’t get enough exercise.

In fact, according to the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports, and Nutrition, only one-third of American adults are getting the recommended amount of exercise per week.

Unfortunately, a growing waistline isn’t the only side-effect of a sedentary lifestyle. Among other health concerns, a lack of regular movement in day-to-day life also contributes to poor spine health, including back pain and problems with posture.

If you’re experiencing back problems, exercise could be the missing ingredient.

In combination with other treatments, regular exercise can often be a great way to reduce back pain. Not only does exercise increase flexibility and strengthen the muscles that are responsible for helping us maintain our posture, but it also confers a host of lesser-known benefits. In terms of pain relief, many of us know that exercise releases endorphins, which dull pain and give us a sense of well-being. However, many people don’t know that exercise also decreases inflammation. Inflammation can lead to swelling and pain, which is why it’s essential to keep overall inflammation levels low.

In addition to relieving pain, movement benefits the back by circulating nutrients to the spinal discs and other structures. This helps keep the spine in optimal health. Furthermore, light impact exercises such as walking help build bone density, which is important in preventing spinal fractures.

Try adding exercises that target back health.

If you’re exercising to improve the health of your back, then you’ll likely want to focus on exercises that increase flexibility and build the strength of the muscles that support the spine.

Core Exercises. Crunches, pelvic tilts, leg lifts, and other core-building exercises will strengthen the muscles necessary for maintaining good posture.

Stretching. Keeping muscles flexible is essential for keeping back pain at bay. In particular, stretching hamstrings and gluteal muscles is important for easing back pain.

If you have a back condition or other health concern, speak with a healthcare professional before adding new exercises to your routine

Don’t force yourself to push through painful exercise.

As you plan your exercise routine, keep in mind that certain some movements carry an increased risk of back injury. Heavy lifting, for example, can lead to strained muscles. It’s also possible to pull muscles and strain ligaments by over-stretching the back. And depending on the state of your back, high-impact sports such as running can exacerbate back pain. Exercise shouldn’t make back pain worse, so don’t push yourself if a movement doesn’t feel right for you. If you’re ever in doubt about whether an exercise is safe for your back, consult with a health care professional.

Take your time building exercise into your daily routine.

Many people find it tempting to “make up” for lost exercise time by sporadically engaging in high-intensity exercise. However, irregular exercise can actually do more harm than good if your body isn’t conditioned for exercise. Exercise doesn’t need to be intense in order to be effective; even half an hour of brisk walking per day will benefit your back as well as your overall health.

If you’re not already exercising on a regular basis, speak with a healthcare provider about what you can do to get more exercise and movement into your life.

The Dangers of Leading a Sedentary Lifestyle

How much time do you spend exercising and engaging in physical activity during a typical week? When you’re busy juggling a job, caring for your family, maintaining personal relationships, and performing the countless other tasks associated with day-to-day living, it’s difficult to set aside time to exercise. But when you fail to achieve the recommended amount of physical activity, you place yourself at risk for disease and illness.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic exercise and two days of strength-training workouts per week for adults. Unfortunately, though, most Americans fall well short of these guidelines. According to a recent report published by the CDC, only 20.8% of Americans meet the recommendations for both aerobic and strength training exercise.

Diabetes

A study published in the January 2015 Annals of Internal Medicine suggests that leading a sedentary lifestyle increases the risk of developing type 2 diabetes by 91%.

Diabetes is a serious problem here in the United States, with approximately 9.3% of the population suffering from disease (diagnosed and undiagnosed). One of the most influential risk factors of this all-too-common disease is lack of physical activity. When you don’t exercise, the cells in your body lose their sensitivity to insulin. And being that insulin controls sugar blood sugar levels, this increases the risk of diabetes.

Heart Disease

Heart disease is the leading cause of death among men and women, taking the lives of more than half a million Americans a year. According to the American Heart Association (AHA), however, individuals can reduce their risk of developing heart disease by 30-40% and stroke by 25% by staying active. Assuming those numbers are correct, exercising can save hundreds of thousands of lives per year. But a lower risk of heart disease is just one of the many benefits of staying physically active.

Colon Cancer

Still not convinced that leading a sedentary lifestyle is bad for your health? The American Cancer Institute (ACI) says increasing either the “intensity, duration, or frequency” of exercise can reduce a person’s risk of developing colon cancer by 30-40%. Colon cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death, attesting to the importance of staying active.

Early Death

A disturbing new report published in The Lancet finds nearly one in 10 deaths are attributed to lack of physical activity. Researchers from the Harvard Medical School in Boston analyzed global death data from 2008, paying close attention to the correlation between exercise (or lack thereof) and disease. They concluded that failure to exercise for just 150 minutes per week resulted in 6% of all heart disease cases, 7% of type 2 diabetes cases, 10% of breast cancer cases, and 10% of colon cancer cancers.

So, what steps can you take to stay active and reduce your risk of these health problems? Check out the following tips listed below:

  • Spend more time cleaning your home.
  • Instead of sitting on the couch, perform light aerobic exercises while watching TV.
  • Mow your own grass and do your own lawn work instead of paying someone else to do it.
  • Wear a fitness tracking device to measure your daily physical activity.
  • Ask a friend to exercise with you. Several studies have found that people exercise for longer and more vigorously in the presence of a partner.
  • Park in the back of the parking lot. Walking longer distances to and from your car is the perfect way to increase your physical activity levels.
  • Conduct “walking” meetings in which you and your business colleagues meet while walking instead of sitting at a conference table.
  • Go shopping at the mall.
  • Participate in 5K runs. At just over 3.1 miles, it’s a great way to build endurance while strengthen your heart and lungs.
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