From the monthly archives: "February 2011"

When it comes to healthy lifestyle behaviors, regular bodywork is right up there with good diet and exercise.  And in the realm of bodywork, nothing beats chiropractic for keeping people healthy and full functioning throughout their lifetime.

According to a 2000 wellness study,

Chiropractic patients ages 65 and older who were under chiropractic care for five or more years experienced 50 percent fewer medical provider visits than their comparable peers and spent only 31 percent of the national average for health care services.  The health habits of patients receiving maintenance care were better overall than the general population, including decreased use of cigarettes and decreased use of prescription drugs.

I hope Obamacare bureaucrats are paying attention.

Spent a great evening with clients a couple weeks ago, talking about the big thing in the neurological sciences today: Neuroplasticity, the ability of the nervous system to shape itself.  We had good food, some laughs (mostly at me) and a discussion about how people control their development in every area through their nervous system.

Neuroplasticity is an unconscious mechanism for most, but we all utilize it whether we do so to our advantage or not; and we are doing it all with the nervous system, particularly the brain.

I discussed how we habituate by doing the same unconscious actions repeatedly.  I also discussed how we can break old habits and create new ones neurologically by practicing some useful and interesting techniques. 

I will be writing much more on neuroplasticity in the future.  Just suffice it to say that our Dinner with the Doctor event in West Hollywood was a success.  With a little chiropractic, neurology and mind thrown in…and, of course, some olive oil…you’ve got the makings of quite an evening.  I’m glad my brain created it.

Aw yeh…looks like vitamin D proponents might be right: higher blood concentrations of the sun-vitamin dramatically cut the risk of several major diseases, including breast cancer.  Booyah!  A recent study shows that adults need 4,000-8,000 IU per day to maintain blood levels of vitamin D metabolites in the range needed to reduce by about half the risk of several diseases–breast cancer, colon cancer, multiple sclerosis and type 1 diabetes.

Some in the scientific community had warned of toxicity related to increased levels of vitamin D in the blood, the National Academy of Sciences Institute of Medicine (IOM) even noted there were preliminary signals that there might be some harms associated with consuming high levels of vitamin D daily, even at amounts under the recommended upper safe limit.  But the IOM since last year has deemed 4,000 IU a day safe, a much lower level than the 10,000 IUs they consider to be at the lowest level of potential risk.

The study looked at several thousand people who took supplements ranging from 1,000 to 10,000 IU per day.  The volunteers also underwent blood tests to determinevitamin D metabolite levels circulating in their blood.  Researchers were surprised by what they found, that the levels required to ward of illnesses like cancer were so much higher than the 400 IU a day needed to vanquish rickets in the 20th century.

Well I, of course, love these results because I’m a BIG proponent of vitamin D supplementation.  Studies have uncovered that many North Americans are deficient in this essential life-giving nutrient.  Chalk it up to our fear of melanoma–thanks dermatologists.  Either way, this study is good evidence that supplementing is safe and effective at warding off chronic illnesses.  Give the body what it needs and it will do what it’s supposed to do.  Guaranteed.

The end is near: Think Captain B. McCrea from the Pixar animated film Wall-e.  Haven’t seen it?  Check the official description from Pixar Wiki:

Captain B. McCrea is a human male who was in command of the Axiom from 2775 to 2805. Like the rest of humanity, he was extremely obese and almost always confined to a hoverchair. Most of the day-to-day management of the ship was handled by Auto and the ship’s computer.

McCrea didn’t need to walk, and apparently now neither do we.  Although Segway has been around since 2002, I have been seeing a lot more of them recently and it has really got me thinking–life does imitate art.  Damn if Pixar didn’t warn us!

OK, I understand the functionality of the Segway PT.  For traffic police or the beat patrol it make sense; even for the military or warehouse workers, who are on the constantly on the move and require efficiency, Segway makes the job easier and that much more productive.  But with every benefit comes disadvantage, yes?  And boy does Segway offer plenty:

  • Risk of over-reliance
  • Lack of musculoskeletal movement
  • Obesity
  • Muscle atrophy
  • Cognitive decline

And I could go on, but I’d really just be speculating.  I mean, if Segway becomes more embedded into the mainstream, then perhaps people will go to the gym more often…stop laughingstopthey might.  And perhaps there’ll be No-Segway Zones…like at the mall, where they might only have those airport-style conveyor belts.  People in a rush might get their exercise by walking fast on the left.  Well, if they can squeeze past the McCreas, that is.

I have indeed been seeing more Segway transporters in my neighborhood.  Sometimes, as I look out my office window, I observe able-bodied young men and women Segwaying themselves down the road.  I guess nobody really does walk in L.A.  Maybe we should all carry Segways in the trunks of our cars–for the long haul from parking lot to grocery store.  We’ll see.

We hear a lot about the abdominal core (especially since it’s been designed by Navy SEALSjust kidding) for good reason, it’s nature’s support belt–it stabilizes and protects the lower trunk, the pelvis and the spine.  The term “core” is a current buzzword in fitness circles, but it’s more than just the abdominals.  It’s a group of muscles working together, dynamically to stabilize the body during movements.  It’s includes abdominal muscles for sure, but low back, pelvic and spinal muscles contribute to the function of the core.

The video below shows an outstanding exercise–the abdominal hollow–I give to all my West Hollywood chiropractic clients to strengthen their core.  I call it a basic building block because, despite its effectiveness as a solitary movement, it is an integral part of numerous compound exercises that I give my clients as they advance through a sports rehab routine.  Simply put, it’s the best fundamental strengthening exercise anybody can benefit from, no matter what shape you are in.

Watch the video below to learn how to do the powerful abdominal hollow exercise, and do it daily.  I guarantee within six weeks of doing this exercise every day, your core will be solid and your low back will have more support, leading to–less injury and less low back pain.  Have fun.

New York Yankees pitcher CC Sabathia is reporting to spring training 25 lbs lighter.  The secret: He kicked the Cap’n Crunch.  Aw yeh, the former fat-boy is weighing in at a svelte 290, not bad for a 6’7″ frame.  And to think he did it all with one simple change.  Just think of what that might mean for you or your kids!

Sabathia, the Yankees ace, weighed in at a whopping 315 lbs last season, when he was knocking down a full box of Cap’n Crunch every day!  Each box of Cap’n Crunch has 12.59 servings, each serving has 12 grams of sugar, making a box of the sugary cereal contain a total of 151 grams of sugar.  Further, the nutritional info on the box lists the number of calories at 217 per double serving.  Therefore, a full box of Cap’n Crunch contains 1,366 calories.  Dang!

To put this into perspective, a soda (Coke, let’s say) contains 40 grams of sugar and 150 calories per 12 oz. can.  More perspective: one teaspoon of sugar equals about six grams; therefore, a can of soda has about seven teaspoons of sugar (see video below**).  Even more perspective: Most sugar packets found in the U.S. have approximately 4 grams of sugar, thus a can of soda contains ten packets of sugar (U.S.).

Now back to Sabathia.  His one full box of Cap’n Crunch a day gave him a sugar equivalent of drinking 4 sodas, 25 teaspoons of sugar, or 38 sugar packets.  Nice, CC…nice.

*A report released in 2009 by the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity at Yale gave Cap’n Crunch’s Crunch Berries the worst nutritional score of any cereal marketed to children and families. ~ from Wikipedia

How about your kids?  Do they eat Cap’n Crunch?  Fruit Loops?  Frosted Flakes?  Do they drink soda?  These cereals and soft drinks have been staples in the American diet for the last fifty years, and it’s not because people aren’t consuming them.  It’s not just 6’7″ professional athletes eating this junk, either.  It’s little Timmy, and little Rainflower, and maybe even you.

Listen, next time you’re thinking about feeding Junior the Cap’n Crunch, why not just give him a Snickers bar?  Same amount of sugar as in a two-serving bowl of the Crunch.  And is it any wonder we are in the midst of an obesity (and diabetes) epidemic?

**Please watch the video below to get great perspective on the amount of sugar contained in a soda:

Saw the film Black Swan last week (I know…I’m so December 2010), and it stimulated some thoughts on dance and chiropractic.  The latest thriller from one of my favorite film-makers, Darren Aronofski, is an outstanding piece on the human psyche under the self-imposed pressures of excellence.  But I’m not writing this as a film critique; instead, I want to talk about something that grabbed my attention immediately: the accurate portrayal of the physical demands of ballet, and interestingly, what the lead character, Nina, used to help her handle the rigors of her art–chiropractic!

Now let me start by saying that I could find nothing by googling “Black Swan+chiropractic,” making me wonder if I had just imagined what I saw.  But…well, I did see Natalie Portman‘s character, Nina Sayers, getting her spasmed diaphragm released, a favorite therapy among some chiropractors.  And, for sure, I saw her get her ankles and feet adjusted.  I know I did, because it is a regular service I provide for my Los Angeles, Beverly Hills, and West Hollywood chiropractic clients…so it caught my eye.

It was a fast scene, split second, easy to miss.  But because it’s a treatment I do every day, I was like…“Wow!  A tibiotalar adjustment.  Cool!

But my exhaustive research brought up nothing.  Hmmm….Let me try, “Black Swan+physical therapy,” and…there…it…was…hidden right under my nose (on IMDB no less, du-uh-uh-uh!):

Due to a twisted rib injury, Natalie Portman had to receive physical therapy during filming. According to the director Darren Aronofsky, Portman is actually undergoing a real physical therapy session in one scene with the actual physical therapist.”

OK, ok…physical therapist…performing chiropractic…something that profession, along with medicine, condemned as quackery only three decades ago.  Harumph…

Well I guess that doesn’t take away from the fact that professional dance is grueling–a sport, similar to basketball in the types of moves a performer makes; similar in the stresses placed on the body. Professional dancers need regular bodywork, and for many of them chiropractic is the choice.

In fact, dancers are the professional athletes that have gravitated to my office the most for sports chiropractic care.  When the dancer’s body aches or is acutely injured, nothing beats chiropractic to help him or her return to the stage.

I treat the dancers in my office with safe, effective chiropractic care.  Like other athletes, a professional dancer’s livelihood depends on his or her optimally functioning body.  Nothing supersedes chiropractic in helping the body heal, musculoskeletally.  Nothing.

Black Swan is a great movie–check it out.  But keep your eyes open for the chiropractic treatments performed by a physical therapist; and remember, ballet and all other dance forms require an optimally functioning body for optimal performance.  Chiropractic is the right choice for dancers to stay healthy and heal from any injuries sustained in their grueling art.

Dance…chiropractic…of course.

Last month, I posted twice on how to relieve neck pain.  Whereas the first post dealt with the anatomy of neck and upper back pain, and the second with techniques I do in my Los Angeles sports chiropractic office, this post describes things you can do on your own, at home, to take a proactive role in correcting your chronic neck problems.

In the video below I demonstrate two outstanding neck stretches that focus on the upper trapezius and levator scapulae muscles.  Although these two have similar attachment points and functions, they require slightly different movements.  It is important to follow the steps laid out in the video–miss one, and you won’t get the proper stretch.  If you have trouble getting down the nuances of each stretch, just do the basic stretch I show first–believe me it’ll do wonders.

If you have chronic neck pain, it would be wise to visit a chiropractor.  With chiropractic adjustments, massage and neck stretches, your neck problems should clear up nicely.  If you are in Los Angeles, Beverly Hills or West Hollywood, come get your neck pain relief at my sports chiropractic office–you’ll be happy you did.

Passing the joint may not be a marijuana thing after all, as recent research shows the penis to be filled with receptors for THC, marijuana’s active ingredient.  As a result, marijuana may have a negative impact on male sexual performance, ultimately leading to erectile dysfunction.  Doh!

Rany Shamloul, a physician with appointments at the University of Ottawa and Queen’s University in Canada as well as the University of Cairo, conducted a review of studies on marijuana to determine how weed affects male sexual function.  He found that many of the studies were not only contradictory, but rife with problems as well.

Some early studies found marijuana to have positive effects, sexually, for men.  For instance, in a 1982 survey 75% of men reported sexual enhancement from smoking marijuana (…love weed, baby).  But a study published last year in the journal European Urology found the penis to contain receptors for tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the active ingredient in the Mary Jane.  The receptors are located mainly throughout the smooth muscle of the penis.  Additional lab studies suggest that THC has an inhibitory effect on the muscle.

Says Shamloul, “This is a more serious effect on the erectile function because the smooth muscle makes up 70 percent to 80 percent of the penis itself.”

According to The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, 162 million people worldwide use marijuana every year.   More than 22 million use it daily.  That makes understanding long-term effects important, Shamloul said.

Check it and weep, stoners.

As Shamloul says, many of the older studies showing marijuana to have positive effects on sexual performance are flawed in their lack of controlling for perceptual alterations caused by the THC itself.  Other studies from the same year showed male marijuana smokers to have twice the rate of erectile dysfunction as non-smokers.  Another study showed the effects of marijuana on sexual function to be dose specific–small doses having positive effects and larger doses working in the negative.

“What we are really missing are clinical studies,” Shamloul said. “We are stuck with only animal studies and molecular studies, and some clinical studies done in the ’60s and ’70s, most on a very small number of men… We need well-designed, placebo-control studies examining marijuana’s effect in both the short-term and long-term.”

Hmmm…pot and sex…any volunteers?

I often have to explain overpronation to a number of my Los Angeles, Beverly Hills and West Hollywood chiropractic clients.  I have finally found a video (please see below) that does a great job illustrating what happens to the feet during the gait cycle when overpronation is an issue.

Overpronation is an excessive turning in of the feet (to be more accurate for you doctors out there–pronation a combination of eversion, abduction and dorsiflexion).  Pronation is a natural movement that we all do (or are supposed to do, anyway) during the foot-strike phase of the gait cycle (walking).  Pronation is necessary to adapt to the surface of the ground when we take a step.

Overpronators, then, turn their foot in excessively causing a chain of events occurring up the foot, leg and thigh, and eventually into the back, which can lead to excessive wear and tear on joints and cause pain.  Some common maladies attributable to overpronation are:

The real way to correct overpronation, and thus prevent any of the above issues from becoming chronic and leading to breakdown, is the use of custom-made orthotics.  Despite a current trend toward believing (hoping?) that barefoot running is the solution to all foot dysfunction, low back pain, goiter, syphilis and every other malady of the modern world, I can assure you I have seen nothing better for resolving musculoskeletal problems caused by overpronation than orthotics (and, believe me, people have been trying).

Watch the video below to get a clear picture of what is happening during overpronation.

Good news for active adults–brisk walking improves memory by increasing the size of a brain region directly responsible for processing information to be stored.  This has promising implications for preventing age-related cognitive degeneration seen in Alzheimer’s disease.

The hippocampus region of the brain grew by 2% in study subjects that walked briskly.  The study, led by researchers at the University of Pittsburgh and University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, looked at 120 sedentary people, aged 55 to 80.  They were divided into two groups: Half began a program of walking for 40 minutes a day, three days a week to increase their heart rate; the others only did stretching and toning exercises.

Memory improved in both groups, showing that physical activity in general has cognitive effects.   Preliminary studies have shown that aerobic exercise leads to reduce brain atrophy in early-stage Alzheimer’s patients, and that walking leads to slight improvement on mental tests among older people with memory problems.

The hippocampus is known to shrink slightly in people as they age, and this is, in fact, what happened to the stretch-only group.  The brisk walk group, though, did show increases in hippocampal size, leading researchers to believe this physiological effect sustains memory.

Kirk Erickson, professor of psychology at the University of Pittsburgh and thepaper’s lead author, said in a statement, “The results of our study are particularly interesting in that they suggest that even modest amounts of exercise by sedentary older adults can lead to substantial improvements in memory and brain health.

So get up and start walking, folks.  It’s never too late.  What you do today might just preserve your marbles for another couple decades.  So just do it–walk!..for the health of your hippocampus.

Just finished reading an article that was as good an analysis on obesity as I think you’ll find today.  The latest issue of Scientific American featured a piece titled, How to Fix the Obesity Crisis, and it does a great job of explaining the multi-factorial complexity of today’s obesity epidemic.

The article discusses the numerous metabolic, genetic and molecular process that might be involved in the mechanism of developing obesity, but it focuses on the behavioral approaches to breaking mental patterns involved in overeating and poor food choices.  The history on the obesity epidemic is pretty good, too.

Where I think the article fails is that it still approaches obesity from the same mechanistic thinking that has been unable to figure out the malady to begin with.  This sentiment can be summed up by the line,

“Maybe someday biology will provide us with a pill that re-adjusts our metabolism so we burn more calories or resets our built-in cravings so we prefer broccoli to burgers.”

Continuing to hope for a magic bullet that will allow us to live a faulty life style consequence-free is foolish. That IS the problem!  I’m going to leave my full assessment for a later time, because I think the article is worth reading.  But stay tuned.

When it comes to strengthening the lower back, Pilates swimming mat exercises beat straight back extensions every time.  So says a recent study out of Brazil, which looked at Pilates mat exercises to distinguish which was the best exercise to increase strength and endurance of the lumbar spine paraspinal muscles (multifidi to be exact).  We know that by strengthening the spinal stabilizers of the low back–paraspinals and abdominals (the core)–chronic low back pain can be resolved and prevented.

The study involved measuring muscle activity during three Pilates mat exercises with surface electromyography (sEMG).  The three exercises were (all done face down):

  1. swimming (great video here)–essentially a cross-crawl pattern of lifting opposite side arm and leg while extending the back, alternating sides through several repetitions
  2. single leg kick–the subject’s back arched, supporting herself with forearms on the floor, flexing one foot then the other in a repeating pattern
  3. double leg kick–the subject moving from head and shoulders down and knees bent, to her back fully arched and arms extended behind her, and then back to head down/knees bent in an alternating manner

The results showed that the greatest activity of lumbar paraspinal muscles (an indicator of more efficient strengthening and stability) occurred in the swimming or cross-crawl pattern.  This study confirms that, at least for strengthening and stabilizing the low back, a cross-crawl pattern is superior to same-sided (ipsilateral) movements, or contracting both sides together.  Why?

Cross-Crawl Pattern

It’s because the cross-crawl pattern actually simulates the way we move.  Muscles of the low back and pelvis fire in an alternating pattern, going from glut to opposite side paraspinals to same side paraspinals, in that order.  When we become lax or de-conditioned in this region–watch out!–chronic low back pain.  In fact, studies show that weak paraspinal muscles are a good indicator of future low back pain.

This study’s upside is that we have a good indication of which movements of the lumbar spine are most functional–again, the cross-crawl.  The downside is, we don’t know if Pilates mat exercises are more effective than using the Roman chair or machines.  My feeling is they are–Pilates mat exercises most closely resemble our natural movements; this leads me to believe that the exercises done in the natural lumbar range of motion will have the greatest contractile strength, and thus the greatest increase in the endurance of the muscles.  Although the Roman chair and machines undoubtedly strengthen low back muscles, the very nature of their low-functionality (we don’t really do those movements naturally) probably makes them poor endurance building exercises comparatively.

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