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Posts for category: Foundational Health

By Dr. Doug Williams
April 16, 2019

Last week, we talked about three ways to nourish the nervous system:

  1. Physical Activation
  2. Mental Activation
  3. Reducing Mechanical Distortion

This week, we are going to concentrate specifically on Physical Activation.

Physically Activating the Nervous System is Progressive

One of the most amazing things about the nervous system, and our body in general, is that if it is de-conditioned, it doesn’t take much stimulus to effect a change! That’s good news if yours has been down for awhile, whether from injury or life just getting in the way.

IF YOU HAVEN’T BE DOING MUCH, ALL YOU HAVE TO DO IS SOMETHING!


Go out and take a walk, go an extra lap at the grocery store, or throw the ball for the dog at the park. It will start to turn things on in your brain. As you become more comfortable with activity itself, progress to incorporate more specific stimulus.

The Nerve System Likes Timing

One of the major players in the central nerve system (brain and spinal cord) is the cerebellum. Originally, the cerebellum was thought to only modify movement. As research progressed, its role in timing was discovered: the cerebellum is what allows you to “keep time or a beat” catch a ball or dance effectively.

What has come to the forefront recently is the role the cerebellum plays in organizing thought, memory, and learning. In some cases, it has been dubbed a Supervised Learning Machine. The implications of this are huge. It is possible that activating the cerebellum (which is best done by physical activity) may help such diverse conditions as ADHD and Dementia.

How do you involve the cerebellum in exercise?

  • Playing Catch
  • Bouncing a Ball
  • Skipping and Hopping, 
  • Balancing on one foot
  • Marching in place
  • Aiming (throwing darts, playing pool, golf) 
  • Skipping rope
  • Walking/running
  • Tennis / pickle-ball / ping-pong

The Nerve System Likes Variety!

The fact that our nervous systems really are “learning machines” is both good and bad. You really don’t want to have to re-learn how to walk everyday – that would really slow life down! On the other hand, when we have really grooved a pattern or motion, it loses its ability to stimulate and activate our nerve system effectively and our return on investment for the time we spend exercising is diminished.

There are several ways to combat this:

  1. Periodization
  2. Progression

Periodization is a concept found in athletics. Rather than training the same way year-round, you cycle your training in order to keep your system from growing stagnant. There is a nice article on this by the American Council on Exercise.

Progression is pretty much what you would think: going from easy to hard, or simple to complex. It is applied for the same reason: to keep your system fresh and capable of growing!

Let’s look at an example of applying these two concepts to a nervous system exercise like walking: You start out in March with a walking program since you haven’t really done much over the winter. Walking is good because it is easy to progress, rhythmic, and can be done just about anywhere.

March / April: You start walking around your neighborhood for 20 minutes every other evening 3-5 times per week at an easy pace.

May /June: The weather is getting nicer so you increase your walking to 30 minutes and try to hit 6 days per week still at a moderate pace.

July / August: It is starting to get hot and you are getting a little tired of the routine, so you switch to walking every other day (3 days per week) for 30 minutes, but now you really push the pace by alternating a really fast pace, while passing three houses, followed by a moderate pace for three houses.

September / October: It is starting to cool off and the trees are beautiful. You keep the 3x/week interval sessions you did during the summer, but you add in an hour-long walk on weekends at Happy Hollow Park (hills!) at a moderate pace.

November / December: You plan on doing a 5K Turkey Trot on Thanksgiving, so you sign up and talk your spouse or a friend into doing it with you. You know you are going to eat more in December, so you make a pact with your spouse or friend that you will walk six days a week through December for at least 20 minutes and keep doing Happy Hollow on weekends up until Christmas.

January / February: It is cold and icy outside, but the mall is empty, so you try to hit the mall 3x/week for 30 minutes and get back to the interval training (walk fast past Cinnabon, moderate pace past GNC).

GO YOU!


You just completed a year of stimulating your nervous system! Throw in other things like golf, Frisbee, shooting a basketball, or playing catch with the kids/grandkids, and you are well on your way to activating the nervous system year-round.

Dr. Sue Activating Her Nervous System and Living The Final Four Dream!

There are infinite ways to physically activate your nervous system. The most important thing is to just go ahead and get out and do it! Don’t wait, head out the door after reading this blog post, even for just 5 minutes, you won’t be sorry!

Next week, we will talk about the value of mentally activating your nervous system and some practical ways to incorporate it into your daily life.

Yours in Health,

Care Chiropractic
Lafayette, Indiana

If you are just joining us, we are wrapping up our series on Secrets From The Vault. We started out this year looking at some real world ideas and applications for getting and staying healthy that include:

  • Diet
  • Rest 
  • Exercise 
  • Sound Nervous System

We explored the concepts of Margin and Built-ins as a way to consistently integrate good habits before going on and looking at some of the biggest bang for the buck approaches to stress reduction, diet, and exercise.

Fittingly for a chiropractor, I am going to wrap things up over the next few weeks by looking at what it means to have a sound nervous system!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Nervous System is Made Up of Many Blocks

For purposes of study, the nervous system is often divided up into different sections:

  • Brain and Spinal Cord
  • Peripheral Nerve System (everything outside the spinal cord)
  • Autonomic Nerve System (portions that regulate automatic activities in the body like breathing, digestion, etc.)
  • Motor Nerve System
  • Sensory Nerve System

In addition, it has long been recognized that the nervous system is more than just a series of chemical reactions and cells. We, as humans, have cognitive thought that is driven by our perception of the world around us.

If you want a healthy nervous system, you have to address all of these, not just one!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nourishing the Nervous System

Nourishing the nervous system is a balancing act. Push it too hard and you can burn it out, under-stimulate it, and it will atrophy. We will be exploring how to keep it healthy through three lenses:

  1. Physical Activation
  2. Mental Activation
  3. Reducing Mechanical Distortion

While these aren’t the only factors involved in health maintenance of this “Master System,” they do represent areas we haven’t covered yet in previous posts: how you eat, how much exercise you get, and the quality of your rest can all impact how healthy your nervous system can be!

Take some time over the next few weeks to consider the other posts in this series and work on integrating the concepts and ideas. They will help you as you move into designing a program to care for one of your most valuable assets.

Next time, we will go over specific (and easy ways) to plug in and charge up your brain and nerve system health.

Yours in Health,

Care Chiropractic
Lafayette, Indiana

M.E.D. Exercise (Part 2)

Thanks for joining us this week for our blog series on getting and staying healthy in a reasonable and sustainable fashion.

There is no one exercise that is best for everyone. What is an enjoyable exercise to one person may turn out to be a suffer-fest to another! You may hate running and I might find hours of yard work (yes, that does count as exercise) mind-numbing, but that is okay! Last week, we talked about how exercise must involve work in order to effect a change in our bodies, but doesn’t necessarily have to involve struggle. We also saw that, if you find something you enjoy doing, even the “work” portion of exercise can be enjoyable!

While there is no single exercise that fits all, there are two basic movement patterns that are consistent in almost all types of exercise:

  1. Alternating Cross Crawl
  2. Core Transfer

When these two fundamental patterns are strong and established, it not only protects one from injury in exercise, but in daily life as well.

Alternating Cross Crawl… aka, Walking!

The cross crawl movement pattern is one of the earliest purposeful motions we make as humans. Babies crawl! This activity of using the opposite arm and leg is essential in developing coordination, the transfer of strength from the larger pelvic muscles of the lower body to the upper, and for getting us places. We start out crawling as infants and, within a few short months, we are walking.

If you think about it, we also judge aging in part by the decline in the ability to walk and hold a strong walking posture. Walking has been related to a myriad of health benefits from back health to brain health. Walking is also one of the easiest, quickest and cheapest way to stimulate the heart and cardiovascular health. It really is fundamental to human experience and health!

Recently, I have been reading several books by Stuart McGill, PhD. He is one of the most well-respected and published researchers on conservative treatment (non surgical) of the spine. He is a big advocate of walking for back health. When searching for a synopsis on his approach to walking, I came across this great summary article at Fitness 4 Back Pain. In it, the author detailed several key points about how to walk:

  1. Stand tall with your chest out
  2. Walk briskly (not a stroll) with good arm swing
  3. Walk often

Finally, if you are limited by pain or fatigue:

         4. Stop Before You Have To

Inevitably, when I am giving exercise as part of a treatment plan, people always want to know how fast, long, and often they should walk. The reality is, if you aren’t doing it at all, even 12 minutes is going to do you some good.  Start where you are and add a minute or two each time you go out. After you get to about 30 minutes, start to increase your speed. Once you get one session a day for 30 minutes at a good clip, try adding a second session for 15 minutes, or expand your 30 minutes session to 45. Alternatively, you could find a hill to walk up and down! Walking is infinitely variable and can be done just about anywhere. Try to get in at least one session a day.

Planking for a Solid Base (Core Transfer)

The single best exercise I have seen for stabilizing the core of our bodies is called a plank. Planking is actually not just a board on a walkway, but I thought you would like this picture better than the ones that are going to follow of me doing an exercise called the plank!

Seriously though, there is some corollary to the picture above and planks. Imagine walking across the field pictured above in the wet spring time without the boardwalk – you would be slipping and sliding, back and forth, and a lot of your energy would be going in directions other than to propel you forward. Now, imagine yourself walking the same (wet) field, only this time you are on the boardwalk. With a firm foundation, more of your energy goes into propelling you forward in the direction you want to go. When you have a solid mid-section (back, butt, tummy, and hips), that is exactly what happens – you can more efficiently and effectively transfer the propulsion of your hips through your core to move your body forward!

Planking is done in two positions:


Front Plank

On the floor, brace yourself on your elbows and your knees. Don’t allow your butt to fall below the height of your shoulders and keep your head neutral (not raised up or drooping).

Hold this position for a slow count of six, then relax onto your tummy for six seconds, before pushing back into the up position again.

To start, repeat this six times (six up for six seconds, six down for six seconds).

You can help activate your core by first squeezing your fists, then your butt cheeks together, while holding the up position.


Side Plank

Lay on your side with your knees bent, in-line with your shoulders, hips slightly behind both. Slowly press your hips up toward the ceiling, until they are level with your knees and shoulders. Hold for the count of six before slowly lowering back down to the floor for the count of six. Repeat six times.

Roll over and repeat on the other side for a set of six.

Like the front plank, you can help activate your core by squeezing your fists, then butt cheeks together.

    
Standing Front & Side Plank

The nice thing about the planks is you can do these standing if it is to hard to get down on the floor. This is also a useful posture if you have shoulder problems. The counts are the same.

The further you are away from the wall, the more load on the core. When doing a side plank, place one foot in front of the other (heel to toe). Don’t forget the fists and butt cheeks!

Setting the Bar

You might be reading this blog post and thinking, “Doc, that is too easy,” or you might be thinking, “Man I can’t do that!” Either way, my question to you is: “Are you currently doing any exercise?” If you aren’t, and you think it is too easy, go ahead and start, it shouldn’t be a problem.

If you would like to take the planking exercises up a level, check out this video on McGill’s Big 3. If you aren’t currently exercising and think they may be too hard, I encourage you to give it a try anyway. If you are able to make it work on some level, you can begin to build from there. If you are having pain with the exercises, give me a call and we should be able to determine over the phone if it is just a conditioning issue or if you need to seek care. 

Truth be told, the main reason most of us don’t engage exercise is we just don’t want to take the time. If you decide you want to get going, try working with walking and planking daily or every other day for the next six weeks. I think you will be pleasantly surprised about how just moving through your day gets easier. Let me know how it is working out for you!

Yours In Health,

Care Chiropractic
Lafayette, Indiana

 

Let’s Get Down To Business!

I hope your January is going OK so far. As I write this week’s blog post, I am in Denver visiting my dad. Dr. Sue is back in Indiana and I am really hoping she will have the driveway cleared before I get back tomorrow (Sunday)! We are starting out this year with a short series on realistic ways to get and stay healthy, as opposed to all the quick fixes and miracle results promised around this time of year.

We are going to look at four different parameters:

  • Rest
  • Exercise
  • Sound Nervous System 
  • Diet/Nutrition

Let’s start things off with looking at the impact stress has on a Sound Nervous System.

Healing, Physiology and The Stress Connection

In the early part of the last century, there was a famous medical doctor named Hans Selye. As a young doctor in school and early practice, he was struck by how many disease states were difficult to identify until the later stages of the disease.

Essentially, he found the body's response to most illnesses was fundamentally the same and it wasn't until late in its progression that the body manifested unique, identifiable signs.


In a sense, doctors knew you were sick, but weren’t sure why! This led him to go on and research this topic for many years, and, ultimately, Dr. Selye was one of the pioneers of the impact stress (both positive and negative) has on our health. One of his greatest contributions was the concept of the General Adaptation Syndrome,or G.A.S.

One of the key points of the G.A.S. is our bodies go through stages when they encounter a stressor (illness, death of a loved one, birth of a baby, etc.; Selye didn’t define stress as positive or negative).

Most people have an acute reaction to stress: elevated heart rate, lowered immune response, anxiety, fatigue, aches and pains, maybe catching a cold. If the stressor is short-lived, then the body pretty much recovers as expected.

However, if the stressor is not removed, something very interesting begins to happen. For a period of time (even months), the individual can show signs of recovery and appear to be handling things remarkably well. What is really happening under “the hood” though is they are living off of their stress hormones.

Stress hormones are really made for short bouts of insult and then they need a recovery period to replenish. If the individual never goes into a recovery period, they “burn out” the system. When you burn out the system, you can have a hard crash, resulting in disease states like cancer, ulcers, autoimmune diseases, etc. There is a great review of the G.A.S. in Medical News Today that is well worth the read.

Go Hug A Tree

So, if chronic stress literally “burns out” our nervous system and makes us sick, how do we deal with things like the death of a loved one, the birth of a baby or the loss of a job?

Good Question!


The strain of these events can often impact us well into the future, and, in some cases, our lives will never be the same again. 

Part of the reason I came out to Denver was to go with my dad to his first visit with a new chiropractor, Dr. Jenna. She was a delightful young doctor. She spent a lot of time with my dad getting a full history, part of which included the impact the loss of my brother (his son) and my uncle (his brother) had on his life and health. She proceeded to do a very thorough evaluation of his spine and then gave him an excellent adjustment. At the end of our time, with my dad sitting on a chair and she on the adjusting table, she said “Now, what are we going to do about your stress?” She hadn’t forgotten the conversation earlier and didn’t pass over the impact it could be having on my dad’s health… and, more importantly, she called him to take accountability!

I was very impressed (and a little ashamed at this young doctor addressing things I too easily pass over). My dad talked about a few things he was doing (a Williams family trait: we don’t deal with some of the hard stuff, we just keep soldiering on). Dr. Jenna acknowledged those efforts and, at that point, encouraged my dad to get outside, walk around barefoot (this wasn’t lost on me, as I looked out the window at the snow falling at a rapid rate), and get in contact with nature.

Then she said, “You know… hug a tree!”


Dr. J, you were doing so well! Don’t ruin it!

Now my dad is pretty open minded about a lot (more so than me), but he was ROTC, active duty for six months and in the reserves for awhile. But, outside of a big beard and a gold chain in the 70’s, I wouldn’t have pegged him as the Tree Hugger Type. But, you know what? As I sat there and watched, he nodded… he got it! He recognized his system had been tied up pretty good and he needed to let it unwind in order for his system to take a step toward healing. Good job, Dad, and good job, Dr. Jenna!

Al and Number Two of Four Sons

It was really good to see my dad and catch up with my brothers, family and friends. In fact, it took my stress physiology down a few notches! The visit with my dad to the chiropractor reminded me that healing really is an inside job. We can’t avoid stress in life, but we can counteract and offload it along the way. That starts with recognizing the relationship between stress, and our health and nervous system. Next week, we will cover some ways to offload stress on a regular basis!

Yours in Health,

Care Chiropractic
Lafayette, Indiana

Yeah... Not really. Welcome to 2019, everyone! I have been racking my brain all week on what I was going to cover in this week's blog. Last year, we covered the Paleo Approach to health. You can find that and a host of other useful information (if I do say so myself) on our blog.

At first, I thought I should jump on board the media wagon and do a series on motivation, weight loss, exercise, super foods, detox diets, etc. Don't get me wrong, I love reading about that stuff as much as the next guy! But, like most of you, I either don't stay with it long enough to see results, or find it isn't all as cracked up to do or be as advertised. So, as much as I would like to bring you the next big thing in health and wellness, I can't. But I don't think anyone else can either!

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Instead of ripping off the latest headlines that over-promise and under-deliver, we are going to dive into a New Year's Health Series with a practical framework that is realistic and scientifically sound.

I know that doesn’t sound really exciting, so, to make it sound just a little bit sexier, I am going to call it:

Health Secrets from the Vault

 

Each week, over the next few months, I will drop a

SECRET FROM THE VAULT!
 

We will rotate through the four topics I have found over the last 25 years that form a solid foundation for health, optimal physical function, and minimal body pain. We will cover supportive science, as well as practical ideas on how to implement each one.

How About A Hint?

These are the four topics we will be going through:

  • Rest 
  • Exercise
  • Diet
  • Sound Nervous System

At first glance, these don’t sound very tantalizing or profound. They don’t look like they are going to provide any short cuts or dramatic overnight results either, do they? Not only that, but they sound like they might also take a little effort and discipline.

Sometimes You Have To Wash Off The Dog Before She Can Come In The House!

This is our dog, Maisey. If you have been getting this newsletter for awhile, you have seen her wander through the pages from time to time. She is an awesome dog: she catches the Frisbee, walks without a leash, doesn’t bark much, and comes when called. She does, however, have a few bad habits. One of them is rolling in stinky stuff. You don’t always know what it is, but you always know you need to get it off, if she is going to come inside! That’s the way getting and staying healthy works:

Sometimes it is messy, sometimes it takes work, sometimes it is inconvenient… but, in the long run, IT IS WORTH IT!


Stay with us over the next few months – I think you’ll find it’s worth it on many levels. You may not lose 100 pounds or add 100 years to your life, but I’ll bet you’ll feel better and experience more of what life has to offer when you are healthy!

Yours in Health,

Care Chiropractic
Lafayette, Indiana