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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

By Dr. Doug Williams
February 08, 2017
Category: Frailty
Tags: exercise   frailty   nervous system  
 
The Nervous System Lies at the Hub of Frailty

We have been working through a series on Frailty, essentially what happens to our bodies as we age. This material is important for several reasons, not the least of which is, because it is going to affect all of us, if we live long enough, and knowing what is coming can be comforting on some level.

However, more than that, I believe that understanding how we are "fearfully and wonderfully made" allows us to not only appreciate what we have been given in our bodies, but also inspires us to take the best care possible of them.

With that in mind, we have been going over what happens to us over time, but also how to positively impact it. The Nervous System literally and figuratively lies at the center of our life and, ultimately, death.

Components of the Nervous System
 
The Nervous System is structurally broken down into two parts:
  1. Central Nervous System, which is composed of the brain, spinal cord and nerve roots
  2. Peripheral Nervous System, which is composed of the nerves once they leave the spinal cord
The Nervous System is functionally composed of about a million different parts! Okay, maybe not a million, but way more than I am prepared to cover in this material.
 
The most useful model for the functional aspect of the Nervous System is to think of it as a great big feedback mechanism.

It is constantly seeking information through our senses on things like: gravity, position, resistance, stability, sound, smell, sight, temperature, feel, etc., and relaying this to the brain in order for the brain decide what it wants to do next.
 
 
Think of Your Nervous System Like a Submarine
 
Submarines are known for operating on sonar - essentially, making a sound, waiting for the sound wave to bounce off something and return back to the sender. The submarine then could make a decision on whether or not it wanted to go in this direction or that. This is often called pinging.

Pinging is what your nervous system is doing all day long, searching out information from the periphery, relaying it to the brain, deciding what, if anything, to do about what it has found out and then taking action.

Going up a flight of stairs? Your eyes gauge the height of the stairs, your foot tells you if the surface is smooth like wood or has resistance like carpet, your heart rate and blood pressure increase (via messages from the nervous system) as you ascend and relay information to the brain in order to make a decision if you need to stop and rest halfway up or not.

Most of this happens automatically without you thinking about it... until it doesn't! Then, you have a problem - you might slip, stumble and fall, or catch yourself.

The interesting thing is that failures in the feedback mechanism happen at both ends of the age spectrum - a 2-year old learning to negotiate the stairs has some of the same issues as an 82-year old might - and for the same reason: The Nervous System is Not Completely Plugged In!

Often times, our physical "Pinging and Processing" can parallel our cognitive (ability to think and reason) "Pinging and Processing." In other words, our brains can slow to match our bodies!

This presents some very interesting possibilities. For instance, if you train the body, will the brain follow suit?
 
 
Train the Body, Train the Brain!
 
An interesting study published in JAMA (Journal of the American Medical Association) in 2004 looked at over 18,000 women between the ages of 70-81 and their activity levels, specifically walking. The study found that, not only was there a 20% difference in cognitive function (brain activation), but that their cognitive function was related, in part, on a dose basis: the more active they were, the better off they were!

This is only one of many articles you can find on physical activity and the role it plays in keeping the brain healthy. Really, keeping the brain healthy is a reciprocal action, just like our sonar example from the submarine. The more information you can process, the more likely you are to get up and process it; rinse and repeat!

Another article published in JAMA in 2008 studied elderly individuals with memory issues but had not met the criteria for Alzheimer's. 138 people completed this study that split the group into two: half did what was considered an "educational and usual care program" and the other half did a "24 week at-home physical activity program." The "educational and usual care program" showed deterioration over the study time - they actually lost ground. In contrast, the "at-home physical activity group" not only didn't lose ground, but they showed improvement!

Components of accessing the nervous system for frailty include:
  • Gait: how well and how much you can walk
  • Balance: a measure of strength and coordination
  • Strength: a measure of how well you recruit your muscles to do a task; this can be a quantity and quality issue
Doesn't that sound a lot like exercise? It sure does to me! Once again, we find ourselves back at the basic premise that we were born to move and, when we stop moving, we stop living (maybe not all at once, but progressively, in both body and mind)!

Training movement has a lot of components, but at the heart of it is this concept:

GET UP AND DO SOMETHING... ANYTHING!
 
A good place to start would be our blog series on getting out of a chair. It has some simple step-by-step exercises for strengthening your glutes, the biggest muscles in your body.
 
Whew! Well, I hope you have gotten something out of our series on Frailty. Next week, we will wrap it up and pull everything together. The last portion of the theory on Frailty is called Integrative, I think you will like it!

Until then,
Get Up and Do Something!

Doug Williams, D.C.
Care Chiropractic
Lafayette, Indiana

PS: Don't forget to visit our new blog page at Doug Williams, DC - there is lots of great stuff to explore!
By Dr. Doug Williams
January 17, 2017
Category: Frailty

We are on the backside of a series on Frailty, the study of how the systems of the body work together and what happens when they stop. In addition (and more importantly) - how you can slow, stop and, in some cases, reverse these changes to live your life as long and full as possible.

This week we are going to be talking about the Musculoskeletal System, one of my favorites! You might suppose I like it so much, because it forms the bread and butter of my livelihood as a chiropractor, and you wouldn't be totally wrong! However, the real reason I like it so much is that this system out of all of them reacts the quickest and with amazing changes, with just a little bit of stimulus, a little bit goes a long way!

This system is made up of the frame work (bones and joints) and the engine that moves them (muscles). It is the "hardware" to the Nervous Systems "software," which we will talk about next week.

Sarcopenia: The Technical Term for Age-Related Muscle Loss

About now, you are probably trying to figure out why there is a picture of old cigarette butts in a tree stump as a caption for this section. Well, I am going to tell you: The best example of age-related muscle loss I can think of is when older men lose their bottom muscles. Their waist might continue to expand, but their pants get saggy in the rear! Do you know how hard it is to find a picture of an older man's pants on the copyright-free picture websites? You can't! The closest I came was when I typed in "Old Butts" and this picture came up. So, the next time you see an older guy (or gal) with saggy pants or some cigarette butts, think about age-related muscle loss or sarcopenia!

There are a number of reasons why we lose muscle as we age:
  • Hormonal (sex hormone levels drop)
  • Inflammation 
  • Neurological (stimulus to the muscles decrease)
  • Poor Nutrition
  • Decreased Activity Levels
Declining muscle mass has been associated with a number of different health and disease states, most notably, diabetes, fall risk and weak fragile bones. In addition, diabetes is associated with a multitude of other issues including issues of inflammation (heart disease, neurological conditions). From a more practical standpoint, strong muscles allow you to do more of what you want for longer!
 
 
It All Comes Down To The Glutes!

In recent years, a simple test has been developed to determine how long someone will live: The Sitting Rising Test. Click the link to not only see it demonstrated, but to get some great background on why it is so important and some easy to do exercises to improve your test score. Basically, the Sitting Rising Test identifies how easy it is for you to get off the ground and correlates that to how long you will live - kind of scary! The main muscle that drives you up off the ground are your glute muscles, otherwise known as your bottom-behind-butt-derriere, you get the idea! We actually did a whole blog series, not only on the Sitting Rising Test, but also on how to begin to engage the glute muscles to improve your outcome on this test. If you are serious about getting stronger, this is the place to start. If your base isn't strong, everything else is going to perform poorly as well! You can check out the series called Get Your Butt Off The Ground here.

There are so many things in life that you can't control: genetics, accidents and, to some degree, stress. But one thing you can control is how often and how intensely you activate muscles and which ones. If the only muscle you have been activating lately is your bicep when bringing your fork to your mouth, try something new and get working on your backside!  Along the way, you might find that you feel better, move better, reduce your risks of falls, improve your blood sugar levels and maybe flat out live longer!

Next week, we are going to be talking about the software that runs your hardware: the Nerve System!

Until Then,

Doug Williams, D.C.
Care Chiropractic
Lafayette, Indiana

These days, it seems like you can't turn around without bumping into someone who has Carpal Tunnel Syndrome or is on their way in for carpal tunnel surgery. If you are like me, you may, at times, have wondered if you have or have had Carpal tunnel syndrome yourself! In today's blog post, we are going to review what Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS for short) is, some practical ways to treat it and when you might want to consider surgical intervention.

The Carpal tunnel is composed of the bones on the back side of the wrist (carpal bones) and the transverse carpal ligament on the inside. The median nerve and nine flexor tendons (tendons from muscles that cause your fingers and wrist to curl) run through the middle. When the fingers and wrist are used in a neutral (non-bent) fashion, the flexor tendons glide along the tunnel walls, lubricated by their own fluid. However, using the wrist and fingers repetitively in a flexed (bent-forward inclination) posture can set off a cascade of events that creates CTS. Therein lies the rub... LITERALLY!

Continuous use of the wrist and fingers in a flexed posture does the following:

  • Creates an over-development of the flexor tendons (making them larger)

  • Creates a relative weakness of the extensor tendons (the opposing muscle group that would normally keep the wrist and fingers in a neutral inclination)

  • Increases fluid retention and inflammation in and about the Carpal tunnel

  • Causes fluid pressure on the median nerve, which produces the classic presentation of CTS

The Median nerve is the nerve that is impacted by compression of the Carpal tunnel. Though you can have wrist and forearm pain from a number of different sources, if it originates from CTS, you will have some pretty characteristic symptoms:

  1. Numbness along the thumb, index, middle and half of the ring finger

  2. Tapping over the wrist (palm side) will often give a shooting sensation into the same area, as described in number one above

  3. Placing the back of the hands together with the wrists bent at ninety degrees can also increase the numbness

  4. Shaking the hands can often relieve the symptoms for a short time

  5. In long standing conditions, a weakness in the muscles of the thumb and index finger can develop leading to an inability to grasp or hold onto items

What To Do?

First the bad news: Personally, I have had the privilege of working on a number of patients over the years who either had or were on their way to getting CTS. Typically, the ones who had constant numbness and or weakness were beyond conservative measures, and ended up with surgery.

But there is good news:  More often than not, those that did go in for CTS surgery did well, as long as it was not too far along (mostly aggressive muscle weakness). In addition, those patients who were not too advanced in the syndrome were often able to put surgery off, sometimes indefinitely!

The keys to keeping CTS from progressing, and possibly reversing its effects, revolve around balancing the relationship between the flexor muscles (those that close the hand and flex the wrist) and the extensor muscles (those that open the hand and extend the wrist) by focusing on the following:
  1. Stretch the flexor muscles of the wrist and fingers.

  2. Strengthen the extensor muscles of the wrist and fingers.

This can be done fairly easily with an exercise band or even a rubber band. The key to this approach is repetition - just as CTS doesn't "show up" overnight, neither will it go away instantly. You are really reforming the connective tissue in your wrist and forearm - it is a very specific workout program designed to reverse the cumulative effects of years of abnormal movement.

Typically, we encourage people to stretch and do their exercises three times per day, everyday for three months, before deciding this approach will not work for them. In addition to stretching and strengthening, two other things can be useful: a nighttime splint that keeps the wrist neutral, and vitamin B6. Both of these can reduce inflammation and help the nerve tissue heal itself.
 

 

Over the last month, we have posted multiple blog posts about conditions that impact the head, neck and wrist. We are completing a short video that will include demonstrations on neck and shoulder stretches, home trigger point therapy for problem muscles, and CTS stretches and exercises. Watch your email over the next week for the link!

Until then,
Eat well, think right and move a lot!


Dr. Doug Williams
Care Chiropractic
Lafayette, Indiana