Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Pillow Talk

One of my favourite memories involves an Austrian bed and a good .... pillow.  Isn't sleeping fabulous!  When I am about to sleep the last thing I want to be concerned with is comfort but unfortunately for many people a lack of pillow comfort literally keeps them up at night. 

Environmental balance is a key to health and the pillow you chose to sleep on is a major factor in how well your neck performs and how long it lasts.  In my life I have tried many pillows and there are a few key factors to remember in your search for pillows. 

I remember when I was little I probably had the thinest pillow available and luckily, for my neck that is, I am a back sleeper.  Sleeping position is another topic altogether, but a hint I will tell you is that sleeping on your stomach is a little bit like biting a bottle cap off with your teeth.  When it cracks or doesn't feel great, don't be surprised. 

Regarding pillows I would like to address three things: Spinal Health, Pillows and Pain.  How can you minimize your pain by choosing the right pillow so that you can optimize your spinal health?

The first thing we need to understand is that back pain is the most common condition managed in primary care and is one of the most common causes of disability in Western society. (BMJ 2008;337:a884), (Waddell G, Aylward M, Sawney P. Back pain, incapacity for work and social security benefits: an international literature review and analysis. London: Royal Society of Medicine Press, 2002), (Andersson G. Epidemiological features of chronic low-back pain. Lancet1999;354:581-5.)

Anything we can do to fight back pain is good not only for our health and economy, but it just makes life feel a little sweeter not to hurt.

In April 2009 a Consumer Reports survey found that about 80 percent of the adults surveyed had been bothered by back pain at some point.  More than half of those that were experiencing back pain but had never had surgery said that the pain severely limited their daily routine for a week or longer, while 88 percent said it recurred throughout the year. Lower-back pain disrupts many aspects of life; in the survey 46 percent said that it interfered with their sleep, 31 percent reported that it thwarted their efforts to maintain a healthy weight, and 24 percent said that it hampered their sex life.

One key to spinal health is sleep. Your sleep environment typically involves at least 3 things: a bed, some covers and a pillow.

Today the topic is pillows and if you are confused about pillows you aren’t alone. The right pillow won’t necessarily solve all of your sleep problems but choosing the right pillow can make your night and the next day a lot more comfortable.

In my office many people tell me about pain that began at some time during their sleep. While there are many reasons why this pain may begin, having the right pillow is a good first step toward a restful and comfortable sleep.

There are many options in the pillow world but we are going to choose 3 pillows today to focus on…. foam pillows, down pillows and water pillows. You may have heard of and found a friend in a plastic, gel or buckwheat pillow but by addressing foam, down and water pillows we hope you will gain an understanding of the critical factors that are needed to create a good pillow experience.

Foam pillows are your typical pillow. They are available in most stores that carry pillows and create a soft support that lifts your head off of the bed to allow room for your shoulders (if you are on your side) and room for your airway if you are on your back. These are found in many different styles of foam from basic foam to moldable foam. They are great for those without problems but the challenge with them is creating a truly customized fit.

Down pillows seem to be the cat-nip of the pillow world. They are what many people love but their necks hate. Down is fluffy and soft but doesn’t hold its shape and therefore quickly loses the support necessary for your shoulders and airway. This lack of support can create a strain on the neck that many people unknowingly suffer from, making them more susceptible to injury.

Water pillows are a pillow that marry water and foam to allow the support necessary for the shoulder and airway but also the adjustability required for the different body types we all have.

Rules for Pillows:

1. Adjustability – your pillow should be able to be modified over time to make a comfortable, custom fit.

2. Support – if you are a side sleeper you will need more support and therefore a thicker pillow than if you are a back sleeper.

3. Natural position – your pillow should create a situation where your head is still in proper balance with your body. You shouldn’t be reaching for your pillow and your pillow should also not be pushing you away.

4. Persistent pain needs professional help. Don’t throw your money away on a pillow collection, if you are having challenges get some assistance from a spinal care professional that you trust.

Remember if you have been through a number of pillows in your life and can’t find one that is comfortable it probably isn’t the pillow. The old, “it’s not you it’s me” concept works well here.

Don’t throw your money away, if you have tried more than 3 pillows in the last year and are still not comfortable, consult a professional. In our office 90% of people with neck pain report a significant improvement after just a handful of visits. Get an appropriate pillow by following our simple rules but if that doesn’t work chose a professional that you trust to help guide you.

Pillows that I recommend can be found at:

Chiroflow Water Pillow  http://www.chiroflow.com/
The Perfect Pillow Co    http://www.perfectpillow.com/ (buckwheat)

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Mental Balance - Goal Setting

I was born of a goal.  Not that I myself was the goal although I am told there was some celebration.  At the very least, it was a big day for me!  I was born at a time when fathers weren't allowed in the delivery room.  The thing was, my dad wanted to be in that delivery room and when he was told he wasn't allowed, that didn't work for him.  During my rapid expansion time, my parent worked towards a goal of both of them being present for my birth.  They achieved that goal, although in a different city, and in addition to receiving lots of newspaper coverage for their fight they had a story to tell me growing up.  From a very early age I knew that goals could be accomplished when set and that a 'no' didn't always hold up to the persistence of determined people.

As the end of the year approaches a some people will chose to set goals for the New Year and many determined people will accomplish them. 

My earliest memory of personal goal setting is as an 8 year old.  Months before I turned 9, I accomplished my first goal which was to get a paper-route delivering the Sarnia Observer.  To accomplish this goal I began to follow and assist the current holder of this prestigious position, a red haired 'older boy' whose name currently escapes me.  I helped him for a year always talking, as I am bound to do, to him about how wonderful having this paper-route must be.  When this pre-teen eventually retired he graciously recommended me as his replacement!   According to my new supervisor, I was, the youngest paperboy ever to be hired by the Observer but the red-haired boy had given me a spectacular reference and on that boy's recommendation I was to be allowed to take the job.

As I began to rake in the financial rewards of my labour, my parents wisely suggested that I save my income for something special.   As I have many family members in Holland, my goal was that in the summer of my 10th year I would have enough money to buy a ticket to Amsterdam.  My plan was to travel there by myself and stay with family.  During the summer of 1983 that goal was accomplished and not only did I buy that ticket and have spending money left over,  I also had enough money to buy a few extra items specifically a Walkman and a stereo for my room. 

I tell these stories to help illustrate a point that most of us will know which is that what happens to you in your early life will often dictate your paradigm for future potential.  As we grow we develop this awareness of ourselves and what is possible.  We too infrequently revisit these belief systems.  Paraphrasing Ayn Rand, you don't have the choice as to whether or not to have a philosophy of life; you only can choose whether you want to consciously choose that philosophy. So, choose wisely as your life and your happiness literally depends on it.

For many years I set goals for myself personally and professionally in my mind but not formally.  In 2009 I decided to formalize that process and began to interview friends of mine that I knew to be goal setters about their processes.  Why re-invent the wheel right?  I attended seminars on the topic and finally set goals for myself using a structure that I found to be very helpful.  So for those of you who would like to set goals for the New Year but aren't sure how, here is that structure.
Use these nine areas to brainstorm goals for next year.
1 - Personal Health/ Physical, 2 - Family, 3 – Business/Job Optimization, 4 - Financial Sophistication, 5 – Professional/Societal Contribution, 6 - Spiritual, 7 - Social, 8 - Mental, 9 - Vacation/adventure/toys

Try to have at least one goal in each category and the idea is to have up to 100 goals in total. Some of the goals should have one year timelines while others should be 5 year, 10 year or lifetime goals. The longer range goals should be reviewed annually.

To set your goals find a half an hour of personal time, in a location where you feel powerful and content but that you don’t have distractions. Brainstorm for the half hour and then carry this sheet around with you for a week making additions or changes on it. Ideally you would read it over at least once in the morning and once before sleep so that you can keep your sub-conscious active on it.

Once you have set your goals, then the action steps begin. Choose from your annual goals and create timelines for completion. Punctuate that timeline with both rewards and consequences relating to each of them. The rewards and consequences part should be both exciting and scary, while simultaneously being fairly equal in the amount of pleasure/displeasure they will bring you.

The idea is simple, take the time to figure out what you want and you will be much more likely to achieve it. Let things come as they may and you leave it up to the universe, perhaps it will still work out but that becomes relatively much less likely.

Until next time, I hope you found this helpful.  This article is written to address and assist you with your mental balance.  In our practice we believe that your body is intelligent and with a proper balance in the critical areas of your mind, your body, your chemistry and your environment, you will be as healthy as you can be.

Have fun,


Sunday, October 31, 2010

Don't forget to breathe

Breathing is such an essential part of our daily lives, we can at times forget how important it is to breathe properly. Breathing is how you fill your blood with oxygen to allow your cells to function properly and breathing is also how you get rid of dangerous metabolic waste products such as carbon dioxide.

As automatic as breathing is, you may be unaware of your poor breathing habit and what it is doing to your health. Improper breathing makes your cells overly sensitive because they can’t function properly. As your cells are stressed and you have a hard time making use of the energy stored in your body’s cells you will experience an increased level of anxiety, fatigue and pain. This lack of oxygen at the cellular level is why smokers will experience pain more significantly than non-smokers.

Chest breathers overuse neck and rib muscles instead of using the powerful muscles naturally designed for breathing - the diaphragm and abdominal muscles. As upper cervical (NUCCA) chiropractic practitioners we see neck and chest muscles stressed because they are not designed for this sort of constant use, contributing to greater muscle fatigue and pain. This is why poor breathing techniques can result in you seeing us more often. Very simply the first one third of your breath should come from your chest and the last two thirds should come from your abdomen. Try it, feel the ease with which you can take a deep breath. Relaxing isn’t it?

Stress, poor posture or ill-fitting clothing can also cause us to breathe shallowly. A few minutes of daily deep breathing exercises can help your body absorb more oxygen and function more effectively. More oxygen to the cells means your body can function more efficiently as energy is more easily used. More oxygen to the cells simply means less pain. You will find your body is more alert, mentally and physically.

By doing something as simple as consciously modifying your breathing, you can immediately get health benefits like increased energy and alertness, improved blood circulation, and reduced stress and pain. All these benefits come from simply breathing properly.

There are many different breathing methods but one of the easiest and most effective methods that we have found is called the rule of 7’s. Remember this is not for relaxation so isn’t necessarily easy but it is a simple breathing exercises that you can practice every once in a while (hopefully multiple times a day).

Practice this breathing exercise by getting into a comfortable position, palms facing up, shoulders back, with your chest open. Breathe in and slowly count to seven, hold your breath for seven seconds, and exhale for seven seconds, repeat seven times.

Regular relaxation breathing controls the production of stress hormones in the body, helping to manage stress and anxiety. There are many ways we can incorporate deep breathing into our routine: pilates, yoga, meditation, aerobic exercises, and even vocal training. With all of the benefits, we should consider regular deep breathing exercises throughout the day for improved health and vitality.

Rule of 7’s Exercise

• Find a comfortable position. Palms up, shoulders back and down, chest open.
• Inhale slowly to the count of seven. Only the first one third of the inhale should come from the chest. Feel the belly expand outward as the diaphragm pushes down. Keep inhaling and fill your whole body with air.
• Hold that breath to the count of seven.
• Exhale slowly to the count of seven. As the air is slowly let out, relax your chest and rib cage. Begin to pull your belly in to force out the remaining breath.
• Close your eyes, and concentrate on your Breathing.
• Repeat the breathing cycle seven times.
• Note: If you get light headed reduce the count to a number you can handle (Rule of 3’s). If it seems easy and you want a challenge increase the number (Rule of 14’s)

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Headaches and the upper cervical spine

People experience physical stress to their bodies every day.  Some of these stresses are small and seemingly insignficant like the force your body absorbs as you drive on a rough road.  Some hurt and are potentially signficant, like falling off a playground set.  How many times did you do that in your life?  Others, like car accidents, are obviously significant... the question is what to do?  

The human body can absorb a certain amount of physical stress but when the stress is too great, just like with a broken bone, the stress becomes a trauma and the body becomes injured.  Some injuries are obvious and the treatment is clear.  What happens when the injury isn't apparent to the person and when the body can't comfortably compensate any further? 

This is the story of a woman that came to our office with no apparent reason for experiencing pain.  Yet, on a daily basis she did, she suffered and didn't know what to do until a friend told her to come and see us.  When I examined her it was apparent that her upper neck had been exposed to trauma.  This was evident in the tenderness and tension in the tissues, her postural challenges and her x-rays.   She chose to begin care..... thank goodness!

A 45 year-old woman came to our office hoping to find relief from headaches that she had been experiencing twice a week for the past few years. Her headaches had become more frequent recently, and she rated the intensity of her pain at an 8/10, with a 10/10 being the worst pain she could imagine. Her headaches would begin in the afternoon and were usually gone the next day but activity would make them worse. At the end of her initial 8-week period of care she told us that she had not experienced a single headache since her first NUCCA upper cervical adjustment. One year following her first adjustment it was reported that the headaches were still 90% better.

This is a story that is repeated these days in our office about a hundred times a year.  People don't need to suffer they just don't know what to do or who to turn to for help.  People come to us for all sorts of different headaches.  The thing they have in common is that they have experienced a trauma to their upper neck and they may not even have known it.  When people come to us talking about suffering from global, sinus, tension, jaw, eye, temporal, base of skull, side of head, top of head and pressure headaches we do our best to help. 

There is hope and a few years ago I decided to look back over my practice and audit files.  When we did this we found that 166 people with these kinds of headaches completed the initial 6-8 weeks of care in our office between February 2002 and August 2004.

Of these 166 patients, 105 (63%) reported a 70-100% decrease in discomfort, and only 18 (11%) reported no change in their complaint within 8 weeks of their first upper cervical adjustment (14 people (8%) had a 10-40%% improvement and 29 people (17%) had a 70-100% improvement).

These statistics are tremendous!  The upper cervical spine needs to be addressed as a first step in the health care relating to those suffering from headaches.   Check out the 'Patient Experiences' tab on http://www.drscholten.com/ to see more of these kinds of statistics for issues from lower back pain to ear ringing to digestive challenges.  The results are astounding and many of those people suffering right now don't need to....

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Thoughts on health

Many people value health but few have developed a plan on how to optimize it. An intelligent plan is necessary and by balancing the Keys to Health we can help you create that plan for yourself.

We honour your inborn healing potential and recognize that you have an innate intelligence that is in charge and promotes self-healing. Without interference you have a tendency to be healthy.

When we experience trauma whether physical, mental or chemical that natural tendency towards health can be interfered with. When our body’s ability to self-heal is interrupted we must remove the interference before optimal health can return.

Health comes from the full expression of your innate intelligence with the proper attention to the Keys to Health: Body Balance, Chemical Balance, Mental Balance, and Environmental Balance.