Author: Cristina Agatep

Lower Back Pain – Degenerative Disc Disease

Despite the seemingly alarming name, degenerative disc disease (DDD) is one of the most common causes for lower back pain. It is not strictly considered a disease, as most everyone has some form of disc degeneration as they age, but depending on the condition, the symptoms may flare up more often and intensely than others.

The spine is built up of segments of bone, each called vertebrae, with intervertebral discs in between, acting as a shock-absorbing ‘cushion’ to protect the vertebrae from damage. These discs are made of two structures: the nucleus pulposus, a jelly-like substance in the middle of the disc that absorbs shock, and the annulus fibrosis, the external fibres that keep the nucleus pulposus intact. A healthy disc is thick and flexible, but over time it becomes thinner as the nucleus pulposus leaks through the disc and annulus fibrosis, leading to a decreased ability to absorb shock within the backbone, causing pain. As we age, the disc also becomes more rigid and dehydrated, which creates a lesser range of movement.

 

Many people with DDD do live without pain, however, symptoms are fairly common and vary from patient to patient, depending on a variety of factors including fitness level, age, lifestyle, or the presence of an injury. The pain can flare up lasting for days or months before returning to baseline levels. It can be related to certain activities such as bending, twisting, and sitting down, and it can even disable a person, albeit rare. For some people, the pain may radiate from your back to your legs or shoulders.

If you are living with back pain, modifying your daily activities to better support and lessen the strain on your back can be a step toward improving your physical health. Lessen activities that require too much lifting, bending, and twisting, or learn proper ergonomics to put the least strain on the back. Exercise such as low-impact cardio (e.g. swimming), stretching programs, and exercises that strengthen your back and core can also provide a lot of support, given that they are completed properly. Avoid sitting for long periods at a time, as it puts a lot of weight on your lumbar region, and read our recent blog post on sleeping positions that help and harm your back.

For those suffering from debilitating back pain, a chiropractor can diagnose the condition, provide treatment, and offer professional advice on how to properly live and relieve these symptoms. Make an appointment with a Rupert Health Centre chiropractor today!

 

Your First Chiropractic Appointment

Chiropractors can work wonders for those suffering from musculoskeletal or joint pain. Whether you have back or neck pain, have recently been injured in a car or work-related accident, or are suffering from conditions such as sciatica or some headaches, a chiropractic appointment can help relieve many of your symptoms. Here at the Rupert Health Centre, our practitioners work hard to improve your physical well-being, while guiding and supporting you along the way. For those who are new to chiropractic, this is what you can expect during your first visit.

At Rupert Health, the first appointment will usually last around 45 minutes, depending on the severity and complexity of your conditions. A chiropractor will meet with you and inquire about your symptoms, your medical and family history, discuss with you any possible risks to injury that can occur during treatment, and make sure you have given informed consent before any treatment begins. Afterwards, they may complete a series of physical tests to measure your range, strength, and neurological integrity, in order to assess what treatments might be necessary for recovery.

Based on your medical history and symptoms, a chiropractor may choose to use a diagnostic study to more accurately diagnose your condition. If needed, the Rupert Health practitioners occasionally use an on-site X-ray to get more information on any conditions.

Treatment may or may not be offered during the first appointment. Within the chiropractic practice, there are many different treatment options available for a variety of symptoms and patients. The practitioner will discuss with you which treatment options may be best, which can include spinal mobilization and manipulation (manual therapy), shockwave or laser therapy, heat pads, and other modalities, all of which are non-invasive. In addition to therapy, the chiropractor may suggest and demonstrate some stretches or exercises to help you improve your condition, with Rupert Health also providing products such as exercise balls, resistance bands and supports for purchase.

If you’re experiencing muscle or joint pain and wondering about seeing a chiropractor – don’t fret! The practitioners here at Rupert Health will make sure you have all the information, and support you through the steps and treatment toward your recovery. Make an appointment with a Rupert Health Centre practitioner today!

Eating Organically

Eating organically is a hot topic in discussions of food and healthy eating. How much do we actually know about organic foods, and how does it affect our body and our health?

Defining organic foods concerns the way that crops are grown and how livestock are raised. Livestock are given organic feed with no growth hormones, and have access to the outdoors. For organic produce, farmers avoid using synthetic pesticides, genetic engineering (GMOs), and turn to natural pesticides and fertilizers, with methods reducing pollution and water usage [1]. The food must follow the Canadian Organic Standards in order to have the organic label.

It is debatable whether the levels of pesticides and GMOs in non-organic foods are harmful. It was suggested to cause headaches, nausea, allergen problems and even cancer [2]. However, the studies are still unclear on the effects of pesticides. Apples are generally seen as having one of the highest levels of pesticides compared to other produce. Yet, according to one study, even when buying non-organic apples, “a woman would need to eat 529 servings of apples in a day to reach an unsafe level [3].” As for nutritional levels, many studies have shown no difference between organic and non-organic, and even when studies do find changes in nutritional levels, the small differences are unlikely to impact our health.

Many opt to go organic for ethical and environmental purposes. It helps support the local farmers that deliver fresher produce to your grocery. The use of natural fertilizers that do not contaminate the soil and water, the less transportation required, and its friendliness to the local ecosystem also make it a viable choice for the environmentally-friendly folk. Additionally, since organic produce do not have the waxy covering to protect them from spoiling, they are usually fresher than non-organic counterparts.

The costs of growing organic food does mean that their prices are usually higher. If you want to start eating organic while balancing costs, buy produce in-season, or attend local farmers’ markets, which usually has organic foods at a discounted price. If you decide to buy non-organic produce, it is recommended to wash it with water to remove traces of pesticides, soil, or residue. The Environmental Working Groups develops a yearly list of produce that contain the least and the most amount of pesticides. It is most helpful to buy apples, strawberries, tomatoes, grapes, etc., organically, as they have comparatively high amounts of pesticides, while buying non-organic corn, avocados, and onions would be fine if you want to save on cost. If you can afford it, consider buying organic meats, dairy, and eggs, as the unnatural diet of livestock raised non-organically can include growth hormones, pesticides, antibiotics, and even some drugs.

Possibly the most important thing is to stay knowledgeable about the process of organic foods. Organic does not always mean healthier, so pay attention to the labels. And whether or not you buy organically or non-organically, stick with a healthy diet and your body will thank you!

 

 

Sleep posture on your health

Most of us spend about 33% of our lives sleeping, so it’s not a huge surprise that your sleep posture would play a big part in determining your musculoskeletal health. Improper sleeping habits and pose can strain your body, from causing problems such as neck and back pain, muscle cramps, headaches, and sleep apnea. Depending on your physique and any pre-existing conditions, there is a sleeping posture that may work better for you than others!

Most possibly the worst sleep position for your body is sleeping on your stomach. The only benefit is that it does help relieve snoring, but the strain it puts on your spine can be potentially damaging. Because your spine is healthiest when it is in a neutral position, or when your vertebrae are aligned properly, sleeping on your stomach puts extra pressure on the discs leading to prolonged unnatural bending in the spine. Possibly leading to neck and back pain, and irritation of the nerves, it would be healthiest to adjust the position to put less harm on your musculoskeletal system, or just take on a new sleep posture all together [1].

If you are a stomach sleeper at heart, you may want to consider using a very thin pillow for your neck, or none at all, to re-position the neck and put less strain on it. A firmer mattress may be something worth looking into to put less pressure on the lower back, or put a pillow under your hips for the same effect. Lastly, try the “Child’s Pose” to stretch out the hips and lower back.


 

Back sleepers should be proud of themselves – sleeping on your back is one of the best positions for your body! Since the spine is in its natural alignment all throughout the night, there is less, if any, added pressure on your back and neck, meaning that you are less likely to experience back or neck pain during the day. If you want to stay youthful, this position also allows for less wrinkles! However, because your tongue can fall and obstruct your windpipe, this position may not be the best for snorers or those with sleep apnea. Also, sleeping on your back is usually not the most comfortable position, as only 8% of the population sleep this way [2].

One comfortable pillow should be enough, granted that it’s not so high that it strains your neck.

 


 

With most of the population being side sleepers, this position is fairly beneficial in terms of spine health. The position keeps the spine elongated, and puts minimal strain on your back and neck. Sleeping on your side also lessens snoring, and it may be ideal if you suffer from sleep apnea, acid reflux, or heartburn. For some pregnant women, it may be suggested that they sleep on their side in order to put less strain on their stomach and back. Nonetheless, this position can constrict and put pressure on some of your crucial internal organs, including your lungs, heart, and liver. Aesthetically speaking, it may also lead to premature face wrinkles, as well as a saggy chest for women.

A thick pillow would be optimal for side sleepers, in order to accommodate for your shoulders and give your spine a neutral alignment. It is also advised not to sleep in the fetal position (ie. your knees tucked toward your chest), as this can also cause neck, shoulder, and back pain.

Depending on any health conditions and the existence or severity of back, neck, and shoulder pain, it may be wise to consider adjusting your sleeping position to better your health. No matter what, make sure you end the day with a good night’s sleep!

 

Spinal Manipulation and Mobilization

If you have ever walked into a chiropractic office before, chances are that you have heard the terms “spinal manipulation and mobilization.” For new patients it may be a little unnerving, but these chiropractic techniques can do wonders to painful joints and muscles. What exactly do these two treatments do, and how do they benefit you?

Both of these techniques work toward the same goal, which is to help reduce pain, and restore joint function and range. Depending on the condition and the patient’s overall health, chiropractors can often use a variety of techniques to most benefit the patient [1].

Spinal manipulation, one of the oldest and most commonly used maneuvers in chiropractic, is a high-velocity low-amplitude (AKA short and quick) thrust technique. The chiropractor or practitioner generally uses their hands to apply sudden and direct pressure to a certain joint. This can release the ‘pop’ sound, called “cavitation” similar to cracking your knuckles, which is when gas is released from the joint [2].

This maneuver helps correct any misalignment, and according to a number of extensive studies, have helped reduce patients’ back pain and neck pain, comparable to medication and physiotherapy.

 

Spinal mobilization is a gentler approach to spinal treatment which focuses on restoring joint movement and range. It uses slow movements of the joints until it reaches the endpoint of its range to gradually reduce the tension, unlike the sudden force used during spinal manipulation [3].

Chiropractors may favor spinal mobilization due to a number of factors, such as severe pain, presence of certain physical conditions such as obesity or osteoporosis, or patient preference.

During the first appointment with a chiropractor, they discuss with you the risks of these techniques, and gauge what treatment is right for you based on your condition. These techniques are usually used specifically for joint and muscle pain, and should ONLY be performed by a licensed and trained professional chiropractor or medical practitioner, to greatly reduce the risks of any side effects or complications.

If you’re feeling any joint or muscle pain, it may be wise to meet with a chiropractor to explore your options. Make an appointment with a Rupert Health Centre chiropractor today!