To achieve overall wellness, you should be taking regular chiropractic treatment, eating a healthy diet, taking nutritional supplements, keeping to your ideal weight, and managing your stress levels. If you can do this, you are far more likely to enjoy a longer, healthier, more pain-free life.
The following list will help guide you towards achieving a healthier, more vibrant body.
Regular Chiropractic Care
Chiropractic treatment is holistic, meaning it addresses your overall health. Vast amounts of research have shown chiropractic care to be one of the most effective treatments for back pain, neck pain, headaches, whiplash, sports injuries and sundry other musculoskeletal problems. It is also known to be beneficial to many other functions within the body, such as helping to lower high blood pressure, reducing the frequency of childhood ear infections (otitis media), and improving asthma.
Chiropractic is not just about relieving pain; it aims to restore the body to its natural state of optimal health. Various forms of treatment are used to this end, including manual adjustments, massage, trigger point therapy, exercise rehabilitation, coupled with advice on diet and lifestyle choices that impact your health. Left alone to work unimpeded, your body has an amazing ability to heal itself and maintain health, thus the chiropractor’s job is to remove the impediments to those good things taking place.
Ideally, chiropractic care should be an ongoing event in your life, much as regular exercise and healthy eating should be. The stresses of modern life, the little incidents and accidents that happen to us, daily wear and tear, mean that aches and pains are pretty much inevitable, unless steps are taken to minimize their effects. One of those steps is chiropractic care to ensure your joints last longer, you feel better, move with more freedom, and stay healthier and more active for as long as possible during your life.
Good posture is important because the further your posture deviates from what is correct, the more stressed your spine and back muscles become. This leads to stiffness and pain. Correct posture allows the spine to naturally take the strain as it was designed to do. Imagine carrying a bag in the normal way with your arm at your side. Then think how much extra burden you give yourself if you hold the bag out in front of you. Think of the muscles that then have to compensate to not only hold the bag, but also to rebalance the shift in your weight.
The Wall Posture Exercise is a good way to check your posture and understand how it should be. Rest back against a flat wall and bring your heels, shoulders and head backwards until they touch the wall. Sensing how this feels, step away from the wall and try to maintain that position for as long as possible throughout the day.
Stress is a major cause of bodily tension and its associated pain and problems. The list of things and events that can stress you is endless. Job, family, money, illness, lack of sleep, commuting, moving house, relationships, bereavement, divorce – anything that causes you to feel something is not as you would like it to be can cause you stress. If you think about that now, you’ll realize that’s an awfully long list.
Many people will not even realize that they are stressed if they’ve learned to live with the things that they don’t like in their life. You may also be stressed because of the things you fear might go wrong in your life. Many times, stress can be down to your perception of a situation, not how the situation actually is. Real or not, your body responds to stress by raising blood pressure, heart rate, respiration, metabolism, and the blood flow to your muscles. Over a sustained period of time, these effects and the release of stress hormones can be highly detrimental to your health.
Assuming you cannot eradicate every stressful situation from your life, you must learn to manage and mitigate it. Practice some relaxation techniques, breathe deeply, and get some exercise. Your body will thank you for it.
Watch Your Weight
There can’t be many people that don’t understand the importance of maintaining a sensible body weight to stave off such conditions as coronary heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, and colon cancer. Being overweight, however, can also be a big factor in the development of low back pain. This is because the spine is only designed to support a certain amount of body weight. Overly burdened by excess body weight, the spine becomes stressed and may end up suffering structural damage. Osteoporosis, osteoarthritis (OA), rheumatoid arthritis (RA), degenerative disc disease (DDD), spinal stenosis, and spondylolisthesis are all known to be significantly exacerbated by being overweight.
Being overweight also contributes to feelings of fatigue, as well as difficulty breathing and shortness of breath. When these symptoms lead you to avoid activity and exercise, then the situation is made worse because lack of exercise contributes to many types of back pain.
If you are overweight and suffer from low back pain, it is obviously in your interests to change things. Talk to your doctor about how best to lose weight in a safe and healthy manner to ensure lifelong weight control rather than the yo-yo effects of the latest fad diets.
Buy a Good Mattress
The positive benefits of sleep are often underestimated, but getting enough good quality sleep is essential for your overall health and quality of life. Sleep debt is costly for society in both fiscal and physical terms, therefore sleep must be a priority and not relegated to something we grab if and when we have the time. Back problems can be caused by not sleeping well, or made worse by it.
One key ingredient in having a good night’s sleep is a good mattress. The following advice will help you select the mattress that’s right for you:
- Choice of mattress is a highly personal matter that depends on the individual. What may be perfect for you may be terrible for someone else. There is no magic mattress that works for everyone with low back pain. What’s important is to find a mattress that helps you sleep without pain and that does not create problems for the next day
- Find a mattress with good back support to guard against low back pain. It should provide support while allowing the spine’s natural curves and alignment to be unaffected. Generally, a medium-firm mattress is usually better than a firm mattress.
- Don’t put off buying a new mattress if yours is obviously past its prime. A visible sag in the middle is a good indicator. Placing a board under the mattress is not a long-term fix, and may even cause more problems.
- “Orthopedic” or “medically-approved” mattresses should be taken with a pinch of salt. Extensive medical research or controlled clinical trials have not been carried out on the issue of mattresses and low back pain.
Orthotics are special inserts for your shoes to keep your feet functioning properly. This is crucial because your feet are your foundations, supporting you when you stand, walk, or run. They serve to protect your spine, bones, and soft tissues from the damge that can be caused by moving around, and they can better do this when they are in stable and correct positions.
The foot has three arches that provide exceptional supportive strength, distributing the weight of the entire body across them. If one arch is compromised, the other two must take the extra strain, and the whole foot then starts to become affected.
Custom-designed orthotics stabilize and balance your feet, boosting your body’s performance and efficiency, reducing pain, and contributing to your overall wellness. You spend around two-thirds of your day in shoes, so it’s important to find inserts that provide optimal support.
Drink More Water
Water is your life source. Drinking enough water means you are helping your body remain healthy and function at its best. Most people do not drink enough water. The average person should be consuming around ten cups of water a day, or just over a half gallon.
Water accounts for 60% – 65% of your total weight, and is the most abundant nutrient in your body. It is also the least forgiving of your nutrients, in that you cannot go more than a couple of days without it. Water transports nutrients, oxygen and waste products around the body, it regulates your body temperature, and it is the medium in which all your body’s chemical reactions take place.
Drinking coffee, tea, juices and soft drinks is not a substitute for drinking enough water, because, along with the water they contain, they also contain products the body will need to eliminate, thus robbing you of water to do so. Any drink containing caffeine is even worse because it is diuretic, so you actually end up with a net loss of water from your body. Because the food and drink you consume will contain water, you do not need to drink a full half-gallon of water every day. Instead, a good guide is to get a 1.5 liter bottle of water and make sure you drink that each day, or two of those if you are exercising heavily.
More Fruits and Vegetables
Most people do not eat enough fruit and vegetables in their diet, despite the huge amount of public information telling them to do just that. Fast food and snack food has taken the place of fruit and vegetables, adding in dangerous amounts of salt, sugar, and bad fats. Some people may go weeks without consuming fruit or veg.
Fruits and vegetables have always figured highly in the evolution of the human body, and many of the compounds unique to plant foods are required by your body for it to function correctly. Reducing fast and processed foods and swapping in fruit and veg instead can make a huge difference to how you feel and function.
A recent USDA study reported that the average American consumes 134 pounds of refined sugar every year; that’s 20 teaspoons a day. If that seems unbelievable, consider the following facts:
- A 12 oz. can of Pepsi contains 10 teaspoons of sugar
- A 2 oz. package of candy contains 11 teaspoons of sugar
- A 16 oz. cup of lemonade contains 13 teaspoons of sugar
- A cup of Frosted Flakes contains 4 teaspoons of sugar
This excessive consumption is desperately unhealthy, contributing to obesity, Type II diabetes, heart disease from elevated triglycerides, kidney stones, rotten teeth, chronic fatigue, and reactive hypoglycemia. The types of foods high in refined sugars include soft drinks, candy, cake and donuts, and many condiments. Check the labels when food-buying, and choose products sweetened with apple juice or stevia, rather than sugar or high-fructose corn syrup. The latter is also the most craved source of food for the cancer cells in your body.
Supplement with a Multivitamin
Some experts consider this is not necessary if you are getting sufficient quantities though a healthy, natural, raw food diet. However, it has to be considered that along with the good things we may be taking in, we are also exposed to far more toxins and pollutants in other foods and in our environment – all of which sap and tax our body’s supplies of vitamins. Our ancestors who did not supplement did not have to cope with these, or the constant electromagnetic field from power lines and cell phones around us. They were also less stressed and more active than we are today. As your body is under this bombardment day in, day out, it is a good idea to ensure that you have a good supply of defensive vitamins and nutrients.
Get Into the Light
One of the most important nutrients for your mind and body is sunlight. Many people don’t think in terms of sunlight being a nutrient, especially with the scaremongers telling you to avoid the sun or die of skin cancer, but it certainly is. Sunlight and the vitamin D it promotes in your body is necessary to regulate proper hormone function, calcium absorption, and bone health, as to keep your daily sleep-wake cycle (circadian rhythm) working well. If you suffer from a lack of sunlight, you are more likely to experience the following:
- Seasonal depression, known as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)
- Disturbed, poor quality sleep
- Poor performance at work, especially in night-shift workers
- Disrupted melatonin regulation
- Reduced cortical brain activity
- Compromised immune system
Manmade light is not a substitute because it is not the full-spectrum light you get from the sun. Too little sunlight and too much artificial light is known to create problems with lack of concentration and lethargy. One study even showed that calcium absorption in the elderly fell away when too much time was spent indoors, and increased in those who spent time outside. This would have serious implications for bone strength and especially osteoporosis. Sunlight is also known to have a massive effect on mood, lowering stress and feelings of depression, and boosting feelings of happiness.
The following advice will help you increase your exposure to sunlight:
- Spend at least 15 minutes outside every day, even when it’s cloudy. Full-spectrum daylight is still available and is still beneficial.
- Use a special full-spectrum light box during the darker months to ensure a good dose of the right light, especially if you suffer from SAD.
- Only wear sunglasses in very bright light or to protect the eyes from flying objects such as sand or dust. Sunglasses create unnatural light for your eyes.
A Healthy Heart
Heart disease is the number-one killer of adults in America, and most deaths are preventable through changes to lifestyle choices. The key changes are: exercise, diet and body weight, not smoking, and vitamin supplementation.
Exercise is crucial not just for your neuromusculoskeletal system; it also hugely protects your heart health. Regular exercise makes your body far more able to assimilate oxygen, burn calories, and maintain normal blood pressure.
Diet and body weight are obvious factors in heart health. Carrying too much weight and eating the wrong foods can quickly lead to heart problems. Amazingly, it takes around one mile of additional blood vessels to supply just one pound of additional fat. That’s a huge extra burden on your heart, pushing your blood through all that extra tubing. Multiply that by 30, 40 or 50 pounds of additional fat, and you can imagine the stress placed on your heart.
Smoking is like living your life inside a burning house in the effects it has on your body. It degrades the collagen in your skin, causing premature wrinkling, destroys your lung cells, promotes heart disease, and causes cataracts and cancer because of the oxidizing effect of the free radicals released into your blood stream.
It can also worsen back pain by dehydrating the spinal discs. As bone is a living tissue that is dependent on your other body functions to stay healthy, an interruption to these other systems means bone is not able to rebuild itself. Bone formation is especially boosted by regular physical exercise and healthy hormonal activity, both of which are compromised by smoking.
Smoking decreases oxygen levels in the blood and increases the level of harmful substances, such as carbon monoxide. The nicotine from smoking causes the small blood vessels that feed your spinal discs to constrict, reducing their supply of nutrients. This results in your discs eventually becoming dehydrated, leading to degeneration. Smoking in perimenopausal or postmenopausal women is particularly risky as it increases estrogen loss, which can result in a loss of bone density and more chance of developing osteoporosis.
Vitamins E and C and folic acid are the most important supplements for a healthy heart. Vitamin E helps to prevent the cholesterol in your blood from becoming oxidized. This is the most dangerous aspect of high cholesterol in the blood. Vitamin C helps to strengthen the collagen tissues around artery walls, so they are less susceptible to tears. It also prevent cholesterol plaques developing inside the coronary arteries. The B-vitamin folic acid (also called folacin), reduces the homocysteine level in the blood. Homocysteine is a by-product of your metabolic process which can significantly hasten the onset of heart disease. You should ideally take at least 400 IU of vitamin E, at least 500 mg of vitamin C (preferably 1000mg), and 40 mcg of folic acid.
For Your Health,
Dr. Billie King Shaw