Articles for the Month of October 2013

Halloween Health Tips

Well, the day has arrived. It is finally Halloween! This night Ghouls, Ghosts, and Vampires will roam the streets looking for sweet things to sink their teeth into. This night is not a great night for health though and more than just the reasons you’re probably thinking of.

Sure there will be tonnes upon tonnes of candy and sugar tonight but I’m going to focus on the more physical and immediate concerns of the night. First off, let’s look at the costumes. We put on some crazy stuff one night a year and sometimes these costumes can be quite cumbersome and restrictive. IT is important to not sacrifice your body for the sake of a good outfit (this holds true on all days of the year too). A restraining costume can increase the probability of falling or tripping, especially if we can’t see our feet. On top of this a restrictive costume can make it difficult to catch ourselves when we fall increasing the risk of injury.

Costumes should also be balanced in their weight. We will be wearing them for a long time with parties or trick-or-treating so it is important to ensure that it will not be a strain to keep them up. If the weight of the costume is more on one side we can hurt back, shoulders, and/or neck. This is especially true if we are drinking alcohol because we could injure our body and take less notice, thus aggravating the injury.

Even if you are not dressing up this year there are certain things to be aware of. If you are taking kids trick-or-treating then be sure that you are ready for a long walk. This doesn’t sound too daunting, but remember what you may encounter on this journey. You can be delegated as the candy carrier and sometimes even the tired child carrier. This definitely makes the trip a lot harder. Be sure to stretch your shoulders, low back, and legs before heading out and when you get home again. Make sure you have good, supportive shoes as well, as these can make all the difference.

With everyone running around it is important to remember how tired the kids and even we can get. Carry a small pack of water bottles and snacks with you to keep everyone full of energy and enjoying the night. Letting kids eat some of their candy while out trick-or-treating still will help them in the short run but the sugar crash that follows will just make it worse. Healthy snacks will keep them going for much longer and make them much less irritable at the end of the night.

Happy Halloween and safe trick-or-treating everyone.
Dr. Ben

The Power of Prevention

Continuing on from last week’s topic a little bit I’m going to hop up on my soap box for a brief moment and talk about something that is really important to me. We all know the worn out phrase, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” and probably all roll our eyes when someone says it. But I really want you to sit and think about what it means. It is not just something that our mothers say to us when we are being foolish and could hurt ourselves.

It means that the cure is more work than avoiding the condition, disease, or injury.

It means that prevention is far stronger than the cure.

It means that willpower is better than pain.

Prevention is what we call lifestyle therapy, which primarily means diet and exercise. At this point almost everyone is rolling their eyes again. Sure, you’ve heard it over and over that, “You should eat better and exercise more.” But the simple truth is that these two things can decrease out risk of chronic illness (and even some minor injuries) drastically.

Women who exercise regularly (even just walking) decrease their risk of developing breast cancer (1).

Adults who eat plenty of dietary Omega-3 fats daily decrease their risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease (sorry, no percentage available on this one) (2,3).

People who have fibre from cereal grains and fruits in their diet a reduced risk of developing colon cancer (4).

Regular exercise has been shown to reduce our risk of heart disease at any age (5,6,7).

These are just some of the statistics out there and there is so much more that research has shown us. However, we as a society have gotten ourselves into a rut and it is difficult to get out of it because that rut provides us with easy and cheap fast food and lots of activities and distractions that keep us too busy for exercise.

This path also lends itself to our collective fallacy of, “I don’t feel sick, therefore I am healthy.” We have to stop thinking this and remember that Health is NOT the absence of pain. Health is the optimal functioning of our bodies so that we may perform at our best at all times. Now, I’m not saying that we should all be Olympians. Optimal functioning means that we can meet the basic needs for survival and have plenty of energy and ability left over to rise to any challenge that is presented to us.

Most alternative medicines are based heavily in preventative care. Seeing a naturopath, massage therapist, or chiropractor on a regular basis can help to increase our ability to meet the challenges we face and decrease our risks of certain conditions and diseases even further.

So what is your plan for making your future the brightest it can be? I challenge you to go out and walk for 20 minutes, three days this week and take a look at your meals and make one thing on your plate healthier. Take that first step and see the difference it makes. Changing our habits and lifestyle is an uphill battle but it is far easier than dealing with the consequences of not doing it.

Thanks for reading,
Dr. Ben

1. Wu Y, Zhang D, and Kang S. Physical activity and risk of breast cancer: a meta-analysis of prospective studies. Breast Cancer Research and Treatment 2013;137(3):869-882

2. Dacks PA, Shineman DW, and Fillit HM. Current evidence for the clinical use of long-chain polyunsaturated n-3 fatty acids to prevent age-related cognitive decline and Alzheimer’s disease. The Journal of Nutrition, Health, and Aging 2013;17(3):240-251

3. Gillette-Guyonnet S, Secher M, and Vellas B. Nutrition and neurodegeneration: epidemiological evidence challenges for future research. British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology 2013;75(3):738-755

4. Murphy N, Norat T, Ferrari P, Jenab M, Bueno-de-Mesquita B, Skeie G, Dahm CC, Overvad K, Olsen A, Tjønneland A, Clavel-Chapelon F, Boutron-Ruault MC, Racine A, Kaaks R, Teucher B, Boeing H, Bergmann MM, Trichopoulou A, Trichopoulos D, Lagiou P, Palli D, Pala V, Panico S, Tumino R, Vineis P, Siersema P, van Duijnhoven F, Peeters PH, Hjartaker A, Engeset D, González CA, Sánchez MJ, Dorronsoro M, Navarro C, Ardanaz E, Quirós JR, Sonestedt E, Ericson U, Nilsson L, Palmqvist R, Khaw KT, Wareham N, Key TJ, Crowe FL, Fedirko V, Wark PA, Chuang SC, and Riboli E. Dietary fibre intake and risks of cancers of the colon and rectum in the European prospective investigation into cancer and nutrition (EPIC). PLoS One 2012;7(6):e39361

5.Lamina S, Okoye CG, and Hanif SM. Randomised controlled trial: effects of aerobic exercise training programme on indices of adiposity and metabolic markers in hypertension. The Journal of the Pakistan Medical Association. 2013;63(6):680-687

6. Fakhry F, Rouwet EV, den Hoed PT, Hunink MG, and Spronk S. Long-term clinical effectiveness of supervised exercise therapy versus endovascular revascularization for intermittent claudication from a randomized clinical trial. The British Journal of Surgery. 2013;100(9):1164-1171

7. Back DT, Casey DP, Martin JS, Emerson BD, and Braith RW. Exercise training improves endothelial function in young prehypertensives. Experimental Biology and Medicine. 2013;238(4):433-441

Health For Your Career

This week I went to see the Mirvish production of Les Miserables (it was absolutely wonderful and I highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys musical theatre) and it got me thinking about health, as many things do being the health nerd that I am. The performing arts can be absolutely brutal on your body, just like sports, and to have a prosperous career you need to maintain a very healthy lifestyle to meet the challenges that face you.

But this rule does not only apply to performers and athletes. We all need to lead a healthy lifestyle to maintain our career if you think about it. Diet, posture, and activity all play a central role in the deterioration or upkeep of our body. If we sit at a desk all day, hunch by our computer, and get very little activity our body will feel the stress just as quickly as someone who operates a jackhammer all day. This means that our bodies will accumulate damage (“microinjuries”) over time and certain activities will no longer be easy or comfortable for us. This accumulation will limit our ability to do our jobs and could lead to serious disability and potentially losing all ability to work.

Pain, limited range of motion, weakness, numbness, and other downstream effects of these microinjuries all impact our ability to work. So what are we to do about it? Are these effects just an unavoidable by-product of working?

Why not look at it the same way these performers and athletes do? I need my body (and my mind) to do my job so let’s look after my body (and mind) the best that I can so that I can continue doing my job. We hear about so many major league athletes turning to alternative medicine for preventative and injury care but there are just as many performers out there who do the same.

Through prevention we can avoid nasty complications later down the road and keep our ability to work as strong as ever. This will pretty much guarantee a good career (aside from non-health/ability related issues, of course) in whatever field you choose. On top of this, early intervention is key to limiting the impact injuries have on our future ability to work. The longer we put off finding appropriate care the greater the impact an injury will have on our body.

So if you are looking for a long career take good care of your body because it’s the only one you’ve got. Get a little exercise every day, maintain a healthy diet, and make sure you treat your body right with good posture, deep breathing, and a calm, stress-free attitude. Think of yourself as a performer on our own little stage and the lifestyle will follow.

Thanks for reading,
Dr. Ben

Staying Level Headed

When we talk about posture it is generally in terms of front to back discrepancies in the balance but side to side is just as important. A side to side postural imbalance is called Scoliosis. I’m not going to talk about structural scoliosis, where the bones of the spine have developed in such a way that the spine cannot stand vertically. Today I will be discussing functional imbalances that are more common than we think in the general population.

Our side to side movements and balance come solely from our spine and the muscles that run up and down it as well as out from it. An imbalance in these muscles or an outside influence can lead to a curve towards one side or another and this puts a lot of uneven pressure through the joints of the spine.

First of all, those squishy intervertebral discs that we have talked about so many times before will be pushed to the outer edge of this new curve and create uneven pressure on the outer tissue of the disc itself. If prolonged, this pressure will eventually weaken these tissues and increase the likelihood of the intervertebral discs herniating.

The pressure in the joints of the spine also increases the wear and tear they experience which leads to degeneration of the joints and the development of arthritis. The most noticeable and immediate symptom of this imbalance is sore and spasmed muscles up and down the spine. Really muscle spasms and functional scoliosis are a chicken/egg debate that is different for each individual but they definitely go hand-in-hand.

Functional scoliosis can be influenced and/or caused by multiple different factors. The main culprits are bags that are carried on one side like purses, messenger bags, or briefcases. This added weight unbalanced us and puts an outside pressure across the spine. Backpacks on the other hand, when worn on both shoulders balance their weight evenly across the shoulders and low back so that the pressure is vertical and not horizontal. If the backpack is not packed evenly then this protection disappears, of course. This is why it is important to distribute the weight in your pack evenly on both sides.

Our shoes can even be the problem that leads to functional scoliosis. If they wear down unevenly then it’s the same as walking along an uneven surface. This can happen if our gait is off for any reason.

If you think that you have a functional scoliosis take a look in the mirror and really examine how level your body is at all points. Take a good look at your ears, shoulders, and hips as these are generally good indicators of balance horizontally. At our shoulders there is always a little discrepancy because the muscles of our dominant arm will be mildly bigger than the non-dominant one just from frequent use. In fact, we all have a very small mild scoliosis in our upper back which curves towards our dominant arm for this reason. That scoliosis is harmless as the body has adapted to it since childhood and found a balance around it.

So what can we do about it? Really the only help that we can get fixing a functional scoliosis is through rehabilitation and chiropractic care. A chiropractor or physiotherapist can determine if a functional scoliosis is appropriate or the result of an imbalance which should be removed. Through training and manipulation an inappropriate scoliosis and its root cause(s) can be alleviated and resolved. The only thing that we can do at home by ourselves is to make sure that when we work out we stretch and exercises both sides of our body evenly.

So take a good look at the mirror now and then and honestly answer this question, “How level headed am I?”

Thanks for reading,
Dr. Ben

The True Meaning of Multidisciplinary

When navigating the world of healthcare you have probably run into something called a “Multidisciplinary Clinic”. This means that there are multiple different professions working under one roof. The first thing that comes to most peoples’ minds is, “Well, that’s convenient!” but in the end it really isn’t that much better than having all of these professionals working in different locations. Within most multidisciplinary clinics there is just as much miscommunication as there is when they are separate.

The problem lies in the definition of “Multidisciplinary”. When these clinics started popping up they were supposed to be organized efforts to bring together teams of professionals to work together rather than just work next to each other. A truly multidisciplinary clinic will encourage and foster communication and collaboration which benefits the patient much more than one doctor working alone. This has been lost in the healthcare community but is being brought back through multiple different efforts from different groups (one of which, I am proud to say, is the Ontario Chiropractic Association).

The theory behind Multidisciplinary clinics is that doctors working in collaboration with easy communication and access will be able to provide better quality care to the patients. Through this there will be decreased wait times, increased patient and professional satisfaction, and improved prognosis for the patient’s condition. There is a very small body of research that supports these theories at the moment but more is being conducted all the time.

The other aspect of Multidisciplinary team care is knowledge of other professionals’ skill sets. Outside of the specialties within their own professions most healthcare practitioners do not know what other professionals are capable of. Multidisciplinary clinics allow practitioners to get comfortable with other professionals and know where others may be able to treat a patient better than they can themselves. This allows multidisciplinary teams to cover holes in patient care that might otherwise go undiscovered.

It is really important to check out any clinic you go to that promotes itself as multidisciplinary to ensure they embrace the true meaning of the term rather than just working in the same location. If not then you are not getting any extra benefit from it beyond only having to remember one address.

Thanks for reading,
Dr. Ben