Articles By Dr. Ben

Winging It: Scapular Instability

In the past we have talked about the importance of our posture and our rotator cuff muscles but we really haven’t talked about how they are connected yet. Pretty much everyone can identify their shoulder blade (“Scapula”) but can you say what it is for? It’s a weird flat bone that sits on your upper back and just kind of floats there, but everything in the body has a purpose (except for those wonderful vestigial organs like the appendix). The scapula’s purpose is to act as an anchor to the arm. It holds the ends of the rotator cuff muscles as well as the Biceps, Triceps, and the Deltoid muscles. Now what is the most important aspect of an anchor? That’s right! Stability! Just like our core muscles, our shoulder blades should remain rock solid when we need them but still have some mobility to adapt to changes in arm movement and pressures.

So how can a flat bone be both stable and mobile at the same time? The scapula sits on top of the rib cage with a connection to the collar bone (“Clavicle”) at the front. This connection should not provide mechanical support but only act as a guide for the position of the scapula relative to the rest of the body. The stability of the shoulder blade comes from the muscles that surround it. These “Scapular Stabilizers” pull the boney plate in different directions and lock it down thus allowing it to remain stationary while the prime movers of the arm (Deltoid, Biceps, and Triceps) use it as their anchor.

Posterior (Back) Shoulder Bony Anatomy

Posterior (Back) Shoulder Bony Anatomy

 

Anterior (Front) Shoulder Bony Anatomy

Anterior (Front) Shoulder Bony Anatomy

These Scapular Stabilizers consist of the Trapezius (Upper, Middle, and Lower), Rhomboids (Major and Minor), and Serratus Anterior muscles. Both Rhomboid muscles as well as the Middle Trapezius help to pull the scapula in towards the spine while the Upper Trapezius muscle pulls the scapula up and the Lower Trapezius pull it down and in. The Serratus Anterior opposes muscles by pulling the scapula out and forwards towards the front of the ribs. There are other muscles that attach to the scapula and help to stabilize it but these are the major actors on this stage.

We’re discussing these muscles and their role in shoulder function today because we do not use them correctly. If we were properly stabilizing our shoulder blades they would remain firmly pressed to the back of our ribs but the most common postural pattern in the Western World does not do this. Generally we are slouching forward which rolls our shoulder blades out and forward, around our rib cage. This position puts a lot of mechanical pressure on the joint with the clavicle and causes the Upper Trapezius to bear the weight of the shoulder and arm. Through maintenance of this position the Lower and Middle Traps, the Rhomboids, and the Serratus Anterior all weaken from lack of use and are not able to act upon the scapula as they should. When this happens it is called a “Winging Scapula” because the inner edge of the shoulder blade pops away from the ribs and sticks out like a wing and it means that our scapula cannot provide the stability it needs to. Scapular instability leads to increased risk of injury to the shoulder and arm, specifically the rotator cuff muscles and the Acromioclavicular joint (the joint now under pressure between the scapula and the clavicle).

Winging Scapula

If you have been reading my blog for any amount of time you know that I am all about preventing injuries and reducing the risks we expose ourselves too. So to get out of this problematic position we need to retrain our muscles to hold the shoulder blades in place. There are two fairly simple exercises that can accomplish this. The first we’ve talked about before and I call it the “Pocket Push”. The second is demonstrated very well in the video. The sound is a not great so use some headphones or watch it in a quiet space to hear all the details.

No matter how much some of us might wish for wings to fly, a Winging Scapula is not going to help at all. Tuck in those flat little bones and sit up. It will do your body a world of good.

Thanks for reading,
Dr. Ben

What Are Antioxidants

Earlier this week I posted an article on facebook which glossed over the role of antioxidants in our diet and I wanted to expand on that. Antioxidants are a huge topic in healthcare these days so it is important that we understand what is actually being discussed. Antioxidants are chemicals that help to reduce, reverse, or prevent damage done to our bodies by oxidative damage.

Oxidation is a chemical process that can be found in most high school chemistry textbooks. It’s basically rusting. More specifically (without getting into complicated valance electrons and orbits and the like), oxidation is when one chemical passes electrons to or takes electrons from another one to try and become more stable. This happens in the body naturally as a tool used by the immune system to destabilise foreign invaders like toxins or organisms. To do this our immune system produces chemicals called Free Radicals which are unstable and cause Oxidative damage to become more stable.

This is all well and good because this process is short lived and under control. The problem arises when we take into account that we are putting free radicals into our bodies daily through our exposure to toxins in the pollution, chemicals in our hygiene and make-up products, pesticides on our food, and our poor diet in general. These free radicals are not controlled and spread throughout the body and instead of helping us by destabilizing foreign invaders they cause the Oxidative damage to our own tissues.

Oxidative damage to our tissues has been linked to multiple diseases such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, stroke, auto-immune diseases, and arthritis and is thought to be involved in many others. This is where the importance of antioxidants comes in. Antioxidants are chemicals that can help stabilize Free Radicals without becoming destabilized themselves. Thus they can take one the Oxidative damage themselves and then be harmlessly processed out of the body. We even produce some natural antioxidants ourselves in our liver, specifically one called Glutathione. But we can’t keep up with the level of Free Radicals in our bodies these days.

So where do you get these wonderful helpers from? Our good, nutritious foods like dark green leafy veggies, dark berries, and all the wonderful sources or the Vitamins A, C, and E we can get our hands on. By having a diet rich in anti-oxidants we can combat the influx of Free Radicals into our system and reduce our risk for the conditions that I mentioned above. The article that I posted earlier this week cautioned us that antioxidants are not the “silver bullet” they have been made out to be. I want to counter that and say, “Sure. They are definitely not a cure-all but they sure are important.” Oxidative damage can cause a lot of grief if left unchecked but eating a clean and healthy diet with lots of veggies and fruits can really make a big difference. In fact, eating a diet high in antioxidants has been linked to decreased arterial blockage in patients with atherosclerosis and to decreased insulin resistance in type 2 diabetes.

So that is the story of antioxidants. I hope that it has cleared up any confusion you might have had. If you have any questions please don’t hesitate to e-mail me or leave a comment below.

Thanks for reading,
Dr. Ben

3 Exercises for Healthy Feet

Last week when we talked about finding the best footwear and before that when just talking about foot health in general I touched upon the idea of our feet being weak and unable to support themselves because of the way we’ve treated them. In both those previous posts I mentioned exercises to help reverse this. This week we are going to expand on this and discuss some of those exercises.

Ankle Alphabet
A key component of a strong foot is a strong ankle which requires not only muscle strength but proper mobility. This simple exercise will give us both of these factors in one shot. The Ankle Alphabet is performed by holding your foot (bare is better but it can be done in shoes that do not touch the ankle) just off the floor while seated or lying down. Hold you knee steady and write the alphabet in the air with your toes. All of the movement to do this should come from your ankle and not your toes, knee, or hip. Perform this exercise once a day on each foot writing the whole alphabet out.

Towel Grab
This next exercise helps to get the muscles and tissues on the bottom of our feet moving properly and will decrease tension and spasm. Place a dish towel flat on the floor and, in a seated position, put your bare foot down so that the edge of the towel is under the first knuckle of your toes and your toes are on top of the towel. Keeping your foot in contact with the floor as much as you can, grab the towel with your toes and push it back under your foot. Repeat this process until you reach the far end of the towel. You may have to occasionally lift your foot to allow the towel to move farther back as more is collected by your toes. When you reach the end of the towel smooth it out again and start over. Repeat this process several times on each foot daily.

Plantar Stretch
This next exercise is a little different and can be fairly uncomfortable when first starting out. As we’ve talked about before, tension can build up in the tissues of the bottom of the foot and the Towel Grab alone may not be enough to loosen them again. For the Plantar Stretch you need to be seated with one foot resting comfortably on top of the opposite knee. Take one thumb and place it on the sole of your foot. We’re going to call that thumb the “Pressure Hand” (PH). The other hand should grab onto your toes. We’ll call that hand the “Lever Hand” (LH). Keep your foot relaxed and curl your toes down with the LH. Then push into the bottom of your foot in an area that feels tense (generally around the arch) with the PH. Maintain the pressure on the bottom of your foot and slowly uncurl your toes with your LH. When your toes are fully extended, release the pressure from your PH and curl your toes again with your LH. Repeat this process in a variety of tense spots about 5-10 times on each foot 2-4 times a week.

Chiropractic care is very effective at treating foot problems and helping maintain good foot health. Each foot has 26 bones articulating in 33 joints. So why not see a joint, muscle, and bone specialist for optimal health?

Remember, feet are the foundation of our posture and without a strong foundation a building falls down.

Thanks for reading,
Dr. Ben

Shoes and Our Feet

A while ago I wrote a post about our Feet and Chiropractic Care and today I would like to expand on that a bit. Today we are going to be looking at footwear and their impact on our feet. There are many different types of shoes out there but we will be looking at a few of the more common ones that people wear on a regular basis. For a reminder of proper foot biomechanics take a look back at the original post on feet

The biggest criminal in the shoe world is the high heel. I touched on this briefly last time but let’s go into more detail now. High heeled shoes take the foot, which is designed to spread the weight of the body evenly between the forefoot (toes and arch) and the hindfoot (heel and ankle), and angles it so that all that weight is now on the balls of your feet. The higher the heel, the greater the amount of weight bearing down on this one area. This puts a lot of pressure on the tissues between the bones of your toes. Add to this the restrictive nature of high heeled shoes (trying to maintain some stability) and you have a bad mixture which can lead to a condition called “Morton’s Neuroma”. Morton’s Neuroma is the build-up of scar tissue around the nerves that run between the bones of our forefoot and into our toes. This scar tissue takes up more space than we have available and so squeezes the soft tissues of the nerve and can cause significant amount of pain. The most commonly suggested solution to this problem is surgery where they cut the nerve to kill it and we lose all feeling to that part of the foot and toes. Not the most desirable of situations. Chiropractic and Acupuncture treatments can have a good effect on this condition but are much more effective if caught early.

At the other end of the foot we have the ankle being held in a toe-pointed (Dorsiflexion) position which is not good for it. The pressure that runs down the bones of our shin (Tibia and Fibula) should be transferred through the middle of the ankle joint but instead if pushing down on the back side of the bones. This puts pressure into the closest joints can causes tension in the ankle and hindfoot joints which can cause pain and discomfort. As well, this maintained dorsiflexion put the Garstrocnemius in a shortened position when, as I’ve talked about before, muscles like to reset their default length to the one they spend the most time in. That means that prolonged use of high heels will make it more difficult to bring the ankle through its natural full range of motion and thus make it hard to perform proper biomechanics of walking when not in high heels. Regular stretching and Chiropractic care can help clear up these tension and tight muscle problems.

Flip flop sandals are the next big culprit. They are on almost everyone’s feet during the summer but they are not very good for us. The problem is that we have to work to keep them on while moving around. This means that we grip them with our toes so that they don’t go flying off or twist under our feet. In doing this we eliminate a key part of the gait cycle (the pattern of our walking stride) called “Toeing Off” when we are pushing off with our back foot and our toes are relaxed and extended. This applies to both thong and Berkinstock style sandals. Sandals that strap to our feet around the ankle and will stay on without us actively keeping them there are fine. The gripping action of our toes causes tension along the bottom of the foot and can lead to discomfort and foot problems down the road. Massage, Acupuncture, Physiotherapy, and Chiropractic are all great choices in dealing with this kind of tension.

The next type of shoe I would like to discuss is ballet slippers. These little flimsy slip-on shoes are an interesting conundrum. The provide no support what-so-ever, which is not a bad thing for our feet but the majority of people do not have the muscle strength and endurance to support a barefoot because of the way we have treated our feet in the past. On the other hand we need to challenge our feet to support themselves but in this case the necessity of the shoe trumps our foot’s need. In order to stay on the slipper needs to be snug on the foot from toes to heel, which does not allow for full range of motion of the toes as they splay out and extend back as we are toeing off. So in the end I would say these shoes are not great but are definitely better then high heels by a wide margin.

Men’s dress shoes are much like women’s high heels in their rigidity compared to other shoes out there. They are stiff and do not provide much ability to accommodate the movement of the arch and toes during our gait cycle. A well worn in pair will be more flexible but to get to this point we have to put up with a lot of discomfort and dysfunction in our feet.

At the other end of the spectrum we have athletic shoes. These puppies are designed to be perfect for the foot. They cushion the foot but also allow it to move when it needs to. The only problem with these types of shoes is that they are only designed for one activity. So when doing anything else they are not necessarily what we need. Depending on the sport they can be too restrictive in the ankle or hold the forefoot too tight for everyday life. The only exception that I would say if good for most things is a real running shoe. They are designed for our gait in a wide variety of speeds.

So is all footwear bad? Can we every find something that won’t hurt us? Well, of course we can. The ideal shoe is one that is relatively flat so that the ankle is aligned and weight is spread even throughout to foot. It needs to provide some support as our feet are not used to working by themselves but not too much so that our feet will have to work a little and we can keep them strong. This shoe should also allow for full ankle range of motion and have a flexible enough sole to allow for our toes to extend during toeing off. Make sure to really explore all the aspects of a pair of shoes when buying them so that you don’t regret it later. Of course we can’t limit ourselves completely in our lives. If you have a pair of shoe that you absolutely love you can still wear them but I highly suggest only doing so sparingly. Also, no matter what shoes you wear, we should all spend a portion of the day barefoot so that our feet can move the way they were designed to. Make sure your feet and healthy and happy and the difference in your life will be amazing.

Next week we will take a look at some exercises for the feet which will help to keep us strong and mobile.

Thanks for reading.
Dr. Ben

Eat Your Broccoli

I would like to take some time this week to highlight one of the best foods that I know. Broccoli! Now I know that most people learn from a young age to dislike this veggie but it is so good for you and such a versatile ingredient that I just don’t understand it. Sure I didn’t like it as a kid either but I think that comes more from the rebellious spirit ignited by the oft used phrase “Eat Your Broccoli!” than from any real aversion to it. Let’s explore why this vegetable is so great and what we can do to incorporate it into our diets more.

This dark green cruciferous veggie is one of the best sources of nutrients we could ever get our hands on. It is a wonderful source of almost all the minerals, vitamins, and proteins we need. One cup of raw broccoli contains more than our entire daily recommended minimum of Vitamin C, and all the Vitamin K. In fact, the only thing it’s really missing is Vitamin D. Research has even shown that broccoli may contain phytonutrients that help to fight and prevent different types of cancer.

Aside from providing amazing nutrient values and possible cancer fighting powers broccoli also gives us a great helping of fibre which helps to regulate our hunger signals, digestion speed, bowel movements, and intestinal bacteria. Fibre is an important part of our diets and most of us don’t get enough.

The main problem that people seem to have with broccoli is that it isn’t a very interesting veggie in terms of flavour or texture. Well, I want to tell you that there is so much that we can do with that in the kitchen that we don’t need to need to give up on this little green friend. Broccoli, when cooked, is extremely good at carrying the flavours of the things around it. If we combine it in dishes with foods that have stronger flavours like fruits, herbs, and sauces, the broccoli will absorb this flavour and spread it throughout the dish. Broccoli makes an excellent filler in larger dishes to bulk them up and add a big boast of nutrient value to your meal.

For the optimal broccoli dish, you should cook it until there is just a little bit of white left in the cut ends of the stems. This way the broccoli will be soft but still have just that little bit of crunch to it. This will avoid the mushy texture of over cooked broccoli and the really hard crunch of raw broccoli.

One last tip. It’s not only the florets (leafy/flowery bits at the top) that we can use in cooking. A lot of the fibre content is found in the stalks of the veggie. We can get all the nutrients housed in the stalks be adding them to soups but my favourite use is a little more creative. Take the stalks and shred them and add them to thick sauces or stews like chili or pasta sauce (stir-frys are great too) and the small bit of the tough stalk will cook completely and just bend in with the rest of the meal giving you that amazing nutritional value while going unnoticed in the dish.

So there are many ways that we can use broccoli in our food without trying to “just eat it”. My advice is to get creative and try different things. You may find that you secretly loved broccoli all along and just didn’t know it. This amazing superfood should always have a place in our fridges and stomachs.

I’ve found a few recipes to start you off in your adventures with broccoli. If you find more in your travels definitely leave them in the comments below for everyone to enjoy.
-Broccoli with Garlic Butter and Cashews
-Roasted Garlic Lemon Broccoli
-Broccoli and Rice Stir-Fry
-Broccoli Marinara
-Sesame Broccoli
-Roasted Sage Broccoli

Thanks for reading and happy cooking.
Dr. Ben

4 Ways To Beat The Heat

Here in Toronto we are on the verge of officially declaring a “Heat Wave”. It is supposed to break next week but it’s still going to be very hot. It is uncomfortably hot and humid out there right now but we can’t let that get in the way of our lives. This week I’ve put together some suggestions on how to beat the heat this summer other than becoming an air conditioned hermit in your home.

1. Hydration
Our bodies run on water and so many people do not drink enough of it. I’ve definitely said this before but our bodies run on chemical reactions both within our cells and in our blood. Water is the solvent in which those chemical reactions occur, so every single cell and the spaces in between them are filled with the liquid. This is all well and good until you take into account that we also use this essential liquid to filter out toxins in our urine and, more importantly in this situation, we use it as a primary source of core temperature reduction as sweat.

So in hot weather we lose water consistently as we try to cool ourselves down but there is a limit to how much we can lose. Our body needs a minimum level of water in us to function let alone function optimally. So drink lots of water throughout the day to ensure you have enough to keep going and cool down too.

Another thing you can do it sprinkle water on your face, neck, and arms to help with the sweating process. The way that sweat cools us is that heat from our bodies is transferred to the water and it evaporates away. So putting extra water on our exposed skin can speed this up and keep the water in our body where it is for longer.

2. Wear Light Colours
Our clothing choices can make a big difference in our day during the summer. Lighter colours will reflect the sun’s heat more but darker colours will provide greater UV radiation protection. Personally, I would prefer to have a diet rich in antioxidants to help prevent skin damage than swelter in the heat with a dark shirt. Darker clothing will become hotter faster than lighter ones and make you want to jump into the closest water fountain.

3. Shade
Shade is your best friend on the ridiculously hot days. Find a tree to sit under for a few minutes when outside to cool down before you continue on your day and try to walk on the shady side of the street (despite what Louis Armstrong may say) . Doing this will also provide some UV protection.

UV protection is very important and we’ll get into that later but if you are worried you can always bring and umbrella with you. Sunscreen is a fairly controversial topic right now with some concerns about the toxic effect. If you want to learn more check out this link

4. Pick Your Parts
The body has some specific areas that lose heat faster than the rest of the body. These are the top of our heads, the feet, the arm pits, and the groin. Wear clothing that allows these areas of the body to get air flow and this will significantly decrease your temperature. If at all possible keep these areas bare for maximum flow. Of course, use some discretion as one of these bodily regions should not be bare in public. You can also position yourself near a fan or air conditioning vent in the office or home so that the cool air hits you in these areas (again, discretion please).

This is by far not an extensive list of heat beating tricks but it will definitely help on these killer days. Also, be sure to check in on older friends and relatives as well as geriatric physiology has greater difficulty dealing with extreme temperatures and dehydration.

Keep cool this summer and thanks for reading.
Dr. Ben

Thoracic Outlet Syndrome: Posture’s Problem Child

Welcome back to my blog! This is the first post to DrBenRoffey.com so I would like to take a moment and say Thank You for coming by and I hope that you can learn something from what I do here. If you have any questions about what we discuss here or about any aspects of health or healthcare my door is always open. E-mail me at drroffey@gmail.com and I’ll get back to you as quickly as I can.

And now back to our regularly scheduled blogging.

One of the more common conditions that walks into a chiropractor’s office but you don’t hear much about is called “Thoracic Outlet Syndrome” (TOS). This is a condition which is not terribly serious but the symptoms can be very scary and if left long enough can cause become fairly debilitating.

First of all let’s look at what this condition is and what causes it. The Thoracic Outlet is the triangle shaped space between your collar bone, shoulder blade, and the base of your neck. Through this space all of the arteries, veins, and lymphatic ducts travel to and from the chest cavity (Thorax) and out into the arm. These structures are also joined by the nerves from the neck that travel to the muscles and skin of the arm. That is a lot of stuff going through a fairly small area. Thoracic Outlet Syndrome occurs when any or all of the nerves, arteries, or veins become compressed which causes pain, numbness, and or tingling, in the hand and arm

The compression of these structures can happen in several different ways but most are due to poor posture, specifically hunching of the upper back (Thoracic spine), rolling forwards of the shoulders, and the head pushing forward in front of the shoulders. Any or all of these postural positions will stress and strain the muscles around our skeleton and cause them to tense up to hold the weight we are not placing upon them. As the angles of these muscles change and their tension increases dramatically they will push against the nerves at the base of the neck and the arteries and veins exiting and entering the top of the rib cage (the Thoracic Outlet) thus causing Thoracic Outlet Syndrome.

The pain and numbness or tingling associated with TOS can be continuous or episodic in nature depending on the amount of pressure on the structures and they usually have a specific area that they stays within. Most commonly the symptoms are experienced in the hands but over time they may spread into the forearms and even up into the shoulders. People with TOS may also notice a decrease in sensation in the areas affects. If left for a long period of time without treatment muscle weakness can occur in the hand affected.

The exact areas of numbness and tingling and change in skin sensation will be different depending on if it is the nerves, arteries, or veins involved but in general the hand and forearm are the most common areas to experience these symptoms. These symptoms can be mimicked by other conditions such as Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, Herniated Intervertebral Discs in the neck (Cervical Spine), and even active trigger points in the rotator cuff muscles that can refer pain down into the hand and fingers. Make sure you see a doctor to determine the true cause of your pain.

When you go to a doctor they should ask a series of questions and perform a number of tests on you to help determine the nature and source of the problem. Thoracic Outlet Syndrome reacts very well to complementary treatments and therapies including chiropractic, acupuncture, massage, and physiotherapy all have excellent results.

Posture is an extremely important thing in our lives and if we maintain a good posture we can avoid conditions like TOS. So I hate to say it but our mothers were right, “Sit up straight and stop slouching.”

Thanks for reading,
Dr. Ben

Chiropractic and Ribs

(Originally posted on bcotoronto.com on June 6th, 2013)

Chiropractors can adjust any movable joint in the body but the one that people seem to always be surprised at is a rib adjustment. It turns out that most people think that ribs are immobile bones that only protect the chest but there is so much more to them than that.

Ribs to function to protect the organs of the chest and stabilize the thoracic spine but they also play an important role in how we breathe. Our lungs are not muscular organs and so cannot draw air into themselves. It is the responsibility of the diaphragm and the ribs to do this. The diaphragm descends into the abdomen which pushes the ribs out and up in what is referred to as a “bucket handle” motion. This expansion of the chest pulls the lungs out in every direction drawing air in. Relaxing the diaphragm lets the ribs descend and the elasticity of the lungs pushes the air out again.

The ribs are attached to the spine at the back and the sternum in the front. At the spine, the ribs form a joint with the vertebrae which is surrounded but many little muscles. The joint between the ribs and the sternum at the front is slightly more ridged. The ribs end just short of the edge of the sternum and cartilage fills that gap. This does allow some movement as the cartilage is supple and flexible. With these joints as they are the ribs are able to move well and aid in breathing while providing the boney protection to our heart and lungs.

This is, of course, if we are treating our body correctly, which most of us are not. As a society our posture is terrible. We slouch forwards which does not allow out diaphragm to descend as well. This forces us to compensate and use the muscles of the back and shoulders to pull the ribs up to expand our lungs rather than letting them be pushed up by expanding our abdomen. As it happens in all cases of muscular compensation this puts a strain on muscles they were not meant to take. This leads to muscular spasms and pain as well as joint dysfunction in the areas of the spasm. So all these muscles clamping down and holding everything tightly means that the ribs will not be able move properly and hinder breathing. This can be quite uncomfortable and even make breathing painful.

Muscular spasm and improper movement of the ribs will eventually pull the ribs “out” which is not to say that our ribs will fall off but that they will stick out from where they should be. This is not a dislocation but it is a misalignment which can be corrected through adjustment. The adjustment will help to relax the spasm of the muscles, restore proper movement of the rib, and help to improve breathing.

This type of dysfunction is incredibly common and is so simple to reverse. Adjustments paired with postural exercise can restore full breathing capacity and maintain it. This is especially important for people who have difficulty breathing with conditions such as asthma, emphysema, and even smokers.

So make sure your ribs are moving and breathe the fresh air this summer.

Thanks for reading.
Dr. Ben

The Healthy “Fad”

(Originally posted on bcotoronto.com on May 30th, 2013)

Generally I try to keep my opinion out of my writing and let the facts speak for themselves (I know I don’t always succeed) but today I’m going to throw all that out the window and talk about something that has been bothering me. This is going to be all opinion so hang onto your hats.

Health information is everywhere now and I love this. I’m actively disseminating this information too but it also scares me a little. I look at the way it is being presented and I get very worried. There seem to be two main frames that health information gets stuck in: Fabulous New Diets from magazines and newspapers, or the “Health Experts” talking down to you the consumer and imparting their vast wisdom. Neither of these foster a fertile environment for building a healthy public.

From what I have seen people generally react in one of two ways: they fall into fad dieting quickly lose interest or hope, or they become overwhelmed by information and retreat into their existing eating and lifestyle habits. Both of these are very bad things.

Fad dieters will lose and gain weight quickly which research has suggested is even worse for your health than obesity. As well, many of these fads are not well researched and can be harmful.

Those who retreat are usually withdrawing into habits that are unhealthy and so are not doing themselves any favours.

I think that we need to find a middle ground here. One that brings out the excitement and simplicity of Fad diets but also the solid, factual basis of health experts. I think that this middle ground does exist already but is being lost. There are lots of blogs from great, scientifically minded people who are excited about what they are doing and sharing that knowledge and love of health with the world. I like to think that mine is one of them. It is sites like these which enable us to engage in our health decisions with fully informed opinions without pressure or bias.

It is also important to find people who lead by example. You hear way to many stories of cardiologists who die of heart attacks just walking to get their mail. I would never trust the information presented to me by someone who does not follow their own advice. Either they are incredibly lazy or they don’t believe in what they are saying. Of course, they are human and make mistakes but most of them will write about their mistakes to learn from them and teach us how to avoid or recover from them.

We, as the public, need to take over nutrition reporting in our lives. Go out and find sources who you trust, who are not trying to sell you something or politically motivated. Learn from these people and gather the information around you. They will help you find the health you want and make it much easier than listening to the mainstream media or the health elites.

That’s my two cents worth anyways. Thanks for reading.
Dr. Ben

The Feet and Chiropractic

(Originally posted on bcotoronto.com on May 23rd, 2013)

Most people do not think about their feet beyond, “Ew! Stinky!” or wanting to hide them away because of some blemish or callous. Well, this week we’re going to take some time to think about our feet in a little more detail than that. Our feet are extremely important to us. In fact, they are extremely important to our entire bodies.

Our feet are always providing either the stability we need to make other movements with the rest of our body or the mobility to respond to the changing ground as we walk. Each foot contains 26 different bones and even more joints. The function of these joints can have a dramatic effect on the rest of the structures of the body. The feet are like the foundation of a house. If the foundation is not strong then the rest of the house will bear the brunt of the damage.

The mobility of the foot is its most important feature. Unlike a house we are able to move around and so we need out foundation to be able to react and adapt to changing features of the ground beneath us. Even with sidewalks there are cracks and bumps and curbs. The joints of our feet should be able to move to provide support no matter what the ground is and the muscles of our feet should be able to provide the strength needed to maintain that support.

When we walk the joints and muscle of the feet are supposed to act in a specific way. We step forward onto our heel and roll along the bottom of the foot as we transfer our weight onto that leg. The weight is specifically running along the outside edge of the foot and curves under the balls of the foot and into the big toe as we push forward again. This only happens if all of the joints are moving properly and the muscles are strong.

If the muscles are weak then we get into a situation called a “Fallen Arch”. This is when the biggest arch of the foot, the “Medial Longitudinal Arch” (the inside edge of the foot), flattens to some degree changing the angles of other joints of the foot and rolling the entire foot inward. This puts a lot of strain on the ligaments of the foot and the joints of the ankle.

There are two other major arches in the feet called the “Lateral Longitudinal Arch” (the outside edge of the foot), which is only a very slight curve, and the “Transverse (or Transversal depending on the source) Arch” which runs between the two Longitudinal ones. Both of these arches are able to fall as well but are less common and cause less difficulty when they do.

On the other end of the spectrum, we can also experience “High Arches” which occurs when the joints are stiff and not as mobile as the need to be. This limits the amount the foot is able to roll during the transition of our weight while walking and causes many difficulties.

No matter what the cause, a foot that cannot respond to the changes placed upon it will transfer the responsibility of the appropriate response up to the ankles, which pass it to the knees, which pass it up the hip, and the hips to the low back, and so on and up it goes. So your headaches may actually be related to improper foot mechanics. Kind of blows the mind, doesn’t it.

Well, this begs the question of what is doing this to us. First and foremost, it is our shoes. The average shoe is designed to cushion the foot so that is doesn’t need to respond to the changes in the ground. Well, what happens to a muscle that is not used? It becomes weak and flabby, then when our shoes wear out or we are not wearing our shoes at all the muscles of our feet cannot sustain the stability the foot should be providing. Also, High Heeled shoes are absolutely killing your foot. The hold the foot in and change all the angles and pressures placed upon it. So it cannot move and so becomes stiff as well as squishing the transverse arch around and causing trouble. The second thing is our sidewalks. We have flattened our world to make it easier on ourselves but in actuality we have taken away the aspect of our world that keeps our feet exercised, healthy, and strong. Without the daily ups and downs of unlevel ground the muscles in our feet get weak and flabby and so cannot give the support needed when called upon.

So how do you fix this? Chiropractic, as it is with all joint and muscle problems, is an excellent way to treat foot problems from bunions to fallen arches to plantar fasciitis. But even if we get the joints moving again and the muscles nice and strong again they will need upkeep. Try walking around without your shoes while you are at home or in the park. This will help to give those little muscles of the feet the exercise they need to stay strong.

Orthotics can be used to help very severe cases and are available from most Chiropractic, Physiotherapy, or Chiropodist clinics but they are a crutch that should not be relied upon for a long period of time. Orthotics will help hold the foot in place and relieve symptoms of improper foot mechanics but they too will eventually make the feet week. So they should only be used while rehabilitating the feet for better function.

I encourage you to think about your feet more and remember how important they are in your life. Treat them well and they will do the same for you.

Thanks for reading,
Dr. Ben