Stress- the "Silent Killer"
So here’s an alarming statistic— the estimated percentage of American adults attempting to control/ manage their stress is 95%. So if you’ve been feeling stressed lately, I want you to know, you’re definitely not alone. When we know better, we do better. The major problem with being chronically stressed is that all disease conditions are complicated by stress and stress has been linked to heart disease, cancer, accidents, and suicide. Stress has been even called the “silent killer” for its role in heart related deaths. You may be wondering how this happens? Simply put; in times of stress the hormone cortisol is released into the bloodstream and the body’s inflammatory cascade begins. Stress can manifest with cognitive symptoms like anxious thoughts, constant worrying, difficulty concentrating, and can even impact our memory. We can experience emotional symptoms like being more irritable to our family, friends, or co-workers, feeling overwhelmed and even feeling lonely. We can experience physical symptoms like aches and pains, muscle spasms, racing heart, digestive issues, and weak immune system making us more prone to getting sick. And lastly we can experience behavioral symptoms like over or under eating, isolating ourselves, sleeping too much or even not being able to get a good night’s sleep at all.
I’m not telling you these things to make you feel more stressed out. I’m mentioning these things so that we (myself included) can be more aware that while stress seems to be a “normal” part of our daily lives, we have to work on doing some things to relieve our stress to allow our bodies to relax and heal.
There are physical, emotional, and even nutritional ways to manage stress that we are going to dive into. Physical solutions to reduce stress include exercise whether that be yoga, walking, weight lifting, swimming, group exercise classes or team sports. Exercise has a direct effect on our hormones. During exercise and even for some time after we’re finished exercising, our body releases endorphins (happy hormones) while decreasing cortisol (stress hormone). Some solutions to our emotional stress is to create a “stop doing” list. Write down the things you want to stop doing (put post-its where you spend the most time: desk at work, bathroom mirror, nightstand, etc). A stop doing list might sound something like this: stop scrolling social media constantly, stop having your phone next to you at bedtime, stop criticizing, stop working through your breaks, stop gossiping about co-workers, stop drinking soda, or eating sweets, stop sitting for extended periods of time, stop complaining, stop comparing yourself to others– you get the idea. Instead of adding things to your plate, start taking some away. Other emotional ways to manage stress include meditation, reading, or hands-on therapies like massage, floatation therapy, acupuncture, or chiropractic. Nutritional ways to reduce stress are generally handled best on a one to one basis depending on age, gender, health goals, lifestyle, etc. A general rule of thumb is that proper hydration (water) helps eliminate waste from our bodies making them function better. A good goal for most people is half of your weight in ounces of water consumption daily. For example, someone who is 180 pounds would aim to drink 90 ounces of water. My other advice is to try to do most of your grocery shopping around the perimeter of the grocery store- vegetables, fruit, meat, dairy. The inside aisles tend to be filled with more processed foods.
Control the things in your life that you can but then let go of the things you can’t. grab yourself a book, sip on a cup of coffee, go fishing—do something daily that makes you happy to reduce your stress and lower the amount of cortisol in your body. Lastly, they say (genuine) laughter is the best medicine. Laughter increases oxygen in your body, stimulates your heart, lungs and muscles, and activates our happy hormones. Here’s to trying to lead a less stressful life!
As a chiropractor, it’s my job to help people achieve their health goals. The word chiropractor comes from the Latin word chiro (of the hand) and the Greek word praktikos (practical) (action, practice) — so basically chiropractic means “done by hand”. In school, when we were learning how to palpate joints (trying to decide if a joint is moving properly or if it is “stuck”) one of the first exercises we spent hours working on in class was taking a single strand of horse hair and putting it behind pages in a book and then having to use touch to find the strand again— basically a princess and the pea scenario. At the time, it was frustrating and seemed elementary— what did this have to do with becoming a doctor of Chiropractic? When did we get to learn how to adjust? But I sat there and worked on the exercise starting with a single page and eventually I could find that strand of hair beneath 20-30 pages. The point of this story is that at the very root of chiropractic we use our hands to find the smallest imbalances in the human body with muscle knots, strains, and improperly moving joints and work on correcting them.
I meet people at all points of their health journey. My favorite are the babies, just a few days or weeks old— the biggest stress to their life so far has been their birth (which is a lot) but this was a very recent happening so their adjustment is so gentle. Babies quickly fall back into place and their parents can instantly see changes in the baby’s sleep, ability to nurse, and their overall fussiness. Kids and teenagers typically do well with maintenance care– getting things moving properly during tough sports seasons or a big tubing wipeout on the lake. For many adults it can take a little more time and intervention on both sides. For my treatment, and for the person at home – working on stretching, strengthening, and even trigger point releases for muscles before the person is really moving down the health path that they’re hoping for. Usually we have to stop gaining momentum in the wrong direction, going further down the path of Dis-ease, turn around, and then start gaining momentum in the right direction of healing and wellness. The reality is that it takes much less time and energy to stop an injury or disease process from progressing when it is caught and managed early.
I often hear from patients, “I didn’t experience pain or symptoms until recently,” or “I never would have guessed it was this bad, I didn’t start to feel any discomfort until a couple weeks ago.” Why is this? Why won’t your body tell you that something is wrong earlier so it’s easier to correct and fix? The absence or presence of pain is a very poor indicator of health. Only 8-12% of your entire nervous system senses and transmits pain! Injuries, illnesses and dis-ease often manifest long before you start to experience pain because of this.
For reference, let’s look at an example case. Patient arrives with severe low back pain and pain that travels down the entire left leg. Prior to this, the patient had only experienced mild episodes of low back pain that occurred after strenuous activities which were ultimately relieved by some rest. Due to the severity of degeneration shown on the x-ray, the actual injury likely occurred at least 20+ years ago and has been progressively worsening since. So why has this person only started to experience severe discomfort now? Remember, only 8-12% of the nervous system is capable of detecting and transmitting pain.
Pain is the most powerful reprogramming agent there is for the central and peripheral nervous system. It’s amazing how your body will learn how to compensate for almost any injury until it cannot compensate further. Your body’s ability to fight for its health and functionality is extremely profound, and due to this it will often find a way to cover things up, until it can’t anymore. Unfortunately, the breaking point is when most people seek chiropractic care for the first time, and are shocked at how much damage has occurred over the years without them knowing. This marks the beginning of a long process of first managing pain and symptoms, then correcting the structural problem, and finally getting the body to a point where it can permanently heal and progress towards wellness.
Animals Across the Wars
The 4th of July is often celebrated with fireworks, parades, BBQ, family time, and (hopefully) some sun. Growing up I remember asking my Grandpa, who served in the Navy during the Korean War, what the 4th of July meant to him. He said it reminded him of the reasons why he served in the first place: to protect life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. I just wanted to say thank you to all veterans and active military for contributing to our continued independence and freedom. I have had the honor of working with and adjusting search and rescue dogs and horses which inspired my research of animals serving in the military. I knew of dogs and horses being involved in the military but was surprised to hear camels, elephants, mules, pigeons, and even cats have served a purpose as well.
Camels were actually used in World War I as ambulances. Two stretchers were attached to the camel so they could transport wounded soldiers across the desert. I didn’t realize this, but camels are actually smarter than horses. Elephants were also used in WWI and WWII to move heavy loads. One elephant can do the work of three horses. Elephants carried weapons, helped build bridges, and carried soldiers across rivers. Horses have been used for easy transport of people, weapons, and messengers. Unlike vehicles, horses are better navigators of uneven, very narrow, rough terrain. Horses are also almost completely silent. Mules aren’t as pretty or as celebrated as equines but they do their fair share of moving heavy equipment. (They can also be more stubborn than their cousin the horse.)
As far as most unique animals used I think pigeons are at the top of the list. I know how finicky current communication is with cell phone signals and WiFi. Back in WWI and WWII, pigeons were used to carry messages back and forth. These pigeons were released from planes and even from sea and actually made it to the correct place on land. Over 90% of US Army messages sent by pigeons were received. I can’t even imagine the type or amount of training involved to accomplish this.
The animal that automatically came to mind for me is the dog. In the World Wars, dogs carried messages, wires for radios, and medical gear to injured soldiers. Most recently dogs have been trained to find and detect explosives even from quite a distance. K9's are trained to work side by side for special missions with their humans- dogs are after all a man’s best friend. The other house pet used in the military is cats to boost morale and catch rats. Officially pets can’t be kept by soldiers overseas but these cats are kept very busy doing their job of catching hundreds of mice.
It’s amazing how each of these animals fulfilled a unique role in different types of terrain around the world. This 4th of July I want to honor and thank all the human men and women service members as well as the furry and feathered ones too for all they have done to keep us safe!
Can you hear me now?
Having a baby has had me focused more and more on child development and child health. Mr. Marshall has been growing like a weed. He loves smiling and cooing at anyone who will talk to him or smile back at him. He’s been rolling from his back to his belly and is always proud of himself when he does. He enjoys going for a walk in his stroller and swinging in the office. Recently I was reading that one of the number one reasons kids go to the pediatrician is for a suspected ear infection (it’s actually about 35% of the visits). What are the common symptoms associated with an ear infection? Tugging or pulling at the ear, trouble sleeping, ear drainage, fever, child complaining of pain, or even lack of balance.
Did you know that while children are younger their eustachian tubes are shorter, narrower, and more horizontal? As kids mature the eustachian tube slowly orients more vertically. Kiddos’ eustachian tubes slope downward only about 10 degrees compared to adult’s tubes that slant 35 degrees. Since the tubes are more horizontal, this allows fluid and bacteria to sit inside the ear instead of draining. This is the main reason children suffer from more ear infections than adults. The eustachian tubes are made up of bone, cartilage, and fibrous tissue. Six muscles contribute to the opening and closing of the eustachian tubes— these muscles are located in the ear, head, neck, soft palate, and jaw. Upper cervical chiropractic adjustments focused on the atlas and occiput bones can actually reduce tension on these tiny muscles that attach to the eustachian tube to help aid in fluid drainage.
Parents often wonder how misalignments or subluxations can occur. Misalignments of the upper neck can happen from major events like the childbirth process. They can also be from everyday trips and tumbles while babies and children are learning to move their bodies whether that be rolling, crawling, walking, or running. If there is a lot of tension in the muscles at the top of the neck this can also impact the middle ear’s ability to allow fluid to drain.
A study completed in 1997 focused on the correlation between chiropractic adjustments and chronic ear infections. The study included 332 children aged between 27 days old and 5 years who received chiropractic adjustments. Almost 80% of the 332 children did not experience another ear infection during the six- month follow up of the study. The children in the study were previously diagnosed with chronic ear infections so for them to go 6 months without one is pretty awesome. 311 of the 332 kids previously were prescribed antibiotics for their ear infections. 69.9% of the children had their first ear infection before the age of 1. The study concluded that chiropractic care is a conservative treatment to consider for kiddos with chronic ear aches. What’s even better is that there are several positive side effects to pediatric chiropractic care including help with post birth recovery, colic, aid in proper physical development, and even reports of better sleep.
Take a Hike Back Pain
I know everyone is excited that spring weather is just around the corner. We have a few snow banks left to melt, and fingers crossed we’re done with big snows for the season. Marshall and I are looking forward to getting some hiking in. We’ll probably start with the local favorite Bond Falls and then check out another one I enjoy, Star Lake Trail.
Inactivity is one of the biggest contributors to back pain. In the winter months it can be very easy to sit at a desk, drive in the car, or lay on the couch by the fire a little too much. If you’re like me and spent too much time inside this winter, the first few walks and hikes can leave you feeling sore. If you have any preexisting back or hip pain, this can affect you even more. When starting out, begin with a couple short walks on somewhat even terrain just to wake your hibernating body back up. Before heading out, it may be helpful to do 5-8 minutes of gentle stretching. You can google some hamstring, quad, hip, psoas, and ankle stretches. You can add in gentle back stretches too such as gently bringing your knees to your chest while laying on your back or even the cat cow yoga pose/ stretch. Once you’re ready to graduate to different uneven terrains this will actually lead to improved balance and better coordination of muscles in your back, legs, core, and even smaller muscles of the feet.
For those of you who are unsteady on your feet or don’t have the best posture resulting in back discomfort, you might want to invest in a pair of trekking poles. Hiking poles help keep you upright, stable, and take a lot of stress/ pressure off of your back. You can even use a walking stick you find along the way.
One more skill to practice is the “abdominal brace”. This is helpful once you get out on the trails and may need to duck under branches. Abdominal bracing helps create more stability for the spine. The best way to focus on this skill is to imagine someone is going to punch you in the side. In that moment, your abs, sides, and back all tighten up to protect you. This is also helpful if you pick anything up off the ground or like I mentioned if you go to duck under something on the trail.
If you’re looking for new hiking adventures in Vilas County, there’s a helpful phone app called Map It Vilas Co. It actually has a section to help you pick a trail based on what town you want to visit, your interests, or even the distance you’re wanting to walk that day. That’s how I found out about the Star Lake Trail. This spring and summer I’m hoping to find some new favorites. Feel free to stop by and share your favorites with me or even send me an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The spine and the nervous system is the “air traffic control” of the body. Everything else in the body is an extension of those two things. This system applies to both humans and animals. Chiropractic adjustments to the spine restore and maintain the integrity of this foundation. This then maximizes the potential for the body to function the way it was designed to.
Spring is a common time owners notice their working or sports performance animals just don’t seem to be moving well or doing their job like they used to. After the long cold winter and the slippery thaw with ice and mud, it’s common to see some pain, injuries, and even flare ups from arthritis. In the horse world, back pain is a well known cause of lameness, gait alterations, and poor performance in sport horses. 25 percent of dressage horse owners report back problems in their animals. But to be honest, not only sport horses are affected. Senior horses, work horses, and even trail riding horses can benefit from chiropractic care. Chiropractic assessments are great to evaluate how the joints are moving and if there are any tender or tight muscles. Spring time is my favorite season to go out and meet with horse owners and help their horses get into tip top shape for the summer.
I get asked all the time… How can you adjust a horse!? No, we don’t have the horses in the office and on the tables. I use a big purple bale to allow me to get up and over the horse. You can actually see the bale in the picture next to this article. Being up and over the horse allows me to have proper adjusting angles of correction. Horses typically love their adjustments and this can be seen as they start to lower their head, chew, their eyes get tired, and many more subtle cues. Contrary to popular belief, horses do not need more “ooompf” nor does the adjuster need to use all of their strength to provide adjustments to horses. This is where proper animal chiropractic education is so important!
On the first visit, I always spend some time getting to know the owner and their horse. How old is the horse, have they been adjusted before? What’s the work history of the horse? Farm work, barrel racing, dressage, mostly trail riding, etc. I also like to find out if the owner has any concerns with the horse picking up a lead, turning in one direction or another, if they’ve ever noticed any weakness or lameness or even changes in the horse’s behavior. From there I like to watch the horse walk so I can assess the horse’s gait on my own or if I notice any stiffness I want to investigate further. That’s when I get to do the fun part— I assess each of the joints for proper movement and apply gentle chiropractic adjustments where needed.
Moro Reflex— how startling
Since having Marshall, I’ve had babies on the mind way more than usual. It’s fascinating how quickly babies grow, change, learn, and develop. In Marshall’s first few weeks we noticed him startling quite a bit. In school I did take a few developmental classes– but until you spend 24/7 with a newborn it’s really difficult to put all you learn into perspective. Do you know why babies startle? That little reaction is just about the most important thing a baby does as a newborn and it’s very important to understand why. The human baby arrives with a set of reflexes that are designed to help them survive and grow their brain. There are six different reflexes that slowly disappear as a baby develops. Generally all of these reflexes disappear by the time a baby is a year old. These reflexes include stepping, rooting, palmar grasp, moro reflex, tonic neck reflex, and plantar grasp. Of the reflexes, the Moro reflex actually initiates birth and when a baby squeezes out the other side: this reflex actually makes a baby take their first breath. Sounds important right?
You might have noticed that little newborns jump at just about everything... Your arm twitches: bam. Someone walks by: bam. The door shuts: bam. You go to lay them down and: bam. That jump, arms flying, unsettling reaction is actually organizing all the new sensory information a baby’s body is taking in. That startle you see is how a baby’s brain is beginning to understand what movement, sound, sight, and sudden sensation mean. Neurologically it’s a baby’s fight-or-flight mode. That’s why sometimes when your baby startles: they cry and other times they don’t. Their brain gets smarter EVERY SINGLE TIME it fires. It’s the foundation of a baby’s entire nervous system. You are actually watching your baby learn sensory processing in real time. ⠀
The moro reflex is actually the secret to a lifelong good sleeper. You can support a baby’s reflex by understanding it! The beauty of this reflex is that it is extremely short-lived if given free movement. Free movement is lots of play on the floor wiggling those little arms and legs. Or even working on tummy time even if only for a minute or two at a time for the first couple weeks. By 8 weeks old a baby will demonstrate only a partial startle, if given free movement, day and night. By 3 months the startle is nearly non-existent and gone by 4 months. Babies that continue to startle past 6 months are at-risk for abnormal sensory processing. Many parents are never informed about this incredibly important aspect of a baby's development and often parents can lead to searching for answers as to why or how to "fix" the baby from startling. When we don’t understand the importance of this reflex for brain development we then see parents encouraged to suppress this normal, natural, necessary neurological sequence. Letting a baby figure this out on their own by giving them plenty of wiggle time is really the best way for their brains to sort through this new world they are born into. Was your baby’s startle explained to you?
Adjustments for kids
It’s been a whirlwind of a holiday season this year. Right before Thanksgiving, we welcomed our baby boy Marshall into the world so I had someone to be extra thankful for this year. Fatherhood has brought some big changes, but I’ve been loving every minute of it. Throughout my years as a chiropractor, I have adjusted many newborn babies and toddlers but to be honest, there is something very cool about being able to adjust your own baby after they’re born.
A lot of people have asked me why would a baby be out of alignment in the first place? The answer is… birth.
Babies have to navigate an almost 90 degree turn in their mama’s pelvis as they are entering the world. Then you add in possible pulling, twisting, or guiding by care-providers’ hands. Sometimes babies and mom need some extra guidance with forceps or vacuum extraction and this also adds a level of trauma to the baby’s birth. It really is a lot for a little body. I encourage you to look at some pictures if you have not witnessed it yourself. We’re always told to be careful of supporting a baby’s head and neck when we hold them because they can’t do this themselves. So it would make sense that after a birth where there is a lot of force applied to the baby’s head, neck, and shoulders that a being assessed by a pediatric chiropractor may be beneficial.
I’ve also been asked, what about a C-section birth? Depending on the care provider you may still have a fair amount of traction (pulling) on the baby’s head and neck during the birth process. What C-section babies also miss out on is the squeezing effect of the birth canal on their bodies which actually plays an important role in primitive reflex integration.
Regardless of how your baby entered the world, Pediatric Chiropractic is a beautiful aspect to consider in your baby’s holistic health care while they grow and thrive. Studies have shown that pediatric chiropractic can help babies and toddlers with colic, ear infections, reflux, constipation, and delays in physical milestones like rolling over, crawling, or walking.
Happy Healthy Thanksgiving!
Happy Thanksgiving! There’s a lot to be thankful for this past year. Personally I am very thankful for all the friends I’ve made during my first year as a full time resident of the northwoods. I greatly appreciate all the advice I’ve been given along the way and how willing everyone is to help one another. We had some beautiful hot summer weather followed up by a very mild and decently long fall. Heck, the trick or treaters may have had to wear some layers or a jacket but at least they weren’t trekking through the snow. Even though the first day of winter isn’t technically until December 21st we are approaching that winter weather. I’m going to share some tips for getting through Thanksgiving without back discomfort but some of these ideas can apply to shoveling snow too which is on its way.
The first tip is regarding heavy lifting. On Thanksgiving, we’re bound to have something heavy to lift whether that be a suitcase or duffle bag of a visiting family member or being the one to take the turkey out of the oven. One of the biggest recommendations when lifting is to keep your back straight and bend at the knees to have the power of the lift to actually come from our legs and not our back. This can more easily be applied to suitcases and even shoveling heavy snow. The hot oven door in the case of getting the turkey into and out of the oven is a little more complicated. I recommend pulling the shelf out of the oven a bit and then actually having two people lift the turkey- one person on each side. You’ll need to coordinate with someone else to not spill the juices, but you’ll be less likely to overextend your back and hurt yourself.
The next tip is for prolonged standing. Standing for long periods of time seems inevitable while prepping for Thanksgiving. There can be a lot of veggie/ potato peeling and chopping involved. Maybe some apple and pumpkin pie baking. This can lead to fatigue of the low back and leg muscles leading to discomfort and pain. It’s good to break up your prep time with some standing and then some sitting or even some walking. Take a quick walk around the house to get everything moving again. This applies to shoveling as well. It’s best not to keep powering through. Take a few breaks, sit down and relax, have some water and then continue on your way.
The next one is one of my favorites. If Thanksgiving is a decent size get together, get everyone to help out so it’s not just one person prepping, cooking, and doing dishes. My back is aching just thinking of that. You eat? You help. Sharing the workload of a big spread at Thanksgiving saves one person’s muscles and back from fatigue, strain, and pain. It really is a pain to be bent over prepping all the food and then scrubbing all the pots and pans. Working together makes the holiday way more enjoyable for everyone.
My last advice is to find a way to be a little active after dinner. Whether that be a nice walk down the street, or your favorite trail. Or you can always do the Turkey Pokey- the grandkids will love this one. Instead of putting your right arm in and out, put your right wing in and out. Instead of shaking it all about, gobble it all about. “Put your right wing in, take your right wing out. Put your right wing in and gobble all about. You do the Turkey Pokey and you turn yourself around. That’s what it’s all about!” Move on to your left wing, drumsticks, tail feathers, and beak.
Happy Thanksgiving! Hope you have a great day. Gobble gobble.
Why don’t skeletons fight each other?
… They don’t have the guts.
Happy Halloween! In the spirit of the holiday I thought we would learn some random skeleton facts. The adult skeletal system is made up of 206 bones. What’s even more interesting is that when we’re born we actually have 300 bones. It’s not a magic trick where the extra bones just disappear--- some of them actually fuse together as babies grow. These growth plates usually close between 13 and 18 years old and our bones completely ossify or harden by age 25. From there we want to focus on keeping our bones strong. Vegetables, high calcium foods, and light strength training/ exercise are the best ways to keep our bones healthy as we age. Of our 206 adult bones, more than half of them, 106 of them to be exact, are found in our hands and feet. Speaking of numbers of bones-- it is possible to have some extra ones in different parts of the body. About 1% of people have an extra rib-- so 13 instead of 12. It’s usually a cervical rib which can cause neck pain to the point that some people actually have the extra rib removed. More commonly, about 10% of people have an extra lumbar vertebrae (low back vertebrae). This extra bone usually doesn’t cause any discomfort or issues-- many people find out about the extra vertebrae from a lumbar x-ray.
When we’re fully developed adults, the smallest bone in our body is found in our inner ear. It’s called the stapes, sometimes called the stirrup since it’s shaped like a Y. This bone plays an essential role in our ability to hear. On the other hand, our largest bone in the body is the femur. The femur connects our hip to our knee and is the strongest bone in our body- it has to be, to carry us around all day. We have many different types of joints in the body which allow us to bend, move, and function in daily life. Joints are found in our fingers, toes, elbows, knees, hips, and even our back. The biggest of these joints is found in our knees. This joint connects our femur (largest bone in our body) to the tibia and patella. Ironically this is one of the more common joints to cause discomfort and pain as we age.
Every system in our body has certain functions. The skeletal system (bones) have five main functions: support, movement, protection, blood cell generation, and storage. Our skeletal system gives our whole body support. Without our bones we’d be a big gooey blob. Only 5% of animal species are vertebrates (meaning we have a bony skeleton to hold us up). The other 95% are invertebrates like jellyfish and worms. Our bones also help us move. All of our muscles attach to our bones by tendons and ligaments. When the muscles contract, our bones act as a lever to pivot. This helps us walk, run, dance, talk, sing-- you name it. Our bones also protect us, especially our internal organs and our spinal cord and brain. Our skull completely encloses our brain-- which is the main controller of our entire body. Imagine if our brain was exposed on a daily basis, we’d be much more careful in our daily activities. Our ribcage is another big protector of our heart and lungs. Our bones also help make blood cells. This is called hematopoiesis and this process is completed in the bone marrow. Bones also help store vital minerals such as calcium and phosphorus. When our body needs these things, our bones release them back into the bloodstream. The skeletal system can support you for a lifetime of movement. Taking proper care of it ensures you can move longer, experience more, and have greater health.
Dr. Doug and Jeanette love teaching people about health and wellness. If we haven't covered a topic that you're interested in, feel free to leave a comment and we'd be happy to give you our thoughts!