How many of us know someone who has or is currently suffering from sciatica? Sciatica can range from being very mild to almost debilitating pain lasting anywhere from a few days to months or even years. People recognize sciatic pain as pain typically starting in the low back and traveling down the buttocks and into the back of the leg. This pain can sometimes be described as numbness, tingling, burning, shooting, or can even contribute to weakness in the muscles of the leg. Typically sciatica is experienced on only one side at a time. Traditional management of sciatic pain often is over the counter medications (NSAIDS). If that doesn’t work, specialists look at treatments such as prescription painkillers, muscle relaxers, or even injections into the lumbar facet joints (joints between the vertebrae in the low back). These options can be good to manage the pain but they never seem to get to the root cause of the issue.
Conservative treatment options such as corrective chiropractic, massage, acupuncture, and physical therapy programs look for what is causing the symptoms and aims to correct that, not just manage the symptoms. Chiropractors specifically are trained to look at the bony structure of the low back and hips to see if they are biomechanically normal. All of the muscles and ligaments attach to the bony structure, so if the bones are out of place, this can cause the muscles to be tight and irritated as well. Think of this kind of like your car at home. If the wheels are not aligned then slowly the tires wear out, then the struts, the shocks, etc. When evaluating a patient with sciatica, we specifically are looking at the lumbar vertebrae (low back vertebrae), sacrum, and hips. Normal structure in these areas is as follows: nice and straight up and down from the front, but then from the side we need to have a nice C-shaped curve. We also evaluate to see if the hips are level and how the sacrum is positioned. People often ask… how do these structural shifts occur? Oftentimes, people deviate from normal structure with stress or trauma. People usually think of big traumas like car accidents, falling down the stairs, slipping on ice, or even sports injuries. Shifts in the low back and hips can also be a result of repetitive movement (or lack of movement) injuries. Repetitive lifting at work or even constant sitting can lead to a loss of curve in the low back. The L3, L4, and L5 nerves combine to form the sciatic nerve, so losing the normal curvature can lead to irritation of the sciatic nerve and as a result translate into traveling pain down the leg. Realigning and correcting the spinal structure in the low back while working with the muscles such as the piriformis muscle, psoas muscle, and even the hamstrings can lead to resolving the sciatic pain without the use of medications, injections, or surgery. Physical therapists and massage therapists can also work on this group of muscles. If someone you know is suffering from sciatica, share this information with them so they can consider conservative treatment options first.
Anterior head syndrome is becoming an epidemic for our generation. What is anterior head syndrome and what habits make it worse? Our head is designed to sit directly over our shoulders and our neck is supposed to have a nice c-shaped curve in it. Specifically, a 45 degree curve is anatomically perfect… When our neck is in this normal position, the weight of our head on our body is approximately 12 pounds. Anterior head syndrome is when the head begins to shift forward, stretching our spinal cord and straightening the curvature in our neck. For every inch that our head falls forward, it increases the weight of the head on the spine by 10 pounds. So at 2 inches of forward head posture, your head weighs 32 pounds. At three inches the head weighs 42 pounds. An easier way to understand this is if you imagine holding a bowling ball close to your body, you can do this most likely for quite some time, but if you try and hold that bowling ball with your arm straight out, eventually you won’t be able to support the weight. This is exactly what’s happening to the neck.
You may be wondering what contributes to anterior head syndrome and one of the biggest factors today is technology. Technology is something that has exploded in the past 20 years. Our great great grandparents had no idea that computers and cell phones and Ipads were going to be so popular today. Most Americans spend an average of 11+ hours a day on technology. Nowadays this includes not only adults but teenagers, children, and even infants. Technology includes computer work, texting, checking social media, playing on tablets or iPads, as well as watching TV. What do a majority of these activities have in common? We are constantly looking down. It would make sense that our heads are beginning to fall forward at a very young age. So what are some symptoms that can occur with what the media is beginning to call “text neck”?
We are starting to see many children and teenagers suffering from what many people think to be adult-like symptoms such as chronic headaches and migraines, neck pain, ligament damage and early onset arthritis. Oftentimes as adults we begin to see more serious symptoms such as herniated discs as well as numbness and tingling in the hands. As Americans we tend to push these warning signs to the side chalking them up to “old age” but the truth is- our technology lifestyle is putting our health at risk. While some of us look to a Tylenol or Advil to cover up the symptoms, the true answer lies in the structure of our nervous system. Corrective chiropractic care incorporates specific physical therapy exercises along with gentle chiropractic adjustments to address the curvature of the neck. Massage therapists are also great professionals to address overly tight and stressed out muscles of the head, neck, and shoulders. These therapies work to restore the body to its normal biomechanics so that these symptoms of pain, discomfort, and chronic headaches can be resolved.
When the spine shifts forward (anterior head syndrome) some symptoms may include, arm pain, dizziness, decreased motion, numbness in the arms and hands, canal stenosis, fatigue, headaches, migraines, muscle spasms, disc herniations, upper back pain, shoulder muscle spasms, and even pinched nerves. If any of these symptoms apply to you or someone you know, encourage them to see a corrective chiropractor, in coordination with a massage therapist! Alicia Petty down at the Lando Center is an amazing massage therapist-- she can address overly tight and stressed muscles.
Numbness or tingling in any part of the body is always alarming. For the lucky ones, the only time we experience numbness is when we are sitting wrong and our foot falls asleep. For others, numbness travels down the shoulder into their arms and even into their fingertips. What’s even more interesting is when people have numbness in only certain fingers or certain parts of the arm or shoulder. There is actually science to this.
Nerve signals are sent from the brain, down the spinal cord, and through nerve roots. Nerve roots leave the spine between two corresponding vertebrae which then communicate with the nerves into the shoulders, arms, and fingers. Nerves control not only pain, numbness, tingling, and movement, but also things like hot and cold too. Where someone is experiencing pain, numbness, or discomfort in the shoulders, arms, or fingers directly relates to which nerve roots are irritated or compressed. For example, when looking at the fingers, the C6 nerve root innervates the thumb, C7 controls the index finger and middle finger, and C8 controls the ring finger and pinky. For those of you who know about the number of vertebrae in the neck, you may be scratching your head and saying, “but there is no C8 vertebrae so how does that make sense?” The C8 nerve root actually goes through the space between the C7 and T1 vertebrae.
What are some options for people who are experiencing numbness or tingling going into their shoulders or fingers? One option is to consult with a chiropractor. Chiropractors are trained to look at x-rays to see if any of the vertebrae are shifted forward or if there is a loss of curvature in the neck. What these structural shifts can do is irritate the nerve roots which are working to communicate with the shoulders, arms, and fingers. Restoring the structure of the neck not only takes strain off the nerves- the discs are also healthier, and the muscles that attach to the spine are more relaxed. Often when there is a loss of curve in the neck, the shoulder muscles, scalene muscles, and even chest muscles can become very tight. Professionals trained to work with these muscles include physical therapists, massage therapists, and chiropractors. Working with stretching and strengthening the muscles along with gentle corrective chiropractic adjustments to move any vertebrae putting irritation on nerves can work to change the structure of the nervous system so that the symptoms can be resolved. Oftentimes, depending on how long the numbness has been present or if there are physical degenerative changes with the neck (for example, bone spurs or disc degeneration)-- this can impact how quickly the numbness and tingling can be resolved. Physical changes and degeneration don’t happen overnight-- so it can take some time to find relief. If you know someone experiencing discomfort, pain, or numbness, encourage them to consider if chiropractic care could be a natural solution for them.
This article is inspired by my doggo Wilbur. He’s a great little guy-- super cuddly, loves his treats, and smiles when he’s really excited. There’s two things that scare him, thunderstorms and fireworks other than that he’s a really happy guy. Did you know that dogs can hear 4 times the distance as humans and they can hear a wider range of sound frequencies? Imagine hearing loud explosions from your house and not knowing where they’re coming from or why. That would be quite frightening. Even though I’d love to be able to explain to Wilbur, “Don’t worry bud, it’s only 4th of July fireworks, it’ll be over soon.” My dog talk isn’t that great so a lot is lost in translation. I’m going to share some tips about how to keep your furry friends safe this 4th of July.
My number one advice is don’t leave your furry friend outside. Even if they listen great off leash or you have a super secure backyard--- dogs can suddenly forget their listening skills or turn into Houdini and bolt from your yard if they hear a firework and it scares them. I have one dog that is super chill and would think fireworks going off in our backyard would be super cool to watch and one dog who would turn off his listening skills and run and hide-- he’ll be on a leash the couple days before the 4th and on the 4th.
My next advice is to try to tire out your doggo during the day. Go on a long walk, play fetch, do some tricks. Our bigger dog Heidi has a great sense of smell and she loves when we hide treats around the house for her to sniff out and find. When dogs have to use their brain to play they tire out even faster. Heidi can play fetch all day long, but hide a few treats around the house and this will put her down for a nap. If your dog is physically and mentally tired by the end of the day, hopefully they’ll be tired and maybe sleep through some of the fireworks. If your dog isn’t sleepy and is still on edge, you can try to give them a long lasting treat to focus on. If you have a kong toy, you can put peanut butter in it. If you want an extra challenge, put the peanut butter kong in the freezer-- the frozen peanut butter will take longer for them to lick out. You can also try antlers or bully sticks. Mr. Wilbur is a popcorn lover-- pop a bag of popcorn and he’ll come running. You can try to give them some small treats here and there to distract them.
If all else fails-- sit next to your furry friend and love them and talk to them. They’ll greatly appreciate any reassurances you can give them. If they seem to be panting a lot, make sure they get enough water to stay hydrated. I know it’s hard to see your doggo uncomfortable and scared -- but just being there for them is really the best thing you can do!
I hope you and your furry friends have a happy and safe Fourth of July!!
The warmer spring weather is upon us. Fishing season is open, gardening is a go, everything is blooming. Life is good! This is my favorite time of year--- where I can walk around in my backyard without shoes on and just enjoy the weather. Did you know that there are actual physical benefits to walking outdoors barefoot? This is called grounding or earthing- where you electrically reconnect with the earth and draw health benefits while doing so. The easiest way to explain it is that humans are bioelectrical and we carry a positive charge that can build up in our bodies. Earth’s surface on the other hand has a negative charge. When we make contact with earth through grounding, we discharge our excess energy which helps heal us at a cellular level. There are several ways to experience grounding. You can walk outside barefoot--- in the grass, sand, water, or even mud. You can lay in the grass or even the sand at a beach. You can go swimming in a lake. It is possible to have grounding equipment such as grounding mats, sheets or socks that you can purchase online and use inside. I personally just stick to the traditional options mentioned earlier.
Let’s talk about some of the benefits to grounding. Studies have shown that grounding has both physical and mental benefits. Grounding can improve chronic fatigue, chronic pain, anxiety, depression, sleep disorders, and can even lower blood pressure. If you choose the walking barefoot technique for grounding-- this actually allows you to use certain muscle groups that aren’t often used when wearing cushiony shoes. Walking barefoot can help improve balance, proprioception, and body awareness. It impacts your range of motion in your feet and ankles and helps to strengthen certain leg muscles and ligaments which can help support the lower back too. There are some risks to walking without shoes. When walking outdoors, always be careful not to step on hazardous things like broken glass. If you’re someone with diabetes or peripheral neuropathy this may not be a good idea because if you step on something and have a wound, you may not feel it. This can lead to infection. To be honest, if your main focus is grounding you can sit outside, slip your shoes off, and place your feet on the ground and just relax in nature for a half hour. This also gives you some time to soak up some vitamin D from the sun! If you’re wanting to be more active while grounding take it easy at first-- starting with just 15-20 minutes of walking barefoot. Your feet and ankles need time to adapt. If looking for an extra challenge, try some balance exercises of standing on one foot or slowly raising up on your tippy toes and coming back down. You can try some gentle yoga as well. When you’re done with your outside barefoot activities make sure to examine the bottom of your feet to make sure that you don’t have any cuts or wounds. As you walk outside more, your feet will build up stronger skin and you may not have pain even though you have a little cut.
Grounding doesn’t have to take up your whole day. Studies have found that spending a half hour grounding has positive impacts on people’s bodies both physically and emotionally. So go walk in your backyard, chill in a chair without your shoes on, swim in a lake, or find a sandy shore to walk on. Get out there and enjoy that spring weather and give grounding a try!
Mother’s day is just around the corner and as I’m writing this, sadly the weather doesn’t look like it’s going to be very nice---- fingers crossed that this changes so that mommas can get outside and enjoy the day. Speaking of moms, I often get asked if chiropractic care can be helpful for expecting moms. The answer is yes! Throughout pregnancy and even up to 5 months following a baby’s birth, mom’s body produces a hormone called relaxin. This hormone helps the body’s muscles and ligaments relax so that they can expand to accommodate the growing baby. This hormone also peaks during delivery to allow for easier delivery. After pregnancy, this hormone helps the body readjust to its pre-pregnancy position while ligaments regain their strength. All of these changes can definitely lead to more strain on the joints of the body leading to discomfort and even chronic pain. This is where chiropractic care can come in-- especially to maintain low back, pelvic, and hip balance or alignment. This can help with mom's discomfort as well as help the baby be in the best position for delivery. Chiropractic training teaches safe stretches, exercises, and adjustments to help reduce stress on mom’s body. A common area that expecting moms experience discomfort is in the hips and SI joints or even sciatic pain. Restoring motion in these areas with stretching and chiropractic adjustments helps mom feel like she can walk easier and with less pain. This makes it a little easier for mom to stay active during her pregnancy.
How can chiropractic help during postnatal care? Chiropractic care can help a new mother heal quicker, feel more comfortable and mobile so she can best care for herself and her baby during this new phase. Often after birth, the mother’s pelvic biomechanics change – these changes can bring discomfort with walking, nursing and sleeping. Chiropractic care can restore the pelvic balance with similar adjustments, exercises and stretches that were used during prenatal care. Chiropractic care has been shown to prevent common postpartum concerns such as carpal tunnel or even numbness and tingling in the hands and fingers. Adjustments can also be beneficial to restore motion to the neck and thoracic (mid back) region due to positions during breastfeeding, bottle feeding or rocking babies to sleep. There is a tendency for new moms to flex forward for long periods of time which can aggravate the neck and mid back area. Carrying car seats with infants in them also alters biomechanics. I always like to chat with new moms about finding ways to do these activities that puts the least amount of stress on their neck and back.
Chiropractic care helps not only mommas but their babies too. Delivery and birth is tough on both mom and baby. Oftentimes, there is a lot of stress on the baby’s head, neck, and shoulders during birth which can lead to misalignments in the upper spine. Gentle adjustments have been shown to help with feeding, reflux, and colic. Caring for a new baby is challenging, stressful, and tiring--- but in the end it’s worth it.
Happy Mother’s Day all you moms out there! However you’re spending your day, I hope you make it all about you.
Everytime I come back from a getaway, I realize how important it is to take breaks in life. Whether it’s a week-long vacation, a quick weekend escape, or even just taking time for yourself on a daily and weekly basis. Taking breaks are critical for your health — physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. Good rest and relaxation allows you to decrease stress, increase happiness, and come back recharged ready to tackle your day-to-day activities.
Unfortunately, a lot of times when we travel (myself included!), it can be way too easy to let our healthy habits slip — which can counteract some of the amazing health benefits of taking a vacation in the first place! So, here are 4 quick tips to help you stay healthy while traveling:
1. Be Conscious of Your Nutrition
Nutrition is something that can have one of the highest levels of impact on your health — including when you’re on vacation. Now don’t get me wrong, I still have vacation meals when I’m traveling – I’m a huge foodie. While eating is one of the things I give myself the most leeway with on vacation, I am still aware of the foods I’m eating.
Here are some easy guidelines:
All those suggestions might seem like a lot to keep track of or think about at first — but even starting with baby steps can make a huge difference!
2. Drink Enough Water
It’s so important to stay well-hydrated with plenty of water! This might seem basic, but it’s easy to forget about when you’re out of your normal routine. Neglecting your water intake can affect your energy levels, digestion, mood, and even cause headaches — none of which allow you to fully enjoy your trip. A good goal is half your body weight in ounces of water each day.
3. Do Something Active
I used to hardly ever exercise on vacations. I thought, “It’s vacation – I should be able to just completely relax and do absolutely nothing if I want to”. I’ve realized that working out on vacation actually makes me feel better and enjoy my trip more. Getting some light exercise will help you stay energized and boost your happy hormones, not to mention help offset some of the vacation meals you’re bound to have. You can do a pool workout, play tennis, walk or run around outside, or go to a workout room.
4. Get Plenty of Rest and Relaxation
One of the main reasons you’re probably going on vacation is to relax, right? Make sure you’re not sabotaging your relaxation efforts by trying to pack too much action into one trip. Engage in relaxing activities every day — whether it’s reading a book for fun, basking in the sunshine, getting a massage, or watching the sun set.
Allow yourself to detach from all the tasks on your to-do list and responsibilities waiting for you back home. Work on being fully present in the moment! And don’t skimp on sleep! This way you’ll be able to come home well-rested and recharged!
Your action step for today is this: Plan your next vacation! It doesn’t have to be extravagant or expensive or a week-long trip. It can be as simple as taking a day-trip or a relaxing stay-cation. Just decide where you’re going and when, put it on your calendar, get excited for it, and stick to it!
I often get asked, “How can I know if my animal may benefit from chiropractic care?” One of the easiest things to notice is if your pet is in pain. Some common pain indicators are yipping or yelping, limping, dragging a paw or hoof, licking a certain area not related to allergies or a skin condition. Some of the more subtle things to notice is if your animal has a behavioral change. For example, do they suddenly have a tough time jumping up on the couch? Do you have to coax them to go upstairs when it’s time for bed? Are they holding their head down when walking? Are they eating throughout the day? Did they stop using their litter box? Is it difficult for your horse to turn or collect? Are they bucking when you ride them on the trail?
Animals have nervous systems just like humans do. The nervous system not only sends pain signals but it also tells the rest of the body what to do. This system is made up of the brain and spinal cord. When structural shifts occur in this system, we see animals having a difficult time walking, running, or even turning their head. People wonder how these structural shifts occur for their furry friends. Sometimes it’s from playing too rough or running in too deep of snow. Other times it’s the repetitive jumping on and off the couch or bed. Sometimes just from aging. Animal chiropractors are trained to evaluate the nervous system and adjust any areas that aren’t moving or functioning properly. More often than not our animals do not develop symptoms until they are well past the initial stage of fixation. When this occurs, a common result is decreased motion at a joint, or what we chiropractors call a “subluxation”. Decreased motion can lead to decreased nerve function, muscle atrophy, and overactive inflammatory processes furthering potential joint breakdown. Chiropractic care uses objective indicators to locate these restrictions and then delivers a high velocity-low amplitude gentle adjustment to reduce the fixation. If you’re wondering how it’s even possible to adjust a horse, I actually stand on a large block next to the horse so I’m as tall as they are. This allows me to feel each of the vertebrae and figure out which ones aren’t in the proper position. When your animal’s body is moving and functioning like it should, it heals more effectively, and your animal will be happier and in less pain.
If your animal is experiencing any of the above symptoms, it’s advisable that you consult your veterinarian about finding a chiropractor to evaluate your loved one.
Since moving to Land O’ Lakes full time, I’ve taken the opportunity to explore some of the hiking and walking trails hidden in the northwoods. Winter is often the most sedentary time of year for people, but February is American Heart month--- and one of the best things you can do for your heart is to do some kind of exercise several times a week. Walking and hiking is a great way to do this--- make sure to wear shoes with good traction. If you tend to not be the most coordinated in the snow, I’d recommend checking out a pair of Yaktrax or a similar brand to improve the traction under your shoes. Recent studies show spending 20-30 minutes in nature walking or even sitting actually reduces stress in your body by lowering the hormone cortisol. Decreasing stress is also linked to decreasing risk factors for heart disease such as blood pressure, cholesterol, plaque buildup, and more. So take that “nature pill” -- your heart will thank you.
Most of the hikes my wife and I have gone on have been ones that people in the community have told us we have to check out! We started with the renowned Bond Falls which provides some picturesque views along with a beginner hike for all ages. We’ve visited in the spring and summer but have never ventured over there in the winter until now. It’s invigorating to hear the rushing water and breathe in the cool crisp air. Our next adventure was the trail leading to the O Kun-de-kun falls. This was definitely a longer hike but the whole trail was packed down nicely. The day we made it out there, the falls were completely frozen over but the views along the way were splendid. The silence of the woods was refreshing and brought a sense of calm that we all could benefit from.
My favorite hike so far was Star Lake Nature Trail- we took the loop that mostly stayed around the lake. We were surrounded by countless red pine trees and in those moments it made me feel so small. I enjoyed that this trail was a loop- so the entire hike was different. While trying to find more fun trails in the area, I downloaded the app “Map It Vilas Co”--- in doing so, I found my wife and I’s next adventure. We’re going to head to Heart Lake Trail for Valentine’s Day (how cheesy lol). The phone app is cool because it lists a ton of trails in Vilas County and gives you tips on how to find the trail and where to park. (This is especially helpful if someone hasn’t told you about the trail in person. Sometimes these trails really are hidden- but I’m sure those are some of the best trails to hike). The app also tells you how long the trail is and different things to expect like if dogs are allowed on the trail or not.
If you have a favorite hiking trail or secret nature spot, please email me (firstname.lastname@example.org) and let me know! I’ll add it to our list of must go places.
It’s official, winter is here and the snow is here (hopefully to stay). For all you snowmobilers out there I know you’re hoping for more snow to build up that base on the trails. For everyone out there, I’m here to remind you of some safety tips when shoveling snow to prevent you from getting injured this winter. I’m sure you’ve heard most of these tips before but reminders are always helpful. The more of these tips you can apply to your shoveling days the better off you’re going to be.
To begin, make sure you start yourself out on the right foot. Do some gentle stretching before you even get bundled up. Try to focus on gently stretching your hamstrings, quads, calves, and shoulders. You can even do a short warmup of simply walking around the house. While doing this make sure to hydrate by drinking a glass of water. Next make sure to dress in some layers so you stay warm. Just because you’re exercising and potentially sweating doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have warm layers on.
Choose the right shovel for the job! Many places now sell ergonomic shovels that are easier on your back. They’re generally lighter and may even have a curved handle which keeps your back straighter while you shovel which again puts less strain on your body. This is a new one to me, but I heard it can be helpful to wax your shovel so the snow slides right off. You can use floor wax, car wax, or even cooking spray.
As far as proper body mechanics goes, try to focus on pushing the snow straight ahead of you. When you need to lift the snow make sure to bend from your knees and lift with your legs. If you’re shoveling correctly, the following day your legs should be sore, not your back. You should also focus on activating your core (ab muscles). By activating your core, you’ll be protecting your back. Imagine pulling your belly button in towards your spine as if you were walking into a cold pool. If you only remember one of these shoveling tips, remember this one: If you need to throw the snow in the opposite direction you’re facing, turn by moving your feet, don't twist your back (twisting is when most shoveling injuries occur)! Also when lifting your shovel, try to hold the shovel closer to your body instead of reaching out in front of yourself. Next we’re going to use some brain power too--- when shoveling try to switch between being right hand and left hand dominant so both sides of your body get an equal workout. You can even change the grip on the hand holding the lower part of the shovel by having your palm under or palm over.
While shoveling, take your time and take breaks to rest and drink some water. Get a good workout but don’t push yourself too far. Know your limits-- if it’s too much, find someone to help. If you start experiencing chest discomfort, shortness of breath, or left-sided arm pain stop immediately and seek medical attention.
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!