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Auto Accident Folklore—Being Thrown Clear and Bracing for Impact

Auto Accident Folklore—Being Thrown Clear and Bracing for Impact

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You have no doubt overheard someone at work or at a party telling his friends that he never wears a seat belt—and that he has some really good reasons.  The story usually goes something like this:  He heard from a buddy he knows that a friend of a friend who was not wearing a seat belt had a bad car accident and walked away from it because he was thrown clear of the car.  This is one of the most pervasive car safety myths out there. And if you believe this myth, you could be setting yourself up for serious injury or death.

Although there are a small handful of cases in which someone has survived a car accident after being thrown from the car, this is a very rare occurrence.  In fact, you actually have a 25 percent greater chance of being killed if thrown from the car.  Just consider the physics of the situation.  The force applied to your body when a collision occurs can be strong enough to propel you 150 feet, which is equivalent to about 15 car lengths.  And you would not just be flying gracefully through the air either.  First, your body may go crashing through the windshield, it may scrape along the rough asphalt for yards, and then you could end up getting crushed by your own car or someone else’s.  This is not to mention the other objects you may be hurled into when flung from the car.  Statistics from a study performed by researchers at James Madison University show that the proper use of a seat belt reduces serious injuries from traffic accidents by 50 percent and fatalities by 60 to 70 percent.  It’s a simple thing that can protect your health and save your life—wear seat belts.

Another common myth is that bracing for impact causes more damage to your body, and that it’s best to remain relaxed.  Of course, actually having the ability to choose one way or another about bracing has a lot to do with how much time you have before impact.   Many accidents occur in the blink of an eye, so suggesting that someone should “stay relaxed” has really limited practical value.  However, the most current science indicates that if you have time, bracing for impact will likely reduce the amount of injury, particularly to tendons and ligaments.

One of the most common types of injury from an auto accident is whiplash, which occurs in about a third of all collisions.  If you see a car approaching in your rear view mirror that you believe is going to collide with yours, the best thing to do is to press your body against the seatback, with your head pressed firmly against the head rest. This way you are less likely to suffer injuries to the ligaments in your neck, as your head will not be slammed back against the head rest, then flung forward.

Auto accidents are never pleasant, but by knowing the facts about auto safety you can help reduce your chances of sustaining a serious injury.  If you do end up in an accident, it’s always a good idea to get a medical evaluation promptly, even if you think you haven’t suffered any significant injuries.  Many auto injuries take time for their symptoms to become apparent or significant enough for victims to recognize how badly they may have been hurt.  By the time the symptoms are obvious, the victim and his or her doctor may have lost a valuable opportunity to treat the underlying injuries.  Please call or visit the office if you or someone in your family has recently been involved in an auto accident.

Chiropractic Safer than Medical Care for Elderly

Chiropractic Safer than Medical Care for Elderly

Many studies have found that chiropractic care is a safe and effective treatment method when dealing with a number of spine-related issues. The American Chiropractic Association even lists a number of research studies on their website that show that it is a valuable treatment method for easing (and sometimes completely resolving) back pain, neck pain, headaches, and more.

While all of this is good news for professionals that practice in the chiropractic field, some researchers wondered if chiropractic was just as safe for elderly patients as it is for younger patients experiencing these types of problems. So, they set out to find the answer, which they did via a retrospective cohort study funded by NIH and the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, and also which was subsequently printed in Spine upon its completion.

What researchers wanted to discover was whether the relationship between the risk of injury to people 66 years old and older when engaging in chiropractic care was higher than, lower than, or equal to the risk of injury to this same age group after undergoing medical care by their primary care physician. To find their answer, they studied data on Medicare B patients who went to the doctor in 2007 for a neuromusculoskeletal issue, evaluating their risk of injury seven days post-treatment.

They discovered that seniors that received chiropractic care had a 76% lower rate of injury within seven days of treatment when compared to the subjects that met with their primary physician as a result of a neuromusculoskeletal complaint. Researchers also pointed out that they found that males contained within the research group, older study participants, and those with a higher Charlson co-morbidity score were most at risk of injury within the week after acquiring a neuromusculoskeletal issue.

Additionally, certain medical conditions raised the risk of injury, even after chiropractic care. Therefore, chiropractic professionals should consider whether treatment via spinal manipulation is best for “patients with coagulation defects, inflammatory spondylopathy, osteoporosis, aortic aneurysm & dissection, or [those who have engaged in] long term use of anticoagulant therapy” as the increased risk may not be worth the benefits.

Whedon JM, Mackenzie TA, Phillips RB, Lurie JD. Risk of traumatic injury associated with chiropractic spinal manipulation. Spine 2014;Dec 9.

Superfoods: Science or Marketing?

Superfoods: Science or Marketing?

There is no medical definition for a “superfood”. Food manufacturers are eager to use the word to promote sales of their products that contain traces of supposed superfoods such as blueberries, pomegranates and chocolate. The Oxford English Dictionary defines a superfood as “a nutrient-rich food considered to be especially beneficial for health and well-being.” However, there are no set criteria about what makes a food nutrient-rich. Most superfoods are high in antioxidants and phytonutrients relative to other foods. However, if you were to eat only one of these superfoods to the exclusion of all else, you would be seriously deficient in many of the nutrients your body needs in order to stay healthy. So what exactly is the science behind the idea of superfoods?

While we would like to believe that if we eat certain foods we can stave off illness and keep aging at bay, the truth is that it’s not so easy. Although there is no doubt that a diet consisting primarily of fruits and vegetables is one of the keys to healthy longevity, it is also what you don’t eat and do that is important. For instance, if you eat a breakfast of blueberries and pomegranates in a bowl of oatmeal, along with a cup of green tea, that does not mean that your health will improve overall if for lunch you have a bucket of fried chicken, French fries and a 64-ounce Coke, followed by a cigarette.

The majority of scientific studies indicating that there may be some positive health effects associated with the nutrients contained in certain foods were conducted in a laboratory. In general, high levels of nutrients are used in these studies—usually far more than what can be consumed in a normal diet. For instance, the compound resveratrol that studies have shown to be heart-healthy and to guard against prostate cancer is found in grape skins only in very small amounts. So although “the French paradox” (why the French have low rates of heart disease despite a rich diet) is often partially attributed to the regular consumption of red wine, in fact, you would have to drink 40 liters of wine a day to get the same amount that was shown to benefit the health of mice in these studies.

The positive results of studies performed in test tubes on a few human cells and studies performed on mice do not necessarily translate into health benefits for the wider population. The effect of a single nutrient on human health is difficult to pinpoint, as we all eat a combination of foods. Some nutritional benefits may only occur in the presence of other nutrients in the same food, or even in a different food eaten at the same time. Iron absorption, for example, is boosted when a food rich in vitamin C is eaten at the same time.

The best nutritional advice someone can follow if they’re interested in maintaining good health is to eat a wide range of whole foods, and (even more importantly) to avoid foods that are bad for you such as processed foods and hydrogenated oils. As the European Food Information Council advises, “A diet based on a variety of nutritious foods, including plenty of fruits and vegetables, remains the best way to ensure a balanced nutrient intake for optimal health.”

 

Can You Really “Bank” Sleep?

Can You Really “Bank” Sleep?

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Banking sleep to save energy for later? To most people, this idea probably sounds too good to be true. At the very least, it probably seems to defy common sense and or runs counter to the way we think our bodies work. However, it actually turns out that banking sleep is possible—within limits.

A great deal of research has been conducted on this subject.  In one particular study, American scientists invited a number of volunteers to adjust their sleep patterns so that researchers could observe the effects. For a week, half of the volunteers were permitted to sleep more than usual, and the remaining volunteers were made to sleep according to their usual pattern.

“After this week of either extended or habitual sleep per night, all the volunteers came to the lab and they were given three hours of sleep, per night, for a week,” says Tracy Rupp of the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research. The volunteers were then assigned tasks of varying difficulty, and those who had banked their sleep were more unaffected throughout the sleep restriction.

Rupp elaborates: “They showed less performance deterioration with regards to reaction time and alertness than the group that had been given the habitual prior sleep.”

The study also revealed that a week after the experiment, the banked sleepers were recuperating faster from deficiency of sleep than the others were. Rupp again: “What we’re basically saying is if you fill up your reserves and pay back your sleep debt ahead of time, you’re better equipped to deal with the sleep loss challenge.”

While these results may sound great, there are limits to what banking sleep can do for you. “It’s a strategy that’s only partially successful,” explains Michael J. Breus, Ph.D., in the November 2013 issue of Psychology Today. “New research indicates that although some of the negative effects of a week of insufficient sleep can be remedied with extra sleep on the weekend, others cannot. Researchers at Penn State University College of Medicine studied the effects of weekend recovery sleep after a week of mild sleep deprivation. They found that make-up sleep on the weekends erased only some of the deficits associated with not sleeping enough the previous week.”

Banking sleep isn’t limited to sleeping longer nights. Naps can be extremely effective as well—within limits, of course. According to Science Focus, “A 1991 study at Wright State University in Dayton, Ohio found that after an ordinary night’s sleep, subjects could take an extra nap in the afternoon and then work through the night with greater alertness that a control group who didn’t nap. The study also found that performance is proportional to the length of the nap—but the effect doesn’t last.

After a second consecutive night without sleep, all of the subjects performed equally badly, regardless of how much sleep they had initially. It may be that all of us are normally slightly sleep-deprived and one really good night’s sleep will bring us back up to 100%, but that the ‘tank’ isn’t big enough to buffer us against more than one all-nighter.”

The practical uses of banking sleep go beyond needing to pull an all-nighter before finals or a big presentation at work. Dr. Winter, a member of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, puts it thusly: “If you knew you were going to give birth on a particular day, for example, you could sleep for 10 hours a day for multiple days before the event, and be fine.”

Lastly, it is important to consider the host of negative effects of sleep deprivation. Memory loss, obesity, and even early death comprise some of these consequences. The moral of the story here is that banking sleep in advance may actually be a reasonable short-term strategy for coping with an isolated event (like giving birth). However, the best long-term strategy for staying healthy and performing well is to get a good night’s sleep as consistently as possible.

 

Endurance Sports Provide a Boost to the Body’s Nervous System

Endurance Sports Provide a Boost to the Body’s Nervous System

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It’s well known that training in certain sports can improve a person’s endurance. If you’re a runner, for example, you know that as you continue to run every day or according to whatever training schedule you follow, you gradually develop the ability to run further, faster, and for longer periods of time. But did you know modern science doesn’t have a complete understanding of why or how this actually happens? Experts still have a lot of unanswered questions about the exact mechanisms at work when an endurance sport triggers these kinds of performance improvements.

When it comes to muscle strength, there’s certainly an element of adaptation at work—it’s clear that the phrase “use it and strengthen it” is every bit as true as “use it or lose it”. But muscle strength isn’t the whole story. Many long-distance runners would probably tell you that their coordination and ability to deal with rough surfaces and obstacles also seem to increase with practice. To them, it seems as if their muscle-brain communication has improved along with their muscle strength.

According to a study conducted at the Biozentrum of the University of Basel, not only may the runners’ perception be correct, but researchers may also have found one of the mechanisms that cause the improvements the runners are noticing. Their research suggests that endurance sports not only change the condition and fitness of your muscles, they also improve the neuronal connections to individual muscle fibers, based on a type of muscle-induced feedback, all accomplished through increased levels of a blood protein called PGC1α.

PGC1α seems to play a major role in muscle adaptation because it regulates the genes that cause muscle cells to change to keep up with the greater demands being placed on them. When your muscles are inactive (or diseased), they contain a low concentration of PGC1α. When the muscles are more challenged, however – for example when running for long distances – PGC1α levels increase. Professor Christoph Handschin and his colleagues in Basel have been able to show that this increase in PGC1α not only increases muscle size and strength, it also improves upstream synaptic nerve connections to and from the muscles.

The presence of more PGC1α improves the health of the synapses that link the muscles to the brain, allowing the muscles to change and develop new activation patterns, based on changing requirements placed upon them by the exercise. In effect, the more you train, the more PGC1α is in your muscles, and the more quickly they are able to “learn” how to become stronger and more adaptable to challenges.

However, the most surprising part of this study, published in the journal Nature Communication may be that Professor Handschin and his colleagues were able to induce this same improvement in synaptic communication by introducing higher concentrations of PGC1α into the muscles artificially. As the researchers increased PGC1α levels, the muscles became stronger and the neuronal connections became stronger, just as if the subjects had been performing endurance training.

These findings are seen as possibly having therapeutic applications in the treatment of diseases such as muscle wasting and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS or Lou Gehrig’s Disease). As Handschin explains, “In patients, whose muscles due to their illness are too weak to move on their own, an increase in PGC1α levels could strengthen muscles and nerves until the patients can move enough to finally do some physical therapy and to further improve their mobility.” Then after some improvement to their muscles as the result of pharmacological treatment, the patients could continue to improve their muscle strength through practicing endurance sports.

But for healthy people, there’s a much simpler message—certain types of sports normally associated with endurance-building also build muscle coordination and adaptability.  Not only is this type of exercise good for cardiovascular and musculoskeletal health, it also seems to pay big “fitness dividends” for your body’s nervous system.

 

Top 5 Workouts for Increasing Range of Motion in Your Back

Top 5 Workouts for Increasing Range of Motion in Your Back

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Back pain can have a truly negative effect on your professional life as well as your lifestyle. It can be difficult to get out of bed and make the morning commute.  Then—depending on what you do for a living—pain and limited mobility can take a huge toll on your productivity while you’re at work. And when you return home, you may also find that you’re not able to do the active things you enjoy with your family and friends.  It’s no wonder that chronic back pain can lead to depression.

If you or someone you care about is suffering from back pain, the good news is that there are things that can be done about it. First of all, it’s essential that you get proper medical attention so that your condition can be diagnosed and an appropriate treatment plan can be put in place. Dr. Oblander and other chiropractic physicians are experts at diagnosing and treating musculoskeletal problems as well as problems with the nervous system. Depending on your specific situation, he or she may recommend a variety of in-office treatment options to help relieve pain and restore function.  Your doctor may also prescribe a series of at-home exercises or stretches designed to increase the range of motion in your back.

Range of motion is the movement of a joint from full flexion (flexed) to full extension. Certain back problems, ranging from spinal misalignment and muscle imbalances to sprains, strains and pinched nerves (just to name a few), can significantly limit how much you can move. Here are workouts that can help improve your back’s mobility. Remember—use these only after consulting with your chiropractor!

  • Aquatic exercise. Perfect as a low-impact exercise that’s gentle on your joints and muscles, swimming and other water exercises are a great way to ease your back into working out. It is especially beneficial when the water is warm—say, between 83 and 88 degrees Fahrenheit. If you don’t have access to a heated pool, check out the gyms in your town. Many of the big-name gyms feature not only heated swimming pools, but also hot tubs and steam rooms, which can help relax your joints and muscles, giving them a much-needed break.
  • As simple as it sounds, walking is a great way to get simple, accessible exercise. It also strengthens your heart, lungs and overall endurance. Make sure you wear appropriate footwear and take it easy—there’s no need to start out walking miles a day unless you’re up to it. Again, ask your chiropractor for his or her advice.
  • Strength and resistance training. According to Harvard Medical School, not only is resistance training good for increasing range of motion, but it also strengthens your heart, lungs, and overall endurance.
  • Tai chi. An ancient form of Chinese exercise, tai chi is practiced through a series of slow moving poses that can be very effective at extending your range of motion. In addition to increasing flexibility, it is also purported to strengthen muscles, and develop balance and coordination.
  • Like tai chi, yoga is another very old form of exercise. Developed in India over a great many years, yoga eases stiffness in muscles and encourages greater range of motion. Just be careful not to overdo it—it could be detrimental to your condition.

If you need help with addressing your back pain, be sure to give our office a call at 406-652-3553 to schedule an appointment with Dr. Oblander!

 

Fear or Phobia: What’s the Difference?

Fear or Phobia: What’s the Difference?

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It’s normal to have fears. Fear is a useful emotion that keeps us from doing things that may be harmful or dangerous. Our species continues to exist today because our earlier ancestors had a healthy fear of certain types of predators, environments and situations. In the modern world, many of those primal fears have become much less relevant. Nevertheless, quite a few of us still have a lingering apprehension of spiders, snakes, darkness, heights or other things that we perceive to be dangerous. For most people, this instinctive fear is just quirky or uncomfortable—something we can usually avoid or overcome without too much effort. But what if this apprehension becomes all-encompassing and interferes with daily life? When this happens, you may be dealing with a phobia.

Psychologists define a fear as being “an emotional response to a real or perceived threat,” whereas, according to the Oxford English Dictionary, a phobia is “an extreme or irrational fear of or aversion to something.” Note the words extreme and irrational. A phobia keeps you from living your life as you normally would if the feared situation were not present. For example, you may become nervous or agitated in small or confined spaces and generally avoid taking the elevator. But if that fear is severe enough that it keeps you from taking your dream job because you’d need to use an elevator every day to get to your office, then you likely have a phobia (“claustrophobia”).

Symptoms of a phobia can be both mental and physical. In some cases, just thinking about the thing you fear can bring on the fight-or-flight response. Phobia symptoms often include general anxiety, trembling and feelings of nausea. Your heart may begin pounding and you may start sweating, feeling lightheaded, and breathing so quickly that you begin to hyperventilate. You may also feel an intense need to escape, feel like you are going to die, or fear losing control. Even though you may understand that your phobia is irrational, you still have no ability to stop it.

Not all phobias interfere with the everyday lives of people who have them. A phobia of snakes (called “ophidiophobia”), for example, probably won’t matter much to a city dweller unless he or she visits the reptile house at the zoo. However, a phobia of crowds (“enochlophobia,” “demophobia” or “ochlophobia”) could be a big problem on city streets or in the subway.  Other phobias can have a significant impact on anyone who has them. For about 3% of the population, their fear of doctors (“iatrophobia”) is so great that they avoid any form of healthcare whatsoever, including preventive care. Obviously, this can put their health and even their lives at risk.

If a phobia is affecting your day-to-day activities, then it may be time to seek professional help. Therapy for phobias has been shown to be remarkably effective, and you may also be able to use some self-help strategies on your own to combat the problem.

One of the best ways to begin conquering a phobia is to expose yourself to the thing you fear in a gradual, controlled manner. For example, if you have a phobia of spiders (“arachnophobia”), first look at a few pictures of spiders. Then watch a short video featuring spiders. When you are comfortable with that, perhaps visit a zoo and look at them through the glass. Relaxation techniques such as slow, deep breathing and meditation can help when you are confronting your fears. The more frequently you are exposed to the thing you fear without actually being harmed, the more quickly your phobia is likely to disappear. This doesn’t necessarily mean that you are going to become a fan of spiders, but at least you will have conquered the irrational part of your fear that gets in the way of you living your life.

 

Most Effective “Low Impact” Cardio Exercises

Most Effective “Low Impact” Cardio Exercises

Why “low impact” cardio exercises? Imagine reaching your “golden years” with a buff beach body only to be told that you can’t jog or run anymore because your knee cartilage has been worn thin or you have damaged vertebrae. The last thing you want to do is ruin your body while trying to stay in shape. Here we present some good low impact cardio exercises that can help you maintain a healthy cardiovascular system without causing damage to your musculoskeletal system.

Walking—This simple exercise places far less stress on the knees than jogging, running or pounding the stairs. If this sounds too boring, try changing your route. Explore different streets or roads. Also, you might take this to the next level and include hiking on trails or through the woods. Be sure to follow experts’ recommendations about hiking dos and don’ts. Add extra energy to your routine by swinging or rotating your arms to the sides. Involving your upper body as you walk can get your heart beating more vigorously.

Speed Walking—It’s impossible to do speed walking without involving the upper body. This is low-impact movement on rocket thrusters. The most efficient position is to keep your elbows bent at a 90-degree angle and be sure they remain close to your body. Be sure to stick to flat, smooth surfaces to reduce the chances of injury.

Cycling—For even less impact, take your bicycle out for a spin. If your bicycle is properly adjusted to your size, there should be no strain on your knees. You can cover far more territory, do more sightseeing and get lots of cardiovascular benefit.

Stairs—Walking up stairs is a powerful way to work your body. Don’t become impatient, though. You don’t want the walking to become jogging. That would turn your low impact routine into high impact. Make certain you softly plant each foot in turn on the next step and use the strength in your legs to push you upward.

Swimming—If you’re just starting an exercise program or returning after years of relative inactivity, swimming is an excellent low-impact exercise option. Taking to the pool can build up vast reservoirs of cardiovascular health because swimming can work the entire body, depending on the strokes you use.

Dancing—Take a dance class. Whether you’re into ballroom, tap, ballet or modern dance, you can get a low impact workout while having fun with others.

If you already suffer from thin cartilage, don’t let that stop you from exercising. One study did MRIs on 50–80 year olds, all healthy men. The results showed that more exercise led to thicker knee cartilage. The consensus was that exercise helped to repair cartilage deficiencies. Everything else being equal, the body is amazing in its ability to repair itself. And these low impact exercises can work wonders for your long-term cardiovascular health.

Remember that one of the best things you can do for your health is to also get adjusted regularly!

 

Want Stronger Bones? Weight Training Can Help!

Want Stronger Bones? Weight Training Can Help!

health club: guy in a gym doing weight lifting

As we age, we normally lose a certain amount of bone density. This is a particular problem for postmenopausal women due to the loss of estrogen, which protects against bone loss. Although men are less likely to suffer from osteoporosis (because their bones are generally larger and more dense), they can also be subject to bone loss if they do not get a sufficient amount of exercise. So what can be done to avoid it? Along with a healthy diet, studies have shown that weight-bearing exercise can help to maintain bone density as we age.

Professor of exercise science at California Lutheran University, Dr. Steven Hawkins, says “Exercise stimulates bone formation, because bone put under moderate stress responds by building density, and, depending on your age and workout regimen, it can either increase or maintain bone-mass density.”

Weight training (also referred to as strength training) increases bone mass, particularly that of the spine. A study performed by researchers at McMaster University in Ontario, Canada, showed that postmenopausal women who do not participate in strength training lose bone mass. However, those women who participated in a year-long strength training program increased their spinal bone mass by nine percent.

Strength training does not mean you have to go to the gym every day and train to Olympian standards. It only requires regularly performing a variety of simple, weight-bearing exercises. Much as a muscle becomes larger and stronger the more you use it, bones become stronger and denser the more stress that is placed upon them.

Gary Null, in his book Power Aging notes “Weight lifting, including curls and bench presses, is a beneficial activity.” And for those who’d rather not spend any time around a gym, “Dancing, stair-climbing and brisk walking are all weight-bearing exercises, which promote (good) mechanical stress in the skeletal system, contributing to the placement of calcium in bones.” But what about aerobic exercises? While they are very good for your cardiovascular system, Aerobic exercises such as biking, rowing and swimming do not strengthen the bones” as they do not place enough stress on the skeletal system to stimulate bone growth.

You only need about 15-30 minutes of weight training two or three times a week to help maintain your bone density. You can use weight machines at the gym, or consider attaching some light weights to your arms and legs as you do a regular workout to increase the stress on your skeletal system. Even gardening can be a good way to help preserve bone mass, as it involves such bone-strengthening activities as pulling weeds, pushing a lawnmower or wheelbarrow, turning over soil, etc. Even something as simple as carrying groceries to and from the car can help.

So consider adding a little weight training to your daily routine so you can maintain your bone health and (with a bit of luck) remain fracture-free far into your later years.

If you need more ideas on how to improve your bone health, be sure to schedule an appointment with Dr. Oblander by calling our office at 406-652-3553!