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4 Best Exercises for Improved Posture

4 Best Exercises for Improved Posture

Let’s face it. Good posture isn’t exactly a high priority for many Americans. Like most things related to our health and wellness, we don’t notice it until it’s gone. 

Most of us live in a sitting culture—we sit at work, we sit at school, and we sit at home. The hard truth is that most of us sit too much and sit incorrectly. Beyond this, our love affair with mobile devices is amplifying the post problem by encouraging us to bend over, hunch our shoulders and crane our necks to look at small screens. Given our lifestyle choices, poor posture may seem almost inevitable. But it doesn’t have to be that way. For anyone with a bit of mobility, motivation and time, there are exercises you can do to improve poor posture. Here are four of the best types of exercises to help you improve your posture. 

Exercises to Strengthen Your Core

A strong core is essential for good posture. Your core includes your abdominals, lower back, obliques, and hips. Strong core muscles don’t just give you an attractive “six-pack” to show off at the beach. In fact, they help hold your body up straight, improve your balance, and provide you with greater muscle control and efficiency. They’re also critical to maintaining back health and provide some measure of protection against injury. When your core muscles aren’t strong, other muscles have to compensate, which results in reduced mobility as well as weakness and even pain. So, to help avoid or reduce low back pain, try regular core training. Some core training exercises include basic crunches (but not full sit-ups), side planks, crunches with a twist, standing side bends, and plank holds. Doing Pilates is another great way to work out your core muscles, as are back extensions and slow swimming. 

Exercises to Correct Your Rounded Shoulders

Because so many people spend their day hunched over while driving, sitting at a desk while working, using a laptop, or even watching television, rounded shoulders are extremely common—but they are in fact a postural abnormality. When you spend a lot of time in these forward-reaching positions, the muscles in your chest, shoulders, and hips become shortened and tight, and at the same time, your upper and middle back muscles lose strength. In order to help avoid and ease rounded shoulders, you can do exercises that strengthen the weak upper back muscles and stretch the tight muscles in the chest, shoulders, lats, and hips. As the upper back becomes stronger and the chest becomes more flexible, the shoulders naturally pull back, which improves your posture significantly. You can strengthen the upper back with exercises such as reverse dumbbell flys as well as rows with a resistance band, while you can stretch your tight muscles by doing standing chest stretches, torso stretches, and standing quad stretches. 

Exercises to Neutralize Your Tilted Hips

Hips should be neutral and level when viewed from the side—however, some people have postural abnormalities stemming from their hips’ tendency to slant forward. This is called the anterior pelvic tilt, and it negatively affects posture. Lordosis (also known as “swayback”) is a common indication of this tilt. Seen very often in people who sit for hours every day with their legs bent, this abnormality is caused by weakness in the hamstrings, glutes, and abs as well as tightness in the hip flexors and thighs. Exercises to correct this tilt include the core exercises mentioned above as well as bridges, leg curls with a ball, and single leg hamstring flexions with a ball. Exercises that stretch tight hip and quad muscles include standing quad stretches and kneeling quad and hip stretches. 

Exercises to Retract a Forward Head

Unfortunately, you can easily develop poor posture by tilting your head forward for hours every day. This happens when you drive, when you use a laptop or tablet, or when you watch television. When you fail to retract your head while performing everyday tasks, this tightens the front and side neck muscles and weakens the deep and rear muscles of the neck. The muscles at the front of your neck have to be strong enough to hold your head directly above—not forward of—the shoulders. Not only does this abnormality contribute to poor posture, but it also causes chronic neck pain. In order to retract a forward head, elongate the back of your neck by gently pulling your chin straight in. The highest point of your body should be the top back of your head. This works against the penchant to slip into a forward head posture. You can also work on this issue while driving: practice pulling your chin in and pushing your head into the headrest behind you for a few seconds at a time, then releasing. If you have a high-backed chair that you sit in at work, you can do this at your desk as well.  

Does Posture Really Affect Breathing and Lung Capacity?

Does Posture Really Affect Breathing and Lung Capacity?

Have you ever tried to blow up a balloon while someone was sitting on it? Obviously, this would not be an easy task. If you sit down and lean over, stretching your hands toward the floor in front of your feet, your breathing is far more difficult, because the two balloons in your chest—your lungs—cannot be filled as easily with air.

What does this extreme example tell us? Quite simply, the more restrictions you place on your breathing, the harder it becomes. Leaning over squeezes your lungs, making them smaller, and decreasing your breathing volume. Shallow breathing means less oxygen into your system. Less oxygen means less energy.

A 2006 report by the American Academy of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation showed some striking results based on posture. Using 70 able-bodied participants in wheelchairs, the study found that bad posture does indeed affect breathing and lung capacity. They tested slumped seating, normal seating, standing and a special posture that imitates standing spinal alignment (WO-BPS). This special posture involves tilting the bottom of a seat with lumbar support—with the spine “against the back part of the seat without ischial [sitting bone] support.”

They found that slumping produced the worst lung capacity and expiratory flow (LC-EF). No surprise there. Normal sitting was better. WO-BPS was even better—in some cases as good as standing posture in both lung capacity and flow.

Slumping in a chair produces bad results, but so can slouching or rounding your shoulders while standing. Sitting or standing straight for a few minutes after slouching most of your life is not good enough. Your muscles, tendons and ligaments become trained by constant slouching. You need to train them with an entirely new habit. You need to create a new “upright” lifestyle.

Tips to help maintain good posture

  • Sleep on a good bed. Too soft a mattress can be bad for your back. You want the mattress to support your spine so that it’s not misshapen by poor support.
  • Normal weight. If you have excess weight, particularly across the abdomen, your body has to work harder to stay upright. A big belly weakens the stomach muscles, pulls the back muscles and makes them work extra hard to keep you erect. Left too long, this can result in back pain and even agonizing spasms. Leg lifts while laying on your back can help strengthen your stomach muscles and give your back a break.
  • Regular exercise. This not only helps to keep the weight down, but it tones your muscles and helps to keep you flexible so that correct posture is easier.
  • Keep a healthy spine. See your chiropractor regularly for spinal adjustments to address misalignments and keep your spine limber. Any pain that develops here will make it very difficult to maintain correct posture.
  • Good vision. If you have problems seeing, it might cause you to hunch over in order to see more clearly. Be sure to have your eyes checked regularly.
  • Good environment. Make certain everything fits you properly. Properly fitting clothes can help with posture—nothing too tight. Also, make certain your chair at work is at the right height. If your legs dangle, get a footrest to keep the excess pressure off your legs.
Risk Factors for Spinal Degeneration

Risk Factors for Spinal Degeneration

As we age, the discs in our spine start to naturally break down due to normal, everyday living . This is commonly referred to as disc degeneration and can result in pain in the neck and/or back area–pain that is felt by almost half of the population 40 years of age or older . For those over 80, this rate doubles to a whopping 80 percent, which makes understanding what factors promote this particular condition critical to raising the quality of life as we enter our later years. Fortunately, recent research provides some very important information in this area.

Disc Degeneration Risk Factors Revealed In Recent Study

On November 9, 2015, a study conducted by health experts from Mie University Graduate School of Medicine in Japan, Osaka University (also in Japan), and Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, Illinois was published in BMC Musculoskeletal Disorders. In this research, these experts followed 197 individuals living in Miyagawa, Japan who were over the age of 65 for a 10-year period, measuring their disc height at two year intervals to determine what factors, if any, contributed to their spinal discs degenerating at a faster rate.

What they discovered was that, over the time span of the study, the participants’ disc height gradually reduced an average of 5.8 percent, with roughly 55 percent experiencing degeneration in one or two of their discs. Furthermore, there were three factors that they identified that increased the likelihood of disc degeneration. They were: 1) being female, 2) having radiographic knee osteoarthritis, and 3) the presence of low back pain when the study began.

Based on these results, women should take extra care to protect the discs in their spinal column, potentially saving themselves from experiencing neck or back pain later in life. Some options for doing this include maintaining a healthy weight, avoiding repeated lifting of heavy objects, and not smoking as studies have found that smokers tend to experience disc degeneration at greater rates than non-smokers . Chiropractic can help with the other two factors.

For instance, in one study published in The Journal of the Canadian Chiropractic Association, researchers looked at 43 different individuals between the ages of 47 and 70 who were experiencing osteoarthritic knee pain. Some participants received treatment three times a week for two weeks and others served as a control. The subjects who engaged in treatment reported more positive results than those who did not, citing that, after the treatments they experienced fewer osteoarthritic symptoms, had greater knee mobility, and felt that it was easier to “perform general activities.” And this was after just two weeks of care.

Chiropractic can also help lower back pain, further reducing the likelihood that your discs will degenerate at a faster rate when you age. That makes this specific remedy beneficial both now and well into the future–ultimately raising your quality of life. If you need to see Dr. Oblander for an adjustment, please be sure to give our office a call at 406-652-3553!

 

 

  • Akeda K, Yamada T, Inoue N, et al. Risk factors for lumbar intervertebral disc height narrowing: a population-based longitudinal study in the elderly. BMC Musculoskeletal Disorders 2015;16(1):344.
  • Fogelholm RR, Alho AV. Smoking and intervertebral disc degeneration. Medical Hypotheses; 56(4):537-9.
  • Pollard H, Ward G, Hoskins W, Hardy K. The effect of a manual therapy knee protocol on osteoarthritic knee pain: a randomised controlled trial. Journal of the Canadian Chiropractic Associations 2008;52(4):229-42.

 

Article shared from Chironexus.net
The Most Dangerous Jobs: A Chiropractic Perspective

The Most Dangerous Jobs: A Chiropractic Perspective

It’s no secret that some jobs are just more physically demanding and more dangerous than others. Some of the most challenging ones are obvious—combat roles in the military, fire and rescue, heavy construction and deep sea fishing are just a few that come to mind. However, when it comes to non-fatal musculoskeletal injuries, the statistics tell a very different story about occupational health and safety and about who’s most likely to get hurt on the job.

Because chiropractic physicians are experts in treating conditions that involve the musculoskeletal and nervous systems (including many common workplace injuries), we have a unique perspective on why they happen, how they can  be prevented and the best ways to treat them.

Musculoskeletal Disorders by the Numbers

Let’s start with a long-term trend that’s good news for the nation’s workers but that doesn’t get much media attention. The number of reportable occupational injuries and illnesses has declined steadily across the past decade from 50 cases per 1,000 full-time workers in 2003 to 33 cases in 2013. So progress is clearly being made, even if it doesn’t grab the headlines.

That said, musculoskeletal injuries continue to be among the most common on-the-job injuries, and they can require significant recuperation time. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) says that musculoskeletal disorders (MSD) “are injuries or illnesses affecting the connective tissues of the body such as muscles, nerves, tendons, joints, cartilage, or spinal disks.”

A very high percentage—about one-third—of 2013 workplace injury and illness cases that required days off from work involved the musculoskeletal system.  Plus, workers who sustained musculoskeletal injuries required more time to recover before returning to work—a median of 11 days to recuperate compared with 8 days for all types of workplace injury and illness cases. In 2011:

  • The back was the primary site of MSD injuries in 42% of all cases across all occupations, requiring a median time off of 7 days to recuperate.
  • Although it accounts for only 13% of all MSDs, the shoulder was the area with the most severe injuries, requiring a median of 21 days off of work to recuperate.
  • Injuries and illnesses due to repetitive motion involving “micro-tasks” (such as typing) accounted for only 3% of all occupational injury and illness cases. However, those workers with this kind of injury required nearly 3 times as many days away from work to recover as those with all other types of injuries and illnesses—a median of 23 days.

 

As we mentioned earlier, though, MSDs are not distributed evenly across all industries and occupations.

  • In 2013, the highest MSD incident rates were found in transportation and warehousing (80.3 cases per 10,000 full-time workers), healthcare and social assistance (50.2 cases per 10,000 full-time workers), arts, entertainment and recreation (46.5 cases per 10,000 full-time workers) and construction (41.9 cases per 10,000 full-time workers).
  • In 2011, six occupations accounted for 26% of all MSD cases: nursing assistants, laborers, janitors and cleaners, heavy and tractor-trailer truck drivers, registered nurses and stock clerks.
  • In 2011, those with the greatest number of median days spent off from work in order to recuperate from an MSD were heavy and tractor-trailer truck drivers (21 days).

So it’s clear from the numbers that the dangerous jobs featured on reality TV shows (think about Deadliest Catch and Ice Road Truckers) aren’t necessarily the ones that result in the most MSD-related visits to the chiropractor or general practitioner.

The Role of Chiropractic Care in Prevention and Treatment

Over the past several years, companies of all sizes have become increasingly interested in occupational health and wellness programs. Chiropractic physicians have a special interest in working with employees and business managers alike to help prevent job-related injuries and to encourage a healthy, productive work environment. If you’d like to learn more, we encourage you to call or visit our office today.

Chiropractic care can be one of the most effective ways to treat musculoskeletal pain and accelerate recovery.  Dr. Oblander has the training and experience necessary to successfully diagnose and treat a wide range of workplace injuries, and he’ll be happy to answer any questions you may have! So if you or someone you care about has recently been hurt on the job, please give us a call at 406-652-3553 or stop by either of our Billings chiropractic offices. We have an office located at 3307 Grand Avenue and an office at 410 Wicks Lane in the Heights  and we’re here to help!

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What is “Referred Pain”?

What is “Referred Pain”?

Billings Chiropractor“Referred pain” can be a perplexing phenomenon for anyone who experiences it. Referred pain is what happens when you feel pain in an area of your body that is not actually the original source of the pain signals. The most common example of referred pain is when pain is felt in the left arm, neck or jaw of a person suffering a heart attack, while they often have no feelings of pain in the chest area itself.

It’s important to note that referred pain is different from radiating pain, in which the pain felt in one area travels down a nerve, causing pain along the length of the nerve. This is often the case with sciatica, where pain originates in the lower back and radiates down the leg.

Researchers are still not exactly sure what causes referred pain. Some experts believe that it is due to a mix-up in nerve messaging. The central nervous system (CNS) is constantly receiving a barrage of different messages from different parts of the body. These messages may get mixed up somewhere along the path between the place where the irritated nerve is signaling and the spinal cord or brain where pain signals are processed. With an extensive network of interconnected sensory nerves that serve the same region of the body, such as the nerves of the lower back, thighs and hips, it may be more common for signals to get mixed up than you might imagine.

Although referred pain is usually felt as painful, it can also cause feelings of numbness, tingling or the sensation of pins and needles. Another example of referred pain is a tension headache, in which headache pain is due to an irritation of the nerves in the neck.

Referred pain tends not to cross sides of the body. In other words, if the pain signals are originating in the liver or gallbladder (which are on the right side of the body), you may feel pain in your right shoulder. If the signals originate in the pancreas (on the left of the body), you may feel pain in your left shoulder, etc.

Chiropractic adjustments can address the source of the referred pain, leading to long-term pain relief. Nerves in the area of the spinal cord that are irritated due to a spinal misalignment (subluxation) can be a cause of referred pain. When your chiropractor adjusts your spine, he or she removes the source of irritation, thus providing relief. Dr. Oblander is a Billings Chiropractor who is very knowledgeable about which tests can be performed to determine the underlying cause of your pain (whether direct or referred), and can treat it accordingly. If you have questions or want to seek chiropractic treatment, be sure to give us a call at Oblander Chiropractic: 406-652-3553.

Spinal Anatomy 101

Spinal Anatomy 101

vertebrae-model-200-300 “Never grow a wishbone, daughter, where you backbone ought to be.”

-Clementine Paddleford, American Writer (1898 – 1967)

It’s no accident that so many philosophers and writers have used the backbone as a metaphor for discipline, force of will or character.  Your spine (or “backbone”) is the primary physical support for your body’s entire frame.  It’s a remarkable piece of natural engineering composed of 33 separate vertebrae that act as a single unit to provide stability as well as flexibility while you’re sitting, standing or in motion.  A healthy spine is both strong and resilient.  With proper nutrition, exercise, postural habits and chiropractic care, it can allow us to lead an active lifestyle well into old age.  However, poor biomechanics, injury and disease can cause problems with the spine that result in misalignment, inflammation, pain and restricted movement.

The spine develops from infancy into adulthood, gradually evolving from a C-shape, which is suitable for crawling, to its distinctive S-shape, which is the appropriate shape for two-legged walking.  The natural curves in the spine serve to cushion impact from movement, absorb shock, preserve balance, and allow range of motion.  The three main curves in the spine are known as the cervical curve (the neck region), the thoracic curve (the upper back) and the lumbar curve (the lower back).

There are 7 cervical vertebrae, 12 thoracic, 5 lumbar, 5 sacral and 4 coccygeal vertebrae.  The sacral and coccygeal vertebrae are those located lowest in the spine, below the area of the lumbar curve.  Twenty-four of the vertebrae in your spine are moveable. They are cushioned by intervertebral discs which act like coiled springs. These discs are fluid filled and—as we age—become thinner and more brittle, often causing us to get shorter.  Over time (or as a result of excessive wear and tear or specific injury), they can degenerate, bulge or herniate, potentially causing significant pain and loss of mobility.

There are several other common spinal disorders.  Lordosis, also known as “sway back,” occurs when there is abnormal forward curvature of the lumbar spine.  Those who have abnormal curvature of the thoracic curve have kyphosis, or “hunchback.”  Scoliosis occurs when there is a side-to-side curvature in the spine. Slight curves of less than 20 degrees do not usually present health or problems and are seldom treated.  Moderate or severe curves usually require treatment because they can interfere with the functioning of internal organs and may significantly limit physical activity.

While the bones and connective tissues of the spine are very good at what they do, they cannot support the body’s weight and facilitate movement on their own.  They need the help of strong core muscles.  Good muscle tone is important to help maintain proper posture and spinal alignment.  This is why it’s so important for us to put effort into maintaining proper posture when we sit, stand, lie, walk and run.  Over time, poor posture can place unnatural stresses on the musculoskeletal system (especially the spine), limiting our range of motion and producing pain.

In addition to its role in supporting the body’s frame and facilitating movement, the spine has another important role as well.  The spine’s bony vertebrae also encase and protect the spinal cord, which is connected directly to the brainstem.  It’s hard to exaggerate how important this protection is.  Damage to the spinal cord can cause numbness and loss of motor function.  Injury to the cervical area can cause tetraplegia (also known as quadriplegia), while injury to the thoracic or lumbar area may result in paraplegia, or loss of the use of the legs and trunk.

This article serves as a brief introduction to just one aspect of your anatomy.  If you are in the Billings area and need a Billings Chiropractor and you have any questions about your spinal health or your musculoskeletal health more generally, please don’t hesitate to call us at Oblander Chiropractic or visit our office (406-652-3553).  We’re here to help!

Text Neck and More: How Our Electronic Devices Are Changing Our Posture

Text Neck and More: How Our Electronic Devices Are Changing Our Posture

woman-texting
woman-texting

The last 10 years have seen exceptional innovation in personal electronics. Our smartphones, laptops, and tablets have undoubtedly made it easier to create, consume and share all kinds of content as well as to shop online anywhere and anytime. But they do also have their drawbacks—including negative health consequences. This applies in particular to our posture. The overuse of personal electronic devices is taking a toll on our necks and backs, and this damage could lead to even more serious health issues down the road.

Some medical professionals are calling it the “iPosture Syndrome”. It’s a head-forward posture that many people (teenagers and younger kids included) are developing from hunching over electronic devices for long hours every day. As physiotherapist Carolyn Cassano explains, “If the head shifts in front of the shoulders, as is happening with this posture, the weight of the head increases, and the muscles of the upper back and neck need to work much harder to support it, leading to pain and muscle strain.”

According to CNN, “The average human head weighs 10 pounds in a neutral position—when your ears are over your shoulders. For every inch you tilt your head forward, the pressure on your spine doubles. So if you’re looking at a smartphone in your lap, your neck is holding up what feels like 20 or 30 pounds.” All that additional pressure puts a strain on your spine and can pull it out of alignment.

Also known as “text neck,” this head-forward posture is a fairly new development among younger adults, teenagers and children (some just beginning kindergarten) who are developing chronic neck and back pain as well as early signs of spine curvature. Coined by Dr. Dean Fishman, a chiropractor and founder of the Text Neck Institute in Florida, the phrase “text neck” is defined as an overuse syndrome involving the head, neck and shoulders, usually resulting from excessive strain on the spine from looking forward and downward at a portable electronic device over extended periods of time.

The text neck disorder is unfortunately progressive, meaning that it gets worse over time without treatment. “It can lead to degenerative disk disease which is irreversible, bone spurs start to grow, people get pinched nerves or herniated disks and that can lead to really intense pain,” says chiropractor Dr. Anthony Bang of the Cleveland Clinic.

The doctor explains that the neck should have a banana-like curve. However, people who consistently look down at handheld devices for hours daily are losing that normal curve, thereby developing straight necks. While severe neck problems can result from losing that curve, there are ways to avoid this fate.

“First of all, put it away, it can wait five minutes. Give your neck a break, but if you need to use it, take it and bring it up to eye level so that your head still stays on top of your shoulders instead of stooping down looking at your lap,” said Bang.

CNN also recommends that you “Be aware of your body. Keep your feet flat on the floor, roll your shoulders back and keep your ears directly over them so your head isn’t tilted forward. Use docking stations and wrist guards to support the weight of a mobile device. Buy a headset.”

Now there are even apps to help you with your texting posture. For example, the Text Neck Institute has developed an app that helps the user avoid hunching over. When your phone is held at a healthy viewing angle, a green light shines in the top left corner. When you’re slouching over and at risk for text neck, a red light appears.

 

Good News About the Cost of Chiropractic Care

Good News About the Cost of Chiropractic Care

woman-paying-for-care
woman-paying-for-care

A recent evidence-based report on the effectiveness of chiropractic treatment for people dealing with low back and neck pain contains some very good news. And it’s good news for three important groups of people—patients who benefit from chiropractic, employers who sponsor health care plans, and insurance companies who manage the costs.

The report is called “Do Chiropractic Physician Services for Treatment of Low Back and Neck Pain Improve the Value of Health Benefit Plans?”. It was prepared for the Foundation for Chiropractic Progress by a panel of esteemed medical authors who were tasked with investigating the clinical effectiveness and economic efficiency of today’s chiropractic care.

In their summary, the authors concluded that chiropractic care is “more effective than other modalities in treating low back pain and neck pain.” In terms of cost, they determined that chiropractic care for low back pain, compared with medical physician care, increased annual spending per patient by only $75 per year. For neck pain, there was actually a cost savings – the cost of chiropractic care compared with medical physician care was reduced by $302 per year.

In terms of overall cost-effectiveness, the authors of the report concluded: “When considering effectiveness and cost together, chiropractic physician care for low back and neck pain is highly cost-effective, represents a good value in comparison to medical physician care and to widely accepted cost-effectiveness thresholds.” They also concluded that their cost-savings estimates were likely to be “understated” since their analysis didn’t capture reduced spending on over-the-counter and prescription medications that would have been associated with conventional treatment.

This should indeed be seen as good news by the many Americans who already use chiropractic care to treat their back and neck pain. It should also be considered good news for American employers and health care providers concerned about providing the best value for every dollar in their health benefit plans. But the good news isn’t limited to the US—the researchers found the effectiveness and cost figures also applied in the European Union.

The report authors concluded with an even stronger statement in favor of chiropractic care: “Our findings in combination with existing US studies published in peer-reviewed scientific journals suggest that chiropractic care for the treatment of low back and neck pain is likely to achieve equal or better health outcomes at a cost that compares very favorably to most therapies that are routinely covered in US health benefit plans. As a result, the addition of chiropractic coverage for the treatment of low back and neck pain at prices typically payable in US employer-sponsored health benefit plans will likely increase value-for-dollar by improving clinical outcomes and either reducing total spending (neck pain) or increasing total spending (low back pain) by a smaller percentage than clinical outcomes improve.”

 

Women’s Feet Are Paying a High Price for Fashion

Women’s Feet Are Paying a High Price for Fashion

high-heels
high-heels

Fashion before comfort… and health! That seems to be a prevailing attitude in the United States, particularly among women out shopping for new shoes. And while there are a number of shoe styles that can cause foot problems, the high heel (especially the ultra-high heel) is by far the biggest culprit. According the American Podiatric Medical Association:

  • 72% of women wear high-heeled shoes (39% wear heels daily, while 33% wear them less often).
  • 59% report toe pain as a result of wearing uncomfortable shoes; 54% report pain in the ball of the foot.
  • 58% of women purchased new high-heeled shoes in the last year.
  • Younger women are more likely to experience blisters and pain in the arches of their feet than older women. Older women are more likely to experience corns, calluses, and bunions.

Ultra high-heels have many podiatrists concerned: According to Hillary Brenner, DPM, a spokeswoman for the American Podiatric Medical Association, “Heels are getting higher and higher,” she says. “We podiatrists like to call it shoe-icide.” Ultra-high heels often result in an array of injuries, short- and long-term, from ankle sprains to chronic pain and many issues in-between.

“Ultra-high heels force the feet into a position that puts stress on the ball of the foot,” continues Brenner. “At this critical joint, the long metatarsal bones meet the pea-shaped sesamoid bones, and the toe bones (phalanges). Too much pressure can inflame these bones or the nerves that surround them. Chronic stress to the foot bones can even lead to hairline fractures.”

However, heels in general, whether they’re stilettos or mid-heels, are hobbling women all around the country. High heels are known for producing a tender knot on the back of the heel, called the “pump bump” by some. This is a result of the pressure from the stiff, unyielding high-heel on the back of the foot. Blisters, swelling, bursitis, and even discomfort in the Achilles tendon can follow.

Additionally, all high heels increase the danger of an ankle sprain. The issue most seen by podiatrists is a lateral sprain, which occurs when a walker rolls onto the outside of their foot, stretching the ankle ligaments beyond their usual length. A serious sprain may even tear the ligaments and increase the risk of developing osteoarthritis.

In podiatrists’ and other medical professionals’ offices across the country, women are presenting with mild to severe foot problems due to wearing the wrong shoes. Other shoes that can cause foot pain and other issues include:

  • Ballet flats, which provide no support whatsoever.
  • Flip-flops, which provide almost no protection from splinters and other injuries.
  • Platform shoes, which often have rigid foot beds, putting unnecessary pressure on the foot.
  • Pointy-toed shoes, which can result in nerve pain, bunions, blisters, and hammertoes.

So what can a woman do to stay fashionable and keep her feet healthy and pain-free? For those who love high heels, consider performance pumps, which most often come with reinforced heels, athletic shoe construction, and more wiggle room for the toes.

Another solution for the pump enthusiast is a chunky-heeled shoe. Chunky heels allow better balance with a wider surface area, which gives the foot much more stability thereby diminishing the risk of ankle sprains.

For other shoes such as ballet flats, orthotic inserts can offer the support that the shoes lack. If you’re unsure about what kind of insert is best for your feet, talk to your podiatrist to get an informed opinion on how to best take care of your feet—and look good doing it.

 

What Causes Muscle Tension?

What Causes Muscle Tension?

woman-in-pain
woman-in-pain

Muscle tension occurs when a muscle (or group of muscles) remains contracted for an extended period of time. This might be characterized as a low-energy or low-intensity muscle cramp. Such tension in the muscles constricts blood flow, which in turn keeps oxygen and nutrients from reaching the muscle tissues and tendons. Muscle tension also keeps cellular waste from being carried away. The result is more muscle tension, spasms and damage. Why does this happen? There are actually several possible causes.

One key source of muscle tension is stress or anxiety. For our ancient ancestors, stress was a simple fact of everyday life, and their ability to response effectively to imminent threats (predators, hostile neighbors, natural disasters, etc.) was an integral part of their survival. As a result, their bodies evolved a set of short-term physiological changes that helped them to meet sudden life-and-death challenges by increasing their alertness, strength, speed and stamina. Today, we refer to these changes collectively as the “fight-or-flight” response, and they’re part of our evolutionary inheritance.

Unfortunately, there is now a kind of mismatch between the kinds of modern threats (real or perceived) that most of us encounter in our day-to-day lives and our bodies’ primitive fight-or-flight response. Instead of short-term physical dangers, modern stress is much more likely to come from social or financial pressures that are (usually) lower-intensity but more prolonged. Mounting bills, insane work deadlines and relationship problems are all great examples. This is a problem because our fight-or-flight response was really designed to be “switched on” only for very short periods of time—essentially, just as long as it took us to either defend ourselves or escape from a physical attack. It turns out that the human body pays a high price for the fight-or-flight response, and this price is especially high when the response is activated continuously over long periods of time, even at relatively low levels. Chronic muscle tension is just one potential result.

Muscle tension can also be the result of underlying structural problems or injuries affecting the musculoskeletal system, especially in the back or neck. When the spine is misaligned or there is an injury, the body may compensate by activating other muscles or muscle groups to stabilize the area and prevent pain. These muscles are put under additional strain for which they were not designed, leading to chronic muscle tension.

Chronic muscle tension itself can lead to new kinds of discomfort and pain. The pain can lead to an increase in anxiety and more muscle tension. This becomes a vicious cycle—an unhealthy, downward spiral. Luckily, there are a number of different ways to relieve muscle tension.

One of the best ways to relax your muscles is to exercise. This may seem counterintuitive at first, but muscle use increases blood flow and, accordingly, reduces the tension caused directly from lack of such blood flow. Exercise also produces endorphins which help to relieve stress and anxiety.

Heat is another method of relief. It can help by opening up blood vessels and relaxing the tense muscles. Use care when applying a hot pack. With heat, you can do too much of a good thing. Use a cloth between the pack and the skin so the heat remains measured and soothing. If you use an electrical heating pad, do not lie on the pad, but lay the pad on the tense muscles.

Water therapy can also help reduce muscle tension. Floating in a swimming pool or on a waterbed can prove to be extremely therapeutic because of the relaxing nature of wave action on the body.

Of course, a massage therapist is an expert at helping muscles relax. A truly good therapist can adapt his or her technique to your specific situation and will be skilled at gradually building up the intensity of the massage so that you’ll receive all the therapeutic benefit without losing the relaxation benefit.

Remember—it’s important to understand the underlying cause of chronic muscle tension so that it can be addressed in an effective way. Your chiropractor is specially trained to determine if the underlying cause is structural. If it is, he or she may be able to perform adjustments to correct the problem. Depending on your specific situation, your chiropractor may also recommend a treatment plan that includes several of the therapies mentioned above in order to relieve your pain and restore your mobility as quickly as possible.

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