Move More! Avoiding the Health Dangers of Inactivity

In addition to the well-documented and alarming increase in obesity, recent studies have also documented the startling lack of physical activity in our society. Researchers have found that physical activity declines dramatically across age groups between childhood and adolescence and continues to decline with age. Among children, 42 percent obtain the recommended 60 minutes per day of physical activity, but only 8 percent of adolescents achieve this goal. Among adults, adherence to the recommendation to obtain 30 minutes day of physical activity is less than 5 percent!

This reduced physical activity results in numerous changes commonly referred to as the deconditioning syndrome. In an excellent 2011 review paper on the dangers of inactivity, the authors describe deconditioning as the physiologic response of the body when there is a reduction in energy use or exercise levels; that is, with bed rest, prolonged sitting or in living a very sedentary lifestyle. Major changes included in this syndrome are:

  • Decreased joint mobilization
  • Wasting of trunk muscles
  • Decreased muscular strength and endurance
  • Reduced cardiovascular fitness
  • Stiffness of ligaments and joints
  • Reduced metabolic activity
  • Increased susceptibility to sprains, strains and muscle spasms
exercise - Copyright – Stock Photo / Register Mark

These damaging effects of muscle and joint disuse provoke symptoms, causing greater avoidance of activity, resulting in a cyclical pattern of pain and avoidance of activity / deconditioning / more pain, and is considered a defining characteristic of chronic low back pain patients.

Studies published from several different countries show that the majority of adult waking hours (>90 percent) are spent either in sedentary or in light-intensity activity. A number of studies, using both subjective and objective measures of physical activity, suggest that prolonged bouts of sitting time are strongly associated with chronic disease including: obesity, abnormal glucose metabolism, diabetes, metabolic syndrome, cardiovascular disease risk and cancer, independent of whether adults meet physical activity guidelines.

So, what’s the bottom line? Move more! And keep in mind that your chiropractor is your partner in the battle against obesity and related health conditions. If you or someone you know is struggling with their weight and/or living a sedentary lifestyle, ask for help. Your chiropractor can help develop a strategy to improve your/their health via exercise, diet and other methods.


By Malik Slosberg, DC, MS

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Perfect Your Posture, Improve Your Health

Ever try balancing a book on your head (for more than a second)? To do it, you need more than just patience; you need ideal posture.

One hundred and thirty thousand years ago, when residents of the planet possessed complete Neanderthalic characteristics, posture wasn’t really that high on the list of health priorities, to say the least. At the time, we assume finding food, surviving the seasons and avoiding death by all manner of creatures were considerably more important. But this is 2011 and we can stand upright, walk upright and consider our health a precious asset. And yet, like the Neanderthals, our apparent disinterest in good posture remains.

Why is good posture so important? It’s pretty simple. When the spine is properly aligned with its natural curvature and the entire body – from the ears to the shoulders to the hips, knees and down to the ankles and feet – is in balance, we maximize spine health and avoid poor posture-related pain and dysfunction. Ideal posture creates ideal balance; it also optimizes breathing and circulation. And shouldn’t we all want to achieve that?

May is National Correct Posture Month, so we thought it was high time to get you out of your slumped, bent-back, round-shoulders position that is likely all too common if you work at a computer, spend considerable time texting or checking e-mail on your cell phone (who doesn’t these days?), or engage in any of the countless activities that put your back, neck and spine at risk courtesy of poor posture. It’s time to stand tall, walk tall and improve your spinal health, all at the same time!

For tips on the best ways to perfect your posture, look no further than Straighten Up America, a health promotion initiative developed in 2005 with an admirable vision: to educate the public about the importance of good posture and spinal health, to the point that “every American will take two or three minutes every day to care for their spinal health, just as they care for their dental health.” Straighten Up, which partners in promoting the nation’s health with the President’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sports, is designed to get children and adults up and moving while they improve their posture and spinal health. The Straighten Up program also includes healthy lifestyle recommendations congruent with the goals and objectives of Healthy People 2010, America on the Move, Steps to a Healthier US and the 5 A Day programs.

One of the earliest tests of this program proved quite encouraging: After five weeks of daily practice of “Straighten Up” exercises, more than 80 percent of participants reported improved posture; just under 80 percent said they had strengthened their core muscles; and 80 percent reported that after performing the exercises, they now sat and stood more upright, and their backs felt more comfortable in that position.

The butterfly - Copyright – Stock Photo / Register Mark

Are you and your family ready to perfect your posture? Here are a few Straighten Up exercises; to download the complete list and for more information, visit www.straightenupamerica.org.

tilting star - Copyright – Stock Photo / Register Mark

The Butterfly: Standing and with head held high, belly button in, place your arms behind your head and gently pull your elbows backward. Slowly and gently press your head against your hands while counting to two. Relax, breathe, and repeat three times.

Tilting Star: With head high and belly button in, spread your arms and legs into a star. Breathe in and slowly stretch one arm over your head and slide your opposite arm down your leg. Slowly tilt your star to the opposite side. Relax. Repeat two times.

twirling star - Copyright – Stock Photo / Register Mark
the hummingbird - Copyright – Stock Photo / Register Mark

Twirling Star: In the star position (hands and legs forming a star; see Tilting Star description), turn your head to look at one hand. Slowly twist your entire spine to watch your hand as it goes behind you. Relax and repeat (each side) two times. Keep your head high, belly button in.

The Hummingbird: With head high and belly button in, put your arms out to the sides with your hands up and pull your shoulders together in the back. Now make small, backward circles with your hands and arms. Bend at your waist from side to side, keeping the circles going as you count to 10.

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Top 5 Healthy Habits (We Tend to Ignore)

For the sake of this discussion, let’s assume you’re exercising regularly and eating a balanced, nutritious diet – the two most common habits people think of when they hear the phrase “healthy habits.” In fact, we’re also not going to delve into the topics of sleep and stress, both of which can dramatically impact health and overall life satisfaction. No, today’s lesson is on the top five healthy habits you probably haven’t adopted yet – and failure to do so is damaging your health and wellness in ways you can’t imagine.

1. Make More Calls (Without Your Phone): There’s a reason we’re starting with this one: With an estimated 270 million mobile-phone users in the U.S. alone as of 2018 (the U.S. population is 325 million, 20 million of whom are under the age of 5 and – we hope – not in possession of their own mobile phone), we are indeed a phone culture, and not primarily for audible talking. Texting, chatting and posting (often in anonymous, disparaging fashion) have become our primary methods of communication. Research suggests mobile-phone use not only has physical consequences (“text claw,” “cell phone elbow,” forward head posture, etc.), but also psychological ones, including anxiety related to receiving (or not receiving) messages, reduced face-to-face communication skills, and even a condition coined “nomophobia” (fear of being without your phone).

So write a letter (yes, on paper) or card to a loved one; set up a regular get-together spot with your best friend (yes, you can use your phone to coordinate it) … and make conscious, deliberate, empowering decisions to leave your phone at home more often (yes, you can do it). It’s one of the healthiest habits you’ll ever adopt.

new you - Copyright – Stock Photo / Register Mark

2. Don’t Misplace Your Keys: No, we’re not talking about the literal keys to your car or house, although misplacing them can cause considerable angst; we’re referring to the keys that open doorways to continually learn, grow and build the life you want. Too many people consider themselves “locked in” to their existing state in life: their job, their home, their routines … even their own body or mind. But dreams don’t have to die, especially when your despair at not fulfilling (or in some cases, even pursuing) them can be equally as life-threatening.

Go back to school. Learn a new skill. Pursue a hobby. Change the way you do anything if there’s a better, more fulfilling way. Think about whether the path you’re on in any aspect of your life is the right one. Life is a journey with many roads, all deserving exploration. Don’t be afraid to try a different route, no matter your age – especially if the road you’re currently on is taking you in the wrong direction.

3. Complete “The List”: We all have lists, whether on paper or in our heads; lists of things we want to do, need to do or both. But how many of us actually complete our lists? Do you find your “to-do’s” traveling from one list to the next, day after day, week after week, or even longer? That’s a problem. Procrastination leads to pressure and guilt, neither of which benefits your health. And when it comes to longer-term goals or “resolutions,” if you will, there’s a reason you wrote “clean out the garage,” “start reading every night” or “take a vacation this year” on a list. If every day is another “why haven’t I done it yet” conversation in your head (or with your significant other), you’ll quickly find yourself in an entirely unhealthy place.

4. Do a Little Prep Work: It’s 9 p.m. and your day has felt like just about every day lately: rushed, overflowing with responsibilities, and with absolutely no opportunity for even a few precious moments of “you time.” Common sense tells you relaxation time has finally arrived … but wait: If you take just a few minutes to prepare for the next manic morning, you’ll lighten your proverbial load and start the day in a better place. Whether that means getting school lunches ready, pre-scrambling eggs for breakfast, picking out tomorrow’s outfit, or getting something else done instead of waiting until morning, you can save considerable time (and stress) by doing a little prep work. And no, this advice doesn’t just apply to busy parents; everyone can benefit from more preparation. Figure out what you could do sooner, rather than later, in your life and then get it done!

5. Believe in the Power of No: This one works in both directions and covers habits 1-4 above. As soon as you learn to say no, your life takes on an entirely new meaning. Can’t leave work on time because you just “have to get everything done”? Guess what: You’ll probably never get it all done (which is what the next workday is for), but if you continually overdo it, you’ll find yourself burned out before you know it. Learn to say no to the constant threats to your moments of “you time.” (Yes, do a little prep work, as discussed above, but not if it means you never get to relax.)

On the other hand, also learn to say no to the tendency to avoid doing the things you know would improve your life (such as these habits). Don’t let fear, comfort (or discomfort) or anything else keep you from achieving what you want and know you can achieve. Learning to find balance in your life– now that may be the ultimate healthy habit of them all.

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Healthy Eating Makes Kids Happier

A happy, healthy child – isn’t that what every parent wants? Fortunately, there’s a way to help accomplish both simultaneously! Here’s how Science Daily summarized findings of a recent study published in BMC Public Health: “Healthy eating is associated with better self-esteem and fewer emotional and peer problems, such as having fewer friends or being picked on or bullied, in children regardless of body weight, according to a new study. Inversely, better self-esteem is associated with better adherence to healthy eating guidelines.”

The study examined eating habits, self-esteem and emotional / peer interaction in more than 7,500 children ages 2-9. Higher Health Dietary Adherence Scores at the beginning of the study equated to better self-esteem and less emotional / peer problems several years later. Children were assigned initial dietary scores based on parental reporting of child food consumption, including how often their children ate certain foods. In particular, high consumption of fruits and vegetables was associated with better mental / emotional health.

Healthy eating isn’t just for your physical health; your emotional and mental health benefit, too! And those benefits are no more important than for our children. After all, a happy, health child sets the stage for a happy, healthy adult! Talk to your doctor to learn more.

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Stand Up Straight

I remember reading a quote in the American Journal of Pain Management that said “To live a long, active, energetic life, few things matter more than good posture.” Postural issues are a big contributor to many different aches and pains and injuries to our bodies. Injuries related to poor posture tend to be overuse injuries, which build up over a period of time. Slouched sitting for extended periods of time at a desk or in front of the TV can cause the shoulder joints to sit in a forwards position. This causes a muscle imbalance where the chest muscles are tight and the upper back muscles are weak. If you suffer with low back pain that developed slow and gradual with no history of trauma or overuse, the problem may be due to poor posture. Slumped sitting usually causes the arch of the back to flex or round and this places extra strain on the muscles and ligaments, which support the lower back. This results in muscle spasms and sometimes muscle strains.

Sitting, staring at a computer screen for hours on end, allowing your shoulders to round and your neck protrudes forward can cause aches and stiffness in the neck-shoulder area and even cause headaches. An accumulation of poor posture day-in and day-out can result in shortening of the chest muscles and weakening of the small, postural upper back and neck muscles, which work to pull the shoulders back. Once the rounded shoulders and forward head posture become a habit, it is hard to break that pattern.

lower back pain - Copyright – Stock Photo / Register Mark

Most people get out of bed in the morning and go sit down at a table and eat breakfast, then get in there car and drive to work. Large chunks of the work day is spent sitting hunched over a computer or in a vehicle driving to appointments. After work people go home and sit at the dinner table and then sit slumped on a couch to watch TV until they go to bed. This excess sitting for long periods during the day and night adversely affects posture, which in turn effects your performance in your activities and is quite often a predisposing factor in injury.

I understand most people need to spend on average eight to 10 hours each day at work. Don’t be one of those people who sit unconsciously in improper body positions and engage in repetitive movements that create muscle imbalances leading to poor posture. Poor self esteem, psychological distress & depressive symptoms are all related to poor posture. The most natural thing you can do here is increase your ‘”get up” and “move around” time. Create a variety of movement in your activities of daily living.

If you have poor flexibility, try some simple yoga. Muscle imbalances and joint dysfunctions associated with poor posture can create areas of too much motion in certain spinal segments causing instability. These areas may then wear out prematurely, while other areas may have too little motion in the spine causing range of motion/mobility dysfunctions; anytime you have a right side – left side imbalance, we call that an asymmetry. If you have an asymmetry in your muscles, you are more susceptible to injury.

Improve your posture by using these techniques:

  1. Become aware of the things that you are doing, even the things that you don’t even know you are doing that are contributing (harming) to your posture.
  2. Think of staying in a “tall spine” posture (while sitting, standing, during exercise).
  3. Take frequent breaks from sitting and use the Brugger’s postural relief position as one of your style of breaks.
  4. Know what it feels like to be in proper posture alignment and frequently try to duplicate that feeling – sometimes clients don’t even know what good posture feels like and looks like.

Taking frequent breaks from sitting at your desk is one of the most important things you can do for prevention of poor posture. Become aware of the times that you are doing repetitive movements and/or sustained postures, i.e., the mattress you sleep on may be worn out and contribute to microtrauma to the tissues causing altered spinal curves. The position you sleep in is important – the least offensive sleep position is on your back, then side lying with a pillow between the knees, and the least desirable position is on the stomach. A pillow with a good cervical support is important – a pillow without any cervical support may contribute to altered neck curves. The chair at your work station should allow you to sit upright rather than in a slumped posture.

Other things that maybe harming our posture: I think our moods influence our posture; a person who is depressed has a classic hunched over looking appearance. Even our exercise choices need to be scrutinized. If you perform the same exercise over and over such as cyclists who spend 2-3 hours riding their bicycles in a position of lumbar flexion develop a reduced lumbar curve; long distance swimmers who perform repeated motions may experience shoulder pain from altered posture and faulty biomechanics. For any person who sits eight hours a day hunched over a computer, the last thing that person needs to do is spend time hunched over a bicycle for recreation or pounding out bench presses at the gym.

The shoes you wear daily are important to maintain – worn out soles could contribute to foot and ankle malpositions leading to altered posture; foot pronation issues may require an insert or orthotic – this can help improve gait and posture by correcting faulty biomechanics.

I always recommend that we improve our ability to take deep breaths and expand the lungs capacity. Using the cue “breath into the back” helps improve posture.

Let me be perfectly clear – you can improve your posture – first become aware of your posture. Second requires training your body with simple exercise maneuvers and progressing to more challenging strength exercises.

Here are some simple exercises to get you started:

  1. Engage in daily use of the foam roll to provide self-myofascial release and self massage. Spend 3-5 minutes rolling out the thoracic spine and shoulders.
  2. Make sure you know how to go from “sitting to standing” properly. Stand upright (tall spine) imagining a sting attached to the base of the skull is lifting you upright, rather than leaning forward at the waist when going from sitting to standing. Once you are up, raise the hands above the head with the arms extended and with the elbows in line with the ears. Lean or bend backward as far as possible, making sure the hips go forward and the arms go backwards simultaneously. Repeat this maneuver 10 times.
  3. Perform “Chair Decompression”: The person sits in an upright chair with their arms behind them, slightly bent, hands on the seat of the back of the chair. They push downward, straightening the arms and leaving the buttocks in the chair, unloading the trunk and spine. Keep the arms externally rotated; this moves the upper body into something similar to Brugger’s.
  4. Perform Brugger’s relief position: Sit at the edge of a chair; Put your knees apart (wide) and your feet under the knees: Arch your back; Rotate your arms outward so your palms face forward; Separate your fingers and point your thumb backward; Tuck in your chin; Hold this position while taking a deep breath in though your abdomen. HOLD the position for 5 seconds, release for 3 seconds, Repeat 3-5 times.
  5. Perform Cobra: Laying face down on the floor-in prone position, have arms beside your hips. Activate the core by drawing in your navel towards spine and squeezing the glutes. With your core and glutes activated, lift the chest off the floor, lift arms up and back towards the hips rotating thumbs towards the ceiling. Pause momentarily at the top of the lift then return to starting position; at all times keeping the chin tucked into the chest and the feet on the floor. Upon completion of the movement, repeat. Don’t over emphasize arching of the back to the lift the chest off floor. Only lift to where you are comfortable – no lower back pain should be felt. Note: hold for 2-3 seconds. Repeat 5 times.
  6. Core training including the abdominals, lower back, gluteus, and hips is important for pelvis alignment.
  7. Strength training exercises include A) Bent over back rows. Bend over from the hips with the torso parallel to the floor. Pull either bands or free weights up, squeezing your shoulder blades as close together as you go). B) Standing or seated rowing exercises – start with your arms in front of the body holding on to a band or cable machine. Pull straight back bending at the elbows with the hands moving back along the sides of the body. C) Back Flys – Gripping on to a cable machine or bands, extend your arms into a wing span position.

By Dr. Jeffrey Tucker

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Exercise Now, Reduce Fracture Risk Later

In the latest study to emphasize the long-term benefits of exercise, researchers evaluated bone mineral density, a predictor of bone fracture risk, in active / retired male elite soccer players and control subjects (non-soccer players). More than 30 years after retirement from sports, soccer players had a significant reduced risk of bone fractures compared to control subjects. The researchers concluded: “Exercise-associated bone trait benefits are found long term after retirement from sports together with a lower fracture risk. This indicates that physical activity in youth could reduce the burden of fragility fractures.”

How much exercise do your children get on a daily basis? For that matter, how much do you get? Rather than risk a debilitating bone fracture, not to mention the countless other health consequences attributable to lack of exercise, why not kick off 2015 by committing to a consistent program of cardiovascular and resistance exercise? Talk to your doctor for more information.

exercise - Copyright – Stock Photo / Register Mark

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5 Common Causes of Neck Pain (and How Chiropractic Can Help)

Neck pain can be acute (short term) or chronic (recurring or persisting for months and even years), but regardless, when you’re in pain, relief is the first thing on your mind. Just as important as relief, of course, is finding the cause and ensuring you avoid the behavior / action that brought the pain on in the first place. Here are five common causes of neck pain – and why doctors of chiropractic are well-suited to relieve the pain and determine the underlying cause.

1. Poor Posture: Leaning over a desk all day or slouching in your office chair? You’re bound to develop neck pain eventually, if you haven’t already. Do this quick test: In an upright or seated position, round your shoulders and back (poor posture). Does it impact your neck as well? Exactly!

2. Monitor Madness: Staring at the computer screen for hours at a time? That’s not good for your health (or sanity), but from a neck pain perspective, it’s madness, particularly if the screen height forces you to crane your neck up (too high) or extend it down (too low).

3. Sleep Issues: Ideally, we spend a third of our day sleeping, so your sleep habits – for better or worse – can have a dramatic effect on your health. With regard to neck pain, anytime you sleep in an uncomfortable position, particularly one that stresses your neck musculature (think about side-sleeping while grabbing your pillow tightly, sleeping on your stomach with your arms out in front of you, or even sleeping on your back, but with a pillow that doesn’t adequately support your neck), you risk neck pain.

neck pain - Copyright – Stock Photo / Register Mark

4. Technology Overload: We may spend a third of our day sleeping, but we increasingly spend the other 16 hours typing, texting, tapping and otherwise interacting with our smartphones, tablets, etc. Bottom line: bad for your neck. One doctor has even coined the phrase, “text neck,” to describe the neck pain that can result from this constant technology interaction.

5. The Wrong Movement: Twisting, turning, stretching and stressing your neck is an easy way to cause neck pain. While the muscles in the neck are strong, they can be strained, sprained and even torn, just like any other muscle.

It’s important to note that beyond these common causes, various other health issues can also contribute to or directly cause neck pain, including fibromyalgia, cervical arthritis or spondylosis (essentially spinal arthritis), spinal stenosis (narrowing of the spinal canal), infection of the spine, and even cancer. The good news is that a doctor of chiropractic can help identify which of these or the above causes is to blame.

When neck pain strikes, most people turn to a temporary solution first: pain-relieving medication. But that’s not a permanent solution, of course, and it doesn’t address the cause of the pain at all, which could be something relatively minor – or more serious. What’s more, research suggests chiropractic spinal manipulation is actually more effective than over-the-counter and prescription medication for relieving both acute and subacute neck pain.

Suffering from neck pain? Then give your doctor of chiropractic a call. They’ll help you relieve your pain and determine the cause so it doesn’t return.

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Why Americans Love Chiropractic

Findings from the most recent National Health Interview Survey providing data on the use of chiropractic and other complementary health care approaches by U.S. adults reveals why Americans utilize chiropractic and what they value most. The survey provides data on lifetime (54.6 million; 24%) and 12-month (19.1 million; 8.4%) use of chiropractic services and various sociodemographic characteristics. But the most intriguing data illuminates the primary reasons for visiting a doctor of chiropractic and the perceived health and wellness benefits received by chiropractic users. Why visit a chiropractor? Here’s why:

Reasons for Visiting a Chiropractor

  • For general wellness / disease prevention: 43.6%
  • To improve energy: 16.3%
  • To improve athletic or sports performance: 15.4%
  • To improve immune function: 11.4%
  • To improve memory or concentration: 5.3%
chiropractic care - Copyright – Stock Photo / Register Mark

Benefits of Chiropractic

  • Improves overall health or makes feel better: 66.9%
  • Helps to sleep better: 41.9%
  • Helps to reduce stress level or to relax: 40.2%
  • Makes it easier to cope with health problems: 38.5%
  • Gives a sense of control over own health: 32.5%
  • Helps to feel better emotionally: 27.4%

Overall Value in Maintaining Health and Well-Being

  • Very important: 47.9%
  • Somewhat important: 29.6%
  • Slightly important: 13.9%
  • Not at all important: 8.7%

Effectiveness in Helping Specific Health Problem

  • Helped a great deal: 64.5%
  • Helped some: 25.8%

Why Not Just See an Medical Doctor?

  • Chiropractic combined with medical treatment would help: 64.8%
  • Chiropractic treats the cause and not just the symptoms: 61.9%
  • Chiropractic is natural: 37.5%
  • Medical treatments do not work for specific health problem: 33.8%
  • Chiropractic focuses on the whole person: 24.9%
  • Medications cause side effects: 18.1%

So, let’s recap: U.S. adults visit doctors of chiropractic for a variety of health and wellness reasons (not just when they have back pain); the majority find it “very important” or “somewhat important” in maintaining their overall health and well-being, yet most all believe it is effective in helping their specific health problems; and chiropractic presents an all-natural, drug-free alternative to traditional medical care. Someone you know needs chiropractic!

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Dealing With the Picky Eater

Many parents have a daily challenge that goes something like this: “My kids are picky eaters.” Often, this challenge boils down to their children’s tendency to avoid vegetables, but it can include avoidance of numerous other foods – usually the healthy variety. What’s the solution? While there really isn’t a single easy answer, much of this challenge actually stems from your own relationship with food, meaning that many of your childhood habits have persisted into adulthood and are now being passed on to the next generation.

Why It’s Happening

Picky Girl Eater - Copyright – Stock Photo / Register Mark

Your child enters this world not knowing what they hate or love about food; for the most part, kids learn by example. If you hate vegetables and never eat them, chances are your children won’t be very willing to try vegetables – and you may be not be particularly interested in serving them. After all, you’ll want to serve the foods you generally eat. If you’re a well-balanced, healthy eater, you’re on the right track, but it doesn’t necessarily mean you won’t have some picky-eater challenges to deal with. However, if you’re a picky eater stuck on a fairly limited number of not-so-good-for-you foods, you’re creating the consummate unhealthy picky eater by your actions, perhaps without even realizing it.

What You Can Do: 9 Strategies

1. Start With You. Where do you begin? It starts right now, whether you’re already a parent or expecting your first child. Start by reviewing your personal relationship with food. Consider how you and your significant other will blend or create new food relationships, and expand your knowledge or cooking base by researching books and Web sites that take a wellness approach to raising healthier children. This is all part of developing a clear strategy for raising your family. It includes the family’s moral compass, discipline and education, of course – and a snapshot of your family in terms of “what in our background could create food issues for our kids,” and the nutritional lifestyle that will grow and fuel your children’s development.

2. You’re the Motivator. If you’ve already created a picky eater, don’t be nit-picky with them (remember, it was you who unintentionally contributed to their picky eating habits). Start by reviewing a week in the life of your family and what everyone eats and drinks, and then divide your dietary lifestyle into two categories: Wellness/Healthy or Processed/Packaged/Unhealthy. Then add a third column, New Strategy, where you can add food items that will help the family get where it needs to go in terms of better eating habits. Evolve your family into the healthier lifestyle, and remember, the motivation has to come from you first.

3. Introduce Variety Early. Regarding infants, it’s ideal to go from breast-feeding to organic baby food, and then consider making your own. Develop a strategy to introduce a wide variety of vegetables, remembering that the greener they are, the more vitamins and minerals they contain, and that vegetables with bright color bring antioxidants to your children’s diet. To prevent your child from developing a sugar addiction, avoid fruit juices, candy, ice cream and baked goods. The only sugar they should experience growing up should come from natural fruit. It’s just too easy to get addicted to processed, overly sweetened foods; they’ll have plenty of time for the occasional treat when they’re older and have already developed a well-rounded, healthy diet.

4. Say No to Processed Foods. Avoid the trap many parents have fallen into, that of buying snacks marketed specifically by the manufacturers to start unhealthy habits. Children’s cereals, colored crackers, cookies and the like are not healthy choices when you see the processing, dyes, and artificial flavors added to make these items “fun” to eat. Also keep in mind that two of the leading food allergies for children are wheat and corn (the latter more often in the form of a sweetener or additive in food products).

Picky Girl Eater 2 - Copyright – Stock Photo / Register Mark

5. Think Healthy Snacks. Prepackaged toddler foods seem to be the “in” foods these days, marketed as great for kids and easy for parents. Instead of buying into the marketing hype, pre-plan healthier options for your family. Finely chopped vegetables like red or yellow peppers, shelled snap peas, steamed broccoli heads or zucchini are better than prepackaged items; so are natural fruits – but not fruit rolls and juices, which are high-glycemic. Many whole- or natural food stores also have gluten-free crackers, cookies and breads (wheat often is a food-inducing allergy).

6. Easy Meal Options. Who says you can’t introduce vegetables with breakfast? Chop up, steam or lightly saute veggies and combine with a good source of protein (eggs or beans) and you’re on your way to a complete, tasty meal. Wrap all this up in a whole wheat or sprouted tortilla and you have a healthy breakfast burrito. (The bean family is actually an overlooked source of protein for children.)

For lunches and dinners, it’s important to find a balance with proteins, vegetables, salads and whole grains. If you’re thinking, “How do I start?” realize there are resources and recipes that have been developed by parents who are in the same position as you are. A quick Internet search will get you started in the right direction.

7. Make It Fun. Depending on the age of your children, create fun recipes around themes to get them involved and excited about the meal. For example, “Pirate Night” may include fresh fish, seaweed mash (spinach and mashed potatoes) and stolen treasures (a medley of fresh berries) for dessert. Or try “Princess Night,” which will vary in terms of menu depending on which princess you are mimicking. Example: Jasmine Night can feature Genie chicken cubes and lantern (use couscous, a wonderful grain) or magic carpet dip (hummus) for veggies, and golden jeweled dessert (pineapple cubes with a sprinkle of coconut shreds).

8. It’s OK to Negotiate. If you’ve created a truly picky eater who demands only certain foods, like macaroni and cheese, pizza, hot dogs, fast foods and sweets, you need to learn the art of negotiation. Remember, your kids are in a pattern of getting what they want. Start with a strategy of slowly eliminating certain foods from your home and dining table. Let your children know what you are doing and that it will not happen all at once, and don’t be afraid to ask for their input, but also don’t back down. (Note: Negotiation should not mean “You can have dessert if you finish your food.” Dessert should not be construed as a reward. Negotiation is really about getting your children to try new things without “forcing” them to do it.)

9. Take Charge. Grocery shopping without your children can help to eliminate aisle battles. And consider signing up your older children for cooking classes. If you’re having trouble getting them to adopt more nutritious foods as you eliminate some of their unhealthy favorites, you can ensure good nutrition by purchasing “green” flakes (which can be found in natural stores) and mixing it into foods to camouflage its appearance.

In the beginning, when you are a slowly replacing your family’s old habits with new ones, it won’t be easy. Most children actually win this battle because many parents have troubling committing to their new lifestyle. However, the encouraging side is that most picky-eater habits can be changed within 90 days if you stick with it. Remember, it all starts with you. Teach your children healthy nutrition habits, lead by example and enjoy the results!

Boy wants cookies - Copyright – Stock Photo / Register Mark

More Do’s and Don’ts for Dealing With a Picky Eater

The Mayo Clinic (www.mayoclinic.com) offers some sound suggestions for what to do (and not to do) when trying to broaden the diet of your picky eater. These tips are good for children of all ages, but especially younger children just learning about the wonders of food:

DO: Respect your child’s hunger — or lack thereof. Young children tend to eat only when they’re hungry. Don’t force food on them when they’re not ready for it.

DON’T: Be impatient when introducing new foods. Young children often touch or smell new foods, and may even put tiny bits in their mouths and then take them back out again. They may need repeated exposure to a new food before they take their first real bite.

DO: Make it fun. Serve veggies with a favorite dip or sauce. Cut foods into various shapes with cookie cutters.

DON’T: Expect too much. After age 2, slower growth often reduces a child’s appetite. A few bites may be all it takes to feel full.

Boy with chocolate - Copyright – Stock Photo / Register Mark

DO: Stay calm. If your child senses you’re unhappy with their eating habits, it may turn into a battle of wills. Threats and punishments only reinforce the power struggle.

DON’T: Mandate the “clean plate club.” Don’t force your child to finish all the food on their plate. Again, this may facilitate a power struggle. Allow your child to stop eating when they’re full.

DO: Keep an eye on the clock. No juice and snacks for at least one hour before meals. If your child comes to the table hungry, they may be more inclined to eat.

DON’T: Start too big. Offer several different foods in small portions. Let your child choose what they eat.

DO: Limit liquid calories. Low-fat or fat-free dairy products and 100 percent fruit juice can be important parts of a healthy diet, but too much may make your child too full for meals or snacks.

DON’T: Forget about the routine. Serve meals and snacks at about the same times every day. If the kitchen is “closed” at other times, your child may be more likely to eat what’s served when it’s served.

DO: Leave taste out of it. Instead, talk about a food’s color, shape, aroma and texture — not whether it tastes good.

DON’T: Offer dessert as a reward. Withholding dessert sends the message that dessert is the best food, which may only increase your child’s desire for sweets.

DO: Recruit your child’s help. At the grocery store, ask your child to help you select fruits, vegetables and other healthy foods.

DON’T: Expect all their food preferences to change. As kids mature, they tend to become less picky about food. Still, everyone has food preferences. Don’t expect your child to like everything.

DO: Set a good example. If you eat a variety of healthy foods, your child will be more likely to follow your example.

DON’T: Follow convention. If your child isn’t a fan of various ingredients thrown together, “unmix” the food. Place sandwich fixings outside the bread, or serve the ingredients of a salad, casserole or stir-fry separately. As long as they eat it, that’s what matters.

DO: Minimize distractions. Turn off the television during meals, and don’t allow books or toys at the table.

DON’T: Buy anything you don’t want your child to eat, and when you do buy the occasional sweet treat or less-than-healthy snack, don’t put it within easy reach; that’s just asking for trouble.

DO: Be sneaky. Puree vegetables and add them to spaghetti sauce, top cereal with fruit slices, or mix grated vegetables into casseroles and soups.

DON’T: Be afraid to ask for help. Consult your child’s doctor if you’re concerned that picky eating is compromising your child’s growth and development, or if certain foods seem to make them ill.

By Claudia Anrig, DC

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Back to Basics: Understanding Back Pain

Despite the amount of information available on the Internet these days, many people still do not have the proper facts on back pain. Perhaps it’s due to information overload or just misinformation. Regardless of the reason, there are too many people suffering from back pain and not enough understanding of the causes and potential solutions. Let’s try and change that by looking at the basics of back pain.First, understand that back pain is not due to one and only one cause. That would make everyone’s job so much easier. Just imagine going to your car mechanic and knowing anything and everything that might be wrong with your car had only one cause. Life would be so much easier that way, but it’s just not the case. Back pain is no different. It can be caused by a multitude of things involving bones, muscles, nerves or even psychological factors.Second, many people with chronic pain think their back pain will never go away. Considering that chronic low back pain costs society up to $100 billion a year in health care utilization, workers’ compensation, etc., it’s hard to imagine that most of the back pain out there actually gets better, but surprisingly, it usually does. But if that’s the case, then why is low back pain such an epidemic?For a long time (and in some cases even today), patients and health professionals alike had similar views regarding back pain. When you came into the office, the priorities were to find out what was wrong, where the pain was coming from, and then address the structure (part of your body) that needed addressing. That’s it. Sounds straightforward, but this is actually the wrong way to look at back pain.For example, a person with leg numbness may go get an MRI done, and it may show that they have a “disc bulge” at L5 (the fifth lumbar vertebra in the back). Believing that L5 is causing the person’s leg numbness, more often than not, a surgeon would go in and operate on that L5. However, did you know that some people who have no back pain can also have a disc bulge at that level showing on the MRI? What this means is that what you see on an imaging test is not necessarily where the pain is coming from.Let’s divide low back pain into two different conditions and discuss the general facts about how to deal with each one. We call low back pain that is quite recent acute low back pain. This can range from pain that is present for several minutes to several days. The second category of back pain is chronic low back pain. This pain persists for three months or more.ACUTE LOW BACK PAIN: Early treatment leads to better outcomesIf you’ve suffered from low back pain over the past few days, or if you get back pain sometime in the future, the tendency will be to wait it out and see if it gets better. Sometimes we even decide to take time off and lie in bed, hoping we will eventually be feeling better and back to our usual activities or work. However, more and more research shows that lying in bed or waiting it out is the worst thing you can do for yourself. Remember, only 10 percent of people develop chronic low back pain, but those cases account for an estimated $100 billion a year in health care and other costs. It’s a safe bet that most of them have taken this incorrect “wait and see” approach.Research suggests that when it comes to back pain, early intervention is best. There are many reasons for this concept, but here is a basic summary of what current guidelines are saying:Low back pain can sometimes be due to something more serious than a simple sprain. That’s why it’s important to see your chiropractor right away so they can evaluate you for anything more serious.

Spinal manipulation is one of the only treatments that is consistently being recommended for those with acute low back pain – and yet far too many people don’t visit a chiropractor and choose to pop over-the-counter pain medication instead.

Avoid bed rest as much as possible. Yes, I know that it feels good and frankly, when I had an episode of low back pain once, I was tempted to lie in bed all day, too. On a basic level, it’s the most “rational” thing to do. However, bed rest actually wastes away your muscles, and this effect lasts even for the lucky ones who improve with their low back pain. For those who are pain free, the bad news is that the muscles still waste away. 

What does this mean? It means that although you may be lucky enough to be out of pain, your muscles will have put you in a position where you will most likely suffer back pain again. That’s why trying to stay as active as possible in the early stages can go a long way not only to get over the back pain, but also to help prevent future back pain episodes from happening. 

Early exercise will help ensure that your muscles and bones will continue to move to prevent stiffness and pain. I often have patients tell me that they have Googled an exercise program for their back pain and are using it. Unfortunately, there is no-one-size-fits-all exercise program for low back pain. The type of exercises you do for a disc herniation can be totally different than the ones you do for a simple strain or sprain caused by playing a sport or lifting something at work. In fact, some exercises that you may see posted on the Internet may actually cause further damage or prolong your back pain. That’s why it’s so important to see your health professional to get an expert opinion on which exercises will be beneficial for your condition.

There are ways to predict if acute pain will end up developing into chronic pain. One of the most frustrating things health professionals face is the fact that although some patients may have undergone treatments, they still develop chronic low back pain. The good news is that there are certain predictors that can identify someone who may end up developing chronic back pain. When you look at these, it becomes more apparent that seeking treatment and following all the above points is crucial to getting better. One of the biggest predictors is called “pain avoidance behavior.” Quite simply, it means once you get the pain, you will do everything you can to avoid anything that will cause pain.What happens next? You guessed it. This type of person lies in bed as much as possible. This type of person will try to avoid any exercise that may cause the slightest discomfort. Essentially, they will avoid everything that could be helpful to their condition. That’s why I always take time with my patients to stress the importance of not letting the pain overtake their lives. Continue doing what you did before, no matter how small of an effort you put in. The back pain feels like your back is going to break in two. However, with proper supervision and the right recommendations for treatment, you will not be able to damage your back any more than the situation it is in.So, the next time you experience back pain and feel like you can’t do anything, always remember that any movement or activity or treatment that keeps you moving is crucial for your recovery. Another factor is that you may be deconditioned and not fit enough. With back pain, you can become even more deconditioned. That’s why starting to move and then progressing to an exercise program is crucial to ensure not only that you get better, but also that you don’t get future bouts of low back pain.CHRONIC LOW BACK PAIN: Focus on strengthening and endurance exercisesChronic low back pain is pain that has been persistent for more than three months. Most of my patients have either tried different therapies with no results, or have decided to use the “wait and see” approach that we just discussed. Regardless of how you got here, there are several key things to remember about your back pain if it’s chronic:Most back pain does not require surgery. Some of my patients with chronic pain are always looking for the surgical solution. Who wouldn’t? We all will believe that if someone just takes what is causing the pain “out,” everything will be fine. Unfortunately, surgery doesn’t have a stellar track record of finding a cure for your chronic back pain. Most surgeons I know and work with will tell me straight out that it’s the last option for the patient. For example, some of my disc herniation patients with nerve root problems may feel like surgery is the only option, but then are surprised when the surgeon holds off. One thing you have to realize is that surgeons will only do surgery if there is physical damage occurring to the nerves that are causing muscle wasting and will lead to irreversible damage. Pain is not a criteria for surgery!Begin an exercise program to increase strength and endurance. Most of my patients will chronic low back pain tell me they have done exercises, but they haven’t worked. I then see what they’ve done and realize it isn’t enough. To someone with chronic low back pain, it appears to be more than enough simply because any more will cause pain! However, you need to see yourself not as a crippled patient, but as an athlete coming back from injury. We are always mesmerized by how fast some athletes get back from surgery or get back from their injuries. That’s because they push themselves through appropriate exercises.The body has a wonderful ability to get stronger when exercise stresses are placed on it. The body can bend, but usually doesn’t break. That’s why an effective exercise program should not be based on simple stretches alone. Exercises need to progress to strengthening and endurance exercises. Endurance is how long your back (or any area of the body) can sustain an activity before it gets tired and unable to function. Therefore, endurance exercises are the key to gradually work your back into shape. It’s also important to exercise your whole body, not just your back. Having strong legs will help you get up easier. Having a strong upper back and arms will allow you to carry things easier.Remember, one of the best predictors of low back pain becoming chronic is pain avoidance behavior. By committing yourself to a life of avoiding things that give you pain, you are going to go into that vicious cycle of pain and disability. That’s why following your health professional’s advice on the right exercises is crucial to ensuring you get your life back instead of losing it to back pain.As you can tell, the back is a complex structure and back pain can be just as complex, but at the same time, there are straightforward ways to reduce your risk of experiencing acute or chronic episodes. Talk to your doctor for more information.

By Dr. Jasper Sidhu
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