Does Your Pillow Matter

Does Your Pillow Matter?

Does Your Pillow MatterThe average American sleeps about 7 hours per night according to estimates. That is a long time to be in a relatively still position. Is it bad to sleep in a position that compromises your spine all night? Evidence suggests that poor sleeping habits may affect your health.  One way to counter this is with an ergonomic pillow.

Think about it like a car. If your alignment is off, what will happen? Will the tires wear more on one side than the other? Will your brakes gradually give out on the side with abnormal stress? I bet they would, and eventually it could affect your whole car. Your body is no different. When your spine is out normal alignment, it puts added stress on the ligaments, bones, muscles, blood vessels and even the electric wiring (spinal cord) of your body. This can wear you down and cause issues like muscle spasm, neck pain, headaches and more.

This is why Precision Chiropractic includes a structural pillow for everyone who begins care with us. We measure your shoulders and make sure the pillow is the correct size. Our results are as important to us as they are for you. We try to address as many factors that contribute to structural shifts of the spine as we can. After all, structure determines function.

We recommend and retail the Therapeutica Pillow.

Image courtesy of “Rehabilitation of the Spine: A Practicioner’s Manual” by Craig Lieberson.

Anterior Head Syndrome

Could Structural Maladies of the Craniocervical Junction Contribute to Multiple Sclerosis?

multiple sclerosisMultiple sclerosis is a debilitating disease that affects many Americans. The condition is known to cause demyelination of nerves, which affects its ability to transmit information from the brain to the body and vice versa. It is similar to electrical wiring in a house. What would happen if the plastic covering on some of the wires in a house wore through and the wires actually broke? When this occurs, household items would not work appropriately. For example, the lights may not turn on or appliances might suddenly shut off. This is clearly problematic. Research continues to grow but the underlying mechanisms are not well understood. In a complicated disease like this, there are more than likely many factors involved.

Could Structural Maladies of the Craniocervical Junction be A Contributing Factor to Multiple Sclerosis?

To answer this, we must first understand its possible involvement. Multiple sclerosis is associated with periventricular lesions. These are scars that occur around a chamber in the core of the brain called the ventricles. Is it a coincidence that these scars are located in the periventricular tissue of multiple sclerosis patients? Are these lesions a clue to an underlying degenerative process? The ventricles of the brain are responsible for cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) production and circulation. The CSF bathes the brain. It is responsible for removing waste as well as supplying the brain with the nutrients necessary for proper function. The unobstructed flow of CSF is essential for brain metabolism. If it is blocked, this will increase hydrostatic pressure and cerebrospinal fluid can potentially leak out of the ventricular system into surrounding tissues. It is similar to filling a balloon with water. The balloon can only expand so much before the force of water pushing out from within causes a disruption and water starts pouring out.

Can CSF Circulation be Impeded?

There are a number of ways it can be, but this article will focus on inhibited drainage from the brain. The majority of substances entering and leaving the skull pass through the foramen magnum of the craniocervical junction. It is a bottleneck, no different than a traffic jam occurring on a two lane highway. An accident can stop cars for hours before it is cleared. The same phenomenon can occur within the body. Cerebrospinal fluid is drained from the brain through the venous system. Part of this system passes through the bottleneck to the brain, the craniocervical junction. Therefore, anything that affects this area can block the venous system and hinder outflow from the brain. This will cause a backup of CSF and increased hydrostatic pressure that could cause leakage into the periventricular space.

Two possible mechanical sources for obstructed venous flow include forward head posture and atlas malalignment. The craniocervical junction hosts particularly sturdy ligaments called dentate ligaments. Their job is to anchor the spinal cord in place during all motions of the head and neck. Tension can pass to the contents of the craniocervical junction through these ligaments. Forward head posture is abnormal anterior positioning of the head relative to the thorax and shoulders. For every inch the head moves forward from normal, an extra ten pounds of tension is added to the contents of the cervical spine. This can increase intramedullary pressure on the venous system draining CSF from the brain which could cause a backup of CSF and increased hydrostatic pressure. This is similar to stepping on a garden hose. When pressure from outside the hose is added, the amount of water reaching the end is reduced.

Also, misalignment of the atlas vertebra can cause a similar increase in pressure. The atlas is responsible for the majority of neck and head rotation. This incredible amount of motion subjects it to the potential for possible abnormal alignment. It has a close relationship with the dentate ligaments and stress can be transmitted to the contents of the craniocervical junction secondary to improper position. A recent publishing (Dworkin and Smith. 2015 Karger) utilized standing MRI to observe CSF flow pre and post atlas correction and displayed an improvement. In addition to increased pressure secondary to atlas misalignment, they also cited jugular vein compression by the atlas transverse process as a possible mechanism.

The backed up CSF is more than likely filled with toxic wastes that are meant to be cleared from the brain. Is it possible that this waste could initiate a cascade of immune responses that attacks the myelin of nerves when it leaks out of the ventricles? This is merely speculation. However, the position of the lesions in multiple sclerosis may be an indicator of a potential mechanism that contributes to the disease.

Multiple sclerosis is a very complicated disease. The different systems do not act in isolation. It is probable that this condition is secondary to multiple different interactions within the entire body. Hopefully, this article brings to light a potential mechanism that is not frequently addressed. More research needs to be conducted, but the mechanism presented may very well be involved.

References:

  1. Dworkin JS, Smith FW. 2015. The Craniocervical Syndrome and MRI. Basel (Switzerland): Karger.
Atlas Displacement Complex

Could A Painful Neck Contribute To Vertigo?

vertigoAccording to the dictionary, vertigo is a sensation of motion which is associated with various disorders and in which the individual or the individual’s surroundings seem to whirl dizzily. It is akin to spinning around in a circle for one minute then attempting to stand straight. This feeling can be crippling. Those with vertigo may frequently experience symptoms that affect their lives. For this reason, the medical world has been searching for an answer.

The Debate About Vertigo

The mechanism behind vertigo has been debated for years. The majority of researchers believe the condition is secondary to a disturbance within the vestibular system. This premise is rational since this system is responsible for maintaining balance and spatial orientation of the body. The focus has typically been to address the major players of the system, including the structures of the inner ear and the cerebellum. While they deservedly get a lot of attention, is it possible there are other culprits?

Recent Research

Research is growing in support of vertigo induced by neck dysfunction. Many believe that neck pathology could affect an important sensation for the body called proprioception – the body’s awareness of itself in space. For example, if someone closes their eyes they can still locate their left thumb with their right pointer finger. How? This is possible because your body is continuously supplying feedback to processing centers in the brain from joints, muscles, ligaments and more about its position in space. This is how proprioception works and the neck is responsible for supplying a lot of this information. The brain, particularly the cerebellum, is the most advanced computer on the planet. It is constantly receiving an astronomical amount of data from the body and responding within a second.

Neck Dysfunction & Vertigo

How does neck dysfunction contribute to vertigo then? When there is a reduction in neck movement due to pain or muscle spasticity, the cerebellum is not given all the information it needs for an adequate response. Without movement, there is less information available for the brain. When there is not enough information, the brain may become “confused” and an episode of vertigo could ensue. Also, input from the body can potentially be altered. Structural maladaptation, particularly in the craniocervical junction, can cause pathologic stress on the spinal cord via the dentate ligaments. This tension can impede the wiring of the body responsible for bringing position sense to the brain. Finally, another potential mechanism under research involves disturbance of the vasculature secondary to neck dysfunction. If cells of the brain are unable to receive adequate nutrition from the vessels of the body, they will not be able perform the tasks they are designed to complete. This can have deleterious effects.

Vertigo is not yet completely understood and it is possible there are many more compounding factors. The nervous system is a very complicated mesh of nerves that communicate data with the master controller of the body, the brain. There are many structures that supply the vestibular system and any broken link in the chain contributes to the malady. Fortunately, evidence continues to grow. As the mechanisms become clear, treatments will improve. A dizzying amount of information may be left to unravel, but with continued research a solution could be around the corner.

Winter is Coming

Winter is Coming

Winter is ComingIn the award winning show Game of Thrones, winter is everything. People in northern climates suffer a similar fate – plagued by different demons and dragons. As winter approaches, the days become shorter, the sun becomes weaker, and participating in outdoor activities is near impossible due to frigid weather. Unfortunately for denizens of the north, one of the necessary vitamins for our body comes from sunlight. Vitamin D is responsible for a substantial number of body processes including bone metabolism, health of the heart and blood vessels, immune system strength and much more. Being deficient can lead to considerable health consequences.

Northern Climates & Ties to Autoimmune Disease

Did you know that people living in northern climates have a higher risk of autoimmune disease? A lack of Vitamin D may very well be the culprit. An important component of the immune system is the T cell. Sound familiar? You may have heard those afflicted with HIV and AIDS lack an adequate amount of T helper cells. As T cells mature, they are taught to attack invading pathogens and to leave the body’s cells alone. Vitamin D has an integral role in this education at the cellular level. When the vitamin is deficient, it is speculated that the T cells mature with an affinity for attacking parts of the body. This may lead to a wide variety of auto immune conditions.

Vitamin D deficiency can lead to other conditions as well. Many people are familiar with conditions such as rickets in children and osteomalacia in adults. Without Vitamin D, the body struggles to absorb and utilize calcium for bones. This can cause soft, brittle bones, and eventually osteoporosis. It has also implicated in particular cancers and cardiovascular disease. The research continues to grow on many potential implications.

Ways to Address This During Winter

For one, spend more time in the sun. Technology leads many to become hermits. Sitting in dark rooms all day with laptops and televisions is a growing, unhealthy trend. People don’t need to go outside for hours on end to get sufficient Vitamin D, nor do they need to go out during peak UV hours. Find a comfortable time to go for a walk or participate in other activities. A high quality Vitamin D supplement is a good idea in conjunction with this strategy. This is even more important when the amount of sunlight available is limited.

Vitamin D deficiency may be more prevalent than is estimated. It is easy to understand why. There are strategies you can utilize to curb this health issue. Winter is just around the corner. Be prepared!

Anterior Head Syndrome

Text Neck – The Next American Epidemic

Anterior Head SyndromeAdvancements in technology have made all of our lives easier. Imagine a life where Siri isn’t around to give directions to the closest Starbucks, or answer a person’s random questions. Smart phones might as well do chores, because they are an integral part of the family. Is it possible, however, that there is a downside to this phone relationship? A growing body of evidence appears to suggest this.

Computers and smart phones garner our attention two to four hours a day according to numerous estimates. This shouldn’t be an issue, except that our posture is less than ideal while using them. Typically, the user has their neck flexed for an extended period of time which creates structural problems. The head typically weighs 10-12 pounds. As it moves away from the body, it gets relatively heavier and strains the muscles, ligaments and bones of the cervical spine. It is suggested that for every inch the skull moves forward from a neutral position, it gains ten pounds. To experience this, hold a 10-15 pound weight with two hands next to your chest and see how long it can be held. Next, extend your arms away from the body and see how long you can hold the weight up. The burning experienced in your arms in the extended position is what your neck experiences when in this abnormal position. This is what many refer to as text neck.

Why Is This Bad?

Text neck forces the ligaments, muscles, and bones of the cervical spine to compensate for the poor posture. The cervical vertebrae may form bone spurs for stability, ligaments become thicker, and muscles can become tightened to counteract the strain. This could cause neck pain, headaches, TMJ and many more conditions including back pain! How could poor head posture possibly cause low back pain? The spinal cord is anchored firmly near the top and bottom of the spinal column. Specifically, it is anchored to the cranium around the foramen magnum and down in the pelvis attached to the coccyx. When the head is flexed, it actually lengthens the entire spinal cord. This physical arrangement causes tension in the cord to be transmitted to other areas, rather than just locally. Therefore, tension in the neck can be experienced in the low back as well. If there is any pre-existing pathology in the lumbar spine it will be at an increased risk to cause low back pain because of the increased pressure! Text neck may just be the straw that breaks the camel’s back.

What Can Be Done To Address This?

To begin with, holding a smart phone at eye level will not require the head to be flexed. It may not always be practical to do this, but when it can be done it will spare the neck unnecessary strain. Also, chiropractors, physical therapists and other health care practitioners frequently are able to make ergonomic recommendations as well as address any of the body’s compensations and symptoms secondary to the abnormal head position.

The advent of smart phones is a phenomenon. We live in a day where limitless information is constantly at our fingertips. Unfortunately, there is a downside. As the idiom goes, too much of a good thing is a bad thing. The text neck population is increasing as more and more people get their hands on the latest smart phone. Don’t become the next victim. Be mindful of this troublesome posture and avoid a future pain in the neck!

chiropractor

Structure Determines Function

Strong FoundationI remember seeing the article’s title written on the chalk board during my first anatomy class growing up.  My teacher went on to explain how the structure of the heart is perfect for its function.  The top two chambers of the heart, called atria, are so positioned because they collect blood from the body and with the assistance of gravity and atrial contraction, they push the blood down into the lower chambers called the ventricles.  The ventricles are the power lifters of the heart, thick and muscular.  They are robust because they have to push blood distances far from its relatively central position.  As one can see, the structure of the heart is essential for it to perform its task, which is to provide blood to the entire body.  Anything that affects the structure in return affects the function and can cause health issues like heart murmurs or even worse, heart attacks.

The Spine’s Role

The same can be said about the spinal column as well.  The spine’s main role is to protect the central nervous system, specifically the spinal cord, while providing mobility and support.  This is an imperative task because the central nervous system is the master control system.  It is analogous to electrical wiring and provides a two-way conduit for communicating information from the body’s cells to the brain while also delivering instructions from the brain back to the body’s cells.  Even the tips of the toes are in constant communication with the brain.

Everyone has seen what happens when a wire is clipped or disfigured in any household item.  It quits working, or doesn’t work the way it was designed to.  The same thing can occur within the spinal column by virtue of its anatomy.  Structural maladaptation of the spine can transmit pathological force to the central nervous system, altering the function of the body’s electrical wiring.  A couple examples of symptoms related to this can be numbness in the hands and feet, or shooting pain down the shoulders and legs.  What is often forgotten though, is that these symptoms are just a physical manifestation of a bigger problem which is obstructed function of the nerve tissue of the central nervous system.  Concomitant with the pain or numbness is impeded transmission of information via the nerves, and therefore potentially altered function of organs such as the heart, lungs, skeletal muscle, skin, etc.

All hope is not lost though, many professions deal with this issue including, but not limited to, surgeons, physical therapists, and chiropractors.  Each has a different method of achieving correction ranging from more invasive methods of surgeons to the non-invasive methods of chiropractors, particularly those focusing on structural correction.  The level of correction needed may depend on the extent of spinal maladaptation.

Just like the heart needs thick, muscular ventricles to pump blood to the body, your spine needs to be within a normal range for ideal function of the central nervous system. When the electrical wires of the body are obstructed, the whole body can be affected.  Science continues to evolve, but one thing appears to remain constant – structure determines function.

Taste The Rainbow

Taste the Rainbow

Taste The RainbowIf the title sounds familiar, it is because Skittles made the expression popular when they were marketing their multi colored line of candy. It was, and still is a fantastic campaign. A consumer can’t help but think of Skittles every time the phrase is repeated. The company was on to something when they created “taste the rainbow”, but maybe not for the reasons they realized. Some of the most important health substances in foods are antioxidants. So, how do you know if the food you are eating has any? I have some great news, look at what you are eating. If it is a bright and colorful whole food, it probably has antioxidants.

The Correlation of Food & Color

Different color foods have different compositions of nutrients and antioxidants. This is because specific chemicals reflect light differently, and therefore give off a different color. For example, carotenoids are known for their presence in orange colored foods, while flavonoids are found in blue and violet foods. This is quite fascinating. Even more remarkable is that your body is composed of trillions of cells that are simultaneously carrying out numerous functions. Antioxidants have an important role in these tasks. Therefore, doesn’t it seem important to have all the supplies your body needs to carry out these functions? I think so, and so does Mother Nature. That is why she conveniently color coded foods to assist you.

The Role of Antioxidants

What exactly do antioxidants do then? A lot of time and money has been spent researching this question and their importance continues to grow. One major role is that they prevent cellular damage by inhibiting free radicals. Free radicals are reactive by-products that are created during cellular metabolism. They can react with your cells and create havoc. This process is believed to potentially play a role in aging, cancer promotion, and many more diseases. I believe it is safe to say that consuming antioxidants is important. It is also essential to consume a wide variety of antioxidants as they each have unique characteristics. Getting only one variety of antioxidant would be like Thor telling the rest of his Avenger friends to stay at home while he defends the earth. Thor is great, but Iron Man, Captain America and the Hulk can help do a lot more damage to the bad guy.

Next time you’re in the grocery store, browse the fruit and vegetable section a little more than normal. Do you remember there being that many different colors? Your food has a message for you – taste the rainbow. Your body will thank you.

Tattered House

What Does Your Body Have In Common With A House?

Your Body Is Your HouseShelter is one of the basic needs of life.  A well-constructed house will protect you from thunderstorms, bugs, frigid winters, scorching summers and a multitude of other hazards.  If a builder cuts corners during the construction process, you may notice: rain leaks through the roof, bugs infest the interior and your heating/cooling bills are astronomical.  House construction requires a good plan and hundreds of different materials to complete.  Your body is not any different.  Your genes provide the blueprints and your diet provides the materials.

Where We Go Wrong

So, why would you ever cut corners when it comes to building your body?  The American diet lacks many of the nutrients important to protect an individual from the hazardous elements of life.  We focus too often on major macronutrients such as fats, carbohydrates, and protein.  While these are important and essential, there are many more, less known sources of nutrition that play a huge complementary role in your health.  One of these sources are a relatively recent discovery known as phytonutrients.

As the proverb goes, an apple a day keeps the doctor away.  Why is this?  Apples contain phytonutrients which are plant derived substances that contribute to health.  Researchers believe there may be as many as 50,000 phytonutrients, although we have only isolated a fraction of them.  The public is probably familiar with certain phytonutrients, like Lycopene.  Lycopene has received attention for its anti-oxidant properties and is believed to potentially prevent heart disease and a number of cancers including prostate, breast and more.  Phytonutrients are involved in many chemical processes of the body and appear to be important for protecting yourself from disease as well as keeping the body functioning optimally.  Therefore, a large variety of phytonutrients in the diet confers far reaching health benefits.

Eating Right

Fruits and vegetables contribute the highest concentration of phytonutrients with whole grains, nuts, and beans supplementing them.  Unfortunately, the typical American diet is void of fruits and vegetables.  Less than 30% of Americans get the recommended fruit and vegetable recommendations according to the CDC.  Imagine building a house and realizing you don’t have the right caulk for your windows or enough wiring to run all your appliances.  Will your house still stand?  Yes.  Will it run as efficiently as it could if it had all the required supplies?  No.

You are what you eat, literally.  Your body replaces itself with a largely new set of cells every seven to ten years.  Build your body like you would the ideal house.  Give it all the supplies it requires to construct a fortress against disease and harm while helping it run optimally.  Add more vegetables and fruits to your diet today and watch your body respond.  Health starts in the kitchen – and a good kitchen comes fully stocked.