Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Ear Infections

More commonly known as an ear infection, Otitis media is one of the most common childhood illnesses. Ear infections develop due to a buildup of bacteria or a viral infection behind the eardrum, also known as the middle ear. This buildup is due to a blockage of the Eustachian tube, which connects the inner ear to the throat.  This tube can become blocked or swollen for several different reasons, including sinus infections, colds, allergies, smoking tobacco and more. Ear infections can be very painful as they develop, building up both inflammation and pressure behind the eardrum without any way to drain.
            Ear infections are most common in children because they have a much smaller Eustachian tube, ultimately making it easier to become clogged. There are also several different factors that leave you and your child at risk for developing fluid behind the ear. Those risk factors include; altitude changes, recent illness or previous ear infections, and tobacco smoke. For a child, it has been found that early bottle use and the use of a pacifier have shown later susceptibility to otitis media. The continuous sucking on both bottle and pacifier cause the Eustachian tube to stay open abnormally long allowing bacteria and more an easy passage into the ear. A team of pediatricians from Finland found that through limiting the use of a pacifier, you can reduce your child’s risk of contracting otitis media.
            Whether you have experienced the many symptoms of an ear infection or not, there are many common symptoms that you should keep an eye out for. The most common and recognized are fever, fluid draining from the ear, lack of sleep and even a loss of appetite.  Other symptoms that are not often associated with ear infections include popping and/or ringing in the ear. As pressure builds up, it not only causes pain in the ear, but it alters how the eardrum picks up vibration which can be translated into that ringing or popping. Often, if this happens in a child and they are unable to communicate that their ear(s) hurt, they will rub their ear in attempt to alleviate the pain. In adults or young adults, they may experience difficulty in hearing beyond the ringing; sounds will seem muffled or distorted. A severe symptom that can cause more serious issues beyond the infection itself, is a lack or loss of balance and extreme dizziness.
            Usually ear infections are treated with an oral antibiotic, ear drops, or in more severe cases, surgery. Surgery is typically a last resort form of treatment, and only used when the infection has become a recurring issue. Although the surgery is effective in draining the fluid built up behind the eardrum, it can potentially cause hearing issues later in life due to the tube being inserted into the eardrum.  Antibiotics have been shown, on occasion, to slightly decrease the duration of the ear infection.  These antibiotics can decrease the body’s natural immune system’s ability to operate at an optimal level, which is why antibiotics should always be paired with probiotics. Also, it is very hard to justify using an antibiotic when the ear infection is caused by a virus…yet this happens all the time.

            Many people are not in favor of antibiotic treatment.  In terms of holistic or natural treatment – other options do exist.  Consider the “watch-and-wait” method, which has been well documented, as a form of natural treatment that allows the body to fight infection on its own – minus the side effects of antibiotics. I have had patients ask me if chiropractic can treat ear infections, to which my response is typically that it has been known to help, but the purpose of chiropractic care is not to treat any disease or condition; it is to reestablish the body to its optimal efficiency bringing back proper bodily functions. With chiropractic care, removing the nerve interference on the nervous system, the body is better able to recognize foreign bodies of bacteria and viruses with the purpose of expelling them. Chiropractic is a great option for those already suffering from a painful ear infection, or those looking to prevent the ear infection from occurring. The nervous system is the communication highway for the body – it is integral in generating and coordinating the body’s immune response and defense. With or without an ear infection, we should all start paying closer attention to our nervous system in relation to our health, whether that be preventative or reparative, in order for our bodies to reach peak performance.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Sun Exposure - Moderation is key

How do you view the sun? Not literally, of course, but figuratively.  Do you view sunlight in a positive or negative light (pun intended)? Often, when hearing the words sun exposure, some think about it negatively in terms of their health and wellness. Some try and avoid sunlight to prevent potential health risks, but one widely overlooked fact, is that humans need to absorb sunlight and metabolize it, just like plants need it to grow and thrive. Now, just like with most things, sun exposure is great in moderation. The health risks associated with sun exposure are very real and should be taken seriously. However, that doesn’t mean that sunlight isn’t also beneficial in healthy, moderate doses and with the right precaution. Some scientists even say with moderate sun exposure, the benefits outweigh the risks. With Spring having just arrived, and the sun shining longer, it’s important to talk about how beneficial it is to absorb that sunlight.
 The relationship between humans and sunlight is not as forthcoming as one would hope. There are many different factors to consider such as, skin tone, genetic composition, even the climate you live in – but let’s not get into all that nitty gritty. If you’re concerned, or interested in that, I encourage you to talk to your doctor about your specific, individual needs. Onto the good stuff – I’ve laid out a few of the more significant benefits of basking in the sun’s rays.
            Sun exposure heightens cognitive function. When we’re absorbing the sun, we’re not just getting a tan, we’re absorbing and metabolizing one of the most important Vitamins we need to be at our healthiest -  Vitamin D. Recently, scientists have linked the presence and need of vitamin D in hour brains. One study performed by neuroscientist David Llewellyn at University of Cambridge linked the levels of vitamin D to the cognitive function of 1700 men and women. They found that low levels of vitamin D lead to reduced cognition. There was also evidence that vitamin D increased growth of nerve cells around the area of the brain associated with memory.
            Sun exposure lowers hypertension. Unfortunately, high blood pressure, also known as hypertension, is a disorder that many of our society suffer from.  There are many ways known to help lower blood pressure such as diet, exercise and even seeing a chiropractor. But one commonly unknown fact, is that sunlight also helps to regulate blood pressure. A study out of the University of Edinburgh found that the moment your skin is exposed to sunlight, a compound called nitric oxide is released into your bloodstream that helps to reduce the pressure in your arteries. Think about it – by decreasing your blood pressure you are essentially prolonging your life by decreasing the chance of heart disease and strokes.
            Sun exposure strengthens your bones. The vitamin D we absorb from the sun plays a major role in the body’s ability to absorb bone strengthening minerals such as calcium and phosphorus. As a child, if we don’t have enough vitamin D in our system, a disorder known as Rickets can occur which is a bone softening disorder. Rickets’ counterpart in adults, is known as osteoporosis and osteomalacia. By just being out in the sun for twenty to thirty minutes, we can greatly reduce these risks and keep our skeletal system – our foundation, strong and sturdy.
            Sun exposure can help with depression. Right off the bat we know that lack of sun exposure to the body can lead to a form of depression called Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). This is far more common during the winter months, which consist of shorter days and more cloud cover, and is also seen in those that work long hours and are void of sunlight. Sun exposure isn’t just beneficial for those with SAD, but helps non-seasonal depression, as well. When sunlight travels through our eyes and hits specific areas of the retina, it results in a release of Serotonin, which is a natural anti-depressant produced by the body that can effectively lift our mood.
            Sun exposure can help with various skin conditions. The World Health Organization (WHO), has stated that exposure to the suns’ rays can help certain skin conditions. For many, doctors have been recommending UV radiation for skin conditions such as psoriasis, eczema and even acne. Although these benefits are shown to help certain cases, WHO also notes that it’s on a case by case basis and not beneficial to everyone.  If you think you may be a candidate for this type of treatment, I urge you to speak to a dermatologist to make the appropriate decision based on the risks and benefits for you, specifically.
            So, what is considered moderate sun exposure? The general rule of thumb, is approximately 15-20 minutes of sun on the face, arms and hands, about three times per week to receive the healthy benefits of sun exposure.  Since there are risks associated with excessive sun exposure, it’s important to protect your skin if you’re going to be in the sun far more than what is considered moderate. So, if the cooler is packed and you’re hitting the beach for the day – pack the sunscreen. No matter how tan you already are, or how under-exposed you are, and are trying to make up for lost time…pack the sunscreen. Trust me. Excessive sun exposure is the leading cause of skin cancer – don’t put yourself at risk if you can take preventative measures. Bottom line – in moderation, and with the right protection, sun exposure can be extremely beneficial, both mentally and physically.

This is only a short list of the benefits medical professionals have linked to sun exposure and vitamin D. To reap the benefits of sun exposure, the skin must be able to absorb it, which is prevented by wearing sunscreen. Therefore, it’s so important to allow yourself that moderate sun exposure, while still taking the appropriate precautions. Remember, the amount of vitamin D produced and absorbed depends upon your location, skin color, and genes.  So, get outside! Enjoy the sunlight, soak it up, and be safe!

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Headaches and Chiropractic Care

As headaches are one of the most common reasons for seeking the help of a doctor, it’s safe to assume that everyone reading this has experienced the pain of a headache at one point or another. There are many types of headaches that can happen either occasionally, or on a more frequent basis – known as chronic headaches. The levels of intensity can range from a dull ache to a debilitating pain throughout the entire head. Whether they occur a few times per year, or a few times per week – the focus is to stop it as soon as possible.
Today, our first thought is to grab a medication - usually Aleve or Advil, to make it through the day. These medications can give us temporary relief from the pain, but in the bigger picture they only mask the pain until the medication wears off.  Think about how often we take these medications when a headache comes on. They numb the nervous system to stop the pain, which is convenient, but they also have adverse effects on the liver and kidney. The biggest issue with these pain medications – they don’t fix or correct the cause of the headaches.
Headaches are a common complaint from the patients of Chiropractors. In the neck runs a vast array of nerves, vertebrae, blood vessels, and joints. When any of these are compromised, there is potential for a headache. These can be compromised from daily habits such as bad posture, immobility, stress and more. A chiropractor is specifically trained to address issues that can cause most types of headaches. There are several routes a chiropractor can follow to help patients cope with their headaches. Under the care of chiropractors, patients will undergo a thorough examination to determine the cause and proper treatment of the individual’s headache.
            Research has shown that chiropractic adjustments are a safe and effective treatment for headaches, even if the headache isn’t occurring at the time of the visit.  These adjustments are a great preventative measure for potential headaches in the future.  A 2011 report published in the Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics showed that chiropractic care helps improve the outcomes of people suffering from cervicogenic headaches – a headache that begins in the neck. Not only that, but in 2001, Duke University published an article stating that spinal manipulation resulted in almost an immediate improvement for those with headaches originating in the neck. It also offered significantly fewer adverse effects and longer lasting relief of tension-type headaches than most commonly prescribed medications. With significantly fewer side effects, we shouldn’t need much more convincing in considering alternative treatments to medication as a short and long term solution.  
            Treatment through chiropractic adjustments is not general – each case is different and is treated as such. The thorough evaluation allows chiropractors to determine the right course of action based upon the patient’s lifestyle. While relief sometimes occurs instantly, it can also take longer in certain cases – it could be hours, days, or weeks, dependent upon the cause of the pain. Typically, it takes longer to feel relief from chronic headaches than the dull and less frequent cases.
            Headaches shouldn’t be considered normal – each one has a cause, we just need to find it.  Overall health and wellness is our number one goal as chiropractors. We want to get our patients to a point where they’re in a position that prevents headaches from disrupting their daily life. Headaches are awful – no one likes them. So, here are a few tips that help ease the pain of headaches when they occur…
·      Use a soft-gel ice pack. The cold pack forms to the head to help alleviate pains.
·      Immediately avoid loud noises and bright lights. This is also a potential trigger, but can greatly increase the intensity of the current headache.
·      Periodically, gently massage your temples and back of the neck to help ease any tension and/or discomfort.
·      Stress is a major trigger for headaches and increases in pain. Removing yourself from stressful situations can allow you to find a way to cope and ultimately prevent headaches.

·      Placing heat on the base of the neck will help relax the muscles running to the head, decreasing tension.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Workplace Ergonomics

The concept of Ergonomics wasn’t something that we often thought about until recent years. Now, more than ever, individuals in the workforce find themselves spending their days working at a desk on their computer. This has led to the growing interest and conversation around Ergonomics and its benefits. Unfortunately, many individuals don’t know what it is or don’t understand how it applies to them, and there are some who don’t necessarily believe in its importance. The goal here is to raise awareness and, hopefully, peak interest in those who could benefit from Ergonomics in their work place.
So, what is Ergonomics? Ergonomics is the process of making your workplace more functional, productive and healthy by positioning yourself in better alignment with the equipment you’re using. What wasn’t widely known for a long time, and in some instances still isn’t – that poor ergonomics in the workplace can lead to an environment of disorganization, frustration, low functionality, and can result in an overall poor work environment. In this scenario, workplace risks are higher than ever, and can lead to many physical issues including, carpal tunnel, tendinitis, and spinal issues. By improving workplace ergonomics, you can effectively reduce, if not remove, the risk factors leading to these injuries, and in turn, kick start the effectiveness and productivity at work. If you’re a business owner, think about if your employees were operating with high functionality, in a happy and healthy work environment. This type of environment is typically seen in companies in the top echelon of competitiveness within the market.
Poor Ergonomics. There are many risk factors to be aware of that promote poor ergonomics, leading to some of the risks mentioned above. Three critical factors that often get overlooked are repetition, poor posture and intense exertions on a task.
·      Repetition – When we think of repetition in the work place, we don’t necessarily think of it as being negative. If we do the same motion repeatedly, our bodies will become accustomed, and we’ll even get better at it. Think of the concept “practice makes perfect”.  While this may be true to some extent, when combined with other risk factors, which it often is, it creates a scenario that can drastically increase the development of a physical injury or ailment. As mentioned before, carpal tunnel is a common injury in those who repeatedly use a keyboard and mouse, as it causes tension and strain in your wrists.
·      Poor Posture – Often, we see people showing poor posture far more than proper posture. This puts quite a deal of stress on our joints, muscles and tendons. If poor posture is sustained for long periods of time, or even becomes chronic, the likelihood of developing a musculoskeletal disorder increases greatly. One such issue on the rise is Lower Cross Syndrome - a muscle imbalance in the lower back and hips, often causing severe low back pain. Combine a repetitive motion with poor posture and its sure to have a negative impact on the body.  
·      Exertion – When we exert an excessive amount of force into our work, it increases the demand on the body’s joints, muscles and tendons. This constant demand increases fatigue and the likelihood for serious injury. This risk could result in decreased mobility, inability to work, etc.
 Improving Ergonomics. The first step to improving your ergonomics is to evaluate your workstation. Whether it’s a typical desk with computer, or whichever spot you can find Wi-Fi on your laptop, there are a few simple aspects to consider getting you started: back and torso straight and against the chair, hands to your device, feet on the floor and keeping your eyes level ahead of you. With an overwhelming amount of options, it can be difficult searching for the right chair or piece of equipment, so here are a few things to consider:  
·      Chairs – It should offer an option for height adjustment, a tilting back and provide lumbar support.
·      Monitor – Your monitor should have the ability to tilt and elevate so it’s at eye level, and have contrast and brightness control, which most do.
·      Laptop – Using an external mouse and ergonomic keyboard are beneficial for posture when using for long periods of time. It’s important to take regular breaks and change posture.
·      Headset – If you spend a lot of time on the phone, using a headset will help prevent muscle tension from holding the phone to your ear.  
·      Desk – It should have elevation control, going from a seated to standing desk, with plenty of room to spread out your work to avoid cramping.
Improving ergonomics in the workplace should be viewed as a positive, healthy change. Like most things, it’s more effective when it’s a team effort, providing support and encouragement in promoting this type of environment. Talk to your friends, coworkers, bosses – the more people invested, the more effective it will be. Improving ergonomics can promote safety in the workplace, decrease employee turnover, and improve the quality of productivity. Overall, the best benefit is that you’re ensuring the health and wellbeing of yourself and your co-workers. With all the praise from those who use ergonomics, and with such great return on investment, it seems well worth the effort in exploring it for your workplace. Promoting health and productivity in the workplace should be a constant, not a trend.