The start of the new year is the time to set new health and wellness goals for ourselves. A chiropractor can help optimize the way your body functions from your ability to manage stress to your ability to exercise safely.
Getting more exercise is almost everyone’s top new year goal. How can chiropractic care help prepare the body for working out and help prevent injuries from exercise?
Dr. Luke Stringer: Great question, Liz. I think you’re spot on in terms of moving and working out and kind of getting on that health kick in the new year is probably top of everybody’s list. Chiropractic can help in many, many, many ways but, essentially, I want to focus the conversation around compensation and how compensation can create injuries and kind of dysfunction. If we’re going to talk about our clinic here in downtown South Loop, Chicago, our patient base, so what we call corporate athletes, are in a sedentary environment. They’re sitting or standing, they’re not particularly functional in terms of their workday due to their work role. So obviously we’re sitting or standing, even if we’re sitting and standing, essentially, we’re not moving. We’re sedentary in nature.
The muscles that pick up on movement are really important in stabilizing joints. That can be the spine or major joints, the shoulder, the hip, the knee. If we’re sedentary in nature, these muscles that kind of stabilize joints get weak and lazy so we create these compensatory issues. You have that typical upper crossed syndrome. It’s where that kind of head shifts forward, our shoulders round, all those big muscles in our shoulders get really tight and kind of restrict the range of motion. Your lower back, same thing. The big muscles in your lower back get really tight, your hips get tight, your pelvic floor gets weak, the glutes and the hamstrings.
Now if you’ve been sitting in a sedentary environment, the muscles that are designed to move and stabilize you have gotten weak and lazy due to inactivity and then all of a sudden in the new year, we start to move while muscles that essentially are moving us aren’t the muscles that should be doing that. For example, the number one cause of pain and disability in America is lower back pain. The majority of our patients that come in, again, sit all day so when they come in, we also perform what we call a posterior chain evaluation. That’s evaluating post, I mean the back of your body, chain, the muscles that work together. If we’re moving physically, if you’re out walking, you plant your foot, you want the back of your leg, the hamstring and then the glute and then the lower back to fire in sequence.
Well, typically what we see in patients that are sitting a lot, typically when they’re sitting in flection, leaning forward so these big muscles in the lower back tend to dominate and take over. So now if we go to move and the lower back muscles are moving you instead of doing their job, which is essentially to stabilize you, and then we’re exercising around that compensation. Over time, that’s going to create subluxations and compensation. The stabilizing joints that aren’t moving have shifted and obviously compensations are muscles, joints, ligaments, tendons, soft tissue working hard when they shouldn’t so over time that can break us down.
To the question how can chiropractic help, remember chiropractic care can be so much more than just an adjustment. If we’re talking specifically to our office then obviously when you come in, you’ll get your spine adjusted, that’s to get the joints moving and obviously keep the joints moving. Then, a lot of our patients are doing physical therapy to supplement the adjustment, so working on the core, the glutes, and the hamstring. If you go and see a chiropractor who’s worth their salt, they’re obviously going to evaluate your spine and all the muscle and tendons that work with it and figure out a plan for you to get the joint moving. Then make sure that what muscles are essentially doing their job so when you move you’ve got stability in your movement because if you don’t, over time that’s how we kind of compensate and break down.
Why is it important for people to set a goal to create an ergonomic workstation and establish healthy work habits?
Dr. Luke Stringer: I think goal setting is really important. If something’s written down, there is more chance of getting it done. You have varying levels of goals, short, medium, kind of long-term goals, but I think an easy fix for everybody in the new year is to assess your ergonomics. Again, the number one cause of pain and disability in America is lower back pain. The third cause is neck pain. So, if we’re sitting in poor posture, i.e. we have poor ergonomics, then obviously over time that can break us down, particularly for our corporate athletes who are dealing a lot with that upper crossed syndrome, and the lower crossed syndrome. Over time that’s going to create pain and dysfunction. So, if the main stress in your life is work, i.e. remember we have different types of stress and trauma, big traumas like car accidents, or micro stresses, which work environment is a micro stress, something that we’re doing consistently over a period of time. If we’re consistently sitting or standing in poor posture, that’s obviously going to break us down so having good ergonomics is critically important for a healthy spine and just overall wellbeing and function.
Essentially, motion is lotion. We’re designed to move, so if we’re sedentary in nature and we’re sitting in poor posture, that’s how we’re going to break down over time. Instead of being reactive, going to see a physician, a chiropractor when you’re in pain, let’s try and essentially be proactive in our habits so then we’re not being reactive, i.e. we’re preventing pain from picking up good work habits. So, make sure we’re sitting correctly, make sure we’re using a sit-stand desk, make sure we’re sitting and standing during our work day. Make sure we’re breaking the day up and performing postural breaks so we’re engaging the muscles that we just talked about that get weak and lazy due to inactivity.
If you’re proactive, that’s just going to allow for better spinal health and overall physiological health.
Improving the quality of sleep is a goal for a lot of people. In what ways can chiropractic care prepare the body for a better night’s sleep?
Dr. Luke Stringer: When patients come in, we’re talking about our clinic, they’re typically coming in for that neuromusculoskeletal pain, pain in the spine or the muscles, so lower back pain, neck pain, headaches and all those symptoms that traditionally come in. Then when you do a deep dive and you do a detailed health history, then typically a side effect of those symptoms are sleep patterns. Now, that might be due to pain specifically that’s interfering with their sleep, so obviously if we correct that patient’s symptom, the neck pain, the lower back pain, it’s going to allow them to get a night’s sleep.
But if we dive a little deeper, chiropractors focus on treatment of the spine and the nervous system. The nervous system’s the most important thing we have. It literally controls everything we do, how we feel and function physically and physiologically. But within that nervous system, you have two types of a nervous system. Essentially you have sympathetic, which is what we call fight or flight, so being rear-ended on the freeway and eyes go wide, all that adrenaline, hairs on the back of your neck stand up. Then you have parasympathetic, which is where the body’s allowed to essentially, what we call, rest and digest. If we’re going to get a good night’s sleep, we need to be in a parasympathetic nervous system so the body can regenerate over the night and prepare us for the next day.
When we’re consistently in pain or we have chronic pain or we have poor posture, it creates what we call those lifestyle diseases, that metabolic syndrome interferes with people’s ability to sleep well, lose weight and can obviously cause a myriad of kind of other health effects that we see, cardiovascular disease, increased chance of diabetes, et cetera. If your spine’s subluxated, that means a joint has shifted, it’s creating stress and tension on a nervous system, that’s creating stress. Stress puts it in the sympathetic nervous system, so then obviously getting a good night’s sleep is going to be difficult for the body.
Getting your spine adjusted can remove the subluxation in your spine. Now, it’s not a home run. You don’t get one adjustment and then you sleep better. You’ve got to go through essentially more of a corrective care plan, but if your spine’s essentially less subluxated and you have less stress on the nervous system, well, the nervous system can be allowed to function better. By functioning better, we’re going to function better physiologically, so ability to sleep, improved mood, energy, digestive system.
Typically for us, patients are coming in with pain, although some patients come in specifically for, “I want to sleep better.” But as they go through the corrective care program, a side effect, per se, is always, “I’m sleeping way better. I’ve got better mood, better energy levels, better metabolism.” We see it all the time in the clinic, so getting your spine adjusted releases the stress in your spine. It’s going to allow us to function better and obviously get a better night’s sleep.
Lowering stress is another common new year goal. How can chiropractic care help people relax and help the body handle stress better?
Dr. Luke Stringer: I think we just touched on it. In chiropractic, we talk about the three Ts and that’s essentially traumas. So, big traumas, obviously get rear-ended, that’s a huge stress on the body. We discussed corporate athletes sitting or standing, developing poor posture, that’s a micro stress. We have thoughts, so a high stress work environment, deadlines, weddings, obviously sickness in the family. You have toxins, which is things you’re putting in the body so a diet full of trans fats or processed foods, color additives, et cetera, or high in sugar.
Lowering stress can be done. We call it the 360 degrees of wellness. Chiropractors can relieve stress on the spine by getting you adjusted and then by educating you on good ergonomics and balanced muscle strength to handle the micro stress.
Chiropractors, we kind of focus on a whole wellness approach to our patients’ care, so we are not just treating the symptom and you’re kind of out the door. We are educating our patients on what we call think well, move well and eat well. The right foods we should be eating, the foods that we kind of should be avoiding, the things that we should be trying to supplement in our diet, like foods that are high in antioxidants that take away the free radicals which is essentially oxygen that damages the cells in the body from stress, and then obviously just techniques on handling stressful environments.
Your chiropractor is going to be able to bring a lot more to the table than just the pain. When you bring that 360 degrees of wellness and you’re addressing those three Ts, obviously that’s going to be able to reduce stress levels. As we discussed, a body that’s not in stress is going to be able to express itself as it should optimally and that’s going to allow us to function more.
How can regular visits to the chiropractor help people stay on track with their new year health and wellness goals?
Dr. Luke Stringer: I think it obviously all depends on who you are and where you are in your health journey, but for us our goal is to get people into that wellness program. We kind of focus more on an intensive corrective care program, which is going to address the symptoms that they’re coming in. But once you’re out of pain, you want to stay out of pain or once you’re functioning well, you want to stay functioning well. If the one stress that brought you to see a chiropractor, for example, you sit 50 hours a week and you’ve got neck and upper back pain, it was predominantly caused from poor posture in the work day. You go see a chiropractor, you fix the subluxations, the alignment of your spine, you balance all the muscles, you work with a chiropractor on good hydration, good food habits, you’re moving well.
Well, if we all of a sudden stop doing that then obviously the stress that got us here is eventually going to bring you back into the office. Then the patient has to be proactive and use a sit-stand desk, take postural breaks, keep on top of the diet, move well. But the one thing patients can’t do is obviously have their spine aligned, release stress from the spine, and continue to work on the alignment. By continuing to see a chiropractor you’re going to make sure that the spinal portion of it is absolutely taken care of. A spine that’s in alignment and a nervous system that’s stress free is just going to allow you and the body to function as it should and express health.
If you are interested in speaking with Dr. Luke Stringer visit www.southloopchiropractor.com or call (312) 987-4878 to schedule an appointment.