July 21, 2009 [Volume 3, Issue 17]
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In this issue of To Your Health:
Four Ways to Avoid the Back Pain Epidemic
Movement Is Life
Feed Your Brain

Four Ways to Avoid the Back Pain Epidemic

When was the last time you or someone you know suffered an episode of back pain? Chances are it wasn't that long ago. It might have forced you to miss work, take painkillers, anti-inflammatories or other medication, or just deal with the pain longer than you wanted to. Wouldn't it be wonderful to do some simple things to try and prevent back pain from happening in the first place? Here are a few easy ones to get you started:

1.Get adjusted by your chiropractor. Your muscles, bones and ligaments are stressed continuously by normal daily activities: driving, sitting at the computer, lifting your kids, doing exercise and countless other things. These little stresses add up over time and misalign the joints of your spine, arms and legs. The misalignments can then lead to muscle tightness, spasms, joint stiffness and pain. Although chiropractors commonly see patients who are in pain, getting spinal tune-ups when you are feeling "fine" will keep you feeling fine.
2.Practice proper ergonomics. When you make your everyday activities safe to perform, it will help reduce the undue stress on your body. This includes having your computer work stations at home and at your office set up properly for your body.
When lifting items, use the legs and the trunk of the body rather than the arms. Try to avoid bending the back while you lift. And when sleeping, keep in mind that the most supportive position is on your back with a pillow under your knees. The next best position is on your side with a pillow between your knees and your head on a pillow that is thick enough to span the distance of your neck to the shoulders.
3.Exercise regularly. Whether it be walking, playing sports or going to the gym, make sure you set up a program that keeps you consistent. Exercise helps the human body in so many ways, but one of the most important aspects involves stretching and strengthening of your back muscles. Often these muscles are referred to as core muscles of the body because they are located very close to the spine.
4.Avoid unhealthy lifestyle habits. Emotional stress can cause muscle tension, which can lead to back pain (it also can lead to heart problems, chemical imbalances, an inability to sleep and a host of other bad things). Watching what you eat is another important factor to consider, because excess weight literally "weighs you down," which can contribute to back pain. Quite simply, losing excess weight in a healthy manner will take pressure off your lower back and reduce stress on the vertebrae.

Talk to your doctor about the back pain epidemic and some of the health consequences. Working with your chiropractor, you can go a long way toward avoiding back pain before it starts.

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Movement Is Life

The inherent connection between movement and life is understandable if you reflect for a moment on what happens when you engage in healthy behaviors, such as consistent physical activity and nutritious eating compared to the alternative: staying sedentary and eating not-so-healthy foods. Ample research suggests regular exercise improves circulation, enhances flexibility, and gives you a greater ability to accomplish physical tasks without risking injury; all benefits involving movement. Your blood moves throughout the body, providing vital nourishment to tissues and organs; your joints and muscles move more easily, rather than being stiff and immobile; and you move quicker and with less effort.

It's the same way with diet, believe it or not. Eating foods high in nutrients means they can be absorbed well by the body and delivered (moved) to cells. Eating high-fiber foods ensures timely digestion and elimination of wastes (whereas overconsumption of animal fats and low-fiber foods leads to colonic inactivity and constipation). Foods that are high in saturated fat also can contribute to plaque buildup in the arteries, reducing the ability of blood to move through the body and potentially causing a catastrophic blockage - lack of movement leading to a heart attack or stroke. Again, movement is life.

The best news of all is that it really doesn't take much to get moving and stay moving. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans suggests adults participate in at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity a week, preferably in episodes of at least 10 minutes at a time and spread throughout the week. Now think about it: that's only an average of 30 minutes a day, five days a week, and what's more, it doesn't relegate you to a treadmill or exercise bike for the same old routine day after day. Basically, anything that gets your heart pumping and keeps it pumping for a sustained period counts. Talk to your doctor for more information.

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Feed Your Brain

Brain health should be at the top of your list of health and wellness priorities; after all, you can live without a kidney, spleen, teeth, hair and other assorted elements of your body, but without a brain - well, there's not much you can do after that. And you can't get a brain transplant (at least not yet), as you can with other organs and appendages, which means it's your job to find ways to keep your brain as fit as possible for as long as possible. Here are three brain-friendly nutrients to keep in mind as part of your daily diet:

Omega-3 fatty acids are associated with various health benefits; with respect to the brain, DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) is the major polyunsaturated fatty acid found in the brain and is linked to brain development and function. Good sources of omega-3s include seafood (especially cold-water fish) and supplements; manufacturers also have begun adding DHA to some dairy products.

Choline, a water-soluble B vitamin, is a chemical building block of every cell in the body; that makes it a pretty important nutrient. Evidence suggests choline may improve memory and protect against senility in old age. Good sources of choline include egg yolks, skim milk, soybeans and lentils.

Folic acid, otherwise known as vitamin B9, is well-known for its effect on fetal development: adequate daily folic acid intake can reduce the risk of birth defects such as cleft palate/lip. It's also great for improving cognitive function (your ability to think clearly and remember things), suggesting it may help protect against the development of Alzheimer's. Spinach, asparagus and avocado are all good sources of folic acid; many cereals are also fortified with B9, and it is a staple of many daily multivitamin supplements.

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The information provided is for general interest only and should not be misconstrued as a diagnosis, prognosis or treatment recommendation. This information does not in any way constitute the practice of chiropractic, acupuncture, massage therapy, medicine, or any other health care profession. Readers are directed to consult their health care provider regarding their specific health situation. MPA Media is not liable for any action taken by a reader based upon this information.

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