Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Sleepy Time

How many of you got your recommended amount of sleep last night or any night so far this week? Well guess what ladies and gentlemen, many Americans don't get their recommended amount of sleep each night and what's even more shocking is that there is no magic number of hours that I can tell you to sleep each night. In fact, the amount of sleep needed by each individual varies depending on their age and development and the amount of stress, sickness, and even how much sleep they've missed out on recently. 

Sleep is a time for our body to re cooperate from the day and is essential to good health as well as emotional and mental well being. According to the National Sleep Foundation, people who don't get enough sleep are more likely to not only develop chronic health and psychiatric problems but they are also more likely to seek out medical for treatment of these conditions. Such chronic conditions include diabetes, cardiovascular disease, obesity, and depression among many others. Click here to read more from the NSF In addition, the NSF reports that sleep deprivation can lead to being tired and cranky, negative effects on cognition and learning, and can even put you at risk on the road or at work due to decreased alertness. 

So how do you know if you're at risk? Read through the options below and if you've answered yes to one or more, you should make an appointment to talk to your doctor about it.

  1. Do you snore loudly?
  2. Has you or someone close to you noticed that you stop breathing or gasp for breath during sleep?
  3. Do you have difficulty sleeping or staying asleep 3 or more nights a week? 
  4. Do you notice many interruptions to your sleep at night? (Due to thirst, night time heartburn or urination, bad dreams, pain or discomfort, or noise/light/tempurature changes)
  5. Do you feel unpleasant feeling or the urge to move in your legs at night?

So let's talk about sleep recommendations. 
*Now remember I mentioned above that there is no magic number of hours you should sleep every night and you may need more or less sleep depending on age, development, stress levels, etc

  • 0-2 months need 12-18 hours
  • 3-11 months need 14-15 hours
  • 1-3 years need 12-14 hours
  • 3 -5 years need 11-13 hours
  • 5-10 years need 10-11 hours
Adolescents (10-17 years) need 8.5 to 9.5 hours
Adults need 7-9 hours
*The above information was provided by the National Sleep Foundation

Here's some extra sleepy tips from the NSF to help you maintain a happy and healthy sleeping habit
Click here for more tips
  • Establish a regular bed and wake time
  • Avoid nicotine altogether and avoid caffeine close to bedtime
  • Avoid alcohol
  • Exercise regularly (but complete the workout at least 3 hours before bedtime)
  • Establish a consistent relaxing “wind-down” bedtime routine
  • Create a sleep-conducive environment that is dark, quiet and comfortable
  • Discuss the appropriate way to take any sleep aid with a healthcare professional
Here's some more tips from the Centers for Disease Control. Click here for more info.
  • Go to bed at the same time each night, and rise at the same time each morning.
  • Sleep in a quiet, dark, and relaxing environment, which is neither too hot nor too cold.
  • Make your bed comfortable and use it only for sleeping and not for other activities, such as reading, watching TV, or listening to music.
  • Remove all TVs, computers, and other "gadgets" from the bedroom.
  • Avoid physical activity within a few hours of bedtime.
  • Avoid large meals before bedtime.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

High Heel Habituals, Flip Floppers, and Comfy Clogs!

So I always hear a lot of questions about what kind of shoes people should be wearing or if they should be using a specific shoe brand or succumbing to the latest shoe trends. So let's talk about how different shoes effect your posture, spine, and some other foot related conditions. I'll cover a bit about heels, flip flops, and even clogs!

So let me first address some posture (you should know by now this is my favorite topic to come back to!) When we stand with our feet flat on the ground our body weight is directed straight into the ground with our weight just in front of our heel. When we wear heels or wedges our body is directed forward with our weight shifting to the front of our feet. When this happens our body has to adapt our posture, otherwise we would fall over. See the picture below for a good visual.

A This shows good posture with flat or no heels and gravity being directed straight downward.
B This shows how heels effect the distribution of gravity and that you'd fall over if your body didn't adapt!
C This is how our bodies adapt! Notice the increased curvatures to the spine, the forward tilt of the pelvis, and the knee bend.

The increased curvature of the spine is decreasing spinal bone density due to less axial loading being directed through the spine and increasing degeneration in your spine (especially in the lumbar spine since the weight isn't being distributed through the bones properly). This can cause or contribute to neck and back pain as well as disc herniations and compression fractures of the spine and joints.

The forward tilt of the pelvis causes increased demands on the supportive muscles of the lumbar spine while using less and less of the abdominal muscles. This can contribute to tight and spasms in the muscles of the lumbar spine, weak abdominal and core muscles, and also diminish the bodies coordination between the abdominal and spinal muscles that provide a natural girdle of support to our body. Weakness in the core muscles can cause an increased risk for umbilical and inguinal herniations and make us more prone to lumbar injuries. In addition, the hammock-like muscles in your pelvis that aren't being used fully will weaken and can possibly lead to pelvic conditions just as urinary incontinence, uterine prolapse, etc. The forward tilt of the pelvis also leads to torsion and rotational forces on the hips and knees and lead to osteoarthritis later on.

The chronic knee bend causes the muscles of the legs (especially the hamstrings and calf) to stay contracted which can lead to muscle shortening. For those of you ladies who've worn heels all the time and now which to "quit" heels all together, this shortening of your calf muscles can put you as risk for achilles tendon rupture. (If you've worn heels for years, it's better to gradually decrease the height of your heels over a few months time while incorporating a stretching program to rehabilitate the muscles. Shoot me an email or give me a call at my office (309) 689-6200 if you'd like to know more about this.)

Now that's just the things you can see from the simple picture above, but what about the things you can't see like the bones of your foot?
When we walk, the weight of our body is supposed to be directed through our heel first and then distributed to the rest of our foot as flattens from the "heel strike" of our gait. However, when we wear high heels the weight is distributed through the plantar fascia on the bottom of the foot (commonly related to plantar fasciitis and foot cramping),to the ball of our foot (the bones of the common bunion), and through our toes (which are now jammed in the front of the shoe). This leads to chronic tightening and shortening of the plantar fascia leading to plantar fasciitis,  increased incidence of degeneration and deformation of the joints such as bunions, corns, and unsightly calluses, and lastly hammer toes from the shortening of the intrinsic muscles of the toes while they are crammed in the front of our shoe.

Now don't get me wrong, I love shoes and think that they are cute and can greatly add to any outfit! I'll confess to you that I have plenty of heels in my closet and my husband can attest to this addiction, however I wear them for short periods at a time (think less than 4 hours) and do a stretching program after I wear them to assure that the muscles return to their normal length and so does my posture.

So what about flat shoes that can contribute to foot problems? Flips flops and clogs can cause wearers to grip their toes into the foot to keep them on while walking, shorter strides with less force being directed through the heel, and an abnormal gait pattern that doesn't stress heel strike to toe off. This can lead to many of the problems mentioned above such as plantar fasciitis in addition to new problems such as decreased range of motion in the hip, knee, and ankle joints and even shin splints.

Flip flops don't become a problem when worn for short periods of time like quick errands to the store or a trip to the beach, but tend to cause more effects after lengthy time periods or athletic activities such as playing frisbee or volleyball. Clogs that are unsupportive (such as slip on sweater shoes or the fuzzy lined ones) can pose this same risk if the heel lifts out of the shoe while walking.

No what about walking barefoot you ask? Guess what I ENCOURAGE it daily!! (However, I don't condone walking barefoot over nails, in public restrooms, or through freshly fertilized soil) Walking barefoot (or with many of the new bare foot movement style shoes such as vibrams and adidas' new line) helps to encourage movement throughout the foot and loads each of the joints especially if you're walking on uneven surfaces such as grass or sand. This helps to develop your body's proprioceptive sense which helps your brain recognize where your foot is located in space and in relation to your environment and can help your foot to protect itself if you were about to twist or roll your ankle. Walking barefoot also helps to stretch out the intrinsic muscles of your foot and can help get your feet healthy again. I encourage, no I CHALLENGE you to walk barefoot at least two hours every day! When you get home from work or errands every day take your shoes and socks off and get moving for a great new healthy habit!

For those of you looking for great "all day on your feet" shoes for work that look presentable in a business setting, I personally recommend Kalso's Earth shoes. They are a little on the pricey side (around $80-130) but they come in leather and many different style and color options. I have three pair in varying colors and also a pair of winter boots that are very comfortable and are holding up very well. The reason I like these shoes for business is because they have a slightly negative heel and plenty of room for my toes. The negative heel means that there is a slight heel/wedge near your toes that forces your weight back towards your hel to prevent plantar fasciitis and the large shoe box provides plenty of room so your toes don't jam in the front of your shoe.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

The Importance of Keeping your Muscles Moving!

Our muscles make up the loco motor and supportive system of the body which helps us move and supports us as we do just that.  They help us get our bodies moving and also act as a girdle to support and protect our spine and our inner organs as we go about our daily business. They also help to increase blood circulation to the outer tissues of our body (such as our fingertips) and help to move lymph and waste products out of our body.

When our muscles are working properly, they help to align the bones of our spine and extremities to support our body weight and maintain good posture as we move. In addition, they help to pump blood to all the tissues of the body and also help to remove waste from our cells, tissues, and organs. When our muscles aren't working correctly (due to shortened or weak muscles, poor posture, past injury, or even lack of proper muscle nutrition), they can interfere with our freedom of movement, make us prone to injury, and even cause pain. This can cause movement to be painful and may even effect the inner working of our bodies such as circulation, lymphatic flow, and hormone regulation.

Here is a picture of muscle man Greg Valentino

Here is a picture of my daughter Camryn imitating "Muscle Man"

See the resemblance? Me neither, and that's a good thing because they aren't related in the slightest bit. :)

Why is this important? 

Movement is the key here! By keeping our bodies moving not only are we working our muscles and bones (to promote bone density) but we are also pumping blood through our bodies and getting rid of waste. Wow, all that from just moving!

So how do we keep moving? Walk for starters. Walking is great because its low force on your joints and low intensity so its great for all ages and bone densities. Walking gets your muscles moving and can help with a number of other health problems including osteoporosis, diabetes, blood pressure, and even cholesterol. Walking three times a week for 20 minutes is a great addition to your day (if you find mobility to be an issue try breaking it up into 5 or 10 minutes walks instead), however if you're motivated try walking one mile four times a week on an uneven surface (such as a field or hiking path).

Stretching is also very important. By stretching your muscles you are getting movement into your muscles and joints, but you are also promoting good posture. I've found that most people with low back pain have tight muscles in their lower legs and pelvis that are preventing them from having good posture and can be contributing to their pain. In addition, I've found that most people with tightness in their neck and shoulders tend to have forward head posture and weak spinal support muscles that are causing their poor posture and contributing to spinal degeneration and compression fractures. 

So how do you know which muscles to stretch? Start at your toes and work your way up. I've included some simple stretches below. 

If you're having any pain before you begin these exercises, consult your doctor about what type of exercise program you should begin. 

If you are having any pain while you are doing these exercises, STOP and consult your doctor.

Chin Tucks
  • Sit or stand with good posture (ear canal over the midline of your shoulder)
  • Tuck your chin in towards your chest while looking straight ahead
  • Repeat 10 times while holding position for 5 to 10 seconds, Repeat exercise three times a day

 Shoulder Blade Press

  • Roll your shoulders backward and press your shoulder blades together
  • You should feel a burn where the arrows are pointing
  • Hold for 30 seconds to 1 minute, Repeat three times a day

 Calf Stretch (Position 1 for gastrocnemius)

  • Place hands against wall for balance
  • Place left heel in front of wall with toes pointing upward on wall and lean into left foot
  • Stop when you feel a stretch in the back of your calf ( you may feel it all the way up your leg)
  • Repeat for opposite leg
  • Hold for 30 seconds, repeat three times a day

 Calf Stretch (Position 2 for Soleus)

  • Instructions are the same for the stretch above except you will bend the knee of the foot against the wall to stretch the second layer of muscle
  • Repeat on opposite leg
  • Hold for 30 seconds, Repeat three times a day

 Crescent Stretch

  • Lay on your back and stretch your arms over your head
  • Bend arms and legs to one side so you resemble a crescent or a croissant
  • Stop bending when you feel a stretch on the side opposite the one you are bending 
  • Repeat while bending to other side
  • Hold for 1 minute, Repeat 3 times a day

If you're having trouble getting in any of the positions for these exercises, let me know and I'll find a way to modify them for you.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Positive attitude for a New You in the New Year!

Welcome to 2012, a brand new year full of opportunities and memories to be made!

Many people make resolutions in the new year and struggle to stay on track with keeping that resolution. I know I'm one of those people who've struggled and even given up on a resolution only after a few short weeks in past years. In fact, Jobo from Khits broke his 2012 resolution just 4 days into the new year. What was his resolution? A Bacon-less 2012! Read more about it here. My resolution for this year, to stay positive!! Sometimes it seems that things in life get us down and make us think of worse case scenario, but I don't want that for this year. I want to see the good in the bad and be able to hurdle over those potholes to get on with my day and my life with a smile on my face. Have you made a resolution yet? Post a comment and tell me about your resolution and how you're going to stick with it.

So why a positive attitude in the new year? Positive thinking is more than just ignoring the bad in life, its about approaching "bad" events with a productive view and reacting in a way that puts you in control of the situation. For example, say Fido tipped over your plant at home while you were at the store and now there is dirt all over your living room, kitchen, and some on the front of your blouse since he jumped up to greet you hello. How do you react to this? Do you get mad at Fido and put him outside of the house while you clean up until he "learns from his mistake" or do you take this as a opportunity to not only clean house, re-pot your plant in a bigger planter (it was getting too big anyways), and give Fido a much needed bath? 

Positive thinking will not only uplift your spirits but will also rub off on those around you. Smiling and staying upbeat will not only give your co-workers the opportunity to smile back but it will also brighten their day and even the next person they pass in the hallway as well. Positive thinking and optimism has been linked to many health benefits and will even boost your luck according to Stanford. Read more about lucky vs unlucky people here. Health benefits include increased life span, lower levels of depression and stress hormones, greater resistance to the common cold, decreased risk of heart disease, and better coping habits. In addition, optimistic people tend to live more healthier lives by getting more physical activity, eating a healthier diet, and refraining from overuse of alcohol and tobacco products. 

"Humor stimulates laughter. And we know that physiological stimulation through laughter leads to a number of health benefits. It appears to reduce stress; it tends to boost immunoglobulin A (an antibody that fights upper respiratory disease); and it tends to boost killer T-cells, which are antibodies that fight infection." Steven M. Sultanoff Ph.D. 

So what can you do? 
  1. Analyse your inner voice. Your mind tells a lot about not only how you view the world but also how you react to the events around you. Try to pay attention to negative views such as "I'll never get this all done today" and flip it to something positive like "I'll get most of this done today and finish it tomorrow". 
  2. Find the positive in your day. Take time to think about how blessed you are to and what you're thankful for today. Did your child give you a hug and smile when you walked through the door? Did your husband/wife do something special for you to let you know they care? Did your friend call you for new reason other than to see whats new in your life?
  3. Get more sleep! Sleep helps our bodies rebound from the days events and lets our brain hormones (called neurotransmitters) reset themselves. Sleep is essential for body function and will give you a clearer picture in your mind of the event at hand. 
  4. Take time for yourself to relax and unwind. Taking time for yourself will help you to cope with new events better, give you a chance to de-stress, and uplift your attitude. Read a book, take a bubble bath, knit, cook, or pick up a hobby you've long since abandoned. 
  5. Help someone out. Karma ladies and gentlemen! Just helping someone out will make you feel better about yourself and that little helping hand will make that person's day just that much easier. Have you seen the movie Pay It Forward? Go pick it up and watch it with the whole family. It's very inspiring and will definitely give you a positive outlook on helping others out.

Take those lemons and make lemonade! 

"Our attitude toward life determines life's attitude towards us." John N. Mitchell

"Attitude is a little thing that makes a big difference." Winston Churchill

"I can't change the direction of the windbut I can adjust my sails to always reach my destination." Jimmy Dean