Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Top 4 Causes of Shin Splints

Do you have shin splints now or have you had them in the past? Then you know all about the pain and disability they create. Runners and athletes frequently will suffer needlessly with them for months or even years before they go away and some may have to give up a sport or running hobby to allow their injury to heal. Teenage athletes seem to be the most frequent in my office and this may be due in part to the fact that their bodies are still developing and they are still in a state of growth which can also contribute.

So what are shin splints? Shin splints are miniature fractures of the bone that occur along a muscle attachment site in the lower leg and can repeatedly be injured and even cause bone disfigurement when healed over numerous times. There are many different muscles that attach in the lower leg as you can see from the picture below.

There are 4 Main Causes of Shin Splints
1.  Excessive use of improper footwear
2.  Chronic tight leg muscles
3.  Magnesium deficiency
4.  Joint misalignment of the lower leg and pelvis

When it comes to wearing shoes, many of us choose the wrong type in the name of fashion, convenience, or because they are the latest technology to make our legs and butts look tighter. Am I right? Don't deny it because I know it's true! The key thing to remember when it comes to footwear is that we need to make correct choices most of the time and when wearing shoes that aren't anatomically correct we need to stretch and do specific exercises to reverse the damage we've caused while wearing these shoes. As a general rule, I DO NOT recommend shoes that have a heel or ones that are restrictive for your toes to move sideways. These shoes not only weaken muscles in the feet but they also cause increased degenerative rates of the bones in the foot that can lead to bunions and disfigurement and can even cause altered posture and gait that can lead to shin, knee, hip, or low back pain and increased degenerative rates that can lead to injuries including disc herniations and spinal fractures.

Chronic tightness of the posterior leg muscles can also cause significant posture changes that can alter your pelvic posture and pull or tighten muscles that attach directly on the shin. These tight muscles can become unbalanced around the joint itself and may lead to shin splints. I recommend a daily stretching routine to address the muscles in the low back and legs to help neutralize any muscle tension that can contribute to injury. If you're already doing a stretching routine and noticing that the muscles seem tighter on one side or if you're feeling a stretch in other places further up or down the leg on one side, chances are you have a muscle imbalance that might be contributing to a future injury.

Magnesium deficiency is a huge factor in the world today. Magnesium is mostly found in dark green leafy vegetables and sea vegetables and since most of us eat iceberg lettuce and don't eat seaweed on a weekly basis, about 80% of the population is in fact deficient in magnesium. Magnesium is the body's key nutrient that is used to relax muscles including those in the walls of your blood vessels, so if you're deficient you may feel tightness and stiffness in your muscles and you may have a slightly elevated blood pressure as well. Magnesium is also one of the nutrients your body needs to harden bones, so if you're getting mini fractures from shin splints and don't have enough magnesium, chances are that you're not healing fully. This can predispose you to future injuries and even lead to shin splints that become worse or spread over a larger area.

The last and most important cause of shin splints is joint misalignment! If your posture or muscles are weak or unbalanced due to footwear choices and chronic muscle tightness then your body may try to adapt itself. This adaptation can include tipping the pelvic forward or backward, rotation of the bones in the leg, and even loss of foot arch due to muscle weakness or rotation of the bones in the foot due to compensation. Adaptation is a necessary means of survival short term, however if you're dealing with these types of adaptation over a period of time it can lead to permanent changes and increase rates of degeneration or arthritis in the spine, hips, knees, ankles, and even feet.

If you or a loved one is suffering from shin splints or any of the other conditions I've mentioned that can be directly linked as a contribution to shin splints, I'd highly recommend they get evaluated by a clinician who is trained to recognize joint misalignment and correct it. 

For those of you in the Peoria area, I am extending 5 spots for a free consultation and examination to check for joint misalignment, muscle imbalance, and magnesium deficiency that can contribute to shin splints or other low back, knee, and foot conditions. This comprehensive evaluation normally costs upwards of $150 due to the time required but for the first five that call I am offering this examination and consultation free of charge!* Please call my office 309-689-6200 today to reserve your spot. For those of you outside of the Peoria area, AlignLife offices are expanding across the US so check our website for the clinic closest to you or talk to your chiropractor about joint alignment issues that can contribute to shin splints.

* State funded insurance members including Medicare and Medicaid are not eligible.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

New Research: What Hormones are Responsible?

Many years ago it was proposed that increases in the pregnancy hormone relaxin was the major culprit of joint laxity that lead to many women with joint injuries during and even after pregnancy. In the 1980's this information spread like wild fire and it is now a known household "fact". Guess what, YOUR INFORMATION IS INCORRECT!

In 2003 Obstetrics and Gynecology released a study looking at the effects of hormones on joints during pregnancy. They found that increases in estrogen and progesterone were the culprits for the joint laxity and NOT the relaxin. This means that women can have joint laxity and be more susceptible to joint injuries when they are having hormone fluctuations such as happens with menstruation, menopause, and even hormone imbalance caused from medical conditions or environmental toxin exposure.

I tend to find this especially true in my female patient's spine and pelvis as they complain of more severe or frequent low back pain during or around menstruation times. The ligament and tendon tissue of our bodies differs in makeup depending on what joint it is located in and since hormones are systemic (throughout the whole body) this means that some joints in the body would respond differently to hormone increases associated with being a woman. In women with hormone imbalance specifically such as that created with menstruation (estrogen and progesterone increase), diabetes (insulin resistance can create estrogen dominance), polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS causes in-ovulation), and even estrogen only birth control, I tend to find an increase in overall joint laxity in most joints of the body and these women are more frequently at risk for joint injury and premature joint degeneration.

Do you know any women with joint laxity or frequent joint injuries? They most likely need some help in balancing their hormones and a combination of bone alignment and proactive prevention stretching aimed at improving joint alignment to decrease their risk for further injury. I'm providing FREE consultations in my office or on the phone for those that would like more information on how they can reduce their risk for injury. Give my office a call (309) 689-6200 to setup your consultation time today.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Natural Ways to Treat Scalp Conditions

I know as well as the next person that healthy skin is a very important barrier for your immune system.  Many of us slather layers of lotions and oils on our skin on a daily basis as well as exfoliate at least once weekly to keep our skin looking silky and smooth. However, many of us completely ignore our scalp which has the largest amount of blood flow and direct access to the rest of our body's blood system. Your scalp is a haven for healthy follicles and gorgeous healthy hair so you have to take care of it. I've got some great scalp treatment recipes below, so read on!

Before I get on with the recipes, let's talk about the different types of scalp conditions and natural home remedies that can help aid in healing and restoring a healthy scalp.

Eczema is a non infection skin condition characterized by red, inflammed skin that is rough and itchy and can worsen into bloody or oozing sores that can scab over to create thickened dark skin. This skin condition can also be found on other areas of the body and can be aggravated by allergens in foods or hair products.

Psoriasis is another type of skin condition characterized by red and inflammed skin with the presence of white or silvery patches of skin referred to as scales. It is most commonly seen near the elbows, knee, or trunk but can be found anywhere on the body.

Dandruff is a very common scalp condition that causes buildup of dry flakes on the scalp that can be loosened into the rest of the hair or even fall down on clothing.

Seborrheic dermatitis is a more severe form of dandruff that has larger and greasy flakes that are commonly yellow in color. In babies it is referred to as cradle cap.

Alopecia is a form of hair loss that can be related to an underlying immune condition where the hair or the hair follicles are being attached by your own immune system. Alopecia areata is a form of hair loss that is usually more rapid and on one side of the head more than the other. However there are some causes of alopecia that can be related to age and genetics as well as those that can be related to hormone imbalance.

In order to have a great scalp treatment, you really need to make sure you have the right tools and natural ingredients so you don't increase the toxic load on your body. One essential piece of equipment is a bristle brush that can help to exfoliate and massage the scalp during the treatment. I prefer a natural or boar's hair brush but nylon can work as well as long as the bristles are flat or slightly rounded on the top. You'll also need an application brush or cotton balls to help apply the scalp treatment and a great recipe for a treatment.

A great recipe has few ingredients and the most essential is a great moisturizing base that you can add different essential herb or healing oils to for added benefits. My personal favorite is coconut oil since it absorbs nicely into the skin and has a moisturizing and smoothing effect, but olive oil can also be used for a more inexpensive option. i usually use about 3-4 tablespoons of softened coconut or olive oil followed by 3-5 drops of one or multiple essential oils to help achieve max) imum benefit.

One great essential oil that I prefer to add is tea tree oil because it has great cleansing properties, however I'd recommend only 2-3 drops be added since tea tree oil can tend to be very strong and large quantities can actually lead to skin irritation. 2 tablespoons of fresh citrus juice from lemon or grapefruit can also be added for purifying and cleansing properties. Chamomile can be added for soothing qualities and peppermint for a refreshing and cooling sensations for irritated skin. Lavender oil can also be used for refreshing and cooling but has also been shown in clinical trials to help regrow hair. 70% of people involved in the trials that massaged lavender oil into the scalp three times a week had significant hair regrowth.

If you're looking for hair regrowth then I'd recommend exfoliating the scalp for about 5 to 10 minutes before the lavender treatment. For a great hair regrowth mixture, try mixing the lavender oil with one cup of warm purified water and a few drops of almond oil and massage into the scalp.

If you're worried your scalp or hair condition might be due to hormone imbalance or possibly an auto immune condition that I've described above, I'd highly recommend setting up a consultation in my office to talk about natural treatment options that would be available to you or further testing that may be required to uncover the root cause of your condition. Give us a call at (309) 689-6200 to set up your appointment today.