6 Ways to Stay Active This Winter

By Dr. James Mayne, DC

So winter season is upon us and we are beginning to see the “winter injuries” come rolling in. Sore backs from shovelling and headaches from being inside under artificial light will always come in this time of year. Staying active through the winter months will keep the body moving and strong, helping to avoid winter time suffering.

Think of your body like your car. If it sits idle for too long, its parts will slowly start to seize up. Your body will also seize up if it sits too long. Movement keeps your muscles, bones and joints strong. In fact, winter is a wonderful opportunity to switch up your activities and allow your body to heal from the strain and sprains incurred during the softball, golf, wakeboarding, and tennis season.

Living in the Okanagan gives us so many ways to move and stay active in the winter months. Here are just 6 ways to stay active:

  1. Swimming: Swimming is a great way to get whole body movement and is usually quite gentle on any arthritic joints. It also has the added benefit of sneaking into the sauna or hot tub to warm up before heading back out into the winter air.
  2. Walking: Walking daily is what our bodies were designed to do and few activities beat 45 minutes of walking each day. There are many places to walk indoors, such as the mall or rec center. We are also blessed with snowy trails (like those all over our local ski hill), which, with a pair of show shoes, offer hundreds of kilometers of walking routes.
  3. Skiing: Speaking of our hills, both Sovereign Lake and Silver Star offer world-class skiing opportunities and also offer the added bonus of usually being spectacularly sunny above the clouds!
  4. Skating: Ponds and rinks open up this time of year, and anything from a casual skate to a fast-paced hockey game allow for exercise at all skill levels. Believe it or not, many people with low-back problems get relief from banging around out on the ice as the physical movement flushes out inflammation in the low back and hips.
  5. Weight Training: Lifting weights isn’t just for guys. Pumping iron helps keep the bones and body strong. Also, more muscle means a faster metabolism, which is always good with holiday treats everywhere.
  6. Exercise Classes: Yoga, boot camps, Zumba, pilates, Tai Chi…sooo many to choose from. We get to be social while we strengthen our core and keep our bodies loose and flexible.

Hopefully this list will motivate you to keep active through the winter. It’s our job to get the joints moving well and then encourage people to be active. You won’t know if an exercise is right for you until you try it, so get out and move, but listen to your body. Staying active through the winter ensures that come spring, we can hit the ground running. And isn’t that why we all live in the Okanagan, to be active and play as much as possible?

Now if your neck and back are not letting you play as much as you would like, please give us a call. We would be more than happy to try and figure out what needs to be done to get you out fully enjoying activity again.

Maintenance vs Pain Relief Care

I’ve been talking to a number of patients about this lately, so I thought it would be a good idea to share my thoughts on this. There are 2 camps of people who use chiropractic care—those who wait until they are hurting to come in, and those who come in proactively around a once a month.

Maybe I shouldn’t admit this, but I used to be someone who only came in when I was hurting. I wasn’t going to waste my money on treatment I didn’t need; I would rather use it to go skiing or golfing. This worked for me until my 30s. In my 30s my back pain, which was definitely helped by chiropractic care, seemed to occur around twice a year (snow shovelling and spring activity). It would take about 6 visits each time to clear up. I realized that I was coming in around 12 times a year—what the maintenance program was recommending anyway—it just wasn’t once a month.

Around this tipping point, life also became a little more complicated (you know…wife, kids, more yard work…) and my free time was rare. It seemed that my back flare-ups tended to occur on golf days and ski days. I was getting frustrated. So, I started getting adjustments at the once-a-month schedule and, low and behold, my recreation time was no longer interrupted! And on an even brighter note, over the year my back became stronger. Over the next 5 years small improvements added up, so I can confidently say that my back is stronger in my 40s than it was in my 20s. The adjustments became more than pain relief. It was about constantly taking stress off my spine so that my neck and back continued to heal over the long term. Now, looking back at a 10+ year journey, I can tell you that my back is stronger, less prone to injury, quicker to heal after injury, and it did not take many more adjustments than if I had only focused on pain relief.

The goal I have for myself, as well as for my patients, is to keep our backs and necks strong so we can be physically active in our 80s and 90s. This is achieved a lot more easily if we conduct maintenance care as opposed to only patchwork repair periodically. I don’t want anyone to miss a golf game, a ski day, or whatever physical activity a person loves because their back is too sore. Maintenance care works!

Written by Dr. James Mayne, DC

Arise Chiropractic, Vernon, BC

The Progression of Low Back Pain

Approximately 70% of the people that come in to the clinic complain of low back pain. Low back pain can take many forms, but, in general, long-standing low back pain follows a typical plot line.

I will often hear from a patient that their low back has been bothering them, on and off, for years. It bothers them after gardening, shovelling the driveway, sports, or a similar physical activity. They will report that it is happening more frequently and lasting longer.

Now, this explanation may seem self-evident, but please allow me to explain the situation as we chiropractors see it.

The reason the low back hurts following activity is because the back is not functioning properly. There are 5 lumbar vertebrae and 2 sacro-iliac (SI) joints that must move in harmony for optimal low back movement.

The initial trauma to the back/pelvis usually starts in childhood. Anyone who has children has seen them fall off the monkey bars, wipe out on a bike, or fall on their backside skating. These little accidents initially sprain the back and pelvis and affect its movement pattern. Next we add a lifetime of ski wipeouts, car accidents, icy parking lot slips, and we get a back and pelvis with repeated small-scale trauma.

Then we sit. We sit at work, in the car; we sit to eat and watch TV. This sitting loads up the back and tightens the hip, leg and back muscles.

Now, instead of vertebrae and SI joints working in harmony when we are active, one or two of the joints do most of the movement and get sore. As the years add up, these overworked joints can become worn and arthritic. The situation builds over time. The problem becomes chronic and then even small activities can strain the back, until finally we are frustrated enough to do something about it.

This is the role of chiropractic care. We assess the level of damage to the low back, and depending on the severity of the situation, come up with a plan to get the lumbar spine and SI joints moving again in harmony. This will reduce pain, but, just as importantly, allow the low back to tolerate activity again, giving us another hike, another day skiing, another day in the garden. We have seen that the more a body moves, the longer it lasts and the more enjoyment we can get out of life.

Like I said, this is a long-term build-up, but the sooner we tackle the problem the better chance we have of making a difference. If this sounds familiar, please come in and have a physical exam and assessment. We would love to help you become more active.

Written by Dr. James Mayne, DC

Ramping up into Spring

The sun is finally shining, we can go outside in just a shirt, the snow is off the ground and that means spring chores are here! For most of us this is a wonderful season, getting to yard work and getting the garden ready. We charge into the crisp air and sunshine, work the weekend away, hike and exercise. And then our bodies start speaking to us…stiff necks, sore backs, sciatic pain. Maybe we got a little soft over the winter months.

I am as keen as the next person to get out and put in a 10-hour day in the yard, but most of us are not ready for that yet. And while I love seeing all of my patients who didn’t need me as much in the winter, I like seeing them without severe discomfort from overdoing it in the yard.

So let’s talk about simple tips to get the body ready for spring.

First up, stretch before and after yard work. Simple stretches like touching your toes, bending side to side, and gentle twists from side to side can warm up both the neck and low back. We all have collected our favorite stretches over the years, so doing this before and after yard work is a great way to get started.

Next, limit activities. Any time we are doing one activity for more than 20-30 minutes we can create strains in unconditioned muscles. Having a plan like raking for 20 minutes, then pruning for 20 minutes, then weeding/tidying for 20 minutes breaks up an hour and creates less stress on the body. Also, it is important to check in with yourself every hour to determine if it is time to quit for the day or continue on. There is always something that is “almost finished” but somehow 2 more hours go by before we head in. There is always tomorrow or next weekend.

Third, build up slowly. Whether it is exercise or chores, we have to build up our bodies and muscles before we are ready to go full on. Generally we want to add time to our spring walking/running/yard work in small increments until we are up to our full activity level. Putting this into perspective, if at the beginning of the spring season you can handle 2 hours of waking/running/yard work a day before you start to get sore, the next day/weekend add 15-30 minutes. Then increase from there. This may not work for all activities perfectly, but gradual increases in activity from day to day or week to week will limit the severity of strains when they occur.

And despite all of this pre-thought and planning many of us still manage to overdo it on a weekend and start our week off with neck pain or low back pain and sciatica. When that occurs we are here to help. I am blessed to work with fantastic chiropractors who can put me back together if I overdo it. So hopefully you have a wonderful spring and stay strong and healthy, but if you need a little help to get the body in spring shape, please call and let us help.

Written by Dr. James Mayne, DC

Why Is There A Flu Season?

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Everyone has heard of flu season. It usually starts mid-fall and continues on until early spring. Yet the flu virus is around all year, so why do we have a “flu season”?

Our bodies become susceptible to diseases and illnesses for a number of reasons at this time of year due to:

  1. Lack of sunlight ~ Very appropriate for us Canadians. We don’t get enough Vitamin D through “flu season,” making us susceptible to getting sick. This condition is easily remedied by supplementing with a good Vitamin D capsule.
  2. Decreased activity ~ This one should not happen. With the availability of snowshoes, skating ponds, ski hills, gyms…we can maintain our activity levels all the way through winter. In fact, it’s good for our bodies to mix up our recreational sports and give our joints a rest from summer sports like golf or soccer.
  3. Dehydration ~ A lot more hot coffee, tea, or hot chocolate is consumed at this time of year, and the caffeine can dehydrate us. In Canada we have dry, cold winters that require as much water consumption in the winter as in the summer, and even more if we are dehydrated from those hot drinks.
  4. Poor dietary choices ~ We go from pumpkin pie at Thanksgiving to Halloween treats to Christmas and New Year’s treats. Lots and lots of sugar. This is another key issue, as good nutrition fuels a heathy immune system.
  5. Stress ~ This time of year can create extra stress. From physical stress due to raking leaves or shovelling snow, to the emotional stress of coping with family over the holidays, stress drains the immune system. This is where chiropractic care can be key in helping us cope with the flu season. Removing the stress from the body through adjustments and soft-tissue work, we make the body stronger and better able to function.

In summary, the flu is here year-round, but we can help fight it during “flu season” by taking Vitamin D, keeping up our recreational activities, staying hydrated, eating healthily, and removing physical stress from the body through treatments like chiropractic care. If chiropractic care is the missing piece of the puzzle, please give our office a call to see if we can help.

Written by Dr. James Mayne, DC

Sciatica Vs. SI Joint Pain

We are often asked “Is this sciatic pain or sacro-illiac (SI) joint pain?”  Both originate from the low back/hip region, give us low back pain, and create pain down the legs.  It is a valid question.
Sciatic pain is pain referred from the low back, down the legs, possibly all the way to the foot.  It is due to sciatic nerve impingement (pinching) from the bones and tissues of the low back.  The most common symptoms other than back pain are pain down one or both legs that can go below the knee and even to the foot.  Another clue that the pain is sciatic is a weakness in a leg or hip muscles.  And the most telling is numbness or tingling of the leg or foot.
SI joint pain on the other hand starts at the low back and then spreads down the hip and into the leg.  This pain rarely goes below the knee and rarely creates numbness and tingling.  While pain may keep a person from moving a certain way, it usually does not create muscle weakness.
It is worth noting that each of these problems can present differently in each individual person, but as a rule of thumb, these symptoms differentiate the two conditions.  The good news is that we have many different ways to identify your specific problem, like orthopedic muscle tests and X-rays.  Once the problem has been identified we are then able to help you with either sciatic pain or SI joint pain.  Please give us a call so we can see how we can help.

 

Written by Dr. James Mayne, DC

I Just Don’t Sleep?

One of the most common complaints I hear when discussing back or neck pain is that “I can no longer sleep through the night”.  A person often dismisses this as normal, especially since it has been going on for years.  “I just get up because if I stay in bed my back will tighten up worse, but it is OK because I get 5 hours sleep before that point”.
This really is not OK.  Study after study shows us that getting between 7-9 hours of sleep per night is optimal for being alert and allowing enough time for the body to heal from the injuries of the day before.  Each day we may stub a toe, sit for too long, strain our back doing yard work, irritate our neck looking at our computer… the list goes on and on.  Without a proper night’s sleep to let the muscles and tissues heal, our health becomes more and more compromised.  Pain increases, sleep worsens leading to more pain, leading to less sleep,… the cycle spirals downhill.
Chiropractic care allows our bodies to move and function more efficiently.  It removes strain and tension from the head to the toes, not only making you feel better throughout the day, but letting you sleep longer and more comfortably.  Allowing the pain levels and sleep patterns to be reset can make a major difference in long term energy levels and overall health, something we all want to maximize.

 

Written by Dr. James Mayne, DC

Am I at a Dead End?

As a chiropractor I often see new patients who “have tried everything” already, even chiropractic, and it has not worked. Most have already spent a great deal of time and money seeing physical therapists, personal trainers, acupuncturists, massage therapists…the list goes on and on. They have seen some of the most talented doctors and practitioners around, but for whatever reason those treatments have not worked.

By the time these patients find their way to my office they are frustrated, angry, and depressed. They feel like they have failed or spent money on nothing because they are still in pain. Sadly, many have been told that nothing else can be done. I can commiserate; I have been in a similar position myself.

Often, this story begins with something like a joint injury, a sprained neck, or a locked-up hip. The injury may be minor or very traumatic; it may derail a person immediately or build up over years or even decades.

The pain and dysfunction start affecting a person’s leisure activities. They stop playing sports, begin to slow down, and become more inactive. Everyday activities like work, gardening, and dressing in the morning can become difficult. People stop enjoying life.

Without movement a body breaks down faster. Metabolism, muscles and the brain become sluggish. This cascade of events leads to further pain and depressed mood states. Soon, anything can “flare up the pain” and the lack of activity leads to gaining a few pounds each month. As the months and years add up the body gets in worse and worse shape.

This is the part of the story where I meet many new patients. Frustrated, in chronic pain, overweight, out of shape, and wary of something else that may not work.

It is time to break this cycle and get to the root cause of the problem. Time to conduct an exam, find out why this cycle is occurring, and then identify how best to combat it. One of the most common things I hear from a new patient after their physical exam is, “Wow, I have never had an examination with that much detail before.” A detailed exam is critical to identify the cause of the problem.

My job is to address this damage, get the body moving again, and allow the body to begin healing. Once the body can again function properly, a person can begin to return to their normal lives and activities, increasing mood, decreasing stress, and decreasing pain.

If this story resonates with you, or someone you know, please call for a new patient exam. We would love to be able to identify what is going on and see if we can help.

Written by Dr. James Mayne of Arise Chiropractic 250-275-7616 
(Inspired by my good friend and colleague Dr. Tyna Moore)

Sprains & Strains

If you have sprained a joint recently, you know they can be problematic for a while. We constantly need to use our ankles, hips, backs, shoulders and necks. Your body has its own natural way of healing, but here are some tips to help the process along:
1) Ice. Immediately after injuring a joint, it swells and heats up. This causes pain, and pressure receptors fire up. An ice pack directly over the sore joint for 20 minutes helps decrease the swelling and numb the area, both of which decrease pain levels.
2) Heat. When a joint is sprained the muscles in the surrounding areas are also damaged. After the initial swelling is under control and the acute phase of healing is over, generally at least 10 days after the injury, placing a heat pack over the stiff, sore muscles will draw blood flow to the area and speed up repair. Again, look to apply heat for 20 minutes at a time.
3) Fish oil. A natural food or vitamin store should carry high quality fish oil. Take 3000mg of EPA + DHA per day. This helps fight inflammation in a damaged joint. Note: Be careful of this product if you have a shellfish allergy.
4) Proteolytic enzymes. Many natural enzymes can be found at the natural food or vitamin store. Some examples are bromelain, serapeptase and curcumen. These enzymes are present in natural foods, like pineapples and curry, and have natural anti-inflammatory effects. Again, be wary if you have certain food allergies.
5) Movement. While it is not advisable to constantly agitate a damaged joint, the more a body moves around the faster it has been shown to heal. If gentle activities like walking or swimming are non-agitating they should be encouraged, as a quicker metabolism means faster healing. This is where chiropractic treatment comes into the picture. Getting the joints to move optimally means freer mobility, and with that comes more activity and faster healing.
Chiropractic care has been demonstrated over and over again, in many different studies, to increase the body’s ability to move and heal. A proper adjustment to a damaged joint will allow it to instantly begin moving and healing faster and better. Chiropractic can help with sprains of the ankles, neck, shoulders, back, hips, and all the joints of the body. Please come see us so we can help improve your health and speed up your healing.
Written by Dr. James Mayne, DC

Why Do I Get So Excited about Posture?

A person’s posture tells us so much about their health. When we are hurt we walk and move in a certain way. When we are tired we slouch and our heads droop. If a person has a job where they sit too long, they develop a hunching posture. Our pelvic can be strained by standing in a leaning position for too long. Once a chiropractor has completed their 8 or 9 years of training they never look at people the same way again.

As doctors of chiropractic we improve a person’s spinal alignment and help them to function better. Well, that is a nice definition, but it does not really explain things in layman’s terms. To simplify it, we make a person sit and stand more evenly, so their muscles don’t have to work so hard to keep from leaning over and there is less muscle strain on the body. This leads to less aches and pains and more energy at the end of the day.

When someone walks through my door, my job is to make them walk out straighter and more balanced. Every adjustment, stretch, and exercise gets a person’s posture stronger and stronger. Each treatment helps to undo the damage of a lifetime of sprains and strains from slips and falls, car accidents, sitting at desks for long periods, or spinal problems a person was born with.

The end result is a spine that can handle the demands of the day and last for a lifetime. I see this through a person’s posture improving. Just like a mechanic straightening out a car’s frame so it will run smoother and last longer, a properly aligned spine works smoother and can last longer.

So, yes, whenever I see a person’s posture improve I know we are changing the body and I get excited. It is great that this equates to a better functioning body and less discomfort, but seeing a change is how I know that a difference has been made. Just like your mother, I need you to sit up straight and stop slouching.

Written by Dr. James Mayne, DC