Can Posture Affect Your Breathing? Chiropractic care may help!

Poor posture can affect your ability to breathe!

The subject of posture is a big one, especially for Chiropractors these days. Although in my office, I see many patients for many different types of complaints, a significant portion can be directly attributed to not only poor posture in general, but specifically a forward head posture. Just walk into any coffee shop and you will see people lovingly gazing with their bloodshot eyes into the glare of their laptop screens, with a slumped forward posture. Laptops are the worst contributors to poor posture as they simply cannot accommodate a proper ergonomic position. It is quite common for people to spend as much as 10-12 hours per days in front of their computers.   Add in the time on their smart phones surfing, driving, and sitting on their couch and we have an epidemic of poor neck posture.

Can Posture Affect Your Breathing?

Rene Cailliet M.D., famous medical author and former director of the department of physical medicine and rehabilitation at the University of Southern California states that forward head posture (FHP) may result in the loss of 30% of vital lung capacity.

Poor posture invites distorted, restricted, shallow breathing. Just try this:  sit down and bend over and try to breathe in. Notice how it is harder to breathe. This is an extreme example of how our muscles and tendons get over restricted and cause a lessening of depth and ease in breathing. This also restricts your esophagus, phrenic nerves, aorta, trachea, brachiocephalic vein, but most importantly – breathing volume and ease. good posture is required for singers

Poor posture can shorten muscles, ligaments and create stiffness in joints and alter nerve function, which are all required for normal breathing. Your ability to take a full deep breathe can affect your performance in sports, your mental clarity, your sleep, your attitude, your digestion and organ function to name a few.

Have you ever noticed a singer’s posture? In order to hold those long notes, it requires very good posture for optimum lung function!

How Can I Breathe Easier?

Simply making yourself sit up straight or correct your posture is no easy task. In fact, forcing yourself can actually make it more difficult to breathe since your are fighting against all those shortened muscles and ligaments that have adapted over time to your poor posture. That’s why it can be difficult or uncomfortable to maintain good posture at first. Chiropractic care can help to ease the tension of these tissues and joints, making it easier to maintain and correct poor posture. However, good results take time.

Certain types of yoga and Pilates can help to improve your posture. Yoga training also emphasizes healthy breathing habits. I suggest that everyone start with a chiropractic check up to identify any areas of concern in your spine before starting yoga to make sure it is safe for you. Sometimes certain movements may not be good for you if certain problems are found.

If you feel that you cannot take a deep breath in, or feel that your posture can use some tuning up, schedule a chiropractic check up. We will examine your spine, and let you know how to best proceed so that you can be your healthiest YOU!

~ Dr. Gertz

 

Can Poor Posture Cause Arthritis?

Poor posture contributes to Arthritis

Posture, both good and bad, absolutely can have an impact on osteoarthritis.  How does bad posture affect osteoarthritis?  Chronic bad posture places abnormal chronic stresses on your body.  Normally, the muscles protect the bones and joints. However, these abnormal stresses make it harder for your muscles to take the pressure off your joints-and your joints end up paying the price.  For an easy example, consider your head and neck.

Your head weighs a little more than 10 pounds – or slightly more than a bowling ball.  Your neck is supporting your head 24 hours a day with only a brief rest when you lie down at night.  Even with perfect posture, this is a lot to ask of your neck!  Good neck posture mandates that your head rests directly above your neck. Poor neck posture typically consists of carrying your head somewhat forward in relation to your neck.  This places an increased stress on your neck.  A good analogy is carrying a bowling ball over your head.  Carrying the ball over your head is what your neck does with good posture.  Carrying the bowling ball 20 degrees in front of your head is a lot harder and your arm muscles will get more tired more quickly.

What happens with increased stress on your neck from poor posture?  The large muscles, and the smaller postural muscles, fatigue and the forces from your head and neck are translated through the small joints in your neck.  This can lead to a change in your normal alignment over time. When your spine is not in normal alignment, this leads to greater wear-and-tear of your joints and, potentially, earlier osteoarthritis. If your neck already has osteoarthritis, then the poor posture can worsen the pain.  It is the same with the other joints in your body. Poor posture (and poor alignment) increases the stresses they face, which increases the chances of them developing osteoarthritis.

If poor posture increases the risk of developing and/or worsening osteoarthritis, can good posture cure osteoarthritis?

Good posture may not cure osteoarthritis, but it will certainly help.  Just as poor posture places increasedPosture Bad stress on the joints in your body, good posture decreases those stresses.  Good anatomic posture allows your muscles to work most effectively to unload your joints, take the pressure off them, and allow them a chance to heal.

THINGS WORK BETTER WHEN YOU ARE IN PROPER ALIGNMENT.

Good posture does not happen overnight.  If you don’t already have good posture, realize that it takes steady, consistent attention and work.  But the work is well worth it! While it may be difficult at first to constantly remind yourself to improve your posture, eventually you will find that your body begins to return to its good posture naturally and without as much effort and attention as in the beginning. Also, it can be quite challenging to correct posture at first if you are not in proper alignment or if you have lost normal flexibility of your spine. Correcting your posture in conjunction with a program of regular chiropractic care can greatly assist with the process.

How important is posture really? The next few blogs will deal with how posture is connected to areas of your health you wouldn’t even realize, such as your mental state!

Stay tuned and stay healthy!

Dr. G

 

How Sitting is the New Smoking

Break Up with your sitting with some walking!

There’s no sugar-coating it: North Americans sit a lot, especially if you reside in a tech-savvy area of Vancouver like Yaletown. Two-thirds of the North American workforce sits for all or part of their workday.1 When you don’t adjust your posture frequently enough, you’re more likely to experience discomfort while sitting–and you’re inviting a whole host of other musculoskeletal problems along with it.1

Today, on average, sitting takes up more than half of an adult’s waking hours.2 What’s worse is that, according to Mayo Clinic cardiologist Martha Grogan, “for people who sit most of the day, their risk of heart attack is about the same as smoking.”3 Based on current trends, researchers predict the number of hours we spend sedentary will likely increase.2

There are other health risks that come from being more sedentary: prolonged time spent while sitting or reclining can tamper with your glucose levels and your metabolism.4 It’s also a risk factor for type 2 diabetes.4 The good news is that if you break up those long periods of sitting, you can reduce your risk of having diabetes, heart disease, or stroke.4

The Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada5 recommends at least thirty minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity–such as brisk walking or bike riding–at least five days out of the week. If you work Monday to Friday, consider adding a few steps to your commute, or taking two 15 minute walk breaks each workday.

Here are some more helpful tips to help break up your sitting time6,7:

  • Create a schedule to remind you to stand up and move. Programming your day can help you stick to something you may otherwise forget to do. A good goal is 5-10 minutes of activity per hour. For example, if you have a job that involves sitting most of the day, plan to spend five minutes every hour up from your chair and moving around the office (like getting coffee, walking around the building, or taking a restroom break) and spend the other five minutes doing stretches.
  • Walk around on your lunch break. Invite coworkers from your office to go for a walk with you at lunch. You can check out a nearby park or take a new route around the neighbourhood.
  • Park further away and walk. Whether you’re running errands or parking at work, you can choose to park further away and walk those extra few steps to your destination.
  • Walk around the house while talking on the phone or during commercial breaks of your favourite show. You might find other opportunities throughout the day too!

Little changes can go a long way to improve your posture and decrease a number of health risks. Whatever method you choose, you can also use the Straighten Up Canada app and Fit-in 15 program to find small exercises you can do during the day. Of course, regular check ups with your chiropractic at Pacific Chiropractic can help reduce the chances of stiffness, misalignments or even nerve pressure from building up…at least, that’s what our patients tell us!

References

  1. Fenety A, Walker JM. Short-term effects of workstation exercises on musculoskeletal discomfort and postural changes in seated video display unit workers. J Am Phys Ther Assoc. 2002; 82(6): 578-89.
  2. Healy GN, Eakin EG, Owen N, et al. A cluster randomized controlled trial to reduce office workers’ sitting time. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2016; 48(9): 1787-97. doi:10.1249/mss.0000000000000972.
  3. Winslow, R. The guide to beating a heart attack: first line defense is lowering risk, even when genetics isn’t on your side. The Wall Street Journal. April 16, 2012. http://www.wsj.com/articles/SB10001424052702304818404577347982400815676. Accessed November 25, 2016.
  4. Benatti FB, Ried-Larsen M. The effects of breaking up prolonged sitting time. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2015; 47(10): 2053-61. doi:10.1249/mss.0000000000000654.
  5. Stay active. Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada. 2016. Available at: http://www.heartandstroke.ca/get-healthy/stay-active#How-much-activity-do-I-need. Accessed November 22, 2016.
  6. Storrs C. Stand up, sit less and move more, researchers say; here’s how to do it. CNN. August 6, 2015. Available at: http://www.cnn.com/2015/08/06/health/how-to-move-more/. Accessed October 14, 2016.
  7. Sit less. The Heart Foundation. Available at: https://heartfoundation.org.au/active-living/sit-less. Accessed October 14, 2016.

(From JCCA e-toc)

Are You a Sitting Duck? Proper Ergonomics for Your Work Station

ergonomicsThere are four areas that a computer user interfaces with: the monitor, the keyboard and mouse, the chair, and the lighting of the environment. Setting up these interfaces with good ergonomics and guidelines as well as maintaining a good posture will enhance your comfort and efficiency as well as prevent repetitive stress injuries.

The Monitor

Position the monitor to minimize glare by placing it at a right angle to light sources or windows

Place the monitor as far away from you as possible while maintaining the ability to read without consciously focusing. Keep a minimum distance of 20 inches.

Place the center of the screen at a 15 degree down angle from your eyes with your neck only slightly bent holding your head perpendicular to the floor. The top of the monitor should be roughly equal height to your forehead.

The Keyboard

  • Position the  keyboard slightly below the elbow and at a negative angle to allow the wrists to remain straight when you sit in a slightly reclined postureProper Wrist Position
  • Do NOT use a wrist rest while actively typing. It’s meant to rest on not to lean on when working. Hold your hands and arms off of any supports while typing.
  • Do NOT use the keyboard supports to raise the back up. Do NOT tilt the keyboard tray so that the back of the keyboard is higher than the front. Though design and a lot of prevailing information say you should tilt the keyboard to a positive angle like this, it is wrong. A negative angle that allows the wrists to stay in their natural wrist position is better. A positive angle is a repetitive stress injury waiting to happen.

The Mouse

  • Place the mouse on the same level as and immediately next to the keyboard tray.
  • Keep the mouse in the arc line of the keyboard so that you can reach it when rotating your arm from the elbow.Proper wrist position
  • Do NOT use a wrist rest while using the mouse. Your forearm needs to be free to move so  you do not strain the wrist.
  • If your keyboard has a number pad, consider switching to use the mouse with your left hand.  This will keep your elbow and wrist closer in line with your body and reduce strain on your shoulder muscles.

The Chair

  • Use arm rests.
  • Place the lumbar support slightly below the waist line.
  • Adjust the height of the chair so your feet can rest completely on the floor.Proper Chair position
  • Allow 1-3 inches between the edge of the seat and the back of your knees.
  • Use a high back chair that supports your shoulder blades if at all possible

Lighting

  • The office should be moderately bright (20-50 foot candles or equal to a nice day where sunglasses aren’t needed).
  • Do not use task lighting for computer work.

Dr Gertz can offer specific advice for your personal ergonomic needs. He also can perform an onsite evaluation for you or others in your company. Please contact him for further information.

If someone you know is suffering from the results of poor work ergonomics needlessly, start with calling our office to schedule yourself, or someone you know in for a check up appointment to see what treatment options are available to you.

Do’s and Don’ts of Flip Flops

Flip Flop Fiasco

In last week’s article we discussed some of the health issues that can arise by wearing Flip Flops, and how we can examine your feet, and the appropriate therapy for your those problems. However, as with some of my patients, their sense of style is still so overwhelming that they cannot resist wearing flip flops, here are a few tips to avoid a “flip flop fiasco”, as discussed in our previous post:

DO’s:

• Do shop for a flip-flop made of high-quality, soft leather. Leather minimizes the potential for blisters and other types of irritation.

• Shop for flip flops that have the Canadian (or American) Podiatry seal of approval or those that are recommended by foot and orthotic manufacturers such as FootMaxx. Ask or call the office for examples.

• Do gently bend the flip-flop from end to end, ensuring it bends at the ball of the foot.  Shoes of any kind should never fold in half.  In the past few years,  with the huge increase in foot complaints from wearing flip flops, there are many foot wear manufacturers that have cropped up that have created stylish flip flops that are more sturdy, have built in arch supports, and more appropriate cushioning.

• Do wear a sturdy pair of flip-flops when walking around a public pool, at the beach, in hotel rooms and in locker room areas. Walking barefoot can expose foot soles to plantar warts and athlete’s foot.

• Do ensure that your foot doesn’t hang off of the edge of the flip-flop.

Don’ts:

• Don’t re-wear flip-flops year after year. Inspect older pairs for wear. If they show signs of severe wear, discard them.

• Don’t ignore irritation between toes, where the toe thong fits. This can lead to blisters and possible infections.

• Don’t wear flip-flops while walking long distances. Even the sturdiest flip-flops offer little in terms of shock absorption and arch support.

• Don’t do yard work while wearing flip-flops. Always wear a shoe that fully protects feet when doing outside activities such as mowing the lawn or using a weed-eater.

• Don’t play sports in flip-flops. This practice can lead to twisting of the foot or ankle, as well as sprains and breaks.

If you are suffering from foot pain, which may or may not have been caused by your footwear such as flip flops, or if you have flat feet, tendonitis, or spend alot of time on your feet, you may be a candidate for custom foot orthotics.

Custom Made Foot Orthotics can help with more than Plantar Fascitis….

Custom Foot Orthotics

Foot orthotics allow the muscles, tendons and bones of the feet and lower legs to function at their highest potential. When appropriately prescribed, orthotics can decrease pain, not only in the foot, but in other parts of the body such as the knee, hip and lower back. They can also increase stability in an unstable joint, prevent a deformed foot from developing additional problems, correct improper biomechanics and improve overall quality of life.

At our office, we perform various diagnostic tests such as a digital gait analysis to observe your gait and discover any biomechanical abnormalities that may be putting undue stresses on your feet and alignment of your spine.

The FootMaxx orthotics that are often prescribed are custom-made for your feet, sport-specific to your activities and designed to accommodate for different shoe types.

Often people will have Extended Health Insurance benefits that cover the cost of orthotics. Please check your individual health benefits package.

Custom made sandals are also available for summer with the orthotic component built into the sandal.  Call our office to schedule a foot check up, or gait analysis to see if custom orthotics might be right for you.

~ Dr. Gertz

The Flip Flop Foot Pain Fiasco!

Flip flop foot pain“OUCH!! MY FOOT IS PAINFUL!!”

HAVE YOUR FLIP FLOPS CAUSED YOUR FOOT PAIN?

Summer is finally here and many of us are becoming more active outside in the sunshine and warmer weather (hopefully!!). Our feet, which have become accustomed to our more sturdy and supportive rain boots and winter shoes, have been traded in for our summer sandals and flip flops. After beginning to wear those unsupportive pieces of foam which we term flip flops, some of us will subsequently wake up in the morning and stand up on our newly remodelled hard wood floors only to find a sharp pain has now developed on the bottom of our feet, even making it hard to walk initially. Chances are you may have developed Plantar Fasciitis.

Plantar Fasciitis is a painful condition caused by overuse of the plantar fascia or arch tendon of the foot. The Plantar Fascia is a broad, thick band of tissue that runs from under the heel to the front of the foot.

plantar fasciitis fasciaPlantar fasciitis can also be known as a heel spur although they are not strictly the same. A heel spur is a bony growth that occurs at the attachment of the plantar fascia to the heel bone (calcaneus). A heel spur can be present (through repetitive pulling of the plantar fascia) on a foot with no symptoms at all and a painful heel does not always have a heel spur present.

What Are the Common Causes of Plantar Fasciitis?

The most common cause of plantar fasciitis is very tight calf muscles which lead to prolonged and / or high velocity pronation of the foot. This in turn produces repetitive over-stretching of the plantar fascia leading to possible inflammation and thickening of the tendon. As the fascia thickens it loses flexibility and strength.

Some practitioners think overpronation can always be determined visually by the dropping and rolling in of the arch. This is not always the case. Sometimes it can only be seen with foot scans, especially if the patient has a high arched foot. At our office we have a sophisiticated gait scan which takes readings at 60 frames per second. This is much more accurate than even the human eye which is approximately 7 frames per second.

Other causes include high arch or low arch feet (pes cavus / planus) and other biomechanical abnormalities including over supination.

Excessive walking in footwear which does not provide adequate arch support has been attributed to a recent increase in plantar fascitis such as those stylish flip flops. In fact, the American Podiatry Association has recommended that the use of flip flops should be avoided entirely. Luckily for those who are flip flop die-hards, various shoe and orthotic manufacturers have come up with safe and supportive flip flops that are also stylish.

In addition, overweight individuals are more at risk of developing the condition due to the excess weight impacting on the foot.

How is Plantar Fasciitis Treated?

  • Rest until it is not painful. It can be very difficult to rest the foot as most people will often be on their feet during the day for work. By walking on the painful foot you are continually aggravating the injury and increasing inflammation. So avoid hiking, long walks or impact activities (thank goodness for our outdoor summer pools!) until the pain has reduced. When you do walk, wear supportive shoes such as running shoes.
  • Apply ice or cold therapy to help reduce pain and inflammation.  Cold therapy can be applied regularly until symptoms have resolved.
  • Stretching the plantar fascia is an important part of treatment and prevention (ask us for specific stretches).
  • A plantar fasciitis night splint is an excellent product which is worn overnight and gently stretches the calf muscles and plantar fascia preventing it from tightening up overnight.
  • Wear your custom orthotics as much as possible.

What Your Chiropractor can do:

  • Recommend a natural anti-inflammatory (such as Nature’s Relief available at our clinic)
  • Perform gait analysis to determine if you overpronate or oversupinate.
  • Prescribe  custom orthotics or insoles. An insole can restore normal foot biomechanics if overpronation is a problem.
  • Apply sports massage techniques to reduce the tension in the plantar fascia and also stretch the calf muscles.
  • X ray to see if there is any bone growth (heel spur). If present, will require special modifications to the custom foot orthotic.heel spur x-ray
  • Recommend healthy footwear. Even if it is summer, there are healthier and more supportive choices of sandals and footwear. However, those cheap flat flip flops should really be avoided. At our office, our orthotic manufacturer has several footwear options available with the orthotic built into a stylish but more supportive flip flop or sandal.

 

Read more about our Do’s and Don’ts of Wearing Flip Flops in next week’s article….

If you believe that you, or someone you know, could be suffering from pain or inflammation, call the office today to schedule an appointment to see what treatment options are available to you. An electronic gait analysis can be performed which takes about 30 minutes to see if you have any biomechanical issues that may contribute to your foot discomfort.

~Dr. Gertz

Chiropractic Care for Arthritis

runners_aching_inflammed_jointsIt is been said “as the prevention of cavities is to a dentist, as is osteoarthritis to chiropractors.” Millions of people suffer from some form of arthritis. Because arthritis is commonly believed to be incurable, the standard medical response has been simply to prescribe medication to reduce the symptoms.

Substantial evidence now shows, however, that the pain and disability caused by arthritis can be alleviated and even prevented through chiropractic care for arthritis, in conjunction with dietary modifications, nutritional supplementation, stress reduction and other alternative therapies.

Common forms of the arthrits

Arthritis is an inflammation of the joints, tendons, ligaments and cartilage. Among the oldest know human afflictions, it can affect virtually every part of the body, from the feet to the knees, back, shoulders and fingers. The effects of arthritis range from slight joint pain, stiffness and swelling to crippling disability. The condition can affect people of all ages, but is most common in seniors.

There are a variety of arthritic conditions, with the three most common forms of the disease being osteoarthritis (OA), rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and gout.arthritis+knee

OA is a degenerative disease of the large weight-bearing joints. It is often associated with aging. People with the condition often have small bony growths, calcium spurs and occasional soft cysts on their bones and in their joints. As the disease progresses, joint cartilage deteriorates to the point where it interferes with movement.

RA, while less common than OA, is a serious and painful joint disease that can lead to crippling disability in young and old alike. RA involves damage to synovial tissue, which is the membrane that lines joints and secretes the lubricant that normally allows bones to move painlessly against other bones. Symptoms of RA include fatigue, low-grade fever, weakness, joint stiffness and vague joint pain.

Gout is a type of arthritis caused by a buildup in the body of uric acid, which is found in meats and other foods and also produced by the body. When the level of uric acid rises to unhealthy levels in the body, it crystallizes in the joint cartilage and synovial tissue and fluid, causing sharp, needle-like pain in the joints, as well as fever, chills and loss of mobility.

Chiropractic highly effective for arthritis

The primary keys for treating and preventing arthritis are proper nutrition, detoxification and stress reduction. Pain management and correction of skeletal and postural problems can be addressed through chiropractic, while other modalities, including herbal medicine, environmental medicine, acupuncture, may also help.

Chiropractic has proven highly effective for many who suffer from the disease, especially those with OA, as an estimated 95% of osteoarthritic patients also have misaligned joints. If a joint is out of position and there are abnormal stresses, OA usually occurs over time.

This is because OA is directly related to skeletal and postural difficulties. Tendons and ligaments can be torn or stretched as a result of injury, exercise or aging. The layers which hold muscles, joints and organs together tend to thicken and rigidify from overuse or abnormal biomechanics. When the body tries to compensate, bony spurs may appear in joints and on bones. Regular preventative chiropractic treatments can help to diminish these abnormal stresses and reduce symptoms or even prevent the body changes from occurring.

Like the old financial advice: “the best time to start contributing to your savings would have been years ago, but the next best time is now.”  The same holds true for chiropractic care.  Taking preventative measures is key, and that starts with a chiropractic examination to see if there are any factors which may cause you to be predisposed, whether you are already showing arthritic changes, and taking the appropriate measures to reduce the risk, and stop it from progressing now!

Start with calling our office to schedule yourself, or someone you know, in for a check up appointment. Be preventative!

~Dr. G

Players ask Chiropractor to Treat Brazilian Soccer Team

World Cup1The Brazilian soccer team has won a new advantage off the field this week. This is because of a chiropractor invited by the team doctor to treat the players in Brazil. Chiropractic is a health care approach focusing on spinal function and alignment. It can be a treatment for pain, but it should also be used to improve function and prevent injury, which is what is being done for most teams at the World Cup.

Dr. Elisa, the team chiropractor for Brazil, uses an interesting analogy to explain the importance of chiropractic care. “I often compare spinal care with dental care. You eat and brush daily, and need to get regular care for your teeth. With the spinal column is the same. You use it all the time, but some people only remember to go for care when they have pain. Indeed, it is important to have regular preventive treatment “she explains. However, the world of soccer (football) is not new to her. She has treated former  soccer player and Brazilian Captain Carlos Alberto Torres, the three-time champion, since he had disabling back pain in 2010.Torres, credits chiropractic with resolving chronic disabling back pain that had kept him relying on crutches to walk. Traditional medical treatments had not helped, and finally someone referred him to a chiropractor. The chiropractic care he received enabled him to have a quick and full recovery so he could walk again without crutches and free of pain.

Although little known in Brazil, chiropractic is widely used by soccer (football) players. Dante, who has benefited from chiropractic treatment for more than six years since he played in Belgium, was one of the players who requested the services of a chiropractor.

“It is an excellent help. You feel that your body is more balanced, with everything in place. This makes a difference when it comes to high performance,” said the soccer player.

Football does take a toll on the musculoskeletal system of soccer players. Quite often players get injured due to the quick movements they do. Running, twisting, turning, changing direction, heading the ball and diving can all result in injuries. The neck, back, knees and ankles are prone to injure due to the stress exerted in the twisting action of the body when the feet are planted and the quick change of direction of the upper body. Quite often ligaments of the knees and/ ankles are likely to injure.

As Dr. Erik Plasker, the team chiropractor for one of the top US youth soccer teams noted, “while the other teams are scrambling to change their lineups due to injuries, our team bounces back fast and brings an energetic advantage to championship games. The players and coach agree that chiropractic care helps them compete at the highest level and avoid injuries.”

Whiplash Part 3 – How Do We Fix it?

Chiropractor - Gentle Neck Adjustment

Last newsletter we discussed what exactly a Whiplash Injury is, how it occurs, common symptoms of Whiplash injuries and factors which determine the severity of the Whiplash Injury. This newsletter, we will discuss the Diagnosis, Treatment and Prevention of Whiplash Injuries.

How is Whiplash Diagnosed?

The diagnosis of a whiplash injury is made by taking a detail history of the injury, performing thorough examination and ordering diagnostic tests such as x-rays. The doctor must rely on the patient’s information about the accident. With this in mind, it is important for each patient in the collision to explain all the details they can remember about the accident. The chiropractor will want to have all of the information from all other physicians the patient has seen for the accident.

With regards to Whiplash injuries, there are few other musculoskeletal injuries that have been studied and researched in such detail as this type of injury. Depending on the degree of injury, symptoms and other findings discovered in the physical examination and history, a grading system is often applied which relates to the degree of injury. This grading system is often also used as a guideline to determine the type and length of treatment required, and sometimes the prognosis (what to expect in the future).

Are X-Rays Helpful to see how much damage was done?Whiplash 7

The answer is yes. However, x-rays have their limitations. A trained chiropractor can determine if there is a fracture or dislocation of a spinal bone. Additionally, they can look for the classic “straight neck” appearance commonly called “whiplash spine”.

While these findings may assist the doctor in determining an approach to treatment, there are many other structures that cannot be seen on x-rays. These include the discs, nerve roots, muscles, tendons, spinal cord, ligaments, and capsules that surround each joint. Therefore, your doctor relies on the examination findings, and may even order additional diagnostic tests, such as MRI (magnetic resonance imaging), CT (computerized tomography) or NCV (nerve conduction velocity), to see if these structures have also been damaged, and to what extent.

Why does chiropractic treatment help with whiplash injuries?

Whiplash, like other injuries, sets up the following cascade of events:

  • An initial injury causes inflammation (swelling) of tissues and pain.
  • This results in spasm of the muscles surrounding the injured area.
  • As a result of the muscular “bracing”, the joints where these muscles attach stop moving normally, which forces the adjacent joints to move more than they usually should.
  • This leads to a loss of the normal range of motion in that area.
  • The loss of motion creates more inflammation and pain, and this vicious cycle repeats itself again and again.

Amongst other things, chiropractic treatment focuses on restoring as much normal motion and function as possible to the injured areas. As a result, this vicious cycle is interrupted and healing occurs.

What can I do to get better?

There is often no simple answer. However, following your chiropractor’s recommendations will most likely help a great deal. These will likely include:

  • Modifications of your normal daily activities such as work, posture, sleeping, bathing and dressing.
  • Instructions to minimize the risk of damaging your spine even further while performing work duties such as sitting, standing, bending, lifting, squatting, and computer use.
  • Treatment may initially include the use of ice to help control inflammation, rest, and light range of motion exercises. As the pain decreases, chiropractic adjustments are applied, along with electrical physical therapies, massage therapy, and nutritional supplements. As the healing progresses, stretching and strengthening exercises are recommended at the appropriate timing to further strengthen those injured and weakened tissues.

There is a very specific sequence of therapy and it is important that your chiropractic monitor your progress so that these therapies can be introduced in the best and most efficient manner to ensure your tissues heal properly and strong. This will help to minimize future problems from the whiplash injury.

Chiropractors are well- known for helping patients overcome the injuries in whiplash – and not just for the relief of pain, but for maximum restoration of lost function. If you’ve been in an accident and think you think you might have whiplash, no matter how minor, schedule a chiropractic appointment. You’ll be glad you did! The sooner you seek treatment, the better the outcome!

Whiplash Part 2 – What factors make it worse and when do you start to feel it?

Whiplash iStock_neckpain(3)Last newsletter we introduced the topic of Whiplash Injuries – what it is, and what it feels like. This newsletter we cover the various factors that can influence the severity of the injury.

Whiplash injuries are the most common injury to arise out of rear-end collisions, although they can also occur during other activities such as certain sports – most commonly snowboarding (well, perhaps not with this year’s snow conditions!). Nearly 200 rear-end collisions happen each day in British Columbia alone. Whiplash injuries account for more than 65% of all bodily injury claims (Navan et al., 2000).

When do you start to feel the symptoms?

The answer is not that straightforward. We do know that generally the earlier the symptoms occur, the more severe damage tends to be. However, it is common for symptoms to be delayed for days, weeks, or even months after an injury occurs. Unfortunately, this leaves patients believing that they have not been injured when in fact they have. For these reason, it is very important for person involved in a collision to be examined by their doctor as soon as possible following the crash.

Factors that determine the Severity of the Injury:

  • Your position in the car (front seat, back seat, etc.)
  • Your age
  • The length of your neck and weight of your head
  • Whether you were using the seat belts/shoulder harness, headrest positioning
  • If you were prepared for the impact
  • Your head and body position at the moment of impact
  • The make and model of your car along with any special safety features it may be equipped with
  • The size and speed of the vehicle that you were travelling in
  • The size and speed of the vehicle that collided with your vehicle
  • Whether there were subsequent collisions with other vehicles
  • The direction of the impact
  • How soon after the collision that you experienced symptoms
  • Whether your seat back collapsed
  • Your health prior to the collision such as pre-existing injuries or conditions such as arthritis

Numerous studies show that many whiplash victims have a relatively poor outcome without immediate and appropriate treatment. One such study found that 75% of patients with whiplash still suffer from symptoms 6 months after the accident. Experts agree that individuals with any degree of neck complaints following a motor vehicle accident dramatically improve their prognosis if they seek immediate evaluation and appropriate treatment within hours of the accident.

Next Newsletter: How is Whiplash diagnosed? AND What is the best treatment?

Chiropractors are well- known for helping patients overcome the injuries in whiplash – and not just for the relief of pain, but for maximum restoration of lost function. If you’ve been in an accident and think you think you might have whiplash, no matter how minor, schedule a chiropractic appointment. You’ll be glad you did!

~DR. G