One of the most attractive things about the Chiropractic profession is that it gives patients more hope in their own bodies’ ability to adapt to the everyday stressors of life. We know that the adjustment is a great part of improving practice members’ function, but your attitude and outlook of your health has a bigger impact than you may have previously thought. In this blog, I want to talk about how your mind can affect your health/ ability to bounce back from any dis-ease in your system.
There is a lot of new research going on about neural plasticity. This deals with how and if we can reframe our mind to form new nerve connections in our brains to overcome the old nerve connections we have formed from experiences in our lives. This is especially exciting for people suffering with conditions such as Post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and Obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), but can affect every one of us even in the case of chronic pain. Modern research is hinting that chronic pain can also form nerve connections in your brain. So in some cases, your brain can possibly tell you there is pain somewhere even if there is no sign of tissue damage. This could mean that in some instances the last step in your care and bettering your prognosis may be to mentally get over the limits that that pain has caused you.
Taking personal action in your care plan does wonders for your attitude when it comes to your body and health. If you take the time out of your day to see a healthcare practitioner, it is usually because you would like to be relieved of whatever symptom or symptoms you are dealing with. Even if your plan from your HP is to take a pill, it still takes your effort to take the pill when you are not at the clinic. Obviously, we do not prescribe medication in our practice, and changing your habits takes more work than remembering to take a pill. The ten to thirty minutes you spend with us is important, but even more important is how you spend the rest of your day and your habits outside of being with us. It is important to follow our recommendations as closely as possible to increase your chances at getting back to one hundred percent.
For a long time, researchers have only used the placebo effect to determine whether something really worked or was “just in the patients head”. Only now are we beginning to study how truly powerful our brain is and how our attitudes can help us heal using placebo studies. In some instances, placebos even made physiological changes in patients! Obviously there is a limit to this and this is why there is the importance of objective findings and results in practice, but imagine what may be missing if your mind isn’t in the right place. There is also such thing as a nocebo effect, which is where you may feel a negative effect of a drug or treatment just because you expected to feel it. Instead of putting all of your beliefs and reliance on outside factors, do what is good for your body and believe in the power of your mind and body to heal from the outside stressors and germs that you come in contact with.
Our mind-body connection is interconnected both ways. Our body function and biochemical/ mechanical structure can affect our brain, just as our brain can affect our body function and adaptation of our biochemical/mechanical structure. In this blog I focused on how your brain/mind can be controlled to help you heal from whatever ailment you may be experiencing along with the necessary assistance from your health care practitioner of choice. We, as chiropractors do not belong in the medical model of being relied on whenever you have back pain and for you to come every week to stay out of trouble. We would like to assist you in regaining function where needed, and give you the means to be able to take care of yourself and see us periodically to keep your spine functioning properly. This level of health care starts with you as the individual and your actions and who you are starts with your brain and mindset.
Most of you reading this may have heard of the Okinawans. The Japanese Islands of Okinawa are very small and would normally be unheard of in our part of the world but the people of Okinawa are making a big splash due to their longevity and quality of life. Our conventional way of thinking is that the richer and more developed nations should have the best health but this is far from the truth. The Okinawan islands are among the poorest parts of Japan and yet have more people living over 100 per capita than anywhere else in the world!
In this blog I want to talk about some of the habits the inhabitants of the island have to be able to keep such an exceptionally long and high quality of life that each of us can use in our own lives. I will show you how Okinawans approach life limiting the three T’s of stressors that limit your genetic expression as taught in the Chiropractic philosophy: traumas, thoughts and toxins.
As we say at Stout Chiropractic, what you put in your body is a HUGE part of maintaining good health. Okinawans enjoy meals full of mostly colorful veggies and fruits, healthy fats, limited high quality meats, very little grains, very little dairy, good fermented soy and legumes. (Note: I say good soy because a lot of the soy found on the market here in America is not good for you and very different from the soy eaten in Japan). While some people believe that some of the unique fruits and veggies found on the island could be the secret, it is more likely that the balance of nutrients consumed keep Okinawans living healthy lives past the century mark.
Okinawans not only eat certain healthy foods, but also have a practice in how MUCH they eat. “Hara hachi bun me” roughly means “eat until your belly is 80 percent full”. This seems to be an efficient but less exact way to calorie count and based on some evidence could decrease oxidation in the body which leads to cell death and accelerated aging.
Not only do Okinawans avoid certain foods and calorie count, but they use food and plants as medicine. Many Okinawans grow their own gardens that include turmeric and ginger that have proven medicinal properties. This is a staple in the Okinawan diet and may be a good way to prevent illness and keep all around health.
Everybody, no matter the culture has physical trauma in life. Some people are more able to adapt to those stressors, especially if they’re regularly engaging in physical activity. This is another huge reason that the Okinawans have such great health into old age. You may not see tons of P90X DVDs floating around or CrossFit gyms on the island, but even in old age, Okinawans are constantly moving, climbing trees, walking, playing in the communities, working on their own gardens and even sitting on the floor instead of furniture. The act of squatting low regularly improves mobility and can also help with balance to decrease the risk of falls in the elderly which is a huge problem in the States.
One of the biggest physical stressors in our society right now is the accumulated stress of us sitting down for long periods of time and looking down at our phones, tablets and laptops. This seems to be a non-issue because of less technology usage on the Okinawan islands than in the States. In our defense, they have a much nicer year round climate to enjoy the outdoors than we do here in the Midwest especially. Regardless, the point is that we could make a great impact on our lives just by being more active regularly.
Not only do Okinawans have a longer life on average, they also report having a higher quality of life and much lower rates of dementia than the elderly in the States. While this more than likely has something to do with nutrition as well, another possibility is because people on the island keep a clear purpose in life. They live to serve their communities and give to others, rather than put themselves in a rat race to gain more as an individual. When they have this mentality, no matter how old they are they have a place to serve in some way shape or form and therefore feel needed and valued until they pass away.
Okinawans also have tight knit groups of friends that they socialize with on a deeper level. We all know that humans are social creatures and the quality of the friendships in our lives can have a huge impact on our mental health and happiness. That is why these close friendships are part of the culture and not just something that is secondary to everyday life.
Lastly, they stop to smell the roses. Living simply in our society tends to get labeled as lazy and unambitious. There’s nothing wrong with wanting more in life and having dreams, but make sure you always enjoy the ride.
If you want to live a long and healthy life, it takes work and habits that aren’t very common in our society. The good news is that there is a group of people who we can learn from that are accomplishing this and don’t spend nearly as much as we do in health care costs. Limit the accumulated trauma of sitting and looking down at your devices, limit the toxins you put in your body and use food and plants as your medicine and supplementation, and finally, keep good thoughts and positive people around you at all times. This is how we can live more like the Okinawans. For most of us in America, some of these stressors are harder to limit which is why it makes it important for you to get your spine and nervous system checked at least a couple of times a year by a Chiropractor.
Who would think that there is a dark side to exercising? With the New Year, many of you may have started a new routine thinking that you can do no harm in the gym. You buy your new gym shoes and gym bags ready to get fit. You try to imitate your favorite Instagram fitness guru, flipping tires and start off lifting way too much weight all while repeating the mantra “ No pain, no gain”. That saying is for the most part a lie, especially when talking about physical pain. The last thing I want is for anyone to have their good intentions ruined because of injury. Here are a couple of tips to avoid having your routine cut short:
With your workout routine you want to think long term and avoid the temptation of focusing on quick gains in a short period of time. This is beneficial for two reasons: 1. avoiding injury, which depending on the severity, can knock you out of the game for a few weeks or impact your physical ability for years going forward. 2. It is very hard to stay motivated to get to the gym if you decide to go hard every time you get there starting out. Don’t try to compare yourself to others, and start off slow with fewer repetitions and less time in the gym. If you started out fairly inactive before starting your new routine, simply walking a few times a day is a great start!
Here at Stout Chiropractic, we advise our patients to begin “listening” and paying attention to the movement of their bodies more. This is especially important to do in the gym as you are training. Especially when starting off, look in a mirror to make sure you are using good body mechanics or take note of them on a pad of paper and bring it to the attention of your Chiropractor, therapist or personal trainer for guidance. Some common movement pattern mistakes can be listed in a future blog, but the right movement pattern for you could be uniquely yours and should be evaluated by a professional.
No matter where you are with your workouts, it is always a good idea to give your body some time to rest and recover from a workout session. Working out every day may seem to be the path to six pack abs but is actually more likely to be cut short by injury or pain that will make it very hard or impossible to continue on that path. It is very important to try to move every day. Higher intensity workouts or weight lifting however, should be limited to two to three times a week for moderate level lifters and even less for novice lifters.
This is better for everyone, but especially if you are just beginning a workout routine, run on grass or other soft surfaces. Running on hard surfaces cause abnormal stresses on your lower extremity joints, especially your knees and hip sockets. This can cause issues over time with excessive jogging or for the more mature runner. Our body has adapted (or evolved) to run on uneven terrain that is relatively soft most of the time if you think back to where our ancestors would be running. They more than likely weren’t found running on paved paths or streets
Fun is subjective. Exercise and activity is not a “one size fits all” and if you try to force yourself to do something you do not enjoy then you will fall off of the wagon quickly. If you are at the point that no kind of activity other than sitting and watching TV is enjoyable, then you need to at the very least force yourself to begin walking. Our body is made to move innately so you will find yourself feeling unexpectedly good after a walk. Your body craves movement and that will become clearer in your mind once you start doing it and showing yourself what you’ve been missing.
This is an exciting part of the year. Many people have all of their goals listed out and look forward to transforming physically, mentally and spiritually into a new person by the end of the year. Unfortunately not everyone makes it to the end of their goals and even more unfortunately when it comes to physical goals, those aren’t being met due to injuries. I have listed out a couple of simple tips that you can take now, to ensure that you are able to work toward these goals all year long. Remember, this New Year is about growth, not reaching your end goal right away. Going to the gym later today or tomorrow may not get you those six pack abs right away, but every day that you commit to your goals, gets you that much closer to where you want and need to be. As said above, if you have any questions on form or anything health related, we are here and happy to help in any way we can.
Dr. J Rahman