Designer Bags, Smartphones and High Heels Could Affect Your Health Say NZ Chiropractors
Date: 15th June 2016
Your choice of handbag and how you carry it may be affecting your health long term, according to the New Zealand Chiropractors’ Association.
NZCA spokesperson and chiropractor Dr Cassandra Fairest explains: `Regularly carrying a large, heavy bag, texting and looking down can cause an alteration in your natural posture. When you add the combination of high heels it becomes a recipe for accelerated symptoms. The heels tilt your pelvis forward and cause adaptive muscle shortening over time, predisposing you to back pain. The heavy bag over one shoulder magnifies the risk of chronic pain and neuromusculoskeletal dysfunction.
`Shoulder bags are one of the biggest issues. Your natural posture is disrupted if you carry one, and loading it with heavy items adds to the strain on your spine. It alters the way your arms and legs swing when you walk and increases tension in muscles as they work to counter-balance the weight. Long term this can make your body lopsided and affects your spinal posture. Chiropractors are highly trained in assessing and assisting with the damage that this may cause. Prevention is of course always better than cure.’
Dr Fairest points out that all the weight of the bag is on one shoulder, and most people will carry their bag on their dominant side. This causes the muscles in the dominant shoulder to become bigger and chiropractors are commonly seeing people with significant asymmetry in posture, such as one shoulder higher than the other.
`This asymmetric load also causes the opposite side go into spasm to compensate as it attempts to stabilise your spine. The muscle spasm and fatigue then also affects lower down at the base of the spine, forcing all the muscles below the shoulders to work even harder’, Dr Fairest adds. ‘Not only can it cause a lot of stiffness and eventually soreness in the upper back, the shoulder area and the neck, it’s been associated with a decreased curve in the neck, a pathological condition, which is known as “military neck.” Military neck, or forward head carriage, then speeds up degeneration in the spine, and this can cause many ongoing problems as we age as nerves and other tissues are affected.’
There is a longer term risk that women will develop arthritis in their lower neck, and will have difficulty turning the head. The dreaded “Dowager’s Hump” can also be a consequence. Tension headaches may also result from spasms in the shoulder and neck muscles, which may cause pain in the back of the skull that radiates around to the front. Compression or irritation to nerves supplying the arms, hands and other areas can arise with various associated symptoms.
Posture has also been shown to have an effect on many other areas of health and wellbeing beyond symptoms of pain such as mood, energy levels, self-confidence, range of motion, and change in the release of stress hormones.  Poor posture can also negatively impact on job prospects, decision making, work productivity and other areas of life.
Dr Fairest advises her patients to never carry more than five percent of their body weight in a shoulder bag. She says: `You’d be surprised at how much some of us are carrying and the bag itself can weigh quite a lot on its own if it has a lot of studs and big zippers. I also look for bags with handles plus a wide strap as the strap distributes the weight over a wider area, and the handles give an option to carry the bag in your hand or over your forearm.’
She advises bags with handles or those with longer straps for crossbody wearing distribute the weight more evenly but adds: `Change things around regularly by switching to the opposite shoulder at intervals when walking so that you balance the way your body carries the weight and your muscles develop equally.’
New Zealand Research Suggests Pregnant Women May Benefit From Chiropractic Care
Date: Tuesday 29th March 2016
New Zealand research suggests that pregnant women may benefit particularly from chiropractic care adding weight to the positive outcomes many women have reported. Results from a pilot study, due to be published in the Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics, indicate that chiropractic adjustments of pregnant women appear to relax the pelvic floor muscles at rest .
Commenting on the study, Dr Cassandra Fairest, chiropractor and spokesperson for the New Zealand Chiropractors’ Association says: `As there were no changes documented when they adjusted the non-pregnant comparison group, this finding in the pregnant women appears to be an effect unique in pregnancy’.
‘This relaxation of the pelvic floor muscles seen after the women were adjusted may mean that chiropractic care could be of benefit to pregnant women, as it may help them have a natural vaginal delivery. Excessive tension and restriction in the pelvic floor may be a contributing factor to the need for some assisted deliveries requiring intervention with forceps or c-section. The primary findings of this study are incredibly encouraging, especially given the fact that quantitatively assessing the effect of spinal adjustment on pelvic floor muscle function has not previously been done.’
The study, funded by the Australian Spinal Research Foundation, was conducted by internationally award winning researcher Dr Heidi Haavik, Director of the Chiropractic Research Centre at the New Zealand College of Chiropractic, Dr Jenny Kruger, midwife and Research Fellow at Auckland University’s Bioengineering Institute and Dr Bernadette Murphy, Professor Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Ontario Institute of Technology.
The study saw participants undergo ultrasound examination, and perform three different manoeuvres – squeezing as hard as they could, bearing down (that pushing which opens up the Hiatus hole in the pelvic floor) and at rest. They studied the women in the control group and the active group, and looked at them pre and post adjustment.
Dr Fairest says: `The pelvic floor muscles (the Levator Ani muscle complex) are known to have active roles in pregnancy and childbirth, as well as in spinal stabilisation. When the pelvic floor muscles are damaged or stressed over time, health issues like incontinence and vaginal prolapses can occur. We know these are problems with massive emotional, physical, social and financial costs across the world and a significant cause of stress for these women.’
Commenting on her research Dr Heidi Haavik says: `For a woman in labour, the ability to relax pelvic floor muscles (as well as contract them) to allow the baby to move through the birth canal is incredibly important, especially as the baby crowns. If the woman can’t relax these muscles as the baby moves through, she will tire more quickly and may require intervention to assist with the birthing process. Muscles that cannot relax may also result in a birth requiring intervention. In an ideal situation, strong pelvic floor muscles with an ability to relax would better prepare a mother for a natural, vaginal birth.’
`We were expecting to see changes in the squeezes and pushes, but we saw nothing. But what was really interesting is that the actual (hiatus) hole itself became larger at rest. What it suggests is the muscles that form the pelvic floor rim that support our internal organs and that contract and relax to give birth to a baby, must have relaxed. That alone is extremely exciting. The relaxation of those muscles is so important and assists in being able to give birth naturally.’
Dr Haavik points out that it’s early days in terms of understanding the full impact of this study’s findings and that further research is required. But she explains: `We do now know that adjusting women during their pregnancy gives them a greater ability to relax the pelvic floor. For pregnant women, this has the potential to give them a greater degree of control over the pelvic floor muscles, which in turn may make vaginal childbirth easier. At this point, we can only speculate on what the impacts could be in terms of reduced need for medical intervention, or increased well-being of mother and child. But it does indeed show us that chiropractic may be of significant benefit to pregnant women. The current findings are from a pilot study and of course further scientific studies are required to validate these initial results.’
1. Pelvic floor functional changes with spinal manipulation in pregnant and non-pregnant women: A pilot study. JMPT 2016. In Press.
A SIDEWAYS GLANCE MIGHT HELP WOMEN AVOID PAIN AND IMPROVE LIFE SAY NEW ZEALAND CHIROPRACTORS
Date: Wednesday 3rd February 2016
A SIDEWAYS GLANCE MIGHT HELP WOMEN AVOID PAIN AND IMPROVE LIFE SAY NEW ZEALAND CHIROPRACTORS
Paying attention to their side profile could help women avoid neck and back problems and improve their quality of life in many other areas according to the New Zealand Chiropractors’ Association (NZCA).
New research published by the British Chiropractic Association (BCA) suggests that women whose heads lean forward are most likely to be currently suffering from back or neck pain (58%), followed by those with an excessively arched lower back (56%)1. Whether you stand like a spoon or a leaning tower, a bridge or a flat back may indicate problems ahead.
Women whose heads lean forward are also the most likely to suffer from back or neck pain ‘every day’ (29%). Those with a flat back were the least likely to have experienced pain, with 21 per cent having remained pain-free.*
According to Dr. Hayden Thomas, chiropractor and spokesperson for the New Zealand Chiropractors’ Association: `Whether a woman has an apple or hourglass figure appears to be less important than their side profiles as far as back and neck pain triggers go. Just over 25 per cent of women told the British researchers that a bout of back or neck pain can last for one to three days at a time, so we do need to do all we can to prevent problems. The good news is that making changes to your posture doesn’t call for extreme dieting or exercise programmes and can be managed really simply with the help of your family chiropractor.’
Posture has also been shown to have an effect on many other areas of health and wellbeing beyond symptoms of pain such as mood, energy levels, self-confidence, range of motion, and change in the release of stress hormones2,3. Poor posture can also negatively impact on job prospects, decision making, work productivity and other areas of life2-4.
The BCA research reveals that the average age women start to suffer from back or neck pain is 34 years meaning that your twenties are a key time for poor posture to really take hold and cause issues. The NZCA is concerned that women especially are suffering unnecessarily, with poor posture now appearing to have taken over from large breasts and overall weight issues as the most common cause of spinal problems.
The BCA researchers asked women which side-shape they are, with four broad categories of altered posture compared to the ideal.
• Spoon – flat back, rounded shoulders
• Leaning tower – head leans forward
• Bridge – arched back
• Flat-pack – flat back
Hayden Thomas explains: `The aim in establishing good posture is to give you a neutral side-on appearance when standing in a relaxed stance with your ears, shoulders, hips, knees and ankles in line. Imagine you have a plumb line hanging straight from your ears to ankles – with everything in the middle sitting on the same line. One way to do this is to try standing in a relaxed way and then gently contract the abdominal muscles.’ While ideal seated or standing posture is extremely important, Dr Thomas adds that ‘the best posture is always the next posture’, or in other words, try to keep moving as the joints and muscles of the body require this just like they require an essential nutrient.
The NZCA is promoting a programme of simple stretches and exercises, designed to improve posture and help prevent back pain by enhancing balance, strength and flexibility of the spine. Straighten Up New Zealand is an easy and enjoyable every day programme to improve spinal health and posture.
Consisting of a set of simple exercises and taking just three minutes to complete, Straighten Up New Zealand will help improve posture, stabilise core muscle groups, enhance health and prevent spinal disability. Think of it as daily spinal hygiene just like brushing your teeth benefits oral health. A regular check-up by your family chiropractor will also help keep your spinal movement, nervous system function and posture at its best.
*Out of all women with an arched back, a flat back, rounded shoulders, or head leaning forwards. Research carried out on behalf of the BCA.
2 University of California Berkeley Wellness Newsletter http://www.berkeleywellness.com/healthy-mind/mind-body/article/body-mind-connection
SPRING IS THE PERFECT TIME TO “JUST START WALKING” SAY NEW ZEALAND CHIROPRACTORS
Date: 6th October 2015
The longer days and warmer weather are a perfect combination to take up regular exercise and even just walking more has a host of healthy benefits according to the New Zealand Chiropractors’ Association (NZCA).
Chiropractor and NZCA spokesperson Dr Hayden Thomas explains: ‘Walking benefits all aspects of your health – from increasing your levels of vitamin D, improving the efficiency of heart and lung function, reducing circulating stress hormones, assisting spinal function, and helping with weight-loss. And it’s something nearly everyone can do to increase their fitness and wellbeing. As part of the Just Start Walking initiative from the World Federation of Chiropractic, a global non-profit organisation, we’re encouraging New Zealanders to think about making more journeys on foot.’
`We know that for every 20 minutes you spend sitting, it takes your spine about 30 minutes of standing or 5 minutes of walking to recover.1,2 Walking regularly will also help improve your immune system, blood and lymph circulation, enhance mood and energy levels, and help maintain good levels of bone density.3 What’s more there’s no gym membership fee to pay, you can do it with friends and you can walk anywhere, at any time.’
The Just Start Walking programme is for everyone but the NZCA recommends getting a spinal check-up with your family chiropractor prior to starting any new exercise regime. An NZCA chiropractor will evaluate your spine for joint dysfunction and analyse your posture for imbalances, two conditions which may predispose you to walking related injuries.
Some Tips on How to Get Started
? Visit your local NZCA chiropractor for a spinal system check up
? Commit to a nine week walking programme
? Start slowly – set achievable targets to prevent injury and to motivate you
? Find a friend or work colleague to walk with
? Wear supportive footwear which is designed for walking
? Warm up with gentle stretching exercises at the start and end of your walk
? Drink plenty of water and have regular breaks and healthy snacks
? Mix it up – walking different routes, at different speeds with different inclines
? Log your goals/achievements on the ‘Personal Activity Calendar’
? Enjoy your walking!
Just Start Walking is an initiative from the World Federation of Chiropractic, a global non-profit association which was recognised by the World Health Organisation (WHO) as a non-governmental organisation in January 1997. For more information and to download Your Personal Activity Calendar go to Just Start Walking New Zealand – NZCA
Dr Thomas points out: ‘Chiropractors specialise in helping people achieve proper movement and spinal function but also recognise the importance of supplying your body with the right ingredients so it can express itself at its optimum. Vitamin D, the sunshine vitamin, is an essential part of many body processes and the evidence is that majority of people in our modern world are severely deficient. Just walking outside in nature a little more would go a long way to countering this issue and many other problems of our modern lifestyle and environment.’
1) Restaino RM, Holwerda SW, Credeur DP, Fadel PJ, Padilla J. Impact of prolonged sitting on lower and upper limb micro- and macrovascular dilator function. Experimental Physiology 2015;100(7):829-38.
PAIN MEDICATION USAGE COULD BE CUT BY GETTING A BETTER BED SAY NEW ZEALAND CHIROPRACTORS
Date: 6th August 2015
New Zealanders could reduce their use of pain relief medication by purchasing a new bed and taking better care of their spinal health, the country’s chiropractors advised today.
The New Zealand Chiropractors’ Association (NZCA) says mounting research from around the world, including New Zealand, shows that poor quality sleep and spinal issues can lead to chronic pain and other conditions.
Dr Hayden Thomas, chiropractor and spokesperson for the NZCA explains: `Not only can a bad bed worsen your spinal health, the poor quality sleep you get from lying on a bad bed makes you feel any existing pain much more intensely. What can happen is that people rely more and more on painkillers instead of addressing their spine. One of the things a chiropractor will do when a patient presents with chronic pain is look at what is happening with the spine and discuss sleeping habits and conditions.’
A report on Sleep and Chronic Pain just published by the American Academy of Pain Medicine shows that sleep deprivation increases pain perception, saying ‘These findings highlight the importance of addressing sleep disturbance in patients presenting with pain symptoms.’
Dr Thomas points out: `With new research highlighting more risks associated with the increased use of opioids for pain, chiropractic associations around the world are urging patients and healthcare providers to consider first exhausting conservative forms of management such as chiropractic care and improved sleeping conditions.’
According to a recent report published in the Journal of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons the increased use of opioid painkillers has led to unanticipated consequences such as a developed tolerance amongst some patients to the drugs and poor treatment outcomes for conditions such as work-related neuromusculoskeletal disorders, joint replacements and spinal surgery.
Dr Thomas notes: `These drugs numb the pain and may convince a patient that a neuromusculoskeletal condition is less severe than it is, or that it has healed. So instead of seeking advice on the causes of their condition from their healthcare professional, they may over-exert the affected region and delay the healing process or even cause more extensive or permanent injury.’
‘We should start by looking at all the other options first. Can we improve the patients’ sleep? New British research shows that more than half of us (55%) wait until our bed loses all firmness before changing it, more than one in ten (11%) adults have never replaced their mattress at all, and 16 per cent wait until they experience aches and pains before doing so. A visit to your local chiropractor for care and advice is the first step towards getting a good night’s sleep, conservatively managing pain and improving spinal function.’
Health care quality organisations now recognise the value of a conservative approach. Earlier this year, the US Joint Commission, which certifies more than 20,000 health care organisations and programmes in the United States including every major hospital, revised its pain management standard to include chiropractic care and acupuncture. Clinical experts in pain management who provide input to the Commission’s standards affirmed that treatment strategies might consider both pharmacologic and non-pharmacologic approaches.
 T.R Deer et al. (eds), Treatment of Chronic Pain by Integrative Approaches: the AMERICAN ACADEMY of PAIN MEDICINE Textbook on Patient Management, DOI 10.1007/978-1-4939-1821-8_16
GROWING PAINS MAY MASK SERIOUS CONDITIONS, WARN NZ CHIROPRACTORS
Date: 10th February 2015
The New Zealand Chiropractors’ Association warns parents to be cautious about dismissing their children’s complaints as ‘growing pains’ and just a rite of passage, pointing out that the symptoms may indicate more serious conditions.
NZCA spokesman and chiropractor Dr Hayden Thomas says: `We should be really clear about this, kids should not have pain. It so often gets brushed off as just ‘growing pains’ but we recognise that pain can be a sign of a real developmental or functional problem, and in some rare occasions a more serious disease process – a clear signal that all is not well.’
The NZCA warning follows reports in the UK media about a young woman diagnosed in her teens with growing pains who actually had an unusual early form of cervical cancer. It is also timely with the back-to-school burden that heavy backpacks and long periods of sitting can place on the developing spine and body. Parents of children under regular chiropractic care report a reduction in ‘growing pains’ and improvement in function after chiropractic adjustments.1,2
Dr Thomas says: `Parents should consider taking their child to an NZCA member chiropractor for a check up to see if something is functionally or structurally amiss. Your chiropractor will adapt their techniques to suit the age and condition of the patient and may advise on other factors that can contribute to childhood pains such as hydration, proper muscular and skeletal development and nutritional deficiencies or stresses.’
Chiropractors are primary care providers who are trained to recognise other disease processes and will refer to the most appropriate healthcare provider if they suspect something more serious may be occurring.
Growing pains are cramping, achy muscle leg pains that may start as early as age three or four and may reoccur aged 8-12. They often occur in the late afternoon or evenings and may cause children to wake up in the night. They are probably not linked to growth spurts and appear to be more common after intensive physical activity or sports. They can be experienced for months or even years but eventually subside.
Dr Thomas says: ‘While it is unknown why growing pains occur, just because it may be common does not mean it is normal. Studies suggest that children who have growing pains may be more sensitive to pain, and more likely to have headaches and abdominal pain. Chiropractic care, along with home based interventions such as massaging the legs, stretching the leg muscles and placing a warm cloth or heating pad on the legs have all been shown to help.1,2,3
`We know that good posture is a key part of maintaining good spinal health, so we want to encourage New Zealanders to visit their chiropractor and make sure that everything is aligned and moving the way it should be. Your family chiropractor will be able to advise you on ways to improve your posture and ensure you have a healthier spine and a healthier spine is an important part of improved overall health and wellbeing.’
Dr Hayden Thomas explains: ‘The NZCA recommends having every member of the family checked by an NZCA chiropractor because regular chiropractic care can help the spine and nervous system to function at an optimal level, regardless of the presence or absence of symptoms. Doing the three-minute set of simple exercises recommended by Straighten Up New Zealand (SUNZ) every day will help improve posture, stabilise core muscle groups, enhance health and prevent spinal disability. It is also important to encourage family members to stand or sit correctly and to take frequent breaks to walk around and stretch if they have been sitting down for a while. This will help to stop muscles getting tight and strained, joints from becoming restricted and nerves from becoming compressed, irritated or fatigued.’
Straighten Up New Zealand is a simple, engaging spinal exercise programme, designed to promote spinal health. The Straighten Up campaign was originally developed in the US and is now being adopted by countries all over the world. The NZCA has developed a website to support the campaign. Remember that is always advisable to have any pain that is severe or not improving checked out promptly by your chiropractor.
For more information on the Straighten Up campaign, visit www.straightenup.org.nz. Further details on the New Zealand Chiropractors’ Association can be found at www.chiropractic.org.nz.