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Month: November 2013

5 Tips to Better Push-Ups

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Push-ups are great exercise for the whole body and research has shown that being able to perform push-ups is a good indicator of your ability to maintain fitness into older age. Scientists have also noted that push-ups can provide seniors with the strength and muscle memory necessary to break a fall. But did you know that push-ups are particularly good for building your core strength? And that building your core strength is one of the keys to preventing low back pain?

However, it’s also very easy to do push-ups incorrectly, which can actually lead to pain in your shoulders and back. Metabolic trainer B.J. Gaddour, C.S.C.S. says “Unless they’ve had instruction before, I’ve never seen someone off the bat do a push-up perfectly. I see 99.9 percent of people do it wrong.”

Fitness

So here we provide you with 5 great tips to doing better push-ups.

1) Be sure your hips don’t sag. Your head, shoulders and hips should all be in a straight line as you perform your push-ups. If your hips droop, it could cause lower back pain and you will not gain as much core strength as you would if you kept head, shoulders and hips aligned. To help keep this from happening, tighten your gluteal muscles (the buttocks) and your abdominals as you perform your push-ups. (It should also be noted that your hips should not be sticking up, creating an inverted “v” shape).

2) Keep your elbows close to your sides. If you look like a “t” from above, with your elbows splayed out like wings, you could be causing damage to the rotator cuff of your shoulder. Although this is how many of us were taught to do push-ups in school, it’s not correct. If you have trouble keeping your elbows close to your torso, try doing push-ups on your fists, with the back of your hands facing out. This helps to keep your elbows from splaying.

3) Go as low as possible. Your elbows should ideally be at somewhat less than a 90-degree angle when you are at your lowest point. If you have trouble doing this initially, put a block or similar object beneath your chest for a reference. Then gradually reduce the size of the object as you develop the strength to go lower.

4) Start off easy. Many people do not yet have the strength to do even a single push-up on the floor and resort to so-called “knee push-ups”. Unfortunately, this will not help you gain the strength you need for regular push-ups and your body will not benefit as much from the effort. Instead, you can begin by doing push-ups against a wall, countertop or staircase and then gradually work your way to progressively lower (more horizontal) positions until you’re able to do a push-up on the floor. This is a great milestone!

5) Stretch your wrists. Putting all your upper body weight on your wrists can hurt after a while, since most of us are not accustomed to it. Give your wrists some relief by stretching them. While on your knees, place your hands palm-downwards, with your fingers pointed back toward your knees, lightly putting pressure on them to help stretch in the opposite direction to the way they are positioned during a push-up. This will allow them to support more weight for your next set.

What is a “Pinched Nerve”?

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A “pinched nerve” refers to a condition in which a nerve is compressed by surrounding tissue, such as ligament, cartilage, tendon or bone. The term “pinched nerve” is not a standard medical expression, but it’s an intuitive expression that almost anyone will understand.

Nerves radiate from your brain, down your spine and to all other parts of the body. Signals are sent from and to the brain along the nerves, and if a nerve is compressed (“pinched”), it will interfere with proper signal transmission. Usually, this will manifest as pain, not only at the site of compression, but sometimes radiating from that point to surrounding parts of the body. Misalignment of the spine can result in pinched nerves that can give you back pain and even a deadening ache or sensitivity along your arms (cervical radiculopathy) or legs (sciatica).

Any pain of this sort is a warning signal that there is a problem that should be treated right away. Left untreated, pinched nerves can lead to a loss of the protective barrier around the nerves which could generate fluid buildup. And this fluid would create swelling, more pressure, more pain, and possibly scarring. When nerves have been scarred, they may no longer function properly.

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Pain isn’t the only indication of a pinched nerve. Sometimes a compressed nerve will generate numbness or tingling, a burning or “pins and needles” sensation, or even weakness during certain activities.

Pinched nerves can occur more often when the following risk factors are involved:

·         Overuse—Repetitive actions such as movements during work or while involved in a hobby or sport.

·         Posture—Bad posture creates more pressure on the spine and the nerves traveling through it.

·         Gender—Women’s carpal tunnels are smaller and are at greater risk for carpal tunnel syndrome.

·         Rheumatoid arthritis—Inflammation of any kind can compress nerves, especially at the joints.

·         Obesity—Increased body weight can increase pressure on nerves throughout the body.

·         Bone spurs—Bone thickening (from conditions such as osteoarthritis) or trauma can lead to bone spurs that stiffen the spine and narrow the space through which the nerves pass.

Mainstream medicine frequently recommends drugs, including NSAIDs, oral corticosteroids, narcotics (for emergency, short-term pain relief) and steroid injections to treat the symptoms of a pinched nerve. The Mayo Clinic suggests that patients can sometimes recover within a few days or weeks from pinched nerves with rest and additional “conservative treatments.” Other mainstream medical treatments may include physical therapy, a splint to immobilize a limb to give it a bit of rest, or surgery.

A chiropractor specializes in nerve health and non-invasive methods of reducing pain and restoring proper function, including spinal adjustments and other treatments that take the pressure off the nerves without the need for drugs or surgery. Sometimes a single adjustment can lead to immediate relief. In other cases, repeat visits may be required for full recovery. If you or someone you care about is suffering from a pinched nerve, you should know that there are alternatives to drugs and surgery and that chiropractic care has proven effective in treating the source of the problem so it is less likely to recur in the future.

Are We Sitting Ourselves to Death?

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Whether we like to admit it or not, the technology in our lives—and the fact that we use much of it while sitting down—is contributing to a growing list of health problems in our society. Those who sit at a desk all day or sit behind the wheel of a car or truck with little or no exercise are at increased risk for a number of chronic health problems. According to the Mayo Clinic, those who have such a sedentary lifestyle are in danger of things like “obesity and metabolic syndrome — a cluster of conditions that includes increased blood pressure, high blood sugar, excess body fat around the waist and abnormal cholesterol levels.”

One study showed that those who spend a large amount of time in front of a television or other forms of screen entertainment had a roughly 50% greater risk of death from any source. It’s not really difficult to imagine why this might be the case. Greater body weight combined with lower strength and stamina and reduced balance and flexibility means less agility and durability. This in turn raises the likelihood of more accidents or injuries. The same study showed a 125% greater risk of problems from cardiovascular disease. Care was taken to separate the risk of sitting from that of high blood pressure. Those who had the same high blood pressure, but who sat less, had fewer incidents of health problems.

WebMD has added cancer to the list of ailments for which excessive sitting may be a risk factor. One Australian study of 63,000 older adult men showed that men who sat for more than 4 hours a day were more likely to have a serious, chronic illness than those who sat for less than 4 hours per day. Above 6 hours per day, men were at significantly greater risk of diabetes. Those who regularly sat more than 8 hours a day had the highest level of health risk.

If you already have back pain, seeing a chiropractor is a big step in the right direction. A chiropractor can help to realign your vertebrae and, in many cases, an adjustment can provide immediate relief.
If you already have back pain, seeing a chiropractor is a big step in the right direction. A chiropractor can help to realign your vertebrae and, in many cases, an adjustment can provide immediate relief.

Yet another study showed that back pain strikes 80% of all adults at some time in their life. A significant number of these people suffer because they sit too much. Their core muscles lose conditioning and their waistline becomes a burden that causes the back muscles to do more work to make up for soft abdominals. Weak muscles put the body at risk even during simple tasks. With a more sedentary lifestyle, it becomes easier and easier to overdo the reaching, the lifting or other simple physical work that occurs during any typical day.

There’s another reason that movement is particularly important when it comes to maintaining good spinal health. If the spine is kept motionless, circulation is reduced and it cannot get the nutrients it needs to stay healthy or to heal itself.

 If you already have back pain, seeing a chiropractor is a big step in the right direction. A chiropractor can help to realign your vertebrae and, in many cases, an adjustment can provide immediate relief. However, even world-class chiropractic care is no substitute for a healthy lifestyle that includes a good diet and lots of exercise. The doctor can’t do all the work for you.

So what can you do? The Mayo Clinic recommends finding more excuses to move around throughout the day, instead of saving it up for a trip to the gym. Waiting until the end of the day to push your body at the gym for 30 minutes is a bit like saving your meals to the end of the month and eating 90 platefuls all at once. You need to spread your movement throughout the day so your body can stay in top condition.

How to Maintain and Improve Your Memory

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No matter how old you are, you’ve probably already had what is commonly referred to as “a senior moment”. It’s not the least bit unusual to occasionally misplace your car keys or walk into a room and forget what you went there for.
While this sort of thing is not necessarily a sign of declining memory, some types of cognitive ability do seem to decline naturally as we age. Experts have examined how the brain’s functions change as we age and have found that practicing certain behaviors can help you maintain and improve your memory as you get older.
Similar to exercising your body on a regular basis to keep it in shape, exercising your mind appears to help maintain cognitive ability. A study conducted by Dr. Joe Verghese and published in the New England Journal of Medicine found that the more cognitively stimulating leisure activities that were performed by older adults, the less their risk of dementia. Those who played board games, read, played a musical instrument or danced, for instance, were 63% less likely to develop dementia than those who did not. Other studies have found that the more time people spend learning something, the lower their risk of dementia. Those who know two or more languages develop Alzheimer’s over four years later on average than those who know only one language.
Following are some activities that may help to maintain your cognitive ability:
·    Join a book club
·    Do crossword puzzles
·    Learn a new language
·    Play new board games
·    Play chess or bridge
·    Take an online course
·    Go to lectures in your community
·    Learn how to play a musical instrument
·    Learn how to dance
Studies have shown that what you eat and how much you exercise also have a lot to do with your risk of Alzheimer’s or other types of dementia. One study found that walking 30 minutes a day for six months significantly improves cognitive ability. And people who do weight training in addition to aerobic exercise benefit more greatly than those who only perform one type of exercise.
Certain foods feed the brain and have been shown to help improve memory and general brain function. A diet high in omega-3 fatty acids and antioxidants can contribute greatly to maintaining a good memory. Increase your intake of fatty fish such as salmon, sardines and herring, and add an array of colorful vegetables to your plate. Bright red, orange, purple and yellow vegetables are particularly high in antioxidants. Also, studies have found that drinking alcohol in moderation improves the brain’s ability to form and maintain memory, which was not the case for those who either abstained or drank heavily.
Not only can we maintain our cognitive ability as we age, there are ways of improving it as well. The more you use your brain, the more cognitive pathways that are developed and the better your memory becomes. Following are a few tips on how to improve your memory:
·    Involve all your senses when learning. The more senses that are involved when learning a new thing, the easier it is to remember. One study found that people who were shown a series of images along with a smell were better able to remember the images, even when the smell was not present.
·    Repeat what you want to remember. Speaking information out loud or writing it down helps to cement it in the brain. For example, if you are meeting a new person, repeat their name as you greet them: “So Daniel, how do you know Trish?”
·    Repeat things over time. Review information you need to memorize at increasingly longer intervals: first every hour, then every several hours, then every few days. The information will stay in your memory better than if you study it intensively in a short period of time.
·    Create mnemonics. Using acronyms to remember information can be helpful. For instance, RICE for acute injuries: Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation.

What is “Sick Building Syndrome”?

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If you find yourself inexplicably leaving work each day with flu-like symptoms that seem to disappear overnight or on weekends, you may be a victim of “sick building syndrome” (SBS). SBS is defined as a range of ailments which appear to have no specific cause but are strongly associated with a person’s place of work or their residence.

Changes in building design and how buildings are ventilated since the energy crisis of the 1970s appears to be one of the main causes of sick building syndrome. Large numbers of people working closely to one another in new buildings with windows that do not open are particularly susceptible to the condition. Interestingly, however, a recent large-scale study did not find a significant association between the physical work environment and sick building syndrome. The psychosocial aspect of the work environment seemed to have a much greater effect. Those who work in high-stress jobs with little support appear to suffer from the condition the most.

The 2006 study performed by British researchers and published in the journal Occupational and Environmental Medicine analyzed questionnaires submitted by over 4,000 study participants. The survey included questions about the participants’ social and demographic characteristics, the physical work environment, psychosocial characteristics of the workplace and any SBS symptoms.

The greatest number of symptoms was found in those who had little control over their work, who had an excessive work load, and who were exposed to social and mental stress at work.
The greatest number of symptoms was found in those who had little control over their work, who had an excessive work load, and who were exposed to social and mental stress at work.

There was some indication that the greatest environmental problems were due to temperatures outside the recommended range, airborne bacteria, dust and poor relative humidity. However these were not statistically significant. The greatest association with SBS was due to psychosocial factors. The greatest number of symptoms was found in those who had little control over their work, who had an excessive work load, and who were exposed to social and mental stress at work.

Symptoms of sick building syndrome may include the following:

·         Dull headaches

·         Dizziness

·         Nausea

·         Aches and pains

·         Excessive fatigue

·         Vision problems

·         Poor concentration

·         Shortness of breath

·         Coughing

·         Wheezing

·         Tightness in the chest

·         Ear and throat irritation

·         Irritated, congested or runny nose

·         Skin irritation (rashes, dry itchy skin)

Symptoms may vary from day to day and can appear in different combinations. The risk of sick building syndrome is greater in buildings with open plan seating, low humidity, poor ventilation, electrostatic charges, particles from dust, carpeting or cleaning materials, a dirty working environment and poor lighting that causes visual screens to glare or flicker.

If you find yourself experiencing symptoms of sick building syndrome, discuss it with your coworkers to see if any of them may be experiencing similar symptoms. If so, consult with your employer about the possibility that working conditions may be causing your illness. Here are some steps you can take to help alleviate the problem:

·         If possible, open windows to get fresh air circulating through the room

·         Take regular 5- to 10-minute breaks from your computer screen, if you use one

·         Arrange your furniture ergonomically to avoid unnecessary stress on your back and arms

·         Organize your tasks and delegate work so as not to become stressed

·         Get regular exercise to maintain good general fitness

Follow a healthy diet and avoid sugary snacks

Best Exercises for Hip Health and Mobility

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When it comes to ease-of-movement, problems with our hips usually take a back seat to other joint problems that become more obvious as our musculoskeletal system ages. In particular, our back and knees are prone to problems that can restrict our activities and cause chronic pain. However, the health of our hips is actually crucially important in ensuring that we maintain mobility into old age because they are the center around which the forces of movement revolve. buttocks workout-leg raises

Pain in both our back and our knees is often due to decreased hip mobility. A chronic lack of exercise combined with long hours of sitting, which is common to people with a desk job, causes the muscles around the hips (particularly the hip flexors) to become shorter and weaker. When this happens, range of motion is decreased and the back and knees take on much of the work that healthy mobile hips normally would. This causes the back and knees to work harder and can result in overuse injuries. If you’ve ever strained your back when picking up a heavy object, it may have been due to a lack of strength and mobility in your hips. In order to help prevent future injury to your back and knees, following are some of the best exercises for hip health and mobility.

Hip swings – Steady yourself with one hand on the back of a chair or similar object. Swing one leg forward and back, keeping it straight, and being sure to move from the hip and not the thigh. Do fifteen of these on each leg. Then change direction and practice swinging your leg across the front of your body and out to the side. Do fifteen sets of these as well. Try to move your torso as little as possible when doing this exercise for the greatest benefit.

Forward lunge – Standing with your feet hip-width apart, lunge forward with your right leg, bringing your left knee to the floor. Shift your weight forward until your right knee is perpendicular over your foot and hold for 30 seconds. Repeat lunge on opposite side.

Dog at the hydrant – While on hands and knees, lift one leg out to the side and draw small clockwise circles in the air with your knee, gradually making them larger. Then do the same using counter-clockwise circles. Repeat with the other leg.

Lying butterfly and variation – While lying on your back, bend your knees and bring the soles of your feet together, with your knees pointing out to the sides. Hold for 30 seconds. Then bring your knees up so you are lying with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor. Bring the outside of your left ankle to rest on your right knee. Reach with your left hand through the little triangle made by your left leg to interlace your fingers behind your right thigh and gently pull your right leg toward your body (with your ankle still resting on the front of your knee). Repeat with the other leg.

Car Accidents and Delayed Symptoms: What You Need to Know

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Even if your recent fender bender didn’t seem too serious, there’s still a very real chance that you or your passengers may have been hurt. That’s because even the most minor car accidents can cause hidden injuries and delayed symptoms. And while damage to your car is likely obvious and easy to assess, evaluating damage to your body may be far more difficult. In fact, it’s not unusual for a driver or passenger to walk away from a collision with potentially serious musculoskeletal injuries (such as a concussion or whiplash), without knowing it.

In addition to the health consequences of car accidents with delayed symptoms, there is also the insurance aspect to consider.
In addition to the health consequences of car accidents with delayed symptoms, there is also the insurance aspect to consider.

Because of the stress response, right after an accident the body’s defenses are on high alert. Any pain may be masked by endorphins produced by the body during and shortly after this kind of traumatic event. Endorphins help the body manage pain and stress and can create a temporary euphoria or “high” feeling. When the threat of the accident is gone, endorphin production slowly disappears, allowing you to feel pain that may have remained hidden earlier.

Perhaps the most common delayed symptom is that of whiplash. Whiplash consists of soft tissue damage in the neck from the sudden acceleration and deceleration of the head, creating hyperflexion and hyperextension of the neck. This can not only cause damage to the muscles, tendons and ligaments of your neck, it can also occasionally fracture or dislocate vertebrae and cause any of the following symptoms to show up later:

·         Headaches

·         Reduced range of motion or difficulty moving

·         Slowed reflexes

·         Vertigo

·         Muscle spasms

·         Localized weakness or numbness

·         Stiffness in shoulders and arms

Every bit as serious as any broken bones or lacerations, a concussion can prove to be a grave threat to your health. Quite simply, a concussion is the result of the brain colliding with the inside of the skull from a rapid acceleration or deceleration. Not all concussions occur because of bumping the head. If the head is restrained in any way and the restraint suddenly stops or suddenly jerks into motion, a concussion may occur. Symptoms of concussion include the following:

·         Headaches

·         Bad temper

·         Nausea

·         Spasms

·         Loss of balance

·         Blurred or double vision

·         Disorientation

·         Confusion

·         Amnesia

·         Ringing in the ears

·         Difficulty concentrating or reasoning

·         Anxiety or depression

·         Tiredness, sleeplessness, or other problems with your ability to sleep

The key point with any of these symptoms is to know whether or not you had them before the accident. Someone who knows you or lives with you can help identify any changes in your behavior that may indicate a possible concussion. If you didn’t have a symptom that you’re now experiencing, see your doctor right away.

In addition to the health consequences of car accidents with delayed symptoms, there is also the insurance aspect to consider. Because many accident-related injuries don’t show up immediately, you may have to pay out-of-pocket for the medical expenses from any delayed symptoms if you settle with your insurance company right away. Therefore, consider waiting a few days before signing any release of liability so that any delayed symptoms have an opportunity to reveal themselves. Seeing a chiropractor for a medical evaluation as soon as possible after an accident is also a good idea, since he or she can help identify injuries and start treatment promptly. In many cases, seeking appropriate medical care soon after an accident can improve your chances of a more complete and more rapid recovery.