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Your Posture and Your Emotions

June 10, 2011

depressed posture

Want to try an experiment? Slump down right now, wherever you are, into a hunched posture with your back bent and your spine collapsed.

Once you’re all hunched and slumped, try to do some challenging task. Multiple studies have found that people who are placed in a slumped posture are less likely to succeed in challenging tasks. In fact, they’re likely to exhibit signs of “helplessness” and “defeat.”

Some studies have found that observers are also likely to decide that someone with poor posture is depressed. Worse yet, people who have been asked to assume a slumped posture are more likely to report that they feel sad, depressed, or defeated.

We’re talking here about people with normal posture and normal emotional conditions who are asked to slump or hunch. They’re not asked to think about sad things or to pretend to be depressed, but they end up feeling and behaving as though they were sad.

It goes the other way, too. Depressed people are more likely to walk in a slumped posture with side to side movement. Playing sad music causes people to change their gait to this sad way of walking.

What happens outside of experimental situations? Sad people are more likely to exhibit poor posture. People with poor posture are more likely to feel sad. We may have a vicious circle here.

Poor posture has physical consequences as well, leading to back pain and stress.

Call Innovative Spine Rehab at (501) 221-6009 to schedule a consultation where you can learn solutions to your posture problems.

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Range of Motion

June 3, 2011

Physical therapy is often used to increase a joint’s range of motion — but just what does that mean?

Every joint allows movement: that’s what joints are for. Each joint normally moves in certain directions. So we expect to be able to twist our arm at the shoulder joint, but not to twist the knee around. We expect the knee to bend in one direction, but the wrist should be able to bend back and forth and side to side.

Each joint also has a normal amount of movement it can accomplish, expressed in angles. So a knee is expected to allow movement from a 0 degree angle (straight) to 150 degrees, which you’d experience when sitting on your knees as in the photo.

You wouldn’t expect your ankles to have the same range of motion.

Each joint has a degree and direction of motion that’s considered normal for that joint. If you have much less range of motion than this, you’re said to have a limited range of motion.

Limited range of motion can be caused by injury, inflammation, arthritis and other diseases and conditions, or even by fractures. Since there are so many possible causes, there are also many possible treatments.

Physical therapy is often recommended for limited range of motion. You may be given exercises, movement or manipulation of joints with support and assistance, or treatment with different kinds of machines.

Consistently following the treatment prescribed by your physical therapist is the key to success.

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Flip Flops and Pain

May 21, 2011

Flip flops used to be for kids to wear around the pool in summer. Now you can spend $250 for designer flip flops and increasing numbers of men and women wear them as their first choice for shoes.

Researchers at Auburn’s biomechanics library noticed an increase in pain among students in warm weather. Pain in feet, legs, heels, and backs seemed to go with fun, relaxing times — not what you’d expect. The researchers brainstormed all the differences they could come up with, and finally someone got the idea of studying flip flops.

Biomechanists filmed 39 students wearing flip flops, and analyzed the films. They had them walk on special platforms that measure force. Then they repeated the experiment with the same students wearing ordinary athletic shoes. They found some big differences:

  • You take shorter steps in flip flops, resulting not only in more movements to cover the same distance, but also in an unnatural gait that’s more taxing to the body.
  • You tense up your toes to keep the flip flops from falling off. As a result, the muscles that lift the foot can’t be as engaged, and the foot can’t be lifted normally. Instead of each muscles of the foot being engaged at a normal time and frequency, one set is always engaged and the other is never engaged, leading to cramping, shortening, and pain.
  • Flip flops create instability, further altering the gait while also increasing the likelihood of twisted ankles and falls.

The American College and Foot and Ankle Surgeons had already warned about increasing risks of heel pain from excess striking force and also of increasing risk of plantar fasciitis for people wearing flip-flops. It had previously been known that ill-fitting or poorly supporting shoes could threaten heel and ankle health, but it turns out that flip-flops are, by their very nature, ill-fitting and poorly supporting shoes.

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On Your Feet or On Your Seat? Health Dangers of Sitting Too Much

May 12, 2011

We’ve talked about the effects on your back health of being on your feet all day at work. What about the effects of sitting all day?

Usually when we think of sedentary life and its dangers, we’re thinking about not getting enough exercise. But people who sit all day at work may be facing some other risks — even if they get the recommended 30 minutes a day of cardio.

Stanford researchers think that the problem lies in the postural muscles — the muscles that hold you up rather than the ones that allow you to move. These are the inner muscles of the back, legs, neck, and hips, the muscles nearest the spine. These are the deepest of the core muscles, and you don’t usually feel them working.

It’s easy to ignore them. When we sit for six or more hours a day, we’re ignoring those muscles, and it seems to have an effect on our health.

The normal function of these muscles when we move seems to affect a number of other body functions:

  • blood circulation in general
  • glucose and fat regulation
  • cholesterol processing
  • heart rate and blood flow rate
  • blood flow to the legs in particular

“Your body shuts down on a metabolic level,” says one medical professional who studies this issue.

It is possible that sitting for more than four hours increases the risk of a wide range of problems ranging from diabetes to arthritis, stroke and heart disease. Some researchers have found that the risk of death from all causes is greatly increased by jobs requiring prolonged sitting.

These results hold true even for people who hit the gym before they go to spend eight hours in an office chair. What about those who sit and watch TV for another six or eight hours outside of the six or eight hours they spend sitting at work? Their risks are even greater.

If your work environment allows it, use a stability ball as your chair or a standing desk. For some tasks, a treadmill makes just as good a work station as a desk.

If your office doesn’t make this kind of change practical, get in the habit of walking while you talk on the phone, chat with coworkers, or think about problems. Run up and down the stairs to talk with colleagues instead of emailing. Ideally, you’ll be up and moving for ten minutes out of every hour.

Get in the habit of standing up and moving around throughout the day.

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Biking and Your Knees

May 5, 2011

Biking is a fun way to increase fitness. British studies have found that cycling just 20 miles a week can cut the risk of heart disease or heart attack in half. Cycling 30 minutes a day can help you drop 10 or 12 pounds in a year with no changes in your eating habits. Bike riding, with its combination of effective aerobic exercise and time spent enjoying nature, can also reduce stress and depression along with the physical ailments that can stem from stress.

There is one thing about biking that can be a negative: knee pain.

Overuse

The knee involves three bones: the femur, or thigh bone; the tibia, or shin bone, where the muscles of the thigh which move the knee attach; and the patella, or knee cap, which floats on top of the knee joint. There is one more bone, the fibula, which is parallel to the tibia. The knee joint has two articulations: one between the femur and the tibia and one between the patella and the tibia. When the knee bends, it rotates as well as flexing and extending. Both the quadriceps and the hamstrings are engaged in movements of the knee. In short, the knee is a complicated joint.

Overuse can make any part of your body hurt, and the knee is no exception. With such a complex joint, there are plenty of potential sources of pain. While a little muscle soreness is nothing to be afraid of, pain can keep you from getting back on the bike and enjoying another ride. The solution is to increase your time and distance gradually — about 10% per week. Work your way up to longer, hillier rides and higher gears.

Alignment and Bike Set Up

The height and angle of the saddle, the length of the crank, and the position of the pedals all can affect your knees. Make sure the bike is a good fit for you, and adjust everything to suit your body.

The best way to do this is to get assistance from your trainer or from the experienced people at a bike shop. Your investment in this step will pay off in greater comfort and less chance of knee pain.

Conditioning

Stretching before a bike ride doesn’t “warm up” your body and it doesn’t lead to fewer knee injuries. Stretching after your ride is a better bet. Better still is building overall conditioning into your daily routine.

Biking is a good all-around exercise, so you may think that a regular schedule of cycling is all you need. In fact, the movements of cycling never extend the knee. All that work is done with the knee flexed. This can lead to imbalance.

The strength of the core muscles also affects the likelihood of knee pain. Weak core muscles can lead to poor form in cycling, resulting in an increased chance of injury.

Regular stretching and strengthening can solve these problems. Contact Innovative Spine Rehab of Arkansas to develop a conditioning program designed specifically for you. You’ll enjoy your bike rides without sacrificing your knees.

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Arkansas Spine Health

April 29, 2011

Arkansas spine health

How do Arkansans stack up when it comes to spine health?

Here are some facts to consider:

  • In Arkansas, 24% of work-related injuries requiring time off from work are back problems.
  • The average number of days out of work was 6 in Arkansas, 7 nationally.
  • Most likely to hurt their backs? Service workers.
  • Most common type of injury? Sprains and strains.
  • Falls, overexertion, and lifting caused the most back injuries.
  • In the nation overall, work-related back injuries declined by more than 1/3 during the first decade of the 20th century. Arkansas saw about a 10% decrease in the same time.
  • During the same time period, the amount spent on treating back injuries has increased by 65%.
  • Spinal cord injuries are as frequent in Arkansas as in the rest of the country, but we have more auto accidents leading to injuries — about 50% more.
  • Top causes of spinal cord injuries in Arkansas: auto accidents, falls, diving, and gunshot wounds.

All in all, we’re pretty typical, but we could improve. If you’re ready to improve our scorecard as a state by improving your own back health, contact Innovative Spine Rehab.

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On Your Feet? What It Does to Your Spine

April 22, 2011

There are lots of reasons for being on your feet for hours at a time: parties or clubbing that goes on till late, singing in choir, working in retail or a factory line.

However it happens, the result is likely to be the same. Your back is killing you!

If you know you’ll be standing for a long time, choose comfortable shoes. Put one foot up on a step occasionally to rest. Stretch your legs and feet. Move as much as possible, even if only from one foot to another.

When you get home, your inclination may be to plop down on the sofa. Go ahead, but be sure to take some time to stretch out, too.

Above all, remember that just about everything that affects your body affects your spine. Your weight, your exercise routine, your sleeping habits — the spine is so integral to your body functioning that everything you do has an effect on your spine health. That means that taking care of your overall health will help when you have to be on your feet all day (or night).