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By Dr. Graham
We know that falling (called “a fall”) is a major risk for injury in older adults and is a significant cause of death. Life can be very difficult for those who experience a fall. In my own case, my dear Nan was very fit and healthy in her eighties when she heard a car crash outside her house in northern NSW some years ago. She got up quickly and began to race outside to help. But she tripped, broke her leg and never returned home again. Instead she suffered multiple complications, had a long hospital stay and ended her life in aged care. She went from being very independent and functional to totally dependent on the medical and aged care system in one fateful second. This was indeed a sad thing to witness. Nan had been a very independent person, so much so that she would not I imagine have even dreamed of going to see a chiropractor. Even when in aged care when the physio came around to offer exercises for her “dicky” knee, Nan would send the physio away to “someone who needed it more”!!
There are some studies that show how receiving chiropractic adjustments can help our brain “know” where our arms and legs are in space, without looking. That scientifically known mechanism has been understood for a long time and is called “proprioception”. Remember from my last article, we talked about the brain-body connection and chiropractic. Our brain needs to know where the rest of our body is – so that we are well co-ordinated and we move without stumbling.
Researcher Dr Kelly Holt in New Zealand conducted a scientific study involving two groups of older age participants. One group received chiropractic care and the other did not. The researchers measured how quickly each person could move their foot in response to a light that flashed on the ground. They also measured a thing called ankle “joint position sense”. The ability to move the foot in this way has previously been shown to be a factor in how well a person recovers after they trip on something or if another unexpected change happens – in order to get the foot down and avoid falling. The researchers found improvements in both parameters for those who had chiropractic care – but also importantly, there were no such beneficial changes for the group that did not receive the chiropractic treatment. This suggests that chiropractic may translate to less risk of falls in older people. The research adds to that already done investigating how chiropractic and other manual therapies may reduce the risk of falls in the elderly.
Reference: Haavik, Heidi. 2019. “The Reality Check. A quest to understand chiropractic from the inside out”. Haavik Research, Auckland, NZ.
By Dr. Graham
Chiropractic was founded in 1895 in Iowa, the USA by Dr Daniel David Palmer. But in fact, spinal manipulation had been used in several other countries for a long time prior to then. Since those days, chiropractic has developed into an increasingly sophisticated health care profession backed in Australia now by a 5 years science based university Masters degree. For many decades, chiropractors have observed and their patients have experienced better body balance, after they have come in saying, “ My back feels out”. How does that happen? Well chiropractors and other professionals have theorized about how adjustments can restore alignment and function after a chiropractic adjustment – now, the science is in!!
What controls everything in our amazing body? The Brain!
I have been catching up on some chiropractic research that identifies clearly what happens in our nervous system immediately after an adjustment. In her book, “The Reality Check”, Chiropractor and researcher, Dr Heidi Haavik has summarized many aspects of 15 years of research on the human nervous system and how key parts of that system communicate strongly when we move and live life – but also how a misaligned vertebra can result in poor messaging to the brain resulting in poor commands to the muscles, thus our body feels – and is – “out”.
You may have noticed that your chiropractor touches or palpates your spine. This is to assess where particular problems may be. So, what problems could there be? What we are looking for is to identify which vertebra or vertebrae feel stuck or misaligned or out. The term chiropractors have used over the years to describe that is “vertebral subluxation”. This term is not used by all chiropractors but if you have heard it before, hopefully that explains some concepts. So, what do after we assess – we “adjust” the spine, or the spinal segment so that normal range of motion is returned to the spinal segment, thus restoring more global spinal motion. The adjustment has been scientifically shown to restore crucial messaging from the spine to the brain. We will look at that interesting topic in more detail in the next newsletter.
By Dr. Annika
If you have seen a chiropractor, chances are they talked about your posture. This isn’t just to make you look better, but also because it has a lot of implications as far as how your body functions in the world goes.
Most of us don’t even know what a good posture looks like, so when we are told “sit (or stand) up straight!” we actually don’t know what that means or how to do it.
As you can see from the picture above, when seen from side-on, the hole in the ear should be straight over the middle of the shoulder, the middle of the hips and just forward of the ankle. (You can check yours when you walk past a plate glass window).
From the back, the spine should be straight and the ears level.
Shoulders and hips should be level. – This is often easier to notice because you can see uneven shoulders in the mirror, and uneven legs often mean one trouser leg appears to be longer than the other.
Why is this important?
If your posture is balanced, it means that the body is balanced around its axis of gravity, which means that it takes minimal effort by the body to keep you upright. That means that you have a lot of capacity to do other things, like moving your arms or walking or thinking. It also means that the rib-cage is nice and open, and breathing is easy.
When shoulders or hips aren’t level, this usually means that there is a scoliosis to a lesser or greater extent – this is something your chiropractor will consider when they treat you.
What does poor posture look like?
Mostly poor posture (when looking from the side) starts with the head creeping forward. This can be because you spend a lot of time with your head forward (eg looking at devices) for example. This is significant beacuse for every inch your head moves forward of the ideal location after the first inch, the effective weight of your head doubles on the neck due to leverage. As a result, the muscles at the back of your head suddenly aren’t just in charge of slightly correcting your posture to keep you upright, they have to physically work anytime you are upright to pull your head back. These muscles are built for endurance, not strength. The big muscles at the back of your neck (upper trapezius) attach at the shoulders, and it’s no wonder that so many people experience pain and discomfort here when you consider that fact.
Why does poor posture happen?
If you look at small children, they all have fantastic postures. This is because their heads (not faces) reach adult size at the age of 3, while their bodies obviously still have a lot of growing to do, so there is a real imperative to keep the head where it belongs, centered around the axis of gravity. Down the track, the relative weight of the head lessens as the body grows, and heads are forward working on devices or reading or pens to paper, and the body then tends to learn that this is where the head belongs.
Stress will also create this posture, as it is part of the fight-or-flight stance.
If you have had accidents and the spine has straigtenend as a result, ie. has lost the forward curvature in the neck has been lost, the end result is often a forward head carriage as well.
Over time, with mis-use and accidents and fatigue, this becomes more and more pronounced.
In people with altered bone structure (Scheuerman’s in the young or compression fractures of the spine later in life) this can happen as a result of an excessive curve in the upper back.
Usually what follows is a slumping of the shoulders, which reduces the excursion of the rib-cage for breathing, which means that all of a sudden a basic survival activity – breathing – requires a reasonable amount of effort – energy better spent on other (fun) things! The space in the abdomen for the internal organs is compromised too, which is likely to impact their function at least on a subclinical level. Then the lower back is altered to compensate and you have set yourself up for back pain, too.
Strategies to stay straight!
So in order to keep yourself upright and happy and youthful,
- Get adjusted! If there are restrictions in your spinal joints and the muscles around them the body will not straigthen out with any degree of ease.
- You can practice walking with a book balanced on your head and
- check your posture every time you walk past a plate glass window to make sure you are in alignment.
- Lie on your back with a rolled-up towel under your chest and stretch your arms out to the side and up to open your chest and keep your upper back flexible.
- Take up an activity that emphasizes posture, like Pilates or Yoga or T’ai Chi.
- Make sure you don’t bend your head down all the time to look at your devices.
- Play on swings and merry-go-rounds and moneky bars (especially if you are a child) as an accurate sense of where we are in space helps good posture enormously and also strengthens postural muscles.
- And spend time playing and exercising in nature, particularly with shoes off, so your body can move freely and hold itself where it needs to.