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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.
By Dr. Graham
Did you know that the tongue position in the mouth is very important?
Why? The tongue is a very strong muscle and is viewed by oro-facial experts as the “sculptor” of child facial development.
What does that mean? The tongue moves several thousands of times per day – during speech, eating, drinking, talking, swallowing and breathing. So proper tongue movement – coming from being positioned correctly with the tip resting just behind the two front teeth where they join the upper hard palate – helps mould the hard palate into a broader space (Roman arch), thus allowing proper dental development, a more open airway and preventing snoring. This means a lesser likelihood of upper respiratory infections and tonsillitis than with a higher, narrower (Gothic arch) shape which typically develops if the tongue is tied. This is often corrected with braces down the track (so get your youngsters checked to avoid orthodontic bills in the future!)
Even as a new baby, the tongue is an extremely important player. Proper movement of the tongue enables the baby to achieve an effective latch for milk extraction and proper swallowing. If a good seal is not achieved, difficulties creating a proper rhythmic flow will occur. This can lead to very sore nipples and mastitis and frustration for the mother as well as inability of the baby to ingest milk properly and keep it down. Common symptoms of tongue tie in a breastfeeding infant are: dribbling, vomiting, feeding taking a long time, falling asleep while feeding, colic (because they tend to swallow air while feeding) to name just a few. Often there is a switch to the bottle because “mum just doesn’t have enough milk” – but this is because after week 6 milk supply depends on the baby’s demand rather than on mum’s hormones. And just giving a bottle doesn’t necessarily help the problem (other than getting some food into the infant), who is still left with a hard time swallowing and inability to use the mouth properly, which will show up as other problems later in life.
Open airways are critical for a person to breathe through the nose. Why is that important? Because this avenue allows a more suitable ratio of CO2 : O2 in our body, thus maintaining blood pressure in a more normal range and keeping inflammation and stress levels under control. When there is a tongue tie, the airways are often narrower because the tongue hasn’t broadened the palate, and as a result, there is a tendency to breathe through the mouth. As a result, the breathing is too shallow, which leads to anxiety and often a diagnosis of ADHD. It also commonly leads to tonsillitis (tonsils weren’t meant to live exposed to the air all the time), which can narrow the airways even further, thus creating a vicious cycle.
As well as that, a lower tongue position tends to pull the head forward placing undue and pain inducing pressure on delicate spinal segments of the neck and upper shoulder region. Symptoms of this are forward head carriage, headaches and neck and shoulder tension. At first read of this it seems surprising that the humble tongue could cause such mischief!! But it is true, a higher positioned tongue allows the head to sit back more over the shoulders creating less drag on the spine.
How would I know if my child has (or I have) a tongue-tie?
There is evidence that tongue-tie affects behaviour. Whilst “perfect behaviour” is not the baseline referred to here – and depending on time of life – it may be that you have observed irritability, mood-swings, being easily distracted, inability to sit still, dribbling, unable to chew properly, fussy eater (regarding texture especially – things that require a lot of chewing, which needs the tongue to move around a lot) breathing with the mouth open, snoring, bedwetting unusually frequent for the age and dental cavities because the tongue cannot clean the teeth properly after eating.
And then there is the proverbial “tongue tied” child or adult – it can be very tricky to pronounce certain sounds, such as sss or sshh or nnn if your tongue can’t touch the palate properly.
Or as a baby – inability to get a good latch when feeding, colic type symptoms, not settling or sleeping well, persistent diarrhea, long periods of crying. If you are wondering about a baby you care about, have a look at where the tip of their tongue is when they cry: It should be near the top palate. If it is low in the mouth, it is probably tied.
Please note: it is normal to have a little “sail” between the tongue and the floor of the mouth. What makes a tongue tied is if there is not enough flexibility in the tissue to allow the tongue to move properly. Conversely, just being able to stick the tongue out of your mouth is also not a good enough indicator of how well the tongue functions, as the floor of the mouth will move to compensate.
What can be done?
There are various professionals who may offer an opinion as to, (a) whether there is a tongue-tie and (b) whether the tongue-tie is having unwanted effects.
In Australia is an organization called The Tongue Tie Institute who trains practitioners including Lactation Consultants, Midwives, Chiropractors, Osteopaths, Physiotherapists and Dentists about awareness and therapies. Having attended the training, we are encouraged to liaise with the other professionals because no one practitioner can do it all. For example, the Lactation Consultant may have identified the problem and recommended release of the tie. The release would be done by a Dentist trained in this area. The recommended bodywork (ie very gentle release tight muscles around the head and mouth) may be done by a Chiropractor trained in the Tongue Tie Institute approach. There is a fair amount of information to digest about this subject. Annika and Graham both have training with the Tongue Tie Institute as well as some post graduate pediatric training. Between them, there is around 40 years of experience in working with children and families. If you have any questions, please call our staff on 65501223 and we will do our best to provide any information you may seek.