Category Archives: Wellness Blog

Wellness tips from Dr. Mays

Stress!

With the advent of modern medicine significantly reducing the rate of death from infection and injury.  Our MAJOR killer is stress.  You’ve heard it before, but what is stress, where does it come from, what does it do to you, and how can you reduce it’s negative effects on you?

Stress comes in three forms:  physical, chemical, and emotional.  Stress from any of these sources creates a physiological cascade of events in your system originating from the fight-or-flight response which evolved to help us stay alive when faced with danger throughout history.  The problem is that many of today’s problems, e.g. sitting at a computer all day, processed foods, and constant cell phone and e-mail alerts, are not solved by shutting down our brains and ramping up muscle abilities.  Further, unlike escaping a predator we can’t run away from modern types of stress.  We are exposed to chronic stress!

You could easily identify the typical feeling of ‘stressed out’, but do you know the effects of stress on your body?  They include:  decreased sex drive, impaired digestion, slowed growth and healing, lowered immunity, increased blood pressure and heart rate, fat storage on your hips and thighs, elevated blood glucose, breakdown of body proteins, decreased HDL (good cholesterol), increased LDL (bad cholesterol), increased cardiac output, decreased learning ability, decreased focus, formation of anxiety memories, decreased logical behavior, increased sensitivity, concentration inhibition, poor short term memory, poor sleep quality.  These symptoms can lead to chronic diseases such as type 2 diabetes, osteoporosis, and heart disease.  Chronic stress also leads to depression, tension headaches, and accelerated aging.

You can’t always avoid stressors, but you CAN reduce their impact and mitigate their effects before the chronic stress slowly kills you.  Key things you can do to protect yourself include:  time in nature (a city park counts!), regular exercise, yoga, meditation, learn to say ‘no’ and pick your commitments mindfully.  Decrease your exposure to chemical stressors by decreasing your sugar and processed food intake and switching to non-toxic cleaning products in your home.  The best way to keep the effects of chronic stress that you can’t avoid under control is regular chiropractic adjustments on a treatment frequency that your doctor feels is appropriate for you.

Start decreasing stress and start optimizing your health!!!

What’s up with Wellness Care?

There are many chiropractors out there that promote ‘wellness care’.  This confuses a lot of people.  Many people understand why you would go to the chiropractor for low back pain or a headache.  Why would you go to the chiropractor when you’re feeling fine?

Many of my colleagues will answer, ‘because you still go to the dentist every six months to get your teeth cleaned; it’s the same concept.’  You see the dentist every 6 months for preventative cleanings and to have a check-up to be sure that you don’t have any cavities…which you can then have filled before any serious problems arise.  At a wellness visit I will adjust you, same as the dentist will clean your teeth.  I can check-in with you about your overall health, check your blood-pressure, see if you’ve been holding up your end of the deal by cutting back on the bad stuff (smoking, junk food) and getting more of the good stuff (veggies, exercise) to help ward off the ‘root canals’ of low back pain, headaches, and even cancer, heart disease, and diabetes.  So in that way, yes, it’s like going to the dentist.

However, wellness care is more than preventative maintenance like your semi-annual dental appointment.  I feel that the chiropractic adjustment makes everything function more efficiently in your body; everything just works better when you get regular adjustments.  Sleep quality improves, digestion improves, your ability to concentrate improves.  There are several theories on why this works, but the one I most subscribe to is because when one piece, i.e. a joint, isn’t functioning correctly it creates more stress on the rest of the system.  Joints, particularly spinal joints, will inevitably get stuck and stop functioning properly for a myriad of reasons, most owing to poor body mechanics that we have set up in our bodies over the years doing things in the less than ideal way.  (This is one reason to start chiropractic care early, but more on this topic in a future post.)  One joint gets used a little less than it’s neighbor joints for whatever reason and so the body finds ways to secure that joint.  The body will always stabilize a joint in the part of it’s range that joint is not moving to prevent injury.  Before you know it, certain joints are more stuck than others.  The chiropractic adjustment gets the stuck joints moving again, removing that stress; frees up the prana flow, for all you yogis out there.

You may be wondering, how often should I get adjusted for wellness reasons?  The answer is, it depends.  It depends on how often you’re body needs it.  I have seen patients that could use chiropractic wellness care every week and I have seen patients that could benefit from wellness care every 6 months.  This is a patient specific situation.  The frequency you should receive chiropractic wellness care depends on your overall wellness state.  The once a week patient is typically not very active and has a lot of degenerative change in their body.  They really rely on chiropractic care just to maintain the amount of mobility they have.  The every 6 months patient is not your average American, this patient is a very active person living a very healthy and active lifestyle with excellent overall health; moreover they don’t ‘over do it’ in their activities and therefore avoiding sport injuries and pain from pushing beyond their limits.  Most of us lie somewhere in between and in my experience the average adult in good health is could benefit from chiropractic wellness care somewhere between once per 2-6 weeks.

Something to be aware of is that standard health insurance does not typically cover wellness chiropractic care.  Health insurance is there for preventative care like annual check-ups and screening procedures like the dentist, as well as getting you the care you need when you are sick or injured.  Health insurance will cover chiropractic care for injury and chronic pain, so few people are aware of this, so have your doctor check your benefits.  Health insurance is there to keep you from sinking below baseline, not to help you grow beyond that.  I appreciate health insurance for being there if I break an arm or contract strep throat.  But just the same as most health insurances don’t cover the produce portion of your grocery bill or your membership to the yoga studio, they don’t typically cover wellness chiropractic.  I believe an investment in your optimal health, and therefore your best self, is one of the best investments you can make.

All this said, injury and rehabilitative care with chiropractic may need to be initiated at any time that pain and injury occur; so call your doctor to get in if you get hurt.  I’ve had many patients on wellness care wait the 2-3 weeks to come in after they fall off a ladder and hurt themselves, just because they weren’t due to come in.  Your chiropractor is not a fortune-teller, so get in there when something happens!

I recommend wellness care because I want to help my patients live their best lives, and that means continually raising the bar; always giving patients the tools and support they need to live their best life.  Ask your chiropractor about wellness care at your next visit, and discuss what time frame is optimal for you to receive regular chiropractic wellness care.

What to do with that phone book?

It’s that time of year again…and no this is not just another blog post about New Year’s Resolutions.  It’s about that big, giant, yellow book that is going to be on your doorstep in a few days.  That’s right, your phone book is coming!  It’s true, they still send us phone books in the age of Google.  Want to know what you can do with it instead of directly tossing it into the recycling bin?

Use it as a way to lengthen your hamstrings!

You know you have them.  We spend too much time sitting in chairs and not enough time sitting on the floor and touching our toes.  Perhaps this is resulting in back pain for you, it’s a common cause.  Wondering what yellow pages have to do with leg muscles?  Read on.

1.  Sit on the floor, any style will work, legs out in front cross-legged, what have you.

2.  Feel your low back.  Is it rounding away from your belly or towards it?  If it is rounding away, tight hamstrings are holding you back.  Can you sit up tall and make a nice lumbar curve, but it’s a lot of work, the hamstrings are still holding you back.

3.  Sit on the phone book, just the book under your butt but not the thighs.  This creates more of an obtuse angle rather than 90 degrees at the hips.  Feel the curve in your back now, if it’s curving toward your belly, not away, this is good.  If not ask your neighbor if they need their phone book, which they of course will willingly hand over, and add it to your phone book chair.

4.  Everyday spend some time on your phone book, sitting comfortably.  Watch tv, read a magazine, pet the dog, whatever.  An hour of this is great, but even 5 minutes will be worth it.

5.  At the end of hanging out on the phonebook(s) rip out one page.  This will result just a smidge steeper of an angle each day.  It will be imperceptible perhaps, but you WILL get closer to the floor, in due time you will be sitting at a 90 degree angle at your hips and not feel a stretch at all…and I bet you can even touch your toes with ease.

Of course you can skip a few pages…if you get the phone book and you find that you are sitting quite pretty up there, rip them out 3-5 pages at a time until you get to a slightly back rounding or hamstring stretching height.

…by the way, you could use this as your resolution and end up a superstar in 365 days because you A) found a use for a seemingly waste of paper B)lengthened you hamstrings and C) started a healthy habit.

Steamy

Recently a lot of patients have been coming into the office with sinus congestion.  If you are suffering from this too, there is a simple thing you can do to decrease your suffering without the drowsy side-effects of common OTC drugs.  Steam it!  Yes, that’s right, your grandmother was right, steaming your sinuses is just the ticket.

Tea Time

There are three ‘levels’ of steaming that I recommend, depending on just how bad things are going for you.

Level 1: Plain steam.  Boil some water on the stove, pour into a bowl.  Place your face over the bowl and drape your head with a towel, trapping the steam so it has no where to go but into you.  Breathe until there is no more steam.

Level 2: Steam plus essential oils.  Follow steps for level 1, but add 5 drops of these three essential oils: lavender, tea tree, and eucalyptus.  These oils will help clean you out, it will not be fun by any means, but it will give that vapo-rub like soothing effect when you’re done.  The tea tree oil is antimicrobial and it might give your immune system the upper hand.

Level 3: Steam plus white vinegar.  This is when it gets really serious, sinus infection serious.  Follow the level 1 directions and add 1 tablespoon of white vinegar to the water.  This will be slightly torturous, and it will clean you out good.  The white vinegar will kill the bugs that are lurking up there.

Always try level one first, it is soothing and hydrating and might be all you need to find a little relief from that but you’re fighting.  If level one doesn’t help feel free to bump it out, but be prepared, the other two levels involve quite a few coughing fits, especially if you breathe deep.  Try to breathe normally when doing the other two levels.  Of course if it is too intense, discontinue and return to level 1.

Using any of the above methods, be sure to handle boiling water with caution and avoid burning yourself.

Prevention is always key.  To avoid getting sick in the first place, stay hydrated.  It’s easy to drink less when it gets cold out.  Keep exercising despite the urge to hibernate on the couch under a blanket.  Take a daily vitamin D, 1000-2000 IUs, to keep your immune system happy with less sunshine exposure.

Need a PCP?

Under the new healthcare laws, everyone needs a primary care physician (PCP).  Increasingly, MDs are not pursuing the field of primary care in favor of specializing, which means that the increased demand for primary care physicians will only be amplified as the Affordable Care Act rolls out in the coming year.   Those of us that arechiro symbol ‘healthy’ typically don’t go and see a PCP regularly…or do we?  Did you know that chiropractors are considered PCPs in Oregon?

The job of a PCP is to manage the healthcare of their patients, and as such are required to: diagnose conditions based on history and physical exam, order and interpret basic medical tests such as blood work or medical imaging, determine the need for and refer to specialists, and counsel on healthy behaviors such as diet, exercise, weight loss, and health screenings.  In chiropractic school we are trained in all of these areas and more.

Dr. Mays does regular re-exams that include a physical exam typically every month for injured patients and every six months for patients that are doing well.  That exam will always include a taking your vital signs, including blood pressure.  If indicated, she will order blood work or medical imaging.  As chiropractors we treat the whole person, feel free to ask Dr. Mays about not only your musculoskeletal complaints, but also your heart health, smoking cessation, how to start an exercise program, if a diet you are considering is safe, and any other health questions you might have.  Chiropractors are not only the primary source to manage your pain and stiffness, but a doctor you already know who is there to manage your whole health!

What is chiropractic?

Chiropractors are primary care physicians, as such we are highly skilled in diagnosis of all types of conditions and your chiropractor will be able to recommend the appropriate care for whatever ails you.  Chiropractors are conservative physicians that will always recommend the least invasive solutions.  Unlike an MD family care physician, who is best at managing internal conditions, chiropractors are neuromusculoskeletal experts.  Musculoskeletal conditions are the most common pain generators.

Chiropractic treats: Back pain & stiffness, neck pain & stiffness, headaches, extremity pain & dysfunction, TMJ syndrome, disc herniations, as well as carpal-tunnel and sciatic-like symptoms.

Chiropractors get your stuck stuff moving, stiff joints & tight muscles.  A chiropractic adjustment works on the similar concept that if you have a stuck door you need to give it a quick bump to get it moving again.  Adjustments can be performed on any synovial joint; it’s much more than just your spine!  We adjust everything else that moves, including your jaw, arms, and legs if indicated.  Chiropractic soft tissue therapies break up adhesions in your myofascial tissue to get the muscle moving smoothly.  How does that treat pain? The pain pathways in your neurologic system are located very close to the mechanoreceptors, and neighbors talk; if the mechanoreceptors are cranky they stir up the pain response.

Chiropractic treatments typically include chiropractic adjustments & soft tissue therapies.  Very often you will be sent home with exercises that will continue your healing progress while you’re not in office.  Your participation is the key to accelerated healing and needing fewer office visits to reach your goals.

Dr. Mays’s goal is to give patients the tools & support they need to live their best, most healthy life.  Make an appointment if your body is limiting you from achieving your best life possible.

No butts about it…how & why to quit smoking

Ja no fuma

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Smoking causes 4.83 million premature deaths worldwide annually; 19% of American adults are currently smokers, 23.9% of American high school students, and 7.1% of U.S. middle-schoolers.  That does not include the 7.3% of high school students and 2.2% of middle school students who are chewing tobacco.  11.4% of pregnant American women smoke and 34.4% of American kids have significant second-hand smoke exposure.

Tobacco addiction is a lot like ‘harder’ drugs in that you can become addicted with just one cigarette…and quitting is just as hard as getting off any other drug.

Smoking doesn’t just increase your risk for lung cancer, heart disease, and wrinkles.  It goes further than that, in fact, smoking increases your risk for ALL cancer types.  It is the only identifiable risk factor in bladder cancer.  It increases your risk of ALS (Lou Gerig’s disease), diabetes, and hot flashes.  It decreases your mental function, and increases your risk of dementia…so much for having a cigarette to ‘clear your head’.  Smokers have higher rates of erectile dysfunction, which blows the ‘smoking is sexy’ claim right out of the water.  Not to mention the problems I see every day as a chiropractor; smoking increases healing time, decreases ability to fight infection, and smokers are one of the top 3 risk groups for low back pain!

Smoking cessation tips

Safe Sun

English: The sun in the sky of Scauri Italiano...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Welcome to summer, the season of fun in the sun!  Skin cancer is a serious public health problem in the US; it is the most common form of cancer with 1/5 Americans having some form during their lifetime!  Read on to determine risky behaviors to quit and things you can do to prevent skin cancer this summer.  Don’t just rush outside all day on the first nice day either because intense & intermittent sun exposure is actually WORSE than the same amount of sun as a steady dosage (think indoor working and dwelling human outside all Memorial Day weekend vs. outdoor worker)

Risk factors:

  • UV light including the sun, tanning beds, and sunlamps
  • Cigarette smoking
  • Large/multiple moles
  • Light skin/eye/hair color

Prevention:

  • Decrease sun exposure…especially for those under age 24
  • Use sunscreen, and reapply regularly!
  • Higher SPF does NOT mean that you can stay out longer
  • Use a sunscreen with titanium dioxide or zinc oxide because they block UVB, UVA 1, and UVA 2
  • Wear a hat
  • Wear sun protective clothing instead of going shirtless or in just your swimsuit.
  • Limit your time in the sun…especially during peak hours 10-2

More info:

Seasonal Allergy Relief

Its a Pink World... or it was at least.

Its a Pink World… or it was at least. (Photo credit: JeremyMP)

Spring is in full bloom and that means a high pollen count…and seasonal allergies begin.  What can you do besides reach for the Allegra?

Decrease your exposure by making your home a safe haven.  Dust and vacuum regularly.  Get an air filter.  Take off your ‘outside clothes’ and shower immediately after coming home for the day and change into your ‘inside clothes’.

Clean out your system.  Use a neti pot to rinse your sinuses.  Be sure to sterilize the water first to prevent any potential infections.

Consider an herbal supplement.  Butterbur has been proven to be as effective as Zyrtec & Allegra with a lower risk for side effects.  Take 1 tablet that is standardized for 8 mg petasin extract 2-3x/day for two weeks.  Do not take this supplement for longer than 12 weeks.   Just because it is a natural medicine, don’t take butterbur lightly.  It’s side effects are rare, but include belching, headaches, itchy eyes, GI upset, asthma, fatigue, and drowsiness.  Do not take this supplement in doses higher than recommended.  Raw butterbur is dangerous.  With those caveats, for most people butterbur is safe and effective.  People with allergies to ragweed, crysanthemums, marigolds, or daisies should not take butterbur.

Pass On the Package

This Earth Day and beyond do your planet and your body a big favor and pass on packaged foods.

Packaging is out of control you get little wrappers inside of a big bag.  Even if you recycle what you can, you will still end up trashing the cling wrap and wrappers of most packaged foods, they aren’t recyclable.  Recycling takes energy, which is why it’s the last of the ‘Rs’ (reduce, reuse, recycle).  Plastics are finding their way into our oceans, there is a big mass of it in the Pacific Ocean.  They are leaching into water supplies.  For more on the impact of food packaging on our environment read this article.

Let’s face it, the better food is for you, the less packaging it typically has.  Apples, carrots, and beets come naked in the produce section…or at most wearing a twist tie that you might actually reuse.  It’s the bad stuff that comes with several layers of packaging like that package of mini snickers bars, a big bag with a bunch of tiny wrappers inside.  Stick with mostly those naked, or minimally packaged foods in the produce section, the bulk bins of whole grains, minimally processed dairy, fresh meats and fish.  Avoid the processed foods like candy, cereals, soups, chips, crackers, box macaroni & cheese.  All of this stuff comes not with just excess packaging but a lot of other baggage such as added salt, sugar, preservatives, and chemicals.  Also, GMO foods won’t sell well in a produce section, so they are sold to the companies that make processed foods; avoid this controversial ingredient by buying fresh and making your own at home.

How to get out of the package for healthy options:

  • buy the big, plain yogurt:  divide it into your own containers and add your own fresh fruit and honey/maple syrup if you like
  • Avoid pre-sliced and packaged produce:  buy the bulk veggies and fruit and cut when you need it, it doesn’t take that much time
  • Cheese is a nice treat once in a while:  buy the block and slice or grate as needed.  This will make you eat those saturated fat calories less because you can’t mindlessly grab a quick pre-cut slice, cube, or stick from the fridge.
  • Bulk grains and beans are just as good as the ones in bags, and you typically have a bigger selection.
  • Take your own snacks:  buying a single serving size typically means buying lots of extra packaging too.
  • Make your own bread.  It isn’t as time-consuming as you think…especially if you get a bread machine.

Following the minimal packaging lifestyle might take some getting used to, but eventually you’ll notice a difference in your health and likely your bank account too.  And you will be making an effort to making our planet a healthier place to live too.