Do I Really Need to Stretch?

Stretching is the part of our workout regimen many of us tend to skip. We might say it is because of lack of time, impatience or a feeling that stretching is “pointless.” However it is important that our joints are able to move in various directions with a certain degree of freedom. As our bodies age, we become stiffer and lose the flexibility we had when we were young. Chances are unless you’re a dancer or a gymnast, you’ll have lost that fluid flexibility you had as a child even in your twenties. However, it is never too late to regain enough flexibility to remain youthful and limber by training through stretching. Proper stretching allows us to continue doing our daily tasks into old age, such as reaching that high shelf, bending to pick up a dropped object, or accessing that hidden switch behind an awkward kitchen cabinet.

One reason it’s really important to stretch before working out is that we are likely to use muscles and tendons that are normally inactive. Without flexibility to those muscles, the risk of injury or of tearing those muscles and tendons when used, is higher. If stretching is done correctly before working out, it’s a good prevention against injury, and can also be used to treat injuries as well. Finally, when done properly, stretching simply feels good. It can be a great way to gently start the day or to wind down after work.

Preparing the body for exercise by warming up the muscles by stretching is easy and need not take up much of your time. This will increase the blood flow to your muscles and loosen them up allowing you to exercise without having to worry about injury or being overly sore the next day. Simply warm up the various muscle groups with slow stretches of the joints towards the end of their range of motion; this should cause the feeling of a gentle “pull” being felt in the muscles. Hold the position for up to half a minute and then alternate side or muscle groups. Not only does stretching prevent injury, but it also improves the mechanical efficiency of your body. Stretching prior to exercise means the muscles are stretched and warmed up, allowing them to undergo the full range of motion with less effort when exercising – this means the body’s overall performance is improved.

Other added benefits to stretching include improved circulation to the muscles and joints, alleviating the pains felt post-workout, and stretching can also help to improve your posture. If you find at the end of the day stiff and achy from sitting at a desk all day – try stretching. You might find that you’ll feel instantly better. Regular stretching in your shoulders and neck may help you to maintain a better posture. As a result, this may help to prevent the onset of lower back pain.

References Used:
[1] http://www.spineuniverse.com/wellness/exercise/incorporating-stretching-your-exercise-routine Accessed October 2011
[2] http://www.healthnewengland.com/newsletters/LivingWell/LW/Livewell13.pdf Accessed October 2011

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Conservative Pain Management: A First-Line Defense Against Prescription Drug Abuse Crisis

May 5, 2011 — The American Chiropractic Association (ACA) applauds federal efforts to curb prescription drug abuse following the U.S. government’s announcement in late April that the problem has reached crisis level.

ACA encourages patients and healthcare providers to explore drug-free, conservative approaches to pain management as a first-line defense against painkiller abuse.

The government’s report, “Epidemic: Responding to America’s Prescription Drug Abuse Crisis,” notes that while the use of some illegal drugs has diminished, the abuse of prescription medications has sharply increased, particularly prescription opioid pain relievers such as Oxycontin and Vicodin. It points out unintentional opioid overdoses — once almost exclusively the fate of heroin abusers — are today increasingly caused by prescription painkiller abuse.

“This new report shows that while sometimes the use of these powerful drugs may be necessary, their overuse and abuse can lead to deadly consequences. The chiropractic profession offers non-drug interventions for pain relief,” said ACA President Dr. Rick McMichael. “We urge healthcare providers, whenever possible, to recommend drug-free conservative care interventions for their patients before prescribing medications that may be associated with harmful side effects. It’s critical that patients know their options.”

The government report outlines a four-part strategy to reduce the incidence of overdose caused by painkiller abuse, including increased education; monitoring of “doctor-shoppers” who obtain multiple prescriptions; the safe disposal of prescription medications; and cracking down on “pill mill” clinics that dispense hundreds of pills per patient. ACA believes prevention is also key and that increased use of conservative approaches for pain management may curb the need for painkillers and thereby reduce the likelihood of patient dependency, overuse and possible overdose.

Chiropractic care is best known for its effectiveness in treating painful conditions such as back pain, neck pain, and headaches — which are serious causes of disability in the United States. According to the U.S. Bone and Joint Decade, the number of prescription medications has increased in the past 10 years.

Chiropractic care may lessen or eliminate the need for medications in some cases and help patients avoid unnecessary surgery. Chiropractic physicians treat the whole person, promote wellness and strive to address the underlying cause of patients’ ailments, not just their symptoms.

Current evidence-based guidelines support the use of conservative care such as chiropractic for conditions such as chronic lower back pain. In 2007, the Annals of Internal Medicine published low back pain guidelines developed by the American Pain Society and the American College of Physicians recommending that, for patients who do not improve with self-care, doctors should consider non-pharmacologic therapies such as chiropractic care, massage therapy and acupuncture.

Source: American Chiropractic Association, www.acatoday.org

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11 Tips for Living With Chronic Pain

1. Learn deep breathing or meditation to help with chronic pain.

Deep breathing and meditation are techniques that help your body relax, which eases pain. Tension and tightness seep from muscles as they receive a quiet message to relax.

Although there are many to meditate, the soothing power of repetition is at the heart of some forms of meditation. Focusing on the breath, ignoring thoughts, and repeating a word or phrase — a mantra — causes the body to relax. While you can learn meditation on your own, it helps to take a class.

Deep breathing is also a relaxation technique. Find a quiet location, a comfortable body position, and block out distracting thoughts. Then, imagine a spot just below your navel. Breathe into that spot, filling your abdomen with air. Let the air fill you from the abdomen up, then let it out, like deflating a balloon.

2. Reduce stress in your life. Stress intensifies chronic pain.

Negative feelings like depression, anxiety, stress, and anger can increase the body’s sensitivity to pain. By learning to take control of stress, you may find some relief from chronic pain.

Several techniques can help reduce stress and promote relaxation. Listening to soothing, calming music can lift your mood — and make living with chronic pain more bearable. There are even specially designed relaxation tapes or CDs for this. Mental imagery relaxation (also called guided imagery) is a form of mental escape that can help you feel peaceful. It involves creating calming, peaceful images in your mind. Progressive muscle relaxation is another technique that promotes relaxation.

3. Boost chronic pain relief with the natural endorphins from exercise.

Endorphins are brain chemicals that help improve your mood while also blocking pain signals. Exercise has another pain-reducing effect — it strengthens muscles, helping prevent re-injury and further pain. Plus, exercise can help keep your weight down, reduce heart disease risk, and control blood sugar levels — especially important if you have diabetes. Ask your doctor for an exercise routine that is right for you. If you have certain health conditions, like diabetic neuropathy, you will need to be careful about the types of activities you engage in; your doctor can advise you on the best physical activities for you.

4. Cut back on alcohol, which can worsen sleep problems.

Pain makes sleep difficult, and alcohol can make sleep problems worse. If you’re living with chronic pain, drinking less or no alcohol can improve your quality of life.

5. Join a support group. Meet others living with chronic pain.

When you’re with people who have chronic pain and understand what you’re going through, you feel less alone. You also benefit from their wisdom in coping with the pain.
Also, consider meeting with a mental health professional. Anyone can develop depression if they’re living with chronic pain. Getting counseling can help you learn to cope better and help you avoid negative thoughts that make pain worse — so you have a healthier attitude. Asking for help is a sign of strength, not weakness.

6. Don’t smoke. It can worsen chronic pain.

Smoking can worsen painful circulation problems and increase risk of heart disease and cancer.

7. Track your pain level and activities every day.

To effectively treat your pain, your doctor needs to know how you’ve been feeling between visits. Keeping a log or journal of your daily “pain score” will help you track your pain. At the end of each day, note your pain level on the 1 to 10 pain scale. Also, note what activities you did that day. Take this log book to every doctor visit — to give your doctor a good understanding of how you’re living with chronic pain and your physical functioning level.

8. Learn biofeedback to decrease pain severity.

Through biofeedback, it’s possible to consciously control various body functions. It may sound like science fiction, but there is good evidence that biofeedback works — and that it’s not hard to master.

Here’s how it works: You wear sensors that let you “hear” or “see” certain bodily functions like pulse, digestion, body temperature, and muscle tension. The squiggly lines and/or beeps on the attached monitors reflect what’s going on inside your body. Then you learn to control those squiggles and beeps. After a few sessions, your mind has trained your biological system to learn the skills.

9. Get a massage for chronic pain relief.

Massage can help reduce stress and relieve tension — and is being used by people living with all sorts of chronic pain, including back and neck pain.

10. Eat a healthy diet if you’re living with chronic pain.

A well-balanced diet is important in many ways — aiding your digestive process, reducing heart disease risk, keeping weight under control, and improving blood sugar levels. To eat a low-fat, low-sodium diet, choose from these: fresh fruits and vegetables; cooked dried beans and peas; whole-grain breads and cereals; low-fat cheese, milk, and yogurt; and lean meats.

11. Find ways to distract yourself from pain so you enjoy life more.

When you focus on pain, it makes it worse rather than better. Instead, find something you like doing — an activity that keeps you busy and thinking about things besides your pain. You might not be able to avoid pain, but you can take control of your life.

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