How to Practice Yoga Safely

How to Practice Yoga Safely

By Dr. Dani Stekel

Many people see yoga as being a calm, peaceful form of exercise (which it is) that does not put any stress on the body (which it definitely can). The truth is that yoga is very good exercise, and may be particularly useful for individuals who have difficulty practicing other forms of exercise because of pain in their knees, hips or back. Part of the reason that yoga is good for just about everyone is that it stretches and strengthens muscles without putting excessive strain on the joints. However, it is possible to be injured by practicing yoga if you are not properly prepared, do not follow the correct technique or attempt to do things beyond your body’s current ability.
Yoga is becoming more popular every year due to its proven benefits for both the body and mind. That said, the growing number of people practicing yoga is also leading to an inevitable increase in the number of people getting hurt doing it. Let’s put this in proper perspective and then talk about what we can do to practice safer yoga:
In 2007, there were about 5,500 yoga-related injuries treated by a doctor or hospital in 2007. Since roughly 15.8 million people were practicing yoga that year, we can estimate an injury rate of 3.5 people out of every 10,000. That compares with an injury rate of about 15 per 10,000 in weight training and 39 in golf. So-relatively speaking-yoga very unlikely to land you in an emergency room or doctor’s office. Nevertheless, there are certain things to keep in mind while practicing yoga to help ensure you do not become one of those 3.5 in every 10,000 who are injured…
Some poses (called asanas) require a certain amount of skill to be practiced safely. A good yoga teacher will stress the importance of not doing more than you feel comfortable with and will be able to offer alternative forms of the same pose that can provide you with many of the same benefits of the more advanced pose while allowing you not to strain anything. As you advance in your practice, you can gradually work up to the formal pose once the appropriate muscles have been adequately strengthened.
If you are just beginning to practice yoga, enroll in a beginner’s course and choose a simple form of yoga (such as Hatha or Iyengar) that emphasizes the proper alignment of each pose. Jumping directly into something more demanding like Bikram or Vinyasa yoga may increase your risk of injury because these more complex forms will not allow you enough time to learn the correct postures or for your body to adapt to them. In these more advanced forms of yoga, the emphasis is often placed on achieving a smooth flow from one pose to another (sometimes in a hot room) in what can be a very complex sequence of movements. Clearly this is something you’ll be much better prepared for if you’ve first become proficient in the poses themselves.
The key to practicing safe yoga is to be in tune with your body and listen to what it is telling you. While yoga should cause your muscles to stretch and work, you should stop immediately if you feel you are straining excessively or if any pose creates pain. That’s the time to do a less vigorous form of the pose or to simply rest in child pose (lying face-down on the floor with your knees to your chin and your arms stretched in front of you or with your hands at your ankles).
If you have any type of injury, be sure to tell your yoga teacher before class begins so that he or she can demonstrate variations of the poses that take your limitations into account. Practicing yoga is a great way to reduce stress while strengthening your entire body, increasing flexibility and improving your overall sense of well-being. And by practicing it safely, you’ll be able to enjoy these benefits for years to come.  If you have an injury that lasts more than a few days, seek the appropriate chiropractic and medical help.

Stekel Chiropractic

212-581-3331

Walking Your Way to Fitness: The Latest Research

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By Dani Stekel D.C.

You do not need to join a gym to increase fitness. Walking is one type of exercise that is free and available to anyone possessing a sturdy pair of shoes. It is a low-impact form of exercise that is appropriate for all age groups and levels of fitness. Whether you’ve been a couch potato for years or are the fittest person on your block, walking for 30 minutes a day can provide you with a wide range of health benefits.
Research has shown that those who walk regularly have reduced rates of heart disease, asthma, osteoporosis, obesity, type 2 diabetes, stroke and some cancers. It also improves circulation, increases bone strength and reduces cholesterol. Walking can also be one of the easiest forms of exercise to fit into your day for those who are pressed for time.
Julia Valentour, MS, an exercise physiologist and program coordinator at the American Council on Exercise (ACE) says, “Exercise doesn’t have to be hard to be effective. The recommended 30 minutes can be broken up into two 15-minute sessions or even three 10-minute sessions, making it easy to weave into a busy lifestyle.” One of the many benefits of walking is that it can be done nearly anywhere. Whether you live in the country or the city, you can always find places to walk.
Experts suggest you start slowly and gradually build up to walking farther and faster. If you have been inactive for a while, start walking three times a week at a strolling speed for 20 minutes. Slowly work your way up to five times a week for 30 minutes. You will have to walk at more than strolling speed to begin receiving health benefits. Walk fast enough to raise your heart rate, to the point where you can say a few words comfortably without gasping but are not able to sing a song.
Walking is great for overall health, but those who want to lose some weight can benefit too. According to the American College of Sports Medicine, walking at a reasonable rate of three miles per hour burns 221 calories an hour, and walking at a brisk four miles an hour burns 334 calories per hour.
There are a number of things you can do to help motivate yourself to walk regularly:
Buy a pedometer – You should aim to walk a total of 10,000 steps a day, and a pedometer can help you keep track of exactly how many steps you have taken. Most people normally walk between 3,000 and 4,000 steps a day. You’ll be amazed at how many more steps you can add to your total by adopting some simple practices to increase the amount you walk. For instance, take the stairs instead of the elevator, walk the kids to school and park farther from the entrance to shops. Compete with yourself each day to see if you can improve your performance of the day before.
Listen to music or podcasts as you walk – It’s a great way of helping the time fly and it provides a nice soundtrack to the things you pass along the way. You can even learn a new language as you walk!
Enlist a walking buddy – When two people commit to a walking regimen, neither person wants to let the other down, so it’s more difficult to skip that day’s exercise.
Find online support – StartWalkingNow.org is a free program designed by the American Heart Association to help people get started on a walking program. Their online offerings include activity and nutrition tracking, a monthly newsletter with recipes and health tips and a way of connecting with others doing the same thing.
Walking is fun and it has many health benefits and no drawbacks, so get started today on the path to better health!

To learn more about getting yourself in tip top shape call us!

Stekel Chiropractic
212-581-3331

Chiropractic Adjustment Can Lower Blood Pressure

Chiropractic Adjustment Can Lower Blood Pressure

By: Dani Stekel D.C.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), one in three American adults has high blood pressure. This serious condition can lead to an increased risk of stroke and heart attack, which are among the three leading causes of death in the US.
In many cases, following a healthy diet, exercising and refraining from smoking can significantly reduce blood pressure. A study reported in the Journal of Human Hypertension found that chiropractic may also help. In fact, the research suggests that a specific type of chiropractic adjustment may be able to reduce blood pressure in hypertensive patients just as well as two hypertension-lowering medications combined.
Dr. George Bakris and researchers at the University of Chicago Medical Center conducted a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study of 50 patients who had stage 1 high blood pressure and evidence of a misaligned Atlas vertebra (the C-1 vertebra of the spine). For over 40 years, the association between hypertension and circulatory abnormalities in the region of the Atlas vertebra has been understood, though the effect of chiropractic adjustment on the condition had not been extensively studied. The researchers wanted to test their hypothesis that a realignment of the Atlas vertebra could lead to a long-term reduction in blood pressure.
Patients were screened for a misaligned Atlas by using a leg length test. When the Atlas is misaligned it results in a disparity in leg length, which can be seen by the heel position when the patient is lying down. If the Atlas is misaligned and the patient turns his or her head to one side or the other, the position of the heels will change. If there is no misalignment, the heels remain at the same level. A misalignment of the Atlas vertebrae does not necessarily cause pain, so it frequently goes undetected.  None of the patients in the study reported having felt neck pain.
Patients were referred to a chiropractor from the National Upper Cervical Chiropractic Association (NUCCA), a group of specialist practitioners who do not do typical chiropractic adjustments, but who specialize in adjusting only the C-1 vertebra.
Before the beginning of the study period, participants had a paracervical skin temperature determination, pre-alignment craniocervical X-rays and postural analysis, in addition to being cleared of all blood pressure medications. Half the patients received an adjustment to the C-1 vertebra and the other half received a “sham” adjustment designed to simulate a C-1 adjustment so that the patient would be unaware of the difference. Participants had one assessment directly after the adjustment and another 8 weeks later.
The results of the experiment showed that the patients who had received the actual adjustment had their blood pressure reduced to the equivalent of taking two anti-hypertensive medications simultaneously. Both systolic and diastolic levels dropped by an average of 14 mm Hg and 8 mm Hg, respectively. These lower levels were maintained throughout the 8-week follow-up period. This change was not observed in the sham intervention group.
A larger study is being planned, but this evidence shows that in some cases chiropractic care may be helpful in lowering blood pressure without the use of drugs.

To check yourself for spinal misalignments call us: Stekel Chiropractic

212-581-3331

Shoulder Arthritis Causes and Treatment Options

Shoulder Arthritis Causes and Treatment Options

By: Dr. Dani Stekel DC
While we generally think of arthritis as being associated with old age, shoulder arthritis is not uncommon among younger people as well. Any injury to the shoulder, such as a dislocation or a fracture, can eventually lead to shoulder arthritis.
The shoulder consists of two main joints. The first is the glenohumoral joint. This is a ball-and-socket joint in which the head of the upper arm (humerus) fits into the glenoid cavity of the scapula (shoulder blade). The second is the acromioclavicular. This joint is formed by the meeting of the collarbone (clavicle) with the top of the scapula (acromion).
Hyaline cartilage located on the ends of these bones generally allows for movement of the arm in the socket without friction, but a loss of cartilage here can cause the bones to rub against each other. Although not as common as arthritis in other parts of the body, shoulder arthritis can be extremely uncomfortable and debilitating. The principal symptom of shoulder arthritis is steadily worsening pain, especially when the arm is moved.  However, patients with this condition are also likely to experience considerable stiffness in the joint and weakness at the shoulder. Sleeping may become difficult as the condition worsens, especially on the most affected side.
Shoulder arthritis may be caused by any of the following:
1. Osteoarthritis.  This is the degenerative wearing of cartilage, especially at the acromioclavicular joint.
2. Loss of cartilage through acute traumatic injury to the shoulder, such as from a car accident, particularly when there has been a tear to the rotator cuff.
3. Rheumatoid arthritis, an inflammatory autoimmune disease in which the body attacks its own cartilage.
Both osteo- and rheumatoid arthritis are more prevalent in older people (osteoarthritis in particular tends to occur in those over age 50).  It’s not surprising that the overall incidence of shoulder arthritis is increasing as the general population ages.
Initial management of shoulder arthritis is usually non-surgical. Possible treatment options include:
• Chiropractic care
• Targeted exercise programs to increase shoulder mobility
• Heat and ice treatment
• Nutritional supplements such as glucosamine and chondroitin, both of which build cartilage and can slow joint degeneration
• Rest and shoulder immobilization
• Modifying shoulder movements to minimize irritation
• Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
• Corticosteroid injections and other medications may be used in the case of rheumatoid arthritis
The National Arthritis Foundation reports that regular chiropractic care can help prevent the damage caused by arthritis. Chiropractic treatment can help reduce pain and restore movement and increase range of motion in the shoulder joint.
In severe cases, surgery for shoulder arthritis can help to reduce pain and improve motion if non-surgical treatments are no longer working. Glenohumeral surgery can consist of either replacing just the head of the humerus with a prosthesis (hemiarthroplasty) or replacing the entire joint (both the humeral head and glenoid cavity, a total shoulder arthroplasty).

For a free consultation call us:

Stekel Chiropractic

212-581-3331

The Latest on Treating Degenerative Disc Disease

The Latest on Treating Degenerative Disc Disease

By Dr. Dani Stekel D.C.

Degenerative disc disease (DDD) is a very common medical condition that affects a large and growing portion of the population.  In fact, the low back pain that often accompanies DDD is the leading cause of disability in people under age 45.  DDD has long been recognized as a difficult condition to treat, and many patients undergo invasive, expensive and risky surgical procedures every year in an effort to find relief.
Part of the reason DDD can be difficult to treat is that disc degeneration itself is not really a distinct diagnosis at all.  Rather, DDD refers more generally to a breakdown of the spongy cartilage discs that separate and cushion your vertebrae.  This breakdown is most often caused by normal changes that occur as part of the aging process.  While a majority of people will experience these changes pain-free, an estimated 85 percent of the population will show evidence of some disk degeneration by the time they reach age 50.  This means that there are two important things to keep in mind when it comes to DDD:
1. Most people will eventually have disc degeneration even if they do not have symptoms.
2. The fact that some degeneration is apparent in diagnostic imaging does not necessarily mean that DDD is actually responsible for your symptoms (pain, reduced mobility, etc.).
WHAT CAN BE DONE-CONSERVATIVE TREATMENT OPTIONS
At the more conservative end of the spectrum, traditional treatment of DDD has usually involved finding ways to manage the pain.  The most common of these is taking non-steroidal painkillers such as aspirin, ibuprofen or acetaminophen.  However, it’s important to realize that this does not ultimately address the cause of the problem.  The good news is that there are other conservative options available.
Many patients have found that manual therapies, such as chiropractic care and therapeutic low back massages can improve mobility and reduce pain without the need for medication.  These approaches center on restoring blood flow, easing inflammation, reducing muscle tension and increasing range of motion.   They can also stimulate the release of pain-relieving natural endorphins.
Non-surgical spinal decompression therapy has also proven to be effective for many patients.  This treatment involves gently separating the vertebrae to reduce pressure on the spinal discs and encourage nutrients and water to flow back into them.
SURGICAL OPTIONS
Surgical options range from minimally-invasive procedures like microdiscectomies to more invasive ones such as laminectomies and spinal fusions (also called spondylodesis).  Under certain circumstances, surgery may help relieve the pain caused by DDD and related pressure on nerves.  While these types of techniques have become increasingly common, they all involve the risks that accompany any type of surgery.  They also involve risks that are more specific to surgery on or around the spine.
Always be sure to consult your family physician and be sure to get a second (and third) opinion before undergoing any type of surgery.  They can help you balance the likelihood of success against the risks and expense.   Most healthcare professionals recommend that patients exhaust more conservative treatment options before choosing surgery.
EXPERIMENTAL TECHNIQUES – A LOOK INTO THE MORE DISTANT FUTURE?
Medical researchers and clinicians around the world are experimenting with other approaches to treating degenerative disc disease.  Two of the more promising candidates include stem cell therapy and disc replacement.  While both of these techniques are in the very early stages of development, they may eventually prove useful for the small percentage of people for whom more conservative therapies have not worked on a long-term basis.
Stem Cell Therapy
Some scientists are investigating the possibility of using stem cells to either restore the integrity of the disk or to prevent the disk’s further degeneration.  Researcher Helena Barreto-Henriksson of the Institute of Clinical Sciences, and her colleagues at the Sahlgrenska University Hospital in Sweden found that when stem cells were injected into a damaged disc in animal models, they showed some healing capacity.  According to Barreto-Henriksson, “Images taken by MRI showed that the transplanted stem cells survived, that they developed into cells that had a function similar to that of disc cells, and that there was a certain degree of healing in the disc.”
A similar recent study explored the use of notochord cells, which are the precursors of intervertebral discs that are present in all vertebrates, and which have been found to survive into adulthood in some animals.  The study done on adult dogs found that these cells secreted a connective tissue growth factor (CTGF), which keeps cartilage healthy and flexible. If these cells can be found in the human vertebrae, therapies may be developed that would provide a simpler solution to treating DDD than surgery.

Disc Replacement
In more severe cases where surgery is necessary, it may soon be possible to replace individual vertebral discs. Engineers from Brigham Young University in Utah have recently developed an artificial spinal disc that is able to replicate the natural motion of the spine.  Implanting this or a similar device may eventually be preferable to the current generation of surgical options.
A USEFUL PERSPECTIVE ON SPINAL HEALTH
While this article offers a very general look at some of the treatment options available for DDD-today and perhaps in the future-it would be an oversight not to mention some of the things you can do to slow the rate of disc degeneration and reduce its likely effects.
1. Develop and maintain “core” muscle strength.  Strong back and abdominal muscles help support your frame and reduce the likelihood of injury.
2. Watch your posture.
3. Drink plenty of water to stay hydrated.  Your discs are mostly water, and they work best as shock absorbers when they are at maximum volume and thickness.
4. Stay active.  Movement encourages the flow of fluid and nutrients into your spinal discs.
With a growing segment of the population beginning to reach old age, both scientists and practitioners will continue to look for more and better solutions to age-related problems such as DDD.  That said, it’s more important than ever for individuals to understand the role that their own lifestyle choices play in maintaining their health.  These choices start with good nutrition, exercise and a basic awareness of biomechanics.  Because prevention is always better than even the best cure…

For a free chiropractic consultation contact us:

Stekel Chiropractic

212-581-3331

Posted in: Lower back pain

Steroid Injections for Back Pain: Understanding the Risks

Steroid Injections for Back Pain: Understanding the Risks

By Dani Stekel D.C.strong angry man

Chronic lower back pain is no fun. It is so not fun that many patients who are afflicted with it will try almost anything to rid themselves of the constant pain and discomfort. Increasingly, medical doctors are prescribing epidural steroid injections – anti-inflammatory steroid compounds injected directly into the spinal area – to relieve the pain. While there are cases in which this approach has reduced people’s pain, there are also enormous risks involved with epidural steroid injections. Those who suffer from chronic back pain should be aware of these risks and should discuss them with their physician before considering this treatment.
First, there is the question of effectiveness. Some patients have reported an actual increase in their pain level after the injection, not a reduction. The Food and Drug Administration, after all, has still not approved steroid injections for use in lower back pain because no one has been able to demonstrate long-term benefits of the treatment, only short-term pain relief. Second, there are risks associated with the injections themselves, ranging from infection and post-injection headaches to actual nerve damage. Although these types of risks are rare, occurring in only 0.1% to 0.5% of injections, they should still be considered.
Third, there are occasionally negative side effects from the treatment, including an increase in pain level, headaches, anxiety, sleeplessness, fever, reduced immune response and severe arthritis of the hips (avascular necrosis). Fourth, although these drugs may temporarily reduce inflammation, there is increasing evidence that they may contribute to bone loss in older patients. In one study conducted on over 3,000 patients at the Henry Ford Health System in Detroit, patients treated with steroids were found to be much more susceptible to vertebral fractures, and their risk of incurring these fractures increased by 21% with each round of treatments.
Finally, although it is limited so far to only one supplier of these medications, there is the possibility that the steroid medications themselves can be tainted and cause far more serious diseases than they are used to treat. Several cases of fungal meningitis have been linked to epidural steroid injections using medications supplied by one Massachusetts provider.
The purpose of this article is not to scare people away from injected steroid use. There are cases in which it has been of benefit. But there are questions about whether these medications are useful for treating back pain, and there are legitimate concerns about the treatment’s safety.
Therefore, the wisest approach might be to try other, safer, and more conservative treatments before you try epidural steroid injections. These alternative treatments include chiropractic care, massage, safer anti-inflammatory and pain-management medications, and simply allowing time to pass to see if the condition improves on its own. If you suffer from chronic lower back pain, by all means consult your medical practitioner, but don’t be afraid to also consult Doctors of Chiropractic, whose entire practice and philosophy is based drug-free, surgery-free and side-effect-free treatments for spinal problems.

For a free chiropractic consultation:

Call Stekel Chiropractic

212-581-3331

250 west 57st., Rm 930

New York, NY 10019

What is Scar Tissue and How Does it Affect Your Range of Motion?

What is Scar Tissue and How Does it Affect Your Range of Motion?

By Dani Stekel D.C.hands

Everyone develops scar tissue over time. This is the body’s normal reaction to injury-no matter how slight. Even simple actions that most people wouldn’t regard as injury-producing can lead to a buildup of scar tissue. Repetitive motions like typing, for example, can cause micro-trauma to the soft tissue (often referred to as an overuse injury), leading to carpal tunnel syndrome. As part of the repair process, scar tissue is created. However, this type of tissue tends to interfere with the smooth movement of muscle and may eventually affect your range of motion.
If you have ever felt a tightness or inability to move a joint in a fluid manner, you likely have a buildup of scar tissue. Our soft tissues (including tendons and ligaments) are made of collagen, which is a substance that looks like strands of rope wound together into a net-like formation called fascia. When an injury occurs, it causes frays, kinks and bends in the collagen strands of the fascia, which create the scar tissue. Ideally, scar tissue is replaced by normal tissue as it heals, but this does not always happen.
Adhesions are small bits of scar tissue that bind the tissues around them, leading to stiffness and a reduction in strength and range of motion. Nerves often become trapped in these adhesions, creating “trigger points” from which pain can radiate. Painful movements lead to less activity, and less activity leads to a further reduced range of motion. Because scar tissue has less circulation and is less flexible and elastic than normal muscle tissue, muscles become shorter and weaker. It is important to remove these scar tissue adhesions in order to reduce pain and restore strength and the proper range of motion.
Therapies such as the Active Release Technique (ART), Graston Technique and Myofascial Release are used by some chiropractors as a way of breaking up scar tissue to release trapped nerves and restore greater range of motion. The Graston Technique uses stainless steel instruments to break up the fascia, whereas ART and Myofascial Release employ a direct hands-on approach to remove adhesions and break up scar tissue.
Many chiropractors incorporate one or both of the above therapies into their practice to help increase their patient’s strength and range of movement, as well as helping their chiropractic adjustments to last longer. The more fluid and free of scar tissue the musculoskeletal system, the less likely tense muscles will pull the spine back out of alignment. So ask your chiropractor if he or she offers one of these therapies.

To Schedule a free consultation:

Contact: Stekel Chiropractic

250 west 57st.

New York, NY 10107

212-581-3331

Using Chiropractic to Treat Gout

Using Chiropractic to Treat Gout

By Dani Stekel D.C.

Once considered the “disease of kings” and wealthy aristocrats, gout is becoming a much more common problem throughout the western world today.  Gout is a painful condition caused by a buildup of uric acid crystals in the body’s soft tissues and joints.  Recurrent bouts of gout can lead to “gouty arthritis,” which is a degenerative type of chronic arthritis.  Like all forms of arthritis, pain management is uppermost in the minds of health practitioners, and chiropractic treatment for gout is centered around non-invasive, drug-free therapies.

According to the 2007-2008 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) gout affects upwards of 3.9 percent of the American population, and hyperuricemia (an excess of uric acid in the blood, which is a precursor to gout) affect 21.5 percent.  The typical western lifestyle is blamed for the increased incidence of the disease, as gout is triggered by a diet that includes a lot of alcohol, meat and shellfish.  Some common medications may also contribute to gouty arthritis.  Individuals with diabetes, high blood pressure, or those who are obese are at greater risk of contracting the disease.

The pain and inflammation from gout is caused when the kidneys are unable to remove enough of the uric acid that is formed as a result of the metabolism of purines, which are a compound commonly found in many high-protein foods.  The uric acid buildup causes the formation of sharp, needle-like crystals, which are deposited in the soft tissues surrounding the joints, causing pain, swelling, heat and redness.  Although gout can affect any joint, most initial attacks of gout occur in the lower extremities, particularly in the joint of the big toe.

The most common approach to treating gout is to prescribe medications, anti-inflammatory drugs and steroids to manage pain.  While this may work on a short-term basis, it may also cause unwanted side effects.  In contrast, the chiropractic treatment of gout usually involves a combination of advice about diet and lifestyle changes along with chiropractic manipulation to reduce pain and address the cause of the disease without the use of drugs.

Your chiropractor will likely advise that you reduce your intake of meat and alcohol and increase your intake of foods that have been shown to lower the concentration of uric acid in the blood, such as cherries.  Half a pound of cherries per day is the recommended amount to eat if you are looking to lower uric acid levels.  However, you can also drink concentrated cherry juice or take cherry juice extract to achieve the same results if cherries are out of season or eating that many is not to your taste.  Quercetin, a flavonoid found in such foods as apples, berries and onions, inhibits the production of uric acid, so your chiropractor may also suggest that you include more of these in your diet as well. Drinking alkalized ionized water will help lower acidity levels in the body.  Kangen water is the preferred choice.   Herbs that support kidney function (like couch grass) may also be recommended, since they may help your kidneys work more efficiently to clear the blood of excess uric acid.

In combination with these, your chiropractor may perform adjustments or manipulations using heat and/or ultrasound to help bring the body back into alignment and relieve pain.

For a free consultation call us:

Stekel Chiropractic

(212)581-3331

250 West 57st.

Rm. 930gout-xray-200-300

Posted in: Lower back pain

Preventing Back and Neck Injuries in Young Football Players

Preventing Back and Neck Injuries in Young Football Players

 

By: Youth Football Team on the Field --- Image by © Royalty-Free/CorbisDani Stekel D.C.

When you’re young it’s easy to believe you’re invincible and that accidents and injuries are things that only happen to other people.  However, when kids play a contact sport such as football, there’s a very real risk of injuries that can affect them for the rest of their lives.

Of the more than one 1 million players who participated in 2011, two high school football players died as a result of football-related accidents.  However, non-fatal back and neck injuries are far more common.  Chiropractors suggest that many of these injuries can be avoided by educating football players about how their spine works and which positions to avoid during play, especially when tackling.  Many professional teams even employ their own chiropractors to help prevent and treat injuries.

The majority of serious football injuries are caused by compression of the cervical spine (neck).  When players collide during a tackle, the amount of force felt by both players is considerable.  However, if a player drops his head before impact, the collision is felt much more keenly, as the flexing of the cervical spine reduces the natural properties of shock absorption in this part of the upper back.  Keeping the head up can dramatically reduce the number and severity of neck injuries in young players.  Avoiding direct head (helmet) contact with an opponent is also an important part of staying safe and minimizing impact on the neck and upper back.

In addition to good tackling mechanics, warming up and cooling down before and after a game is as important in football as it is in other sports.  Muscles that have not been warmed up and stretched before a game are far more likely to strain or tear on exertion.  Similarly, cooling down exercises prevent sharp contractions of over-exerted muscles.  All good coaches will teach this to their players from a young age.

Conditioning muscles through gym workouts is an important part of most sports.  However, there may be a tendency in football for trainers and players to pay special attention to areas of the body that improve performance (such as the legs and upper body) while neglecting the more vulnerable muscles of the neck region.  Neck strengthening is an excellent way of reducing the chance of a serious cervical injury, as the muscles will be able to absorb more of the impact of a collision.  This is even more true if the player’s head is kept up, as noted above.

Several chiropractic organizations have taken a lead in educating football teams and players at the high school level and beyond to reduce the risk of head, neck and back injuries.  Some chiropractors provide free advice to teams and even produce posters and educational messages to post in locker rooms as a natural extension of their chiropractic care in the community.  A good ongoing relationship between local chiropractors and high school football teams provides a firm basis for educating young athletes about the importance of spinal health, proper preparation and good playing mechanics.

Bring in your kids for a spinal checkup!

Contact us at Stekel Chiropractic

(212)581-3331

250 West 57st.

Rm. 930

Stress and the Mind-Body Connection

concerned-man-200-300Stress and the Mind-Body Connection

By Dr. Dani Stekel D.C.

For many years, the medical profession considered the mind and body to be separate spheres with little effect on each other. However, researchers have begun to take much greater notice of the connection between the two in recent decades.

Not only is it obvious that bad physical health will affect your mental well-being, but it is now generally recognized that our thoughts also have a profound influence on many parts of the body, including the immune, nervous, endocrine, digestive and cardiovascular systems.

Since the discovery of the opiate receptor in 1973, scientific research has shown how emotional states are caused by the release of hormones and neurotransmitters, a process that is greatly influenced by events in our lives as well as our thoughts and emotions.  Researchers now understand that these “molecules of emotion” (as the author Candace Pert has described them) affect a much larger number of body systems than previously thought.  Anyone who has experienced “butterflies in the stomach” before an interview or exam can certainly testify to the truth of this!

The stress response evolved in order to prepare the body for fight or flight in the presence of great danger such as a lion or an enemy from another tribe.  Even though we may be surrounded by 21st century technology, human physiology is still based on what we needed as hunter-gatherers.  The stress response is designed to be a short-term reaction to immediate danger that is then followed by relief and relaxation after that immediate danger has passed.  In response to serious threat, the body will release chemicals such as adrenaline (epinephrine) and cortisol, which divert blood away from non-critical organs in the body such as the digestive system and send it to the muscles.  The heart rate also goes up in readiness for intense activity.

As a short-term response, stress has few lasting physiological effects and stress chemicals break down quickly in the body once the stressor is no longer there.  However, most physical threats in our modern world are imagined rather than real.  And our modern-day fears and anxieties can lurk beneath the surface for weeks or months.  So it turns out that the kind of physiological responses helpful for fighting a lion are not so useful in helping us cope with our modern causes of stress.  In fact, our bodies’ response to stressful situations (designed to help us cope with short-term, fight-or-flight situations) can even have a detrimental impact on the body when it’s switched on over prolonged periods.  Digestive disorders such as Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), high blood pressure, low immunity and even chronic illness such as Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) are just some examples of illnesses that can be brought on by long-term stress.  In addition, researchers have also discovered that stress can worsen many preexisting medical conditions and can lead to changes in the brain.  These changes tend to make chronically stressed people more impatient and aggressive.  This can further reduce their ability to cope with problems. 

While we are still running on what may be considered outdated stress technology in our bodies, we certainly do not have to be controlled by it.  Fortunately for us, the fight or flight response triggered by our sympathetic nervous system is not the only mode our bodies can operate in.  We can also learn to trigger the parasympathetic “rest or digest” mode, which allows the body to rest and reverse the physiological changes brought about by stress.

Making sure you have enough time to unwind is critical to combating the effects of stress throughout the day, week and month.  So is eating well and exercising.  And learning a relaxation technique such as meditation can also help.  Yoga is a particularly good “stress buster” as it combines gentle exercise with meditative breathing and relaxation.  Counseling and anger management can also be appropriate during periods of intense difficulty to ensure that stress doesn’t get the better of you and your body. Chiropractic care is well know for lowering tension in the body, and allowing the nervous system to come back in to balance.  Call us for a free consultation.

Stekel Chiropractic

250 West 57st.

NY, NY 10107

Ste. 930

(212)581-3331