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Don’t Sacrifice Your Back for Great Abs

Sit-ups and crunches have been the gold standard in abdominal exercise for the longest time, but all that is changing.  Personal trainers and US military experts now believe that sit-ups, and possibly crunches, too, are dangerous to the spine.  They put tremendous pressure on the lower back and can cause discs to bulge.

The US Army has already begun to phase out sit-ups for some soldiers, and the Navy and Marines are considering doing the same.  They are even considering banning sit-ups altogether, because the risk of injury is so high.  This change came on the heels of a study that showed that 56% of injuries reported during military fitness tests were the result of sit-ups.  Now, military personnel who are exempt from sit-ups are expected to lift a 44 lb. sand bag instead.

So, if you’re hoping for six-pack abs, or at least to reduce or eliminate the mid-body jiggle, what are you supposed to do?  Personal trainers around the country are recommending the plank pose.  The plank is an isometric exercise borrowed from traditional yoga.  In isometric exercise, a position that works a muscle or group of muscles is held, rather than repeated.

How do you do a plank?  Start our on the floor or a yoga mat on your stomach.  Lift your weight and rest upon your elbows, not your hands.  As in a push-up, your body should form a straight line from your shoulders to your heels.  Keep your core muscles engaged by tucking your abdomen in tightly.  Hold the pose.

plank-exercise

How long you should hold it depends on your level of fitness.  If you’re just starting out, try holding for 30 seconds (if you can) and gradually increase your time in 30 second intervals.  There doesn’t appear to be any benefit to holding the plank pose for more than two minutes (or 120 seconds) at a time, unless you are trying to set a record.  Planks have an added bonus of toning your arms, chest and back at the same time.

So, do your body a favor… replace your sit-ups with the plank.  And if you somehow manage to hurt your back anyway, give us a call!

Lifestyle Shown to Reduce Cancer Risk

Each year, vast amounts of money are spent on cancer research and treatments and millions of people suffer with this most dreaded disease.  There is still much we don’t know about it, but one thing we do know is that lifestyle plays an important role in the development of cancer.

I’ve been telling my patients for years that a healthy lifestyle will reduce their risk of cancer, as well as heart disease and other degenerative diseases, and a recent study published in the JAMA Oncology Journal documents lifestyle’s protective effect.

The study controlled for smoking, alcohol consumption, BMI (body mass index, or maintaining a healthy weight) and exercise habits.  It concluded that most lung cancer cases and more than a fifth of colon, pancreatic and kidney cancer cases were attributable to lifestyle.  They further estimated that for women, 41 percent of cancer cases and 59 percent of cancer deaths were preventable, and for men, 63 percent of cancer cases and 67 percent of cancer deaths were preventable.

And this study only controlled for the most basic aspects of a healthy lifestyle.  It didn’t take into consideration the actual make-up of the diet – concentration of nutrients, fiber, animal products, organic foods, nor did it consider supplementation, air quality, stress levels, second hand smoke and more.  Imagine what the numbers might look like had all these factors been taken into consideration.

There are certainly cancers that have a strong genetic component and others that seem unrelated to lifestyle, but for those forms which do show a strong relationship to lifestyle, wouldn’t it make sense to do all you can to avoid them?  At Wantagh Woods Chiropractic and Wellness, we’ve been coaching our clients in weight loss, nutrition and exercise for as long as we’ve been seeing clients.  This study just documents what we’ve been saying all along.  Let us help you to feel your best, and stay that way!

Summer Fitness Tips

Today is the summer solstice – the longest day of the year. What better time to start planning your summer goals and activities? It seems more people are concerned with fitness over the summer, when they can’t hide under layers of clothing. Often, that means working too hard at the wrong times, which can lead to negative consequences. Here are a few tips for keeping fit this summer:

  • Be smart about outdoor workout times. The hottest part of the day tends to be from 1-4 pm. If your favorite workout routine involves outdoor activities, try to avoid these times. Take advantage of the cooler morning and late afternoon hours.
  • Stay hydrated. Most people don’t drink enough water on a regular basis, but when you have heat and exertion further depleting your body’s water supply, you have to be extra careful about getting enough fluids. If you wait until your body signals thirst, you’re already on your way to dehydration. And then there’s electrolytes. We’ve been convinced by advertising that Gatorade and other sugar-laden drinks are the way to restore electrolytes during and after a workout, but there are more natural ways, like coconut water or that good old summer favorite, watermelon.
  • Be mindful of the sun. About 20 minutes a day of sun exposure without sunscreen is not only ok for most people, but can be beneficial, because it gives your body the opportunity to manufacture Vitamin D, and many people in modern society are deficient in this important vitamin. However, beyond that, take precautions, like sunscreen, hats and protective clothing, as people who have had multiple sunburns are more likely to develop skin cancer. If you are very fair skinned, you may need to protect your skin sooner than 20 minutes.
  • Be sure to get enough rest. Fitness goals are great, but overworking your body in the hope of speedy results is a bad idea, especially in summer. It’s never a good idea to push too hard because of the risk of injury and nutritional imbalances, but summer also increases the risks from dehydration and sun exposure.
  • Enjoy seasonal fruits and vegetables. Visit farmer’s markets and take advantage of nature’s bounty. Local seasonal produce is generally sweeter and more nutritious than their out of season cousins that had to travel around the globe to get to you. Not only are the colorful fruits and vegetables bursting with flavor and nutrients, but they are a good source of fluids that will help keep you hydrated.
  • Take advantage of water exercise. People who have joint or other pain issues can often do more exercise in water than on lad because of the reduced pull of gravity, but not everyone has access to a pool or other water year-round. Take advantage of the opportunity to frolic in the pool or at the beach with less pain.
  • Get adjusted. Increased activity levels can put your spine out of alignment, causing pain and ruining your fun. Come to Wantagh Woods Chiropractic for regular chiropractic adjustments to get the most out of your summer.

Have a great summer!

Playground Perils and a Healthier Summer

When we think of the joys of childhood, we often imagine a scene of children running, laughing and playing in a playground.  While the playgrounds of today are much safer than than those of the past, with sharp corners eliminated and cushioned surfaces underneath, there are still a large number of emergency room visits resulting from playing on this type of equipment.

Playground

It seems that the three biggest causes of serious injury or death in a playground are hangings, equipment failure and falls (despite the cushioning).  Fear doesn’t have to ruin the fun if some simple common sense precautions are taken.

  1.  Never allow children to play on playground equipment wearing hoodies or any other garment with a tie around the neck.
  2. Never leave children unattended on rope equipment where their head can become entangled.
  3. Always inspect playground equipment for sharp edges or parts that are worn enough that they might break.
  4. Never allow a child to go down a slide head first.

If you have playground equipment at home, consider the surface underneath.  The majority of public playgrounds have cushioned surfaces underneath, but the majority of home playgrounds do not.

If your child does take a fall while playing, even if there seems to be no major injury, consider taking them in for a Chiropractic exam/adjustment.  Jarring falls can create spinal misalighnment, which left uncorrected can develop into long term problems later on.  The same holds true for adults.  Many of the activities of an active life can cause the spine to go out of alignment. Safe, natural, painless Chiropractic adjustments can make the difference between a continued healthy, active life or long term pain.

So, go ahead and enjoy the summer with a healthy, active life for you and your children, but don’t neglect your spine or theirs.  You only get one.

Live With The Seasons

One of the most important parts of getting back to nature is the ability to live in tune with the seasons.  Before heating and air conditioning, refrigeration or just plain electricity and all that has become possible because of it, our ancestors had no choice but to live as the seasons dictated.  Their food, exercise, rest, dress, personal hygiene and more were all dependent upon what the weather would allow.

long island beach

Of course, we’re not advocating bathing only in summer, but there are aspects of the seasons that can add a lot to your healthy lifestyle.  Here are some thoughts on living with the seasons that we thought might be useful to you.

Eating in Season

Fruits and vegetables that are in season are generally tastier and more nutritious than their counterparts that are shipped from other parts of the world whose seasons are different from ours.  Here in Long Island, we are blessed to have all of the conveniences of a major city just a railroad or car ride away, while also having farms and vineyards close by in the opposite direction.  There are a multitude of CSA’s, farmers markets and farmstands where you can buy Long Island grown produce throughout the summer and fall.

Local produce is generally picked closer to ripeness because it doesn’t need to travel far or keep as long, so they are more flavorful.  Because they spend less time in transit and storage, they are less likely to lose nutrients that degrade over time.

Even if the thing you’re looking for isn’t available from a Long Island farm, there are so many crops that grow in New York and New Jersey that there are loads of seasonal choices that are also local including; strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, cherries, peaches, apricots, plums, pears, apples, beans, corn, broccoli, cauliflower, peppers, tomatoes, eggplant and a wide variety of squashes, greens and root vegetables, among others.  The east end also has farms that raise animals so you can get free-range or grass-fed, meat, egggs and dairy products.  Some of the farms are certified organic, but even if they are not, small family-run farms tend to use a lot less pesticides than the factory farms that provide products to the big distributors.

Local foods are also good for the environment.  Reduced transit requirements result in less energy used and emissions produced, so the slightly higher price you might pay for local food is an investment in the future of the planet.  More specifically, it is an investment in the future of Long Island.  If we dont support the remainng farmers, eventually, those farms will become housing and malls resulting in the loss of country character and an increase in crowding, traffic and demand on resources.  What you choose to eat impacts much more than just your waistline.

Outdoor Exercise

If you are an avid exerciser, you probably don’t need to be told to take advantage of the favorable weather in the warmer seasons, but it can make a big difference to people who are just starting to exercise.  Of course, you need to take common sense precautions: don’t exercise outdoors on extremely hot days or in the peak heat of the early afternoon, stay well hydrated, don’t exercise outdoors when there is a risk of lightning, protect your skin from the sun and mosquitos and don’t swim where there is an increased risk of drowning.

All that being said, swimming may be inaccessible during the colder months, but Long Island is surrounded by beaches and dotted with public pools.  Swimming and other water exercise is gentle on the joints and a great way to start or expand your fitness program.

The simplest, least equipment-dependent form of exercise is walking, and cooler summer mornings or evenings are a great time to do it.

Hiking, water sports and other sporting activities are more readily available in summer.  Take advantage according to your fitness and interest level.  Play beach volleyball, paddle a kayak or participate in a host of other outdoor activities.

If yoga is your thing, consider doing it outdoors in the morning, when your sun salutation will be more than just words.  In short, enjoy what the summer offers.  It will be gone all too soon.

As is true all year round, if you are finding that your range of motion is limited, you’re trying to work through pain or you’re injured during exercise (or just daily life activities), come in to see us in our Wantagh office.  We can get you moving again without drugs or surgery through Chiropractic manipulation of your spine and joints.

Can Chiropractic Adjustments Boost Immune Function

You might only be reading this because you’re skeptical, but we’re glad you’re curious enough to read it anyway.  There are a lot of alternative treatments that claim to benefit the immune system, but generally, the claims are made in vague enough terms to make it difficult to be able to prove or disprove them.  This is where Chiropractic is different.

Chiropractic adjustments return the spine to its natural alignment, correcting “subluxations,” which are misalignments of the vertebrae.  How does this improve immune function?  The vertebrae are the bony casings around the spinal cord which protect it from injury.  They are separated by disks, similar to cartilege in other parts of the body, that cushion the spaces between the disks, preventing friction during movement.

The spinal cord functions much like the main power cord for your body, supplying power to all the other parts.  Like a high voltage line, it has insulation, known as the myelin sheath that prevents the current from going places where it’s not intended to go or crossing into the wrong paths.  Like an electrical network, there are offshoots that provide power to specific locations.  In the case of the spinal cord, those offshoots are the nerves that branch off between the vertebrae to provide nerve impulse (the way your brain controls the body) to all of your various body parts and organs.

kinked-hose

When your spine is out of alignment (subluxated), it exerts pressure on the nerves that are passing between those two vertebrae, and can impact the function of that body part.  Most of us know that when we have tingling and/or pain in an arm or leg, it’s due to a “pinched nerve,” but we don’t know what it feels like to have a pinched nerve that leads to an internal organ.  It might manifest as pain or loss of control in cases where we have control, like the bladder or bowels, but it might just silently reduce function.  This is where Chiropractic can help with boosting immunity and improving organ function – a benefit which people tend to question, because it’s not part of the spine.

Another way to look at it is that the spine is like a garden hose.  When it is functioning properly, it provides a good supply of water to your sprinkler, which in turn provides water to your lawn and garden, amking it grow.  If the hose is kinked, water flow will be greatly diminished.  If you don’t notice, or don’t do anthing about it, your lawn or garden will suffer.  Since our spines are on the inside, we can’t see the reduced flow of life sustaining energy with our eyes, so we have to learn to listen to our bodies.

Multiple studies have shown improvements in white blood cell activity almost immediately following Chiropractic adjustments, and the white blood cells play a major role in immune function.  Immune function is just one of the many invisible functions of our bodies that require an unimpeded flow of nerve impulses along the spine in order to function optimally.

At this time of year, with school starting and autumn right around the corner, staying free from contagious disease becomes more of a challenge.  Do you and your children deserve to have every advantage in that battle?  If so, consider coming in to Wantagh Woods Chiropractic for your Chiropractic adjustment.

April Gardening Does Not Have to Bring May Back Pain

This is the time of year that eager gardeners and reluctant homeowners alike break out the gloves, tools and painkillers.  With the start of spring comes the often back breaking work of removing dead leaves and debris, pruning plants, fertilizing and preparing the garden beds.  Often, it also brings backache, leg pain and a host of other injuries, but it doesn’t have to be that way.

Gardening can be a wonderful way to enjoy the outdoors and get some exercise while beautifying your home, planting food or helping the planet.  Taking a few tips to make it easier on you can mean the difference between enjoying your yard or being laid up in pain.

The American Chiropractic Association  has these suggestions to help prevent your gardening activities from creating or worsening a spinal problem:

  • Warm up your muscles before gardening.  Do some basic stretches to prepare your body for the work you are about to begin.
  • Don’t bend over to do the work if you can avoid it.  Use a cushion and kneel, rather than bending, and if you must bend, bend from the knees rather than the waist.
  • Shift positions frequently so you don’t overuse one set of muscles, and take frequent stretch breaks.  The short time you add to the task by taking breaks is nothing compared to the amount of time you’ll be out of commission if you just try to power through it.
  • Once your tasks are completed, stretch again, then walk a bit to get your muscles back into “normal” mode.”  Don’t just drop into the nearest chair, because that will cause you to stiffen up.
  • Drink plenty of water during and after your project.  Dehydration will make stressed muscles even more likely to go into spasm.

All these tips may seem to complicate things, but in reality, prevention is the best approach when it comes to avoiding the pain of overuse injuries.  And of course, coming in for an adjustment soon after gardening will help align anything that may have shifted during your project.

Benefits of Chiropractic for Children


The majority of parents are diligent in taking their children to the pediatrician, dentist and optometrist for regular checkups, but fall short when it comes to the health of their children’s spine.  While Chiropractors focus on the spine, the fact is that the nerves passing through the spine provide nerve impulses to almost every part of the body.  As a result, spinal issues can also be responsible for issues in other parts of the body.

Children are particularly prone to falls and other activities (like sports) that can jar the body and throw the spine out of alignment, and some babies spines can become misaligned during the birthing process.  If a segment of the spine is misaligned (this is called a subluxation), it can interfere with nerve impulses to various organs and other body parts.  Regular chiropractic adjustments return the spine to its normal position and allow a young spine to grow straight and strong.

Chiropractic adjustments have been proven to help with asthma and digestive issues in addition to postural issues, sports injuries and back or neck pain.  One of the most significant findings regarding Chiropractic and common childhood ailments is its effectiveness in treating ear infections, or otitis media.

Over 35% of pediatrician visits in the United States are because of actual or suspected ear infections.  The usual treatment is a course of antibiotics.  A recent study published in the Journal of Clinical Chiropractic Pediatrics indicates that Chiropractic adjustments can be an effective treatment for otitis media.  In roughly 80% of the children studied who received Chiropractic treatment for ear infections, there was no recurrence of the ear infection within six months.  In contrast, children treated with antibiotics tend to have recurrent ear infections and the antibiotics may contribute toward the child developing resistant strains of bacteria.

ear-infection-ear-pain

Many of modern medicine’s remedies can be life saving, but in instances where there is a safe, natural AND effective choice, why subject a child to all of the unpleasant side effects?  Chiropractic adjustments can be an important tool for helping parents to keep their children healthy without accompanying risks.

Inflammation Can be a Real Pain

Inflammation itself is not a bad thing.  It’s the body’s localized protective response to an injury or infection, which serves to destroy, dilute, or wall off the infection and heal the injury.  However, when we live with chronic inflammation, the result can be arthritis, joint and muscle pain and the accumulation of plaque in t he arteries, among other conditions.

The bad news is that chronic inflammation can be caused by your diet.  The good news is that there are specific changes you can make to your diet to improve chronic inflammation.

As a society, we have a tendency to view each of our health concerns as a completely separate entity, but a smarter, more holistic approach would be to look for common causes and try to address them.  Instead of thinking that you have a bum knee, lower back pain, a stiff neck and cardiovascular issues, you might look a little deeper and realize that you have several issues throughout your body that all are related to inflammation.

Here are some diet tips to help rid you of the pain of inflammation:

  • Eliminate all grains and grain products for 3 months. This includes bread, cereal, pasta, baked goods and beer, among other foods.
  • Eat lots of fruits and vegetables in place of the grains.
  • Choose bright colorful vegetables like, kale, broccoli, spinach, collard greens and many others.
  • Choose fresh foods over packaged. Shop the perimeter of the supermarket and avoid the interior aisles.
  • Use mesclun mix (also called spring mix, field greens or mixed baby greens) for salad, with extra virgin olive oil in your dressing.
  • Eat lots of raw onions.
  • Mince or slice your garlic and eat it raw or lightly cooked in your salads and other dishes.
  • The perfect balance of protein and veggies is chicken Caesar salad with no croutons. Use these proportions as a guide for your other meals.
  • Buy Omega-3 eggs.
  • For a snack or meal replacement, make a shake of whey protein, water, frozen fruit with no added sugar, like bananas, blueberries, peaches, strawberries, raspberries, etc.
  • Avoid soda and coffee. Instead, drink 2 liters  of water and 1 liter of green tea with ginger each day.  The recipe appears below.

Organic Green Tea with Ginger Recipe

Boil 1 to 1.5 gallons of water in a large pot.

Turn off heat and add 6 organic green tea bags (decaf or regular is ok)

Add 1/2 lb. fresh ginger sliced into 1/4″ pieces

Steep for 3-6 hours (can be left overnight)

Strain and store in glass jars in refrigerator

Drink at least one quart a day