Thursday, December 11, 2014

Postures of the Rich and Famous

Do you know what everyone says to a chiropractor? "I have horrible posture".  People confess this to me like I'm some sort of spinal priestess who will absolve them of their slouchy sins.  Most of the time I correct them in thought rather than stance - their posture really isn't as poor as they think! Sure, who among us can't use a little tweaking, a little retraining, a little toning? But most non-chiropractors don't really understand what proper posture is all about.  And how can you be expected to master something you don't understand? 

We tend to equate the position of the head and shoulders with posture, but posture really begins at your feet.  It is an assessment of the lateral distribution of your mass, and how much you deviate from your center of gravity.  Not just how far you can thrust your shoulders back.  And truthfully, while most of us could improve, few of us are actually horrible. 

Celebrities, on the other hand, are often photographed having horrible posture.  And since photographs and the internet don't lie, allow me to analyze the worst of the worst celebrity postures. Celebrities - they are just like us!  - The poor posture edition. 

To wit.  I began this post many Oscars ago, and watched as Gwyneth Paltrow took the stage.  And despite wearing a pretty sparkly dress, all I can see is the way her lovely head sticks way out from her lovely body. I'm sure she's a lovely lady, but her posture makes my neck hurt, and makes me cringe.  
Also, put on some pants.

I feel a bit bad for calling out Avril Lavigne.  After all, she's Canadian and seems so sweet, though I sort of want to be her big sister for an afternoon so I could take the green out of her hair and scrub her eyeliner off. And then I want to be her chiropractor for an afternoon, so I can tell her to uncross her legs (look how unlevel her pelvis is!), drop her shoulders (so much tension!) and relax her neck (take some pressure off the cervical facet joints!).  Then I want to tell her to smile!

Oy vey.  
This person actually has nice posture! Her shoulders are remarkably level, her head is centered, her shoulders are back, her navel is midline... WHY CAN I SEE HER BELLYBUTTON?
This "dress" is perfectly suited for a thorough partial postural assessment.  It also makes her appear to have one leg and that is throwing me off.  Also throwing me off is the thought that I hope her gait patterns are even, because one wrong step and things go from postural assessment to gynecological assessment.  This dress is beyond my scope of practice.  

Miley is the WORST postural role model for young women today. Notice the uneven shoulders?  The protruding collarbones? Standing on one leg, causing the pelvis to jut out to one side? The forward head position? Miley - have your people call my people... person... Miley - call Louise.  She'll book you in for a proper assessment so we can get to work straightening you out.  Wear something more comfortable so we can properly see your spine and do some muscle testing.  

Oh. Er, sure. That's fine.  
Stop hiking your right shoulder. 

Oh sweetie.  MarykateAshleyIdon'tknow... your posture is horrible.  At least it looks that way in this and many other pictures that catch my chiropractic eye.  Your posture makes my neck and my heart hurt. So rounded in the upper back! I wonder if you have pronated feet that contribute to this? Though it is unlikely that orthotics would fit into your Louboutins, so I suppose it doesn't matter. Your posture problems don't appear to be genetic - maybe take some pointers from your more posturally blessed twin sister?

And it is not just the ladies who commit posture crimes - though even the most tailored suit forgives many postural deviations.  This is a societal problem far beyond chiroscope's jurisdiction - why women are put on display while men stay modestly suited.  I'm just a simple chiropractor, this I do not know.  But as a feminist chiropractor I felt it necessary to balance the scales even just a bit, and so I scoured the internets for bare and crooked torsos, and came up with these sorry fellows:
Just look at these two.  I spent hours - HOURS - analyzing these forms.  Forward head positions, anteriorly rotated glenohumeral joints, hyperkyphotic position (looking at you, Lance), externally rotated hips... these men need serious rehabilitation.  I can barely stand to look at these postures for another second.  

I'm not the only one concerned about the postures of the rich and famous.  An old school mate of mine who has become a Trainer To The Stars! recently wrote about this very issue.  Of course he wrote about it for People Magazine and can speak first hand of Jessica Simpson's posture, but the important thing is that someone is doing something about the Celebrity Posture Problem.  Thank you, Harley. 
Because this problem won't fix itself.  Or it may try to, and that will only lead to over-compensation.  You know, the person that tries too hard?

 This extreme and unnatural arch will lead to low back joint pain.  The stilettos that I'm assuming she is wearing are likely a)stunning, b)worth my monthly mortgage payment and c)putting excessive pressure on her lumbar facet joints.  This position is unsustainable - she will topple backward eventually.  Not since WWII has anyone been so concerned that PARIS COULD FALL AT ANY MOMENT. This is the perfect example of a failed attempt at good posture.  "Chest out, shoulders back" does not good posture make!

The moral of this blog is that we are all just trying to fight gravity.  We are all of us trying to keep our heads up to make it through another day, and some of us are going to do it more gracefully than others.  But stop telling me how bad your posture is; stand proud and tall like you are on the red carpet.  I don't hear Miley or Avril or Paris or Lance apologizing (oh... right... forgot about this too.... and this... ) so you shouldn't either. 

Do some postural work! See a chiropractor! Try pilates!
And if all else fails, fake it like a celebrity! 

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

All in the family

They say opposites attract. 
This is certainly the case for my husband and me. We truly compliment one another! For example just the other day Robbie told me that the dinner I prepared wasn't as bad as it smelled. A true commendation!
Our binary but complimentary nature manifests in so many ways. He is artistic, I am scientific. When we argue I am right and he is wrong.  I have a bad back and he has a bad shoulder. Where we lack our partner is abundant. I have great shoulders! He has a great back! Our parts together make up a fabulous whole person who is greater than the sum of it's parts, and one who rarely needs to see a chiropractor.
Until one of them effs it all up and stages a poorly timed full blown spinal blow out. Spoiler alert - it was him.
My husband thew his back out and it's not freaking fair. He is in massive pain, totally unable to move or fend for himself. He cannot fetch meals nor children, and he is in utter disbelief that this kind of pain has ever before existed in the universe. The empathy - nay - sympathy, I feel for this man, my husband, my partner, is immense.
Back pain sucks.  I have devoted my life's work to battling this monster, BACK PAIN. And like Sisyphus I persevere, even as I watch my foe take yet another innocent spine. Except this time it messed with my man!
Talk about taking your work home with you! I'm schlepping the laser home, stashing acupuncture needles in my purse for emergency sessions, bringing Advil and glasses of water and shopping for new iPads. I still don't understand how that last one contributes to his rehabilitation, but he insisted it would work. (Back Pain - there's an app for that!)
I know. I feel sorry for me too. His pain is killing me! You know how some people love babies but then love handing them back to the parent? Patients are like that. I love you guys!! I do! I truly care! But part of the deal is that I care for you (so much!) and you feel better and then you pay money and go home. And this patient - Robbie? He IS my home. Heaven help me, between the massaging and the serving and the caring and the lasering and the chiropracting, I've never worked so hard. (And he still hasn't paid me!).
Truthfully it has been educative for us both. While I've had far more than my share of personal back pain to contend with and I've overseen a few gazillion professional cases, I hadn't ever seen an arm's length case of acute low back pain. I didn't fully appreciate how scary it is to helplessly watch your loved one suffer, how frustrating it is to try in vain to assist in the simple pursuit of a comfortable position, and how upending it is to have a very significant one quarter of your family out of commission.  Gah.
My saving grace is knowing that Robbie and I have all the necessary tools at our disposal. We are blessed to have the GREATEST team of practitioners to address Robbie's situation. I am also blessed to have my knowledge - to be able to help my husband, even just a little bit, and to know so deeply on both personal and professional levels that this awful pain is temporary.
Still, this sucks.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

I Know What You Did To Your Back Last Summer

I was fortunate as a child to be shipped off to camp each summer.  Camp was a formative experience for me.  I remember my first kiss (omg!), having leeches pulled off my legs (O.M.G.) and my first disc herniation (oh gawd...).  These summer experiences taught me that summer, like love, hurts.  Also, that both can be a bit gross.  

But over the long winter, we forget our summer lessons.  And sure enough, the humidex rises once again, and there are offers of cottage weekends in Muskoka, and you forget that you haven't water-skied since you wore braces... and then I get a call on Monday morning.  Here's a useful summer-tip: program your chiropractor's number into your phone!  (416-482-1332).  Also!  Source out local chiropractors if you'll be away for a while!  And!  Get a pre-summer vacation adjustment!!

Helpful in September, I'm sure.

The point is, you did some foolish things last summer. In the interest learning from your mistakes, let's review the error of your ways - shall we?

1. You are being driven crazy
Driving is hard on the back. Now factor in cottage traffic bumper to bumper from Toronto to Gravenhurst, screaming kids in the back seat, and that jerk who keeps making you brake for no *@^%! reason... your cottage commute is wrecking your back.  Solution: invite your chiropractor up for the weekend!

2. You slept around.
Rosseau, Prince Edward County, Lake Huron - you aren't particular, are you?  If there is a cottage and a free bunk-bed, you are in.  Problem is, the cottage is where old beds go to die.  Nobody buys a NEW bed for the cottage, especially the guest room! Honestly, sometimes the aero-bed is your best bet.  Solution: if your back is in bad shape, consider if a stay on a 20 year old bed is worth it.  If you are on an inflatable mattress, make sure it is leak free. Waking up in a sagging air mattress with no chiropractor in town is a bad idea!

3. You didn't wear sensible shoes
Flip flops are not shoes. They are pathetic slices of rubber, precariously and disgustingly attached to your foot by a pitiful strip of plastic wedged between your toes. It's far too much foot to be shared outside of a beach.  I could actually forgive all this if it weren't for the complete lack of arch support.  Every summer I see nice young ladies (oh gawd, don't even get me started on the man-flip-flop... just... no.) coming to my office complaining of new low back pain, knee problems, ankle pain.  It makes for the easiest diagnosis and treatment when I see a flip-flop dangling at the end of the patient's foot.  Flip-flops are literally a flimsy excuse for footwear, and I officially forbid anyone reading this post to wear them.  What to wear instead, when your toes are aching to see the sun?  There are a lot of foot-friendly options.  Naots and Birkenstocks are always good, but any sandal with a modicum of support and foot-attachment is an improvement.  Down with flip-flops. Solution: time to go shoe shopping, and think: arch support. 

4. You ran into trouble
'We must learn to walk before we can run'.  Running is not simply walking faster.  It is complex, technical, and a unique challenge. Personally I hate running. Professionally I also hate running - it is hard on the joints and causes many problems.  But I understand that runners gotta run, and I aim to do my best to help them in their crazy exercisal pursuit.  If you want to run and never have, sign up for a clinic and learn how (the Running Room offers programs).  If you want to run but have joints that express their displeasure, consider modifications - different shoes, indoor vs. outdoor track, get treatment, wear orthotics.  But if you want to run and are totally unconditioned and unsuited for it - stay off the track!!

I really wanted to come up with a 5th example, lists are so much neater in fives.  But I think I made my point: Summer can hurt come fall. Solution: post-summer chiropractic treatment!

Monday, July 7, 2014

Sit on this

I recently received an email from a dear friend.  The subject line was: husband's pain in the butt. I commiserated - aren't they all?  Turns out it was a misunderstanding, an apostrophe catastrophe if you will.  Her husband was having, not being, the pain. 


Her husband, you see, had planted his rear in a very expensive Herman Miller aeron chair, but was still having pain.  And being an expert in things ergonomic and butt-pain related, they wondered could I help?  Would I recommend a chair?

I was flummoxed.  If the cadillac of chairs wasn't cutting it, how was I supposed to help? Where do you go when a $1000 chair doesn't do the job?  What has society come to, when spending your mortgage payment on a chair doesn't guarantee a comfortable tushy? 

I decided to help him find a new chair.  Mostly because I'm a good person who likes helping others.  But also because I'm a cheap frugal person who likes buying other people's unwanted but very expensive and chic used chairs.

I want a (second-hand) Herman Miller Aeron!  Only the (second-hand) best for me!
After doing some research, I came up with some chair suggestions.

1. No Chair 
For serious, sitting is neither natural nor ideal.  Because we don't live in a gravity-less space, like space, we are subject to multiple forces.  There are forces from above, like the weight of and on your shoulders.  And forces from below, basically the earth pushing up against you.  How does an earthly body absorb and balance these forces?  With joints.  And discs. (and a chiropractor... but did I really need to point that out?) (also, that's my new job description: balancing forces from above and below since 2001.)
When you stand, you've got ankles, and knees and hips and muscles and so on, to help absorb these forces. When you take a load off and sit on your fanny, you've got... nothing.  All those forces are transmitted to your spine.  And your discs.  And your wallet, because you're gonna need a chiropractor, STAT.
BUT!  Check out the newest thing in the thrilling field of desks!  A bunch of former NASA researchers put their heads together and made this... a taller desk.  A standing desk!  Do your work standing!  Or better yet, standing and walking!  A treadmill workstation!
Or, just get up and walk around occasionally.  I mean, really.

2. Sit properly in your chair!
Your spine, like your women, should be curvy - and in all the right places!  The spine should curve in at the neck and low back, and gently out at the midback, to work like a spring and be able to absorb forces.  A flattened spine is rigid, and puts the discs out of their naturally curved and stacked position.  When you sit, a slight forward pelvic tilt will help maintain the lumbar curve.  A 'C' shaped spine looks awful, and causes a whole lotta trouble.  Perhaps, it is not the chair that is the problem, but the spine in it?  In other words, it's not Herman's fault you hurt if you slouch in his chair. Sit up straight like your Bubbie* told you. 

3. Alterna-sits
Remember when your Bubbie would smack you on the head and tell you to sit up straight and stop playing around in the chair?  No... just me?  (I may need therapy and also maybe this is why I became a chiropractor).  Well, perhaps Bubbie was wrong.  New and exciting things are happening in the thrilling field of Chairs.  Like uh, stools.  I've currently taken an interest in a Swopper, please don't judge me.  Isn't it adorable?  It moves, and I assume has a similar effect as sitting on a ball, with less of the comic relief of your colleagues falling off.

Too cute?  How about these?  The chair with the cut-outs is the HAG - awkward name, but unique design allowing one to sit forward or backward.  Next up is the verte, and i'll be honest, it TERRIFIES me!  What is that alien spine on the back?  The red "chair" is the Limbic... and I... from what I can tell it cups your thighs, and what... your bum goes in the space I guess?  No.  Just no. 

I sent off my research to my friend, and last I heard he was still parking his butt on my Aeron.  But, as luck would have it, I found someone selling brand new deeply discounted Haworth Zodys on Craigslist.  Sure, they probably 'fell off a truck'** somewhere, but what I don't know won't hurt my back. 

Just look at these beauties!  Breathable mesh back, comfy foam-padded seat, adjustable height, tilt and seat depth, lumbar support... what more could a girl ask for? (well, to be honest I could ask for arm rests that could be moved inward... but at half off retail I won't be picky!)

The truth is, our bodies are not designed to sit for hours at a time.  For example, I am designed to be sitting in a cave-chair with my babies while waiting for my husband to bring home the mastadon.  But times have changed and our lives have changed, if our spines have not.  We have options now, and that too can be overwhelming.  Makes me wonder if we should truly return to our roots for the ultimate in comfort:

* For the non-yiddushkeit, Bubbie = grandmother.
** I was assured that they did not fall off a truck, but were in fact surplus inventory.  

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Next year at the Chiropractor's office!

I love Passover.  It is my favourite jewish holiday for sure.  For my gentle gentile readers, Passover celebrates the Jews' exodus from Egypt, from slavery to freedom.  While fleeing Egypt our forefathers didn't have time to let their bread rise, and so Jews around the world become sort of gluten-free for one week to remember their plight and to lose a few pounds.  Note that throughout history, no Jew has ever lost a single pound during passover, because our people are an innovative bunch, and we invented chocolate covered matza.  When god gives you matza, make matza bark!

It is a wonderful holiday, filled with tradition, family, food, song and wine.  4 cups of wine, to be exact.  And being a devout jewess for this one holiday alone, I take this literally, consuming 4 metric cups of wine, not just 4 glasses of wine.  L'chaim!

Chocolate and wine aside (best holiday ever!), the International Tribe of Jewish Chiropractors has been working steadfast for thousands of years to change one small detail of the Passover Seder.  The Hagaddah instructs us at many points to lean to the left.  Various scholars that I googled postulate that we do this to mimic royalty, who themselves leaned to the left.  Some chazzers propose that leaning to the left leaves the right hand free, all the better for stuffing ones' face with more gefilte fish.  Others suggest that leaning to the right is a choking hazard, especially if one does so with a face full of gefilte fish.

We at the ITJC are tired of being flooded with calls every Nissan.  The day after passover, we ourselves are bloated and bound and hungover, and we need to put an end to incessant emergency calls from patients suffering because of this dated and dangerous custom.  Leaning to one side is off-putting to the sacroiliac joint, to say the least.  If the leaner happens to be wearing a wallet in his back pocket, I'll have to cancel my morning just to deal with the gluteal insult.  God forbid my patient has a preexisting disc injury - she's looking at weeks of rehab!  Were we freed from bondage to be delivered into pain?  We think not.

Our people have suffered enough - let's not add back pain to the list.
Chag sameach and stay upright!