Dr. Bell's Blog

Don't Sleep On The Importance Of A Great Night's Rest.

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Sleep.

We spend roughly a third of our life doing it. It is vitally important for health and healing, yet so many of us are not getting enough of it. Are you in this group of people? Are your children? Let’s take a look at how important the quantity and quality of consistently better sleep is for you.

Why Is Sleep So Important?

This could be a blog post of it’s own. I recently read a book entitled “Why We Sleep”, by Matthew Walker, PhD., in which he went into detail on many aspects of sleep, dreams, and why we need both. It’s a fascinating read if you want further detail on this subject. The most important reason for sleep is for our body to regenerate and heal. This is vital for all systems of your body, including your immune system. Have you ever noticed when you are sick all you want to do is sleep? This is because your body wants to focus all of it’s energy at getting you back to health.

How To Get Good Sleep, and What Happens If You Don’t Get Enough?

The amount of sleep we need can also drastically vary with age. Newborns can sleep 15-17 hours per day (on average), school age kids and teenagers somewhere between 9-12 hours, and adults 7-8 hours. As an adult, if you are getting less than 7 hours of sleep per night, you are significantly jeopardizing your health potential. Your cognitive function decreases (including memory), your immune system suffers severely, as does the overall health and functioning of every system in your body. The effects are far reaching. Think sleeping pills will help? Think again. The sleep you are getting while you take them is not the kind you need, and the health risks are enormous. One study showed that you increase your odds of death by over 3x just by taking one sleeping pill in a given year. Those odds continue to increase the more you take. Don’t play with fire, sleeping pills can be dangerous and addicting.

Do you have an athlete in your family? Lack of sleep can have a significant impact on them as well. One study showed the chances of getting injured while playing sports to be around 15% if your child gets roughly 9 hours of sleep. That chance increases to over 70% if they are only getting 6 hours of sleep. That is HUGE! Even getting 7 hours of sleep will still increase their chances of injury to 60%. Other studies have also shown a significant drop off in athletic performance if you are getting any less than 8 hours of sleep.

Sleep and Your Spine

We’ve talked about the importance of the quantity of sleep you get. 8+ hours a night is the target, but the quality of that sleep matters just as much. How you position yourself during that time can impact the health of your spine. For starters, sleeping on your stomach is bad. It puts a lot of strain on your spine, most notably your neck. Back sleeping is great, but most have a hard time doing so. That leaves side sleeping. The key to side sleeping to to be sure your neck is properly supported, and you have a pillow between your legs to keep your hips in proper alignment. By doing these two things, it is a perfectly good way to sleep.

In closing, I think we significantly underestimate the importance of sleep. You can take every other step towards keeping yourself healthy, including regular chiropractic check-ups, but if you are not sleeping well it is virtually all for not. It is that important!

Get into a routine at night:

  • Stay off your phone/tablet in the hours leading to bedtime.

  • Sleep in total darkness.

  • Avoid caffeine and alcohol in the evening.

These few tips will help you sleep well, so you can…

LIVE well. BE well.

A Beginners Guide To Chiropractic

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For some of you, including myself, you can’t imagine living a life without regular chiropractic check-ups. The truth of the matter however is that the vast majority of the population has either never been to the chiropractor, or has very little experience with it. A sizable percentage of the new patients that I see at the office have never been to the chiropractor. As a result there are quite a few misconceptions out there about what chiropractic is. We are going to take a closer look at what exactly a chiropractor does (and doesn’t do), what to expect at an initial visit, what a chiropractic adjustment is and feels like, and who can benefit from receiving care.

The Truth and The Myth

What is true is that a chiropractors main focus is on your spine and nervous system. As a result many think chiropractic is solely for neck pain, back pain, and headaches. It is true that we help many people with these problems, but there is so much more to chiropractic than just pain. Our main focus is on your overall health, by maintaining a healthy spine and nervous system along with a healthy lifestyle. The health of your nervous system holds the key to your overall well-being. It is an information super highway, carrying vital messages to every organ and cell in your body. Spinal misalignments can alter the flow of those messages getting where they need to go, and sickness and disease is the result. Removing nerve interference in your spine is what a chiropractor does. This allows for the proper flow of life and health giving messages to reach their destination as intended, and a healthy well-functioning body is the end result.

Does It Hurt?

Your initial visit into the office generally starts with some basic paperwork, a consultation/examination, and any necessary x-rays in order to determine the current health of your spine and nervous system. We will then begin spinal adjustments which are gentle and in most cases completely painless. Most actually really enjoy getting adjusted, as it can feel quite good….especially afterwards. Chiropractic adjustments can be done from a wide variety of methods including using a extremely gentle adjusting tool, and traditional manual adjusting. Whatever the method, there is something for everyone and virtually every spine.

Who Should See A Chiropractor?

The short answer is that everyone, regardless of age, can benefit from regular spinal check-ups. We regularly see everyone from newborns to the elderly in the office. I myself have been under regular chiropractic care since I was a child. Our goal with every patient is to make them the best version of themselves they can be. Making sure your spine and nervous system are functioning at an optimal level should be high on the priority list of anyone that wants to live a long and healthy life.

Some Closing Thoughts…

Chiropractic is not intended to be a substitute for your primary care physician. However, adding a chiropractor to your health care team may help you live the healthy life you have always wanted. We may work with the spine, but we are not necessarily back pain specialists. We simply “turn the power on” inside the body in order to help you….

LIVE well. BE well.

Posture: The Window To Your Spine

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Poor posture is now approaching epidemic proportions in society.  People are not only sitting more than we used to, but are also using a phone/tablet roughly 5 or more hours per day according to the latest research. This equates to approximately one third of your waking hours spent looking down at a screen.  This is troubling for a variety of reasons, but lets look at the implications this and other postures can have on your overall health.  

Why Good Posture Is So Important

Nobel Prize recipient Dr. Roger Sperry calls the spine "the motor that drives the brain". According to his research “Ninety percent of the stimulation and nutrition to the brain is generated by the movement of the spine.” That is, 90% of brain energy goes into processing and maintaining the body’s relationship with gravity. Therefore, the worse your posture is, the more energy your brain/body has to expend to maintain your posture.  This leaves us with less and less energy available to do every other necessary activity such as thinking, immunity, metabolizing food, etc..  In a nut shell, poor posture can drastically effect your overall health.  Another negative effect is on the overall structural integrity of your spine.  If you put a lot of awkward stress on your car tires from an alignment problem, they will wear out quickly.  The same is true with your spine.  Poor posture creates an increased stress load on your spine, and rapid deterioration of the bones and surrounding soft tissue. 

Causes and Corrections

The two most common causes of poor posture in the world we live in today are sitting too much and excessive smart phone use.

When it comes to sitting, the solution is obvious but not always easy....stop sitting so much.  We were not designed to sit like many of us do today.  Understandably, some of you have jobs that make a certain amount of sitting inevitable.  Make a point however, to set a reminder every half hour or so to get up, move around and stretch for a minute or too.  Secondly, when you get home from work, DO NOT go back to sitting.  Do some physical work around the house, or go for a long walk with your family, but do not get lulled in to sitting even more.

Phone/tablet use is a topic all on it's own, but lets look at the main highlights.  For starters, be sure and hold your phone in a place that allows you to look straight out at it, and not downward.  The typical position you see most people in while using there phone (head looking down) puts an extreme amount of stress on your neck and upper back.  This stress can cause headaches, neck/arm pain, upper back pain, and ultimately a rapid accumulation of damage in your spine.  Because of phone use now starting at such a young age, I am beginning to see the effects of this posture in very young kids.  This is scary!  Watch how your child is using their phone/tablet, and also limit the number of hours they are on it in a given day.

You see, your parents and grandparents were right when they were always telling you to sit up straight.  They may not have known specifically why, or how important it really was, but they were indeed correct.  Good posture will make you feel better, your body function better, and ultimately help you to...

LIVE well.  BE well.

Chiropractic and Your Digestion

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One of the more common secondary problems I talk to patient's about in the office is problems with their digestion. The National Institute of Health estimates approximately 70 million people in the U.S. suffer from digestive problems, accounting for roughly 20% of the population. This is a staggering number.

Let's take a look at some of the more common types problems, traditional approaches to solve them, and what chiropractic can bring to the table that is all together different.

The Most Common:  Acid Reflux and Indigestion

So many people suffer from this problem it is now bordering on "normal"....which it is NOT.  The pharmaceutical industry sells nearly $100 million in drugs per year simply to treat digestive problems.  Do these drugs ever truly fix the problem?  I think you know that answer.  It has become a very profitable business for them.  Aside from prescription medication, there are a wide array of over-the-counter drugs also available including things such as Rolaids and Tums.  They all do the same thing, they aim to treat the symptom, yet ignore the cause of the problem.  

The Most Serious:  Crohn's Disease

Crohn's Disease is a type of Inflammatory Bowl Syndrome (IBS) involving chronic ulceration of the digestive tract.  This is a long term health condition, and one that is potentially left threatening if left untreated.  With this condition, your body is trying to heal the ulcerations, and ultimately creates scar tissue.  This scar tissue severely limits the normal function of your colon.  The most common treatments for this problem are anti-inflammatory medication, anti-spasmodic medication, as well as surgery.  The continued issue once again is they continue to ignore what is causing this condition in the first place.

How We View These Problems in Chiropractic

As a chiropractor, our approach and philosophy around these problems is starkly different than the traditional approach.  We are always in search of a cause, and not in treating the symptoms.  First and foremost, we aim to restore normal nerve supply to your digestive organs.  This will allow the necessary communication from your brain to those organs on how to function normally.  We do this through specific adjustments to your spine in the affected areas.  Generally, it involves nervous system interference in either you middle back, lower back, or upper portion of your neck.  In any event, proper nerve supply to your digestive organs is paramount to them functioning in a normal manner.  Finally, we do not discount the role of a healthy well balanced diet.  You can't feed your body garbage all day, every day, and not expect some sort of consequence.  A diet full of whole and healthy foods (mostly fruit and vegetables), along with very little processed foods, is also an important component.

In closing, the solution to many health problems lies not in external solutions, but rather getting your body healthy and well functioning on the inside.  Many of us are always looking for the quick fix.....and it is rarely there.  Getting and staying healthy takes consistent work.  No one said it is easy, but the payoff is well worth it so that you can...

LIVE well.  BE well.