Archive for October, 2011

Standing Tall

Posted on October 27, 2011. Filed under: Exercise, Healing, Joints, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

by Dr. Gregory Steiner~

One of the little, silly catch-phrases we use at the clinic is “Take the Ouch! out of the Slouch.” It’s pitched at the level where everyone can remember it, and even for it’s simplistic -soundingness, there’s a lot in it.

So, let’s deal with real basics, and talk about posture from a chiropractic, mechanical and cosmetic view points.

As in so many areas of my professional life, while I learned a lot form my teachers, I’ve learned even more from the good ones and bad ones in weight training. As a general group, I would say that an unfortunate league table exists for rating how well or how badly people who lift weights wisely use their bodies natural capability. Here’s my evaluation – general impressions formed over years of watching, participating and treating men and women in all the categories.

In bottom place, bodybuilders.

In middle place, power lifters.

In absolute first place, Olympic lifters – as I’ve written many times and will do again, these people know how to stand, how to move, and how to lift great weights with great speed with impeccable co-ordination. All deserving kudos to them!

Ok, not all bodybuilders. In fact, the best ones will have learned how to balance out all main postural muscle groups in order to stand well, to present themselves in the best possible way.

Look at it this way. If you stand straight, you look better. If you stand straight, you breathe better. If you breathe better, your energy is better – and possibly your sleep. If your energy is better, you train better. You’ll have already completed the sequence – if you train better, you get bigger and stronger.

Sometimes various writers discuss posture, usually a physiotherapist, an alternative health practitioner, or another health professional. All the technicalities are good, and alternative health models that talk about releasing energy are fine as well – if they serve their purpose to motivate you to actually stand up straight – habitually. Not for an hour, or when you feel like it, but as a natural way of life.

Probably not “sexy” enough a topic to warrant much discussion in many magazines, you’ll find it’s more the authors who maintain something of the old-time physical culture approach to training that may mention or talk around the topic of posture. Bradley Steiner’s writing has a lot of this flavour – he deserves a read as well as a lot of attention, for two simple reasons. One, he walked the walk – Bradley built himself up from frailty to power and vitality by following these principles, and two, he’s has helped and inspired many, many others to do the same for many, many years. I don’t know if we have a common ancestor somewhere back there, but we share that experience, building from relative frailty to vitality and strength through training in both fitness and martial arts. Seek him out.

The physical culturists were way ahead of their time, though the word hasn’t been used much since WWII, as far as I know. So, why were they ahead of their time? For one, their philosophy from which they designed their training methods was wholistic. That word – “wholism” refers to a certain mindset on how things fit together, the emphasis in on systems. It’s one of the main reasons why wholistic practitioners have enjoyed an tremendous increase in popularity and utilisation of their methods, whether it be wholistic medical doctors, chiropractors or Alexander technique coaches.

In direct terms, the wholistic practitioner in the best sense of the word recognises how this bit connects and interacts with that bit, and how those two bits together work together to interact with the third bit. By contract, old-school medicine perceives the “person” as distinct from the body, and each part of the body as more or less distinct from the other parts. While strictly speaking in orthopedics – sorting out joints and other musculoskeletal structures there is a real use in fixing a battered knee, for example, how that knee affects the gait, and how that altered gait causes pain in the low back or neck receives little attention. In my clinic, for we assume from the start that whatever the problem, it’s connected to something else. Of it’s pain of long standing, there will almost always be some type of distortion as the body shifts to alleviate pain as best it can. If a problem is new, we look for underlying , undiscovered weaknesses or “stuck bits” that set the stage for injury, such as bent or twisted spines in muscles imbalances front and back (or agonist antagonist).

What I’m trying to do here is give some illustration of the principles in action. Physical culture expressed a philosophy enacted in total lifestyle. If I have a criticism about most of modern body building, it’s the overly narcissistic mind set that inverts priorities that lead to long life, good health and lots of energy. What I see is body-beautiful first, strength second, and health as an after thought.

Ok, we know that culture being the way it is, no one except really close family and friends really have much concern for your health, but I can equally guarantee you that every author in Hardgainer look at things the other way round, especially if they have a few years of experience and a few miles on the body. We want to stay fit and strong and looking good – forever! And it can be done.

Ok, we also know that many more people will reward you, shun you and form impressions of you, as you do of yourself – based on how you look. Your gym buddies will categorize you on your strength, and both of these are sources of real motivation.

So, what’s all this leading to? Remember what we said about some doctors looking at the body like a collection of body parts, each one with little relation to the others? And, recall how we discussed the wholistic viewpoint? Physical culture was like the wholistic way of seeing things – healthy mind, in healthy body, in a life lived according to those principles. In daily terms this meant acting and doing in ways to promote that bigger picture of health and vitality. You train hard, you train wisely, you rest well, you eat wisely- and guess what, you look fantastic as a result. Except there is an added bonus – you radiate a certain energy that others can sense, it’s part of what makes some people “naturally beautiful.”

There is some hard-edge scientific research that shows “symmetry” be a Very Big Deal in judgements of attractiveness. Muscle size is certainly part of it, but relative balance and shape counts for much more than sheer size – unless being a strength athlete is your driving goal. The point is, some of our desire for the Better Body may be biologically based, and it operates within us all the time though our exact expression of the desire can be modified according to culture and person.

As a case in point, picture any “charismatic” person you choose. How does that person stand? If you are picturing a slouch, let’s say your tastes are “unique!” The clearest examples of straight posture come from the military of course, and while the military posture can be too stiff – not at all like that of the Olympic lifters who have more “bounce and carriage,” it’s a lot more right than wrong. In my clinical experience I’ve worked enough years to track people’s posture. I rarely, rarely have seen long-term military-types develop that hunched over shuffle I see so much in either desk workers who don’t exercise, or manual workers who have strong back and weak stomachs. Rather, you can read the non-verbal communication that slouching – to the ex-military man – was and is seen as a sin with damnation as the penalty!

Believe it or not, taking postures (in conjunction with adopting facial expressions) characteristic of certain emotions generate real, measurable changes in physiology. For example, if a person assumes an angry posture and expression, heart rate and body temperature rises. If a person assumes the characteristics of fear, heart rate rises but temperature drops. So, there seems to be a direct posture – physiology connection, independent of environmental events that trigger.

So, let’s take this the other way around. If you slouch, there is more chance to feel depressed feelings. But, if you stand straight and tall, everything balanced and working well – you have much more of a chance to feel on top of your game.

In relation to training, what we’re trying to do is establish a basic level, foundational mind-body connection that let’s you know when your posture is “right.” If you can feel this, your margin of safety and future productivity in training has just increased dramatically – as well as your training longevity.

Look in a mirror – or better yet have a tailor look at you and measure you up; tailors and dress makers have an eye to rival the best health professionals. In my clinic I take digital photos of people to let them see what I see – which besides the off-balance and tilted shoulders and hips are shocked looks on patient’s faces when they recognise that being the human Tower of Pisa is not “normal.” After they accept that, we’re usually ready to get to work!

If you see a tilt, consult a sports oriented chiropractor, physio or doctor to advise you; Alexander technique practitioners do a good job as well. So, get to work and take the Ouch out of the Slouch!.

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Patience, Respect, Humility and Love

Posted on October 27, 2011. Filed under: Acupuncture Information, Chiropractic, Exercise, Healing | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

~By Dr. Gregory Steiner

I must be getting older, I guess. As I write today I’m recovering from a long-awaited surgery on one knee, and I’m getting ready for surgery on the other knee tomorrow. That’s another story, but in order to be able to kick well again and to stay in good shape it’s an inconvenience that just needs done. So, a few more days on crutches it is…..

What this time of life has done is give me enough distance from working out to consider more deeply the philosophy of martial arts, or at least my interpretation of it. As a father now, I see things much differently as I make all those fatherly attempts to steer my children on some path that has values truer and greater than those they get from infomercials and mass media. So much for the motivations behind the reflections…

Patience. Respect. Humility. Love. All Tukong students become familiar with these from Day 1 in their Tukong career. Though years ago I probably had some “feeling” notion that they were all connected in some way, the years have given some insights – at least personal insights – into what lies behind and beneath these four principles.

It seems to me that they can exist quite independently, yet it’s the four together that bring a balance. A patient man can be good or bad, planning good or planning evil. Still, to be patient is to be determined. There is a false patience however, in which little gets done due to fear, procrastination or laziness – this isn’t patience, but excuse making. Real patience implies many things, including the sustained motivation to earn a black belt, the try-and-try-again attitude and experimentation to learn how to fight well, or perhaps to teach newer students many of the techniques. Patience can be moral, or personal. There may well be times when a good show of anger and temper are just and appropriate, but so often a poison tongue might be better kept in its mouth. Psychologists refer to “frustration tolerance,” a trait which really refers to how a resilient a person is in doing what they reckon they should do, and in not doing what they shouldn’t to best achieve their goals. It seems to me that patient endurance is truly important both personally and among people.

Respect seems the ability to “give the other person the benefit of the doubt,” at least until the person acts in such a way not to deserve it. Respect seems the “oil” or lubricant to successful human relations – again in my opinion. Some years ago my wife (Tukong black belt Monica) spent 2 years backpacking across the planet. We experienced many cultures and met many, many people, and we learned that while people are basically the same everywhere, they are also basically different! They may have the same basic concerns, but they approach those concerns quite differently. Differences aside, what we saw time and time again was that by demonstrating a basic respect – sometimes a “watchful” and guarded respect – but respect nonetheless, we met many friends, learned many things, and in all but a very few places we were shown the greatest heart-felt hospitality in many parts of the globe. It seems to me that true respect is much different from a false or “show” respect; both can exhibit the same behaviors, but what’s in the heart can be very, very different…..

Humility I see as two things – an acknowledgement that I am not a god or king (even in my own mind!), yet also a personal confidence in my abilities and basic self-worth. Anything less would amount to abasement of either me or another person, and in my value system I’m just not interested in either one. Humility can also lead to courage, in that a humble person can allow him or her self to fail, and failure-plus-learning is the path to eventual success…..and greater confidence. True humility opens a door to learning, because it presupposes that there is always something more to learn. Counterfeit humility seems to be a pretty good ploy for arrogant people to use on interview shows and to manipulate others, but most of the time it seems like the heart can tell the difference…..

Love is probably the backbone of community, and of self-worth. I certainly am not able to define it, though I can talk around it, I suppose. What I once felt as a child-like worship of my parents; what I later felt as a heart-rending and intoxicating love for the woman who later became my wife, what I feel for my children, and what I have held inside for all the many people of the Tukong community and my martial arts teachers since my youth – these are all faces of “love.” The interesting thing is that probably none of these is sufficient to describe love. At this point of life it seems to me that love has as much to do with will and discipline as it does with intense and good feelings for others. It has become increasingly evident that love requires actions, actions when tired, when in a bad mood, when you’d rather be doing something else. That’s where will and discipline step in, and it seems like it’s those things that go the distance and really endure when the times of testing come, which they inevitably do…

So, as I prepare for surgery tomorrow it seems to me that these four principles together are largely what give martial arts an edge towards living better, and guidance as to how to apply martial arts in daily life. Martial arts can certainly act as the thorns on the rose, and sometimes the flower needs protected with efficiency and determination. It seems to me that the four principles make a pretty good guide……

All the best to the Tukong family,

Dr. Greg Steiner

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What Makes a Child Hyper?

Posted on October 27, 2011. Filed under: Allergies, Healing, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

What Makes a Child Hyper?

If you were to speak frankly with your neighbors you would find that it seems every other kid is on some type of medication for an attention disorder. Sometimes it almost seems as though the odd child is the one not on medication! Let’s look at fact, fantasy and alternatives.

Teachers, parents and doctors argue over just what constitutes an attention disorder. The very first issue concerns a conflict over what is natural behavior for a child versus what is expected of a child in various circumstances. The obvious first answer is children move, and are made to move a lot! Children have an urge to communicate, but with a limited vocabulary they will often “show” what’s on their minds. In addition, movement is what strengthens their bodies, creates manual dexterity, and actually “programs” their developing nervous systems. By the way, it also keeps them lean.

The big “However….” is that movement and the desire to move at an inappropriate time can be a real pain in the backside, in school, church and restaurants. While it’s a matter of parental principle on how much squirming to permit, it’s important to realize that squirming is the way of children, and trying to stop it is like fighting the tide itself. It can be done, but usually at an energetic cost to the parent!

They also talk a lot, and usually out of turn as they learn the rules of social convention. The energy most kids possess is astounding – including the energy of healing – but until they learn directed behavior and frustration tolerance most of that energy shoots out in every direction. Don’t we parents know this all too well!

One Time in India…

The point I’m trying to make is that there are fundamental contradictions between the conflicting demands of nature and social expectation. Once while travelling in a village in southern India I strongly recall watching a group of children playing and exploring. They would run to one end of the village and look at animals and plants, then run to the other edge and play a game, then sit for a time and talk, then run and explore something else. It wasn’t as chaotic as it looked, as the mothers throughout the village each loosely looked after the group of children as they went about their daily tasks.

Though informal, there was more than just pointless play going on. The children were learning to move, to interact as a group, and about their surroundings. There were very few cars, by the way…..

I note that much of parental stress is based on urban life and “don’t.” Don’t shout, or you’ll annoy the neighbors. Don’t cross the street or you’ll get squished. Don’t walk home alone. Don’t go outside in the rain. Etc.! While such prohibitions are what make our kids mature in our culture, it’s a great struggle that goes against their natural grain, I think.

Often the result is a kinetic but bored child glued to the television, computer or video game. Of course there are downsides to this as well, as we all know! There is evidence that too much fast-change television actually “hardwires” the growing brain to accept this hyper stimulation as the normal state of affairs. It’s therefore not much of a jump to understand that the sedate and focused life of school becomes difficult for a brain so-wired to endure.

Attention disorders are a big topic, and we’ll look more at them in future articles. To set the stage though, let’s say for now that the mind and body are joined at the hip – what affects the one invariably affects the other, for better or worse.

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What Else Makes a Child Hyper?

Posted on October 27, 2011. Filed under: Acupuncture Information, Allergies, Chiropractic, Healing | Tags: , , , , , , , , |

Sugar hides in all shapes & forms of food

~by Dr. Gregory Steiner

Just this last weekend I attended a course in clinical nutrition that explored the links between food and mental and emotional function. Nutritional status is linked to moods good or bad, attention focused or scattered, aggression, and of course overall energy.

In our clinics (both Allen and Dallas) we have treated children and adults with attention disorders, as well as for nutritionally-linked affective problems, e.g. depression. One of the first avenues of inquiry we look at is allergy or hypersensitivity, and while a person may be only too well aware of seasonal pollen allergies, he or she – or the parent – usually overlooks underlying food intolerance, and there may be several or even many.

Each of us has by virtue of our constitution has levels of tolerance for many factors; some people tolerate pain better than others, some fatigue, some people do better in heat, and others in cold. In a similar manner, some people have a touchier digestive system and others a very touchy respiratory system. Here is where environment really comes into play.

Perhaps you have a child or spouse with a pollen allergy, and every September you can’t sleep because your family member sniffles and coughs the night away. Poor you! However, what no one can figure out is why the presumed allergy is worse on some days than others, regardless of the pollen count. What we have found is that the poor person keeping you awake may have an underlying food intolerance that only compounds the problem. Let’s use sugar, for example. Did you know that if you take in refined sugar your immune system can be weakened within a short time of ingesting it? So, the next logical question is to ask about the condition of the immune system of a person who consumes sugar every day. Thought it took years for me to realize the answer, many years ago while in college I got quite a few colds, and finally I realized that there was a pattern to the illness: if I had a diet of cookies, Doritos and soda, I’d be sick a week later. Often though only a low-grade sore throat and some sniffles, after I started paying attention I saw a pattern that was all-too obvious.

Let’s put some pieces together.

Many allergy sufferers seem to go between allergy, illness, and allergy and back to illness. In many cases the problem is simple: they do have an allergy that causes them misery, but they also have a diet that weakens their immune system, which means they are often carrying a low-grade infection for weeks and months, on top of the allergy. In other words, their systems are just overwhelmed, and they often suffer for months or even years.

How difficult is the solution? Let me tell it this way. I will always recall the very fit and very tired mom of a two-year old who hadn’t slept for both years of her young life due to an endless supply of green mucus running out her young nose. I will also recall the conversation with the mom, which went something like this:

“Mom, do you feed your daughter much sugar, because this is what it looks like is happening.”

“Oh no, doctor! We try to eat healthy in my house.”

“Well, I said, “what does she eat for breakfast?”

Mom replied: “She has a Pop Tart or two, then some orange juice, and …..”

I stopped her right there, because Mom needed some real education as to what sugar is actually in.

Mom did stop the Pop Tarts, and within 3 visits using some additional care, the young child’s nose cleared up, and to this date Mom and daughter are sleeping…..and the daughter can concentrate much better.

Allergies, illness and sugar often run together, and with kids, if blood sugar is either too high or low, they will become hyper or even aggressive and mean. There are ways to test for excess sugar and food intolerances, but a simple plan that can help both attention, (not to mention dental bills) is to eliminate or greatly reduce sugars intake, though if a food comes in a box, bag or can, it probably has sugars in it. Not an easy task, but it certainly can lead to better health in the family, as well as better performance in school.

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Sleep – the Natural Fountain of Youth

Posted on October 19, 2011. Filed under: Acupuncture Information, Aging, Chiropractic, Exercise, Fatigue, Healing | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , |

 ~By Dr. Gregory Steiner

If you can sleep, you can heal. Maybe better is to say that if you can sleep naturally, fully and well, then you can heal. Lots of people sleep – if that’s what you want to call it: go to bed late after taking medication, awaken a short time later with your mind whirling overtime; sleep another hour, awaken again – then it’s time to get up, feed the children and get ready to start the day after the one-or-more cups of coffee.

A day that comes after such a night will no doubt be a long one. The first slump may hit about 10, and the worse one in mid-afternoon. I have some people tell me that their energetic goal for the day is to survive until noon, then again until dinner. The rub is that whether executive, developer, or stay-at-home mom, you are expected and required to think, organize, decide and perform without fail each and every day. Not so easy on drug induced sleep, or no sleep at all.

Sleep is a very good invention, and I’m sorry I didn’t patent it. If I were to recommend one and only one thing I believe is paramount for health, energy and long-term well-being, sleep it would be. There’s an interesting observation differentiating kids and adults. Have you noticed that if a child is ill, eats the wrong thing, or generally gets out of sorts that he or she usually goes hyper? It’s as though the default program for kids is to rev up all the more, get wired and never, never go to bed!

At some age the see-saw tips the other direction. Have you noticed that if an adult is ill, eats the wrong thing, or generally gets out of sorts he or she gets oh-so-tired? I’m not it’s as thought the default program is for the body to get heavy and sluggish, and thinking either dulled repetitive with endless worry. And when you make it to bed you can’t sleep anyway. I’m not sure the age where this change occurs, but it seems early, almost certainly in the late 20’s.

The causes? As a physician with another degree in psychology and years of a fitness background, I don’t for a minute believe that this is normal for people. Common – yes, normal no. It’s important to spend a minute on the distinction; tooth decay is common, heart attacks are common, and so are speeding tickets and library fines. There is a common cause here – negligence! Don’t for a minute buy into the notion that so much of the discomfort associated with age is normal. We have 100,000 miles bodies but with improper balance, over-inflation and bad alignment so many of us are looking for patches at a tenth of that number.

Sleep and Healing

Sleep is a profound healer. If you can sleep you can heal. You might have read about growth hormone – it’s a great favorite of the young-forever Hollywood crowd, and no less a hunk than Sylvester Stallone was arrested for bringing a case-full into Australia a year or two ago. (He did have a prescription, by the way). Growth hormone turns on the repair process of your body, and helps keep the skin young, muscles strong and brain in good shape. But it’s produced when you reach a certain state of restful sleep, and not at other times! Therefore, if you want natural growth hormone production you need to sleep.

What if you can’t sleep? Lately with all the economic turmoil and worry in the neighborhood lots and lots of people aren’t sleeping very well at all. Surprisingly enough this can be quite easy to help with acupuncture; two key points by the crease of the wrist work wonders. Herbs can be of use, and don’t forget the other favorite – regular exercise.

Basics are best, because they come closest to working with your body as it was designed to be used.

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Heart: The Most Important Muscle

Posted on October 12, 2011. Filed under: Acupuncture Information, Aging, Chiropractic, Exercise, Healing, Pain | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

By Dr. Gregory Steiner~

When the votes are all counted, it’s not the pecs, showy that they are; the glutes, powerhouse they’re supposed to be; or even the low back, which helps hold the upper and lower body together. No, the most important muscle is actually the heart. What prompted this article is a question by a HG reader who was concerned about what his doctor called an enlarged heart. So, considering the importance of the heart to life itself, it deserves consideration. In other words, you can deal with injuries to the rotator cuff, pull a hamstring or strain your back, but the heart is not to be toyed with!

A rough estimate of the size of the heart is about that of your clenched fist, or perhaps a little bigger depending on your bone structure. If you look at any anatomy book, you will discover that rather then sitting well in the left part of the chest, it is actually located just a little left of center and partially behind the sternum (breast bone). In a word, the heart keeps you alive by controlling output of blood flow throughout the entire body. It performs this ever-so-necessary activity 24/7, perhaps tens of times each minute throughout the duration of life.

The heart can beat faster or slower. Children’s heart rates are faster – as are those of small persons. Women’s heart rates are usually slower than that of men. The resting heart rate is the typical measure of basic health – 70 beats/minute plus or minus 10 is a common range though in cases of athletes or sick individuals the scope can vary tremendously. As could be expected, the difference between resting heart rate and that of heavy exercise demonstrates the extremes of cardiac function. For example, an individual who has engaged in a period of heavy cardio training (whatever the exact method) can have a resting heart rate in the 40’s per minute, while a young, fit hard-training person pushing his endurance system could reach a figure of 200.

The Big Heart

This begins to give us some background with which we can look at the question of the enlarged heart.

Historically, before WW II athletes were sometimes diagnosed with a condition named after them – “athlete’s heart.” Far from a plaudit, the bigger heart of the athlete was sometimes perceived by medical professionals as an abnormal and potentially dangerous expansion of the cardiac structures. Apparently some doctors subscribed to a logically correct but substantially flawed argument that athlete’s with such a condition should immediately stop exercising and therefore reduce the heart size to the “normal” level of the untrained individual. There was a problem in this situation, and it wasn’t with the heart of the athletes.

There is in fact a malignant condition termed “cardiomegaly” in which the heart pathologically enlarges and can begin to function abnormally. This condition does not originate with exercise, however as the abnormal expansion does not originate from physiological demands such as from exercise, but from disease processes such or an intrinsic abnormality in the circulatory system.

What does every muscle do if it is exercised? Yes, it will have the tendency to grow, and the heart is no exception. While the heart is composed of a different, smoother fiber arrangement than the skeletal muscles that let you perform curls and squats, the same principles apply; namely, greater demands generate greater growth.

However, not all exercise affects the heart equally. Some research suggest that weight training will cause the heart walls which are largely made of muscle to thicken and become more dense, but without creating much of an increase in size. What this means is that were your doctor to x-ray you, the x-ray would read “normal.” Aerobic exercise has different effects, however – the great demands on the overall circulation demand very much more of the heart and consequently this sort of training will more likely encourage some growth of the heart itself. While I know of no formal research in the area, there may be something in this that assists the old, tried and true 20-rep breathing squat – pullover combination that purports to enlarge the chest cavity. Though the bones themselves would not grow after the mid-twenties, a good case could be made for the body to naturally alter it’s structural configuration to healthfully accommodate a bigger heart.

Every chiropractor learns in his or her first term in school about a fundamental process called homeostasis, which dictates that the body has an essential orientation towards healthful systemic balance. In other words, the body is smart. The body is also remarkably and intricately interconnected. It also communicates within itself intelligently. These processes collectively refer to homeostasis – the body cleverly balancing itself moment by moment, day by day for every year of a long and healthy life.

If we put weight training with cardio work and look at the effects through the lens of homeostasis, it wouldn’t be hard to imagine a situation in which the greater effort of lifting weights strengthens the heart; the greater circulatory demands help the heart grow, and at just the right time and in the right amount the rib cage expands while the diaphragm, assisting respiratory and basic postural muscles strengthen. The end result – a bigger overall chest cavity that houses a strong and healthy heart.

At one time the big chest cavity was looked at as a fundamental sign of vitality. Strength was certainly implied, but the real suggestion was that a person with such a chest possessed unusual and superior energy and dynamism. The corollary was that such an chest outwardly signalled to the world a state of vibrant health, and created a certain aesthetic attractiveness strongly linked with actual health. Interestingly, certain researchers in evolutionary psychology believe that we are pre-wired to find certain signs of health intrinsically attention getting and attractive, signalling to the rest of the group that the person possessing the trait is fit, capable and reproductively desirable.

Having said all that, let’s look at some contrasts today. Can a chest really be too big? While probably a matter of proportion and preference, some of the biggest professional body builders (heavily drug-influenced, of course) have achieved tremendous chest/lat girths. But, how many have tremendous vitality outwith gym training sessions? There’s the rub then – I have known of dedicated body builders who lived lives largely reminiscent of barn animals – eat, exercise, sleep, repeat. Good for maximum growth, but where did the “vitality” factor go?

Mind, the point is not to criticise personally, though it probably sounds like it. The point is to suggest that choices need to be made – usable strength, cosmetic appeal and vibrant vitality in a supple body. And, in light of recent premature deaths in the lifting communities, part of the point is to exercise in ways that prolong life, not cut life expectancy in half!

Distribution System

Of course, it’s largely the heart that plays a very obvious role in keeping us alive and vital. In simple terms, it’s useful to conceptualise the heart as the driving force behind your body’s supply distribution system. It’s useful to also consider just what the heart works so hard to distribute. While any young child will know that the heart has something to do with pumping blood, fewer people know what blood actually consists of and it’s relationship to health – and growth. There are several factors then, that are important to know something about: what is being supplied; how they are supplied; and how efficiently the supply system works.

Back to blood. Most folks learn at some point that blood carries oxygen and have vague notion about nutrients. Fair enough, but in addition to these fundamental elements necessary for energy production, growth and repair there are the cells of the immune system as well as hormones, especially important for the person who trains with weights.

So, what is a hormone? Outside of being a complex molecules in an incredibly complex overall hormonal system, hormones act as messengers carrying crucial instructions to particular cells. These instructions are usually simple – “turn x off, turn y on” types of commands. Not to be underestimated, the hormonal (usually called the endocrine system) relationships are complex in the extreme, if one wishes to look at how the system works as a whole. What is better understood is how one individual hormone may be triggered, or turned off. And, the complexity increases when the major communication pathways and commands – the nervous system – are studied in conjunction with the endocrine.

In any event, the practical point is that while one can train in such a way to maximise the growth-creating hormones while minimising those that retard growth, what’s the point if they can’t be well delivered?

At my clinic I use a phrase from time to time to describe our mission – that phrase is “health and fitness, inside and out.” Healthy muscles inside, healthy muscles outside is part of what we mean when we say that. For sustained health and sustained training both are necessary.

To sum up the important points as to how having a strong heart affects training success, the answer lies in energy and vitality. If you are sufficiently fit in the stamina sense, you can recover better. If you recover better, your training will be more productive. If your training is better, you have hopefully made headway towards the goal of being bigger and stronger. And not to forget, towards enhancing your greater life outside the gym.

Of course, the question then becomes how to implement something useful from the available information towards helping the most important muscle become all the mightier. Training is part of the answer and arguably the most enjoyable. Other factors contribute and are amenable to ready control, while others one can do less about, such as having the right parents and grandparents! As is so often the case genetics tells – but it doesn’t tell all. Many if not most conditions labelled “genetic” disorders are really potentials for those conditions to become manifest, obesity being one example. Heart disease is another. What’s the take-away on this? Have a good look at your genealogy as far as you can – not so much to find rich relatives or horse thieves ( in my family there have been both) but rather who died when, and most importantly – of what.

Look for heart disease, cancer, metabolic problems, and if anyone can tell you – something about dispositions and posture. All can reveal something about the general state of health of a direct ancestor. No need to get compulsive, just through grandparents, aunts and uncles should be a useful start. What to do if you find something? No need to worry about it, but it is a good piece of detective evidence that should be given to a trusted doctor who should either investigate further or dismiss risks as remote.

I was strongly impacted by the death of one World’s Strongest Man competitors last year – his age was only 30. Very strong, very talented, very premature mortality. Could drugs have been involved? Judging by the size of his traps – the biggest I’ve ever seen, that could well be, yet could there have been a genetic or congenital defect lurking? Don’t let it be you.

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Chronic Fatigue – Causes and Corrections

Posted on October 11, 2011. Filed under: Fatigue, Pain | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

By Dr. Gregory Steiner~

Tired woman yawningEvery single week a new patient enters my clinic, and we’re not talking about ordinary “pain the neck” patients. These patients are suffering in a particularly difficult way, with a combination of extreme loss of energy and pain in multiple areas of their bodies.

The foremost symptom is never-ending, unrelenting fatigue. The second symptom is unending pain and stiffness, day-after-miserable-day. The fatigue and pain often appear together, but a person may suffer from one or the other. However, in my professional life I’ve never met a chronically tired person who didn’t hurt all the time, and I’ve never met a person who hurt all the time who wasn’t tired.

On the subject of energy, have you noticed that when you are energetic, there is no task that can’t be done, no problem that can’t be solved, and that pain – whatever the level – is tolerable. Have you also noticed that when you are not energetic that everything is difficult – – that slipping on your shoes becomes a major ordeal? These two syndromes are often confused, often ignored, and most unfortunately denied.

I’ll always, always remember the mountain of a man who became my patient in N. Ireland while living there a few years ago. He was a traditional man – strong, a good provider, a devoted husband and father, and he knew what is to gain and achieve through hard work. I’ll always remember the day he came to my clinic – dead tired and barely able to stay awake more than a few hours a day. He was unable to work, and had lost much of his self-esteem.

Up to that point in my career I was uncertain whether chronic fatigue (formerly called “Yuppie Flu” even existed. Some doctors thought it was a very bad reaction to viral infection; others thought it was depression under another name, and many didn’t believe it existed at all; after working with him I finally understood that chronic fatigue certainly does exist, and that in its harsher forms it can be debilitating.

The symptoms of chronic fatigue are physical, mental and emotional. A “typical” patient will tell me that usually everything feels heavy and sluggish to move. They often feel very stiff all over. Mental symptoms are quite interesting – patients tell me that that they their thinking is equally sluggish, and that they feel themselves in a state in-between sleep and wakefulness – not really awake, but not really asleep. Sleep quality is typically poor and these patients can hardly remember the last night of restful sleep they had. I’ve also had many say that they are unusually vivid dreamers, and that the dreaming seems to tire them out in an unusual way.

The condition can have dramatic effects on a person’s lifestyle. Some people are unable to work, and others underperform. People with mild but significant cases have enough energy to work, but usually come home, flop on the couch and have little energy for family or recreation.

In my experience there is no one cause for chronic fatigue, but there are several that appear with frequency. Post-viral syndromes do exist, but blood sugar handling issues involving poor carbohydrate metabolism are perhaps the most common cause or complicating factor. Some people have thyroid issues, and others are suffering form multiple allergies. Occasionally someone – usually a heavy person – suffers from sleep apnea. In Oriental medicine we look to the energetic function of the liver, spleen and kidney, as these organs and pathways are seen to be particularly influential in overall body energetics.

The real complicating factor is that several of these can occur together, and over time can lead to depression which makes correction harder yet again. Still, chronic fatigue is treatable and it is possible to regain lost energy. The corrections involve accurately figuring out where the pieces of the puzzle fit, and incorporating such nutritional intervention, acupuncture points, herbs, or medications as needed.

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Healing Quickly From Surgery

Posted on October 6, 2011. Filed under: Exercise, Pain | Tags: , , , , , , , |

 By Dr. Gregory Steiner~

First, many heart-felt thanks to all my patients, friends and neighbors who wished me well, helped me out and (of course!) made fun of me while I was crutch-bound following the cartilage transplant on my knee. Sorry – I’m walking again…..all by myself! Now see if you can catch me….

The surgery was extensive, involving a large, “full zipper” scar nearly a foot long; bone was cut and screwed back into place; several other procedures were packaged in as well to this 5-hour long “How I Spent My Christmas Vacation” episode. Rehab has started now that the bone has healed enough, though there is still a gap to fill in.

On to the point of the article – getting back to normality as quickly and surely as possible.

In my clinic, my job as an acupuncturist and chiropractor usually is to try and save patients from surgeries, though at times if I come across a condition that is severe, surprising or non-responsive, it’s equally my job to get those patients to a good surgeon; good medicine is all about teamwork.

Other times a patient will come in after having had a surgery to see how to speed recovery, or to recover to a higher level if he or she feels that improvement has stalled out. There is good news though no-one really looks forward to having surgery.

The three biggest fears usually revolve around pain, medication effects, and the temporary disability following many surgeries. The good news is that there are natural ways to reduce pain, (which lessens the need for as many medications) and to speed the repair process which in turn reduces temporary disability.

I’ll just tell the story as though I were the “case history;” I’ve often used myself as a guinea pig over my career to gain an empathetic understanding of my patients, and also to expand knowledge, and this time was no exception.

Starting a month and a half before surgery, I began a very specific exercise program to work the muscles around the knee, including methods to improve balance. The logic was simple: the stronger the muscles before the surgery, the less they will weaken during the non-weight bearing weeks of recovery. Same with balance – I had it on good authority (patient experience) that if someone doesn’t walk for an extended time, it’s almost as though the body “forgets” how, and each step is very unsteady wobbly – even if the muscles are getting stronger.

Next, I did extra acupuncture on points which assist musculoskeletal repair.  Third, I began to take a regimen of enzymes to reduce inflammation; Chinese herbs which speed trauma repair; and I also upgraded my basic diet to assist in healing as well.  Finally, I did engage in mental/psychological visualizations to make sure I entered the surgery with a good and positive healing attitude.

Surgery day

I came out of the long surgery and used the available morphine for a few hours only, then downgraded the pain meds to hydocodone which made the pain tolerable, and only at a nuisance level. At the end of the third day my leg just stopped hurting altogether except when moving……or one of the kids would bump it!

Usually people remain off work for 2-6 weeks with this surgery, but I was able to go back to the clinic the following week and work out of a wheelchair….which many patients found amusing in a black-humor sort of way! I went back to the gym after 6 days, but of course only to do moderate exercise at upper body machines.

Crutches followed for several weeks, and while the pain was not bad, the cartilage and bone needed time to knit.  Being off crutches has felt like freedom, and the strength continues to build very rapidly. Proper physical therapy (which is absolutely indispensable after surgery) has begun as well – again we had to wait until basic tissue healing had taken place.

Over the weeks since surgery the nutritional regimen has continued, though with modifications. Certain of the Chinese herbs needed changed to reflect the healing process, as did the enzymes. Upper body exercise continues at a much more vigorous level (the anesthesia did take some days to totally wear off); walking improves daily; and it’s time to start thinking about the other leg…..no- not quite yet!

The summary is this: if it’s your time for surgery, if you “pre-hab,” rehab and effectively control your nutrition your pain will almost certainly be less and your recovery faster – or very much faster. Speed isn’t the only thing though – it’s setting the stage for the highest level of recovery that’s the most important factor when you undergo a surgical procedure that will change your body forever.

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Wrist Pain, Carpal Tunnel, and Driving Problems…

Posted on October 4, 2011. Filed under: Joints, Pain | Tags: , , , , , , |

When I was studying to be a chiropractor, some of my fellow students were quite heavy into lifting weights. One of my classmates was quite an accomplished power lifter; he was about my size, but he was renowned during our early learning days of “hands on” evaluation and treatment as having the thickest low back muscles of anyone in the class.   We used to joke you could hide a CD between them. He worked out hard of course, and certainly deserved the respect he got for his powerful back..

Why do I mention him? Even back then, his wrist would give problems from time to time.  A year or two ago,  I touched base with him to see how he was doing and found out that a nerve-related condition had caused him to practically stop training and his wrist condition had forced him to quit his clinical practice; the profession suffered a great loss without him.  So, it’s clear that wrist problems are not to be taken lightly.

Complicated Anatomy

Few body parts are as anatomically complicated as the wrist, and the wrist and hand as a unit are certainly the most complex musculoskeletal structure. What I mean by anatomically complicated is that two arm bones, the eight wrist bones, and five hand bones and fourteen finger bones by virtue of direct and indirect connections of ligament and tendon form an incredibly flexible, complicated manipulative instrument. From a clinical point of view, the wrist can be affected by conditions in the neck, shoulder and elbow; remembering the principles of primary and secondary conditions we know that dysfunctions or habitual distortions in one part of the body can and do cause dysfunction and distortions in other parts- the “tugging on the chain” situation in which one link tugs on all the rest.

How do you know when there is a problem?

What You Might Feel

As usual, symptoms come in two broad, inclusive categories. There are problems with how your hand or wrist works, and there are negative changes in how you feel. In other words, it could be that your wrist seems weak, extra loose or more likely resistant to moving in one or more directions. This could be indicative of swelling, deep tissue damage, calcification in some of the soft tissues which should be supple and certainly free of hard, immobile calcium; or muscles could be in spasm.

Pain is easier to talk about as it is harder to ignore than something that is painless but doesn’t work just right. The main symptoms to watch out for are persistent tingling and sharp, stabbing pains, though wrists can ache quit a lot, as well as burn, itch or feel tight and hot. Each of these indicates some sort of underlying disorder.

A key symptom to watch for is a deep ache in the middle of the wrist that persists for weeks or more, especially after a fall. I have had patients who have experienced this and upon close x-ray evaluation have been diagnosed with “avascular necrosis” which translates to an abnormally reduced blood supply to an important wrist bone that has allowed the bone to starve and rot away.

Tingling, numbness and burning on the palm-side of the wrist that persists could indicate carpal tunnel syndrome. Carpal tunnel syndrome refers to irritation of the nerve that travels down the palm-side of the forearm, on top of the rows of wrist bones and which splits to innervate the palm of the hand. At the wrist, a band of tissue called the “flexor retinaculum” connects some of the wrist bones and forms a tunnel through which the nerve passes. If the tissue becomes thickened, the bones become dislodged undo irritation of this nerve can take place and the most unpleasant weakness and pain of “carpal tunnel syndrome” can occur.

This syndrome has received much attention in recent years, especially with the increase in computer usage and the many hours at the keyboard required of students and certain professions.

Fortunately surgery isn’t always needed – in our clinic we successfully treat it by acupuncture vitamin B-6, and making sure the whole arm and neck with it’s many nerves are in perfect shape.

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