What Is Chronic Inflammation And How To Fight It Naturally

Posted on October 4, 2018. Filed under: Acupuncture Information, Healing, Health, inflammation, Pain | Tags: , , , , , |

bigstock-High-resolution-concept-or-con-38708455

~by Dr. Greg Steiner

Inflammation isn’t always a “bad” thing.  In fact, inflammation is what helps us to heal.  When the body has an injury, (ie. cut, bruise, infection, etc…) inflammation is the body’s first response. This process includes redness, swelling, heat, fluid increase to the injured area and altered function.  The intent is to repair, but sometimes it creates pain. This is called acute inflammation and its temporary and short term.  The other type of inflammation is chronic and ongoing.  Bad inflammation happens when the body thinks it has a danger when it really doesn’t. It keeps releasing its own inflammatory compounds where the body starts attacking itself mistaking areas like joints or intestines as an invader (think autoimmune disease, asthma, ibs, arthritis).

We often think of inflammation as a physical injury but it’s been found that putting the wrong kinds of food into our bodies can trigger it as well. Terms we hear often today like “leaky gut”, “gluten sensitivity”, “brain fog” and even the ability to lose weight could possibly be linked to chronic, low-grade inflammation.  With that said, one of the best ways to fight off inflammation is by changing our diet.  The biggest culprit that triggers inflammation is sugar.  This includes desserts, pastries, sodas, coffee drinks and even fruit juices.  Sugar goes by many names so look on ingredient labels for any word ending in “ose”, like fructose or sucrose and stay away from them.  Even artificial sweeteners like aspartame may trigger an inflammatory response.  Opt for a natural sweetener like stevia which doesn’t spike insulin levels, is low in calories yet gives the sweet taste desired.  I’ve seen patients with chronic headaches have a relief in symptoms by simply reducing sugars (especially artificial sugars) in their diets.

Many of my patients have noticed positive results in their health by opting to follow an elimination diet where they exclude certain foods to determine if perhaps they were the reason for their malaise.  Not everyone has negative results when they eat certain foods but they might feel improved symptoms by removing some known triggers.  Besides sugar, these triggers include:

  • Peanuts
  • Alcohol
  • Dairy-frozen, yogurt, ice cream, butter
  • Gluten-wheat, rye, and barley products
  • Refined carbs-white bread, white rice, potatoes and pasta
  • Trans and Saturated fats-found in fast and fried foods, cookies, donuts and even crackers
  • Processed meats-bacon, lunch meat, hot dogs
  • Artificial chemicals-food additives, coloring, and preservatives
  • High Sodium products-often found in canned soups & frozen meals

So with a long list of foods we should stay away from, what can we eat that are actually good for us? These include green leafy veggies like spinach, celery, broccoli, bok choy, and kale.  Other anti-inflammatory foods include beets, berries, pineapple, along with wild caught (not farmed) salmon, bone broth, chia & flax seeds, coconut oil and spices including turmeric and ginger.

Remember, inflammation isn’t always a “bad” thing.  It’s excess and continual inflammation that prevents us from staying healthy.  Fortunately, we can fight it naturally by eating the right foods for our body, incorporating exercise and also reducing & managing stress in our daily lives.

Dr Greg is an active resident of Twin Creeks and his background is in acupuncture, health psychology, and chiropractic. He is with CA Acupuncture and Chiropractic Clinic located at 1101 Raintree Circle, Suite # 288, and can be reached for questions or appointments by phoning 972-747-0928.

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Why Does My Back Hurt?

Posted on February 2, 2016. Filed under: Chiropractic, Health, Joints, Pain, Posture, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , |

bigstock-Back-pain-14431652By Dr. Greg Steiner
CA Acupuncture & Chiropractic Clinic

There are many reasons why your back is hurting.  It could be poor posture, an injury, long term wear and tear, etc…  But the pain you are feeling, like fire shooting through your veins or the dull ache that seems constant is usually a form of inflammation.  Whether the problem stems from doing too much or too little, the result can end you up in the same place.  One of the worst things you can do is go from one extreme to another.  If you sit behind your desk all day long and then decide to go out and aggressively clean the entire yard (like shoveling mulch, pulling weeds, etc.) you could be setting yourself up for a painful injury.

Our backs have discs that are designed to cushion the bones.  When we move, those discs work like little squishy sponges.  When we move to the right, that part of the disc compresses while the other side stretches.  These discs need to ingest a certain amount of nutrients to stay healthy.

For the person who sits most of the day and doesn’t move around, the discs essentially start to starve because nutrients aren’t being circulated and they start to become brittle.  When they become brittle, they start to flake and decay and become inflamed at a quicker rate.  So by living a sedentary lifestyle and doing nothing, you can actually harm yourself even more.

For the opposite type of individuals whose career involves moving around a lot, especially those that are athletes, they too can experience problems.  For example, if a long distance runner has improper technique, the discs in their spine or “shock absorbers” can wear out faster.  Even though there is plenty of motion going on, the body is overwhelmed and can’t re-supply all the nutrients it needs quick enough to rebuild, so inflammation starts in that way as well.

Posture can also attribute to back pain.  If you take a bowling ball and hold it straight up, it’s not so hard to do, but if you keep moving it forward inch by inch, for every inch you let your arm creep forward, it will increasingly feel heavier and be harder to hold.  Imagine your head like the bowling ball with all that stress on your neck, there will probably be pain in the upper back which eventually will travel down the spine to include pain in the lower back as well.  The neck and back overwork all day long, the tissues hyper stretch out and they become inflamed and begin to hurt.

That’s why I recommend getting a checkup.  Having your posture analyzed and corrected  can help pinpoint some of the reasons you may be having back pain and help get you on the track to feeling better and reducing that back pain.

 

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Slowing the Aging Process

Posted on November 20, 2015. Filed under: Acupuncture Information, Aging, Chiropractic, Exercise, Health, Hormone, Joints, Pain, Posture, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , |

~ by Dr. Greg Steinerbigstock-Mature-couple-having-fun-in-co-13905050

Growing old is inevitable, but getting old shouldn’t be used as an excuse.  For those who say, “I can’t do this because I’m getting older”, that’s an insufficient answer.  You don’t have to fear aging and let it prohibit you from the things you want to do.  There are a number of things that can be done to slow the process or at the least, allow you to age well.

Many processes going on in the body effect how we age.  Circulation is one of them.  It’s similar to having narrow roads, with fewer trucks on the road making deliveries.  Circulation is our transport system for our bodie’s resources, namely oxygen and nutrition.  As we age, we have a less efficient delivery system.  Also influenced by age is mobility and elasticity.  The gradual need for reading glasses demonstrates a decrease in elasticity in eyes.  It’s kind of ironic how we age that certain things get saggy while other things stiffen up.  Hormones can also get out of whack.  Testosterone & estrogen usually become unbalanced and growth hormone, responsible for repair also decreases.  Imbalanced thyroid levels and insulin can lead us to  suffer from fatigue and other issues.  And let’s not forget about inflammation.  There is inflammation that comes from a recent injury (like breaking a toe), but there’s also inflammation from an injury from 10 years ago.  Some of this stems from scar tissue forming, which over the years becomes less elastic and reduced circulation in that area.  Natural anti-inflammatories in the body work at a slower rate so we feel pain in that particular spot.

But know this, all of those things, at least by some degree are correctable.  Stretching for elasticity and mobility is helpful, but won’t necessarily solve everything.  Due to the computer generation, people these days can barely turn their neck left or right.  It’s double the problem from what I was seeing 20 years ago.  If the neck isn’t kept flexible, it can promote shoulder pain and headaches as well.

Chiropractic can be very helpful in restoring and maintaining mobility and flexibility.  Some people stretch and stretch yet still can’t touch their toes.  Usually this indicates a ligament issue.  Their bones and spine aren’t flexing.  One of the secrets to having a bouncy, happy walk isn’t about being flexible, it’s about having your bones & ligaments moving properly.  If everything is aligned and moving correctly, and the structure is perfectly aligned, the individual has a light, bouncy walk with or without flexibility.

Diet and exercise can help circulation.  Acupuncture and herbs are also useful in promoting circulation as well as helping reduce inflammation.  If you improve the circulation, you’ve got a better supply system which can transport out the waste products.  The healthy diet can then provide the right nutrition to be transported in.  Blood tests can determine how well hormones are balanced.

Everything is tied into one another.  Just like a plate of spaghetti, if one noodle falls off, it usually takes several with it.  Just be sure to treat all the issues together as a whole rather than trying to look at each “noodle” independently.

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Time to Change Your Personal Care Products

Posted on March 4, 2014. Filed under: Allergies, Children, Health, Hormone | Tags: , , , , , , , |

Be sure to read ingredient labels

Be sure to read ingredient labels

~ By Dr. Greg Steiner

Have you ever looked at the label of ingredients on your personal care products?  Most of the words are near impossible to pronounce, and definitely don’t seem like things we’d find in nature.  With all the products we put on our body (i.e. shampoo, body wash, lotions, perfumes, etc…) it’s no wonder so many individuals have developed allergic reactions and skin issues.  If you’re one of the lucky ones who don’t seem to be affected by the chemicals found in personal care products, you can still be headed towards trouble in the future.  While small amounts of these products don’t usually overwhelm our system, an ongoing accumulation of toxins can make the body less able to withstand them.  While there are hundreds of different types of chemicals found in our personal care products, here are just a few you should try to avoid:

  • Sodium Lauryl and Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLS)—Foaming agents which make products lather. Usually found in toothpaste, shampoo, body washes and soaps. These noxious substances are skin irritants.  Be wary of those labels that say “Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (derived from coconut oil)” as they are trying to make it look like it’s natural but the way they make coconut oil into SLS is through a highly chemical and toxin producing process.
  • Parabens—Used to preserve products for longer shelf life.  Can also be disruptive to hormones
  • Artificial Fragrances aka Phthalates (like benzene and toluene)—Used to make things smell good, but have been found to be hormonal disruptors. Instead look for products that use essential oils for natural fragrance.
  • Butylated Hydroxyanisole (BHA)—Common preservative in skin care products. It’s been attributed to thyroid problems and has shown to cause reproductive disorders.
  • Propylene Glycol–Found in many industrial and commercial products, including antifreeze, liquid laundry detergent solvents & paint as well as personal care products. The side effects of this common product include irritation and sensitivity to the eyes, skin and mucous membranes,
  • Polyethylene Glycol (PEG)—Often used in oven cleaner products as a powerful de-greaser. Found in many baby wipes, skin cleansers, lotions, shaving cream, lip balm, contact solution and laxatives.  PEG has been linked to kidney damage, leukemia, breast, uterine, and brain cancer.

As far as ingredients go, more is not better.  Try to choose natural products with a shorter list of ingredients.  Many of the ingredients found in bottles are just cheap fillers and not really important to the quality or effectiveness of the item.  Also, try to select products that can provide more than one use.  Shampoo can also work as a body wash, some facial moisturizers can also be used on the cuticles, etc…Or be bold and make your own personal care products.  There are dozens of recipes on the internet using coconut or olive oil, castile soap, vinegar, and essential oils which provide a great natural substitute and save money too!

 

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Fight off Colds & Flu this Winter by Building your Immune System Now

Posted on November 7, 2013. Filed under: Acupuncture Information, Exercise, Health | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , |

fight off the immune invasion~By Dr. Gregory Steiner
CA Acupuncture & Chiropractic Clinic

Chinese medicine believes that in our natural state, people are healthy and made to be self-repairing.  This theory states, “You should already be healthy unless you’ve done something to diminish that health”.  You can actually create health not by boosting your immune system, but by eliminating irritation to it.  But because today’s culture focuses on buzzwords such as “building immunity”, let’s talk about just how we can do that.  For example, white sugar is a backdrop to poor health.  It can suppress immune response.  Studies have shown that 1 teaspoon of sugar can lower immunity in the body within 30 minutes.  This opens a gateway for bugs like the flu or common cold to enter.  Peanuts, dairy or gluten (wheat products) are other foods which can promote inflammation and trigger “allergic responses” in the body.  Elimination of these foods for certain individuals can provide a marked improvement in their ability to fight off colds and infections.

Here are some more tips to help build your immune system to better fight off illness in the colder months:

  • Sleep Well:  Restful sleep enhances the immune system function by leading to better hormone level balance.  During good sleep, the body can rest & repair itself.  Sleep deprivation actually suppresses the immune function and activates stress.
  • Eat more “Rabbit Food”: Increase your intake of fruits & veggies.  Stay away from the unhealthy foods that contain a lot of grease, fat, preservatives, and sugar.  These foods can have a very negative effect on your overall health.
  • Drink Water:  Water helps flush toxins and hydrates your body.  Drink 10-12 glasses daily as an average.  If water gets “too boring”, add in some green tea or fresh juice.  Be wary of the sugar content and try to stay away from all sodas.
  • Stop the Stress:  A little bit of stress can boost the immune system; it’s like exercise for it.  Long term and unrelenting stress (i.e. work & relationship issues) can wreak havoc on it.  When stress hits, counterbalance it by relieving the tension through meditation, listening to relaxing music, or taking a walk.
  • Move your Body:  Exercising on a regular basis will boost circulation and keep you in better shape mentally as well as physically.  Whether its jogging, walking or sports, try to get at least 30 minutes of fitness in daily.
  • Consider Acupuncture:  Many studies have shown that acupuncture can boost the immune system.  Not only can acupuncture be beneficial in helping you overcome your cold or flu quicker, but it can also be used for prevention.  It’s a great way to fill in any missing gaps in your immune system.  Acupuncture can balance your energies to get them working in harmony and optimize your system, providing protection from illness.
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Natural Relief from Headaches

Posted on August 30, 2013. Filed under: Acupuncture Information, Acupuncturist, Chiropractic, Healing, Health, Pain | Tags: , , , , , , , , |

Stress~By Dr. Gregory Steiner
CA Acupuncture & Chiropractic Clinic

Headaches can develop from a variety of issues. Not enough water (dehydration) is one of the most common types which can easily be remedied by drinking an adequate supply of water daily (usually 10-12 glasses). Other types of headaches can result from muscular tension, poor posture, hormonal imbalance, diet, etc.. Toxicity can also lead to headaches, whether its junky food or exposure to chemicals (think household cleaners & air pollution). Toxins jams up metabolic pathways by blocking off hormones or high jacking an organ to where it produces too much of one thing and not enough of another. All these things funnel into a cause for a headache. For example, if you inhale too many fumes while painting your house, you get a headache. If you catch a bug, which is a form of toxicity, you get a headache.

In today’s day and age, pain relievers can be a useful temporary tool to alleviate the pain, but many people have had headaches for so long that they have become dependent upon medication and feel they have no other option than to take them. Unfortunately, these pills only mask the pain, they don’t correct it. As an alternative to medication, many people are seeking natural forms of pain relief. Acupuncture & Chiropractic care are two of the top choices.

The type of headache you have can help determine the best course of action for treatment. Many headaches are generated from muscle tension. It’s very common for tension to occur at the base of the neck, having generated from the upper back area. If a person holds their head forward (often seen in those who text or regularly use cell phones) a lot of tension develops in the neck over time and the muscles start to become habitually over tensed and over stretched simultaneously; this sets up a chronic inflammation which generates headaches. Chiropractic adjustments and repositioning the muscles can work wonders.

Other types of headaches such as migraines, cluster, those behind the eyes may not be muscularly related can benefit from Acupuncture. The wonderful thing about Acupuncture is that it can create a reduction in inflammation and muscular relaxation all on its own. It can change up the blood flow and circulation to provide pain killing relief as well.

Acupuncture can benefit just about everyone, the pain relieving effect especially. It can supplement or augment everything or it can stand alone. For certain types of treatment, chiropractic may be the best choice. Overall, using Acupuncture and Chiropractic combined can produce an even greater positive effect and long lasting results.

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Summer Flip Flops & Back Pain

Posted on July 2, 2013. Filed under: Acupuncture Information, Chiropractic, Exercise, Pain | Tags: , , , , , , , , |

 Now that summer is upon us, it’s time to pull out the summer wardrobe which includes shoe wear.  Unfortunately, a bad pair of flat flip flops can lead to back pain symptoms and throw your whole balance off.  The foot is one of the most complex parts of the body consisting of 38 bones connected by numerous joints, muscles, tendons and ligaments and is susceptible to many stresses.  Foot problems may include pain, inflammation, or injury and many of those problems can be caused by improper footwear.  These problems can become even more pronounced for those who spend most of their time in supportive footwear during the week and then transition to flats or flip flops for the weekends.  Podiatrists recommend that flip flops and sandals be worn for more home and poolside lounging, not spending the day walking around in.

Overuse of the tendons and muscles in the toes while walking in flat soled shoes can lead to chronic inflammation of the tendons, or tendonitis.  Because the flip flop is so loose, the toes are constantly gripping in an effort to keep the shoe on the foot.  The squishy sole of the flip flop allows the foot to over pronate (roll inward) and the toes extend and flex in an attempt to control that motion.  All this contributes to strain in the ankles, calf, knees, and lower back.

Those flat cheap flip flops may seem like a bargain now, but in the long run can cause all sorts of issues.  Most flip flops alter your gait, making you take shorter steps, which can lead to pain in other areas of the body.

Some of the problems with “cheap”  flip flops include:

  • flat foot bed which are bad for archesflip flop design
  • poor support which can cause ankle injuries
  • ease of sliding of feet which can cause calluses & blisters
  • slippery and no traction when wet

And “cheap” doesn’t necessarily mean price only.  Construction is most important here.  Just because a flip flop carries a designer name, doesn’t mean it’s designed with the support you need.  When searching for flip flops, choose one with an arch support and a solid and sturdy foot bed that keeps your heels from sliding around.  It should be molded to support the “bio-mechanics” of the foot, not just a flat piece of rubber you stand on.

The American Podiatric Medical Association has several approved brands.  They suggest you check out brands by Orthaheel, Chaco, FitFlop, or Dr. Comfort.

Fortunately, there are some things you can do to help alleviate some of the pain.
1.  Get the correct pair of shoes!
2.  Lightly massage the area to help ease the pain and reduce inflammation
3.  Alternate hot and cold treatments on the affected areas
4. Manually stretch and flex the toes, balls of feet, arches and ankles
5. Consider Acupuncture treatment.

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Longevity in Today’s World

Posted on July 6, 2012. Filed under: Aging | Tags: , , , , , , , , |

How to live longer has long been a consuming thought in the minds of many.  How do people really live to be 100?  This topic has been widely researched and National Geographic journalist Dan Buettner wrote about “The Blue Zones”, narrating a lot of wonderful personal stories from some of the oldest people in the world, where they live, and what they did that they felt helped them live a long life.  Though not every region was the same (some were strikingly different), there are quite a few similarities as listed below:

1. Be active & exercise.

  • The longest living people engage in regular, low-intensity physical activity, often as part of a daily work routine.
  • Low intensity exercise is easiest on the joints.

2. Stop eating before you are full.

  • Eat until you’re about 80% satisfied.
  • Part of the benefit of this  comes from the inevitable weight loss (none of the long living people in The Blue Zones were ever obese).
  • Serve food on smaller plates (people who get larger portions eat more than those who get smaller ones).
  • Eat more slowly.
  • Have your biggest meal of the day early (breakfast or lunch). Dinner in all the Blue Zones was the smallest meal of the day.

3. Avoid meat and processed foods.

  • Most of the oldest living people ate meat, just very rarely–maybe once or twice a month, or only on special occasions.
  • Scientists have analyzed diets and found that those who restrict meat are associated with living longer.
  • Instead of meat, fill up on  fruits and vegetables.
  • Get protein from eating  beans, tofu, and nuts. Nuts are “perhaps the most impressive of all  longevity foods.” People that eat nuts 5 times per week had half the heart disease of those who never eat nuts. In fact, the FDA now allows the claim that “eating 1.5 oz per day of most nuts….. may reduce the risk of heart disease.”  Try the “raw”, not roasted kinds.

4. Drink red wine in moderation.

  • The secret to drinking red wine is moderation and consistency.
  • Red wine contains “artery-scrubbing polyphenols” that may help fight arteriosclerosis.
  • Have only 1-2 glasses per day.

5. Have a strong sense of purpose.

  • A strong sense of purpose in the elderly may act as a buffer against stress and help reduce their chances of suffering from many diseases (Alzhimer’s, arthritis, stroke).
  • An 11-year study found that people between the age of 65 and 92 who expressed a clear goal in life  lived longer and were sharper than those who did not.

6. Take time to relieve stress.

  • The oldest people in the world live a lifestyle where they often take breaks–naps, tea with  friends, heading out of the house, gathering for meals with much socializing, honoring the Sabbath. The result is a greater sense of well-being.
  • Americans employed full time  work an average of 43 hours a week and take the shortest paid vacations in  the industrialized world. When they do take time off, 20% stay in touch with the office.  Few cultural institutions exist to encourage us to slow  down, unwind, and de-stress.
  • Try minimizing electronic entertainment in your home (TV, internet, etc.) Most of it feeds mind chatter and works counter to the notion of slowing down.

7. Participate in a spiritual community.

  • All of the oldest living people in the Blue Zones were religious.
  • A study of over 3600 people  found that those who attend religious services at least once a month  reduced their risk of death by one third.
  • As a group, attendees of  religious services had a longer life expectancy, with an impact about as great as that of moderate physical activity.

8. Make family a priority.

  • Take care of your children well while they’re young so that they’ll be more inclined to take care of  you when you’re older.
  • Elders who lived with their families have much sharper mental and social skills.

9. Surround yourself with people that share these values.

  • Higher social connectedness leads to greater longevity.
  • Spend time with your social  support network on a regular basis.
Learn more about this read by going to www.bluezones.com
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Far-Infared Heat & Light Therapy Aids Healing

Posted on June 1, 2012. Filed under: Healing, Joints, Pain, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

tdp lamp

Light & Heat Therapy for Healing

The TDP mineral lamp is  a type of far-infared therapy.  Often called the “Miracle Lamp”, as it helps with pain relief and treats an assortment of ailments including back pain, arthritis, shoulder and joint pain among others.  Infrared heat lamp therapy is something we all experience in the form of sunlight. While we can all see the visible light, the heat that you feel when you are out in the sun and your skin is warmed comes from the infrared light rays. This far infrared heat coming from the sun is not dangerous to your skin like the ultraviolet light rays are. Infrared light has been shown to be beneficial to health which is why many people are interested in infrared heat lamp therapy.

Infrared heat therapy emits infrared radiant heat which is absorbed directly into the body. The infrared heat activates and ionizes water molecules in the body and helps to increase blood circulation, stimulates the production of collagen, and rid the body of toxins as well as many other health and beauty benefits.

Because TDP lamp therapy penetrates deep into muscle tissue, it is often used for pain relief. Arthritis sufferers can greatly benefit from heat therapy as it decreases the stiffness in the joints. Athletes can also benefit by using it on sore muscles, inflammations, and to reduce muscle spasms. In addition to relieving pain, it also increases muscle and joint flexibility.

The TDP lamp or TDP mineral lamp is a medical device that has clinical evidence confirming that it can reduce inflammation, calm pain, and improve micro-circulation, and balance metabolism. Evidence was gathered substantiating TDP mineral lamp use promoted cell growth, reproduction, and repair, concurrently with promotion of specific enzyme activity levels and immune function.

Unlike other conventional far infrared lamps, a TDP lamp contains a curing plate. The curing plate, the key component for a TDP lamp, is coated with a proprietary mineral formation consisting of 33 elements essential to the human body. When the curing plate is heated to a certain temperature, it emits unique bio-spectrum electromagnetic waves in 1-25 microns allowing for a maximum absorption into the human body. The absorbed energy promotes microcirculation and metabolism, strengthens the immune system, and achieves short- and long-term pain relief.

In the past 16 years, TDP lamps have been used to treat millions of patients with various chronic ailments worldwide. In China, people refer to the TDP lamp as the “Miracle Lamp” due to its incredible success in treating chronic ailments.

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Wrist Problems: Part 2

Posted on November 2, 2011. Filed under: Exercise, Healing, Joints, Pain | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , |

by Dr. Gregory Steiner~

Carpal tunnel syndrome is only one of many potential problems associated with the wrist joints. Because it is so common, let’s have a better look at specific symptoms and possible corrections for this very aggravating syndrome.

We touched on this last issue, but the capsule summary of what carpal tunnel feels like is this: there is pain, numbness or tingling on the palm side of the wrist which can be worse at night. The symptoms can be mild to very annoying and painful, and can be short or long term sometimes of month’s duration. It may be that you feel an unusual ‘clumsiness’ when trying to grab something small, as though you can’t quite make your fingers and hand do what you want them to. You might notice shrinkage in the size of the palm just under the thumb.

Just to refresh the memory, the usual people who develop carpal tunnel syndrome include not only computer operators, but carpenters, assembly line workers and……..weight lifters! And, a cautionary note is needed here. Most of the time carpal tunnel syndrome is mechanical in origin, from repetitive strain on the wrist when using the wrist for extended periods of time when it is bent forwards or backwards. In weight training the common causes are incorrect wrist position in presses and curls, or simple overwork.

Sometimes patients present into my clinic with wrist complaints mimicking carpal tunnel, and we can trace the cause back to doing overhead or bench presses with tired forearms which prevent the wrists from holding firm. Without the muscle support the wrist joints bend backwards too much, creating an abnormal stretch on the palm side of the wrist, and a compression of the back side. In such cases—if you feel an abnormal fatigue before training wearing a wrist support or taping the wrist may be helpful. As always though, getting dependent on any kind of support is not a good idea, as support tissues need exercise to strengthen. We used to see this a lot in neck cases associated with whiplash, when people were advised to wear collars. In the early days of care this is not a bad idea, but what we found is that people became scared to do without them and by this time their undamaged neck muscles had weakened which only made things worse. Remember, supports are like supplements—you use them when you need them, but not as a way off life unless you have a long-standing weakness that is impossible to fully correct.

As is often the case with musculoskeletal problems, there is a muscle associated with carpal tunnel syndrome that can contain contributory trigger points. That muscle is called the palmaris longus; which starts on the inner part of the upper elbow and extends into the palm. It is one of the muscles that helps bend the wrist forwards. In persons with normal anatomy there is no problem, but if the muscle is constructed slightly differently it can compress or otherwise irritate the nerve that is responsible for true carpal tunnel syndrome. If a trigger point is present, you can compress it hard for up to 30 seconds. To find the trigger point, draw an imaginary line from your ring finger up to your elbow, just to the inside of the tendon you feel when your arm is bent. Press in that line, about ¼-1/3 of the way from your elbow to your wrist. If the point is active you may feel a sensation in your wrist. The bad news is that if the muscle is anatomically altered, it may require a surgical decompression to sort it out.

Another muscle—the flexor carpi radialis which lies just to the thumb side of the palmaris longus–could contain a trigger point that you may think is carpal tunnel but is really not. In any event, if the trigger point is present it could cause pain on the palm side of the wrist. A typical activity which aggravates the trigger point is using scissors to cut tough material- gripping and squeezing a hand gripper would cause pain as well. To find the trigger point, press just to the thumb side of the palmaris longus trigger point area.

Note: sometime finding trigger points is like going on a fishing expedition. You don’t know whether they are there, and you only have a general notion of where they are. And, you need to look both shallow and deep to locate either fish or trigger points!

It is possible that a problem in the neck could create the symptoms as well. As a chiropractor I always look to the neck when I evaluate an extremity problem, as what I have often found over the years in stubborn cases that have not responded to direct treatment to the involved area are neck problems. In such cases there is often an irritation of one or more of the nerves that give sensation to the wrist and power to the muscles that move it. Usually evaluation of neck-related carpal tunnel requires professional analysis, but a rough test is this: tilt your head sideways, first to one side and then to the other. Then bend it forwards and backwards. Then to the side and back. Make the movements slowly but strongly, and take the motion to the end point of the range of motion. If any of these movements creates a “nervy” sensation down your arm, into your upper back or into the wrist, you may have a neck problem that is creating difficulties farther away from the neck. A useful picture to keep in mind is that of the spine as the fuse box, with the nerves as electrical wires. The muscles are the appliances that run off the electricity provided by the spine, as directed by the nerves.

Let’s say you find a trigger point or two, and take care of it by direct pressure. What next?

If the discomfort is really bad and the power in the wrist or grip is poor, a short-term use of a wrist splint could be of use, especially at night if sleep is a problem. Corrective exercise takes place in stages. First, do some light isometrics. Bend your wrist backwards and hold it there for 7-10 seconds, but for the first two weeks with only moderate force. Then increase the force of the contraction.

The second stage involves the use of wrist extensions, usually called reverse forearm curls. Dumbbells or an EZ curl would be better than a barbell at this stage, because the barbell may force the wrist to internally rotate (also called pronation) too much for a sore wrist to comfortably take. Sit down on a bench and using light dumbbells such as 5 lbs, rest your forearms on your thighs, palm down with the dumbbell hanging in front of your knee. Bend your wrist backwards. Do higher repetitions- perhaps 20 or more per set; do 3 or more sets. An alternate position is to kneel at the side of the bench with your forearms resting on the bench, dumbbells hanging over the opposite side. Another exercise is too make figure eights with the dumbbell, again for higher reps. If the dumbbell is really light, increase the reps up to 50. There is no need to add real weight at this stage as mobility, neuromuscular co-ordination and rehabilitation are being developed, not size or big strength. Daily or nearly daily performance of the programme is fine.

The third and final stage involves continuing these basic exercises, but adding weight and performing them every other day. However, do not rush! When the pain in the wrist is minor and has been that way for 3 weeks, it is probably safe to increase the workload.

As far as nutritional supplementation, some patients have responded well to vitamin B-6, a reduction in salt and use of bromelain. B-6 at no more than 100mg. daily for several weeks may help; as B-6 is associated with proper never function. Salt reduction may reduce any swelling, and bromelain is an enzyme that helps the body metabolise ‘rubbish’ in various musculoskeletal tissue structures, thereby reducing inflammation.

Of course, there is very little point in fixing carpal tunnel syndrome—or any other condition for that matter—if you don’t take steps to prevent recurrence. It would be a waste of time and set a poor pattern for future training to do otherwise. However, the first practical steps to take are to pay real attention to your grip when pressing, and we’re speaking of bench, overhead or any other kind. People get into trouble when they let the bar ride too far back, i.e. the wrist is bent too far back as well, creating tremendous stress on both sides of the wrist. It takes a good body-sense to get the right feel for the bar; it should be gripped firmly and not too loosely, as the slacker the grip, the less the actions of the flexors on the palm side of the forearm, which translates to less of a muscular counteraction to the back bending. A strong grip to some degree protects the wrists from excessive motion.

It could be also that curls with a straight bar annoy your wrists. Your wrists may be congenitally tight, meaning you have to work too hard to externally rotate them just to get the underhand grip. Outside of abnormal wrist stress it could set you up for elbow troubles as well, as both ends of the forearm work double-hard to rotate outwards. I knew a power lifter with this condition who eventually had to quit doing curls; his ability to deadlift was much more important.

We always adhere to the old adage about prevention being better than cure, and carpal tunnel is no exception. If your wrists start to play up, outside of the usual admonitions to ice the sore areas for 10-15 minutes it would be a good idea to start doing specific warm-ups for your wrists. Martial artists in the rappelling styles know very well the importance of this, as their wrists are often bent and otherwise abused. For lifting, the best thing to do is do some forearm curls, reverse forearm curls and figure eights, but with very light weghts. Remember, we are talking about warming up, not building at this point!

Finally, if gripping the barbell seems a real problem to your wrists, try using dumbbells instead for your presses. The subtle change in angles may be just the rest your wrists need. And, don’t forget to sort out our computer desk and keyboard! What you do doing your non-training time you bring with you to training.

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