The Importance of Strength and Function
What exercise do you think is the most important for physical independence and daily function? I hope you said the squat, because the answer is probably the squat. They are a wonderful exercise to improve function at any age or ability level. Think about the movements you go through to get in and out of your car, or the muscles that you engage to get out of bed in the morning. What about going up stairs or getting in to the bathtub? All those daily activities require you to flex your hips and knees and use the muscles in your thighs and butt.
Before we go further, I think a little anatomy review is in order. The muscles in the front of your thighs, the quads, are some of the strongest muscles in your body. They help us step up, get up, and control our descent into chairs. The glutes, or the booty muscles, are also very strong and important. The glutes help us stand up straight. They help us avoid the bent over shuffle posture that you unfortunately see in senior population. It is very common to hear the wife of a middle-aged gentleman complain that he has lost his butt or that he now has “chicken legs”. A wife can be so cruel. The husbands have lost strength because they have become sedentary over the years and have stopped using their glutes and quads.
Reduced activity and loss of lower body muscle mass can be even more problematic in women. Osteoporosis is a scary word after menopause, but it is usually directly tied to muscle use. Resistance training, namely weight lifting, is essential to prevent osteoporosis. That means that as a woman ages she should make weight lifting a priority. I am not suggesting that they copy Holga from the East German Olympic team, but a moderate weight lifting regime can do wonders, for both men and women, as we age.
I do not have the time, nor the energy, to name all the other benefits of building and maintaining lower body muscle mass in this blog. Some of them are pretty cool, like increasing metabolism and driving your significant other crazy with your awesome booty. What seems to be most important to people, especially as we age, is to maintain personal independence. We recognize that as a society we are living longer, but if we are not living better those extra years on the end can be fairly frightening. One of the main reasons that people end up in nursing homes is that they become unable to take care of themselves physically. They can no longer get in and out of bed, they cannot get up after a fall, or they are unable to dress themselves. Squats, dead-lifts and lunges all help us continue to daily activities throughout life.
I love helping people begin a workout program. Sometimes starting is as simple as doing 10 air squats a day. For one patient it was getting in and out of a dining room chair 10 times. A few time I have been asked to design a more elaborate leg routine involving multiple exercises with various performance goals. But an important part of improving function is to make sure that you are moving as you should. Subluxations, or joint dysfunction, can limit your potential and make you susceptible to injury. For instance, upper back tightness and restriction can make it impossible to do a proper squat. That is why it is important to get yourself checked, regardless where you are in your workout program. Call today and get better!
-Dr. Aaron England
This August my wife and I will celebrate our 12th anniversary. That means we have been married long enough that she doesn’t listen to my whining or complaining. She doesn’t give me sympathy if I’m sick and doesn’t care if I don’t like the drapes. I am not sure when couples pass the point of listening to whining, but I will guess it was around the sixth or seventh year…or maybe she never actually cared. Even though wives don’t listen to whining they do hear it, and eventually they force their spouses into action. That is why quite often I will be face to face to a stubborn husband who says the words that every man eventually says: “I don’t want to be here but my wife made me come”.
When I was a recent graduate I hated those words. It intimidated me because I took it to mean that he wasn’t going to cooperate or give me a chance. After a few cool experiences from these types of patients I learned to love these situations. The patient was in my office because they wanted something fixed. If they truly didn’t believe that I could help they wouldn’t be here. Deep inside there is a hope that this can somehow get better.
As we proceed through the new patient encounter I become much like Androclus from the old fable. Since most of you don’t want to google that name, I’ll just tell you that Androclus was a Roman slave that escaped into a cave. He was frightened to realize that he shared the cave with an angry and grumpy lion. Androclus realized that the lion was not angry, but was suffering from a thorn in his paw. After Androclus removed the thorn the lion became docile and friendly. These visits most often result in once grumpy patients becoming friendly and loyal. The stubborn husband becomes the one prodding his wife to make her appointments so that she will also quit her whining.
I’ve talked in the past about how pain changes people. It can be depressing and overwhelming at times. The great thing about chiropractic care is that it doesn’t matter if you believe it will help or you don’t. This is not Tinker Bell’s fairy dust helping you fly to Neverland. It is a researched treatment that has been shown to be effective. And not only is it effective but it has been shown to reduce the chance of surgery and abuse of medication.
What does this all mean? It means that if you are a spouse that is tired of hearing your Hunny Bun or Sugar Pie complain, you should make an appointment for them to feel better. Their back pain (or whatever pain) going away will help that pain in your neck that you get from hearing their whining.
-Dr. Aaron England
People often ask me how or why I chose to become a chiropractor. It’s not the first thing that kids shout out when you ask them what they want to be when they grow up. I kind of always wanted to be what I am today, I just didn’t know the name for it when I was younger. I’ve always like helping people and have loved sports since I can remember. I knew I wanted to find a marriage of the two and thought that being a medical doctor was my best avenue.
I began as a pre-med student in college and loved the biology and science classes. Learning about the body was fascinating. On a break, I shadowed a family doctor that I had known for a long time. After a couple of hours he asked me if I was sure this was what I wanted to do. I said yes and he told me that I didn’t ask him a question that I needed to ask. He told me to ask him if he would do it all over again. When I asked he decidedly answered in the negative. He mentioned a few things about the job that I would have never thought about, but one thing that stood out was that he said he felt like a pill dispenser. He got to help people get better, but not in a hands-on way that I really wanted.
I left disappointed and a little worried. I thought I had this all planned and life was going to be straight forward. But I knew he was right and that I needed to find something else. The easiest thing would be to just shift my goal from medicine to a similar field, I set my sights on dentistry. I didn’t like dentistry and I never thought it was interesting. But the hours and the money seemed nice and pursuing that career wouldn’t require any change in my current academic path.
I took my dental plans right up to my first scheduled interview with a prospective dental school. About the time I scheduled the interview I observed work on a heavy smoker. I’ve cleaned rotten meat out of a broken freezer in the summer and it didn’t compare to the smell of whatever gum disease this poor lady had. I left the office, took a look at my meat-hook hands and realized that I had made a huge mistake.
As fate’s perfect timing would have it, this was when I met my first chiropractor. My lovely wife’s family was in town to visit and brought along a family friend, Terry, who happened to be a chiropractor. DeA had been suffering from low back pain that I couldn’t get to go away with my athletic training techniques that I had picked up from school. Terry checked her, adjusted her and gave her exercises. The pain that wasn’t going away with stretching, massage, ice, heat, exercising, voodoo or prayer was gone. That was when I realized that what I had always wanted in my career was found in chiropractic.
Thanks to my pre-med background and Biology degree it was easy to shift gears (well, easy except the part about explaining to my dad why I was giving up on dentistry and moving to Iowa to do something that he wasn’t sure about). After researching schools I decided to attend Palmer College of Chiropractic and after a few stops I was able to move my family back to the Lake Chelan Valley.
To this day I get a thrill and excitement out of helping people move and feel better. It literally makes my day to see someone walk without pain, sit without cringing or pick up their child without wincing. I cannot think of a more rewarding career that would fit me as well as this one. In a way I feel like I didn’t chose chiropractic, but more discovered it for myself. I try to share that same sense of discovery with my patients who, just like I used to be, aren’t sure what chiropractic is or how it can help them.
-Dr. Aaron England
Dr. England’s Healthy Lifestyle Advice
Pain is a mechanism that our body uses to tell us that something is wrong. It is an alarm that warns us to change or avoid doing something harmful. Unfortunately, too many of us have learned to ignore that warning and we keep pressing on. We try to minimize the meaning of pain with cliché sayings like “No pain, no gain” or “pain is weakness leaving the body”. Unfortunately pain rarely brings gains and it is definitely not weakness leaving the body. Pain is different than the soreness, achiness or fatigue that accompanies exercise. Pain is “ouch” and swear words. Ultimately pain is suffering and misery. The true cost of pain is how it changes us from a happy person to a grump that hates life and all the people in it.
The cost of pain was made perfectly clear to my lovely wife after we opened the office. She worked as a massage therapist in a day spa while I was attending Palmer College of Chiropractic. The people she would work on were typically looking for a little relaxation after stopping at Starbucks and before their kids were done with school. Before their massage, they would have their nails done and rub some skin off their face with sandpaper. It was a luxury and a pleasure. After graduation, my beautiful wife worked as a massage therapist in our office. After a few days, she told me she hated working for me and wanted to quit. I took it personal and asked what was wrong. She said that everyone she worked on was grumpy. No one was happy and relaxed, instead she was dealing with cranky sourpusses. It was then that I realized that she had never actually dealt with people in pain. These were people that needed relief, not people killing time between yoga and play dates. I convinced her to stick with it, mostly because I didn’t have another therapist at the time and was desperate. About a week later she told me that one of her crankiest patients had become one of her favorites. She was amazed to see that this former grouch was a truly wonderful person once pain wasn’t weighing on her any longer.
That transformation is one of the reasons that I love my job. The first visit can be a rough encounter. The patient is usually in considerable pain and because of it they are irritable and frustrated. The pain can be overwhelming, scary and depressing. But after a visit or two that sour outer shell starts to crack and before you know it their sweet, gooey insides are spilling out. It’s like a human Sour Patch Kid, but even more rewarding.
The reasons that we put up with discomfort are many, but we should address them immediately. Pain wears us down whether it is severe or subtle, long or short term. There is no such thing as a “normal” pain but is a signal that something is wrong. Chiropractic care is a proven way to effectively treat many issues from head to toe. Call or stop in at England Chiropractic to start getting back to who you really are when you aren’t in pain.
-Dr. Aaron England
Dr. England’s Healthy Lifestyle Advice
One thing I constantly tell my kids is that they need to turn off their screens. Their whole lives revolve around the stupid glowing rectangles. Games, movies, annoying Caillou and even schoolwork are all there. They do good things with technology, things that make me impressed and jealous. When I was their age we were in awe because a neighbor could pick up a fifth TV station with their rabbit ears. Now my kids watch any episode of any show they could ever want. When confronted with a commercial they simply have no idea what is happening or how to skip it.
It is easy to tell my kids why they cannot spend all day staring at a screen, but the same reasons are even more true for myself. I rationalize my screen time with often true sentiments like “This email is important” or “This person on the internet is wrong, I have to tell him!”. The issue is not with technology itself but the ridiculous positions we assume while we use it. We are so used to seeing someone Pinteresting on their phone in a waiting room that we don’t even care that they are hunched over like Quasimodo. We don’t even think twice when we see someone hacking away on a computer with posture that would make their grandmother cry. Have you paid attention to how you hold your neck, shoulders, and hands as you scroll on Facebook for hours and hours while the kids kill each other in the other room?
The position that we us to checking our fantasy team causes a named condition: upper crossed syndrome. This image is to prove that I didn’t make it up (Rehabilitation of the Spine, Leibenson). Symptoms associated with UCS are headaches, neck pain, back pain, concentration issues, shoulder pain, tingling in the arms and hands, weakness in the arms and hands, tension, etc.. It sure seems like 99% of us deal with these issues in one way or another, but it doesn’t have to stay that way.
Changing how you watch cat videos is the first step, the second is to visit England Chiropractic. Your back and neck needs help beyond what you can do at home. We can help restore motion in the spinal joints and assist in reducing the tension in the muscles. Chiropractic care has been shown to be very effective in treating upper crossed syndrome, its associated symptoms and much more. I know from experience; I’m not only a chiropractor, I’m also an upper crossed survivor that typed this entry while hunched like a melting snowman.
-Dr. Aaron England
Dr. England’s Healthy Lifestyle Advice
Someone much wiser than me once said, “The best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago, the next best time is today.” I think of that saying every time I hear a patient tell me that they are too old to feel better, or it’s too late to try and improve their abilities. Of course it is easier to instill proper habits while one is young, but it is never too late to improve oneself. There are real issues that slow us down as we age, but we should never quit trying to stay active.
When we are young our bodies are pliable and designed to bend and absorb the falls and clumsiness of youth. As we age we trade that movement for strength and stability, but even that is lost as we become sedentary. Research has shown that lack of activity is a driving factor in many of the problems associated with aging. I don’t think that people hit a point of life and just decide to sit down and give up. Instead, what I’ve seen with patients is they avoid things that hurt until they have whittled down their activities to shuffling and reaching for the remote. It all starts with a little back pain after mowing the lawn, which leads you to hiring someone down the street to do it. Then you quit fight club because you get a little shoulder pain from dropping blows on your opponent. The achy knee stops you from walking the dog, and then the neck pain keeps you from windsurfing on the Hood River. Before you know it you consider walking around the store your weekly workout. You dread attending your granddaughter’s wedding because the standing and walking will kill you. This pattern not only leads to pain but also other complications like obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure and multiple chins.
How can this cycle be prevented or broken? The first thing is to try to move a little more than you are moving now. You aren’t going to become Jack LaLanne in a day, but you can commit to gradual improvement daily. After a few days has turned into weeks and a few weeks into months, you’ll start to see the difference. As you move you will start to remember why you stopped in the first place, especially the aches and pains. That is where chiropractic care is important. Those aches and pains that force you to the couch can be addressed and you can stay active or begin to become active. The more active you remain the better your chance to avoid assisted living or the nursing home in your twilight years.
Speaking of nursing homes, have you considered why people end up there? Not being able to care for oneself is the main cause outside of cognitive issues. That is why being active is not only about competing in the Olympics or impressing the ladies, it’s function. It is what helps you get out of bed in the morning, off of the toilet during the day and off of the floor after a tumble. Correcting the problems in your body that cause pain will improve your quality of life.
Start being active today, and if you did start 20 years ago make another commitment to stay active. Visit England Chiropractic to correct the pains and aches that try to plant you on the couch.
-Dr. Aaron England