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The modern world is becoming increasingly complex, and the demands on our time and attention are many. It’s often said that stress is one of the most destructive elements in people’s daily lives, but that’s only a half-truth. The way we react to stress is more important than the stress itself!

There are three types of stress that affect the body: chemical stress, physical stress and emotional stress, all of which can create nerve interference in the body.

Chemical stress includes things you ingest or inhale. Preservatives in food, medications, alcohol, smoggy air and pollen are just a few examples of chemical stressors that can irritate the nervous system.

Physical stress includes repetitive motions, improper posture (such as leaning over your computer keyboard or falling asleep in an awkward position) and traumas such as car accidents or falling. Physical stress can result in muscle tightening or loss of muscle tone, which can contribute to joint and disc problems, ultimately resulting in the nerve disturbances that cause pain and immobility.

Emotional stress is less tangible, but often the bigger problem. Emotional stress includes worrying over finances, grief, anger or frustration, that result in tension in the body, particularly in any areas that are already weakened or overworked. This tension can lead to tight muscles and irritation of the nerves.

Chronic Stress means you never completely relax. Many studies of people who have been subjected to chronic stress have found evidence of negative health effects. These effects include high blood pressure, damage to muscle tissue, diabetes, infertility, damage to the immune response, and slowed healing from disease and injury. Stress reactions are also at the root of disorders such as post-traumatic stress disorder, and stress has been linked in human and animal research with cardiovascular disease.

The Chiropractic Approach

Chiropractors work primarily with the spine, the root of the nervous system through which nerve impulses travel from the brain to the rest of the body. One effect of chronic stress is prolonged muscle tension and contraction. This muscle tension creates uneven pressures on the bony structures of the body, often leading to misalignment of the spinal column.

Chronic stress also leads to nerve irritation. Chiropractic adjustments release muscle tension and reduce spinal nerve irritation, which helps the body return to a more balanced, relaxed state. These changes can, in many cases, convince the brain to turn off the fight or flight response, beginning the process of healing.

A chiropractor cannot make a job less stressful, or create a quieter, calmer world. What chiropractic treatment can do is help you develop healthy responses to stress, reducing potential physical damage.

If you or someone you know has been under a lot of stress, maybe it’s time for a chiropractic check-up?

Growing Pains

growing pains2

Growing pains are the most common cause of leg cramps in young children. Despite occurring in up to 36.9 % of children, our understanding of why it occurs still remains poor.

What Are the Possible Causes of Leg Cramps?

Muscle overuse, misalignment of the joints (such as knock-knees or flat-feet) and even psychological factors have all been suggested as playing a role, however, none of these theories have been conclusive. What we do know is that recurrent pain negatively impacts physical, mental and schooling aspects of a child’s life.

Growing pains are a significant cause of childhood discomfort and for the ease and comfort of all involved (both the distressed child and the weary, tired parents) the issue needs to be addressed and a suitable remedy found.

Some Facts about Leg Cramps & Growing Pains

• Growing pains most commonly occur in children aged 2-12, and disappear by puberty.
• The pain is generally present in both legs, most often in the late afternoon or at night, and often wakes the child from sleep.
• Importantly, there should be no signs of swelling, redness, trauma, limping or decreases in movement – if so, seek the advice of a primary health practitioner.
• A 2006 study conducted in South Australia found that growing pains generally occurred between one and three monthly intervals and there was no overall difference in amount of activity between children with and without growing pains. Children with growing pains were also found to be significantly heavier and in 69.8% of cases, they had a family history of growing pains in either a parent or sibling.

What can be done to remedy leg cramps and growing pains?

Parents are given few to no options for treatment. Typically, massaging the legs and the use of painkillers are the only suggestions. Parents are often told this is normal during the growth process and it will pass. This offers little comfort to parents who awaken to their child’s cries night after night.

Getting to the Cause

So, what causes these “growing pains”? From a chiropractic standpoint, we must look at the biomechanical issues. We must first understand the growth process time line. The first five years of a child’s life is the time of greatest spinal growth. During the first year of life, the spine increases 12 cm in length and another 15 cm between 1 and 5 years of age. Between 5 and 10 years of age, the growth rate decreases to 10 cm. There is another increase at puberty between approximately 10 and 18 years of age with 20 cm of spinal grown in males and 15 cm in females. Logically, if something interferes with this growth process, there may be problems. What if a child was put into a baby walker before his/ her body was ready to walk? This premature walking assistance can alter biomechanics, leading to postural abnormalities, disruption of proper locomotion skills, and also injury to the child. Other interferences of the growth process may include birth trauma, a fall, sports injuries, and overly sedentary lifestyles.

Another important point is that many of these children also have complaints of spinal pain in addition to the leg pain. There is little medical research, but, much of what there is focuses only on growing in the legs. Chiropractors look at the body as a whole and not as separate parts. Chiropractors recognize that, if there is stress in one area of the body, the rest of the body will somehow compensate for this stress.

So what other options do parents have?

The best place to start is by considering the possible causes of these muscle cramps for your child.

• Let’s start with the feet – “Are their shoes too small or too worn?”
• Let’s think about the muscles – “Could your child be dehydrated and need to drink more water?” or “Is their diet not varied enough; do they have a magnesium deficiency?”
• Let’s think about nerve communication and spine function – “Is it possible they have fallen over and created nerve and joint irritation in their pelvis?” or “Have they been sitting too much or too awkwardly, creating spinal misalignments which are affecting the nerves?”

growing pains

A recent case study found that when growing pains are linked to spine and nerve dysfunction, chiropractic care may be of benefit (Alcantara & Davis 2010).

In this study, two toddlers (a 2¾-yr-old girl and 3½-yr-old boy) were taken to the chiropractor with growing pains of several months duration. Medical care had thus far recommended offering Tylenol. In the chiropractic examination, spinal dysfunction (or vertebral subluxations) were detected in the lumbosacral spine of both children and chiropractic adjustments were made to help improve nerve function and spinal motion. After their first chiropractic adjustment, both mothers stated that their child did not wake at night with growing pains, and after completing a trial of care, both children’s initial complaints fully resolved.

Altered biomechanics and spinal misalignment, especially in the lower lumbar spine and pelvis, creates imbalances in the quadriceps, hamstring, and calf muscles, which may contribute to leg pain. Pelvic misalignment can lead to leg-length inequalities; the child is unevenly distributing his or her weight, placing additional stress and strain not only on the spine, but feet, ankles, and knees as well.

Great things are to be said about the effect of chiropractic care on “growing pains.” When stress is removed from the spine and nervous system, it allows the body to function at its best.

Instead of treating specific problems (such as growing pains), chiropractic aims to correct underlying or undetected nerve and spine dysfunction, helping the body to naturally work the way it should. In addition to looking at other factors that may influence growing pains such as nutrition, hydration and footwear, addressing possible nerve and spinal dysfunctions may help growing pains to rapidly resolve on their own.

Weight Gain and Back Pain

While being overweight has been shown to be correlated with a greater incidence of heart attack, stroke, and diabetes, it has also been found to be one of the biggest contributing factors for the development of back pain. Since our bodies frame is designed to only carry a certain amount of weight, excess weight puts an immense strain not only on our spine, but also on other joints throughout our body.

This excess strain has been shown to increase the rate of degeneration of the vertebrae in our back, leading to the early development of back pain. In addition to the degenerative effects of being overweight, those extra pounds have been shown to increase the odds of developing osteoarthritis, a herniated disc, and sciatica. Abdominal fat can pull your pelvis forward, which in turn will increase the curve in your low back (lordosis). The increased lordosis will can tighten up your back muscles and cause strain or pain.

Many patients with back problems believe that they should avoid exercise in an effort to protect their back from further injury or back pain. Sometimes back pain can even be the cause of weight gain due to lack of exercise!

In reality, inactivity and lack of exercise can actually contribute to future pain and worsen existing problems. Patients are often unaware that movement through gentle exercise stimulates healing and a flow of nutrients within the spine. When the patient does not engage in enough physical activity, the spinal discs are deprived of the nutrients they need to stay healthy and functional.

A doctor of chiropractic can help those suffering from back pain by treating the back itself as well providing information on exercises designed to help lose weight and develop strong muscles. A chiropractor can also provide instruction in good nutrition, posture, and sleeping habits, all of which can affect your weight.

Chiropractors specialize in maximizing nervous system and musculoskeletal performance, injury prevention, and self-healing of the body if and when injuries occur. While chiropractors are not often associated with weight loss, they provide an invaluable service to over weight individuals who suffer from chronic back pain and would like to lose weight and gain health.

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