Benefits of Being Barefoot!

As the gray days of winter start to pass and the temperatures warm, I find myself itching to ditch my shoes and head outdoors. I love being barefoot and how my feet (and my legs) feel when I get to spend more time sans-shoes.Dr. Sharonrose Samelak is your source for wellness information! (1).jpg

Walking barefoot is great for adults, but utterly essential for our little ones.

The human foot has 33 joints as well as tons of tiny muscles and nerves that provide information to the brain about where your body is in space- proprioception- and balance- dictated by the vestibular system. When we walk barefoot, our feet are alive with information. Think of walking on a pebbly beach. Our feet interact with the ground and there is a massive amount of data sent to the brain.

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When barefoot we are truly interfacing with our environment.

Let’s take a moment and think about what happens when we place our feet in shoes- particularly stiff and restrictive ones. You are basically placing a blindfold on your feet!

  • Your nervous system is not getting as much information from the ground.
  • The joints in your feet don’t get stimulated. (Joints get nutrition through motion, so they starve when they are restricted)
  • The muscles of the foot don’t get exercised.
  • Your balance and your proprioception suffer.

These same principles apply to the feet of our children. When they learn to walk, stand, and even when they play with their toes, children are building and programming their nervous system. They are patterning the way their muscles will fire for proper gait and spinal stabilization. Kids earn every milestone that they make. All of this happens from the ground up. Some neurologists even prescribe thinly soled shoes or barefoot time for children with developmental delays.

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According to an article in the Washington Post, “Going barefoot helps a child develop body awareness.” I love how succinctly they boil this all down.

Have you taken your shoes off yet?

Do you feel like your feet have been blindfolded your whole life?

Do your feet need to wake up?

Dr. Samelak is passionate about helping people wake up their feet and improve the way that they interact with the ground- improving balance, preventing injury, and starting to correct long standing structural imbalances.

Check out our Events Page to learn about when Dr. Samelak will be teaching her next Love Your Feet workshop with Jodi Boone!

 

Muscle Testing and Chiropractic- Applied Kinesiology

As a Chiropractor, one of my main techniques is Applied Kinesiology. While in Chiropractic school, I obtained my 100 hour certification in this technique. According to the International College of Applied Kinesiology (ICAK):

Applied Kinesiology (AK) is a system that evaluates structural, chemical and mental aspects of health using manual muscle testing combined with other standard methods of diagnosis… The combined terms “applied” and “kinesiology” describe the basis of this system, which is the use of manual muscle testing to evaluate body function through the dynamics of the musculoskeletal system

The basis of Applied Kinesiology is in the manual muscle test.

When working with patients, I use the muscles of the body as indicators to help me decide where there is stress in the system and what I can do to help support the nervous system and the musculoskeletal system. A manual muscle test involves isolating a specific muscle in the body- like the deltoid or the latissimus dorsi, and checking to make sure that it is “turned on” or working how it should.

This can seem mystical and magical, but all boils down to basic neurology. Can the brain find that particular muscle and tell it to do a specific task? If it can’t, why not? According to the ICAK:

Manual muscle tests evaluate the ability of the nervous system to adapt the muscle to meet the changing pressure of the examiner’s test. This requires that the examiner be trained in the anatomy, physiology, and neurology of muscle function. The action of the muscle being tested, as well as the role of synergistic muscles, must be understood. Manual muscle testing is both a science and an art. To achieve accurate results, muscle tests must be performed according to a precise testing protocol. The following factors must be carefully considered when testing muscles in clinical and research settings:

• Proper positioning so the test muscle is the prime mover

• Adequate stabilization of regional anatomy

• Observation of the manner in which the patient or subject assumes and maintains the test position

• Observation of the manner in which the patient or subject performs the test

• Consistent timing, pressure, and position

• Avoidance of preconceived impressions regarding the test outcome

• Nonpainful contacts – nonpainful execution of the test

• Contraindications due to age, debilitative disease, acute pain, and local pathology or inflammation

What all of that means is this: It is important that a practitioner using manual muscle testing (MMT) is able to be consistent, specific, and observant when evaluating the human body. By ensuring that all muscle tests that are performed follow these basic guidelines, the results of a muscle test should be clinically useful. (ie: They should help me to tell what is going on with my patient. )

For example, when there is severe low back pain, are the muscles in the pelvis and lower back properly supporting the spine? If not, why not? How can we turn them on and make sure that they are doing their job?

In 2007, a paper was published in the Journal of Chiropractic and Osteopathy that evaluates the reliability and validity of the MMT through a review of the literature. This paper found that there is significant evidence to support the clinical use of the manual muscle test in practice; however, the experience of the provider and the adherence to specific guidelines for muscle testing is important. This review suggests that muscle testing is a useful way to evaluate the neuromusculoskeletal system, but it will be important to continue studying MMT and to incorporate randomized controlled trials, if possible.

3 Chiropractic Myths- Busted!

There are a lot of misconceptions about chiropractic care and chiropractors floating around… Today, I am going to tackle 3 of the Chiropractic Myths I hear most often:

Once you go to a chiropractor, you have to go FOREVER.

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Most people seek out chiropractic care when they are in a lot of pain or have an issue they would like to resolve. Chiropractors are fantastic at taking care of low back pain, headaches, whiplash associated disorder, thoracic outlet syndrome, etc. Usually, these conditions can be taken care of with a single treatment plan combined with exercises, chiropractic adjustments, and nutrition.

But what happens then?

Once you have seen a chiropractor, you become more aware of your body and how it moves. Often, the condition that brings people into the chiropractor have been a long time coming and they don’t even remember what it’s like to truly feel good.When things are moving well, you are feeling great. This is a common awareness in chiropractic patients. These patients progress from acute care- where we target a major condition or problem- to corrective care.

Corrective care focuses on helping to identify, target, and eliminate movement patterns or postures that were behind the low back pain or headaches. This type of care can take a bit of time to work through, depending on how diligent home exercises are performed and how long the problem has been going on.

Following this, some patients elect to continue seeing their chiropractor periodically to prevent future issues and to be checked for wellness. This is the part where people tend to say that you go FOREVER. However, as humans, we are very complex machines that come into contact with all kinds of challenges from long flights, to tech neck from working on computers, to falls and athletic injuries. Many people choose to get checked periodically to ensure that they are doing well and have nothing brewing underneath the surface. But this is their choice!

Chiropractors aren’t REAL doctors.

Chiropractors undergo graduate education to achieve the degree Doctor of Chiropractic (DC). While chiropractors do not treat patients using drugs or surgery, our education is comparable to that of Medical Doctors (MD). In fact, our core studies are just about the same! Click here for a breakdown of the course requirements for DC vs MD students.

Chiropractors are trained in anatomy, physiology, biochemistry, pathology, clinical diagnosis, etc; however, our training in treatment involves learning how to adjust the spine and other joints of the body, work with soft tissues, and implement clinical nutrition.

One thing that I feel it is important to emphasize is that chiropractors are especially well trained in recognizing when pain is not coming from the joints or the spine, but from another area. For example, sometimes right shoulder blade pain is referred from a hot gallbladder. In this case, the patient is often referred to an MD, DO, or ND for further evaluation and intervention. This is especially important because many common organ conditions cause back pain, causing people to seek chiropractic care.

In conclusion, Chiropractors are REAL doctors, just not medical doctors 🙂

Chiropractic Adjustments HURT

As I mentioned above, many times pain is the main driver that causes someone to seek out chiropractic care. If you have ever had back pain, you understand that sometimes it is painful to even have your clothes touch the area that is injured. It is understandable, then, that a chiropractic adjustment may be uncomfortable in that area.

However, an adjustment is not, generally painful. I have made a point, in my education, to learn many techniques. This includes one  that uses less pressure than you would be comfortable with on your own eyelid (Did you just push on your eyelid?) as well as instrument adjusting.

When a patient is in pain, I work to make my adjustment as comfortable as possible- sometimes using cold or heat to relax the area before adjusting.

Most patients report mild to no discomfort throughout their adjustments- in fact the majority experience a sense of relief almost immediately.

What is something that you have heard about chiropractic care?

Stay tuned for more Myth-Busting about Chiropractic care!

 

 

 

 

Holiday Survival Guide

The Holidays are upon us! Thanksgiving has passed and we are welcoming the onslaught of holiday parties with Family, Food, and Cheer… Though if we are honest most of us have a love/hate relationship with the holidays.

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Love the family time → hate how family knows how to push all the right buttons

Love the food → hate how clothes fit later

Love the cheer →  but who can be happy all the time?

Thankfully, I have devised tactics to combat this love/hate relationship to leave us with bigger smiles and (hopefully) intact waistlines after the holiday season.

Family Time

I love family meals. I love the people. I love spending time with loved ones who know all my stories and love me for them… but this is also the downfall. Many times family can’t help but bring up the embarrassing or hurtful stories in a way that is meant to be funny, but awakens some old hurt you swore was gone long ago.

After years of this, I have finally found a counter-tactic. Rather than reminiscing about days past, I come prepared with a game to play (a prize is a plus) These help to build our relationships rather than relying on past interactions.  I also bring at least one question to ask each family member- who doesn’t like to be an expert in their own topic or talk about themselves!

Food

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The food at the holidays is nothing less than decadent.  It is entirely too easy to over-indulge. There are work parties, neighbors give cookies, family parties, friends have ugly sweater parties, and the list goes on. With all of this, our good habits from the rest of the year are often thrown out the window and we eat more cookies than we planned, drink in excess, and have just one more helping at dinner.

In past years, I have gained a rather large amount of weight over the holidays which I immediately try and banish with workouts and an endless march of salads in January.

The last 2 years I have planned ahead. When going to parties, I eat a small salad or some veggies before leaving the house. I offer to bring a dish to pass that is low in sugar and high on taste. If the meal is buffet style or appetizers only, plate food instead of grazing and always choose the smallest plate. If seated, put your fork down between bites! Cookies… I haven’t found anything too fool-proof here. The variety is my Achilles heel- I want to try them all! What I attempt to do is take only 1-2 cookies and split them with my husband.

Holiday drinks are often high in sugar and very rich, so I always aim for a glass of dry wine that is easier to sip than drink or a fill a glass with ice before adding any cocktail. Staying hydrated is also key- always have a glass of water at your place in addition to your drink.

Moderation in all things is the goal- with food and drink, you get to have some of the decadence but can keep a modicum of control over consumption.

Holiday Cheer

I am an introvert.  A Meyer Brigg INFJ. Holiday cheer is uplifting and exciting. It provides an opportunity to celebrate and connect with people. It also leaves me feeling drained and wanting to crawl under a rock. As an introvert, self care is incredibly important, so I make sure to sleep enough, mediate regularly, use a gratitude journal, regular adjustments, and remind myself that it is OK to come late or leave a party early.

Holiday cheer can also be a financial burden with gift exchanges and lots of eating out. Understanding what is within budget and what is affordable can be a downer, but will ultimately make holidays more gratifying in the end. No one likes to go into debt for the holidays. Amongst my friends and family, we use white elephant exchanges, games, and handmade gifts to keep the costs down on entertainment.

The take home on cheer is to understand your own limits and respect them. Whether you are an introvert like me- who needs to recover after being social- or an extrovert who thrives on community, it is important to stay within your boundaries.

Who doesn’t love the holidays?! It is a time when we celebrate with loved ones, new friends, and old. By maintaining good practices with family, food, and merry-making- we can ensure that we are healthier at the end of our holidays both mentally and physically.

What helps you survive the holidays?

 

Are walkers bad for my Baby? What about other upright toys?

Quite often I have friends and patients who ask me about walkers, exersaucers, and Bumbo seats (along with a huge list of other infant toys). There is a lot of confusing information on the internet regarding these and some of it is very misleading from manufacturers. I hope that here I can clarify some of the information and give you some facts.

The place to begin is normal child development. When a baby is born, they have no curves in their spine and they have no understanding of the physical world. These things are learned and skills are earned through experience and exploration. Motor and mental development are often broken down into “milestones” which are a series of behaviors and skills that we expect children to have at different ages.

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Spinal development is completely formed through activities. Tummy time causes the little one to lift their head up, forming the cervical (neck) curve. The curve in the lumbar spine (low back) is formed when the child begins to rock and crawl. The muscles and bones of the spine develop in response to these activities and the basis of the adult spine is formed.

The same activities that help to form the curves in the spine stimulate the brain and help your child develop a sense of where they are in space (proprioception). Crawling, scooting, pulling up, walking, and tummy time help in vestibular (balance) and sensory development. Movement stimulates a circuit called the Reticular Activating System which links motion to the cerebellum and helps the brain to learn posture and balance (and a whole lot more!).

Walkers:

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Walkers are one of the most dangerous babysitters. A 2006 study looked at ER data from 1991-2001 and found 197,200 ER visits related to walkers. This study does not take into account those who saw a pediatrician, other health care practitioner, or stayed home for self-care. Walkers allow little ones to move quickly and often they can tip when they encounter the edge of a rug, door sill, or staircase.

Actual physical injuries aside, it is important to take into account the mental and motor developmental delays associated with walkers. As we mentioned above, many skills are dependent upon motion and experiencing the environment. It is easy to see how a parent may think that a walker is a great way for their little one to experience the world. However, this is a false environment. In a walker, children cannot see their feet which changes how the brain develops proprioception, children do not have to learn balance, and their future gait (walking) patterns may be affected.

In 1999, a study was performed with 109 infants where some were placed in a walker and others were allowed to play on the ground. By a landslide, the walker infants sat, crawled, and walked later than the other group. It is also important to note that the walker group also scored lower on the Bayley scales of mental and motor development.

In 2004, Canada banned baby walkers.

Upright Bouncers:

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Upright bouncers like the Jolly Jumper are very hard on the developing spine of the infant. The stress of being held prematurely in an upright position, when the bones and muscles have not developed the proper strength can damage the infant spine. Spondylolisthesis can occur in the lumbar spines of infants in these types of devices from the repetitive stresses delivered through an undeveloped spine. Spondylolisthesis occurs when the front part of the vertebra (which stacks) is separated from the posterior elements which surround the spinal cord and most often occurs at the lowest bone in the lumbar spine.

 

Exersaucers and Bumbo chairs:

These upright devices promote abnormal postures and can lead to the altered formation of the curves of the spine. For example, when an infant is placed in a Bumbo chair, their pelvis often tips backward, thrusting the ribs forward, and promoting anterior head carriage. This is a reversal of the curves we see in a normal spine- indicating that increased spinal stress is present when children sit in these positions.

While the Exersaucer is much safer (less likely to tip) than a Walker, it still promotes weight-bearing through the spine in an abnormal and premature way and should be used with caution.

What is the take home? Children need to experience their environment in order to learn. It is essential to have a lot of exploration time for our infants and little ones. The development of their brains and bodies depend upon it. As a Doctor of Chiropractic, I am committed to sharing knowledge with parents so that they can  make informed decisions regarding their children.

References:

http://consults.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/02/22/the-dangers-of-baby-walkers/?_r=0

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10533994

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16510623

http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2012-03-15/health/ct-met-bumbo-posture-20120315_1_physical-therapists-developmental-benefits-babies

http://pathwaystofamilywellness.org/The-Outer-Womb/maximizing-infant-development.html

The Place Between Breaths

The past week has been a very stressful one for me, personally. I am having a lot of things going on in my family and have been relying heavily upon meditation, journaling, and exercise to elevate mood and keep myself centered. These are techniques learned through trial and error and through many different teachers that have come to be a solid basis of self-support for me.

This would be an incredibly long blog post if I ran through all three, so we will zero in on meditation today.

****Disclaimer****
I have never trained formally in meditation, but I do practice regularly. Scroll all the way to the end for sources of additional information on meditation and resources to help you find your own path.

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Meditation is incredibly easy in concept and difficult in practice. It comes in different forms. It can be guided. It can be mediated by the inhale. It can focus on the exhale. It can even be focused around the space in between the breath- that little moment between inhalation and exhalation where stillness takes place. Below I am outlining 3 of my favorite kinds of meditation techniques.

Self-guided meditation (envisioning your greatest self)

I learned about this type of meditation at the International Chiropractic Pediatric Association’s Freedomfest in 2014. Dr. Joe Dispenza spoke about the power of the brain and about his book, You Are The Placebo. I am about 1/3 of the way through this book and am learning a lot about how we make our thoughts become a reality. But I digress…

Each morning, I take 9 minutes (the time between my alarm and my snooze) and meditate. Before my feet touch the ground. Before I check my email. Before I let the world take me away from the peace of rest. I meditate. I begin by remembering back to a time when I was truly, completely, sincerely joyful down into and out from the core of my being. Once I have that moment, I allow that feeling to surge through my body and make its way all the way from the crown of my head to the tips of my fingers and toes. Thus embraced in a moment of pure joy, I picture my physical self in total fitness. My best self. I choose the facial expression, the shine of my hair, the tone of my muscles- you get the picture. And I let these two things come together. The Joy and the Best Physical Self.

This lets me step backward and see myself as I truly am.

Some days this is incredibly easy and I can slip right into that state of joy and gratitude and wellness. Other days I have just found the joyful moment when the alarm sounds. No matter what, I accept what my practice was and take it forward into the activities of the day.

Meditation with Outside Guidance

A couple of years ago, I did a series with Deepak Chopra and Oprah about mindfulness. It was a series of guided meditations and journaling from Deepak. I had never done meditation guided by another person before- and have discovered that it is a great way for me to get to meditate when I am having a hard time finding my own quiet. Deepak has a ton of meditations (even on Spotify and Pandora) that you can listen to and follow along. He walks you through your meditation from what to do with your feet and hands to your breathing. It is incredibly helpful, especially for the crazy busy type A person. When I am having trouble stepping out of my life and into my heart space, I turn to  Deepak.

“To make the right choices in life, you have to get in touch with your soul. To do this, you need to experience solitudem which most people are afraid of because in the silence you hear the truth and know the solutions.”

– Deepak Chopra

Silent, Breath Focused, Meditation

I am not really sure how to describe this one. Breath focused meditation is exactly what it sounds like. You are aiming to find stillness with focus on nothing except the breath- be it the inhale, the exhale, or the pause. This is not to say that there will be no thoughts in your head and that you have to reach a place where you are totally blank. It means, that we acknowledge the thought and let it pass without our focus. I generally prefer to focus on the space in between the breath because otherwise I find myself trying to control the tide of my breathing. (Type A much?) I have found that this type of meditation does not at all come easily to me and that I do best with it after yoga or a good workout. As though I have to get out the physical energy before I can bring my focus internally. I have also found that practicing in a group/structured setting helps me with breath meditation. To improve my skills in this, I have visited many Buddhist temples for meditation practice.

I still find that I do my best meditation in nature (see the photo at the top of this post). Something about the stillness of the forest makes it easier for me to find my own stillness.

What all of this boils down to is this: We as humans have an incredibly hectic and chaotic way of life. We focus so much external energy that we often deplete ourselves. There are many ways to take care of yourself. Some people schedule resort vacations where they can recharge their batteries with sun, sand, and tropical drinks. Some people work out. Some people camp and hike. I would suggest, though, that we take a second to assess ourselves and make sure that we are taking care of ourselves routinely. Meditation is an excellent way to stay centered and focused.

For years my mom told me that I needed to meditate or at least take quiet time for myself. I brushed her off and coped in different ways. It wasn’t until I was sitting on the floor after work one day crying and feeling so far away from myself that I began to pursue meditation as a technique to come home to me. Now, my husband will sometimes look at me concerned and say, “Have you been meditating lately? You don’t seem like yourself.”

I hope you find something of use in this post that you can apply to your life- or even that it inspires you to research another form of self empowerment and fulfillment. If you want to chat about it or learn more about any of the practices that I do, please feel free to contact me through my website!

Resources:

Dr. Joe Dispenza‘s webpage where you can see his books. I also recommend following him on Facebook!

Some tips on meditation for beginners. They broke this down a lot more succinctly than I could!

Bold Tranquility is a Yoga Nidra meditation designed for women. I have had many patients rave about her work!

Deepak Chopra‘s website for a 21 day meditation experience (I love just about everything he does…)

So many more resources are out there! What is your favorite meditation practice or resource?

 

 

 

Chiropractic Care for Kids

Wait… You adjust kids?

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This is one of the questions I get most often in practice. People are more and more accepting of chiropractic for adults and conditions like headaches and low back pain. In fact, statistically, chiropractic is a top treatment for these things. However, it seems that people are taken aback at the idea of children getting adjusted.

Let me tell you a little bit about pediatric chiropractic.

Why would a child or infant need an adjustment?

Birth is a traumatic process. When you think about it, the last days and weeks of pregnancy the baby does not grow very much, most of what is occurring at this point is development of the lungs and other organs. This means that the baby is tucked into a little ball inside of mom. Then, when labor happens, they are pushed out through a small hole and someone grabs their head and pulls them out. If you have questions, try watching a video of a C-Section.  Often times the birth process causes the upper neck or the tailbone to be subluxated, causing nerve interference. Some more extreme cases result in shoulder dystocia or torticollis.

Subluxations from birth can cause issues with many things such as the latch in breast feeding. The baby’s face may appear asymmetrical or their head always tipped to one side. Others are very subtle and may result in colic, difficulty sleeping, etc. Pediatricians are not trained to evaluate the spine for the subluxation, so it is recommended that parents take their children to a chiropractor to be checked.

As children learn to crawl and walk, they fall upwards of 25 times per day. It is important for them to be checked regularly at this time to ensure that they do not develop subluxations from these falls. The trips and tumbles of childhood often result in muscle tension and imbalance in the spine. Many parents bring their children to be checked on a regular basis during the toddler years. Then child and adolescent sports throw yet another variable into the mix!

How does a Chiropractor check a child?

When I evaluate an infant or child for subluxation, I take a history of the child from pregnancy through present to learn as much as I can about their live- down to food preferences and developmental milestones. In my exam, I check all of the little one’s reflexes and evaluate ranges of motion and balance in the body. The amount of pressure that is used both in evaluation and adjustment is less than you would be comfortable with on your own eyelid. Many babies sleep through the whole process!

What is a pediatric adjustment like?

Pediatric and infant adjustments are very gentle and, like the evaluation, many infants sleep through them. Using gentle pressures and muscle stretches, I restore normal motion to the bones and restore balance to the muscles. Sometimes, I will ask the parents to assist by laying their child on their stomach or holding them while they are adjusted.

Toddler adjustments are always fun to watch. Many children enjoy laying on the table to be adjusted and relax for the whole thing, while others play on the floor and get checked on the move. I always feel that it is important to make sure that kids are comfortable and engaged in their adjustment, so I meet them on their level.

Adjusting little ones is vastly different from adjusting adults. The pace is much slower and it often looks like playing to onlookers.

How do I know if my child needs to be checked by a Doctor of Chiropractic?

Many parents bring their children in to be checked when they exhibit the following symptoms:

  • Spinal or facial asymmetry
  • Difficult latch in breast feeding
  • Colic
  • Reflux
  • Delayed or absent milestones
  • Ear pulling
  • Chronic ear infections
  • Sleep issues
  • Bedwetting
  • Trips and falls

It is important to understand that chiropractors do not treat colic, reflux, ear infections, or other medical conditions. However, interference in the nervous system from subluxations can present in these ways. By restoring motion in the spine and removing the interference, the body has the opportunity to heal on its own.

Looking for more information? Check out ICPA4kids.org or contact our office at SeedOfLifeChiro.com