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!

 

Can too much sugar effect bone density?

With Halloween next week, what could be more appropriate than a discussion about Bones and Candy, right?!

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The Western diet, high in protein and sugar is associated with an increase in all kinds of metabolic conditions from cardiovascular disease and Type II Diabetes Mellitus to osteopenia and osteoporosis. As a Chiropractor, bone density is a very important topic and it deserves some discussion.

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Let’s take a closer look at how our bones function in the human body. Our bones provide a framework for our muscles to hang upon. They create a safe space for our organs to live. They act as levers to allow us to move. These are all things that we have been told about before. But, did you know that your bones are actually the largest mineral reservoir in the body? From Guyton and Hall’s Textbook of Medical Physiology[1] we know the following. Our bones are constantly in flux with minerals like calcium, phosphate, and magnesium being borrowed and stored to maintain our body’s pH. 99% of the body’s calcium and over half of it’s magnesium is stored in bone.

skull-778075_1920pH refers to how acidic or alkaline the body is. We live within a tight tolerance and have several systems that make sure that this is regulated. Body fluids can push the balance one way or another within a fraction of a second, the respiratory system can make changes in minutes by changing our breathing to either eliminate or preserve CO2, and the kidneys respond slowly but are the most powerful  buffers of pH in the body. This is where we will focus.

When the body has an acidic environment, our body fluids, breathing, and kidneys work to shift it back to the middle. Our body increases the free calcium in extracellular fluid to correct the imbalance which tells the kidneys to excrete magnesium in urine. These minerals are usually sourced from our bones.

Now that we have reviewed the physiology of the pH balance system, let’s apply it to everyday life.

When we have a diet that causes our body to trend toward acidity, this buffer system is continually pulling minerals from bone. Odds are, more quickly than we can effectively store it.

Think of your bones like a bank. There is a bank balance that is your bone density. When your body needs to borrow some, it makes a withdraw. When it takes in calcium and magnesium from food, it deposits. This system works well when it is balanced. However, osteopenia and osteoporosis happen when you overdraw the account.

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Therefore, it is important to balance the budget. Reduction in sugar consumption can help to reduce the withdraws being made from your bones. Improving absorption of dietary minerals helps you to build up your account.

Guyton and Hall [1] discuss the importance of Vitamin D in the absorption of calcium. They report the following mechanisms:

  • increases intestinal calcium absorption by helping the cells to form calcium binding proteins within 2 days.
  • helps to improve phosphate absorption (another important mineral in bone).
  • helps to decrease kidney excretion of calcium and phosphate.
  • promotes bone calcification by transporting ions through cell membranes

This lets us know that appropriate Vitamin D levels are important in healthy bones. Many people in the northern hemisphere do not make or consume enough vitamin D to have adequate levels when tested in the blood. This is an important conversation to have with your primary care physician.

x-ray-223836_1920Bone density is much more complex than just the biochemistry/physiology; however, there are some tried and true methods for helping to improve your bone density:

Improve your diet. Reduce acidic foods, especially grains and sugars. Consume more green leafy vegetables.

Get your vitamin D levels evaluated.

Start participating in weight bearing exercise! Bone responds to stress. If you do not ask your bones to do work, they do not store as many minerals.

As always, please remember: This blog is intended to provide you with tools and information about the human body. Please speak with your own health care provider before making major lifestyle changes.

Below is a citation for Guyton and Hall.

[1]Guyton, Arthur C., and John E. Hall. “Textbook of Medical Physiology.” Textbook of Medical Physiology, 11th ed., Elsevier Saunders, 2007, pp. 371–985.

For additional reading on the topic, check out these links:

Why is Sugar Bad For You?

Calcium and Osteoporosis

Effect of consuming different caloric sweeteners on bone health and possible mechanisms.

Fat, Sugar, and Bone Health

 

No Pain, No Gain- An Outdated Fitness Concept

No Pain, No Gain

I remember being in high school sports and repeatedly hearing people laugh and say, “No pain, no gain” as we pushed ourselves to make gains in the weight room or in the pool. We worked out to exhaustion, more focused on completing the workout or the set in the weight room than on form or perfection. Coaches said things like, “Pain is weakness leaving the body.” We got strong, sure. We gained speed. We thought we were so cool as we showed off our bruises and iced down our shoulders.

The reality, though, is that we were injuring ourselves. We were building poorly coordinated neural pathways. We were altering our biomechanics and causing overuse injuries.

 

Now that I am years out of that scenario, I often work with athletes, like myself, who are driven to excel and want to improve in their sport. One of the biggest discussions we have is surrounding this concept of “No pain. No gain.”

A workout should build you up, not break you down.

It is important to work out in a way that pushes your capacity, but does not allow for the break down of your mechanics. For example, when I assign rehab exercises in my practice, we always discuss:

  • The goals of the exercise
  • What you should feel when you perform the exercise
  • What are the “fails” of the exercise (ie: what things let you know that you have completed as many exercises as your body can handle)

It all comes down to the neural edge. This is the limit to which the brain can control the exercise and where we can actively create new pathways. Here is where we can safely make gains in our training.

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Beyond rehab, think of it like this… If you are on a run and you have decided that you will run 6 miles today. However, at 4 miles you notice that your left foot is hurting in the arch with some knee pain as well. Do you decide to continue running? -OR-  Do you listen to your body and stop your run at 4 miles? Should you continue to run, you are risking causing damage in your body that may keep you from running later in the week or season. It is important to evaluate (or to be evaluated by a professional) why the pain is present? Are your supporting or stabilizing muscles doing their jobs? Are you wearing appropriate shoes for your feet and the surface you are running on? Do you have proper nutrition?

Running through pain or working out through pain can be extremely detrimental to training, overall. It can result in overuse injuries and in neural patterning that lends itself to future injuries. Instead, it is imperative to train intelligently. Work smart. Get evaluated to be sure that you are making safe gains and discuss your training with a coach and functional movement specialist.

Let’s forget No Pain, No Gain

Let’s shift our focus in training. Let’s teach our athletes, young and old, to listen to their bodies and find their edge.  Let’s lead by example and learn to work out smart- and hard.

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***This blog is intended to provide educational content and is not for diagnostic purposes nor to provide health care advice. Please speak with your health care professional prior to changing your workout routine.***

Same Weight, Different Body- It’s time to ditch the scale and take a broader view of health!

As a Chiropractor, my health is an important part of my practice. I try to “live my brand” and do not recommend things to my clients that I would not be willing to do for myself. That being said, I am incredibly human. I have health challenges. I do not always remember to take my supplements. Sometimes, I eat dessert- in fact, I am writing this in a Starbucks where I am treating myself to a Frappuccino. Recently, thanks to Facebook and my wardrobe, I have come to the realization that my health has drastically changed over the past 1.5-2 years (for the better).

About 2 years ago, I became aware that I was not taking care of myself the way I should be. I have food allergies and sensitivities, and while I had cut quite a bit of them out of my diet, I was desperately clinging on to dairy and rice. At a Standard Process seminar, I made the decision to take my health into my own hands and address how my food sensitivities have impacted me.

2 years ago, I was battling depression, my weight, acne, sleep, and the list could go on. I was also working out regularly, had just finished my first triathlon, working on my spiritual well being, sleeping at least 7.5 hours per night, and getting adjusted regularly. Most people looked at me and called me healthy- but I was far from it.

I was faking it and hoping to make it. When each week ended, I spent the weekends in my pajamas sleeping too much and always tired. I would find myself crying over the smallest things. I was always feeling behind and having panic attacks regularly.

It was time for a change.harmony-1229886_1920

The past 2 years have been a quite a journey. I started by cleaning up my diet further- finally giving up my beloved dairy and rice. Within weeks, I was sleeping more deeply. Within months, my skin was clearer. Soon, my clothes fit better. Slowly, I was climbing out of the hole I had dug myself into during grad school and my first years in practice.

I started to really love who I am again. I started to feel like the fun and upbeat person I pretended to be for years. I scaled my workouts back to yoga, swimming, and weight training to allow my body time to heal and balance without as much repetitive stress. I budgeted time for relaxation and recreational reading.

Then, just over a year ago, my husband and I took a month and a half off to visit Europe and move out to Seattle from our first real home together in the Detroit area. The total reset that this allowed for my emotions was unreal and I truly felt in control of my emotions for the first time since puberty.

All told, this was almost a year long process.

The best part was that even moving across the country, finding a place to live, starting a new practice from scratch, dancing this dream awake, didn’t shake my cool. In the year that we have been in Seattle, I continue to be healthier, I can hike and run again, even completing my first half marathon this past June.

Looking at pictures of myself now, the change in my health really hits home. I look happy. I feel healthy. I am significantly more fit. What’s funny, though, is that pesky scale. You know the one. The bathroom scale. Over these past 2 years, it has not budged more than 5-10 pounds in either direction. In fact, during my most unhealthy years it was both at its highest and lowest weight. As I have worked to recapture my wellness and love my body, I have settled somewhere in between- even though my dress size is smaller.

Here’s the thing. And it is a big thing. Something that took me a long time to learn and something that I continue to learn each day. Health is not any one thing. Some of the people who look the healthiest are not well on the inside. Like me, they battle depression or anxiety.

Health is not merely the absence of disease or pain. Health is the constant pursuit of joy in your body and in your soul. It is ever changing. It is not measured on the scale, nor is it truly quantifiable. “Healthy” me is going to be different from “healthy” you. You can be stick thin or curvy and be healthy or unhealthy. It is important to work with health care providers that are focused on wellness and to build your tribe around you that can support your transformation. Find someone to assess you and listen to you. Health is a discussion.

My story of the past 2 years is in no way unique. But. I hope you were inspired in some way to assess your own health.

Start the conversation.

Take those first steps toward your best self.

What in the heck is Pandiculation?

This weekend, while cruising Facebook, I stumbled across a blog discussing pandiculation versus stretching. They posit that pandiculation is more effective than stretching at changing muscle length and improving flexibility. Completely fascinated, I have started learning more…

Pandiculation Defined:

Dictionary.com defines Pandiculation as a noun. “The act of stretching oneself.” It then goes on to explain that it is most commonly associated with yawning.

Interesting, but I am pretty sure that we all recognize that a yawn is a much different kind of stretch than we achieve from a toe-touch. (Are you yawning yet? Because I am.) The real question is: Why do we feel looser in our jaw, neck, and even shoulders from a yawn, when a voluntary stretch is not as effective?

Perhaps Dictionary.com’s definition is a little incomplete.

EssentialSomatics.com defines Pandiculation as:

A conscious, voluntary contraction of a muscle, followed by a slow, deliberate lengthening of that muscle and a complete relaxation

They further explain that the conscious, voluntary component of pandiculation helps to reset the way our brain perceives the length of our muscles. For the neurology, read this.

Pandiculation versus Stretch

Essentially, pandiculation changes our brain’s understanding of muscle length, acting as a sort of soft reset.

It is important to contrast this with an understanding of our basic stretch. When we stretch a muscle, as in our hamstrings with a toe touch, a reflex tells the spinal cord that is happening in the muscle. This triggers a return signal to the muscle to contract or shorten. This defeats the intention of the toe touch and can actually reduce muscle power afterward. (See the first link in this post for more details)

This seems to indicate that if we truly want to lengthen a muscle, we must control that movement and engage the brain.

Why does it matter/How to apply this

I started reading about this during my down-time at a trail marathon and 50K where I was providing post race soft tissue work for athletes. While assessing the runners, I began to notice trends in their imbalances as well as how hamstrings and glute muscles responded to even a gentle evaluation of length/tension. They tend to cramp or contract in protest! This is a perfect setting to understand that basic stretch reflex. Many of these runners would benefit from an understanding of applied Pandiculation. (Which may be my new favorite word)

One of the best human examples of pandiculation mentioned earlier was yawning. Yawning is a controlled contraction of the muscles in the lower jaw and neck followed by a gradual release.

Now, think about your cat or dog at home. Have you ever seen your feline friend get up from sleeping without that luxurious stretch that they hold and then gently release? I am pretty sure that my cats are expert pandiculaters.

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As humans, most of this is not instinctual for us as it is with our pets. However, yoga is one form of exercise that applies pandiculation to its movements. I know that I sometimes walk into a yoga class unable to touch my toes in forward bend, but after a few flows, I am so much looser and stay that way for days. A great yoga practice literally resets your brain’s perception of muscle length.

Take Home

It is hugely important to make sure that you are training your body with intention and the help of professionals! It is possible to avoid injury, increase power and endurance, and improve overall performance by learning more about your own body’s balance and imbalances. Please work with your health care provider to ensure that your workouts and your body are balanced and appropriate for you. If you are in the greater Seattle area and would like a consultation regarding your fitness, please feel free to contact us at (206)565-9691 to schedule your appointment with Dr. Samelak.

And just for fun… try saying Pandiculation three times, quickly!

 

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.

How Do You Eat an Elephant?

… One Bite at a Time!

This blog was inspired by my Motivation Monday post on Facebook.

I have been thinking a lot about achieving goals in fitness, life, work, etc… and they really all have a common theme. Many times the goals that I achieve are those that I have approached logically, with mindfulness, and in a task oriented fashion. Without this, these goals would seem like elephants, huge and immovable.

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When it comes to health, most people have huge, vague goals that are kind of amorphous. These seem to be extremely difficult to attain because they are ill-defined. Many people start with the generic, “This year, I am going to get healthier.”

What a fantastic statement! By using this as a springboard, we can delve deeper, make a plan, and actually achieve “healthier”. However, if this single statement is the goal, how will we mindmap-2123973_1920know if it has been attained?

Let’s break it down.

What is “healthier”?

  • Is it a goal weight?
  • Is it a fitness goal like a marathon or a Strongfirst certification?
  • Is it fewer illnesses through the year?
  • Is it less back pain?
  • Is it being able to play with your grandchildren?
  • The list goes on!!!

Since a marathon in 2017 is my goal, I will use that as my example in this scenario.

Define the goal: A marathon is a 26.2 mile race. marathon-1649905_1920

What will it take to achieve the goal?

  • Commitment to a training schedule
  • Several smaller races
  • Having a support group
  • Self-Care to ensure that you maintain health while training
  • etc.

Action Steps:

  • I have made monthly goals for miles run weekly and/or cumulatively
  • I have started running with a running group that meets several times a week
  • I have a training partner in my husband who also wants to run a marathon with meTraining Photo
  • I have signed up for a 12K in 2 weeks (7.4 miles)
  • I have plans for a half-marathon in late May
  • I am taking care of myself physically
    • Sleeping 7-8 hours each night
    • Limiting sugar and alcohol in my diet
    • Ensuring that I am eating enough protein and vegetables that are responsibly sourced
    • Getting adjusted by another Chiropractor (see my other blog on this topic)
    • Participating in “prehab” exercises to help prevent injury during training
    • Drinking plenty of water on a daily basis!

Since high school, I have wanted to run a marathon… but I always thought it was too big, too much, an elephant you could say.

Moving to Seattle and deciding to take a logical approach to goal setting and improving my health has made what seemed like a pipe dream, a reality. Along with the encouragement of my husband and new friends, this long time goal is becoming a reality.

What goals have you been avoiding because they are too big or scary? Maybe you can approach them using this type of break-down.

If your goals are health-related, consult your Chiropractor and/or Primary Physician to ensure that you are taking care of your body in the process. I am always happy to help others achieve their health goals. Please feel free to contact me using the form below if you would like to schedule a consult!