Allergies

“That’s my friend Paul Pfieffer. Paul was allergic to everything. Wayne used to say he was even allergic to his own snot.” – Kevin Arnold..The Wonder Years first episode

Allergies

Allergies just stink. I mean on the one hand you can’t breathe, you can’t smell anything, you feel like your forehead is going to explode, and your nose is dripping like a leaky faucet. On the other hand, you don’t feel fever, aches, or chills, and you’re not…sick.

So what’s going on here

I’m allergic to….

Most of us generally understand that you can’t mention allergies without mentioning being allergic to something. Pollen comes quickly to mind. Dust mites are up there. There’s also mold, certain trees, and ragweed.

My brother Andrew gets some nasty allergies around cats and he’s not alone.

Then there are food allergies like peanuts, wheat, and dairy. More to come on that.

Why do allergies happen though?

Well, it starts with our body’s immune system. You see our immune system is wired to respond to fight anything it considers as foreign. Think of what happens when we’re exposed to infection. For the sake of making it easier, we’ll call the offending agent…germs (yes germs). So the way it works is, germs attack, the body recognizes germs as foreign, and kick into motion all the different players involved in getting rid of the germs. The biggest player in this process is histamine. You’re probably familiar with the term histamine because of anti-histamines. We’ll talk about those later. Histamine is actually a hormone and its job is to more or less to tell everyone that there’s something foreign around. The result of this signal is swelling of the nasal passages which lead to a stuffy nose, runny nose, and pressure around your sinuses. The more histamine is released, the more severe the symptoms.

Now the confusing this is…why right? I mean pollen is not germs, right? Dust is kind of yucky but, it’s really just dust and doesn’t necessarily have to have any bacteria with it. And what about food allergies. What’s wrong with peanuts? Why do we get allergic responses to milk and soy and wheat?

Well, it comes down to a couple things. Ancestry…and Alterations.

I’m probably a pretty good example here. You see my folks come from Egypt. The land of Pharaohs and the Nile. My people at food from the region and breathed in the air of the area. Our guts were equipped to digest the food, and our respiratory tract was used to the normal stuff in the air. This stuff is built into my DNA. If I was born and raised in Egypt and nothing changed about the territory, there’s a good chance, I’m not gonna suffer much on the allergy front. Unless of course, a foreign comes around and I’m exposed to something that I’m not usually exposed to. But if you take my genes, and move them halfway across the world to the good old U. S. of A…now you have a situation where what I’m breathin’ in and what I’m eating is not always easily recognized by my respiratory tract and gut. When in doubt, my body’s first priority is to protect me, so if there’s something coming in that doesn’t seem normal…the signal get’s alarmed and histamine is on the move.

There’s another part to this. Once again, remember that our body will operate business as usual if it recognizes what it’s used to. What would happen, though, if the thing your body is exposed to has been changed itself? Let’s take the example of dairy. Cow milk comes from…cows. The…ingredients in cow’s milk come from what the cow eats. If the cow is eating the grass it has always eaten and the cow itself is otherwise unchanged, then the cow milk shouldn’t be a problem. That is for someone that who’s ancestors have always eaten and drunken dairy. But what if you change what the cow eats? What if, instead of grass, the cow is fed corn and soybeans? Even more so, what if those corn and soybeans were genetically modified. Suffice it to say that what ends up in the cow, ends up in the milk. And what ends up in the milk, ends up in our gut when we drink milk, or consume cheese or butter or ice cream. Now maybe our gut has no problem with this. We can drink gallons of milk and eat pounds of cheese without a problem. But it might also think…”Hey, what’s this? It looks like milk, but there’s something…something different about it. Hmm…let’s sound the alarm” and histamine get’s released and the whole process starts up.

So you can see now, why we might get allergies. But what do we do about them?

I think the best approach, as always, is a comprehensive one.

Anti-Histamines

Anti-histamines are medicines that…block histamine. Since we know what histamine does, then it sounds pretty simple that all we need to do it just stop all the histamine, right? The only problem is, histamine isn’t just for sounding alarms. Histamine is also released to wake us up. Which means that, if we block histamine, then we’re gonna feel pretty sleepy. Now you know why Benadryl makes you drowsy. Speaking of Benadryl. It’s known as a first-generation anti-histamine. First generation antihistamines, like Benadryl, are very effective at blocking histamine which is why it helps a stuffy and runny nose better than anything. Unfortunately, we’d be zombies if we took Benadryl around the clock.

That’s why there are second-generation antihistamines. Almost as effective as first generation, but not as sedating. These are the Allegras, Zyrtecs, and Claritins out there. Sometimes these work great…not always, though.

It’s very difficult to feel better without using anti-histamines when you’re suffering from allergies, so I’m normally in favor so long as you can safely take them. For most of us, they can be taken without worry about damage to our bodies. The first generation antihistamines do have the potential for some dangerous side effects, so older individuals who are prone to falls should be careful.

I want to quickly mention decongestants. If you try to take decongestants, like Sudafed, for allergies, you do decrease the swelling in the sinuses temporarily. Unfortunately, decongestants don’t block histamine and carry what’s known as rebound congestion and, in my opinion, make things worse than when you started.

In addition to using anti-histamines judiciously, the other important treatment is what I want to call stabilizing the system. Because our gut is a key player in deciding what’s normal and what’s not, it’s a good idea to help the gut out. I won’t get into a whole discussion on what’s good for the gut, but some quick recommendations include probiotics, chamomile tea, garlic, turmeric, and greens. You also want to avoid things like sugar and other stuff that is obviously unhealthy. I also recommend decreasing wheat and dairy products.

I also am a big fan of essential oils for allergies. These include Lavender and Tea Tree Oil.

Other products that can help include omega threes such as fish oil, Vitamin D3 (5,000 international units daily for adults), and nasal saline to keep your nasal passages moist.

I want to mention one final thing. Allergies, or allergic rhinitis, is not an infection. There’s a difference between infection and…not infection. Infection will normally make you feel drained, achy, and feverish. Allergies should not. As such, if you’re able to control the storm, then they should eventually calm down and you’ll good as new in no time.

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Beyond Sports Medicine

I’m sitting here watching Beyond the Glory: Grant Hill.  Honestly, it’s painful to watch.  Grant Hill’s story is perhaps one of the biggest stories of “could have been” that one can think of.  I grew up watching Grant Hill.  Initially,  it wasn’t as a fan.  Because of my love for Michael Jordan, I was a huge North Carolina Tarheels fan.  Because of the large rivalry between North Carolina and Duke, where Grant Hill played basketball, I got to see a lot of Grant Hill, which unfortunately meant that while Grant Hill played for Duke, North Carolina suffered several losses to Duke during the 4 years he played there. A friend of mine said he went and saw Hill play during his prime in the NBA and described his play as effortless.  He was able to score in a way that made it look like it the game of basketball was easy for him.  Everyone expected that he would go on to be one of the best players of all time.  Unfortunately, that didn’t happen.  Grant Hill was plagued with foot and ankle problems throughout his career and would never be able to fully recover in a way that would allow him to do what he was able to do.  Grant Hill’s story epitomizes what bothers me about our sports medicine system altogether.  Here’s how it goes.  Grant Hill has a “bone bruise” in his foot.  That bone bruise eventually somehow becomes a fracture.  In order to accelerate healing, surgery is performed.  Fracture is healed.  He returns to play.  Four days into the next season, his foot is fractured again.  Another surgery.  Another return.  Then chronic ankle swelling.  More time off.  Then another surgery.  Then an infection from the surgery that keeps him out for another year.  Then tendinitis.  Over and over for the remainder of Grant Hill’s career, he was plagued with recurrent problems in his foot and ankle.  Now, don’t get me wrong.  I don’t blame Grant Hill for any of this.  He has pain, his doctors tell him this is the problem, this is the solution, and he follows their direction.  Unfortunately, the system failed him.  It failed him.  Grant Hill should have been able to recover.  And the problem was not that he had bad doctors, or the surgery was performed by an inexperienced surgeon, or that the procedures weren’t state-of-the-art.  The problem was that most likely they didn’t know what the real problem was.  You see, in this world where an MRI is what you need and no options other than surgery is the answer, this is what you get.  We get trapped in the box that the MRI will tell the story and that’s the only way to evaluate the problem.  Now, I didn’t see Grant Hill at the time of his initial foot pain.  In fact, I think I was busy studying as a Premed major to even worry about basketball at the time.  All I know is what I saw in a documentary.  But what I do know is that a bone bruise that was rested, shouldn’t end up with an occult(no readily evident) fracture.  I also know that fractures should heal, especially since it sounds like he was out for several months.  Something had obviously been missed and it was probably missed because no one bothers to look any farther than the MRI because of course, the MRI has all the answers.  On top of all this, jumping to surgery eventually led to an infection from the surgery, an obvious risk of the procedure.  What I’d like to know is, to what extent was his lower extremity biomechanics evaluated.  Did anyone consider why his bone bruise took so long to heal?  Why did it turn into a fracture?  Were there any sources of inflammation, from elevated cortisol, food allergies, or sleep problems that could have hindered his healing?  Was acupuncture ever considered?  Was Prolotherapy ever considered? I don’t know the answers to any of these questions.  Maybe all the above was considered and he still ended up with recurrent injury.  Based on my experience, though, I haven’t seen my sports medicine programs that are willing to think outside the box and the same goes through for sports medicine as a whole.   You go to a sports medicine doctor with foot pain, they are going to take an Xray, which they should, the Xray will likely be normal (unless there was some kind of trauma).  They tell you to take some kind of anti-inflammatory.  It won’t help.  You’ll go back to them with the same pain.  They’ll recommend an MRI.  It will likely be normal. They’ll probably put you in a boot or something and maybe, in time, the pain may improve.  For a little while, at least.  That is, until months or maybe even years later, the same pain comes back, and there are no options left.  This is what frustrates me with sports medicine.  And the worst part is that this evaluation process gets trickled down to the public such that any time someone has a problem for any length of time, their first thought is, “I need an MRI.”  Maybe they do, but why are we so quick to ask for that assessment and not everything else.  Why aren’t people asking for their Vitamin D levels to be checked?  I’ve been able to turn some patients’ pain around just by discovering they had low Vitamin D and correcting it.  The reason people aren’t asking for their Vitamin D to be checked is because sports medicine doctors are quicker to order an MRI than order a Vitamin D level.  I think sports medicine needs to be revamped.  I think we need to up our game.  That’s why I call it Beyond Sports Medicine.  Beyond Sports Medicine is taking all the different elements of assessment and treatment into consideration.  That means not only joint assessment but also assessment of nutrition, metabolism, sources of inflammation, muscle firing patterns, functional movement assessment, osteopathic and spine assessment, balance and proprioception assessment, gait analysis, and the list goes on.  I also think we need to have more consideration for complimentary treatment options such as acupuncture, herbs, regenerative injection therapies, proper supplementation, and more.  I think if we begin to start looking at sports medicine this way, we will not just help everyone with pain, but we will begin a transformation that can lead to improved performance not only in athletics but in life altogether.  I know there are so many stories out there where injury has changed someone’s path, and my hope is that if we all do Beyond Sports Medicine then everyone has a chance to perform to their utmost potential.  I hope you all agree.

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Concussion Posts

I’ve had some conversations recently about concussions and thought I’d make it easier to put all my concussion posts that I wrote awhile back into one place.

Concussions Part 1: What is a Concussion
Concussions Part 2: Symptoms of a Concussion
Concussions Part 3: How do you diagnose a concussion
Concussions: Treatment Part 1
Concussions: Treatment Part 2

 

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Is it Broken or Bruised Part 2

In this video I update you on the status of my hand.
Links:
Arnicare Tablets (Click Here)
Sandalwood Essential Oil (Click Here)

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Is it broken!

In this movie I talk about:

-My injury

-My determination of whether I think the hand is broken

-Soft tissue vs bone problems

-Some treatment ideas

Enjoy!

Here are the links to the products I mention:

Arnicare

Arnica pellets

 

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The Motor Control Center

Motor control. Stability. The Motor Control Center. These are not familiar terms outside the PT universe and it’s easy to overlook the importance of motor control in sports medicine.
What is the motor control center? It’s easier for me to help you understand what the motor control center is with the way I understand it.
In my younger year, I played basketball all the way through my senior year on the varsity team. When I got to varsity, my coach had us doing something in practice that I didn’t understand initially but years later now value. Shooting foul shots. From the outside shooting foul shots seems like pretty straight forward, right? You stand at a line 15 feet away from the hoop and have a controlled and wide open opportunity for an easy point. That’s what I thought too and that’s why I didn’t understand why my coach had us shooting so many foul shots. Over and over and over. And over. Run then shoot some foul shots. Then run again. Then more foul shots. Ten at a time, twenty. Everybody on the baseline and one by one everyone has to shoot. If they make both of them, no one has to run. If they miss, full court sprint and back. Are you tired of me talking about foul shots? Eventually, my coach explained he wanted us to shoot so many foul shots. Because foul shots are about nothing more than muscle memory. Replicate the same motion over and over and over and your muscle memory kicks and knows exactly what to do to perform the movement. The more you train your muscle memory, the more automated the process is. After shooting foul shots over and over, I eventually was able to make them with my eyes closed. Even now, years later, not having played a pickup game in over a year, I can pick up a basketball, go through my routine, and probably sink four or five in a row. Now I use foul shooting as an example, but there are several other areas where muscle memory comes into play. As I’m typing this out right now, I know I’m using the muscle memory I learned though my middle school keyboarding class (I don’t want to brag but I was one of the fastest in the class). Writing. Playing the piano. Playing the violin. Playing almost any instrument. Chopping vegetables. All these motions are learned through muscle memory. And muscle memory is learned through performing the same motion, over and over and over and over. Your brain, wait…your motor control center, stores the information to repeat the movement, and the next time it is called on to repeat it, it simply accesses the file and the movement is more easily executed. That’s your motor control center. It’s the combination of your brain, your spinal cord, and cerebellum that speak together to process movement. The motor control center is a beautiful thing when it is working properly. It’s what allows us to walk. To run. To play a sport. Michael Phelps perhaps mastered the motor control centered better than anyone. When he would train, he didn’t just swim laps. He memorized every stroke of every meter of his swim and then before bed rehearse the strokes in his mind, virtually swimming out the laps as if he were still in the pool. Because he was so familiar with every move he had to make, he could even swim entire laps completely blindfolded and even trained sometimes like this. This proved to be pivotal at the Being Olympics in 2008 when on the last lap of the final round of the 200m Butterfly, his goggles malfunctioned causing him to lose visual. Phelps was able to tap into the motor control center that he had trained through all those sessions in the pool, virtually in his mind, and even blindfolded, and as we all know, completed his last lap totally blind and fast enough to win his 10th gold medal.
Watch Video Here

Now, you’re probably wondering why I’m talking about the motor control center and what this has to do with sports medicine.
Guess you’ll have to stay tuned 😉

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The T-Spine

You won’t see a commercial about it. It’s not on any billboards. No one is doing TED Talks on it. But it’s one of the most important areas of the body and often neglected.

What am I talking about? It’s the T-spine.

But what is the T-spine really? When I think of the T-spine, it’s more than just the what it’s short for, that is the Thoracic Spine. The T-spine is the chest, ribs, sternum, shoulder blade, and all the fascia (pronounced fa-shuh) and muscles surrounding the area. Oh and the vertebrae of the thoracic spine which are the bones in your back that are connected to the ribs from the base of your neck to your low back.

Why is the thoracic spine so important.

For one, it’s a mechanical issue. What do I mean? Well, the rib cage is called a cage for a reason. From front to back the ribs, at least the first 10, are locked in like the rungs of a…wait for it…cage. So any problem with the movement of the ribs is going to have a domino effect of affecting all the structures the rib is attaching to, that is the vertebrae, the opposite rib, etc.

Second is this thing we call breathing. Every second of every minute of every day, your thoracic spine is involved in basic respiration. Inhale, ribs elevate, exhale ribs depress. Easy enough, right. The problem is that we have stuff connected to these ribs that can affect the motion of the ribs. Take these muscles called the scalenes. Place your fingers on your collarbone just a little off center and turn your neck from side to side and you’ll feel your scalenes. Although they may not seem very important, your scalenes are not only involved in your neck motion, but they also are called accessory breathing muscles which means that when your regular breathing muscles are tired, like when you’re out of breath, these muscles kick in to help you breathe. Some of us overuse our scalenes because of stress. Think of a time when you got really upset or stressed. What happens to your breathing? You kind of hold your breath, your adrenaline is running (think back to the fight or flight sympathetic nervous system), and you hyperventilate a little bit. The more we are stressed, the more we use our scalenes. Since the scalenes are super small and not meant for all the work, they end up getting super tight and shortening as a result of overuse. Tight scalenes pull up on the ribs they are attached to and now you have a rib problem, which brings us right back the first issue which I just talked about. Rib movement get’s altered which translates to altered vertebrae which affect the muscles of the shoulder and neck and a whole host of issues from shoulder pain to neck pain to carpal tunnel, you name it.

The problem is, as I alluded in the beginning, that very little attention is paid to the T-spine, although so many problems arise from there. Because the T-spine is often poorly assessed, then we are often missing the linchpin around which so many problems arise. The T-spine can also be very challenging to treat and is often one of these areas where I recommend folks get some hands-on assessment and treatment by someone that knows how to take care of the T-spine (I know a guy, by the way…hint hint). This is because it’s really difficult for a person to know that their T-spine is the problem and even harder to know how to fix it.

What can I do Doctor Steve?

One, consider getting evaluated by someone (yours truly included)
Two, practice belly breathing, especially when you feel stressed
Three, try to move your shoulder around in circles like you used to do in gym class. This can loosen some of the tight tissue in between your shoulder blades and your ribs
Four, I don’t really have a fourth one, but it just didn’t feel right stopping at three.

’til next time.

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How Sleep Deprivation and the Flu can affect Sports Performance

 

At the time of this reading, the New England Patriots defeated the Pittsburgh Steelers in the AFC Championship game 36-17 in what was an extremely painful game to watch for anyone but a Patriots fan. The game was clearly one-sided and the Patriots seemed to be not only having their way on offense but also were able to hold the Steelers commandingly on defense as well. Announcer discussion throughout the game referred to the Steelers, “not executing,” “not clicking,” and making lots of simple errors. Anyone watching the game that had seen the Steelers in the past few games was definitely thinking to themselves, “what happened to the aggressive play of the defensive line.” “Why does the secondary look so slow?” “How come our Offensive line isn’t able to create the holes they have all season long?”
Now me. I had a theory on what was going on and was surprised that there was no mention of any of this during the game.
Let’s rewind the tape to about 4 days ago when reports came out that 15 of the Steelers were suffering from the flu. Apparently, somehow in the midst of a rigorous week of preparation, the bug went around the locker room, a couple of the Steelers had to miss practice, Mike Tomlin decided to keep going and said that this wasn’t going to affect the Steelers’ performance come the playoff game.
Let’s talk about the flu, shall we? Now the flu is a viral illness, meaning, for the most part, your body can fight it and antibiotics are not only not necessary, but totally ineffective. The main features of the flu are the following symptoms including, a high fever, chills, sweats, muscle aches, fatigue, cough, congestion, vomiting, nausea, diarrhea, and decreased appetite. Now since all we heard was that it was the “stomach flu” that was going around, let’s talk about what it might be like for someone to suffer from the stomach flu.
1. High Fever- I’m assuming most of you reading have felt high fever before. This is that feeling where you feel like your head is going to explode and your body feels hot enough that you are about to call the fire department to hose you down. You pop a couple Tylenol for relief only dread that in less than 4 hours the same dread will come sweeping over your body until you can take another dose.
2. Muscle Aches-Speaking of Tylenol, these muscle aches are not your typical soreness after a workout. Your body downright hurts and you are definitely needing Tylenol/Advil/Aleve for relief or it’s going to be a rough day
3. Nausea/Vomiting/Diarrhea-pretty self-explanatory right? Not so fast.
A bit about hydration. Stay with me, I’ll try to keep this simple. As far as hydration is concerned, we are concerned mainly with 3 things. Water, Salt, and Potassium. As long as those 3 things are doing well, so are we. When any of those are low. We’re feeling…low. Things stay the same as long as we take in through fluids and food what we lose through peeing, pooping, breathing(water evaporates from our mouth and tongue when we breathe), and sweating. What can disrupt this balance?
A) Sweating more. Most of us know by now that the more you sweat, the more fluid you have to drink. We also know that we lose some salt when we sweat (which is why sweat tastes salty), which means we lose water and sodium, which means we need some extra electrolytes after we sweat in addition to extra water as well.
B) Vomiting and Diarrhea. Just like how you lose sodium when you sweat when you have vomiting and diarrhea, you not only lose the fluid that comes out, but you also lose potassium at the same time. Now although much fluid won’t come out with vomiting usually, we all know that anyone going through a bout of diarrhea is using the bathroom sometimes 3 or 4 times an hour and pouring out fluid with every bout. It’s not unusual for an individual to be down about 5 to 10 lbs after a bout of diarrhea and it usually takes a couple weeks to recover from that.

Now what I haven’t mentioned yet is the fact that when you’re the body is fighting an illness, all the resources are getting diverted to your immune system to fight the illness. That’s why when you’re suffering from the flu or even just a cold, you feel extremely fatigued. That’s because your body just has nothing left to keep you functioning the way you normally would.

So far the average individual suffering from the above for a few days is basically going to feel extremely dehydrated, exhausted, and kind of like they got beat up.

That’s it right?

Unfortunately, no. Early yesterday morning I saw on Twitter, news that the fire alarm was pulled at 3 am in the hotel the Steelers were staying at on the night before the game. Now, I don’t know about you, but I know that if I’m woken up at 3 am, I ain’t going back to sleep. I’ll usually keep myself busy until it’s time to start my day and then maybe get a boost after my morning coffee until I’m ready to crash, oh I don’t know, somewhere around 6:30 pm(the game started at 6:40 pm for those of you who didn’t tune in). Now think about what you are like when you are sleep deprived. How is your energy level? How are your reflexes? How alert are you? Since sleep is our main recovery tool, we depend on sleep to give us the alertness and energy we need for the day, and without it, our bodies are definitely fighting to get by.

Now let me paint the picture so far. Say you’re a professional football athlete at the end of a rigorous season. You’re alright feeling tired and beat up, but you’re always able to tap into your personal resources to get the job done. But let’s say you come down with the stomach flu I mentioned above. You do you’re best to try to pull through, but no matter what you do, you just can’t seem to find that extra gear you’ve always been able to count on to push past. You feel super dehydrated, exhausted, and just not able to function at the level you have always been able to. With all this going on, now you are woken up at 3 am the day of the big game. So now you’re dehydrated, exhausted, and sleep deprived. With all this going on, how are you going to perform in the big game? How are your reflexes going to be if you’re a receiver? If you’re a part of the defensive line, how are you going to be able to power past that offensive line to get to the quarterback? How effectively are you going to be able to cover a receiver as a part of the secondary? Remember what I said earlier about the Steelers looking a little slower.

One more thing. Which of the following muscles is healthier? A hydrated muscle or a dehydrated muscle. If you guessed hydrated you are correct. Now if a dehydrated muscle is not as healthy, is it more likely to get pulled? What are the odds that Pro Bowl running back pulls a groin muscle in the first quarter? If you’re like me, you’re also wondering if that Pro Bowl running back might have been one of those Steelers that got hit with the flu.

Now, the main reason I’ve written the above is because I feel someone needs to discuss it. Whether any of this actually played a factor in the game I don’t know. If one of those athletes ever happens to read this and says to themselves, “you know that is exactly how I was feeling,” then you can take solace in the fact that you really did all you could do.

All in all, most of the audience watching the game were expecting a much closer game and it just didn’t make sense that it wasn’t. I feel the above might offer a bit of an explanation. Would love to hear what you think.

#Steelers #PatriotsvsSteelers #NFL #Football

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Will It Ever Get Better?

Total transparency right now. I am not the epitome of health I make myself out to be. It’s true. I do eat healthy…for the most part. I exercise regularly, but there are several weeks that the workout is really poor. Most of all, though, I never really feel great. To begin with, I have a constant problem with my right ankle that has been there for 6 1/2 years. First, it was plantar fasciitis. Then that got better. Then it came back. Then it got better again. Then it became shin pain. Now it’s this daily problem where my foot and ankle get so stiff that I feel pain whenever I walk. And when I run. Turning corners is brutal. The worst is walking in a crowded area like a mall or city. I can’t really explain exactly how I feel, but the dysfunction is constantly there.
Then there’s the mid back stuff. After sitting for a couple hours, my back gets so stiff and that it turns into this burning sensation. This is almost daily.
And then there’s the issue on the inside of my right shoulder blade which flares up any time I do a hard upper extremity workout.
Now I know that these problems may seem minuscule compared to lots of other problems out there, but they are problems nonetheless.
As I mentioned above, I’ve had this right ankle problem for 6 years…6 years! Every day, nearly every step I feel something in my ankle. I can think of exactly 4 times it felt normal in the 6 years. I tried to replicate what I did in those 4 times to no avail.
Dealing with these problems for so so long, one can’t help but ask himself…” is it ever going to get better?” Time and time again I have tried to improve this on my own and time and time again…I have failed.
I have a feeling I’m not alone on this. In fact, I know I’m not alone. Several of you out there have shared your own stories. That knee pain that you have been dealing with or that shoulder issue or the foot problem you don’t know what to do about. You’ve had the pain for months or years and you just barge on. A couple ibuprofen every day…or 10. A bit of grit. What option do you have? You go to the orthopedist and they take Xrays, do an exam and tell you to take some anti-inflammatories and come back in 2 months if it’s not better. You try everything your friends tell you worked for them, but either it doesn’t work or it works for like 1 month and then comes back. You end up feeling hopeless, drop your head and say “say la vie (such is life).”
What has happened? Why do we still have pain?
Failure and an Amazing Body
Anytime I think of failure I think of one of the greatest instructors I’ve ever had, Kathy Dooley. When describing how the body compensates in order to deal with failure in one area she would say, “That’s Amazing!” and then go on to explain how amazing the body is to work around the failure, by making the necessary compensation.
This happens commonly with something like an ankle sprain. Say you are walking around your house and your 6-year-old has left a Lego piece on the ground. You step on the Lego piece, out goes your foot and…snap goes your ankle ligaments. You get swelling, pain, and next thing you know you can barely walk on the ankle. In order to get around you limp instead of your normal gait by placing more weight on the opposite foot so the ankle doesn’t hurt so much. You do this for a couple weeks while the pain in the ankle comes down. Your body in this time period has been getting the signal that in order to walk safely it needs to fire the muscles on the opposite side of the body since the right side can’t be relied upon. This is truly amazing that your body understands what’s going on and does what is necessary to protect you from further damage. This is compensation. The problem is that, even after the ankle has improved, the compensation is still in that previous program. When we don’t reprogram our bodies than the compensation persists and the next thing you know, you have a whole new problem which is sometimes totally different from the original problem.
I think this is what happened to me. After my initial heel pain, I think my body made some compensations to deal with the pain in the heel. Because the pain went on for so long, the compensation eventually became the norm in my body and has stuck ever since.
How Do We Uncompensate the Compensations?
Here’s the thing. That same amazing body that made compensations to protect you from further damage is the same body that can heal you (and me) from your current issue. Our 4 tenet’s of Osteopathy say:
1. The body is a unit; the person is a unit of body, mind, and spirit.

2. The body is capable of self-regulation, self-healing, and health maintenance.

3. Structure and function are reciprocally interrelated.

4. Rational treatment is based upon an understanding of the basic principles of body unity, self-regulation, and the interrelationship of structure and function.

In a nutshell, this means that the body can heal itself. It just needs the right things in place to do so. Sometimes that means doing the right exercise over and over. Sometimes that means your ankle is out of joint and needs to be popped back in joint. Sometimes that means all the above for several weeks. The thing is…it can happen.
This is the gist of what I do. I look for where the body is making compensations and I try to help you retrain your body to heal itself. Bam! That’s my secret sauce. I don’t really do anything. Your body does all the work. Your body is the hero in this story and can be for all of us that are feeling like nothing is going to change.
The truth is. I know exactly what I need to do to fix my problems. I just haven’t been disciplined enough to follow through with it. Hopefully, by writing this out, it will give me the motivation to do what I need to do.
What have you been dealing with that you feel will never get better?

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Snacking and the Hunger Habit

Confession. About a month ago I got a question about what healthy snacks I would recommend. My response was this…
And then I said….
And after that I concluded…
In case you think that your browser is cutting off the rest of these sentences, let me assure you, its not. Shamefully I did not answer his question.
Why, you ask? Because I was guilty of snacking myself.
What I wanted to answer was that there is no such thing as healthy snacking, really. Snacking, in general, is not a healthy habit. If you are snacking in between meals, you are basically putting unnecessary calories in that neither lead to more health nor provide some necessary energy requirement.
I didn’t answer with this response because, I too had been snacking whilst I was being asked this very question. So I did what any holistic wellness doctor would do. I totally avoided the question and have been virtually hiding since it was asked.
Now, in case wondering minds are curious about what healthy Dr. Steve snacks on secretly in a dark closet with no one around, here it is. I like to snack on cashews, dates, apples, and bananas. Oh, and olives.
Phew…it feels so good to confess that. I’ve been holding it in for so long, and now I can just tell the world without holding that guilt in any longer.
Now, I know you might possibly be thinking, “Dr. Steve, what’s wrong with those foods?” Well, I’m flattered that you think those are pretty healthy foods to be snacking on, and in fact, they are. The problem, in my case, isn’t that I was snacking on unhealthy foods. That problem was that I was snacking altogether.
Why Do We Snack?
This is a pretty loaded question, actually. Different people have different reasons for snacking. In general, though, most of us snack because we feel hunger. That sensation comes on in our bellies, sends a signal to our brain that the tank is a bit low, and we need to refuel. So we think to ourselves that maybe that bacon double cheeseburger with fries (and a diet soda, of course) just wasn’t enough calories, so we go over to our stash of chips or sweets, and dig in until that message from the brain is satisfied and we can go back to whatever else we were doing.
Let’s think about this, though. What’s the chance that we actually haven’t had enough food? Now don’t get me wrong. Some folks out there are skipping or skimping on meals and might actually need to some larger meals, but in general, that’s not the case. There’s usually one of two, maybe three things going on that is producing that hunger sensation. Maybe four.
The Hunger Habit
In case you don’t know, hunger is the sensation you feel when your stomach is asking for…something.
What do I mean?
Well, the obvious answer is when it’s time to eat, we have a hormone that sends a signal to the brain telling us our stomach is empty and it needs to be filled up. Ideally, we eat, and the signal shuts off. Unfortunately, though, the signals aren’t necessarily always corresponding to the need for food. Sometimes, you get the signal and all you need to do is to put fluid, such as water in your stomach, and the signal shuts off and you didn’t really need food after all.
The other thing is that the hormone signal can easily get altered based on your habits. For example, if you happen to know someone, a friend perhaps. More of an acquaintance, really, that you heard likes to snack at night after dinner every night. His or her hunger signal is created merely by the habit of his or her snacking every night. Because the stomach has received food at that time frame on a regular basis, the stomach thinks that that’s when you need to eat again, you feel hungry, you(I mean your friend) snacks and the cycle continues. If your friend stops snacking at night…no more hunger signal.
Looks like it was two things, not four.  Actually, there’s a third thing…if we tend to eat foods that are nutritionally weak such as processed foods, our bodies are still starved for nutrition and will send the hunger signal even though technically you’ve consumed a sufficient amount of food.  In this case, the food you were eating was so devoid of any nutrition, it was almost like you didn’t eat.  On the flip side, sometimes you can eat some pretty nutritious food and feel totally filled up.  My wife and I once had some amazing locally grown organic heirloom tomatoes that were so out of this world, we almost didn’t need to eat anything else.  You get the idea.  (So three was the magic number after all)
It’s important to note that some people also snack, not necessarily for the need for food, but for stress relief. This is a difficult problem but unfortunately, can lead to consumption of not-so-healthy foods in addition to everything I said above concerning propagating this hunger signal.
My suggestion…don’t stop the snacking in the beginning. Recognize that you are snacking for stress relief, write down what’s on your mind at the time of your stress, and switch to a different snack. So, if you like to eat pretzels anytime you feel stressed, switch to cashews or something. Sometimes switching the food will cause a change enough that you can kick it all together. Then eventually, you can try other stress relief modalities like a cup of chamomile and valerian root tea, or go for a walk outside, or meditating. If you’re able to break the cycle, then usually that signal will go away and you can stop snacking to reduce stress.
Final thoughts…
Something important to note is that there are definitely bad snacks that I would avoid altogether, even if you don’t see yourself doing anything I’ve talked about above. They say that if you can’t pronounce all the ingredients on the back of the package, you shouldn’t eat it. I like to play a game where I read the ingredients on the back of the package and if the other person knows what that ingredient is, then they get a point, but if not, I get a point. Haven’t lost so far. Try it. It just might be fun.
Also, these recommendations (other than the last one about bad snacks) do not necessarily hold true for kids. Kids have a higher metabolism and often need snacks to keep focused or they can get a bit hypoglycemic. We like to give our kids apple slices, grass fed turkey jerky, and organic chocolate milk as snacks, which is usually way better than much of the stuff they get outside the house.
Hope this helps. Peace out.

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