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The Shoulder Position and Why Your Traps Aren’t Actually That Huge

Hey Folks!

We’re back with an exciting blog post about some proper shoulder positioning – where your shoulder should be, what that helps you to accomplish functionally, and the effects its’ position has on your appearance.  This information will change your life… or maybe just your press, and snatch, and overhead squat, and bench/push ups, and just about everything else that involves your arms… oh, and also the way people look at you (in a good way).

 

Anatomical position AKA where god/evolution/whoever/whatever decided your shoulders SHOULD be.

Due to our forward and front facing world, many of us succumb to what PT all-star Kelly Starrett would call the “D-bag” shoulder position, also known as “bridal” shoulder.  This is bad news for form and function because of the numerous movements and muscles involved with the scapula (what you would call your “shoulder blade”).  The scapula is a weird looking bone that allows our shoulders to have an impressive range of motion.  So what’s the deal with anatomical position, and why should you strive for better shoulder position?  If your scapulae are abducted and protracted (rolled forwards), some muscles in the area are chronically shortened while others are chronically stretched/lengthened.  Imagine having to walk with one flat on and one stiletto on – it wouldn’t be fun, right?  That’s what your shoulders are doing when you have poor shoulder positioning and its’ related shortened and lengthened muscles.  Anatomical position is where your scapulae rest when your muscles are relaxed and unaffected by years of poor posture and movement patterns.  Perfection is near impossible when you take into consideration handedness and unilateral sports (almost all sports) – but having good shoulder position will help with many functional movements which helps insulate your shoulder from injury.

 

Squeezing your pecs together might make them dance, but does not make them work better.

Rolled in shoulders are a danger to us all, but mostly to your lateral clavicles while you’re benching, your wrists, elbows and glenohumeral joint while overhead, and like I said earlier, just about everything involving the movement of your arms.  Pinning your shoulders back while benching means your arms have a solid base to push from, not just air and somewhere for that weight to push your shoulders, resulting in injury.  Having adequate range of motion in your shoulders means your elbows and wrists can take a break during cleans, front and overhead squats or snatches (I’m fairly certain this is responsible for most cases of “crossfit shoulder”).  Aside from the ridiculous tissue stress this poor positioning puts on the joints and their respective connective tissue (ligaments and cartilage), the muscles aren’t at their optimal position either.  When muscles are shortened or lengthened from where they should be they surrender proper force generation due to the sub-optimal overlapping of your actin and myosin (the tiny proteins in muscle responsible for pulling your muscles shorter or “flexing”).  So in short, being in this position makes you weaker than you could be, AND compensating for poor biomechanics in the shoulder with poor motion in the elbows and wrists is a recipe for injury.

Finally… Guys, your traps aren’t that big, I’m sorry… and Girls, believe it or not, this applies to you too.

Everyone knows the guy that errs into the dreaded D-bag shoulder position for the purpose of trying to look “huge”, or “yoked”.  The poor shoulder position and increased kyphosis (humping/rounding of the thoracic spine) it takes to achieve the appearance of larger traps is ultimately going to be more work and more dangerous than working toward a 300 pound clean and 500 pound deadlift.  The ladies don’t like it, and your chiropractor will cringe and have nightmares.  So please, if your pulled into this poor position, make it for reasons (you work at a desk 8 hours a day to make money to live and give to Payday Debt Helpers, you just happened to always do front based exercises, etc.) other than because you want to look “cool”.

Now then, for the ladies, I know you’re worried you’re going to get “those neck muscles” if you lift heavy.  Doesn’t the fact that there are guys out there compromising their morals (and more importantly, their posture!) for the sake of growing some big traps, convince you at all, that they might be difficult to grow?  Secondly, if you are worried about having the appearance of large traps, and you aren’t doing mobility work to open up your thoracic extension and pull those shoulder back, I’m going to have a hard time feeling sorry for you.  They aren’t large muscles and they won’t look large if you achieve better posture and positioning.  Make it a priority.

So let’s achieve some good quality shoulder position so that we can all function better, hit PRs without injury and even look better.  I will make another post shortly about what you can do to help reverse this pandemic, until then, feel free to ask myself, Annie, Lisa, Joseph, Alex or Rachael how to start the process.

 

Cheers!  And Happy lifting!

Dr. Adam Ball

Why God isn’t the Devil

Side note:  I’m going to refer to “god” throughout this article every so often.  It isn’t ideal, but I’d like everyone to consider this also as Allah, Buddha, or whatever else your religious beliefs name (or don’t name) your higher powers.  In no way do I plan to offend anyone, please don’t hesitate to let me know if it bothers you, and I will edit the post.

I’m not a particularly religious person, but I definitely believe in some sort of higher power.  The world just wouldn’t be as interesting place to me if there wasn’t some part of it that could not be explained.  In this same vein I wish that dragons, dinosaurs and all sorts of other fantastical things existed in our world, but I digress.  The reason for this post is that I know some people who feel uncomfortable around devout religious folks when god is brought up in conversation (though not as a participant in the conversation – There’s a special place for that).  While it might be outside your comfort zone that someone could believe very strongly in the presence of a higher power – you have to take into consideration the guiding principles of what the stories and words are about.

 

“Spending a day worshipping some fake higher power is silly!  You’re wasting your time!”

 

There really is no proof for or against the existence of a higher power.  So if we get past the personal beliefs part of this (rather negative) statement we can get to the guts of it.  Spending a day in worship doesn’t mean you’re kneeling all day long apologizing for living your life.  In his book “The Blue Zones”, Dan Buettner discusses Seventh Day Adventists as some of the longest lived people on the planet.  As one of the common themes among the folks he studied for their longevity, all those folks had stress relieving activities in which they regularly partook.   The 7th Day Adventists observe the Sabbath, a day of rest, usually on Saturday.  During this day, they take time to do things they enjoy, to socialize and most importantly, to do it all guilt free.  Have a big deadline for a project the day after Sabbath?  These people have the stuff done the day before, because they’re going to relax and enjoy themselves on that day.  Same goes for tests and many other things.  I’m sure occasionally slip ups are made (that’s our nature), but to have this habit/behaviour taught to you from birth is pretty cool.  How many of us can say we spend one full day per week without stress?  Not many.

 

“Following a whole bunch of rules takes away your free will!  I’m a peacock!  I need to fly!”

 

I’m not going to pretend to know the scriptures from any of the big books, but from what I’ve experienced from speaking with those who DO know them, most are based on the same life lessons our parents teach us as we grow up.  As Earl Hickey would say, “Do good things and good things will happen to you.” (Yes, I just quoted ‘My name is Earl’).  This statement sums up a lot of what’s written in the good books.  The rules are often simple – don’t kill folks, don’t steal stuff, don’t do most stuff that makes you feel bad, and if you do, own up to it.  How bad are those rules?  They’re pretty much common sense.  How much happier would everyone be if we could follow these “rules” most of the time?  Probably pretty happy.  The guidelines laid out in religious scripts (in my opinion) aren’t meant to be taken as concrete rules.  They’re meant to evolve and change while remaining the same – much like how a story being told from generation to generation will have small changes to it, to make it relatable and relevant to the new generations.

 

“They all want to push their religion on me, and I won’t stand for that!  Not cool!”

 

I can agree with this, but I can also see the other side of the coin.  Crossfitters and Paleo advocates often feel like they need to “save” people from globo gyms, or eating according to the USDA food pyramid, respectively.  What’s the underlying theme here?  Some people who are very excited about what they’ve learned and experienced want to share it with others.  This can be taken too far with everything (i.e. EVERYONE should believe in MY god! Or, is ______ paleo?  Are you sure???  I don’t know that Grok would have eaten it though!?!  WHAT DO I DO???!?)  New paleo converts don’t know this just as badly as Christian missionaries don’t when they’re trying to colonize some native populations.  What you/they know isn’t necessarily better, and it isn’t necessarily for everyone.  Instead of getting angry, how about we acknowledge their enthusiasm and say, “thanks for the info, I’ll think about it and get back to you if I need to know more”.  After all, they’re excited because they want to help – the excitement just gets misdirected sometimes.

 

“Why should I thank someone else for everything that I work hard for?  I earned it – not them!”

 

This stems from saying “grace” at the dinner table in most of my experiences.  I would venture to say that this action/ritual has existed for millions of years, not just since religion started.  Hunter-Gatherer cultures pay respect to the animals they kill in various ways.  I believe that saying thanks for the food your about to eat isn’t a bad practice or habit.  I don’t do it myself, but think about how much more mindful you’d be about what you’re eating if you stopped to thank god, the earth, the animals and plants themselves, whatever it is, before you ate them/it.  That’s some seriously mindful eating.

 

The ultimate point of this post is not to “ok” religion or convince anyone of anything.  The goal of this post is to nail home that the underlying concepts of religions and how we would act without them are largely the same.  Most belief systems strive for a common goal, and knowing that can make the difference between being open and accepting versus coming off as dismissive and close-minded.  So be open, ignore the names of the characters in the story and look for the morals and themes – you might be surprised how similar they all are.

Cheers!

 

Dr. Adam Ball

n=1… ALL DAY

Hey Folks!

n=1 (actually it was 2). 100% of the subjects in this study enjoyed riding a bike off a ramp into the lake. Statistical significance reached.

So I’m working on a more technical post about HOW everything breaks down with disordered eating involving insulin resistance, depression, IBS, infertility and so on.  Here’s hoping it becomes a “thing”.  But for now, I want to concentrate on some testimonials and I also want to visit and check myself at the Advanced Fertility Center.

Some say that case studies and anecdotes are crap, and that they offer no value to the scientific world.  To some degree this is true – as you’ve probably heard at one point or another a strong testimonial for healthy whole grains, the soy diet, the raw vegan diet and a whole host of other diets destined for sadness and failure (and in many cases, outright disease).  I’m not saying these diets CAN’T work, just that they are not the optimal diet for humans to thrive on.  I’m not interested in what types of diets we can survive on, I’m interested in developing a diet that you and I will THRIVE on.

That being said, there have been plenty of folks who have reversed serious disease, lost lots of weight, and become much happier eating a paleo/primal/anti-inflammatory/ideal diet.  Here are some of those people:

 

http://robbwolf.com/2011/03/28/real-life-testimonials-jodis-paleo-diary/

http://robbwolf.com/2011/02/14/real-life-testimonial-controlling-type-1-diabetes-with-the-paleo-diet/

http://www.marksdailyapple.com/the-rise-of-lazarus/

http://www.marksdailyapple.com/i-decided-to-do-something-about-it/

http://www.marksdailyapple.com/never-in-a-million-years-did-i-think/

 

And I’ll stop there but you get the idea that there are many people who have benefited from eating a paleo/primal diet.

 

“But n=1 is silly and means nothing!”

 

The only beef (mmmmm, beef) I have with this argument is that n=1 is you.  It’s you trying something out.  It’s you learning to play cricket for the first time.  It’s you trying brussel sprouts again after 10 years thinking you “hate” brussel sprouts (maybe you still do).  It’s you trying to lift heavy things instead of running long distances.  And it’s you seeing how you look, feel and perform (that sounds snappy – thanks Robb Wolf) doing all these things.

So be your own n=1 experiment.  Waiting to find out what the next randomized, placebo-controlled, double-blind  study to prove that being active, being happy and eating well is good for you, is just plain silly.

Let’s all ruin science and get healthy at the same time!  Have a great weekend folks, and if you’re doing it, good luck on Crossfit Open Sectionals WOD#3!

 

Dr. Adam Ball

Musings: Vegan babies, the “Evil Trifecta” & How your genes affect your jeans

Hi Folks!

Spring is getting closer!

So I fully intended on having a well written, long and informative article to post this week but I just haven’t managed to get around to it.  So today will be a smattering of link posts and thoughts about the happenings as of late.

As I previously posted about, the Robb Wolf seminar was a great refresher about paleo nutrition and the optimal approach to the dietary management of chronic disease.  Since then I have had the chance of speaking with some friends and family about the seminar and about diet in general and some questions/comments arose, as they usually do.

  • Vegan babies are occasionally not well taken care of and they die, usually due to malnutrition – As far as I’m concerned this is unacceptable, and these parents are knowingly starving their babies to death.  This is tragic and unnecessary.  The parents should know better, but if they’re mistaken enough to think that humans can thrive on a vegan diet, they are more than likely mistaken about most things related to human physiology.  I think it would be interesting to find out if the parents who were responsible for these babies had to rethink their logic and understanding of nutrition, seeing that this type of diet not only does not create optimal health, but doesn’t even create an environment where a human baby can survive.

o   Links here (1 old, 1 new):  http://www.breitbart.com/article.php?id=CNG.35c2caa5efa0e183b7b38a2d0e2b7f40.71&show_article=1

o   http://www.nytimes.com/2007/05/21/opinion/21planck.html?_r=1

  • Far less intense is the “evil trifecta” proposed by Robb Wolf (and also explained at length by Dr. Kurt Harris, Dr. Emily Deans, and I’m sure many others) of gluten, linoleic acid (the polyunsaturated, n-6 fatty acid found in many vegetable oils), and fructose.  After having mentioned this to people I get a mixture of responses.

o   For those familiar with paleo nutrition, the next question is usually from the person shooting for perfection, “so should I stop eating fruit?” or the person who is already annoyed with having given up grains, “so you’re telling me I can’t have fruit anymore either?”

o   The answer is no, you don’t have to give up fruit.  They’re fruit.  Reminds me of a post by the folks at Whole9 (http://www.urbangetsdiesel.com/2009/06/carrot-train-to-crazytown.html).  While the main sugar in fruit IS fructose, there really isn’t THAT much that you need to worry about fatty liver disease or insulin resistance.  That is unless you’re crushing a LOT of fruit.  This tends to be the tendency to those new to paleo/primal eating.  They’re still sweet, and they generally taste better than vegetables.  But if you’re replacing all your vegetables with fruit, it might eventually become a sticking point for weight-loss and well-being.  Just saying.

o   The other answer is, “but I love grains!  WHOLE grains must be good right?  I don’t eat white wonder bread, I eat the stuff with lots of fibre!”  Sorry folks, but no bread is the best kind of bread.  If you want to lose weight, manage your auto-immune disease or just feel better in every way, you need to give up grains.  Am I telling you that you can NEVER have grains again?  No.  Try giving them up for 30 days, and then have some occasionally.  The bloated, gassy, headachy, hangover-y feeling you get (and to which degree you get it) will determine if enjoying it is worth it.  I’ll be honest, for me, sometimes it is.

o   Links worth checking out:

§  http://crossfitflood.typepad.com/nutrition/2009/03/damn-dirty-grains.html

§  http://www.fourhourworkweek.com/blog/2010/09/19/paleo-diet-solution/

o   Interesting to note is that no one really complains about the vegetable oil.  That could be because it all tastes terrible and that all our favourites that we gave up are SO much more delicious (butter, ghee, coconut oil, pork fat, beef fat, etc.)

  • Finally, I just want to speak about genetics.  Your genetics is your bodies’ recipe for health.  When myself and other speak about us “all having the same genes”, what we AREN’T saying (although I should only speak for myself here) is that we all have identical genes (as in identical twins, although even then there are some differences).  What I am saying, is that we all have the gene to create the cornea in our eye, the gene to up-regulate insulin receptors on our cells, the genes to induce the many steps to apoptosis to prevent cancer.  We all have these.  But what do we have that affects these genes?  Everything we eat, every way we move and everything we think.  These inputs are the reason our body activates and expresses genes and inhibits others.
  • In health care, we’re all around this paradigm without ever (almost) delving into it.  Bruce Lipton, James Chestnut and many others have figured this out.  It gives us a solid foundation to create questions and theories from.  It gives us a leg to stand on when we ask, “Why?”  My question to the general public and to the many areas of healthcare is, “why have we stopped asking why?”  It’s killing us!
  • This new report is about the differences we have between us.  Our epigenetics are responsible for the many differences in disease states and susceptibility to disease states and general adaptations to lifestyle inputs.  This person can eat whatever they want and not put on a lot of fat, this person cannot.  If studies from the agouti mouse tell us anything, it’s that the lifestyle of past generations DOES matter.  But what we don’t seem to make the connection to, is that it doesn’t mean that living in healthy ways still matters, and that it’s reversible!

o   Let’s say your grandma had type-2 diabetes, and your mom has type-2 diabetes, are you silly to think you might be “predisposed” to type-2 diabetes?  Not at all!  But can you make the connection that if you are diligent and live healthy and do not get type-2 diabetes, and your daughter does the same and also doesn’t get it, that that would “predispose” her daughter to NOT acquire type-2 diabetes?  Ahhhh, perfect.  Healthy living is healthy living.  There are degrees of health within your genetics ability to express it (whether you have predispositions or not).

o   Here is the link to the news article:  http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/03/110323104737.htm

o   The other idea is that the input you create matters and affects the genes that are expressed.  This is easily demonstrated by putting someone suffering from glioma (a type of brain cancer) on a ketogenic diet.  Gene expression changes.  Interesting right?  It’s just proof that the way we eat, move and think matters.

o   Here’s the link to the journal article:  http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2949862/?tool=pubmed

So that’s all I have to say right now.  I hope everyone has a fantastic weekend, and if you’re competing in the Crossfit games open sectional, good luck & have fun!

Cheers!

Dr. Adam Ball

Robb Wolf’s Paleo Solution Seminar

This past weekend I attended the Paleo Solution seminar put on by Robb Wolf.  It was well organized, timed and executed.  I will preface this “review” with the fact that I really dig everything Robb is doing with regards to the paleo “movement”.  Much like myself, Robb just wants to help people achieve and experience health.  He isn’t trying to accomplish it by making a magical ratio that can be achieved by eating molecularly-baked goods, by selling very well made, and delicious (but expensive) protein powder or by withholding information that is only available for purchase.  If you’ve been listening to the podcast and reading what Robb puts out on his website, then you’ve probably heard almost everything that is in the seminar at one point or another.  The seminar puts it all together into one presentation, which is difficult to do (otherwise others would be doing it).  Thanks Robb (and Nikki).

The Pro’s:

  • Robb’s example (himself) of how a set of beliefs can drive you into disease was a great start point for the seminar – if we are not changing people’s belief systems about food, then we will not be changing what people want to eat and therefore what people are eating.
  • While the seminar was essentially 7 hours of straight lecture with an hour long lunch break, the flow was great, and the small “breaks” for questions were enough of a mental de-load before continuing with the material
  • I’m glad there weren’t “pee breaks” or food breaks (aside from lunch and question periods) as there is usually a lot of time lost to trying to reign folks back into the lecture room, which happens at just about every other seminar I’ve been to
  • The basic science review was in depth enough for the sciencey folks and I believe simple enough for those new to some of the concepts (the intestinal mucosa, immune cells and their response, etc.)
  • Robb presents a compelling argument as to why grains, legumes and pseudo-grains are sub-optimal foods and how they contribute to chronic disease
  • Explaining how we can use the study of paleolithic peoples and their diet and lifestyle to ask the right questions was well explained and great examples are presented

o   Going from anthropological observations to clinical observations to clinical testing to mechanistic theory to mechanistic validation help to explain how to ask the right questions and a great path to create progress

  • Digestion, Gut permeability, auto-immunity, metabolic derangement, lifestyle and implementation were all touched upon and well explained
  • Robb took the time to provide case studies/anecdotes about people who have benefitted from different approaches to improving ones diet, but didn’t rely on it for his explanations and theories.
  • References were provided and explored – ideas and theories had good scientific backing
  • It all makes sense – I wasn’t left with “yeah, but…”

 

The Con’s:

  • It was only one day – Seriously this could be two or more days if we really wanted to geek out with the science/biochemistry involved with everything

o   It would be sweet to see a Robb Wolf, Mat Lalonde and Dr. Cordain 3 day seminar at some point – maybe even aimed at health care providers/those involved with educating clients/patients versus those interested in the information personally?

  • A little more time could be spent on the acute sepsis/injury effect on insulin resistance mechanisms and their explanation – it may be a combination of these concepts being towards the end of the day (being a little mentally fried) and that I think Robb may have been a little speedier with getting through this area of the seminar
  • Further effects of Palmitic acid could be explored (a la the explanation by Mat Lalonde in the recent podcast re: fasting/eating very low carb versus eating so many carbs that palmitic acid is abundant)
  • It could be nice to stay together for a lunch designed by Robb at the venue of the seminar – although I know this would require more planning and probably a more expensive price-tag for the seminar

All together it was one of the better seminars I’ve been to in regard to content, flow and guiding principles.  It drives home the fact that the answers we find are largely determined by the questions we ask.  And if we ask questions without some sort of base, guiding principles, we end up with the jumbling of answers that is the current state of health and nutritional science.

Thanks again, Robb.  Cheers Everyone!

Robb was nice enough to pose for a photo with me after the seminar

Dr. Adam Ball

Why I care about more than your spine, Part 2

Alternate Title: Poor posture is like a rocking chair – it gives you something to do but it doesn’t get you anywhere.

 

Back from part 1, here we go again.

With all that having been said – being neurotic about who gives you advice on your health, and what you end up doing doesn’t make me any more money than I do seeing you as a chiropractic patient.  So how am I going to make any money?  Well, getting regular chiropractic care is important.  Your spine needs to be able to move in a full, happy and unimpeded range of motion for your body to express its’ optimal level of health.  If you’re eating well, exercising intelligently and de-stressing, the results we see are going to be much better – which means that hopefully you’ll want your friends and family to go to someone that cares about them as much as I care about you. It’s a lot more work, but it allows me to make a living while still being able to sleep at night.

Working at a Crossfit gym, the folks I see generally have a great grasp of the fitness/exercise side of things and a good idea of what they’re supposed to eat.  What I do see a lot of, is shoulder pain, elbow pain, low back pain and mid back stiffness (usually the mid back isn’t painful unless mobilized gently).  These are all an effect of postural adaptations that are no bueno.  These postural adaptations lead to motion restrictions (limited range of motion), muscular imbalances, injuries and more work for you.  You don’t need or want this type of thing affecting your life and performance.

As an example, consider what’s required to take care of a car.  If you run out of oil, you can’t just fill up your gas tank with premium gas and hope for the best, you need to have oil, and brake fluid, good tires, etc. for the car to operate at its’ best.  In regards to range of motion (afforded to you via chiropractic), your Ferrari can only go fast if you can push the gas pedal down all the way.  If there were a brick underneath that gas pedal, it’s going to affect how fast that car can go.  You can eat a perfect diet, exercise well and live a low stress lifestyle, but you still aren’t as healthy as you COULD be if you were doing all those things AND seeing a chiropractor.

Range of motion, optimal positioning and good posture all are interconnected endeavours.  You can muscle through crap posture to achieve full range of motion, but it won’t get you to the level of fitness you want, and you’re wasting WAY too much energy doing it.  If you follow the elite crossfit athletes (or even if you just know who they are/what they look like) you might notice something they all have in common – great posture, efficiency of movement and effortless full range of motion.

Forcing your way through impeded range of motion (folding in half with a crap shoulder position makes overhead squats hard eh?) is not the intelligent way to do things.  Stretching the appropriate areas, seeing a great athletic therapist, and getting adjusted regularly will help you achieve better positioning – making the movements more efficient, less work, and less likely to cause injury.  You’ve already made the choice to exercise intelligently and (hopefully) to eat well.  Make these choices as well.

Making good choices is the bedrock of great health and is the ultimate sign that you’ve made sustainable change.  What you CAN’T do, however, is cover up bad choices with good ones.  The late Mitch Hedberg once said,

 

“That would be cool if you could eat a good food with a bad food and the good food would cover for the bad food when it got to your stomach. Like you could eat a carrot with an onion ring and they would travel down to your stomach, then they would get there, and the carrot would say, “It’s cool, he’s with me.””

 

It would be nice if things worked that way, but they don’t.  You can’t workout really hard for a month and a half, and then spend the rest of the year sitting on your butt.  You can’t workout at the gym, but eat crappy food and be stressed out all the time and not sleep and expect to see results.  You can’t see a chiropractor, but never move your body and expect results.  We (chiropractors, athletic therapists, and other manual therapy options) give you access to a full range of motion, but we don’t provide the movement to those joints.  You do.  Address your posture, get adjusted regularly and stretch your business.  Make good choices – your body will thank you.

Cheers,

Dr. Adam Ball

Why I care about MORE than your spine, Part 1

Alternate title: I can’t let someone else worry about it, unless by someone else, you mean me.

Eating quality food is a pre-requisite for quality health

I recently attended a chiropractic seminar that was full of folks who are very concerned about your health.  But from what I can gather, they are only concerned with knowing you’re getting adjusted (by them, of course).  I like the general ideas they run with, in theory.  The idea being, that as chiropractors we understand the biomechanics of the spine and its’ effects on the nervous system, and therefore your health better than anyone else.  We learn (for years) how to adjust specifically to correct any motion restrictions/subluxations/misalignments that may be preventing you from expressing the health you’re meant to.  This is a very good thing and is hugely important to human health.  This is where their effort to make you healthy ends though.

Let dietitians worry about diet.  Let physiotherapists and personal trainers worry about the muscles and exercise.  Let therapists worry about mental health.  This is the idea running with the folks running this recent seminar I attended.  Well that’s a great idea… in theory.  It’s a great idea until 6 months into your chiropractic care with me you still aren’t getting the results we’d expected.  It’s great until I learn that your lack of health is because the dietitian that is taking care of your nutrition believes that you need to be eating 9-12 servings of grains a day and that eating too much meat will give you cancer.  Uh oh.  BIG uh oh.

Problem 1: Most people giving dietary advice don’t know what they’re talking about.  Without going into a lot of details and talking about all the exceptions, the human species has evolved (or been created) to eat a diet that is congruent with our genetics.  What this means, is that our genes are meant to express health, but they can only be “turned on” if the signal we send (via our lifestyle and nutrition) asks them to.  This means no grains, legumes, and in some cases no dairy.  Read more about what we SHOULD be eating here.

Problem 2: Most people giving exercise advice don’t know what they’re talking about.  You don’t need to spend hours in the gym.  You don’t need to exercise LONGER, and for many people, doing this will make things WORSE.  I’m not telling you not to exercise.  I’m telling you to be smart about it, but most people don’t have a good idea of what being smart about exercise means.  Exercise is a stressor in your life.  Fortunately it is a healthy, predictable, measured and planned stressor.  An intelligent exercise program will make you healthier, without stealing all your time.  Read more about how you SHOULD be exercising here.

Problem 3: If you’re doing these other things correctly/intelligently, then you will experience health a lot more quickly (due to decreased stress levels).  I can’t morally have you come to my office 3 times a week for 13 weeks knowing that if I was intelligent enough to address your diet and lifestyle, you’d need just a fraction of that amount of care.  It would make me a lot more money if I told you to eat according to the USDA food pyramid, exercise using isolation machines and stairmasters, and then come see me whenever you felt you weren’t making progress (indefinitely, in this situation).  I do care about making money (we all have to live), but I want to make my money from making you healthy, and having you tell your friends and loved ones.

My goal as a health care provider is to make you healthier every time I see you.  To influence you to make healthy decisions, and to give you the ability to make those decisions more easily.  I won’t compromise my morals and assume you’re eating and moving well.  Maybe it’s neurotic or obsessive of me, but I’ll sleep better knowing you’re out there making good choices.  Within that same vein you shouldn’t compromise your health by expecting your body to produce excellence while you feed it crap.  I can make your spine move more appropriately but I can’t make you eat well, exercise and de-stress.  If you care about yourself you’ll make a commitment to doing those things.  I’ll be providing you the information and ability (as well as referring you to sources I know and trust) to make good decisions as well.

Good work, team,

Dr. Adam Ball

Let me know what you think, if you disagree, or if you love grains!  Drop a comment! – Please share this on Facebook/Twitter too!

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Wild animals are healthy animals

 

Over/through a small stream, climbing up rocks, and I'm the tiny speck in the bottom right area. Milford Sound, New Zealand.

Humans are animals.  You know I’ve spoken about this before.  But I think we need to revisit this idea on a regular basis.

John Durant of Hunter-Gatherer.com, made a recent post with a news story about two gorillas living in a zoo in Cleveland.  According to the news story, the leading cause of death of gorillas living in zoos, is heart disease.  (Side Bar:  It would be interesting to see the cause of death of every species that lives in a zoo and is “fed” according to what we think they should eat).  Does this blast anyone else’s mind?  How many wild gorillas are dying of heart disease?  I’m willing to bet, that much like wild humans, the number of wild gorillas dying of heart disease is zero.  Why is this happening?

Even more surprising about the news story, is that someone was around to say, “Hey, why don’t we try feeding the gorillas the types of food they’d actually eat?”  Looks like the world hasn’t gone completely mad yet.  Thank goodness.  So, what did they find when the gorillas transitioned to eating genetically congruent foods?  The apes got healthier.  Their markers for heart disease decreased.  But that’s not all!  What else happened?  They stopped acting weird.  The behaviors that are typical of captive gorillas (vomiting foods back up and eating them again, pulling out their hair and eating it) started to disappear (wild gorillas apparently do not do this stuff… could this be gorilla indigestion?) and they started acting like wild gorillas again.  Amazing.

So to sum things up, when gorillas eat a diet they’re supposed to eat, they not only get healthier in regards to their heart health, but mental health improves, they achieve a healthier body composition and, I assume, they’re much happier.

Can we please step back and see ourselves as the animals that we are right now?  Take a look at a phylogenetic tree.  Homo sapiens are not too far away from chimpanzees, orangutangs, and even gorillas.  So why are we NOT asking the same questions about human health?  Humans are dying all day everyday for the exact same reason (heart disease, among many other chronic diseases).  We’re eating foods we are not designed to eat, we’re moving in ways we are not supposed to move, and our social interactions are moving further and further away from normal (remember life before the internet?).

Erwan Le Corre of Movnat.com  is building a legacy.  I hope that in the future, he wins the Nobel Prize.  If we can learn from him, build on the principles of MovNat and shape our communities and societies around those principles, we will regain the health we’re designed for.  We can return to being the species that deserves to be at the top of the food chain.  Right now, we are the sickest species on the planet.  We need to figure out how normal humans live, and we need to get back to that as much as we can.  We need to emulate it.  I’m not asking you to stop using a toilet, or to throw away your computer and all your cherished belongings.  There are advantages to having permanent dwellings, electricity and many other benefits of modern living.  What I AM asking you to do is think about how you eat, move and think.

Eat a human diet:

  • What would you eat if you were thrown out into the wild?
  • Would you avoid killing and eating even the small creatures you could find, because it’s immoral and “bad for you”?
  • Would you try to find the fields of wild grains, so that you can pick hundreds of thousands of tiny seeds, find some stones to grind them one, and some water to hold the powder together and then create a fire so that you can somehoe fry the mush that is created from all your efforts?
  • Would you look for fruits and veggies that look, smell and taste edible?
  • Would you kill and eat every possibly edible part of an animal, or would you throw away the organs because they’re “gross” and go hungry?

Move like humans are meant to move:

  • I’m not going to write a lot here, but MovNat would be ideal
  • Crossfit is a close second, when done properly – This is a good example of using modern tools to achieve/supplement natural movement patterns

Think like humans are meant to think:

  • Isn’t it weird that instead of speaking with each other there is more online communication than ever before?  IMs, texts, emails, blogs (yes, I realize I’m criticizing myself), etc.
  • We have more depression, ADD, ADHD, autism, anxiety and just about every other mental disorder there is than any other time in history.
  • There are a lot of venues where negative is funny.  This I have a particular peeve with.
  • Feeling love, trust and respect is dying it seems – let’s not let that happen.

I feel like we’re making changes slowly.  MovNat is becoming more popular, as well as many other similar pursuits from other like-minded people.  People are becoming fed up with conventional wisdoms’ ideas about health and what the next new superfood/exercise program will save us from ourselves.  There is nothing new we need learn to take action.  We just need to look at healthy people and see what they’re doing.  I’ll end this post with a quote you’ve probably seen before, “Nothing in Biology makes sense except in light of evolution.” – Theodosius Dobzhansky

Cheers Folks!

Dr. Adam Ball

Why the USDA hasn’t told you the answer… yet.

USDA food pyramid - puuuure evil

Hey Folks!

So, I believe the USDA has come up with new recommendations sometime recently, which others have already covered, but that I’m not exactly sure when they came out, because I rarely watch/read the news.  Oh well.  Having studied nutrition, and nutritional advice from many many people over the last few years, I’ve come up with a hypothesis about what the big guys (USDA, Health Canada, etc.) are doing.

Ok.  So way back in the day, Ancel Keys fooled everyone with his irresponsible science, and convinced those in charge that saturated fat was the devil because it raised cholesterol.  I’ll save WHY this advice is completely wrong for another time, for now, just trust me that he was wrong but that it was too late and the powers that be decided to run with the “fat is the devil” paradigm.

With influences from all the wrong places, the USDA decided to create their food pyramid and tell the general public what to eat if they wanted to avoid disease and be healthy.  Tonnes of grains, lots of low fat dairy, beans, monounsaturated vegetable oils, and try your best to eat lots of vegetables and fruits.  Eat some meat, but don’t go crazy, and only have chicken and fish.

Well over the many years since that advice the general public has gotten fatter, and less healthy (600% more obesity since the 1960’s).  Oops.  So, if you put yourself in the USDA’s shoes for a moment let’s think about what you (or I) would do, or be advised to do.  You just made everyone fat and unhealthy with your recommendations, and you have a pretty good idea what you did wrong.  You more or less told everyone what they SHOULDN’T do, and told them NOT to do, what they should.  At this point, you know you SHOULD have told them the opposite (more or less), and everyone is sick and dying because of what you said.  Would you be able to just come out and say “Hey guys?  Yeeeeeeah, so… my bad, can you guys eat the fats your supposed to eat, forget about the whole grains, dairy (for some) and legumes thing, and also never have vegetable oils, and more or less go back to the way you were eating before we figured out how to tell you how to eat?  Thanks!” and NOT be tarred and feathered by the 50%+ of the population whose lives you’ve ruined?  I didn’t think so.

So what ARE they doing.  I think that they’re taking baby steps.  They have to backpedal lightly.  So now instead of telling you to eat 9-12 servings of grains, they say “have some whole grains”.  They’re REALLY trying to push fruits and veggies.  They are still very fat-phobic, except for omega 3 fats.  My point being that it appears as though they are trying to correct their mistakes, without admitting guilt, and redirect our energy in a better direction.  It’ll be really interesting to see where it goes in another couple decades.  In the meantime, I’ll be eating the diet humans evolved to eat, and I’ll be enjoying it too.

Cheers Folks!

Dr. Adam Ball

When the pain isn’t because of the pain…

But it doesn’t make sense – How could the pain you’re feeling NOT be due to the pain?  Well… it’s because you can’t feel movement.

I’d always learned and read this in school, but sometimes a “refresher” is nice.  I recently read a journal article that did that for me (Changes in Aβ non-nociceptive primary sensory neurons in a rat model of osteoarthritis pain [Molecular Pain 2010, 6:37]).  Unfortunately, journal articles can be a pain to read.  You need to look through the authors opinions, crappy statistical analysis, misreporting, etc.  Anyway, that’s not what today’s post is about…

So what was the article about?

  • The authors had mice that were either “normal” (not surgically injured) and those who were given osteoarthritis (surgical removal of medial meniscus and partial removal of the ACL in the knee)
  • Time was passed and osteoarthritis developed in those rats with the surgical injuries (poor little guys)
  • The authors then tested the rats neural pathways for nociception (pain) and mechanoreception (proprioception – range of motion/body sense/knowing where you are in space)

So what did they find?  (all results are in comparison to the healthy, happy rats)

  • The injured rats were much more quick to react to stimuli that would not normally perceived as pain (they were very sensitive to stimuli that could eventually be painful – think poking the back of your hand lightly with a toothpick versus pushing it into your skin)
  • The resting potential of nerves responsible for the perception of pain were closer to depolarizing than control rats (this means less stimuli is required for these rats to experience pain)
  • Conversely, the mechanoreceptors were further from depolarizing in the injured rats (this means they weren’t just not moving as much, their movement wasn’t being recognized by the brain as much

Why does this matter to you?

Like I’ve said before, movement and pain are competitive inhibitors, meaning they cancel each other out.  This is often responsible for the good feeling you have after exercising (outside of the hormonal response) and chiropractic.  Chiropractic being the donor of full, accessible, pain-inhibiting range of motion signals to your brain.

But those mice have arthritis and I don’t!

Maybe.  Not to be a debbie downer, but most people have knee/elbow/shoulder/wrist/low back pain that isn’t really pain per se, but is inconvenient or annoying.  That’s the very early stages of osteoarthritis, unless the reason you’re having that recurring problem (posture, movement patterns, etc.) is remedied.  Besides, wouldn’t you want your brain and joints to benefit from a full range of motion?

So, as per usual my recommendations are:  See a chiropractor, exercise intelligently with regularity, eat real foods that were designed for you, and de-stress in a regular basis.

All the best folks!

Dr. Ball

p.s. If you’re in the Oakville or Mississauga areas, come in and see me!  I’m located at Element Crossfit and I’m there Monday through Friday.  Cheers!  Click here to book an appointment with me or give me a call at (647) 268-4703.