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The Shoulder Position or 10 minutes to a new you!

Hey Folks!

So it has taken me a little longer to get to this than I had planned, but here it is; What to do in the case of some poor shoulder positioning.  This is going to help you improve your function, meaning better pendlay rows, better overhead squats and better just about everything involving your arms, as I mentioned earlier.  It’s going to make your posture better, which is going to make you sexier and may even improve your confidence.  The world looks better when you’re standing upright with good posture.  For serious.

As a disclaimer:  I am only really speaking about the typical abducted and rolled forward shoulders that we see in the dreaded D-bag/Bridal shoulder position.  This is also known as “upper cross syndrome” but that makes it sound like you’re stuck with it.  We’re going to unstick you.  Keep in mind, there are plenty of other poor shoulder positions, but most of them just aren’t as common, especially among Crossfitters.  Now then… Let’s get started!

So first things first, have someone look at you (ideally shirtless, or with some tight clothes on) from behind and assess where your scapulae are hanging out while you stand comfortably.  If they look like the ones in this photo… then YOU are a victim of the D-bag/Bridal shoulder.  Oh the horror.  Here is what you need to do.

 

Notice the position of the “shoulder blades”

Do the following every time you’re in the gym (and if you aren’t in the gym regularly, you need to be doing this at LEAST 3x a week, and ideally 5x a week if you care about making progress):

Step 1 – roll your pecs out with a lacrosse ball (about a minute per side) – you can do this by leaning into a wall with the lacrosse ball placed just below your clavicle

Find some sore spots in your pecs with the Lacrosse ball

Step 2 – Stretch out your upper traps and suboccipitals for a minute per side – Sit on your hand and tilt your head away from the side of the hand your sitting on, search around by keeping your head tilted and looking down at your left shoulder, or trying to touch your ear to your shoulder (without cheating and shrugging your shoulder up to your ear).

Step 3 – Use either the two lacrosse balls taped together, or if you’re feeling ambitious, the foam roller – place them at the apex of your mid back (thoracic spine) curve (this is usually between the shoulder blades and with the Lacrosse balls, they’ll be straddling your spine) between you and the ground.  Place your hands on an empty barbell above your head in what would be your snatch or overhead squat position.  You can reposition the foam roller/lacrosse balls higher or lower depending on how you feel.  Spend a minute or two (depending on what you can tolerate) in this position.

Awesome.  So the goal of these stretches is to break up some adhesions and help create some “slack” in your pecs, and traps/suboccipitals.  This will also help open you up by adding thoracic extension and a stretch for your pecs.  The next step is going to involve strengthening the elements of these movements that are stretched and weakened.  Please remember… This is not Crossfit. This isn’t trying to move a large load a long distance quickly.  This is trying to hold a mild to moderate load still for a long time – so I guess it’s kind of the opposite?

Why would I want you to train these muscles differently than your glutes?  The main function of these muscles is to stabilize the scapulae, not to forcefully retract them – so we want to improve your muscular endurance, not your contractile power.  Once you’ve achieved better positioning, it WILL make developing more contractile power easier though.

You are going to ADD these exercises to your pec and trap stretches and you are essentially going to be doing them indefinitely.  Or at least until you have achieved better shoulder positioning, and the overhead squat is your new favourite lift.

Step 1 – Lie on a bench/chiro table/bed on your stomach with your head hanging off the edge.  Lift your head up as high as possible while also keeping your face parallel to the rest of your body.  You are still looking at the floor – NOT at the wall in front of you.  Hold this for 30 seconds to a minute and then relax.  Repeat once or twice more, depending on your tolerance.

Step 2 – If you’re really ambitious, you can combine this with step 1.  While you’re lying there on your stomach, point your thumbs towards the floor with your arms out at your sides and lift them up off the bed/table/bench.  You should feel the contraction between your shoulder blades.  Hold this for 30 seconds to a minute and then relax.  Repeat once or twice more, depending on your tolerance.

Chin tucked, head back, scapulae squeezed together. Hold.

Dig it!  There is all sorts of cool stuff you can do in addition to these stretches/exercises, but for now I would stick to this program.  It’s simple, it’s relatively easy and it only takes about 10 minutes.  You can spare 10 minutes to save your shoulders.  Future you will appreciate it.  Future you will also be crushing bodyweight snatches and smiling while she does it.

Cheers Folks!

 

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

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

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.

Why Chiropractic? or Where did these demons in my spine come from?

Why Chiropractic?

Hey Folks, time for another awesome blog post about the best thing since sliced back bacon… Chiropractic!

A common question I receive from the non-chiropractor-seeing population (and sometimes from the chiropractor-visiting population as well) is “Why do I need to see a chiropractor?”

Have a seat, (with good posture, of course) this may take a while…

This guy can exorcise the demons in your spine.

Chiropractic operates under a different paradigm than medicine.  This wouldn’t be a problem if it weren’t for the fact that the only health care model that most of us are exposed to from birth onwards is the medical model.  Many folks never see a chiropractor in their lifetime (a single tear rolls down my cheek for those people).  Even then, some who DO see a chiro never learn about our paradigm as sometimes it’s just easier to try and fit chiropractic into the medical model.  To really understand WHY you should visit a chiropractor, we need to delve deeper into the chiropractic wellness paradigm.

Here’s the gist of our model:  Aside from some (very few) exceptions, we all share the same genetics that are designed to express health.  Unless you believe that absolutely everything you do is preordained, you have to believe that the choices you make in life have an impact on it.  I’m here to tell you that provided the right environment (created by your choices), your body (and its’ genetics) have no choice but to make you healthy, happy and wealthy (ok, maybe not wealthy).  So when we think about our health in this light, it’s our choices that determine how healthy we are.  There are no tricks, no hacks and no shortcuts (Sorry, Tim Ferriss).

“Life is hard!”

I’m not a fan of that saying at all.  Life isn’t hard, life is awesome.  Life can however, lead to misalignment/motion restrictions/problems with your spine and its’ joints.  Some chiropractors like to call these problems, “subluxations”.  I personally don’t care what you want to call them, I just want your spine moving better.  Like avoiding exercise and eating junk, having these adaptations (subluxations) in your spine is a bad thing.  Subluxations can be caused by traumas in the large sense, like being born, being hit by a car/linebacker or falling off a ladder.  They can also be caused from small incremental things, like poor posture, sitting too much and repetitive motions.  Toxins like gluten, heavy metals, allergenic substances (depending on your allergies) can cause them as well as things as simple as stress (just think about your posture in a stressful situation… not good).  As you can imagine, this means living life can frequently lead to these problems in your spine.

“But then I would have them ALL the time!”

False.  We’re humans.  Anyone who’s ever dropped a baby knows that we’re designed to be resilient.  A baby can recover from a small drop but if the baby falls from a decent height or you start dribbling the baby like a basketball there might be some problems.  A simple and effective way to think about these causes of subluxation, is as stressors.  Stress is a stressor (D’uh?), but so is gluten, too much sitting and taking a line drive to the solar plexus (I’ve always wanted to use that in a sentence).  Pain is also a stressor.  The effects of these stressors are FAR reaching and reducing/eliminating them is responsible for the far reaching effects of chiropractic.  I will get into this in more detail next post, as your attention span is most likely fried by now.

Cheers!

Dr. Adam Ball

P.s. I’m on Twitter and Facebook these days.  Now you can comment here, send me a message or heckle me on my wall.  Either way, I love hearing from you guys!