Simple Steps to Improve Balance and Prevent Falls

By: Dr. Alyssa Musgrove – Pathways to Healing

Here are a few sobering statistics: One in three adults over the age of 65 has a serious fall each year. About 20 percent of women who fracture a hip become permanently disabled and another 20 percent die within a year.

While the elderly population is more prone to falls that can lead to serious complications, balance is important for all ages. Balance training can benefit everyone – whether you are older and want to improve basic day-to-day function or an athlete wanting to enhance performance and prevent injuries. With balance, it’s always best to be proactive. If we work on enhancing our balance and stability now, we can help prevent serious falls and injuries later.

The key to maintaining our balance is staying active. By staying active and continuing to challenge our balance, we can improve our overall stability. While improving balance will certainly help protect you from falls, it also can help improve overall mobility and fitness, while also allowing you to maintain independence and complete daily activities with ease.

Below are six strategies you can begin incorporating into your daily routine to help strengthen the muscles that keep you steady on your feet.*

1. Incorporate simple exercises. The following exercises help strengthen the core and lower-body muscles, which are critical for stability.

* Exercise 1: This move helps improve one-legged balance. With feet together, pick up one foot with the knee facing forward or to the side. (Be sure to keep a stable chair or wall within arm’s reach for safety.) Hold the position with eyes open, then closed. Switch feet and repeat for four reps on each foot. You can also try to do this while you are washing the dishes. Once you can hold the pose for 30 seconds on each side, stand on a less stable surface, such as a couch cushion. To increase the challenge even more, do it with your eyes closed.

* Exercise 2: The same sobriety field test cops give drunk drivers also improves balance. Take 20 steps forward, heel to toe. Then walk backward, with toe to heel, in a straight line.

2. Strengthen those knees. Knee strengthening exercises, like leg presses and lateral movements with the arms, can help build strength. As knee strength builds, it helps improve proprioception awareness with the mind and body, and also allows you to continue a movement or action in place far longer with proper form.

3. Consider Tai Chi or Yoga. Studies show Tai Chi participants were less likely to fall than those who took part in basic stretching programs or made lifestyle changes. Yoga works, too: According to Temple University research, women 65 and older who took twice-weekly yoga classes for 9 weeks increased ankle flexibility and showed more confidence in walking. That last part is important, says lead researcher Jinsup Song, PhD, “because when people are fearful of losing balance, they tend to do less to challenge themselves.”

4. Work your core. This table top exercise increases core strength, which is directly linked to your balance. Using a mat to protect your knees, get on all fours on the floor in table top position. Make sure the back is flat and the neck is aligned with the spine. While looking at the floor, raise and extend your right arm and your left leg at the same time. Keep a tight core. Hold for 3–5 seconds and repeat on the other side. Perform 10 reps on each side.

5. Focus on the legs. Sturdy legs can help prevent a stumble from turning into a fall. To build quads, start with a simple squat: With feet hip-width apart, bend knees and hips and slowly lower yourself as if sitting in a chair behind you. Keep arms straight out, abs tight, back straight, and knees above shoelaces. Stop when thighs are parallel to the floor or as close as you can get, then contract the gluteal muscles in your buttocks as you stand back up. Aim for three sets of 10, with a  one minute break after each set.

6. Sleep more than seven hours a night. A study at the California Pacific Medical Center showed how sleep deprivation reaction time is directly related to falls. Researchers tracked nearly 3,000 older women and found that those who typically slept between five and seven hours each night were 40 percent more likely to fall than those who slept longer.

By incorporating these techniques, you should notice improvements in your balance, coordination, posture, core strength and agility. Most importantly, you’ll help prevent future falls and be able to maintain your independence for years to come.

*It is always important to seek expert training and support when possible. Work with a physical therapist or licensed trainer to ensure you are selecting the right exercises to help you reach your goals safely and effectively. If you have severe balance problems or an orthopedic condition, get your doctor’s clearance before doing balance exercises.

Pathways to Healing specializes in holistic chiropractic care. Dr. Alyssa Musgrove draws on a variety of techniques, including chiropractic, kinesiology, nutrition, food allergy testing and lifestyle counseling to assist clients in achieving optimal health and wellness in one setting. Pathways to Healing is located at 1022 Founders Row, Lake Oconee Village, Greensboro. The office can be reached at 706-454-2040.

Tips For Golfers

By: Alyssa Musgrove – Pathways To Healing

Photo credit: Visit Lake Oconee

Golf is a challenging and often frustrating sport. Many golfers feel the mental component of the game is their greatest challenge, and undervalue the biomechanics and conditioning required to play the game well and play the game longer. This is a mistake that can lead to poor play and injury.

An extreme amount of compressive force – up to 10 times a person’s body weight – is exerted on the spine during the golf swing. Every joint involved in the swing is taken through its maximum range of motion. Many golfers contort their bodies into oddly twisted postures, generating a great deal of torque. Couple this motion with a bent-over stance, repeat 120 times over three or four hours, add the fatigue that comes with several miles of walking or hot summer weather, and you’ve got a recipe for lower back trouble.

“Most golfers go until they get hurt, then look for help,” says Dr. David Stude, member of the American Chiropractic Association (ACA) Sports Council and founding fellow of the National Golf Fitness Society. “Back pain is a warning sign there is an underlying problem responsible for a symptom that will likely get worse. Doctors of chiropractic look for the cause of the symptom and help reduce the likelihood of future injury.”

There’s a reason Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer have all relied on chiropractic care throughout their careers. Tiger Woods has said, “…lifting weights and seeing a chiropractor on a regular basis has made me a better golfer. I’ve been going to chiropractors for as long as I can remember. It is as important to my training as practicing my swing is.”

Aside from regular chiropractic adjustments, Dr. Stude and the ACA suggest these simple measures to help you avoid back pain or injury, and improve your overall game:

  • Purchase equipment that fits. Don’t adapt your swing to the wrong clubs. Someone six feet tall playing with irons designed for someone five inches shorter is begging for back trouble.
  • For women: If you have “inherited” your significant other’s golf clubs, beware. Not only are the clubs likely too long, the shaft is often not flexible enough for a woman’s grip. Women play better with clubs composed of lighter, more flexible material, such as graphite.
  • For men: While men are traditionally stronger than women, they usually aren’t as flexible. Men should spend extra time stretching before and after play to increase trunk flexibility. Improved flexibility helps men maintain a more even and consistent swing plane, which leads to more consistent performance.
  • For senior golfers: If you show signs of arthritis in the hands, consider a larger, more specialized grip for added safety and performance.
  • Take lessons. Learning proper swing technique is critical. At the end of the swing, you want to be standing up straight; the back should not be twisted.
  • Wear orthotics. These shoe inserts support the arch, absorb shock, and increase coordination. Studies show custom-made, flexible orthotics can improve the entire body’s balance, stability and coordination. This translates into a smoother swing and reduced fatigue.
  • Photo Credit: Foot Levelers

    Warm up before each round. Stretching before and after 18 holes is the best way to reduce post-game stiffness and soreness. Take a brisk walk to get blood flowing to the muscles; then do a set of stretches. To set up a quality stretching and/or exercise routine, see a chiropractor or golf pro who can evaluate your areas of tension and flexibility.

  • Pull, don’t carry, your golf bag. Carrying a heavy bag for 18 holes can cause the spine to be compressed, leading to disc problems and nerve irritation. If you prefer to ride in a cart, alternate riding and walking every other hole. Bouncing in a cart can be hard on the spine.
  • Keep your entire body involved. Every third hole, take a few practice swings backwards and with the opposite hand to balance out the stress put on the back and rest of the body. Imagine going to the gym and working only one side of your body everyday for years, neglecting the opposite side. Golf tends to create this same type of imbalance in your spinal column, setting the stage for injury.
  • Drink lots of water, especially in the heat. Dehydration causes early fatigue. When fatigued, we compensate by adjusting our swing, which increases the risk of injury. Smoking or drinking alcoholic beverages while golfing also causes dehydration.

If you golf consistently, you will no doubt feel the stress of the game. But by following a few simple prevention tips, it is possible to play pain-free. Chiropractic care is an effective solution for golfers who seek to rid themselves of pain and have a successful and enjoyable golf game!

Pathways to Healing specializes in holistic chiropractic care. Dr. Alyssa Musgrove draws on a variety of techniques, including chiropractic, kinesiology, nutrition, food allergy testing and lifestyle counseling to assist clients in achieving optimal health and wellness in one setting. Pathways to Healing is located at 1022 Founders Row, Lake Oconee Village, Greensboro. The office can be reached at 706-454-2040.

Why Is Shoulder Pain So Common?

By: Dr. Alyssa Musgrove – Pathways to Healing

The shoulder is the most complex joint in the human body. Studies show nearly 90 percent of the population will tear or damage their rotator cuff, labrum and/or shoulder capsule at some point in their lives. Most of us are unaware of how important the shoulder is until we injure it. Shoulder pain of any sort can make daily activities like combing your hair, brushing your teeth, sleeping and getting dressed complicated and painful.

The reason for the high prevalence of shoulder injury is due to the anatomy and structure of the shoulder. The human shoulder is made up of a complicated system of bones, joints, connective tissue and muscles. The shoulder’s ball and socket joint allow for excellent mobility, but unfortunately a joint cannot be both highly stable and highly mobile. In the case of the shoulder, mobility comes at the expense of stability.

There are many ways we can injure the shoulder, such as falling, throwing, lifting, painting, cleaning, swinging a tennis racket or golf club. Problems can also occur from natural wear and tear over time. One of the biggest challenges in managing shoulder pain is finding the origin. Shoulder pain can be musculoskeletal in nature, it can be referred pain from a visceral organ, it can result from overuse (as in the cases of bursitis or tendonitis), there can be tears in the connective tissue, bone spurs or muscle imbalance.

What’s more, the shoulder is slow to recover from injury. Some research shows only about half of all new shoulder pain episodes achieve complete recovery within six months. Factor in aging, chronic health conditions that slow healing (like diabetes), and hobbies or jobs that are repetitive in nature and increase the risk of re-injury, and it is easy to see why many don’t make a full recovery from shoulder pain.

Chiropractors, physical therapists, acupuncturists and orthopedists are just a few specialists who can help ease shoulder pain. The use of manipulation, mobilization, magnetic field therapy, TENS unit and modalities like cold lasers can help tremendously, but some shoulder injuries do require surgery. If your shoulder pain has not resolved on its own by resting 1 to 2 weeks, you should check with your doctor. However, that does NOT mean you should wait two weeks before seeing someone about your shoulder. Some people ignore nagging pain for weeks or even months, but the sooner you see a doctor the quicker you can begin treatment and resolve the issue before surgery becomes the only option.

When it comes to keeping our shoulders healthy, an ounce of prevention is truly worth a pound of cure.  Here are a few ways to protect your shoulders on a daily basis:

  1. When working with your arms overhead, take small breaks to let the shoulder recover.
  2. Do not reach in the back seat and lift a heavy purse, bag or briefcase at an awkward angle in order to get it to the front seat.
  3. If you are facing a challenging task, request a helping hand. Do not feel insecure about asking for help.  It is better to be safe than sorry!
  4. Follow an exercise program that maintains strength in your shoulders and contains opposition exercises to keep the shoulder muscles balanced. For example, if you are going to do push-ups, make sure you also do pull-ups. In this way, both sides of the body are strengthened for optimal balance and pain-free function.

The following stretches can be done at home to help further balance the shoulder joint and prevent simple injuries:

90, 90 shoulder stretch
Stand in your doorway, holding your arms up so your elbow is at a 90-degree angle and your arm forms a 90-degree angle to your body at the shoulder. Place each hand on the side of the door frame making sure your wrist and elbow also make contact with the door frame. Place both feet in the doorway and lean forward as you brace yourself against the door frame. Make sure your neck is aligned with your spine. Do not drop your chin — keep it parallel to the floor. Hold the stretch for 20-30 seconds and repeat 2-3 times.

Pendulum exercise
Bend at your waist with one hand hanging down and your other arm supporting your upper body on a table or chair. Relax your hanging arm completely and swing it gently and slowly in a figure 8 direction in both clockwise and counterclockwise. You can grasp a light weight, such as a soup can, while smoothly swinging the arm. Circle 10-15 times each direction, do 1-2 sets per day.

Finger wall walks
Face a wall. Using one arm at a time, slowly walk your fingers up the wall, moving your arm upward as far as you can reach comfortably. Then walk your fingers gradually back down the wall (STOP if there is any point of pain). Repeat 10-20 times.

Cross-body reach
Lift one arm at the elbow and bring it up and across your body and hold a stretch for 20-30 seconds. Each day try working on reaching further across your body in order to increase mobility.

Towel stretch
Take a small towel that is about 3 feet long and hold each side with your hand. Bring the towel behind your back and grab the opposite end with the other hand. Pull the top arm upward while also pulling the other lower arm downward to stretch your shoulders. You can also hold the towel on both ends while pulling with both arms to keep the towel tight and raise your arms in front of you and above your head, keeping elbows straight at all times.

Pathways to Healing specializes in holistic chiropractic care. Dr. Alyssa Musgrove draws on a variety of techniques, including chiropractic, kinesiology, nutrition, food allergy testing and lifestyle counseling to assist clients in achieving optimal health and wellness in one setting. Pathways to Healing is located at 1022 Founders Row, Lake Oconee Village, Greensboro. The office can be reached at 706-454-2040.

Are You At Risk For Osteoporosis?

By: Dr. Alyssa Musgrove – Pathways to Healing

As many as 54 million Americans have low bone density, and many of them don’t even know it. Ten million Americans have such low bone density they actually have osteoporosis.

Osteoporosis is a bone disease that occurs when the body loses too much bone, makes too little bone, or both. Advanced osteoporosis usually presents with symptoms such as bone pain, backache, curvature of the upper spine presenting as a hump, and loss of height from vertebral compression fractures. 

However, osteopenia (characterized by low bone mineral density that is not extreme enough to be called osteoporosis) and early-to-middle stages of osteoporosis are silent diseases that have no symptoms. A diagnosis of osteopenia or osteoporosis is often found accidentally, such as when a bone is being x-rayed to determine the existence of a fracture. Typically, when low bone mass shows up on an x-ray, as much as one-third of the person’s bone mass has already been lost.

You could be at risk for low bone density and osteoporosis if you:

  • Are a woman – especially if you’ve had a hysterectomy or are postmenopausal
  • Are over 50 years old
  • Have an inactive lifestyle
  • Have amenorrhea because of extreme exercise
  • Have a history of an eating disorder or under-eating for many years
  • Are a heavy user of alcohol, tobacco, caffeine, sugar or carbonated beverages
  • Have a chronic health disorder such as diabetes, malabsorption condition, celiac disease, or hyperthyroidism
  • Are small-boned and consistently below normal weight for someone your size
  • Are, or have a history of, taking certain prescription medications long-term, such as steroids (cortisone and prednisone), certain birth controls and anticonvulsants
  • Have a history of cancer treatments, including chemotherapy or radiation
  • Are deficient in certain key nutrients, including vitamin D, vitamin K, calcium and magnesium
  • Have a low level of testosterone – even if you are a woman
  • Have a family history of osteoporosis, fractures or bone disorders

The only way to truly detect the bone loss associated with osteopenia is with a bone scan – most commonly a low-radiation DEXA scan (Dual-Energy X-ray Absorptiometry) of the hip and spine. A bone scan can detect even small changes in a person’s bone density.

Our bodies are constantly making new bone, however, as we age, we tend to start losing more bone than we create. The good news is, it’s never too late to focus on bone health. Here are a few simple ways you can help increase your bone density naturally:

ExerciseExercise, especially “weight-bearing” types, is needed to keep muscles strong, sustain skeletal strength and help maintain bone density. Weight-bearing exercises include any type of exercise that forces you to work against gravity.  Weight-bearing exercises require your bones and muscles to support your body weight, while also enhancing coordination and balance. (Coordination and balance are important for preventing the slips, falls and accidents that wind up causing a serious fracture or injury.) Examples of weight-bearing activities include walking, dancing, yoga, skiing, tennis, body weight exercises using resistance bands/cables, or even lifting soup cans. Aim to do weight-bearing exercises at least 3 to 4 times per week for 30-60 minutes in duration.

Eat a Bone-Healthy Diet – Focus on eating bone-healthy foods that are high in vitamin D, vitamin K, calcium and magnesium. Incorporate a variety of green leafy vegetables like kale, bok choy, broccoli, and cabbage. (Spinach should be avoided as a source of calcium, because it is high in oxalates that bind calcium.) Fish, such as sardines with small, edible bones, are an excellent source of calcium and oily fish, especially wild-caught salmon, are a good source of vitamin D. Other great sources of magnesium and calcium include: almonds, sesame seeds/sesame butter, beans and legumes, avocadoes, and dark chocolate.

Keep in mind that while eating foods high in vitamin D, vitamin K, calcium and magnesium is encouraged, it can be difficult to get the ideal amounts from your diet alone. This is primarily because the amounts of these nutrients in foods can vary widely. For example, a study of the vitamin D content of salmon found an average of only 240 IU of Vitamin D3 in farmed salmon compared to an average of 988 IU vitamin D3 in 3.5 ounces of wild-caught salmon. 

Optimize Vitamin D Levels – Vitamin D helps the body improve calcium absorption. Spending most of your time indoors and avoiding the sun may mean that your body isn’t making the vitamin D it needs to help maintain bone mass.

It is best to obtain Vitamin D naturally by exposing your bare skin to sunlight for about 15-20 minutes every day.

If you are at high risk for osteopenia or osteoporosis, talk to your doctor about having a bone density test (DEXA) and check your vitamin D levels. No matter the current state of your bone health, incorporating these simple tips today can help you prevent fractures or complications in the future.

Pathways to Healing specializes in holistic chiropractic care. Dr. Alyssa Musgrove draws on a variety of techniques, including chiropractic, kinesiology, nutrition, food allergy testing and lifestyle counseling to assist clients in achieving optimal health and wellness in one setting. Pathways to Healing is located at 1022 Founders Row, Lake Oconee Village, Greensboro. The office can be reached at 706-454-2040.