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.

Benefit Of Nuts

By: Dr. Alyssa Musgrove

If you’re looking for a quick, convenient, nutrient-dense snack option, you really can’t do better than a small handful of raw nuts or seeds. There are a host of health benefits associated with eating raw nuts, which some experts even refer to as a “superfood.”

The Mayo Clinic notes that eating nuts can lower your LDL, or bad cholesterol, while improving the health of your artery linings.  In addition, nuts and seeds are an excellent source of protein, antioxidants, fiber, amino acids, minerals and omega oils. These nutrients boost heart, brain and digestive health, while fighting free radicals. The high fat and protein content of nuts also helps with satiety and controls hunger by stabilizing blood sugar.

Almonds are the most nutrient-dense nut. The almond skin is rich in antioxidants including phenols, flavonoids and phenolic acids. A study in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry revealed that one serving of almonds contains a similar amount of polyphenols as a cup of steamed broccoli or green tea! Almonds also have one of the highest protein contents of nuts, nearly one gram of protein per almond.

Brazil nuts contain a high amount of the trace mineral selenium, which is a powerful antioxidant and aids in boosting the immune system. It is believed that selenium can benefit heart health by its ability to fight inflammation and increase blood flow.

Cashews contain a large amount of oleic acid, a heart-healthy fat. They are also a great source of biotin, copper, iron, magnesium, and zinc.

Hazelnuts are rich in many antioxidants, as well as vitamin E, arginine and B vitamins.

Macadamia nuts have the highest protein concentration in one serving. They are also a great source of fiber, magnesium and potassium.

Pecans contain over 19 vitamins and minerals! They are second highest in protein content and include calcium, copper, folic acid, manganese, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, zinc and include B vitamins, as well as A and E.

Pine nuts may help with weight loss because they contain pinolenic acid, which triggers the release of an appetite-suppressing hormone. Pine nuts are most often used in recipes to make pesto.

Walnuts have recently been hailed a “superfood,” due to high levels of omega-3 fatty acids, linoleic acid, vitamin E, and vitamin B6.  Pumpkin seeds are a nutritional powerhouse with a wide variety of nutrients ranging from copper and zinc to magnesium and manganese, and are also high in protein. The high zinc content in pumpkin seeds can boost prostate health.

(It’s important to point out that, although commonly viewed as a nut, peanuts are actually legumes and grow underground. For a variety of reasons, I do not recommend my patients eat peanuts.)

While nuts and seeds are very healthy, they are high in fat and protein. It is very easy to overindulge in nuts, eating too many servings (and thus consuming too many calories) in one sitting. One serving is considered one ounce. The following list details how many nuts are in a single serving. Eating a variety of nuts is your best bet, and moderation is crucial.

Almonds (20-24 nuts): 160 calories, 14g fat, 6g protein

Brazil Nuts (6-8 nuts): 190 calories, 19g fat, 4g protein

Cashews (16-18 nuts): 160 calories, 14g fat, 4g protein

Hazelnuts (18-20 nuts): 180 calories, 17g fat, 4g protein

Macadamia (10-12 nuts): 200 calories, 22g fat, 2g protein

Pecans (18-20 halves): 200 calories, 20g fat, 3g protein

Pine Nuts (150-155 nuts): 160 calories, 14g fat, 7g protein

Walnuts (14 halves): 190 calories, 18g fat, 4g protein

Pumpkin seeds (140 hulled) calories 153, 13g fat, 7g protein

When purchasing nuts, look for raw options. Roasted nuts are often processed in hydrogenated oils (a harmful fat source), which destroys the nutritional benefit nuts have in their raw form.  Additionally, roasted nuts are frequently coated in sugar or other unhealthy ingredients.  If you prefer roasted nuts and seeds, roast them yourself so that you can control the roasting temperature to keep the nuts as nutrient-dense as possible. Raw pumpkin seeds, for instance, can be roasted on a low-heat setting in the oven (no more than 170 degrees Fahrenheit for about 15 to 20 minutes), and sprinkled with Himalayan or other natural salts.

Nuts are a simple addition to your daily diet. Add pumpkin seeds to healthy sautéed vegetables. Sprinkle nuts on top of a mixed green salad for enhanced crunch. Add chopped nuts to hot oatmeal to increase the protein and fiber content. Eat nuts with your fruit and yogurt, or add to your granola. You can also create a simple pre- or post-workout snack by mixing nuts with dates and dried fruit for a healthy homemade 3-ingredient energy bar.  Or, throw together this simple trail mix for an easy snack on the go:

Superfood Trail Mix

Recipe courtesy of thehealthyfamilyandhome.com

  • 1 cup organic almonds
  • 1 cup organic cashews
  • 1/2 cup organic goji berries
  • 1/2 cup organic dried mulberries
  • 1/2 cup organic dried blueberries
  • 1/2 cup organic sunflower seeds
  • 1/2 cup organic cacao nibs
  • 1/2 cup organic coconut flakes

Combine all ingredients in a medium size bowl and toss well. Store in an air-tight container until ready to eat.

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.