Mindfulness; it’s become a popular topic for mental health and well-being, but what does it actually mean, and where does it come from? Mindfulness, a form of meditation, has its roots in Buddhism. It is one group of many meditation techniques that originated in Eastern religious or spiritual traditions. Today, it is often practised to help with stress reduction.1
Most commonly, mindfulness meditation is used to help modify a person’s response to stress. A growing body of research shows that the practice is effective in reducing stress and improving mood, and may even help to improve cognition in older adults.2 It has also been shown to improve anxiety, sleep disturbances, stress, and chronic pain.
There are a few other reasons why mindfulness meditation is gaining in popularity: it involves low physical and emotional risk, is easy to implement, is not expensive, and it has the potential to empower people to be more actively engaged in their mental health.2
Many mindfulness exercises involve practising just that—being mindful. It involves focusing on breath, posture, and the space you occupy at the present moment. Often, even just adding a few minutes of meditation to your routine per day can make a big difference in your overall sense of mental well-being. Here are some tips to help add meditation to your daily routine3:
- Choose a time. Morning is a calm time in many people’s days, but choose what’s easiest for you and stick to it.
- Choose a place. Consistency of space can be helpful to ground your practice. Preferably choose a place that’s quiet and where you can sit quietly and relax for a few minutes each day.
- Choose a duration. It’s good to decide before you start how long you’re committed to. Start with five minutes, and slowly build upon it.
- Set an intention. At the beginning of each meditation, remind yourself why you are meditating that day.
- Set your posture. This is about more than spinal health: having a healthy posture increases alertness in your meditation, and it helps keep you focused. (There are more posture tips below.)
- Take a few deep inhales, and a few deep exhales, allowing your body to unwind. As you breathe out, focus on relaxing different muscles and areas of the body with each breath, moving in one direction up (or down) the body.
- Choose an object of attention. Not necessarily a physical object, but a point of focus, such as the breath as it flows in and out of the nostrils, or the chest, as it rises and falls with each breath. With a relaxed body and an open posture, this keeps your meditation focused on the present.
Remember, concentration involves placing your attention on one thing or in one place. Mindfulness is noticing everything in its purest form, moment-to-moment. Neither of these things come easily. Meditation is a practice, not just an activity, so it takes time to develop it as a skill unto itself.3
Here are a few tips for setting your posture: try sitting on a chair or cushion. When you first start each meditation, it’s best to find back support in a chair or sit with your back against a wall to maintain a straight-back position. In this position, let the rest of your body hang freely. You can rest your hands on your knees or lap. When you let your eyes close, you allow yourself to bring the attention inward to the body, and to the present moment.3
If you’re able to sit a little bit each day and be mindful of the present moment, not only will you experience noticeable benefits like the ones listed above, the practice will become easier. Commit to what’s possible for you, and stick with it. Happy meditating!
- Horowitz S. Health Benefits of Meditation: What the Newest Research Shows. Alternative and Complementary Therapies. 2010; 16(4): 223-8. doi:10.1089/act.2010.16402.
- Morone N, Greco C, Weiner D. Mindfulness meditation for the treatment of chronic low back pain in older adults: A randomized controlled pilot study. Pain. 2008; 134(3): 310-9. doi:10.1016/j.pain.2007.04.038.
- How to Meditate | New York Insight Meditation Center. Nyimcorg. 2016. Available at: https://www.nyimc.org/how-to-meditate/. Accessed November 4, 2016.
Source: CCA Blog
Vitamin D, often known as the sunshine vitamin, plays an important role in your bone health.1 It is mostly made by the body through exposure to sunlight. This is unique to vitamin D since most vitamins come from the foods you eat.1 Having too much or too little vitamin D in your body can affect the amount of calcium in your bones and can take a toll on your overall bone health:
- Low levels of vitamin D can lead to decreased bone mass (osteoporosis) which can increase your risk of fractures.1
- Too much vitamin D can lead to calcium deposits in the kidneys (kidney stones), or calcium build-up in other soft tissues like the heart, lungs, and blood vessels.2
More than 90% of a person’s vitamin D requirement tends to come from casual exposure to sunlight.3This poses some unique challenges for those whose environments limit their exposure to the sun.2 For example, in Canada and other countries in the northern hemisphere during the winter months, people are exposed to less ultraviolet light. This means in the winter in Canada our bodies produce little to no vitamin D.1 Statistics Canada reported that, in the winter months, 40% of Canadians had vitamin D levels that were below the recommended range.1 In the summer, that number is much smaller, but still a whopping 25%.1 This means that as a northern country, we often lack the exposure to ultraviolet light that is needed for enough vitamin D to be made in the body year-round.
You can get vitamin D naturally from a few foods, including egg yolks or fatty fish such as salmon or mackerel.1 In Canada, some foods are fortified with vitamin D by law to prevent the risk of vitamin D deficiency in the general population, including milk, soy milk, rice beverages, and margarine.4
This winter, increase your vitamin D intake and keep your bones strong by reading nutritional labels and seeking out products during your regular grocery shop that are fortified with vitamin D. It also never hurts to add a little bit more sunlight to your day!
For questions about keeping your bones (and the rest of your spine, muscle, and nervous system) in good health this winter (and throughout the year), you can ask Dr. Luciano Di Loreto & Associates.
- Vitamin D blood levels of Canadians. Statcangcca. 2015. Available at: http://www.statcan.gc.ca/pub/82-624-x/2013001/article/11727-eng.htm. Accessed October 17, 2016.
- Vitamin d and calcium: updated dietary reference intakes – nutrition and healthy eating – health Canada. Hc-scgcca. 2016. Available at: http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/fn-an/nutrition/vitamin/vita-d-eng.php. Accessed October 17, 2016.
- Holick M. Vitamin D: important for prevention of osteoporosis, cardiovascular heart disease, type 1 diabetes, autoimmune diseases, and some cancers. Southern Medical Journal. 2005;98(10):1024-1026. doi:10.1097/01.smj.0000140865.32054.db.
- Food sources of vitamin D. Dietitians of Canada. 2014. Available at: http://www.dietitians.ca/Your-Health/Nutrition-A-Z/Vitamins/Food-Sources-of-Vitamin-D.aspx. Accessed October 17, 2016.
Your core muscles are essential for supporting your back, stabilizing nearby joints, and reducing the risk of injury.1 A stable core helps to maintain the integrity of the spinal column and if it isn’t stable, you may experience low back pain.2 The good news is that there are a few exercises you can do to help reduce or even prevent low back pain.3,4
Below are three core exercises developed by Dr. Stuart McGill designed to increase your endurance, support your core, and, ultimately, protect your back5:
- Modified Curl-up: Lie on your back with one knee bent and the other straight. Place your hands under the arch of the low back and maintain the arch during the modified curl-up. Start by bracing your abdomen by bearing down through your belly and focus your gaze at one point in the ceiling. Lift your shoulder blades off the ground about 30° while keeping your neck and spine in line. Make sure your chin remains tucked, rather than pointing at the ceiling during the movement. Complete 3 sets of 10 to 12 curl-ups.5
- Side Bridge: Lie on your side and prop yourself up on your elbow, which should be placed directly under your shoulder. Keep your legs straight, and put your top foot on the ground in front of your bottom foot. Place your top hand on your bottom shoulder. Maintain the natural curve of your spine, brace your abdomen, squeeze your gluteal muscles, and lift your hips off the ground. Hold for 8 to 10 seconds and repeat 3 times on each side. If that’s too easy, increase the number of repetitions rather than the length of time.5
- Bird Dog: Begin on your hands and knees with your hands directly under your shoulders and your knees directly under your hips. Brace your abdomen and squeeze your gluteal muscles. Lift your right arm straight in front of you until it is level with your shoulder and squeeze your muscles between your shoulder blades. At the same time, straighten your left leg straight back until it is level with your hips, keeping your hips square to the floor. Return to the starting position in a slow and controlled manner and switch sides. That is one repetition. Do 3 sets of 8 to 10 repetitions.5
Core exercises are just one of many ways to support your back and to help with back pain. Dr. Luciano Di Loreto & Associates at Fit for Life Wellness & Rehabilitation Centre are is trained to offer a range of treatments which includes guidance on strengthening exercises.
- Abdelraouf OR, Abdel-aziem AA. The relationship between core endurance and back dysfunction in collegiate male athletes with and without nonspecific low back pain. Int J Sports Phys Ther. 2016; 11(3): 337-44.
- Gordon R, Bloxham S. A systematic review of the effects of exercise and physical activity on non-specific chronic low back pain. Healthcare. 2016; 4(2): 22.
- Willson JD, Dougherty CP, Ireland ML, Davis IM. Core stability and its relationship to lower extremity function and injury. J Am Acad Orthop Surg. 2005; 13(5): 316-25.
- Chang WD, Lin HY, Lai PT. Core strength training for patients with chronic low back pain. J Phys Ther Sci. 2015; 27(3): 619-22. doi: 10.1589/jpts.27.619.
- Callaghan J. ‘THE BIG 3’ EXERCISES FOR YOUR CORE – RunWaterloo [Internet]. RunWaterloo. 2014 [cited 8 September 2016]. Available from: http://runwaterloo.com/the-big-3-exercises-for-your-core/. Accessed November 18, 2016.
Sourced from the CCA Blog
Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis. In fact, it is a growing epidemic in Canada which is only expected to rise as the population ages. Osteoarthritis is described as the “degeneration of joint cartilage and underlying bone” often resulting in pain and stiffness. Even though osteoarthritis can affect any joint in the body, the most commonly affected joints are in the hands, knees, hips and spine. It is often considered as “wear and tear”; however, it is believed instead that it may be due to abnormal stress or injury to the joint(s).
What we know is that osteoarthritis affects one in ten Canadians. By 2040, it is estimated that approximately 470,000 Canadians will suffer from osteoarthritis1. Unfortunately, for many, osteoarthritis is a painful condition that can make daily activities very difficult.
To best manage the symptoms and prevent the progression of the condition, it is important to pay attention to early signs. Although there is no cure for osteoarthritis, there are options that can reduce the risk and relieve pain, stiffness and improve function.
Here are some early signs to take note of2:
- Joint stiffness: Aching, pain and/or stiffness usually occur in the morning or after a period of inactivity and once movement resumes. Typically, stiffness may decrease after about 30 minutes.
- Joint swelling: A person may notice some swelling in the joints and a reduction in range of motion.
- Joint crepitus: The joint may grind, grate or experience a crackling sensation, commonly accompanied by a cracking sound.
- Pain: Pain is usually worse after activity and improves with rest. Early on, the pain may only be triggered by high-impact activities but as it progresses, there may be more frequent episodes of pain. The joint pain or discomfort may affect the person throughout day.
Here are some tips to help manage the condition and prevent progression:
Exercise: Exercise can help manage symptoms while increasing your endurance and strengthening the muscles that help support the joints. Good options for activity include walking, biking and swimming. Download the Straighten Up Canada app for easy to follow exercise videos. Get moving!
Weight management: Excess weight can be an important risk factor due to the additional stress put on your weight-bearing joints. Even a small amount of weight-loss can help reduce pain and limit further joint damage.
Mobility: Gentle stretching may help improve flexibility and mobility, while decreasing stiffness and pain. Exercises like yoga and tai chi can help manage stiffness.
Heat and cold: Applying heat and cold can help relieve pain when aggravated. Heat can relieve stiffness, while ice may help with pain.
Manual therapy: Manual therapy can help provide treatment not only for pain management, but help improve function and prevent progression. Addressing biomechanical dysfunctions can help relieve pressure on joints.
Positive attitude: Studies have demonstrated that a positive attitude can help increase a person’s ability to manage pain.
Like all medical conditions, it’s important to ask questions and get the appropriate information to best manage the symptoms and slow down progression. Osteoarthritis can alter the way you live your life, speak to chiropractor Dr. Luciano Di Loreto & Associates today.
Sourced from Canadian Chiropractic Association
1 Claire Bombardier, The Impact of Arthritis in Canada: Today and over the Next 30 Years, https://www.ergoresearch.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/04/Impact%20on%20arthrisis%20in%20Canada_Today%20and%20over%20the%20next%2030%20years.pdf
2Arthritis Society of Canada, Osteoarthritis, https://arthritis.ca/understand-arthritis/types-of-arthritis/osteoarthritis