Anti-inflammatory HTPT – Smell like pancakes *and* feel better!

Last month I mentioned that I was having some trouble with my Arnica distributer (problem resolved – it’s in stock and ideal for bruises, sprains, and strains). I found a fantastic solution: Hai Tong Pi Tang. This is an ancient Chinese anti-inflammatory formula, containing frankincense, myrrh*, saffron, and a number of other herbs. The tincture is in an alcohol base, and made by a local acupuncturist. It comes in a spray bottle, so you can easily apply to any injured or inflamed area. External use only, and not on broken skin, please!

Here’s a fun bonus: The aromatic herbs combine to create a “pancake” scent. Much nicer than Ben-Gay or the usual herbal stinkiness! Watch out, though, you might get nibbled on by fans of maple syrup. :) 1oz bottle for $12, or 2 oz for $24.

frankincense resin

Frankincense resin – anti-inflamatory, anti-bacterial, and calming.

*Frankincense and myrrh have been “Moving” herbs in the Chinese pharmacopia for thousands of years. They are used to treat “stagnation,” which translates to muscular stiffness and pain, among other things. I was once on a cross-country flight when my back seized up. This was early in my acupuncture schooling, while I was still recovering from a traumatic car accident. Somehow I had neglected to pack any anti-inflammatory medication, and the flight attendants weren’t allowed to give me any. I was in so much pain, and I had hours left in that horrible seat! Then I remembered that I had brought along my herb samples to study for an identification test the next Monday. I ate the frankincense and myrrh samples – something I DON’T recommend, as they taste terrible! – and within 20 minutes my pain was gone. I’ve been a big fan ever since.

Posture: It does a body good!

Posture does more than make you look good: It’s important for your health! Being bent over creates tremendous stress on our muscles, squishes our organs, and blocks blood flow. I also affects our mood and digestion.

Modern-evolution

We all sit too much. And that tends to lead to slumping. At work, at home, in the car… it’s actually gotten worse as technology has gotten better. We’re not even staring at computer screens over a desk anymore – we’re looking down at laptops and phones, and as a result, our collective necks are becoming permanently bent!

Posture2

There’s a funny sort of cascade that happens when you are out of whack. A forward head posture, for example, is very common. In that position, the muscles that flex the neck are underworked. The muscles on the back of the neck are overstretched and cranky. The hips tend to shift to compensate, and you get a similar pattern at the pelvis.

 

 

Picture a string running from the base of your spine, up through the top of your head. Imagine yourself pulled up by that string. You will naturally straighten, and your shoulders will relax into their proper position. I like this much better than the rigid shoulders that can happen from just trying to “stand up straight.”

Of course in about 5 minutes you may find yourself back in the familiar slouch. Pull up on that string again! It takes practice, but like any habit, it gets easier the more you do it, and eventually it’ll be automatic. Yes, your postural muscles will be weak at first, but they’ll get stronger. Stick with it!

Top 8 reasons to use good posture:

1) Create confidence and elevate your mood. The link between mind and body goes both ways… you can literally lift your spirits by lifting your head!

Posture12) Reduce pain in the neck and shoulders. Your trapezious muscles get pulled tight when you slump forward, which causes all sorts of inappropriate tension.  And as you can see, keeping your head aligned is the best way to distribute the weight of your skull. A forward neck posture creates leverage that works against your body.

 

3) The individual bones of your spine – both neck and back – will be able to move more freely. This means less chance of spinal injuries or pinched nerves, and can prevent fusion between bones as you age.

4) You’ll look slimmer! Most of those “before and after” weight loss poses can be achieved with nothing more than good posture and different lighting.

5) Increase the flow of blood and cerebrospinal fluid. If you’re a collapsed beanbag, various pathways can be cut off, preventing your body from working as it should.

6) Give your digestive organs room to move. Remember, they have to push food around, from the stomach on down, to mix it with the different stages of digestive enzymes and extract nutrients and water.

7) Make a better impression on the people you meet.

8) Look up and see the beautiful world around you! The sidewalk isn’t nearly as attractive as the people, architecture, and nature around you.

Keep at it. Keep reminding yourself… eventually it will become second nature. Good posture is so important, and it may be the single simplest, free thing we can do for ourselves.

 

Chiropractic, a second look

Many D.C.s are great. If you are seeing a chiropractor and have had good success, fantastic! I am the last person to interfere with something that’s working. But if your “genius” has been “fixing” you for years and you are still the same as when you started… it might be time to rethink chiropractic.

I am NOT a fan of the subset of chiropractors who indiscriminately and overzealously use HVLA adjusting (high-velocity, low amplitude – you know, that violent cracking). Low-force chiropractic like Network, BGI, and activator is absolutely safe, and there are lots of other techniques besides HVLA that are fine. HVLA is appropriate when used to correct an acute injury, like putting a dislocated shoulder back in the socket, but it should not be a frequent therapy. Repetitive stress of supportive ligaments and the resulting inflammation will actually damage the joint.

My information comes from my time at chiropractic school (I completed the first year, including the entire series of cadaver dissection, with nearly straight A’s), my knowledge of functional anatomy as a certified personal trainer and amateur bodybuilder, my 10 year partnership with an Osteopathic medical doctor, my experience seeing patients who have been damaged by repetitive HVLA, and discussions with many physicians of all types. I welcome input from any chiropractor who is interested in a fact-based discussion.

Personally speaking, I suffered a terrible injury when my car was broadsided in the first week of chiropractic school. Their treatments were making me worse, and the more I learned in school, the more I understood why.

1) It doesn’t treat the cause of the problem. Bones don’t move by themselves. If a bone is repetitively out of place, it’s because there’s a tight muscle pulling it that way, or a weak muscle failing to hold the bone in place. Jamming the bones back will cause micro-tears of that tight muscle. It feels good immediately, because you get a nice adrenaline rush along with your temporary fix. An enlightened chiropractic teacher compared HVLA to the shock and rush you get from a shot of vodka. Addicting, but not necessarily good for you. Unfortunately, as soon as the muscle goes back to its usual tight, spasming self, the bone will be pulled back out of alignment. That’s why you need to go back to the chiropractor the next week. Acupuncture and medical massage use the neurological system to retrain those tight muscles, so real healing can begin.

2) Our ligaments and tendons are there for a reason. They provide much-needed joint stability and hold us together. Repetitive HVLA weakens them, and can destroy your joint integrity. We all know that an ankle, having been sprained three times, is pretty much guaranteed to twist again. You do not want that floppiness in your spine. You should not able to crack-crack-crack your back simply by stretching. That’s called hypermobility and it means you can move too much. If you have already been damaged by too much HVLA, you will need to strengthen your back and abdominal muscles to help support those loose ligaments and tendons. Hypermobile backs are more likely to suffer a serious injury if you have an accident (this is what happened to me!).

3) Your reflexes work against HVLA. Quickly yanking on a muscle – even a relaxed one – can cause damage and inflammation. There’s a built in protective reflex that tightens a muscle when it is suddenly lengthened. You can feel this: Fold your friend’s arm at the elbow and put your hand on their bicep. Straighten the arm quickly, and you can feel the bicep twitch under your hand. Now imagine that happening to an already-sore neck muscle being snapped.

4) The pop means nothing. The cracking sound doesn’t necessarily mean you’ve been adjusted properly. It’s called cavitation, and it means that nitrogen gas, naturally occurring in your joint fluids, has been released. A similar thing happens when you open a can of soda. The sound means the bones have been rapidly separated (opening the joint space) and then have come back together. They may have come back to the same position, a better one, or a worse one. Misalignments, when corrected gently OMM style, do not make a cracking noise because the joint space is eased into the correct position rather than violently forced.

5) First, do no harm. Some chiropractors don’t bother to diagnose which level is dysfunctional. They just “shotgun” you by cracking all the vertebrae in your spine. Then they flip you over and do the other side. Why cause stress and create inflammation in a joint that’s working? Added bonus: Whenever you have inflammation, scar tissue forms. Trauma (HVLA) every week leads to more and more scar tissue building up. That’s the last thing you need when you’re already hurting.

6) With repetitive strong adjustments, your body becomes dependent on that input. In chiropractic school we joked about “welfare spines.” I had a discussion with an instructor who was brutally blunt about the temporary nature of his treatments. “Of course they have to come back. That’s how you buy your boat.” I found that model of “medicine” distasteful and unethical. I prefer to help the body heal itself. I love acupuncture and OMM because they truly correct how your muscles function.  Combined with proper exercise*, this creates a body that is strong and capable of bouncing back after a minor injury. I don’t want to see you every week for the rest of your life. I’d prefer to get you better and self-sufficient, and then stay in business by fixing all your friends and family. :)

BTW:  “But I can’t help it!” When you are out of alignment, your body will naturally feel compelled to snap itself back in place. After my injury I used to violently crack my neck and back all the time. It never really solved the problem, though… refer to point 1 above! The good news is that the desire to self-adjust melted away when my muscles – and more importantly, the neurons controlling those muscles – were corrected by acupuncture and Osteopathic medical massage.

*Exercise is essential to strengthen weak muscles, remind tight ones how to relax, and get all your muscle fibers integrated and working together. We are built to move! I know firsthand how pain makes you want to curl up on the couch and wait for it to heal, but the hard truth is that it won’t really repair until you put in the work. Get on an anti-inflammatory diet, see me for basic physical therapy-type exercises, and start walking! Better yet, see an expert personal trainer.

 

TB-5 (immune support, neck pain)

The Triple Burner channel relates to the fluid in the upper, middle, and lower body. I believe it correlates to the lymphatic system, since it plays a large part in immunity.

TB-5 will help you fight off an infection, and relax the back of your neck.

The 5th point is named Wai Guan, or Outer Pass. Think about a pass through a mountainside: It lies between the radius and ulna bones of your forearm, about 2 inches from the wrist. “Outer” refers to the back (posterior, Yang) side of the arm, as opposed to the front (anterior, Yin) surface.

Press TB-5 firmly with a fingertip for 10-20 seconds to stimulate your immune system if you have a cold, flu, or any other type of infection. Allergies can benefit from using this point to regulate an over-active immune system. It’s also helpful for aches on the back of the head and neck.