An upcoming school year means pens, pencils, notebooks, and other essentials that fit into a new backpack. While manufacturers often focus on style, sizes, and what you can carry, good backpacks should also be designed for optimal back support.
Tablets or other e-devices replacing heavy books at many schools means less stuff to carry. Still, your child or teen might overstuff their pack and create back problems, especially on their lower back.
Researchers define lower back pain (sometimes called lumbar back pain) as pain in the backfrom the level of the lowest rib down to the gluteal fold. That pain may or may not travel to the legs.
Researchers estimate chronic lower back pain has increased over 100 percent among adults during the last decade. Physical concerns aside, the increasing burden of lower back pain creates a massive financial strain, costing Americans over $90 billion a year.
Lower back pain is also a common complaint among children and teens. Researchers estimate that while about 30 in 100 children and adolescents experience back pain, very few go to see their doctor.
Lower back pain often begins in childhood and increases with age. By age 15, 20–70 percentof children will report some back pain. This pain can recur, often more intensely. Overall, back pain occurs in 60–80 percent of people during their lifetime. Children with lower back pain are more likely to have back pain during adulthood.
What Causes Lower Back Pain in Children?Low in the back, the lumbar vertebrae -- five vertebrae linked by joint capsules, ligaments, tendons, and muscles, with extensive innervation — are the last free-moving vertebrae in the spine, while the sacral and coccygeal sections are fused and extend into the buttocks.
The buttocks, groin, thighs, and legs are anchored here, and the nerves that move through the lumbar spine affect lower intestines and reproductive organs.
Lower back pain, the most common type of back pain, is not a disease but a symptom with many causes. Doctors can usually diagnose underlying causes from the type and symptom of back pain.
Nighttime back pain usually comes with fever and weight loss that could indicate a tumor or infection. Acute back pain, chronic back pain, and back pain associated with fever could likewise come with associated symptoms that suggest possible diagnoses.
Among the most common causes of lower back pain, which can occur separately or together, include:
Back pain can also impact other muscles, including tight hamstring muscles and weak abdominal muscles, especially among adolescents.
While you might be tempted to blame the lower back pain on a heavy backpack or poor posture, lower back pain oftentimes doesn’t have a single culprit. In fact, one study could not find a specific cause for back pain in 78 out of 100 children.
Instead, many things children do every day can contribute to lower back pain. Spending a long time watching television and over-engaging in sports can create or exacerbate back pain. The increased roundness of the back that can occur sitting slouched is a common cause of pain in the middle or thoracic spine rather than lower back.
But obesity, familial history, and being sedentary are also possible risk factors for low back pain among children. Many things your child or teen does nearly every day — including carrying a backpack — can compound that lower back pain.
In most children and adolescents, the symptoms of back pain are transient and get better without treatment. Research shows that about half of all teenagers with back pain get better on its own.
While lower back pain is often not a serious condition, sometimes it can signify underlying causes such as:
Symptoms of Back Pain (and When to See a Doctor)Symptoms of lower back pain vary dramatically. Among them include:
If your child sees a doctor for back problems, they will conduct a physical examination along with a history of back pain. To understand more how the problem developed, they will likely inquire about certain conditions.
Writing down the following information ahead of time can be helpful for your visit:
Doctors can usually treat back pain without radiographic or laboratory studies for most children and adolescents without significant physical findings, short duration of pain, and a history of minor injury.
Patients with more concerning physical findings or history might require further treatment for the affected area.
Diagnosing tools for low back pain include X-rays, bone scan, computed tomography (CT) scans, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), and positron emission tomography (PET).
Especially if they suspect inflammation or infection as a factor in lower back pain, your doctor might also conduct blood tests including a complete blood cell count (CBC), erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR), and C-reactive protein (CRP).
Acute strains typically resolve after rest and modifying activity. To speed the process, doctors might also recommend ice to relieve swelling and pain. A warm compress might subsequently help relax muscles and decrease muscle spasm.
While persistent pain might warrant a doctor visit, back pain doesn’t often require emergency treatment. For those times it does, the primary reasons for visits include trauma and muscle strain.
Children’s Backpacks and Lower Back PainUsing a backpack allows carrying school books and essentials to distribute the heavy load evenly across the back and shoulder muscles. Backpack overload, however, can strain the back, neck, and shoulders.
Carrying a heavy backpack can become a culprit for lower back pain. Heavy book loads or poorly distributed weight can put pressure on the lower back, shoulders, and neck. Backpacks for teens are often larger, which encourages heavier weight loads that contribute to back problems. The back will compensate for any load over an extended period of time. A heavy backpack can:
Some students including athletes might overstuff their backpack with equipment, sneakers, and other accessories, compounding the problem.
Children and teens sometimes carry a backpack on one shoulder, creating additional problems to compensate for the uneven weight. The spine leans to the opposite side, stressing the middle back, ribs, and lower back more on one side than the other.
This type of muscle imbalance can cause acute muscle strain, muscle spasm, and back pain. Left uncorrected, this can contribute to back problems later in life.
Altogether, this strain adds up — literally and figuratively. While researchers debate heavy backpacks and back pain, the American Academy of Pediatrics guideline recommends that backpacks not exceed 10 to 20 percent of the child’s body weight.
How to Minimize Pain Caused by BackpacksFurther strategies to find the best kids’ backpack and ensure your child or adolescent properly carries a backpack to minimize strain and pain on the lower back and other regions include:
7 Ways to Minimize Lower Back PainDepending on the source population and definition of pain, 9–66 percent of children suffer from back pain. Prevention is the best strategy to minimize low back pain. These seven strategies can help.
1. Emphasize good posture.Encourage your child to stand up straight and avoid slouching. This can become easy to do with extended computer use, watching TV, and playing video games. Children and teens can learn good posture with practice. One exercise program researchers used for posture correction among students for 20 minutes, three times a week over eight weeks helped reduce musculoskeletal pain.
2. Be mindful of sleep.Research shows sleep disruptions can create adverse short- and long-term health consequences. Without sufficient sleep, your child is more prone to injury, poor posture, and impaired judgment that can impact lower back pain. Sleep quality and quantity matter (aim for at least seven to eight hours of quality, uninterrupted sleep nightly), but don’t overlook culprits for back pain including a worn-out mattress.
3. Foster active relaxation.Psychological factors including depression, anxiety, and chronic stress can also impact lower back pain. Research shows that low back pain is more common among school-age children with high levels of psychosocial difficulties, conduct problems, or other somatic disorders. (This might require a therapist to determine underlying issues.) Whether that involves meditation, mindfulness, massage, or just watching funny movies, help your kid find something that brings happiness and joy. Encourage them to do it daily.
4. Encourage stretching and core strength.We sit too much and don’t move enough. Over-sitting creates tight, tense muscles that can manifest as low-back pain. Encourage your child to stand up every hour or so (set their phone alarm if necessary) and stretch their hamstring muscles. Research shows compared with education alone, regular exercise (in this case, four spinal movements) plus education can reduce low back pain in children aged eight to 11. Regular low-impact walking can help. Strong core muscles can also help support your lower spine. Pilates, which focuses on core strength, can help improve pain and functional ability.
5. Take an Epsom salts bath.After a hectic day, a warm bath can provide heat therapy to achy muscles while helping your child or adolescent relax. Add one cup of Epsom salt to a warm bath to soothe sore muscles and joints while giving your young one this undervalued mineral that can lower pain and inflammation.
6. Be mindful of over-exercise.Being sedentary can contribute to low back pain, but so can over-exercise. Back pain occurs in 10–25 percent of athletes and is more common among football players and gymnasts. If your child or adolescent engages in an intense physical activity, be especially emphatic about self-care and optimal recovery.
7. Increase anti-inflammatory nutrients.Inflammation can underlie back pain, and doctors sometimes prescribe pain relievers like NSAIDs. An anti-inflammatory diet, supplemented with omega-3 fatty acids, can also help lower inflammation. One review found that omega-3 essential fatty acids complement the pain-relieving aspects of NSAIDs, and studies show these anti-inflammatory fatty acids can successfully treat spine-related pain. Look for a fish oil combined with vitamin D, which could help with pain management especially with deficiencies in this vitamin.
Visiting a Chiropractor for Lower Back PainLower back pain is a common motivation for a chiropractic appointment, though even that is sometimes under-utilized. Chiropractic is a safe source of relief of that nagging, sometimes debilitating, lumbar-region pain.
One randomized, double-blind, controlled clinical trial evaluated the levels of pain in patients with problems in their lower back before and after a lumbar adjustment. Every indicator of pain improved for the treatment group, with no changes in the control group.
If your child or teen experiences back pain at any level, but especially in the lower lumbar region, visit a chiropractor. While medication may be designed to block pain, chiropractic is all about safely and effectively getting to the cause.
From a purely mechanical perspective, chiropractic care for lower back pain will typically include adjustments to these segments. Don’t forget those adjustments also have an impact on the organs you don’t feel, not just the muscles and select nerves that you do feel.
No child or teen must ever settle with lower back pain, and correcting this issue will help minimize or eliminate pain as they become adults. While most situations become better with time, a physician or chiropractor can help correct persistent lower back pain. Utilizing these strategies (including a good backpack that supports back health) can ensure your kids have a healthy, happy school year.
Stress permeates your life today in so many different ways. It impacts you with obvious glitches like being stuck in freeway traffic or having your boss yell at you when you under-delivered on a project. When you hear stress, you likely imagine its emotional impact, but its effects can also be physical like over-exercising or under-sleeping.
What Causes Stress?
Researchers define stress as “any situation which tends to disturb the equilibrium between a living organism and its environment.”
Among the many stressors that you might face today include work pressure, examinations, psychosocial stress, and physical stresses due to trauma, surgery, and various medical disorders.
Everyone deals with stress differently, and what might stress one person out would hardly bother another person. You might perceive rush-hour traffic as an hour of misery to grind your way through, or you might use it as an opportunity to catch up on phone calls. A work presentation can feel like a herculean challenge or an opportunity to show your skills.
While stress might feel like stress – meaning, miserable and uncomfortable – researchers divide it into three broad categories. “Stress management can be complicated and confusing because there are different types stress — acute stress, episodic acute stress, and chronic stress — each with its own characteristics, symptoms, duration and treatment approaches,” says the American Psychological Association (APA).
Acute stress can be quick and uncomfortable, but that short-term stress is… well, temporary. It goes away, and it might even make you stronger or more resilient. Chronic stress, on the other hand, sticks around long after its welcome. It can sabotage your health and happiness.
Within those short-term versus long-term categories, stress comes in different “flavors,” including traumatic, physical, and the most common, emotional. Because it occurs so common, let’s focus on emotional stress here.
Its effects are similar to depression. With persistent emotional stress, you might lose or gain weight. You might notice sleep changes. You maybe feel isolated and struggle with mood swings. Needless to say, these feelings and changes can sabotage your life and your happiness.
Other signs of emotional stress include anxiety, having memory lapses, feeling fatigued and worn down, avoiding friends and family, not being in the mood for sex, and mood swings that practically everyone around you notices.
Everyone feels those things occasionally, but when you almost constantly feel tired, anxious, or want to isolate yourself from others, those can be signs that emotional stress has overpowered your life. And that’s nothing to take lightly.
Stress and Your Spine
People understand the link between emotional stress and things like ulcers, heart disease, and headaches. But emotional stress also impacts those tight muscles in your neck and shoulders. That stress, coupled with stress added to other areas including your limbic system, meninges, and spinal cord, can have an impact on posture and contribute to poor spine health.
Stress impacts your spine in numerous ways. One study discussed in the May 2001 issue of Popular Science looked at a group of college students who repeatedly lifted 25-pound boxes. A special measuring device calculated the pressure on the students’ spines.
During the first half of the experiment, the researchers offered words of encouragement to participants while they performed their tasks. But during the second half of the experiment, they were criticized. That criticism didn’t bother some students, but it sure did others. In particular, introverted students who didn’t handle criticism well disliked repetitive work had an almost 27 percent increase in pressure on their spine.
That result is important for different reasons. One, because stress impacts everyone differently. You might be able to “roll with it,” but not everyone can.
Two, a 27 percent increase of pressure on the spine is more than enough to subluxate someone. “What this shows is that there is a body-mind interaction that manifests itself as pressure on the spine,” said William Marras, professor of industrial engineering at Ohio State University.
Of course, if you already suffering from spinal alignment issues, your spine is weak and stress will have a far greater negative impact on your health.
Stress’s impact on your spine could come in other forms, including athletic competitions or even non-physical stressful situations like talking on the phone with your head tilted at an angle, sitting at a computer, or any kind of repetitive work while experiencing a job’s pressures.
Except for major physical traumas, most spinal issues likely occur from a combination of physical, chemical, and emotional stressors. Clearly, if you are subluxation free – already living with your spine in line – you can better withstand those forces.
But few of us do. Almost-constant stressors impact even the strongest spines, which is why keeping your spine its ideal state becomes so important. Otherwise, daily stress will undoubtedly take its toll.
Side Effects of Stress
Emotional stress can adversely impact your spine, which can also trigger or exacerbate numerous other health problems. Emotional stress can manifest in different ways, including anxiety, depression, and hostility.
Research shows women and men handle stress differently. Women have a greater risk for depression and anxiety, whereas men have a greater risk for alcohol-use disorders. For both genders, that’s bad news.
Emotional stress can also adversely impact many hormones including glucocorticoids, catecholamines, growth hormone, insulin, and prolactin. Some of that impact gears you up for the fight-or-flight response, but research shows these hormonal imbalances can negatively impact problems including obesity as well as your adrenal and thyroid glands.
Impacts of Stress
Along with those hormonal imbalances, stress impacts numerous areas of your life. Some common issues and side effects of stress include
1. Gut problems.
Epidemiological data indicates along with depression, emotional stress might influence the development of gastrointestinal disorders and cancers. One study with 23,698 people found stress and depression related to digestive diseases including functional dyspepsia (FD), irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), and reflux esophagitis. Depression was also linked to peptic ulcer disease and adenoma/carcinoma of the colon and stomach.
Emotional stress can crash your immune system. In fact, one meta-analysis of over 300 empirical studies spanning three decades found psychological stress could negatively impact your immune system. You’ve probably experienced this after having a crazy week at work and then you suddenly fall ill on the weekend. It’s not in your head: Stress can seriously impact your immune system.
3. Skin problems.
The most common trigger for inflammatory skin disorders, including psoriasis, is emotional stress. Think about someone who has an emotional reaction to something and subsequently breaks out in hives or a rash.
4. Oxidative stress.
Think of oxidative stress as your body rusting. “Oxidative damage is what happens when nasty rogue molecules called ‘free radicals’ attack your cells and DNA, damaging the body and aging you from within,” says Jonny Bowden, Ph.D. Research shows emotional stress can trigger or exacerbate oxidative stress, leading to problems including anxiety, depression, schizophrenia, and bipolar disorder.
Emotional stress can encourage comfort-food eating, overeating, eating disorders, and fat-regulating hormonal imbalances. Once again, think back to a hectic week at work or a fight with your significant other. If you’re hitting the freezer for butter pecan at 11 p.m. more often than normal, emotional stress could play a role in those eating habits.
Along with depression, researchers link emotional stress with increased risk for Type 2 diabetes. Obviously, chronic diseases like diabetes are multifactorial. A sugar-filled diet coupled with inactivity can certainly contribute to Type 2 diabetes, but conventional practitioners often overlook things like emotional stress for these conditions.
7. Lack of physical activity.
Research shows emotional stress can impair efforts to be physically active. Interestingly, exercise is one of the best mood boosters on the planet, yet if you’re feeling any type of emotional distress, you might be more likely to hit the couch than the weight room.
Sleep disrupts how you sleep and creates sleep disorders including insomnia. If you’ve had something weighing on your mind and tossed for hours, you know how emotional stress can impact sleep quality and quantity.
The list goes on and on. Emotional stress impacts nearly every area of life, and left unmanaged, it can sabotage your health, happiness, and overall quality of life.
Your child often exhibits rambunctious, restless behavior that sometimes includes anxiety, aggressiveness, and inability to concentrate.
His teacher requests a conference. When you meet up, she mentions your child often gets distracted, says he needs frequent reminders to finish his homework, and interrupts other classmates. She even calls him hyperactive.
Your question becomes, is this normal behavior for children his age, or could this indicate a deeper underlying problem?
What is ADHD?If a child exhibits these behaviors nearly constantly, your doctor might diagnose him or her with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).
Characterized by hyperactivity, inattention, and impulsivity, ADHD is one of the most common childhood disorders that, left unchecked, can continue into adolescence and as adult ADHD.
“Everyone has trouble at times with paying attention, listening, or waiting,” says an article on Kids Health. “But people with ADHD have trouble with these things almost all the time. They’re not doing it on purpose. ADHD is a medical condition that affects a person’s attention and self-control.”
Experts aren’t entirely sure “what is ADHD” (or what causes ADHD). Some suspect genetics, environment, or some combination of these and other factors contribute to this condition. Like any disorder, multiple factors probably contribute to signs of ADHD; what we call a multifactorial problem.
Regardless, how ADHD symptoms can impact social interaction and wellbeing are vast and differ dramatically among children. ADHD-related symptoms include learning disabilities, depression and anxiety, antisocial behavior, bipolar disorder, and sleep disorders (including bed-wetting problems).
By the way, people often confuse ADHD with attention deficit disorder (ADD), but there’s a difference that’s worth mentioning. ADD is a type of ADHD that doesn’t involve constant movement and fidgeting, but the definitions aren’t entirely clear-cut.
“The confusion dates to 1994,” says WebMD. “That’s when doctors decided all forms of attention-deficit disorder would be called ‘attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder,’ even if the person wasn’t hyperactive.” Throughout this article, we’ll use ADHD.
ADHD in Children: Troubling StatisticsThe American Psychiatric Association argues about five percent of children have ADHD. Other studies show higher numbers: According to the latest information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about eight percent of children were diagnosed with ADHD in 2003. By 2012, that number grew to 11 percent and will likely continue to rise.
An increase in ADHD medications accompanies that diagnosis. (More on those in a minute.) The percent of children ages four to 17 using ADHD medications increased from 4.8 percent in 2007 to 6.1 percent in 2011. About three in four children aged two to five with ADHD – in other words, ADHD in toddlers or in that age range – received medication, based on healthcare claims data from 2008-2014.
ADHD doesn’t discriminate: ADHD can impact anyone regardless of gender, race, or socioeconomic class. At the same time, males have three times the risk compared with females. One particularly alarming statistic: The rate of ADHD among non-Hispanic black girls increased a whopping 90 percent from 2001 to 2010.
Actually, that isn’t the only alarming statistic. ADHD symptoms include difficulty focusing and paying attention, difficulty controlling behavior, and hyperactivity. Other statistics equally troubling include:
“While ADHD medications do not always work perfectly for everyone, in many cases they take effect almost instantly,” says Ariana Eunjung Cha in The Washington Post. “Behavior therapy, on the other hand, can take many months to have an impact and often requires significant trial and error to figure out which strategies work.”
Medications to treat ADHD include methylphenidate (Ritalin) and amphetamines (Adderall). Some researchers believe that physicians are more likely to prescribe medications to those with more severe ADHD compared with those exhibiting milder symptoms.
Regardless of who gets them, as Cha notes, “the long-term effects of those drugs on a young brain and body have not been well studied, and the side effects can be numerous, including poor appetite, sleeplessness, irritability and slowed growth.”
And they’re heavily prescribed. Government statistics in 2016 found about 75 percent of young children with ADHD received medications – that’s three out of every four children showing signs and symptoms of ADHD! – leading U.S. health officials to urge parents try behavior therapy first before trying drugs.
But drugs are also a big business. In a 2014 Psychology Today article, Dale Archer, MD, notes that the sale of these medications is now five times what they were in 2002, with revenues exceeding $8 billion per year.
Many parents don’t want to keep their child on a drug with side effects, which can be vast and in the bigger picture exacerbate ADHD-related problems. According to Roy Boorady, MD, sleep problems, moodiness and irritability (especially once the medication wears off), headaches, and delayed growth are just some of the side effects with ADHD medications. Others includedecreased appetite, weight loss, increased blood pressure, dizziness, and nervousness.
A Different Approach to ADHDEveryone is different; a concept called biochemical individuality. It likewise makes sense that every child with ADHD, rather than lumping everyone into one category, will exhibit different behaviors and symptoms.
According to Mark Hyman, MD, every case of ADHD is unique, with different imbalances that require different diagnostic tests and therapies.
“We give names to disease like depression or ADHD,” he says in his book The UltraMind Solution, “but that just helps us group people together who have the same symptoms for the purposes of giving them all the same drug therapy.”
In other words, you go to your doctor, who diagnoses your child with ADHD, writes a prescription, and makes a referral to see a behavioral therapist. That might be oversimplifying the process somewhat, but that becomes a typical experience many parents have.
Practitioners like Hyman take a different approach to disorders like ADHD: Rather than assign a label onto the problem and write a prescription or make a referral, they determine what might be creating that problem to begin, and set about correcting it.
That often takes time, trial-and-error, and effort, but ultimately it becomes a far more effective approach to remedying ADHD.
At the same time, research shows some simple but powerful dietary and lifestyle modifications can have a profound effect on ADHD. Food often becomes the place to begin. What your child eats can profoundly influence behavior including attention, conduct disorder, and mood.
All-Natural Strategies for Dealing with ADHDADHD can be a complex disorder that requires multiple approaches to remedy, but taking the right steps can help your child become a more confident person and a more focused student. Armed with the right tactics, they can grow into healthy, happy, well-adjusted adolescents and adults. These strategies can help.
1. Cut the sugar.The link between sugary processed foods and ADHD is less than conclusive, but any parent knows how overeating sugar can leave any kid – especially a child with ADHD – feeling jittery, rambunctious, and overly energetic. “Numerous studies have looked at the relationship between refined sugar and ADHD,” says Archer. “Most indicate sugar does not play a role, while mothers in the trenches with children bouncing off the walls often disagree.” Archer recommends letting your child eat sugar and monitor his or her behavior in a written log for one week. Then remove sugar the following week. Repeat until you have four weeks of data and compare the results.
2. Eat more anti-inflammatory foods.Foods like wild-caught fish and freshly ground flaxseed (in protein smoothies) are great, but if your kid won’t touch those, supplements can also help. One systematic review and meta-analysis found omega-3 fatty acid supplementation, particularly with higher doses of the fatty acid eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), could modestly help treat ADHD. Researchers concluded “given its relatively benign side-effect profile and evidence of modest efficacy, it may be reasonable to use omega-3 fatty supplementation to augment traditional pharmacologic interventions or for families who decline other psychopharmacologic options.”
3. Increase antioxidant intake.One study with 76 children found significantly increased oxidative stress in those with ADHD. Foods high in antioxidants include berries and other fruits and a colorful assortment of vegetables. Give your kids as many varieties of these as he or she can eat, and make them fun with snacks like organic apple slices with almond butter. Load up their smoothies with organic berries. Dark chocolate is also rich in antioxidants. Look for a low-sugar dark chocolate with at least 70 percent cacao.
4. Address nutrient deficiencies.A nutrient-poor diet high in sugar means many children aren’t getting optimal nutrients, and many medications can further deplete those nutrients. Take vitamin B6: The body needs this vitamin to convert tryptophan into your feel-good neurotransmitter serotonin, and insufficient serotonin can manifest as mood disorders including ADHD. Other research shows kids with ADHD have significantly lower levels of vitamin D. A full spectrum of nutrient deficiencies is beyond this article’s scope. Please work with your chiropractor or other healthcare professional to test for nutrient insufficiencies and address supplementation to optimize those levels.
5. Eliminate food sensitivities.Elimination diets have been used for decades to treat ADHD. They typically demand at least a two-to-four-week period where someone strictly adheres and completely avoids potentially problematic foods. Researchers connect gluten sensitivities with ADHD, and dairy can also create problems. Consider pulling the usual suspects – including dairy, gluten, and added sugars – for at least three weeks (maybe longer or even permanently) and see if ADHD symptoms don’t improve.
6. Mind the gut.Researchers speculate dietary components that modulate gut microbiota might also influence ADHD development or symptoms. Because dopamine (your “reward” neurotransmitters) are abnormalities and deficits in reward processing are hallmarks of ADHD, researchers believe the microbiome might contribute to ADHD development via the gut-brain axis. Further studies will elucidate those and other gut-brain connections, and researchers believe a better understanding about the gut microbiome might provide new possibilities for ADHD prevention and treatment.
7. Implement regular exercise.Exercise has a powerful effect on your body but also your brain, and research shows it can impact structural brain growth and functional neurocognitive development, benefiting children with ADHD. What becomes important is finding a type of exercise your child enjoys and will actually stick with consistently. That might mean team sports, lifting weights, or yoga.
8. Get sufficient sleep.Sleep problems and sleep disorders go hand-in-hand with ADHD. A vicious cycle occurs as poor sleep impacts behavioral issues and other ADHD symptoms, and ADHD can subsequently interfere with sleep levels. Researchers recommend good sleep hygiene as a first line of therapy here. Ensure your child has a set bedtime each evening, find rituals to help him or her unwind before bed, and minimize stimuli like TV watching or video games. Some children with ADHD might require nutrients like melatonin to fall and stay asleep safely. Speak with your chiropractor or other healthcare professional to discuss non-invasive sleep options.
9. Incorporate mind-body therapy.Research shows yoga, Tai Chi, and meditation are among the many tools that can significantly improve symptoms of ADHD among children. These therapies provide a wide range of effects on psychosocial, emotional, and neurobiological functioning, and one study found they can also reduce costs over a 10-year period compared with medications. (Never mind that techniques like medication carry no side effects, unlike medication.) Find something your child will do. If yoga classes are akin to a dental visit, those feelings could amplify ADHD symptoms. At the same time, giving your child an opportunity to try these mind-body therapies could yield improvements in mood, behavior, and other factors.
10. Visit a chiropractor.With growing concerns about medications, more people are seeking alternative approaches to treating children with ADHD. One review among four males, (nine to 13 years old) found improvement in ADHD symptoms including hyperactivity, impulsivity, and inattentiveness, as well as behavioral, social, or emotional difficulties who received chiropractic care for at least five months. A chiropractor can also help you further address a dietary and lifestyle protocol that addresses the specific needs of your child.
With these strategies, you can naturally address ADHD whether you or your child is taking medication or not. Patience and time are keywords here. Every situation will be different, so slapping a label onto a child and then medicating him doesn’t look at the underlying factors that could contribute to ADHD.
That’s why I encourage you to work with your chiropractor and/or your team of healthcare professionals to address your body’s whole health. And please, never ever take anyone off ADHD medication or discontinue any protocol without permission of your qualified practitioner.
Feeling “tired all the time,” constant exhaustion, struggling with morning fatigue that leads to extreme tiredness and makes you want to crawl back into bed, and needing an energy drink or venti dark roast as a mid-afternoon pick-me-up oftentimes signify an underlying problem or more often, problems.
Chronic fatigue is not normal, and usually you can detect underlying culprits that roadblock you from steady, sustained energy.
Chronic Fatigue Syndrome Extreme tiredness is epidemic today, fueled by our get-more-done mentality coupled with poor lifestyle choices including insufficient sleep, excessive stress, a bad diet, and nutrient deficiencies.
At its worst, extreme fatigue manifests as chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), which occurs when someone feels tired most of the time, and that fatigue has lingered longer than six months.
Even with sufficient rest, if you have chronic fatigue syndrome, you still feel excessive tiredness. Physical and mental exertion feels like a herculean chore, and when you do exert yourself, symptoms like muscle weakness, headaches, mental fatigue, joint point, and fever only get worse.
Chronic fatigue syndrome can persist for years. Doctors remain baffled about what causes this condition, and we have no tests to officially diagnose chronic fatigue syndrome. To make matters more confusing, chronic fatigue is a symptom of many illnesses, so ruling out other conditions can become a challenge.
But practitioners can narrow down the culprits. Beyond chronic fatigue lasting longer than six months, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) classifies chronic fatigue syndrome as having at least four of the following physical symptoms:
Why chronic fatigue syndrome occurs is unclear and complex. Researchers surmise immune or adrenal dysfunction, genetics, or a history of childhood trauma. Depression, pain, and sleep disturbances frequently occur with chronic fatigue syndrome.
If you suspect chronic fatigue syndrome, you should find a practitioner who can uncover underlying issues that contribute and also shows sympathy about your condition.
Unfortunately, patients sometimes feel frustrated they haven’t been able to get answers from their doctors or online research. They might see symptoms like chronic fatigue as “in their head” or that they lack motivation or willpower. That’s not true, and don’t let any healthcare professional – or anyone, for that matter – let you feel that way.
Causes of Extreme FatigueMany people struggle with fatigue, which has many causes; some obvious, others not so much. Causes of chronic fatigue include inadequate sleep, a bad diet, insufficient exercise, and metabolic and hormonal imbalances. A vicious cycle ensues as fatigue impacts these issues, which in turn worsen your fatigue.
Fatigue management requires a multifactorial approach that begins by finding the root cause or causes of your “tired all the time” feeling. Among those causes, which sometimes overlap and exacerbate each other, include:
On the other hand, chronic fatigue might result from one primary culprit like poor sleep, stress management, a bad diet, or not getting the right nutrients. See if these five strategies help increase energy levels. (As a “bonus,” they’ll provide many other benefits.)
How to Combat Fatigue1. Eliminate sugar and processed foods.Eat a candy bar and see how your energy levels pan out 15 minutes later. Better yet, bypass this science experiment altogether. Sugar and other quick-fix carbohydrates give you a little shot of energy but at a huge expense: Those blood sugar spikes nosedive quickly, leaving you feeling drained. If nixing sugar completely feels like a herculean task, gradually trade it for lower-sugar foods and transition off sugar. Instead of those afternoon pretzels, for instance, have a handful of nuts.
2. Reduce or eliminate potential energy thieves.That late-morning dark roast might give you a temporary boost, but if you metabolize caffeine poorly or use caffeine as a crutch for things like bad sleep, coffee can backfire on your energy levels. Ditto alcohol, which might assuage your nerves but leave you drained or mentally foggy a few hours later. If you suspect these or other substances might create fatigue, track your intake and how you feel several hours later in a journal.
3. Get 8 – 9 hours of sleep nightly.In his book Adrenal Fatigue, Dr. James Wilson recommends going to bed before 10:30 PM and stay in bed until 9:00 AM. That’s not always possible, but getting at least eight hours of deep, rejuvenating sleep can do wonders to reverse chronic fatigue.
4. Exercise smartly.Spending hours at the gym isn’t doing your chronic fatigue levels any good. The most effective way to exercise and increase your energy is through the high-intensity interval training (HIIT). These short, intense “bursts” give you quite a workout and an invigorating post-workout energy.
5. Find your ways to reset your energy button.For some people, taking 20 minutes during the afternoon for meditation can feel like recharging your phone battery. Maybe yoga or deep breathing is your thing. Even pausing for a minute or two and focusing on your breath (you can find some cool apps for that) can help steady energy levels and zap fatigue.
Chronic fatigue can hijack your health and happiness. No problem carries a one-size-fits-all solution, and that especially proves true here. Working with a chiropractor or functional-medical practitioner can help pinpoint the underlying problems that create chronic fatigue. While the process isn’t always easy – it might involve things like testing, nutrients, and lifestyle modifications – reclaiming steady, sustained energy and feeling vibrant is possible for even the hardest-to-treat chronic fatigue cases. You never need to settle with constantly feeling lethargic.
“Simply put, degenerative disc disease refers to symptoms of back or neck pain caused by wear-and-tear on a spinal disc,” says Brian J. McHugh, MD. “In some cases, degenerative disc disease also causes weakness, numbness, and hot, shooting pains in the arms or legs (radicular pain). Degenerative disc disease typically consists of a low-level chronic pain with intermittent episodes of more severe pain.”
While they can happen in any area of your spine, McHugh says degenerative disc disease commonly happens in your neck (cervical spine) and lower back (lumbar spine). These areas of your spine undergo the most motion and stress, making them most susceptible to disc degeneration.
Your Spinal Cord: Your Backbone (Literally) for Overall HealthYour spine is made of 33 individual bones or vertebrae — some of which fuse, naturally, such as the bones making up the sacrum — stacked one on top of the other, that provides serious support for your entire body. Your spinal column helps you stand up, bend, twist, and otherwise move about.
Between each of those vertebrae is a disc, which separates and cushion your vertebrae so they don’t rub together.
“Discs are designed like a radial car tire,” says the Mayfield Clinic. “The outer ring, called the annulus, has criss-crossing fibrous bands, much like a tire tread. These bands attach between the bodies of each vertebra. Inside the disc is a gel-filled center called the nucleus, much like a tire tube.”
A healthy, well-hydrated disc contains sufficient water that gives your spine cushioning and flexibility. Interestingly, intervertebral discs show degenerative and aging changes earlier than any other connective tissue in your body.
Those intervertebral discs serve several purposes. They hold your spine together, allow you to move, and absorb the impact of that movement. If you over-strain those discs, they can bulge and rupture or herniate.
Fluid keeps those discs nicely lubricated so that doesn’t normally happen. But when those spinal discs gradually lose fluid, the rigid outer shell of the disc weakens and begin to collapse. That collapse can put pressure on your nerves in the spinal column.
When these discs degenerate, they can’t fulfill their primary functions to cushion and provide mobility between the vertebrae. Instead, these intervertebral discs become dehydrated, lose elasticity, and collapse.
A strong core supports healthy spinal movement and alignment. Your body’s “core” consists of lower back and abdominal muscles. When you’re carrying groceries or doing squats with your trainer, these muscles stabilize your body. Without these muscles, you can’t do even simple daily activities.
These abdominal and low back muscles work together to maintain the spine’s proper alignment. When your spine’s structure becomes compromised, your spinal cord struggles to communicate effectively with your body.
To understand this better, imagine your core as a cast for a broken arm. Once the bone becomes reset, your doctor puts a hard cast around your arm bone so it heals quickly and properly.
Without that cast, even a reset broken bone couldn’t heal properly doing basic tasks like driving. Over time, that would create a painful structural deficiency that could limit mobility.
That’s what happens when these discs can’t function optimally. A herniated disc or bulging disc can become real problems, yet even without herniating, stressing your spinal discs limits mobility and potentially suppresses your immune system’s ability to fight disease.
In fact, the slightest misalignment of spinal bones puts pressure on your spinal cord, impeding the ability of your brain and body to communicate. Spinal cord pressure can damage the function of any system or organ in your body.
When spinal bones lose proper alignment or movement — in a condition we refer to as the vertebral subluxation complex — they aggravate surrounding nerves and tissue that can disrupt basic organ function. When this type of subluxation occurs, symptoms occur including:
What Causes Degenerative Disc Disease?Age, for one, but gender, genetics, smoking, cardiovascular disease, obesity, physical inactivity, occupational factors (repetitive heavy lifting and vibration), spinal instability, and malalignment also contribute to degenerative disc disease.
In other words, age and genetics can certainly contribute to disc degeneration, but far subtler yet impactful are the daily wear-and-tear episodes — things like heavy lifting or forceful bending — that weaken these discs.
Let’s consider how that might practically play out. You wake up feeling stiff, and while you’re pouring that first cup of coffee, you notice your significant other left a gigantic bag of dog food by the kitchen door. You lift it incorrectly, putting strain on your lower back.
You then drive to work slumped over the steering wheel, arriving at your desk job where you slouch and hunch over your computer for hours.
Eventually, these seemingly minor or innocuous actions create neglected, weakened muscle tissue that your spine needs for support. When you neglect those muscles, eventually vertebrae can get stuck in an abnormal movement pattern, affecting the alignment of the entire spine. This strains your spinal discs and nerves, kick-starting the development of degenerative disc disease.
Who Gets Degenerative Disc Disease?Degenerative disc disease is more common than you might think. About 30 percent (if not more) of 30–50-year-olds have some degree of disc space degeneration — from mild degenerative disc disease to severe degenerative disc disease — though that degeneration isn’t always painful and many never receive a formal diagnosis.
Altogether, about 70–85 percent of people experience lumbar back pain during their lifetime.Degenerative disc disease is one cause, but things like disc herniation, spondylolysis (stress fracture in the pars interarticularis of the vertebral arch), and spondylolisthesis (where one vertebrae slides forward over the vertebrae below it) can also create that pain. Isolating one cause can be a challenge, and for most people, several factors contribute.
Those repercussions can become costly. Low back pain that occurs from degenerative disc disease is the single most common cause for disability for people 45 years or younger, with national economic losses exceeding $100 billion per year, mainly indirect due to reduced productivity.
Treating Degenerative Disc DiseaseMostly, researchers aren’t entirely sure what causes degenerative disc disease, and without symptoms like pain to isolate where it comes from, understanding it can become a challenge.
Again, pain here is good. It helps your practitioner understand where disc degeneration occurs.
Researchers recommend being mindful about the timeline of pain, radiation of pain, prior episodes of trauma, and what might trigger those and other symptoms.
Many patients complain about pain radiating down both buttocks and lower extremities, and practitioners can determine whether the pain is localized to the lower back or if radiation occurs to the leg(s). After all, radiating pain as the main issue can help better treat this problem than having lower back pain that potentially comes from muscle fatigue and strain.
Treating degenerative disc disease often requires a multifactorial approach. Specific chiropractic adjustments improve the movement and alignment of your vertebrae, but you need to also do supplementary core exercises and maintain good posture for healthy spine alignment. While a strong core is helpful, it is not the antidote to degenerative disc disease.
1. Seek Specific Spinal Correction. If you suspect degenerative disc disease, have your spine analyzed as soon as possible. Depending on your age, weight, and lifestyle habits, your spinal discs may already be under a lot of pressure. Spinal correction can relieve this pressure and bring the spine into a better position.
2. Become proactive.Evaluating the health of your spine is the single most effective way to prevent the gradual worsening of degenerative disc disease. Be mindful of basic activities like not putting too much strain on your lower back and maintain good posture.
3. Rethink exercise.Crunches are so 1980s. Among their damage, they strain your discs. Skip them for basic planks, side planks, and working with a stability ball. A personal trainer mindful of spinal issues can create exercises that strengthen your core without straining your spinal cord.
4. Stretch regularly.Make a habit to stretch when you wake up and before you go to bed for 5–10 minutes. Doing so improves flexibility, boosts blood flow, and loosens tight, aching muscles. Stretching shouldn’t hurt. If you experience pain when you stretch, see your chiropractor or other healthcare professional immediately.
5. Reduce inflammation.Like with most problems, chronic inflammation plays a role in degenerative disc disease. One of the best ways to prevent degenerative disc disease or reduce its impact is with an anti-inflammatory diet that includes wild-caught fish, leafy and cruciferous vegetables, freshly ground flaxseed and chia seed, and herbs and spices like turmeric and ginger. Researchers in one study found compared with ibuprofen, the omega-3 fatty acids in fish and fish oil demonstrating an equivalent effect in reducing pain and “appear to be a safer alternative to NSAIDs for treatment of nonsurgical neck or back pain.”
Chiropractor @Main Health Solutions Meridian