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Caffeine has been shown to improve concentration, reduce fatigue, boost muscular power, and enhance alertness.  All of which sound appealing to any athlete.

Something else to consider is that it takes nearly 2x’s as much Red Bull and nearly 3x’s as much tea to equal the caffeine in coffee.

Here’s the kicker…the more you drink coffee the less noticeable these characteristics could become. So if your an athlete you’ll benefit more by eliminating any casual coffee drinking & instead drink it an hour or so before workouts or race.

NEW Nordic Berries & Nordic Omega-3 Jellies!!!  The health benefits are undeniable and your kids will think they’re candy…or at least ours does.

#health Downing water during heavy exercise is counterintuitive. Once digestion slows or stops water isn’t dealt with efficiently potentially leading to dehydration while having a stomach full of water

A very interesting & informative take on the gamble we take on Health Insurance.

"dropping risk factors of a Heart Attack such as cholesterol, blood pressure, weight, age, smoking reduced my odds from 1 in 5 to less than 1 in 100"

"That’s a bad bet. It’s not a good idea to bet on something that has less than 1% chance of happening, especially to bet thousands of dollars on it. You can bet a few dollars on the lottery that you’re willing to throw away, but why would you throw away thousands of dollars on this low-odds bet?"

The Lyon Heart Study compared the effects of a modified Crete (Mediterranean style) diet with those of a Step 1 American Heart Association diet.

The study showed a decrease in death rate by 70% in the experimental group and clearly showed that a modified Crete diet low in butter and meats such as deli products but high in fish and fruits and vegetables and enriched with Omega-3 fatty acids is more efficient than the American Heart Association or similar diets in the secondary prevention of coronary events and total deaths.

Babies usually begin eating foods containing gluten around 6 months of age, so those born in the warmer months would initially be exposed to gluten in the winter, when infections like cold and flu are common. Could early exposure to viral infections play a role in the autoimmune response to gluten?

DHA is one of the 2 important products of Fish Oil.  The main goal of taking a Fish Oil or an Omega-3 supplement is to have your body break down the supplement into 2 products.  One is EPA and the other is DHA.

DHA is popular now because it is being involved in many studies.  These studies are exciting because they are linking higher levels of DHA and better brain function.  One study actually shows that young students taking a DHA supplement scored higher on tests than their non-DHA taking classmates.

Like EPA, DHA is a fat that is believed to be very closely linked to making up and lining brain cells.  DHA is a healthy fat so in turn you get healthy brain cells & healthy function.  

It’s highly recommended for pregnant women to take a DHA supplement along with their Folic Acid supplement.  While pregnant my wife feels that her dedication to taking her supplements, particularly DHA, is one of the most important factors while our babies’ cells are multiplying at an exponentially fast rate.

Low back pain flare-ups are a very common occurrence.  In a single day we could bend or twist at the waist with poor mechanics roughly 20-30 times.  This repetition puts the low back musculature in a compromising exhausted state and makes it vulnerable to low back strains & sprains leading to pain and injury.

Over time the improper mechanics will form scar tissue in the soft tissue at the injury site.  This micro-scar tissue forms very similarly to scars on your skin.  It’s formed quickly and scrabbled.  This “quick patch” job lacks a good blood supply making it very difficult to become what it was pre-injury.

The initial injury puts the individual at risk for more flare-ups down the road.  Each future instance worsens the soft tissue integrity, will take longer to recover, and shorten the time periods between flare-ups.

Here are some tips to keep in mind that will help reduce your chances of flare-ups.

1)  Limit bending and twisting at the waist while holding on to heavy loads - The low back spinal bones and muscles are designed to stabilize the entire upper body while lowering you with your legs to pick items up that are on the ground.  They are not made for bending at the waist, if they were 80% of the population would not be suffering from back pain.

2)  Stabilize your core to assist the low back in limiting its forward flexion - Notice I wrote “stabilize” instead of strengthen.  The core is designed to stabilize or hold you in certain positions.  The muscles are poorly designed for lengthening and shortening, most commonly seen on the “weighted twisting abdominal machine” at most gyms.  This machine is a disc injury in the making.

3)  Stick out the glutes when bending at the knees - You always hear bend with the knees will save your back.  But what do you do about saving your knees.  When bending at the knees if your knees pass over your toes you are adding increased stress on the knee joints themselves.  Consequently performing this motion will come hand in hand with a straight low back which isn’t ideal either.  Sticking your butt out will put the natural lordotic curve into the low back spine that we want, protecting it.  This motion will also limit the motion of the knees going past your toes decreasing abnormal knee stress.

4)  Ice the area prone to injury when in pain, or without pain after an exhausting day at work or the gym - Inflammation causes pain.  Working out musculature patched together with scar tissue and overusing it at work will produce inflammation also.  Inflammation is designed to heal injured tissue but once it does it needs assistance getting out of the affected area.  Ice will pump blood and inflammation out of the area allowing the healing process to continue.

5)  Avoid applying heat after long days - Most people will put heat on areas where ice should be applied.  Heat relaxes the muscles and quite honestly feels better.  The downside is heat dilates the blood vessels allowing for an over saturation of inflammation leading to a slower healing process and potential chronic pain.

6)  Never stretch on cold muscles - One of the most common mistakes made is stretching when you wake up.  Stretching before muscles warm up and fill with blood will lead to further micro-tears at the connections between scar tissue and muscle tissue.  The idea behind stretching is to lengthen the micro-tears within muscles.  This draws blood to them helping in the healing and replacing of stronger muscle tissue.  Stretching cold will lengthen the muscle tissue around scar tissue limiting the effectiveness of stretching.

7)  Do morning stretches after a warm shower - If you understand the ideas behind 4 & 5 then this will make perfect sense.  A warm shower will dilate the blood vessels making your muscles more plyable to stretch and increases the inflammatory process (remember that it also heals injured tissue) allowing you to specifically target scar tissue filled areas.

My last post explained the benefits of eating grass fed meats & the effects on overall health and function of your body.  It’s more important than people think at first glance and changing your habits can help manage a wide range of issues including trouble sleeping, irritability, gastrointestinal issues, allergies (even seasonal), chronic or acute pain, asthma, food sensitivities, & even inflammatory diseases just to name a few.  If you haven’t switched yet or you are thinking of one of the many excuses I hear on a daily basis then these tips will help you make the right decisions at the market & may make you finally take this easy step toward better health.

1)  Organic meat is not Grass Fed meat - In most cases organic meat and grass fed are not the same.  Grass fed animals are fed a strict green leafy vegetable diet like they would in the wild.

2)  Grass fed meat tastes better - It may be difficult to believe but grass fed meat tastes better.   It’s lighter and tastes cleaner.  You’ll usually feel satisfied after meals rather than full.  Making you feel as if you ate the perfect portion size.

3)  The digestive system is built to break it down - Without any artificial products your digestive system will be more efficient at breaking it down.  This will allow for the extraction of all the essential nutrients with the least amount of work by the digestive system.

4)  Less tired after meals - Since the digestive system is more efficient at breaking down grass fed meat it won’t affect your activity level as much as eating grain fed.  Digestion favors the parasympathetic nervous system and with large, grain loaded meat, meals overpower the sympathetic nervous system and limits your activity level.  A more efficient process allows for a steady balance between the two.

5)  It’s becoming more easily accessible - People are more health conscious now more than ever, and because of this most local grocers are carrying grass fed meat.  These meats are usually kept in a separate area and if you can’t find them, ask.  Over the past 5 years I have yet to find a grocer without them.

6)  Quality over quantity - Typically pricing for grass fed meat is more expensive per pound than the grain fed.  The price is worth it because the quality is better meaning you can get smaller portions and still be satisfied.  Grain fed are usually in portion sizes that are too large leading to over eating a gaining weight.

7)  Find a local butcher - Most local butchers have great grass fed meats and favorable prices.  Not only are you getting top quality fresh products but your helping out your community.

8)  Grass fed meat has less fat per pound - Not only is grass fed meat composed of mostly healthy fats, but the fat content is much lower per pound in grass fed than grain fed.

At the bottom of the spinal cord nerve roots exit and create two sciatic nerves that travel down each leg all the way to the foot. These huge nerves supply all nerve function ranging from pain, sensation, & muscle function. When these nerves are irritated & compressed (radiculopathy) sciatica is diagnosed.

Professional evaluation should be sought as soon as possible when symptoms arise, and should include orthopedic testing & neurological evaluation to determine the cause and severity of your injury. Determining the cause is crucial because treatment and prognosis (expected time for symptoms to resolve) varies greatly depending on each case.

Piriformis Syndrome (Sciatic Nerve Impingment) - causes sciatica by compressing the sciatic nerve as it passes through the gluteal region. It is the least severe case and most often has the shortest prognosis. The piriformis muscle is one of the hip rotators. It is located under the glute max and is a short band of muscle that travels from the bony part of the side of your leg (greater trochanter) to the side of the wedge shaped bone just above your tailbone (sacrum). The piriformis runs behind (posterior) the sciatic nerve while the other hip rotators are located in front (anterior) of it. If the hip rotators are tight they will squeeze and apply pressure producing sciatic symptoms. Treatment should include scar tissue removal in the hip rotators allowing for lengthening and less pressure on the sciatic nerve.

Spinal Muscle Injury & Joint Restriction (Nerve Root Impingement) - is more serious and has a longer prognosis. When the low back is chronicly injured scar tissue develops between spinal segments.  Scar tissue accumulation ultimately reduces joint motion narrowing the space allowed for the nerve to exit the spine. This narrowing can produce neurological symptoms in the legs seen in sciatica. Treatment should include mobilizing the spine to assist in the removal of scar tissue and slowing down joint degradation helping to reduce the chances of a more serious cause of sciatica.

Disc Injury (Nerve Root Impingement) - is the most serious cause of sciatica and has the longest prognosis. Patients should only view surgery as an option if they are in this category and conservative treatments have failed. When a spinal joint has been restricted from its normal range of motion for a long period of time the joint breaks so severely that the disc, located in the middle of the joint, bulges out into the space where the nerve exits the spine. The pressure of the disc on the nerve root causes severe neurological symptoms. Treatment needs to include widening of the joint causing less pressure on the nerve root. This is typically done by traction or decompression tables that lengthens the spine. In most cases the pressure can be alleviated and sciatic symptoms will diminish. Once symptoms resolve subsequent checkups should be advised to reduce chances of exacerbation.

1) Children’s skulls are thinner & their head is proportionally larger than neck muscles - A child’s skull is thinner than an adult’s, while the mass of the child’s head is greater in proportion to the rest of his body. Children’s neck muscles — which they use to hold up their large heads — are less developed. While an adult’s strong neck may act as a barrier to a concussion or to whiplash, as the neck can absorb some force before it reaches the brain, a child’s large head and weak neck allow more force to reach the brain. In football, we add a heavy helmet to the already poor head/body mass ratio, further stacking the odds against the children.  Even though mature football players play faster & harder the vulnerabilities in the children put them at a greater risk.

2) A child’s brain takes longer to recover from a concussion - secondary impact syndrome (SIS).  A recent study found that on average it took three days for a college athlete to regain “normal” memory function after a concussion; for high-school kids, it took seven days.

3) Brain development continues well into the teen years - and a brain injury at any time can permanently hinder that development. Not only can an injury become permanent, but an injury can cause a child to miss critical windows in development.

Information taken from Head Games by Christopher Nowinski

The shoulder is one of the most commonly injured areas of the human body. It’s the most poorly designed joint we have & we constantly try to use it for jobs it isn’t intended for. It’s a ball & socket joint and because of this we have some of the largest degrees of freedom when it comes to range of motion. What we gain in motion we lose in joint stability. The socket that the arm sits in is very shallow which leaves its stability primarily up to soft tissue such as tendon, muscles, & ligaments. To add to the problem the most unstable part of the joint is anterior & inferior (the front & bottom) which is the direction the force of gravity applies on it. So, while standing we always have an unfavorable force being applied to the shoulder.

All these factors put you at risk of rotator cuff injury so the only clear cut preventative measure you can take is to maintain the health of the soft tissue surrounding the joint. Follow these 5 Tips on Prevention to assure better shoulder health.

1) Always squeeze your shoulder blades together when using your arms away from your body - Your body is designed to move with your shoulders back & standing up straight. With our postural issues these days most of us have shoulders that are rolled forward in a slouched position. This pulls the arm away from the socket & makes it unstable. Shoulder movements in this position expose the shoulder to a higher probability of injury.

2) Everyone should incorporate shoulder rotator exercises into their weekly routine - The rotator cuff muscles are the main stability muscles of the shoulder & are weak in the majority of the population. They primarily perform internal and external rotation of the shoulder. To do these hold your elbow at 90 degrees and squeeze it to your side. Rotate your shoulder inward (bringing your hand to your belly) for internal rotation & outward for external rotation. Attaching a Thera-Band to a door handle is an easy way to add resistance to your exercises.

3) Stay away from using your shoulders when they are behind your head - Many older exercise routines show people lifting a barbell or pulling a lat. pulldown bar behind their head. The shoulder is the most unstable & unprotected in this position. The muscles that engage when your arms are behind your head are small and incapable of lifting anything of substantial weight without risk of injury.

4) Leave exercising with heavy weight to larger/multiple muscle groups - The true strength of the shoulder comes from the deltoid. A thin muscle that starts at the top of the shoulder and drapes around the front, side, & back. It performs front, side, & back raising of the arm and overhead lifting. It’s a smaller muscle & most exercises don’t use any assistance of other larger muscle groups. Heavier weight should be used with large muscle groups (chest, back, & legs) & with movements that incorporate accessory muscles.

5) When carrying items keep them as close to you body as possible - Simple physics states that the further away a weight is to its fulcrum the heavier it becomes. This means that if you’re holding something your shoulder will perceive it as different weights depending on how far or close you hold it to your body. Keeping items in close & getting as close as possible to items your reaching for will keep them lighter & help prevent unwanted stress on the shoulder.

Your Quads (quadriceps) are a well known group of muscles that make up almost all of the musculature of the front (anterior) compartment of the thigh. They are composed of 4 muscles

1) Rectus Femoris

2) Vastus Lateralis

3) Vastus Intermedius 
(not shown in image)

4) Vastus Medialis (Most commonly weak)

All of these combine towards the knee into the patella tendon. The patella tendon contains the free floating knee cap (patella) and constantly glides over the knee joint during an knee bending.

When these 4 muscles of the quad are not strengthened equally problems can arise. Most commonly a patella tacking problem occurs and causes increased inflammation in the knee joint resulting in general knee pain. This general knee pain can lead to other knee issues over time because of the constant repetitive stress of abnormal motion of the knee joint itself.

Just as many of the news stations have figured out, negative news sticks much better than positive. There has been a lot of research over the years linking fish with high mercury levels. As a result many people have turned away from this healthy choice. Consequently newer research is showing that we aren’t getting enough omega-3 fatty acids on a daily basis.

The negativity of mercury overshadows the newer research surrounding omega-3 fatty acids and their health benefits. All too often I hear people mention the fact that high mercury in fish can cause a variety of horrible health issues. At the same time, I rarely ever hear talk of the negative health issues connected with not consuming enough omega-3 fatty acids. These include obesity, diabetes, autoimmune disorders, and other inflammatory conditions.

Fish are very plentiful in omega-3s and are biochemically designed for human consumption. Cell membranes surrounding every cell are composed of either omega-6 or omega-3 fatty acids. If you aren’t getting enough omega-3s chances are your cells are made up of an omega-6 lipid membrane. This makes for a cell that is more prone to disease or dysfunction.

It’s a tough predicament, so here are some tips.

1) Staying away from fish all together is a bad idea

2) The risk of trace amounts outweigh the benefits of omega-3 fatty acids and the rich nutritional value of fish

3) Be smart about your fish intake. For example, it isn’t a good idea to eat swordfish for breakfast, lunch, and dinner 7 days out of the week

4) If you don’t like fish for reasons other than mercury level find an omega-3

5) Click here for an idea of the mercury content of various types of fish

The summer season brings school vacation. Most athletes use the extra free time to train for the coming season or partake in summer leagues that often play more frequently than their school leagues. Whichever they choose they put their body at an increased risk of muskuloskeletal injury if proper treatment isn’t maintained. Injury during this time can be detrimental not only to the future of the upcoming season but can also lead to chronic injury and exercise restrictions much later in life. Here are 5 injury preventing tips that all young athletes should follow:

1) Stay hydrated - Muscles are healthier and more pliable when hydrated. They are more efficient at doing their job and less “touchy” when asked to go beyond their comfort zone during strenuous training. With increased temperatures during the summer it is crucial to drink tons of water. Stay away from fruit drinks, sodas, and caffeine. Everything you drink gets processed by the kidneys for the purpose of extracting water for the body to use. The more “excess” in the drink the more water you will have to pee out to rid yourself of the unnecessary extras further dehydrating you, i.e. drinking salt water dehydrates you because the salt ratio is higher than the water which means that in order to rid yourself of the excess salt you will have to pee out more water than you are actually extracting.

2) Warm up before stretching or strenuous exercise - Contrary to popular belief athletes should stretch after their muscles are warmed up. Warm up exercises should consist of easy, body weighted exercises i.e. walking lunges, lateral lunges, air squats, push-ups. This gets blood pumping through the muscles and allows the entire muscle belly to contract together

3) Stretch after a workout or after warming up -
 Exercise causes micro muscle tears. Groups of fibers tear and reconnect to form stronger muscle fibers to do the job at hand. In the case of strenuous exercise routines the fibers tear more which makes stretching more important to the overall make-up of the muscle. Stretching a warm muscle will lengthen the scar tissue of the once torn fibers and speed up the healing process to allow for quicker stronger muscle recovery.

4) Ice targeted muscles later in the day post workout - Ice reduces inflammation and constricts blood vessels. As mentioned above exercise causes micro muscle tears, scar tissue formation, and healing. This whole process can run out of control if other factors come into play, such as poor diet and posture/biomechanics. Ice slows down this process and helps it maintain a healthy steady level of ideal healing which will lead to a quicker recovery.

5) Perform isometric exercises for sore muscles a day after exercise - Isometric exercises are muscle contractions without lengthening or shortening the muscle belly. Flexing your biceps muscle to show off your guns is an example of an isometric contraction. This type of muscle contraction draws blood specifically to the muscle without the risk of irritating any muscle fiber tears attempting to heal. The brain to muscle connection is extremely powerful and is a huge reason why people get better results when they know how each muscle “feels” when they work it out.