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5 Simple Exercises to Strengthen Your Core Muscles

What Is Your ‘Core’ and Why Is It Important?

There’s no specific definition of what the body’s ‘core’ is, but it’s usually a reference to the abdominal muscles. Fitness trainers place a major emphasis on exercises to strengthen your core.

women exercisingYour ‘core’ includes both the front and back muscles of the entire trunk and consists of the muscles running up your back and stretching down to your rear, as well as those located in the front and inside of your thighs.Those muscles are important because that’s where much of your body’s strength is focused. You use those muscles to lift something heavy, to kick a can down the street, or even to just stand up.

The most important role of ‘core’ muscles, however, is their support of the spine. After all, the spine isn’t a stable structure all on its own. Your ‘core’ muscles forms your posture.

Why Do You Need Exercises to Strengthen your Core?

Since your ‘core’ muscles expedite movement and enfold not only your spine but your organs and nervous system, strengthening them is essential. Important reasons for firming up your ‘core’ include:

  • To protect your central nervous system, your internal organs, and your spine. You need a strong sheath around your systems to keep them where they’re supposed to be in order to function properly. ‘Core’ muscles help keep unwanted pressure off your spine so their condition directly affects your quality of life.
  • To help prevent injuries from movement. Your ‘core’ serves as a natural stabilizer for intricate movement. A strong ‘core’ means the deep muscles near your spine are built up to provide that stability. If your ‘core’ is fit, you’ll experience an overall fitness, making it less likely you’ll be injured by the movements your life requires.
  • To help avoid back pain. Because there are so many muscles to contract and relax when you stand up and move, back pain is relatively common. If your tendons and ligaments and muscles are healthy, your back will normally be fine. But weak muscles, poor posture or excess weight can cause a strain that becomes back pain. Even if your back is strong, if your abdominal muscles are weak you can still get back pain. Your ‘core’ strength needs to be balanced.
  • To develop a confident posture. A strong ‘core’ provides a good posture. A straight posture not only looks confident, but it also gives you a sense of control over your body and how you feel about yourself.

A Few Exercises to Strengthen Your Core Muscles

You can accomplish ‘core’ training without major workout equipment and it doesn’t require a great commitment of time. A lot can be achieved in just 10 minutes a day, going for quality rather than quantity.

exercises to strengthen your coreRemember, there’s already an inherent strength in your ‘core’ muscles. After all, they attach to prime places in your body because they’re designed to support your ‘core’! They’re close to your joints, and are such a refined leverage system that if they’re properly used, there’s little effort needed to get a bunch of work done.
Some good exercises to start with:

1. Your deepest abdominal muscles are the Transverse Abdominis (TA).
Lie on your back, knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Put one hand on your stomach and slide the other hand beneath your lumbar spine. Allow that natural curve to remain; don’t flatten your spine to the floor! Breathe deeply and let your stomach rise while your diaphragm pulls in oxygen. Exhaling, don’t let the pressure change on the hand under your back. Work your TA without letting your spine flatten.

Now use your TA to stabilize your body. Get on your hands and knees with your arms straight down below your shoulders and your thighs straight down below your hips. Extend one leg back and don’t rotate the leg. In fact, you shouldn’t feel any hip rotation. Center your attention on the inside of the leg; you’ll feel energy flowing along it. Once you feel stable, extend the opposite arm while keeping your spine straight. Stay in that position and take some deep breaths. Repeat on other side and do five repetitions on each side.

2. Two small but basic pieces of exercise equipment to help you build stability are stability balls and balance discs.

They generate unstable environments that your body has to work around in order to gain balance and orientation. The muscles have to keep shifting and reorienting around the ‘core’, forcing the TA and the rest of the deep trunk muscles to keep you oriented. Within just two weeks, a few minutes a day using the ball or disc will really improve your balance!

3. Strengthening your ‘core’ connections is important.
Lie on your back with legs open and arms extending out to the side. Don’t let your shoulders hunch up. Breathe deeply. Exhale then close your limbs (head, tailbone, legs, and arms) into your ‘core’ all at once to bring you into a fetal position on one side. Breathe deeply again, exhale and open your limbs back up into the position you started from. This exercise helps you feel how your body connects to your ‘core’, and it allows the ‘core’ to actually initiate the movement.

4. Stretching into your balance.
Sit on the floor with your legs stretched straight in front of you, place your feet in a “V” shaped position and point your toes. Tighten your ‘core’ muscles. Maintaining your leg and body position, lift your arms up and use them to climb an invisible rope. Twist your body a little each time you reach up. Reach as high as you can, drawing your arm completely down to your body each time you ‘pull’ yourself up. Complete 20 reaches for each arm.

5. A side crunch worth the effort.
Do a ‘side balance crunch’, starting with your left knee and hand on the floor while your right leg is up and extended straight out in line with your body and your right arm is extended straight up. It’s a great balancing act! Now pull your right knee in toward your body and when it’s bent, bring your right elbow down toward your bent knee. Straighten them again. Do 10 of those and switch to the other side.

Building health from the inside out includes taking care of the muscles that support your bones and joints and organs. You’ll not only move with confidence, when you feel fit you’ll exude confidence!

If you’d like personal assistance with exercises to strengthen your core muscles, we can help. Our team of exercise physiologists can develop a personalized training program for you. Not only will they you target your core muscles, but they will help you strengthen any other muscles or problem areas.

For more information, contact Texas Spine & Wellness in Garland, TX at (972) 840-2520. We have the staff and resources to help you accomplish your goals.

Summertime – Celebrate the Sunshine with a Healthy Backyard BBQ

Summertime is a time for friends and families to get together to celebrate friendship and the great outdoors. Whether enjoying a weekend camping or a backyard barbecue, food is usually the focus of the day. And it’s often a time when we feel justified in stuffing ourselves with our favorite great-tasting treats.

burger-and-hot-dogsWhy shouldn’t we watch the kids swim while chomping on a juicy hamburger piled with cheese, or deep-fried chicken wrapped in a thick, crispy batter?

Hot dogs buried in chili? Corn-on-the-cob bathed in butter and salt? Chips and dips? French fries? Potato salad?

In the moment, this delectable food feels (and tastes) like a dream come true. But by the next morning we may regret our impulsive choices. A day of indulgence has consequences, more so if you have health issues.

What’s So Bad About Those Nutrient-Sinful Foods?

  • Too much sodium in commercially prepared hot dogs can add to high blood pressure concerns and heart disease.
  • Hamburger meat? Surprisingly, there are about 16 grams of fat and 230 calories in the average ground beef patty. By topping it with high-calorie cheese, fried onions, sugary ketchup or fatty mayonnaise we add more calories to the total. And a typical Texas-sized hamburger patty is often large enough to feed two people!
  • Pasta, macaroni, and potato salads are laden with fats and simple carbohydrates
  • Hamburger and hot-dog buns are usually made from white bread, are highly processed and a generally stripped of nutrient value.

Healthy Food Choices That Still leave You Satisfied

It is possible to enjoy a backyard barbecue while still eating healthy flavorful foods.

To keep your carbohydrate consumption in a healthy range, select foods suggested in the Primal diet and/or the Mediterranean diet.

The Primal diet emphasizes eating foods that are as close to their natural state as you can find them. Specifically, foods that were eaten before the Industrial Revolution. That means omitting grains, beans, lentils, soy and peanuts, alcohol, sugar, processed foods, and refined vegetable oils in your diet.

So, what’s left? Many healthy food choices—every kind of fruit and vegetable, meats, fish, eggs, nuts (other than peanuts), seeds, healthy fats, and dairy products, both raw and fermented, including raw cheese. Sweeteners should be natural, such as raw honey and pure maple syrup.

Sound too strict? Then consider the Mediterranean way of eating.

The Mediterranean diet isn’t based on a single diet plan, but it does focus on some of the same foods as the Primal diet, including fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, fish and meat. However, the Mediterranean diet is strong on some items not included in the Primal diet, meaning that whole-grain breads, beans, and dairy are important foods on the menu. In addition, olive oil, olives, yogurt and eggs in small portions, wine and potatoes are all considered essential. And they all sound pretty tasty.

To Boost the Nutritional Content of Your Barbecue, Be Creative!

grilled vegetablesInstead of a hot dog in your whole-grain bun, try a marinated chicken tender, or chicken sausage. Grilled shrimp is another tasty option. If only a hot dog will do, replace ketchup and cheese with onions and chopped veggies like avocado, jalapeños, or cabbage. Here are a few more ideas:

  • For hamburgers, eat moderate portion sizes. For a Primal hamburger, opt for ground beef from grass-fed, free-range cattle, if possible. To add a flavor of the Mediterranean, season your ground lamb or beef with oregano, fresh rosemary, a generous amount of feta cheese, and a splash of lemon zest. Spread a thick kalamata olive paste on the buns for a flavorful change of pace. Ditch the grains although by using topping your burger with tomato halves, large Portobello mushroom caps, or by wrapping the fixings inside a swath of lettuce! Add a small amount of raw cheese, avocados, onions, mushrooms, and olive oil or vinaigrette.
  • When barbecuing don’t use a sauce with high fructose corn syrup, sugar or ingredients like caramel color, food starch or preservatives. Google recipes for sauces using Worcestershire, tomato paste, tamarin sauce or even molasses. Or—check out a nice Primal barbecue sauce.
  • Stick to salads made of fruits and vegetables, like carrots with radishes or raisins, or avocados with grapefruit or bacon. Stuff a bell pepper with onions, tomatoes, pickle bits, celery and crunchy bacon and bind them with a homemade mayo. Try some delicious recipes like Kale Chopped Salad with Maple-Almond Vinaigrette, California Cobb Salad with Tarragon Vinaigrette, or very healthy Almond Salmon Salad with Honey-Apple Cider Vinaigrette. A Mediterranean Grain Salad would be great! Or any other Mediterranean salad creation!
  • Grill corn and dab with chipotle butter to make your metabolism smile. For additional flavor, add lime. With that much flavor you might be able to skip the salt. As for the potato, trying baking it. You can up your daily vegetable intake by topping your potato with asparagus, broccoli, sprinkles of meat, and good fresh herbs.
  • Eat 100% whole grain bread in moderation. Dip it in herb flavored olive oil for a snack, or top with a Mediterranean spread.
  • Skip the chips. Crunchy vegetables pair nicely with dips made out of onions or clams, spinach or artichokes, or even beans or salsa.
  • Fruit is always an excellent dessert. Trying skewering cubes of mixed fruit on bamboo skewer for a more dramatic flair.. However if you want a slight taste of sinful, there are both primal desserts and Mediterranean desserts to satisfy your sweet-tooth without putting your body on a sugar overload.

Be happy, eat healthy and enjoy the summer… Autumn is just a couple of months away!

Dr. Mixon and his team of medical professionals is available to help you improve your health with a full complement of services. In addition to our lab-based nutrition programs, we offer ANS (Autonomic Nervous System) testing, to help you assess your current state of health, along with treatment for neck, back and joint pain.

Please contact us if you would like more information about our Garland, TX chiropractic clinic.

Supplements to Reduce Fibromyalgia Symptoms Naturally

Fibromyalgia is a syndrome most people know little about, unless you or someone you’re close to has it. The description of the disorder characterizes its nature: chronic and pervasive musculoskeletal pain, exhaustion, and widespread sensitivity in localized areas of your body. It’s a set of symptoms that, once they occur together, either signify the disease is present, or indicate there’s a good chance of developing it.

fibromyalgia symptomsPeople suffering from fibromyalgia symptoms and chronic pain are desperate for relief. They usually end up trying surgery, physical therapy, and/or pain medications. And often they still say, “I hurt all over!”

Let’s learn more about this unpleasant condition and natural ways to treat fibromyalgia

What Causes Fibromyalgia?

There are a lot of theories as to the causes of this disorder, but the specific cause has yet to be identified. Here are a few of the educated theories:

  • Hormonal imbalance
  • Stress, either physical or mental or both
  • Low levels of serotonin
  • Sudden brain or spinal cord trauma
  • Sleep disorders
  • Surgery
  • Poor physical condition

Researchers agree fibromyalgia results from a combination of issues rather than a single issue. They also agree it’s a disorder of the nervous system, most likely in some aspect of the system’s central processing activities. The list above may actually be factors that trigger or intensify a dysfunction already present in your nervous system.

Confused? You’re not alone. After osteoarthritis, fibromyalgia is the most common musculoskeletal condition, but it’s still often misdiagnosed. This happens because there are so many symptoms! When they occur together, they imply a disorder, but don’t necessarily confirm it.

Additional Common Fibromyalgia Symptoms

  •  Memory and concentration difficulties
  •  Headaches
  •  Numbness and tingling in limbs
  •  Frequent or painful urination
  •  Irritable bowel syndrome
  •  Stiffness in the morning

It’s easy to see why sufferers often become depressed or anxious.

Interesting Facts

  • Women are 10 times more likely than men to be affected by fibromyalgia, which means 75 to 90% of those impacted are female.
  • Most of the people affected are between 25 and 60 years of age.
  • Although it hasn’t been proven, there’s a theory that fibromyalgia could be genetic, passed from mother to daughter.
  • Due to discomfort, insomnia can result, and that can decrease your body’s capacity to repair damaged tissues.
  • Other than gender, fibromyalgia isn’t a selective syndrome. Worldwide, it affects people equally across ethnic, financial, and medical communities.
  • In spite of the gender predilection, fibromyalgia can also affect men and children.

Help With Handling the Discomfort of Fibromyalgia

Physical Help

Alternative therapies are useful to help manage those uncomfortable fibromyalgia symptoms. According to WebMD “therapeutic massage manipulates the muscles and soft tissues of the body and helps ease deep muscle pain. It also helps relieve pain of tender points, muscles spasms, and tense muscles.”

diagram of fibromyagia symptomsRecommendations by the American Pain Society include “moderately intense aerobic exercise at least two or three times a week. They also endorse clinician-assisted treatments, such as hypnosis, acupuncture, therapeutic massage, and chiropractic manipulation for pain relief.”

Our Garland Chiropractic Clinic’s team of exercise physiologists and licensed massage therapists are qualified to help you with a regimen of focused exercise and therapeutic massage. Along with physical rehab department, Dr. Mixon, our chiropractor, is an expert at treating joint pain through chiropractic manipulation.

Help Through Nutritional Supplements

Magnesium is active in numerous processes. It helps generate nerve signaling, muscle contractions, and healthy bones, and aids in adjusting cholesterol levels released into the blood stream. Also very important, magnesium is an enzyme co-factor and regulates the biochemical reactions of about 350 enzymes. Because of all these important functions, a magnesium deficiency can cause many of the symptoms a fibromyalgia sufferer experiences.

One thing fibromyalgia patients have in common is having a period of experienced extreme stress or a prolonged period of lower stress situations. Stressful situations lead to magnesium deficiencies.

Magnesium can help to combat stress as it is a neurologic system relaxant that alleviates stress and allows you to relax. Every study in which magnesium has been applied has resulted in improvements in the fatigue and pain connected with fibromyalgia.

Malic acid helps ease muscle and tissue pain caused by hypoxia (inadequate oxygen). It also helps the body generate energy more efficiently and it enhances the stamina of our cells.

As a team, Magnesium and Malic acid work together to relieve pain, produce energy, and stabilize moods; beneficial qualities for people with fibromyalgia. Some people taking these nutrients together have noticed symptom improvement within 48 hours; however, for some it may take four to six weeks.

Obviously, Magnesium and Malic acid are essential nutrients for our health. While a relatively large amount of Malic acid is produced and broken down in the human body daily, our bodies can’t produce magnesium. Therefore it’s critical to get magnesium through our diet and/or a daily supplement. According to the Nutritional Magnesium up to 80% of U.S. residents are deficient in magnesium. That’s why we often recommend a supplement for this critical supplement.

For fibromyalgia patients, taking these two nutrients together in a supplement, could deliver a knock-out punch for troublesome symptoms. Here’s one product that we like.

Curcumin is the primary component of turmeric, which makes the spice a rich yellow. It strongly supports the mechanisms in the body that modulate inflammatory responses. In fact, if the dose is high enough, this powerful nutrient can reset anti-inflammatory behavior at the cellular level. Fibromyalgia symptoms of morning stiffness and swelling of joints often improve when curcumin supplements are used.

Remember: when the appropriate nutrients are introduced and nutritional deficiencies are reversed, there’s a positive effect on the pain of fibromyalgia and the anxiety and depression it causes. In this case, supplements of Magnesium combined with Malic acid and Curcumin are an excellent approach to help reduce the impact of fibromyalgia.

If you would like to buy these supplements to try them for yourself, they can be found at our office, or on our nutritional website by following the links below.

Inflavanoid by Metagenics

Mag Malic by Science Based Nutrition

If you would like more information about Garland chiropractor, Dr. James Mixon, and the ways he and his team of health care professionals can help you feel better, please contact us at (972) 840-2520. Our combination of nutritional medical, chiropractic care and exercise rehab has helped thousands of patients.