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What is Kyphosis and What You Can Do About It

Picture of a woman with kyphosis, also known as hunchback

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What is Kyphosis (Kie-fo-sis)?

I decided to write about this topic because this is a condition that I do see often in the clinic. Whether it’s from bad posture or just degenerative changes in the bones, this over-arching can cause discomfort, and more noticeably can make an impact on our appearance.

Kyphosis is an abnormal curvature which affects primarily the cervical and thoracic spine. It is most common in the thoracic spine, though it can also affect the cervical and lumbar spine.1 Your spine has natural curves in the upper and middle part of your spine as well as lower. However, when the curvature of the spine begins to extensively round the upper back and become convexed, that is known as kyphosis.2 A common term is “hunchback”, or “roundback”.

What Causes Kyphosis?

Kyphosis, rounding of the spine, known as hunchback.
Kyphosis primarily occurs in the thoracic spine.

Well, posture can play a role, so listen up when a teacher tells you to sit up straight, no matter how old you are.

As you’re reading this are your shoulders rolled out awaiting the next life changing word or phrase? Well, Stop it!

Ok, posture is not the only cause. Congenital conditions can play a role (diseases and disorders that occur at birth). Scheuermann’s disease affects children and has no known cause.3 Other causes may include osteoporosis (loss bone mass), which is one of the leading causes of this condition in adults, with women being more common than men due to the loss of estrogen.4 Also, corticosteroids in high doses may play a role in weakening the bone in adults which can also be a major contributing factor.5 Arthritis, spinal deformities, and trauma can also play a role.

As mentioned earlier, scheuermann’s disease affects kids, boys more than girls, and causes the back of the vertebrae to growth more than the front, causing the spine to round forward.

Other signs in children include a difference in shoulder height, a difference in shoulder blade positions, or if the upper back looks higher than normal.6

Treatment options for Thoracic Curvature

Posutral kyphosis, man with hunchback
Treatments for Kyphosis include exercise.

With modern techniques such as X-ray imaging and MRI’s, and with the knowledge we know so far, it seems like there are some treatment options available for people suffering.

Braces are used in children, goal is to help the spine grow into correct alignment. Exercise is prescribed in posture induced cases.

For adults, a conservative treatment regimen is sought out first, with surgical intervention is only recommended when the benefits outweigh the risks.

Yoga, massage therapy, chiropractic care, and physical therapy can all be beneficial. Stretch, align, reduce the inflammation, massage the muscles, rinse and repeat.

What do YOU do when presented with this condition in the clinic?

In the clinic I use a combination of acupressure, cupping, and acupuncture to help treat for pain relief and to help promote healthy alignment of the spine. A case report of a 74 year old woman with kyphoscoliosis (which is rounding and deviation of the spine) underwent an acupuncture regimen. After 6 weeks of treatment, the patient’s lower backache decreased and follow-up radiographs showed that the Cobb angle (method is used to measure the degree of scoliosis7) decreased by 10 degrees.8 The patient still underwent corrective surgery for the condition, however this case report shows that acupuncture can be very beneficial to the overall improvement outcome even when surgical intervention is needed. Another study looked at intensive rehabilitation of pain due to sheuermann’s disease which included manual therapy and acupuncture, in which the study showed a pain reduction between 16 and 32%.9

As an Acupuncturist healthcare provider, I utilize a combination of Traditional Chinese Medicine and Bio-medical science to help patients see improvements. This is the overall framework that a typical practitioner will use, and progress to diagnosis the condition based on the underlying symptoms of the patient. Can Chinese Medicine better help to understand the curvature in the spine? Yes it can. You see, any problem in the body that causes impairment/dysfunction of the meridians will cause pain and disorder, not only in the areas affected but also in other parts of the body. There are many articles to help you understand more about acupuncture and Chinese medicine theory. The more we can approach a treatment through various methods that are safe and helpful, the better for everyone.

I thought this video would be a good start to help your mind move in the right direction.

As always, remember to consult your primary healthcare provider before starting an exercise treatment regimen.

Lastly I am not the person in the video, enjoy 🙂

 

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Improve Range Of Motion, Decrease Pain.

Squirel stretching practicing range of motion

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Stiff muscles and joints are a part of life. Aging may play a factor, or an injury. For many, it’s just that stupid chair at work! In any case, I found a general rule of thumb very useful for many of the patients that I treat for pain (not only pain, but this is a good starting point) which is very useful and helps immensely in the treatment process. It’s a simple rule of thumb that I keep in mind, and it is “increase range of motion, decrease your pain.”

With an understanding that this does not apply to every patient, I have seen many people benefit from simply improving their range of motion, in particular the lower extremities.

skeleton arm jointWhat is Range of Motion you ask?

“The full movement potential of a joint, usually its range of flexion and extension. For example, a knee might lack 10 degrees of full extension due to an injury.1

Why is this important?

In an age of opioid epidemic and with very limited options on the pharmacological medicine, natural treatment options provide a great solution to helping individuals in the treatment of pain. You’d be surprise how many times very important clinical findings are missed, such as overly tensed muscles and restricted motions. So I’ve made it a point to use all the diagnostic tools at my disposal to get a better idea of the pathology (The cause or the origin of the disease).

Hey, how do you know this stuff? Do you do this like everyday?

Yes I do. I practice in the cities of Pasadena, Downey, and Burbank. Based in Los Angeles, California, but I call the world my home. Yes, I am looking forward to traveling more and helping more people where I can. I see anywhere from 5 to 14 patients a day,  dealing primarily with pain management in the worker’s compensation arena and private insurance sector. So I do have an opportunity to see and treat people first hand, and the goal is to always help patients move to the next step and improve their lives.

From a Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) perspective, it makes sense. TCM explains that we have energetic pathways called medians which travel superior to inferior and vice versa, meaning from top to bottom and from the bottom to the top. These meridians carry what we call “Qi” and “blood” to different areas of the body. Injury to these areas causes the pathway to work inefficiently and malfunction, causing pain, soreness, stiffness, or redness.

How do we approach this? By unblocking the channels and creating a better flow of energy, improving the circulation. Acupressure works very well and is why I focused my area of expertise on this therapy. But it is a conjunction of acupuncture, acupressure, herbs, stretching, heat, nutrition, and sleep…yes, sleep, that will work best.

This is not intended to be a medical diagnosis, so please see your healthcare provider and ask them about natural ways to help improve your movement for you health.

  1. 2016. Medicinenet.com. http://www.medicinenet.com/script/main/art.asp?articlekey=5208
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Mucus, Chinese Medicine, Your Health

Picture of the word "Mucus"

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Mucus/Phlegm is classified a pathogen called “Dampness” in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). It is shown in the pulse as what is called a “slippery” pulse, similar feeling to a rolling pearl. Mucus is a “normal, slippery and stringy fluid substance produced by many lining tissues in the body.”[1] In is created as a response for instance to allergens, outside and inside pathogenic influences, the common cold. It is called phlegm when in the lungs. [2]

From a TCM perspective lungs are the receptacle of phlegm but not the root cause. We expel it from the body in various methods.

Symptoms of Dampness in TCM include masses, lethargy, indigestion, cough, dizziness, headache, as well as other health issues.

What helps: From a TCM perspective, you can drain, sweat, and excrete Dampness in many ways. Typically it is recommended to avoid dairy, sugar and sweets, greasy foods, or extremely cold foods. Weather can affect Dampness in the body such as Winter or during the hot muggy late summer.

Foods such as warm soups can help to eliminate “Dampness” and herbs such as ginger.

Walking and sweating can help with the “dampness”.

So next time you your acupuncturist may mention “Damnpness ” pertaining to mucus and phlegm you’ll have at least some background knowledge to help you learn more.

This article is not intended to diagnose. Please consult a Licensed healthcare provider for any medical related conditions.

References

[1]http://www.medicinenet.com/what_is_mucus/page2.htm

[2]http://www.medicinenet.com/what_is_mucus/page3.htm

 

 

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Work On Your Posture For the New Year

Skeleton with bad posture

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We’ve become lazy. Our lifestyles have changed and now we are paying the price with our posture. Drooping neck, shoulders rolled forward, too much standing, too much sitting. I mean this applies to everyone of you reading this and the person next to you… or the first person that pops into your head. It’s not hard to find bad posture and I’m constantly working on it myself. What to do, oh, what, to, do. I enjoy a little drama.

So along with your weight loss regimen and your workout regimen, add in a posture regimen. It’s the cherry on top and it’ll make you feel great. In addition I’ve always been a fan of practicing good posture when working out and not overworking any specific body part. Stretching helps to relax muscles and realign the bones. It helps the qi to flow. It helps to balance the pull between the muscles. It makes you feel good, perhaps even joyful. The benefits of elongating the muscles, amazing.

Picture from the book "The posture of school children, with its home hygiene and new efficiency methods for school training"
Photo source: Wikimedia Commons

Focus on your Center

Yoga… ’nuff said. If you practice it then keep going. If you don’t then start.

Tai chi helps to improve posture. It is one of the first lessons we cover when I teach. My teachers were very strict on the subject because bad posture ruins your form and disrupts your energy. It prevents you from generating the full power that you’re capable of.

Breath from your center, activate what is known as the lower dan tian, which is located about an inch and a half below your belly button. To be more accurate it’s actually located 1.5 cun below, and a cun is a unit of measurement used in Traditional Chinese medicine to measure the distance of acupuncture points. Geez so we can get deep into the subject, but back on the topic of the lower abdomen, this area can be focused upon with your attention and breath. Practice deep breathing to this area and try to bring your thoughts and focus to this area as well. You will notices within 30 seconds you will begin to feel more relaxed and focused. Don’t forget to relax your shoulders.

Get Off The Computer, Go Walk!

’nuff said. Also walking is a great time to practice great posture. Muscles may feel sore at first but it’s because the right postural muscles need time to build up. Eventually they learn muahahahah…

Ask A Professional On Posture:

Expert advice? I asked two of my colleagues who work with me, Dr. Rommil Fernandez, D.C. and Dr. Bruce Householder, D.C. for some insight into the importance of good posture.

Dr. Fernandez stresses the importance of good posture and says that spinal alignment helps to keep the nerves free from being irritated. He also dislikes a certain position of sitting which he calls the “wilted and defeated” position, with shoulders slumped forward and neck flexed down.

Man sitting with bad posture.

Dr. Bruce says that compression of the spinal nerve, especially when seated, can lead to DJD, or Degenerative Joint Disease.

Chiropractic care can help to deal with subluxations which are misaligned vertebrae. Massage therapy can help to muscles to relax and decrease tension. Acupuncturist can tailor treatments and advise of ways to improve posture. The key is to seek treatment and understand it takes time.

Hope this helps keeps your energy flowing throughout the year.

Resources:

Dr. Rommil Fernandez D.C.
Dr. Bruce Householder, D.C.
818-848-2225
730 N. Mariposa St. Suite 101
Burbank, Ca 91702

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Your Vitality: Keep It

Photo of a healthy man in the Sun

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When you think of the word “Vitality”, what comes to mind?

Perfect health? Long life? A feeling of vibrancy and vigor?

What are some indicators that we are not at our best? How can we keep this incredible organic machine to keep pumping and pushing?

Feelings of anger, resentment, stiffness, pain, discomfort, and de-motivation are not precursors to improving vitality.

Joy, happiness, excellent flexibility, unremarkable respiratory functioning (just our ability to breath in and out clean air), and a state of relaxation throughout the day can be positive promoters of great vitality.

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) we look at all symptoms as dysfunction occurring within the body, despite the severity. A sneeze can be a sign of imbalance within the body that there is an imbalance between organs.

For instance, I see many cases of low back pain in association with knee pain in clinical practice. In TCM low back pain and knee pain are associated with what is termed as “Kidney Qi” deficiency”.  This is not to be taken literally in terms of your kidneys from a bio-medicine perspective, but rather as part of a set of symptoms associated with depletion of the energy which is associated with vitality, growth, and longevity. Essence, an energy which is stored in the kidneys, is responsible for proper child development and premature aging. The more essence we can store, the better our health will be in long run.

Osteoarthritis of the joints, chronic tendinitis, or ligaments weakening can all be signs of our decreasing vitality from my experience.

This is something I deal with in the clinic and has become an area of interest. A patient comes in with shoulder pain, neck pain, back pain, ankle and wrist pain. Are needles inserted in every area affected? No. We go to the root of the problem which has a physical and emotional component. Everyone is different but in a way all the same.

How can we improve our vitality?

Nutrition. Meditation. Stretching. Relaxation. Seeing a healing practitioner. Being with nature. Loving your life and respecting people. Letting go of resentment. Mastering your breathing. Study. Cut out the crap.