Postural Improvement…Now There Is An App For That!


Most of us know that our posture is not quite as good as we’d like or our chiropractor would like 🙂

And we are all aware of the wonderful benefits that good posture can bring:

  • Look and feel even better than you already do,
  • Prevent back aches and muscle pains,
  • Decrease wear and tear on your joints,
  • Use less energy for daily tasks, and
  • Increase your spine’s flexibility and resilience.

But improving your posture requires daily effort to break out of some of the bad habits we’ve built over many years if not decades!  Stand like this, sit like that, strengthen these muscles, stretch these other muscles…there can be a lot of things to remember to do.  Where should you start?

Luckily for you, the Canadian Chiropractic Association has just released a FREE app available on your iPhone or Android device that provides step by step daily instructions on things to do to rebuild your posture.  It only takes 3 minutes per day!

Try it out!  Download the STRAIGHTEN UP CANADA app here and take the first step towards a healthier body and a healthier YOU!

Straighten Up Canada app features:

  • 12 unique posture exercises
  • Adult and youth exercise options
  • Easy to follow Image stills and video content
  • Tracking function
    • Set personal reminders
    • Track your progress
  • Share your posture exercise progress with friends through social media
  • Learn about your back and common back-related problems
  • Find a Chiropractor in your area quickly and easily
  • Read the latest blog posts on MSK health


Mattress Buying Secrets Revealed!

It’s time to replace our mattress!  Although it’s only been about 3 years since we bought our current mattress set from Sleep Country, it’s simply no longer comfortable for me or my wife!  And since we know that a good night’s sleep is invaluable to our physical and mental health, we will be embarking on another treacherous journey into the Mattress Industry!

No doubt many of you have gone through this exercise and often wondered if you bought the right mattress or gotten a good deal.  Here is an article written by an former mattress salesperson that gives some valuable pointers as we navigate the local mattress stores.  Give it a read if you’re in the same boat!

Article source:

Mattresses might be soft to sleep on, but they are notoriously hard to buy. Various stores sell very similar mattresses under different names, thwarting attempts to compare prices. Salespeople often steer shoppers toward ultra-expensive products. And manufacturers highlight features that consumers can’t easily evaluate. As a result, many shoppers pay hundreds of dollars more than necessary—or end up sleeping for years on mattresses that they hate.

Beware of these traps…

TRAP: It’s very difficult to compare mattress prices from store to store. With the exception of certain specialty mattresses, each retailer typically uses product names and numbers that you won’t find anywhere else. This is true even when the mattresses are virtually identical, aside from cosmetic changes involving fabric colors and quilting patterns.

What to do: When you find a mattress that feels comfortable (see the “Mattress-Shopping Checklist“), jot down every available piece of information about what’s inside the mattress. Include the coil count and coil wire gauge…dimensions including the height…firmness (based on your judgment of where it falls on a one-to-10 firmness scale with one the firmest)…materials used…how the sleep surface is described…and what position the list price occupies compared with other mattresses at the store from the same manufacturer. When you visit other mattress retailers, examine mattresses that fall in the same general position in the manufacturer’s price scale until you find one that matches up very closely. Start there and compare coil counts, firmness and other characteristics of various models until you find one that seems to match. Lie on this mattress, if possible, to confirm that it feels about the same as the one you tried earlier.

Tell the salesperson that you found the corresponding mattress at the other store, and ask if he/she can beat the other store’s price. If the second store has the lower price, you could return to the earlier store and try the same tactic. Most mattress stores and many furniture stores will negotiate. Their list prices tend to be double their cost, so it’s perfectly reasonable to try to negotiate a price 20% to 40% off list price (which could mean a savings of $400 off a $1,000 mattress). Department stores often won’t negotiate, but they sometimes will honor their price-match guarantee if the customer shows that a mattress at another store is essentially identical despite different names. And the department store might offer a better deal on shipping and better return options if you’re not satisfied, both important considerations.

Reasonable price: You should be able to find a good queen-size mattress for $700 to $1,000—for guest rooms, $500 to $800.

TRAP: “Pillow top” softness may not last. So-called pillow-top mattresses feel great when you lie on them at the store. They have thick, soft layers of fiber and/or foam above the mattress springs. Trouble is, these thick layers soon will develop deep, annoying body indentations. The heavier you and/or your partner, the faster this will happen.

If you love the soft pillow-top feel, opt for a “plush top” instead. These have perhaps two to three inches of foam and fiber, rather than the four to six inches of a pillow top—and they will be less likely to develop deep body indentations. Plush tops also tend to be $100 to $300 less expensive than pillow tops.

Helpful: If there are two separate “tape edges”—ropelike lines—running around the mattress above and below the foam layers, it is called a pillow top.

TRAP: Warranties and satisfaction guarantees are less impressive than they seem.If you voice concern about whether a mattress is right for you, the salesperson might assure you that there’s no need to worry because the store offers a satisfaction guarantee.

Quiz the salesperson about this guarantee. Can you get cash back or only exchange the mattress for a different one—and how much time do you have to return it? Is there a restocking fee for returns? What about a pick-up charge or additional shipping charge for the replacement mattress? And if you purchase a mattress during a sale, will you be able to exchange it for one of similar list price or only for a lesser one with a list price similar to the sale price you initially paid?

Caution: Manufacturers’ mattress warranties cover only major defects. They won’t permit you to return the mattress because you don’t find it comfortable. Mattresses generally should be replaced every eight to 10 years.

TRAP: New foundations often are unnecessary. If you buy a mattress, expect the salesperson to push you to buy the matching foundation (what used to be called a box spring) as well. You might be told that this foundation will extend the life of your mattress or make it more comfortable or that not buying it will void the mattress warranty. None of this is likely to be true.

Unlike old-fashioned mattresses, many modern mattresses do not require you to flip them over from time to time, and these no-flip mattresses don’t require springs beneath them at all. Today’s “box springs” really are just simple wood-and-wire frames covered in fabric. These foundations cost retailers very little, yet they’re often sold for hundreds of dollars.

If your old foundation has no obvious problems such as sagging or cracking and is the same size as the new mattress, you can continue to use it. If you have an old spring-type box that flexes when you push down on it, you don’t want to use it with a new “no-flip” single-sided mattress.

If you have a platform bed or a bed with slats that are spaced no more than two inches apart, you can skip the box spring entirely—assuming that the resulting mattress height is not too low. If you do need a new foundation, purchase the one that’s matched (brand-wise) to your new mattress. Don’t feel that you need to match the fabrics. A lower-priced foundation of the correct size should be fine if you’re buying a single-sided mattress.

TRAP: A higher coil count doesn’t necessarily mean higher quality. For spring mattresses, mattress salespeople often stress high coil count—more springs per square inch—as they steer shoppers toward high-end models. It’s true that having more coils is better than having fewer coils, all else being equal, but all else is not equal when it comes to coils. Coils might be made from different materials or in different ways.

Example: A mattress with independent coils—coils each made from a separate piece of wire—is likely to do a better job of conforming to the contours of your spine than a mattress with coils made from continuous strands of wire, even if the coil count isn’t as high. Independent coils also do a much better job of isolating movement, a big plus for those who share a bed.

TRAP: Delivery and removal charges. Ask about delivery charges before you agree to buy a mattress. Some retailers provide free delivery, but others see it as a way to slip one last sneaky fee into the deal.

Also ask whether removal of the old mattress is included in delivery—there’s sometimes an additional charge for this. Include any delivery and pick-up fees when you compare prices at different stores.

TRAP: An expensive specialty mattress might have drawbacks. Solid foam and dual-zone, air-filled mattresses look great in ads and can feel great when you lie on them—but there might be issues that the salesperson won’t mention. For instance…

Memory foam mattresses such as those made by Tempur-Pedic do a wonderful job of conforming to the contours of the body and providing support—but they also make some sleepers feel too hot.

If you want foam but are a warm sleeper, consider a natural latex foam mattress, which sleeps cooler. Some synthetic foam mattresses have gel embedded in them to keep sleepers cooler, but these mattresses are extremely heavy and difficult to move.

Dual-zone, air-filled mattresses such as Sleep Number by Select Comfort provide separate firmness controls for each side of the bed. But humidity and perspiration tend to build up around the internal air bladders of even the best-made air-filled mattresses. Mildew and mold can spread if the bladders are not cleaned frequently using liquid detergent.

These mattresses can be opened up for cleaning and for ventilation—but make sure that the mattress is completely dry before closing it up.

Source: Ronald Czarnecki, a former manager of multiple mattress stores in the Pacific Northwest. He is author of Shop for Sleep and Survive the Bite: How to Shop for a Mattress and Save Money in the Cold White Sea of Deception

Why Does My Child Have Back Pain?

Summer vacation is over and your kids are heading back to school this week!  A common parental concern I’ve noticed relates to children and back pain.  It is surprising to many folks that kids would even develop back pain.  After all, they’re just kids right? Shouldn’t they be less susceptible to back problems than adults?

The reality is our kids live pretty active lives these days and there are certainly more, or at least newer risk factors that affect kids in 2014 than what we may have experienced when we were kids.

Digital Age Dilemma – the explosion in usage of iPads, smartphones and other personal media devices has resulted in a generation of youth that is sitting more and being less physically active.  Not only that, they are sitting in poor positions or postures for lengthy periods of time.  I know kids as young as 6-7 who are addicted to games like Minecraft and Clash of Clans and who sit slouched in chairs for 1-2 hours playing the game on their iPads.  Parents need to limit electronic device usage and get their kids engaged in a wide variety of physical activity instead.

Overweight Children – possibly correlated to the Digital Age Dilemma but also poor nutritional habits, a recent Canadian study in 2012 revealed that almost one third of kids aged 5-17 are overweight or obese and particularly in boys.  Just like adults, extra pounds increase the load on your spine, taxing your muscles and dumping pressure on the soft tissue around your vertebrae. This can exaggerate the natural curve of your lower back, throwing off your spine’s alignment and causing chronic lower-back pain.

Carrying Heavy Loads – kids these days get alot of homework…definitely more than I did back in the ’70-80s.  And the weight of the stuff they have to carry to and from school has correspondingly gotten heavier too.  Large backpacks are stuffed with duotangs, binders, textbooks, extra shoes, lunches, etc.  Whenever I drop off my own daughter at school, I am continually surprised to see so many kindergarten kids carrying backpacks that were too large for their little bodies!  Often, backpacks may equal 20% to 40% of the child’s own body weight (equivalent to a 150-pound adult carrying a 30 to 60-pound back pack around 5 days a week). Older kids frequently carry their bags on just one shoulder which creates overuse and muscle imbalances too.  Is it any surprise really that kids are developing back pain?  For tips on how to adjust your child’s backup, follow this Backpack Checkup.

Higher Risk Extracurricular Activities – it’s great that many kids are involved with after school physical activities and sports.  Parents should keep in mind though that all activities carry an inherent risk for injury not only to the back but other areas of the body also.  Fast and impact sports like hockey, soccer, taekwondo/karate can result in back injuries.  Gymnastics and dance which often teach movements that hyperextend the spine can also create back problems and even stress fractures in kids who are competitive or training several times per week.  Also be cautious that we often want our kids to play sports to get fit but that kids are not fit to play.  Team coaches and trainers are often enthusiastic volunteers who may not have the education to provide a well rounded fitness program for the kids that gets the kids ready to play. Warmup and cooldowns may not exist or be adequate and basic strength training to enhance the kids’ preparedness for the sport may not be available.

Things are certainly different with each generation of children and it’s vital for parents and health care providers to understand the changing health needs of our kids. Let’s keep the lines of communication open!

Dr. Keith

Chiropractic ‘Self-Defense’ Tips for Your Lower Back

It’s estimated that over 80% of the Canadian population will experience at least one episode of back pain in their lifetime.  Are you one of those 80%?  If not, count yourself lucky because clearly the odds are stacked against you!  However, if you have been proactive with proper ergonomics while sitting, standing and sleeping and working on strengthening your core muscles, then keep on doing what you’re doing!

For the rest of us who haven’t been so fortunate,  now is the time to get started on avoiding future occurrences of low back pain.  I’ve encountered many patients who don’t begin to smartly address their back issues until the second, third or even fourth bad back pain episode.  There are a lot of simple things you can do to reduce your risk for low back pain and a trip to your local Richmond Hill chiropractor!  Here are a number of tips to keep in mind:

  1. Avoid leaning forward from your hips and lock your knees while doing standing activities like washing dishes, brushing your teeth, ironing, etc.
  2. Avoid twisting your trunk while bending and lifting.  For example, we often bend-twist-lift with unloading laundry, picking up children, hauling suitcases, shovelling snow, gardening…sound familiar?  As much as possible, turn your whole body around so that you face whatever you need to lift directly.  And avoid lifting with your back muscles.
  3. When lifting big and heavy objects, lift with your hips and legs, not your back.  Instead, make sure you keep your back straight, bend at the knees and keep the heavy object close to your body.
  4. Perform an abdominal brace whenever you lift.  This is where you tighten your ab muscles…imagine someone is about to punch you in the stomach.  Reflexively, you would contract your abs and bear down for the impact.  Do the same thing while lifting because it will stabilize your spine and protect it from injury.
  5. Avoid carrying suitcases or heavy shoulder bags which stress one side of the back.  Invest in some good rolling suitcases and backpacks.  They’re great back savers.  Who ever finally thought to put those rotating roller blade wheels on the bottom of suitcases should be awarded a Nobel prize!!!
  6. When travelling on a plane, train or bus, use a small pillow or rolled up towel and place it behind your low back to help support the normal curve of your spine.  You can use the rolled towel also in the car or office…you don’t have to buy a special Obusforme back support to achieve the similar result.
  7. Don’t stay sitting or standing in the same position for long periods.  You need to take short, frequent breaks to get the circulation going and the muscles moving.
  8. Consult a chiropractor, physiotherapist, massage therapist or qualified trainer to determine the best core stability exercises for you.  This will involve strengthening weak muscles and stretching tight, inhibited ones.  And contrary to popular belief, situps are NOT good for your back!  Try planks and side bridges instead.
  9. Get off the couch or get away from the computer!  Try to exercise 30 minutes a day.  Do something you enjoy and become more active!

As always, Prevention is the best medicine!

Helping you prevent low back pain…Dr. Keith