Monday, October 17, 2016

Nature’s Anti-Inflammatories

When patients come into our office, they are almost always in pain. When they are in pain, commonly they are also dealing with inflammation. I am often asked if there is anything that they can be taking at home to decrease inflammation. Instead of prescription anti-inflammatories and NSAIDs, here are a few natural options that will help decrease inflammation and get you out of pain as quickly as possible.

Natural Anti-Inflammatories

The most commonly used, and probably most effective, natural anti-inflammatory is fish oil. Studies have shown that taking between two to four grams of fish oil daily can decrease inflammation, espeically in chronic conditions. Omega 3 fatty acids found in fish oil are the catalyst for decreasing inflammation. Although omega 3 fatty acids can be found in other sources, the most benefit has been shown with fish oil. Fish oil has also been shown to help with a number of other conditions ranging from heart disease to depression to asthma.

What About Turmeric?

Although fish oil works very well as an anti-inflammatory, its pain relieving ability has not been proven. However, when used in combination with turmeric, a natural pain reliever, the effect is improved. Turmeric, commonly found in curry, has shown to be even more effective than some NSAIDs when used to treat patients with arthritis. There is even research currently being done to test the anti-cancer properties of turmeric.

While fish oil is very good at decreasing inflammation in chronic cases, it has not been shown to help acute pain and inflammation. In acute cases, try bromelain, an enzyme naturally found in pineapple. Research has shown that bromelain can be effective as both an anti-inflammatory and pain reliever when used with other proteolytic enzymes.

Warning Before Starting

Before taking any of the above supplements, be sure to consult with your doctor. They can determine what supplement is right in your case, and make sure that you will not suffer any ill effects. As an alternative to medication, fish oil, turmeric and bromelain can help calm inflammation or help ease your pain.

Dr. Kevin Wafer is a chiropractor in Houston, TX and a graduate of Texas Chiropractic College. For more information visit His bio page is located here.

Monday, October 10, 2016

The Benefits Of A Standing Desk

Leonardo Da Vinci used one. As did Benjamin Franklin, Ernest Hemmingway, Virginia Wolfe and Winston Churchill.

While these great figures didn’t have insights from recent scientific studies about sitting versus standing at work, they no doubt had good anecdotal reasons behind their decisions.

If you’re curious about the benefits of a standing workstation, or are debating whether or not to make the switch, this article highlights five reasons why we recommend the standing option along with a few tips for getting the most benefits from standing at work.

1) Increase your metabolism, decrease the chance of early mortality

As much as we’ve been told otherwise (or even instructed others), sitting still is not a good thing for us humans. In fact a recent Scientific American article, called Killer Chairs: How Desk Jobs Ruin Your Health goes as far as saying, “chairs are lethal.”1 A lack of movement for hours on end everyday takes a heavy toll on your body.

Sitting simply uses less energy than standing, and recent studies have made strong connections between sitting, weight gain and a host of associated health problems—such as diabetes, heart disease and even certain types of cancers—in addition to a greater chance of early mortality.

Tip: Once you have a standing desk, don’t always stand in the same position. For example, shift your weight from leg to leg regularly and move around when talking on the phone. Even if you don’t currently have a standing workstation, or are unable to get one, take regular breaks to stand up and move around.

2) Activate your core, improve torso support

When you are seated, it’s easy to slouch and let the chair do much of the work of holding you in an upright position. Standing enables you to engage your core and legs and thus keep your body more active throughout the day.

Tips: To reset your posture while standing, do the following:
  • Position your feet under your hips in a neutral, comfortable position and slightly contract your glutes.
  • Breathe in deeply to straighten your posture, then maintain the posture (keep your ribs up) as you exhale.
  • Slightly pull your shoulders down and back (while keeping your eyes at a neutral level looking ahead)
3) Increased productivity from improved blood flow and alertness

How many naps have you taken standing up? Standing, or at least having the option to stand, can give you a much-needed energy boost throughout the day. Part of the reason is because your body has to work harder to stand so it’s not as easy to nod off. In addition, when you are standing you can move around more easily.

So if you are feeling tired, you can do little exercises or easily turn and engage co-workers to stay more alert. Many people report having more energy when they stand during the day rather than sit all of the time.

Tip: If it’s been a long time since you’ve done much standing, be sure to ease into the use of your standing work desk because your body will need time to adapt.

We recommend that people work their way up to standing approximately 70 percent of the time and sitting for the other 30 percent. We also recommend that you change positions before you get fatigued rather than waiting until you feel exhausted.

You may also want to consider standing on a comfort mat, such as the Imprint CumulusPROTM mat to reduce fatigue in your feet and legs. Initially, it may seem like standing is more tiring, but over the course of a week or two it will start to feel normal, so give it time. You may even be amazed how much more energy you start to have in other settings, such as standing around at a networking event or watching a concert.

4) Improved posture

Sitting all of the time leads to potentially harmful adaptations throughout your body, but especially in your hips, lower back and neck. When your legs are in the 90 degree seated position for hours on end, the muscles, tendons and ligaments on the front of your hips and legs adapt by shortening.

At the same time, your glutes get weaker because they don’t need to do any work. If you add slouching to the equation, then you may be gradually reversing the proper curvature throughout your spine. Standing, on the other hand, helps keep your hips open and forces you to use muscles throughout your body to maintain proper posture.

Tip: Just like with a seated desk, proper ergonomics are important for a standing workstation, so make sure your station is set up so that you can stand comfortably with proper posture. Ideally, you want your monitor to be at eye level directly in front of you, and your keyboard positioned so it is a natural extension of your arms when they are at 90 degrees.

5) Less pain and improved mobility

If you are not used to standing, then you probably associate being seated with being comfortable. It’s understandable because your body prefers what it’s used to. But if you consider the points about posture and energy above, then you start to realize that what your body is used to and what is good for your body are two very different things.

In fact, some of your aches and pains at the end of the day may be more associated with sitting and a lack of movement than many other factors. Once your body starts to adapt to standing, some of your nagging aches and pains may decrease or even disappear as joint mobility and muscle strength improves.

Tip: Incorporate easy exercises or light stretches into your standing routine at work. For example, when you are doing light reading, try balancing on one leg for a few seconds and then switch to the other leg and repeat for 10 – 15 reps. Focus on maintaining proper posture throughout the reps.

Stand up for your health

If you research the benefits of standing desks, you will also find articles that suggest avoiding them. Some may suggest that it’s hard to concentrate on difficult tasks while standing, or that the leg and foot pain associated with standing isn’t worth it, in addition to other considerations. Even with these implications, the benefits of standing versus sitting can be dramatic.

Also keep in mind that you don’t have to stand all of the time. Many stand up desks raise and lower and you can keep a stool nearby for when you need a break or some extra brainpower. The important thing is to figure out what works for you.

Monday, October 3, 2016

Do You Really Get Migraines? Or Is It Just A Bad Headache?

When I am consulting with patients, one question I always ask is if they have any problems with headaches. One of the most common responses I get from this question is “I get a migraine every so often.” I have quickly learned that most people really do not know what a migraine headache actually is, they just associate a bad headache with a migraine.

True migraine headaches are separated into two categories, classic migraines and common migraines.

Common migraine make up about 80% of all migraine headaches. All migraines start with a prodrome. The prodrome usually occurs one or two days prior to the actual headache. This period is usually described as a feeling of impending doom in which the person can tell that they will be suffering from a headache soon. The prodrome period is usually associated with depression, irritability, neck stiffness and sometimes food cravings.

Although symptoms of a migraine headache can vary greatly from person to person, there are a few ways to distinguish migraine symptoms from other types of headaches. Migraines usually are described as either pulsating or throbbing in quality and can be on either one or both sides of the head.

During a headache, migraine sufferers complain of extreme light sensitivity, and sometimes also have a sensitivity to sounds and smells. Routinely, when experiencing a migraine, patients will feel the need to lay down in a dark, quiet room to avoid any light or sound.

True migraines are also associated with nausea and vomiting. 

Other common symptoms of a migraine include blurred vision and light-headedness that can lead to fainting. The length of a migraine can differ from person to person, or by episode, but they generally last between four and seventy two hours.

The final phase of a migraine is known as the postdrome. This is the period after the headache has stopped. This period is usually characterized by a feeling of exhaustion. Although rare, some people report experiencing mild euphoria during this time.

The symptoms above characterize all migraine headaches, whether they are classic or common migraines.

Classic migraines are differentiated from common migraines by an aura. The aura gradually builds prior to the attack of a migraine and generally lasts for about an hour. An aura is a nervous system disturbance most commonly associated with visual disturbances. This can include seeing various shapes, flashes of light and sometimes loss of vision. Less commonly, an aura can include numbness or tingling in the arms or legs or problems with speech.

Although the cause of migraines headaches is not exactly known, most believe that they are most likely caused by changes in blood flow to the brain, or by nerve interference. Chiropractic care has shown to help relieve migraine headaches, this may be related to relieving pressure from the nerves that start in the upper cervical spine and travel around the back of the head to the forehead.

Now that we have discussed what distinguishes a migraine headache, do you think you still suffer from migraines? 

If your headaches are not accompanied by the symptoms discussed above, you probably get a different type of headache other than a migraine. In my next blog post, I will discuss other types of headaches and their associated symptoms.

Dr. Kevin Wafer is a chiropractor in Houston, TX and a graduate of Texas Chiropractic College. For more information visit His bio page is located here.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Five Things You (Probably) Didn't Know About Dr. Brown

1. Dr. Brown’s first chiropractic adjustment was given by the first licensed black chiropractor in Texas.

While trying to figure out what career I wanted to pursue, I toured Texas Chiropractic College and was introduced to an historic figure right away, Dr. Romanuel Washington. A great man with a great story about how he got into chiropractic and a message that expressed the significance of the chiropractic profession.

I received my first chiropractic adjustment that day by that great man and the moment I felt the first realignment of the vertebrae in my body, I was a student of chiropractic and always will be.

2. Dr. Brown enjoys poetry. 

Written, spoken, or in song I’m just a fan of poetry. I used to write poems back in grade school and placed in the Parish fair a couple of times. I think it’s amazing how some people have that gift of play on words that can inspire and touch so many.

3. Dr. Brown is a huge New Orleans Saints fan. 

I, just like most Louisianans, grew up loving our professional football team. The Saints were our only professional team for a while so win or lose that was all we had. I bleed black and gold. My high school colors were black and gold, my college school colors were….black and gold.

In high school football we practiced in pants that were donated to us by the Saints. There was an extra sense of honor and pride just to wear the fleur de lis logo. Since living in Houston for the past eight years, I’ve grown some affection for the Astros, Texans, and Rockets. I’ll root for them and wish them the best but the seasonings and spices of the New Orleans flavor flows through my veins and the thirst to shout “Who Dat” always wins.

4. Dr. Brown was an athlete. 

I would consider myself good in all the sports I played, maybe not great but everyone has an opinion. I played Little League Baseball on a team that ranked 4th in the state of Louisiana. I played high school football as a wide receiver and considered a Division 1 prospect by Louisiana Football Magazine.

I played two years of baseball and one year of track and field where I was an All-District winner and All-Regional participant in 4x100m, 4x200m, and 110m high hurdles races.

5. Dr. Brown likes movies. 

Watching movies has long been a favorite past time activity. I used to consider myself a movie buff until I had a kid, which ended my movie theater days (for now). Since, Redbox has been my best friend. I like all types of movies, I’m a fan of a good story!

I would choose action/adventure as my favorite genre but not for the action alone, if the story isn’t great I won’t watch. Second favorite would be comedies. I wouldn’t consider these my top but a couple of my favorites include Star Wars (all 7), Bad Boys 2, Dark Knight Rises, 300, Love and Basketball, Inside Out, and Despicable Me just to name a few.

 Dr. Bryen Brown is a chiropractor in Houston, TX and a graduate of Texas Chiropractic College. For more information visit His bio page is located here.

Monday, September 19, 2016

Do You Foam Roll?

As you begin your chiropractic care, treatment in the office is obviously extremely important.  The chiropractic adjustment is the most important part of your care, and that can only be performed by your chiropractor.  However, your chiropractic can not correct everything on their own.  As you progress through your care plan, your doctor will likely begin to recommend at home exercises to help get you better as fast as possible.

Your chiropractor may also include a few different tools for you to use at home to help with your progress.  This post is designed to help you understand how these tools work and how they help you get the results that you are looking for.

Foam Rollers and Lacrosse Balls

The muscles of our bodies are connected by a tissue known as fascia.  This fascia helps stabilize and attach our muscles to one another.  When fascia becomes tight, it can form trigger points, more commonly known as muscle “knots.”  These trigger points are usually tender and can cause muscular pain.  Foam rollers and lacrosse balls are used to help smooth out fascia and muscle, thus removing the trigger point and relieving pain.

Foam rollers are firm cylinders that can vary in length.  By rolling over the trigger point using the foam roller, the muscles and fascia are stretched out and the trigger point is released, which can greatly improve pain levels.  The key to using a foam roller is finding the area that is painful to roll over, and then spending 30-60 seconds in that area.

Foam rollers are particularly useful in areas such as the gluts, hamstrings and upper back.  For patients with lower back pain, I usually recommend foam rolling the gluts and hamstrings, because these muscles are almost always tight in these patients.  If a patient spends a lot of time sitting at work, I will recommend foam rolling the upper back.  This can help relieve the tension caused by sitting with poor posture.

Lacrosse balls work in the same way as foam rollers, except they are smaller and can be more precise.  If you are unfamiliar with a lacrosse ball, think of it as a really hard tennis ball.  Lacrosse balls can be beneficial for trigger points in the upper trapezius, what people usually refer to as the top of their shoulder, or in the scapula region, between the shoulder blades.  Some people find that it is easier to begin with a tennis ball in these areas before moving to a firmer lacrosse ball.

The Neck Wedge

Another tool that I use in my office is the neck wedge.  One of the most common issues I find on x-rays of a patient’s neck is the loss of the normal cervical curve.  When looking at a normal neck on x-ray, you should see a reverse C shaped curve.  On most x-rays I see, this curve is either reduced, completely straight, or reversed into a C shape.  This loss of curvature can lead to neck pain.  The neck wedge is designed to help naturally rebuild this curve, thus helping relieve neck pain.

When beginning to use the neck wedge, I recommend that patients spend about 5 minutes a day on the wedge.  As the wedge becomes more comfortable, they should add a minute every few days until they reach 15 minutes per day.  If a neck wedge is not available, a bath towel can be rolled into a cylinder and used in place of the wedge.  In my experience, patients who use the neck wedge as recommended, not only notice decreased neck pain, but also notice improvements in their posture.

By incorporating a foam roller, lacrosse ball or neck wedge, you can greatly impact your chiropractic care.  Before using any of these tools, make sure you discuss them with your doctor.  They can also give you more precise instruction, and make sure that you are using them properly.

Dr. Kevin Wafer is a chiropractor in Houston, TX and a graduate of Texas Chiropractic College. For more information visit His bio page is located here.