Could a bad back be making your brain shrink?

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If you’re thinking that something is holding you back, it might just be your spine. Chronic back pain negatively affects brain activity as studied in The Journal of Neuroscience. So if you’ve thought that it’s just back pain, it’s no big deal. Think again. Chronic back pain affects your performance in everything you do. How does that occur?


Your brains responsibility is to make sure your aware and adapting to everything around you; everything thing from temperature changes to walking straight to digesting your food. To do this your brain requires input from the nerves throughout your body. At all times your brain is getting information and adapting to the new environment.

It might surprise you but your nervous system has 2 divisions, Sympathetic and Parasympathetic. In very basic terms Sympathetic nerves send information if the situation or environment is urgent, stressful or an emergency, in this case pain. Parasympathetic messages are sent if the situation is calm, easy and relaxed. They send opposite signals. What does this have to do with back pain and brain function?

If you are experiencing chronic back pain, the information that your brain receives is; stress, pain, urgent, emergency. This is happening on a constant, regular basis. Constant signals of Stress ( urgent, emergency) causes your brain to changes the way it receives and interprets information.

With constant back pain your brain will slowly adapt by decreasing activity or shutting down parts of the brain. This is followed by the brain actually losing mass and getting smaller in certain areas. Long term, poorly managed back pain can actually decrease and shrink your brain.


Is this reversible? Initial research says yes. After receiving care your brain will start to receive less “stress” signals and begin to improve brain function, not to mention feeling better with less pain. After a period of improved activity the brain will increase in thickness to regular levels.

To keep yourself and your brain healthy do not tolerate pain especially for long periods of time. Get checked by a Chiropractor. Get adjusted. Get Healthy.

The Journal of Neuroscience, 18 May 2011, 31(20): 7540-7550; doi:10.1523/JNEUROSCI.5280-10.2011

Hungerford Chiropractic & Wellness Center

Serving the greater Grand Rapids area; Standale, Walker, Wyoming, and Grandville

Grand Rapids, MI 49534



Cold & Flu Solutions

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Nutrition Before the Holidays

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Nutrition Before the Holidays Flier- 10-10-13

Video: The top 3 Chiropractic questions

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No sleep? It’s more dangerous than you think

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sleep on booksTrouble sleeping is nothing new but how do you solve sleeping issues?   While not getting a good night’s sleep is problematic for many families, the dangers are well known.  Could a lack of sleep actually be killing you?

While there are many causes for poor sleep, the health effects are well documented.   Impaired sleep can dramatically weaken your immune system making you more vulnerable to illness.   It has also been shown that poor sleep accelerates tumor growth.   In addition a lack of sleep can cause a pre-diabetic state, triggering food cravings and low energy.   There is also the well known factor of memory loss.  A recent report from Science Daily showed that people who suffer from chronic insomnia are 2-3 times more likely to die from any cause due to sleep impairment.  In short nothing positive comes from poor sleep.

A good night’s rest not only leaves you feeling refreshed but it physically recharges and heals your body.   Think of a poor night sleep as forgetting to charge your phone and then expecting it to perform well the next day.  So what can you do, naturally, to improve sleep?

What effect does Chiropractic care have on insomnia?   Let’s answer this by first stating that Chiropractic is not a treatment for any specific condition.   Chiropractic’s goal is to relieve areas of stress and misalignment in the spine.  If the insomnia is caused by or aggravated by misalignment’s in the spine then Chiropractic care would be very helpful.   To determine whether this is a Chiropractic case simply call your local Chiropractor and get an evaluation.   I have seen many cases where the patient reports less pain and better sleep following Chiropractic care.

What can I do naturally to improve my sleep?  These 5 things will get you on the right track to a good night’s rest.

Sleep in the dark.  It is incredibly important to sleep in a room that is both quite and completely dark.  Given the increase of electronics, there are plenty of distractions such as clocks, phones, computers and TV.  These need to be turned off, out of sight or put in another room.

Exercise regularly, 30 minutes 3-5 times per week.  A good workout decreases anxiety and can improve sleep.  Try to exercise in the morning, exercising to close to bed time can actually make you more alert.

Avoid work before bed time.   It is ideal to stop doing work at least 1 hour before sleep.  That hour or so will help calm and relax your mind.  Also try not to watch TV or use electronics during your unwind time as that can stimulate your mind.

Avoid alcohol and caffeine.   While some alcohol will may help you relax, alcohol has a sedative effect which helps you close your eyes but not truly sleep.  It can disrupt your sleep wake cycle, so when you awaken you still feel tired and groggy.  Caffeine can also delay sleep or cause you to wake up before you need to and is best to be avoided.

Consider a melatonin supplement.  Melatonin is a natural chemical in your brain that regulates sleep.  This chemical is normally regulated by sunlight or the lack sunlight.   Ideally sunlight first thing in the morning would trigger wakefulness and night time would trigger sleep.  With today artificial lights and electronics our melatonin production can be impaired.  A melatonin supplement can be a gentle way to increase sleepiness and sleep for a longer period of time.

Hungerford Chiropractic & Wellness Center

Serving the greater Grand Rapids area; Standale, Walker, Wyoming, and Grandville

Grand Rapids, MI 49534



Sciatica…. Wow that hurts!

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Nothing quite grabs your attention quite like an electric shock that travels down your leg.   Sciatica is the term used to describe a pinched nerve from your spine in the lower part of your back.  How in the world did this happen?

Your spine is made up of movable segments that are separated by small jelly like discs and surrounded with muscles and ligaments.  These structures provide support and absorb shock.   Unfortunately they are also vulnerable to both accidents (sports injuries and falls) and repetitive stress injuries (sitting at a computer all day or carrying your kids on the same hip everyday).    When the Sciatic Nerve becomes impinged this is often referred to as sciatica. 

I’m in an incredible amount of pain and I can barely move, what do I do now?  Take a deep breath and reach for the phone.   Calling your Chiropractor will bring you piece of mind.  Misalignment’s in your spine with pressure on the nerves is exactly what your Chiropractor is trained to analyze and correct.   Usually a Chiropractor can see you the same day and if they cannot the wait is usually only a day or two.

The amount of adjustments needed to get you up and running will vary depending on the severity of the injury and whether the patient has any old injuries or complicating conditions.  It is well known that Doctors of Chiropractic are rated #1 with regard to back injuries.

I need to feel better immediately what should I use ice or heat?   For an injury that has recently occurred ice is always the preferred choice.  Ice is effective for a couple reasons.  First is pain relief, ice is fantastic at limiting pain signals in the body and it only affects the area that is contacted unlike pain medication which affects the whole body.  Also ice reduces inflammation which is present in a recent injury.  Inflammation and swelling restrict motion increase fluid and sensitivity.

Should I ever use heat?   Heat is helpful when the injury has been present for a long time and no swelling is present.  Heat increases circulation to the surrounding tissues as well as loosens up the muscles and ligaments.  It is useful for common forms of arthritis.

As a side note on heat, I often hear of patients using heat for acute injuries because it feels good.   While heat may feel good temporarily it will increase swelling.   Within 1-2 hours after heat the joints motion will be very restricted and painful.  If you really want to use heat always finish with a period of ice for 15-20 minutes.

Ice guidelines

Apply ice to recent injuries or areas of swelling

Ice for 15-20 minutes on the affected area and 40 minutes off, repeat as necessary

Always use a towel or cloth between the ice pack and your skin to avoid injury

Heat guidelines

Apply heat to old or chronic injuries without swelling

Heat will improve circulation and fluid to the contacted area

Heat for 10-15 minutes at a time; do not fall asleep with heat on.

Do not use extremely hot temperatures.


Hungerford Chiropractic & Wellness Center

Serving the greater Grand Rapids area; Standale, Walker, Wyoming, and Grandville

Grand Rapids, MI 49534


Chiropractic answers on stroke in 3 minutes

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Getting your child to go

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angry baby

Parenting a child who is having trouble using the bathroom can be a challenge.   Many children have no problem at all but some suffer from regular bouts of constipation.   Do you change their diet?  Give them medication?  Use enemas?  The good news is that with conservative care like Chiropractic many of these interventions may not be needed.

Chiropractic has an amazing effect on the body.   Quite simply Chiropractic helps the body work the way it’s supposed to.  With childhood constipation there is often an interruption between the nervous system and the digestive system.

 Imagine the digestive tract constantly receiving input from the brain.  The digestive tract constantly filters out water, nutrients and sends the rest on its way.  Then the information stops.  The nerve that tells the digestive tract what to do is compressed.   What happens next?

Now the nerve that communicates with the digestive tract is only able to transmit part of the information from the brain.   Therefore the digestive tract only receives the signal to pull out nutrients but does not move the rest of the material.  The material sits.  Now we have a constipated child.

You could give your child medicine to override the body or possibly a home remedy.   In one of my recent experiences the parents gave their child a laxative.  Now even if this produces a bowel movement, does that fix the pressure on the nerve that controls the digestive tract?   Medicine cannot restore proper nerve communication.   That is something that only a Chiropractor can help with.

In my experience when a child presents with constipation and irritation to the nervous system, the adjustment has a drastic effect.   The adjustment produced happier, more relaxed child as well as a bowel movement in less than 1 hour.   All kids are different and results will vary but proper nerve communication, by an adjustment, helps the body get back on track.

Hungerford Chiropractic & Wellness Center

Serving the greater Grand Rapids area; Standale, Walker, Wyoming, and Grandville

Grand Rapids, MI 49534


Pregnancy: Expect it to be great video

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Infantile Colic: From chaos to calm

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crying baby

Nothing rattles a new parent like the dreaded rule of 3.  Infantile colic follows 3 general guidelines: crying for more than 3 hours per day, crying for 3 or more days per week, and crying for 3 or more weeks in an otherwise healthy and well fed baby.   This can be a quite a stressful time.   What are the causes and what is the best first step in calming infantile colic?

One thing that helped me understand colic is that it’s not a disease.  It’s a symptom.   There are also a variety of reasons for why babies cry.  Some of the causes of Colic can include: too much gas in the intestine, dietary problems and birth trauma.

One of the most effective things you can do is have a consultation with your Pediatric Chiropractor.   After going over your child’s history the Chiropractor will check your child’s nervous system to determine if Chiropractic can help.  If there is a disturbance to the nervous system than your child will benefit from being adjusted.

Several studies have been done regarding Infantile Colic and Chiropractic Care.  A study published in the Journal of Manipulative Physiological Therapeutics, studied 316 infants with Colic who underwent Chiropractic care.  Of the 316 infants, 94% showed a satisfactory improvement within 2 weeks of starting Chiropractic care.  After 4 weeks the improvement was maintained.  The remaining infants demonstrated improvement within 14 days.   A side note to this study was that 51% of the participants had undergone a previously unsuccessful intervention, usually drug therapy.

Although not all children respond this quickly the average number of adjustments needed to produce satisfactory improvement was 3.8 over a 2 week period.  If you have any questions please give us a call or send us an email.

Hungerford Chiropractic & Wellness Center

Serving the greater Grand Rapids area; Standale, Walker, Wyoming, and Grandville

Grand Rapids, MI 49534