Is My Training Program Safe?

kettlebellIs My Training Program Safe?


There’s been a lot of buzz in the both social and conventional media about the dangers of certain fitness trends, specifically Crossfit. One particular article about weightlifting during pregnancy and another one about a condition called rhabdomyolysis spread virally throughout Facebook and Twitter in the past few weeks. It even spurned a  feature segment on ABC yesterday.

The point of today’s post isn’t to defend or promote Crossfit. Most of my readers are very well aware of my stance on the phenomenon. The truth is, there are risks and benefits of any training program. I’ve seen and heard stories of rhabdomyolysis stemming from high school football training facilities, Tri-atheletes, and body builders.

My goal here today is to help you determine whether or not your training program is safe. Not only for the health of your spine, but for your body as a whole. So how do you know if your training program is safe? Let’s start by looking at the 4 principle reasons for training injuries:

1. Bad Movement Patterns – We’ve all heard this before, bad form will always lead to injury. People are pretty familiar with things like arching your back while doing bicep curls, or the crooked positions people take to get weight over their heads. However, form comes into play in things such as running and yoga as well. A coach or a trainer should be teaching and watching you perform the basic movements of any training activity before advancing to full on workouts.

2. Poor Programming – Everyone knows the guy that overloads on the bench press everyday and blows out their shoulder. We also know the guy that has never used their legs in a workout in their entire existence. However, programming an exercise regiment is about more than aesthetics. It’s about creating an ideal situation that ensures balance in the function of the musculoskeletal system.

1 and 2 are where finding the right coach and trainer play an important role in designing a safe and effective training program. A good coach or trainer is the difference between getting great results, and ENJOYING fitness, or getting hurt and finding it a chore.

When choosing a program of fitness, you should watch how clients in the gym are exercising:
Do their movements look well executed or do they look like they are all over the place?
Are there options for modifying movement patterns or is everyone regardless of skill level forced into one movement?
Most gyms offer a trial period to see if the gym is a right fit for you. Spend a week there. Over the course of a week, are there a variety of exercises performed or are the same ones repeated day after day?
Are trainers providing feedback to people to fine-tune their movements or are people just doing whatever they want with someone watching?


So as we can see, selecting a great trainer/program plays a critical role in exercising safely. But I can’t put the hook solely on the trainers. The 2nd part is how YOU determine how safe your program is.

3. Body Awareness Deficiency – the body is an incredibly intelligent piece of machinery. It is always giving us feedback on what does and what doesn’t work for us….most of the time, we just choose not to listen. If you pay attention, you’ll notice that certain foods (gluten, sugar, MSG) tend to cause drowsiness, fatigue, and headaches when we eat them.  Muscles are always making us aware of when a muscle is on the verge of tearing.

One of the biggest reasons people get injured is that they ignore the signals their body is giving them. Now this doesn’t mean you should quit or slow down if you’re tired. That’s not what I’m saying. What I’m saying is that when you are in tune with your body, you have a sense when something is off or wrong.

I remember just a few months ago, I was working out. While I was doing my warm up, I decide to skip a few steps despite the fact that my hips felt  extra tight from the day before. I knew that I hadn’t warmed up properly, and that the weight may put me in jeopardy, but I decided to go anyway because of laziness. Sure enough, a rib popped out of place and I was sidelined for a couple of days because I didn’t listen to what my body was telling me.

Don’t let coaches or people bully you into doing reps that you know may put you in jeopardy. Your body is aware of what’s happening inside of you, take notice!


4. Inability to Rest – There is a certain point when you love to exercise so much, that you dread the days where you don’t work out. I know, because I’m on of them. Short workouts turn into 2 a days. You decide to do yoga in the morning, lift in the afternoon, and run at night. You feel like my friend Dikembe over here, and choose to have “active rest” days, which really turn into workout days anyway.

As much as it may pain you to do this, rest is one of the most important parts of someone’s workout routine. It’s the magical place where muscle grows and gets repaired. It’s what allows those joints to flush out the inflammation from your barbell assault. That’s right, I said it, working out is an assault on your body. A controlled assault when done right, but an assault none the less.

There is no defense against overuse. There isn’t enough proper form, coaching, ice, foam rolling, or chiropractic that can defend against someone putting their through the wringer each and every day. It may slow it down, but injury is almost inevitable.

Regardless of the name of the type of workout you’re doing, what counts is the quality of coaching, the programming, and getting a feel for your body’s response to exercise. I’ve been to Crossfit gyms with outstanding coaches who care and protect their clients from injury,  just as I’ve been to yoga studios who let their members perform high risk poses recklessly.

The fact of the matter is, we know that consistent exercise is a cornerstone of vibrant health. With PREVENTABLE diseases like Type II diabetes and heart disease affecting people at younger ages, we are creating a culture that will collapse the health care system, whether the government pays for it or not. We need people to be proactive and to be PASSIONATE about maintaining their level of fitness.

If you’re looking for great resources in South Florida, check out some of my favorite gyms, studios, and trainers below. Happy lifting!

Crossfit Hardcore – my gym of choice. Great community and great trainers that will ensure your safety. Great boot camp and personal training options available to those who love intensity, but aren’t quite ready for Crossfit at the Royal Palm Beach Location

Hellman Holistic Health– CHEK Certified Coach and trainer. Dan Hellman is one of the most sought after experts in the world. He has helped thousands of people regain their health with a holistic approach to movement. He carries additional expertise in Golf training and working with people with degenerative conditions.

Annutara Yoga Shala – my personal favorite yoga studio. Outstanding teachers from the beginner to the advanced yogi.

Ncognito Personal Training – one of the premier training studios in Palm Beach County, and neighbor the Keystone Chiropractic.


Whiplash Associated Disorders – What Are the Facts?

Whiplash Associated Disorders – What are the Facts?


In my experience, I’ve found that whiplash is a commonly misunderstood diagnosis among the patient population. Many people self-diagnose the pain in the neck following a bad roller coaster ride or car accident as a whiplash injury. While they may or may not be correct, the truth is that whiplash is a type of injury with serious implications, and is frequently mismanaged by unscrupulous folks with a big stake in the business of personal injury.

Whiplash is a common name for a group of neck disorders known as cervical acceleration-deceleration injury or cervical sprain/strain injury. It occurs when the head and neck are placed in motion and suddenly forced to a stop causing a hyperflexion or hyperextension motion. This irregular movement of the neck causes the ligaments of the spine to sprain and the muscles to splint the unstable structure. This type of injury is also known to cause the discs of the spine to bulge and herniate, thus complicating matters even further.

It’s easy to see how whiplash can be a real pain in the neck (pun intended), but most people treat it like a sprained ankle and hope that the pain goes away in a few weeks. However, there can be long term consequences; even for people who don’t have pain symptoms immediately. Research has shown that whiplash associated disorders are related to inflammatory and endocrine problems like those seen in chronic fatigue syndrome or fibromyalgia1. Whiplash is also associated with chronic pain by making your brain more sensitive to pain signals, which explains why so many people can suffer without any evidence of physical damage2. Additionally, people who report whiplash injuries after a rear-end accident are likely to show complaints of headaches, TMJ, back pain, fatigue, and sleep problems even 7 years later3! Whiplash has even been associated with chronic inflammation by making the body’s own immune system overly responsive to normal stimuli4,5.

Though the focus of my practice has never been on auto-accidents cases, the truth is that most drivers will be involved in a collision no matter how good a driver they may be. Most will probably not experience pain immediately after a collision, especially if you’re in your teens or early 20’s. However, the impact of a vehicle traveling at speeds as low as 15 mph can show visible signs of structural damage to the neck. These include s-shaped curves in the neck, anterior ligament instability, Atlas Displacement, and Anterior Head Syndrome. A recent study has found that this type of trauma to the spine can cause parts of the brain and brain stem to slip further into the neck creating a condition called Chiari Malformation6. While they may not be painful in their early stages, these structural changes can pre-dispose the spine to early degeneration and arthritis if left uncorrected over the course of several years.

normal x-ray

Normal Neck X-ray


S-shape X-ray Characteristic of Whiplash

S-shape X-ray Characteristic of Whiplash

As a chiropractor focused on structural correction, I see patients everyday with Secondary Conditions like headaches and TMJ related to accidents that took place many years earlier. While some of these patients suffered painful injuries and received treatment following an accident, most people will walk in and say they didn’t have any symptoms until years later. When someone asks why their pain seemed to come out of nowhere, I can usually look at their x-ray and see that the structure of the neck fits the familiar S-shape of a previous rear end collision.

Here are your take home messages:

  • First, problems can grow in the body in the absence of symptoms. Much like cancer and heart disease don’t happen overnight, people with chronic pain usually under go slow physiologic changes in their brain and hormonal systems for years before they have a condition that won’t go away.
  • Second, if you have a physical/structural problem, then you must go beyond treating the pain symptoms to help get full resolution of the problem. Whiplash injuries cause distinct structural problems in the spine. While pain relief is important, making the pain go away while leaving the structure in bad shape is like taking the battery out of a smoke detector when a fire is burning in the house.

Whiplash associated disorders can be a complicated problem that requires a comprehensive solution. When selecting a team of doctors, make sure that you have someone in your corner that can look at you from a functional standpoint rather than sheer pathology, that addresses the structure of your spine in 3-dimensions, and understands the nature of traumatic injuries.



  1. Gaab J, Baumann S, Budnoik A et al. Reduced reactivity and enhanced negative feedback sensitivity of the hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal axis in chronic whiplash associated disorder. Pain. December 2005. 119(1). 219-224.
  2. Banic B, Peterson-Felix S, Anderson OK et al. Evidence for spinal cord hypersensitivity in chronic pain after whiplash injury and in fibromyalgia. Pain. January 2004. 7-15.
  3. Berglund A, Afredsson L, Jensen I, Cassidy JD, Nygren Ake. The association between exposure to a rear-end collision and future health complaints. J of Clinical Epidemiology. Aug 2001 (54): 851-856.
  4.  Kivioja J, Rinaldi L, Ozenci V et al. Chemokines and their receptors in whiplash injury: elevated RANTES and CCR-5. J Clin Immunol. Jul 2001; 21(4): 272-7
  5. Kivioja J, Ozenci V, Rinaldi L. Systemic response in whiplash injury and ankle sprain: elevated IL06 and IL-10. Clin Immunol. Oct 2001; 101(1): 106-12.
  6. Freeman MD, Rosa S, Harshfield D et al. A case-control study of cerebellar tonsillar ectopia (Chiari) and head/neck trauma (whiplash). Brain Inj. 2010; 24(7-8): 988-94.

Vertigo – What are Common Causes?

Vertigo – What are Common Causes?

dizzinessMost of us have experienced a bout with vertigo (dizziness) at some point in our lives. Whether it’s the memory of playing dizzy-bats as a kid, a college night out with too many adult beverages, or a trip on our not so favorite carnival ride; the sensation of the world around you spinning is something that is pretty familiar. But take a moment and think about how it would feel to have your world start to spin without any warning  or known cause to think of.

This is a reality for an estimated 25-35 million people in the US each year. Vertigo is part of a wide spectrum of problems known as Vestibular Disorders. A vestibular disorder is a problem that targets the control centers of balance for your entire body. Most of these cases are reported in people older than 65. As you lose your ability to maintain balance, falls can occur leading to fractures of the hip, spine, or shoulder as we grow older.

In order to understand what must be done to help someone with dizziness, we have to understand what is causing the symptoms to begin with. Unfortunately, Vertigo is not a one size fits all diagnosis… fact, it’s barely a diagnosis at all, you’re basically being told that you have dizziness… Latin. In either case, the appropriate management of vertigo is dependent on finding out what is causing the problem.

So what are some common causes? Let’s break a few of them down:

1. Meniere’s Disease – a disease of the inner ear where the prominent symptoms are dizziness, hearing loss, ringing of the ears (tinnitis), or a sense of fullness in the ear. It can range in severity and typically affects people in their 40’s-50’s. It’s a chronic condition, but there are a variety of alternative and traditional therapies that can address the symptoms. It is associated with fluid buildup called lymph in the inner ear which disrupts the sensors that transmit information to the brain for hearing and balance.

2. Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo (BPPV) – the most common diagnosis for people suffering with vertigo. It’s thought to be caused by the build up of crystals in the inner ear. When the head changes positions, these crystals are thought to shift and affect the nerve endings of the inner ear triggering bouts of vertigo.

3. Labrynthitis –  a disorder in which the primary organ of the vestibular system becomes enflamed. It is usually a result of a viral infection, but can occur from bacteria, traumatic head injury, allergies, and medication. It is usually occurs after a recent upper respiratory infection. Labrynthitis is typically very treatable pending no permanent nerve damage has occurred.

4. Cervicogenic vertigo – a vestibular disorder that is usually associated with a neck injury. Though it is considered to a rare form of vertigo compared to the ones listed above, my experience in practice tells me that it is more common than one might think. There are no diagnostic tests to find out if vertigo is related to the neck, but it is labeled as such when dizziness accompanies neck pain, or follows some sort of whiplash injury.


As a Structural Chiropractor, I’ve had the opportunity to see patients from all 4 categories. I wish I could say that one kind of Vertigo responds great, while others not so much. I’ve seen many with Meniere’s get full recovery, while some get little relief at all. I’ve seen plenty with BPPV do great, while others will go in and out of relapse. The truth of the matter is, Vertigo is a complicated problem with multiple factors that make each person’s situation unique.

The one commonality is that the each person’s vestibular system is reacting inappropriately. The vestibular system is one of the most complex systems in the body. It takes input from your eyes, inner ear, and spine and organizes it to fit what is happening in reality. Here’s how it works:

Let’s say that you’re driving in a car. While you’re in the car and you’re facing forward, your eyes, ears, and spine tell you that you’re moving in the same direction and all is well. Now lets say you’re bored, so you decide to read a book. While you’re reading, your ears and spine still sense movement, but your eyes are locked on a fixed point. All of a sudden, you start to get dizzy and woozy.

I bet you can think of several scenarios like this. Take the spinning bats game. You’ve got your head down on a bat, you spin around and around and you’re okay while you’re spinning. Suddenly, you come to a stop. Your spine and eyes say you’re not moving, but the fluid in your ears say that you are, and the same dizziness starts to hit again.

We all know that your eyes and ears can affect your balance because we’ve all done things to our eyes and ears that give us that dizzy feeling. However, head positioning has a huge impact on balance, and that’s where Atlas Displacement comes into play.



As you can see in the image below, the positioning of the head on top of the C1 and C2 Vertebra are closely related to the Vestibular nucleus, aka, the control center for the entire vestibular system. The positioning of the head and neck can affect the way that the eustachian tubes function, it can dictate how fluid in the inner ear is moving, and more importantly, it acts as a gate keeper for all of the signals coming into the brain that say what the spine is doing.

The point of this isn’t to say that Structural Chiropractic is a treatment for vertigo, because it’s not. However, if you want your vestibular system to work the way that it was intended, then the upper cervical spine and the brain stem has to be functioning correctly to make that happen.

With proper structural alignment, then the help of medical doctors and vestibular rehab specialists can help stop the world from spinning.

Here are some great case studies showing the impact of upper cervical spine on patients with vertigo.


The Pain is in my Back, Why Are You Looking At My Neck???

The Pain is in my Back, Why Are You Looking At My Neck???


I have a confession to make.

I…….am NOT a back doctor.

Whew, that felt great to get off of my chest!

I know, I know, it’s a little weird for a chiropractor to come out and say that he’s not a back doctor, but I promise you that it’s true. You can even ask most any patient that has ever presented to my office, and they will tell you that I pay very little attention to what’s going on in the low back. I can hear the questions and comments already:

“But 80% of the country will have back pain during their life, why would turn away all of that potential business?”

“”If you don’t take care of the back, then what DO you take care of?”

In my practice, I focus on Structural Correction and I deal exclusively with the alignment and mechanics of the head and neck. While I don’t specifically treat low back pain, I’ve seen hundreds, if not thousands of patients with low back pain looking for someone to help them. But how can a gentle approach to the neck help with back problems?

I can probably cite a complicated study like this , or explain this long and complex pathway like the infographic shown below:

subluxation infographic

But really, I’m sure you just want me to make sense of it all. So here it goes:

1. No matter where pain may be felt, it is always processed by the brain. That’s why there are many Secondary Conditions where there is nothing physically wrong to diagnose, but the pain is very real to that person. A person with Fibromyalgia deeply understands this concept.

Proper structural alignment of the head and neck allow the brainstem to transmit the messages from the spinal cord properly. It ensures that there is no hypersensitivity to pain occurring at the level of the central nervous system.

anterior head syndrome


2. Anterior head syndrome is a condition in which the head and neck has shifted forward in front of the shoulders. While this may not seem like much, .the weight of a 12 lb head reaching beyond the shoulders forces the muscles of the neck and back to pull harder than normal. This is because for every inch forward the head moves, gravity pulls 10 extra lbs onto the neck and back muscles. So a person with a 10 lb head can suddenly have the mechanics of a 30 lb head with just 2 inches of Anterior Head Syndrome.

An interesting thing to note is that people with both neck pain and back pain will see their back pain go away before their neck pain, even though I’m only making a correction to the neck

3. According to a recent study in the Journal of Neurosurgery, deformities in the neck affect the alignment of the hips and pelvis. The two structures are linked together through a complex muscular sling. In other words, where the head goes, the neck goes and vice versa.

atlas adjustment

A common situation from a structural shift in the neck

Whether you’ve been told your SI joint or a herniated disc is the problem, Structural Correction may still provide an answer. Though not all cases of back pain are related to a Structural Shift in the neck, it’s an important factor that is not usually looked at by most doctors or Traditional Chiropractors. Rather than getting pigeon-holed into a symptom-treatment model, it may benefit you to have someone take a global look at the body, and how the structure of the neck can impact the rest of the spine and the central nervous system.

Becoming a Supple Leopard – A Chiro’s Perspective on Crossfit’s Mobility Cert

Becoming a Supple Leopard – A Chiro’s Perspective on Kelly Starrett’s Mobility Cert


Handstand Push ups on the Great Wall of China? No big deal

With Crossfit’s infamous stories of injury, it may seem unusual that I would subject my body to the potential abuse; particularly for someone who relies on using their body for a living. I first got introduced to Crossfit while I was in chiropractic school through one of my classmates. The workout was short, but it left me laying on the floor exhausted and wondering what just happened to me…I was hooked.

I became a sponge for information. I watched hundreds of videos on how to perform a kipping pull up, cleans, and muscle-ups. I read articles about the benefits of performing exercise at high-intensity. I watched people flip tires and walk on their hands, and knew I wanted to be able to do all of those things.

However, I knew the fun couldn’t last if I knew it was something that I couldn’t do safely. An injury to my spine, shoulders, or legs would cost me the ability to take care of patients and make a living.  If my chances for serious injury were high, the risk of getting hurt would force me to put away my fun new hobby.



That’s when I stumbled upon the Crossfit Journal and the work of Dr. Kelly Starrett. He’s a Doctor of Physical Therapy, a Crossfit Coach, and an international expert who has consulted with NFL teams, Olympic Athletes, and the U.S. Military on enhancing the safety and efficacy of their training programs. He’s most recently known for his regular contributions to and his new book “Becoming a Supple Leopard”. The Journal was a treasure trove of articles and videos where he details effective methods of doing the workouts safely, AND more efficiently. It was a beautiful system where the better I learned how to perform the exercises safely, the faster I got and the better my workout times.

As I got better at doing the movements safely, my times and my strength improved. As a professional who has been an athlete and has worked with athletes, it is difficult to teach someone how to move safely. However, if the movement makes you better and faster, then it was worthwhile. Safe is not sexy, performance is.

Thus my addiction was validated. I had the information necessary to do what I loved to do with the tools and assurance that I could perform safely, and I’ve done so for the past 5 years.

As I finished school, I realized that I had a different set of eyes then what I had before I started school. I could watch people exercise and see where their movements may lead to future problems. Whether it was weight lifting, jumping, running, or throwing, the eyes of someone who is intimately familiar with the body’s architecture . Though I could see the problems happening before my eyes, I didn’t have great tools to help the person fix the underlying problem that would lead to injury; their faulty movement patterns.

Tilted Overhead SquatBoxJumps

Though my primary focus has never been on athletes or athletic performance, I’ve taken care of quite a few athletes who were in need of Structural Correction. One of the most pressing concerns for these girls and guys is how to stay on the training floor while recovering from injury. They’ve been to numerous doctors that tell them to shut the training down for weeks to months, which is like telling a singer to stop singing or a dancer to stop dancing. They would rather not exist than exist without their passion. While in Chiropractic School, I had teachers who worked with elite athletes from NHL/NFL stars to Olympic sprinters. The problem was their ability to put the information they used everyday into a workable framework to use in practice; it wasn’t workable.

This past weekend, I registered and attended Dr. Kelly Starrett’s Mobility Certification offered through Crossfit’s training program. The course is sold out for months in gyms across the country, and by a little bit of luck, I was able to find some open spaces in my own backyard.

 The Mobility Cert

starrettKelly began the course with a concept that was elegantly described and very familiar to those in chiropractic. Just like chiropractic, many people see the world of Mobility framed around a response to pain. While pain frequently puts people in a position to see a professional or to take better care of themselves, it is a system that is forcing the collapse of the modern health care. The cost of treating diseases like diabetes, heart disease, and stroke are staggering. The worst part is that most cases of these diseases are completely preventable. They arise as a  result from the population treating their bodies poorly for years, and not taking action until symptoms show.

What Starrett is able to do is use simple to use tools that are commonly taught  in chiropractic and physical therapy programs, and make them usable for the public at large using inexpensive tools. Things like trigger point therapy, PNF stretching, and targeted stretching programs have been utilized and provided by PT’s and chiros for years are now available for basic problems of the musculoskeletal system.


Now you might be thinking “Wouldn’t giving these tools to people hurt your business?”

On the contrary, I think it makes me a stronger and more credible doctor to teach people how to better care for their own pain. In my world, Structural Chiropractic is not about treating someone’s musculoskeletal pain or Secondary Conditions. It’s about restoring the body back to normal through optimal alignment of the spine. It’s about achieving the full potential of the central intelligence of the brain and spinal cord, because a healthy brain can take better care of you than most any doctor. It’s about returning the person’s nervous system into a state that Starrett called fully human. 

I didn’t get into chiropractic to treat someone’s uncomplicated muscle pain. I got into chiropractic to restore someone’s life to the way it was meant to be lived.

Starrett’s concept of being fully human  is the most elegant description of being fully expressed that I’ve heard delivered to date. Movement is life, and is what drives the function of the nervous system. If the human body is designed to move in certain ways, any deviation or interference to your ability to move takes away from your ability to be fully expressed as a human being. Sure, it means moving pain free, but more importantly, it means moving to the best of your ability, with great performance and intensity.

Finally, and this is something that I shared with Starrett at the seminar, is the fact that I wished professors in school had the ability to simplify these principles of functional restoration in my classes. Kelly’s ability to understand the neurological and biomechanical implications of his material, but make it digestible for regular people to understand was fantastic. He also made it easier to put his material to use by giving people a framework of Crossfit’s basic movements as a diagnostic guide to identifying movement dysfunction in the gym itself.

Where it used to take minutes to identify and understand the cause of someone’s movement deficiencies, I can now readily identify in seconds. Thanks to his concept of using the” gym as a lab”.

K-Star showing Keystone Chiropractic some love

K-Star showing Keystone Chiropractic some love

Whether you’re a professional (chiropractor/MD/PT), a coach, a Crossfitter looking to be in the Games, or just a person looking to become more human, if you have the opportunity to take this certification, make sure you jump at it. Get the tools to help others become Supple Leopards, that way, I can focus on what do best, and that’s Structural based, upper cervical chiropractic.

The underlying theme in all of this? Learn the tools to take the best care of yourself. Take control of your own health, and use the professionals as teachers as the word “Doctor” was originally intended.

Gluten-Free: Should you or shouldn’t you?

Gluten-Free: Should you or shouldn’t you?

The Gluten-Free aisle is the fastest growing part of the grocery store. What’s going on here?


gluten_free_aisle-resized-600They fill up whole sections of your local Publix or Whole Foods. New menu sections are designed for them at PF Changs and Cheesecake Factory. In the past 5 years, the words “Gluten-free” have become a hot topic of conversation in the health community. But what does it really mean to be Gluten-free? Is it healthy? Is it something you should be doing? Let’s take a closer look.

How did Gluten-free come about?

Gluten-free diets first emerged as a treatment for Celiac Disease. Celiac disease is an auto-immune disorder that affects an estimated 1/1750 people with clinical symptoms, but as many as 1/105 people have positive blood tests. It’s a disease where the body creates antibodies attack the inner lining of the digestive tract. The symptoms can range from moderate to severe abdominal pain with diarrhea, fatigue, malabsorbtion, or no symptoms at all. It was determined the immune system was reacting to proteins found in wheat and other grains leading to inflammation in the gut. The inflammation in the gut lead to damage in the intestinal lining causing pain and an inability to absorb various nutrients from food. When wheat and offending grains were eliminated from the diet of these individuals, the symptoms ceased, and the intestines healed within a matter of weeks. Thus, a gluten-free diet was born.

If it happens in less than 1% of people, why is it so popular now?

While many people don’t have Celiac disease, many people are finding that they may have a sensitivity to gluten. While it’s not highly recognized in traditional medicine, the fields of functional medicine and natural health fields have been studying the physiological effects of gluten for several years. While it may not show up as a digestive problem, people have found problems such as headaches, allergies, and thyroid problems lessened or vanished when they went gluten-free.

One thing is starting to become clear; whether people have Celiac Disease or not, many people are finding some definitive health benefits from switching to a gluten-free diet.

Is Gluten-Free Right for Me?

One of the biggest reasons that many health professionals are leaning towards reducing or eliminating gluten from a diet is because of the way gluten reacts in most of our bodies. The way gluten stimulates the immune system to cause gut inflammation is a big reason why many people have what’s called a “leaky gut”. When a person has a leaky gut, it means that the food that goes through the digestive tract can get loose into the blood stream before it’s properly digested. When this happens, the immune system can cause inflammation throughout the blood stream, and the body creating symptoms like fatigue, allergies, and headaches.

Additionally, the grains aspect that’s gluten is attached to is often loaded with anti-nutrients. Anti-nutrients are substances in certain plants that serve as a defense against animal predators. They have complicated names like phytic acid, lectins, and saponins, but that’s not what’s important. What’s important is that these proteins are designed to make us feel badly so that we avoid eating them in the future.

Whether you have Celiac disease, digestive issues, other secondary conditions, or you’re just a health nut who’s looking to try a new approach, there are lots of upsides to making the switch, with the only t rue downside being a mild inconvenience.

Allow me to preface the next statement; I am neither 100% gluten free nor grain free, but I do pay close attention to how much of it I eat on a weekly basis. For better or worse, my body is not overly sensitive to the effects of an occasional piece of bread or bowl of pasta.

Why do I do it? A few reasons:

A. I feel better with less grains. Though I generally feel pretty well most of the time, you begin to notice the little things like more refreshed sleep or higher mid-day energy levels. Once you get a taste of that, you don’t like to let it go.

B. I treat gluten with the same watchful eye that I treat sugar and trans-fat. Even though you may not feel the difference, we know that our bodies are generally better off without them.

My recommendations? Give gluten-free a try for 2-3 weeks. You may be surprised with how you feel as you go along the process. Here are some tips and resources:


1. Cook at home as much as possible. It’s way easier to control what’s going into you when you make it yourself. Pick one day each week, determine what you want to eat for the week, and shop for those ingredients.

2. Just because something is “Gluten-Free” does NOT mean it’s healthy for you. If you want a sweet treat that’s gluten-free, have at it, just remember that it’s not a free pass to gorging on cookies for the simple reason that they use a different kind of flour.

3. Check out this Bestselling book by Diane Sanfilippo. It is loaded with recipes and easy to understand instructions for living Grain-free.

4. Cravings will come, so be prepared. Listen to what your body is craving. If you have a hankering for something salty like potato chips, then find some nuts instead. If you have a desire to eat a candy bar, find a fresh juice or a whole piece of fruit.



What is Scoliosis? Should I be Worried?

What is Scoliosis? Should I be Worried?

As school starts around the country, many parents have concerns about backpacks and scoliosis screenings. What’s the truth?

As I speak to more and more patients, I’ve come to a realization that there is quite a bit of confusion about what scoliosis is, and how it can affect your child’s health. Many people remember going into the school nurse’s office every so often and get a scoliosis test where they bend down from their waste and touch their toes, as shown below.

The most common screening test for scoliosis.

The most common screening test for scoliosis.

But what is scoliosis? Scoliosis involves a curved deformity in the spine. Now here’s where it gets funky. There are good curves and bad curves in the spine. When you look at someone from the side, the spine normally has 3 curves that curve to the front, back, and front again. These curves provide strength and stability to the spine in gravity. A scoliotic curve is seen from the front or back, and may indicate a structural abnormality or congenital deformity.

Good curves are visible if you look at someone from the side.

Good curves are visible if you look at someone from the side.

When you look at someone from the front or back, curves in the spine are a bad sign and may indicate the presence of scoliosis.

When you look at someone from the front or back, curves in the spine are a bad sign and may indicate the presence of scoliosis.















Many people can have a scoliosis and never feel any effects or symptoms from it.  Others may experience more common symptoms like  back pain, neck/shoulder tension, and posture/cosmetic problems. In rare cases, the curvature can become large enough (50 degrees or more), that it can compress the chest cavity causing respiratory and cardiac problems, and become a surgical issue.

Scoliosis comes in 2 main forms. There are is a functional scoliosis which is typically named idiopathic scoliosis, and there is a scoliosis called structural/anatomical scoliosis.

  • A structural/anatomical scoliosis is called by a malformed vertebra which can force the spine to a curved position as it seeks to get back to center. This type of scoliosis cannot be fully corrected and it can also lead to larger curvatures depending on how malformed the vertebra is.
  • A functional/idiopathic scoliosis is named as such because there is typically no medically known cause. This is the most common type of scoliosis.  These types of curvatures can be corrected and reduced significantly through conservative means when caught before a person is fully developed.

The real question is, should you be worried?

The truth is, if you’re just worried about pain, then probably not. Many times, scoliosis is asymptomatic, especially in children. In fact, most people will probably go through their childhood with no knowledge that it is even there. For the category of idiopathic scoliosis, it is often the secondary result of a structural shift in one or more bones in the spine.

A curve is usually not described as a scoliosis until it reaches the 10 degree mark. Most people are concerned when the curvature surpasses 20 degrees, as that’s when bracing becomes a common recommendation, and cosmetic concerns become more obvious (postural problems, protruding shoulder blade, etc). When the curve grows 40 degrees, surgery starts to become a real option for treatment.

The key is catching these curves early. Scoliosis is most commonly found in girls during adolesence, which is a great window of opportunity for structural correction, no matter how small the curve may be. Just like how a bent frame of a car can create suspension problems and tire wear/tear, a bent spine can increase the damage the spine experiences throughout life. I’ve seen x-rays of people well into their 40’s and 50’s who have never experienced spine pain, but will show a scoliotic spine with disc degeneration and bone spurs in the exact pattern that the structural alignment would dictate.

As the spine shows early wear and tear, the nerves can get damaged, and secondary conditions into the muscles, ligaments, and even the vital organs of the body can start to show.

As a worried parent, what can you do? Here are a few tips:

  1. Get a spinal check up by someone who is focused on the health of the spine! Nurses and general practitioners do a great job of identifying major curvatures using basic screening tools, but these will typically identify cases of scoliosis that are excessively large and may be candidates for surgery. A chiropractor focused on structural correction instead of pain relief can recognize smaller deviations and provide tools to correct them if necessary.
  2. Avoid the one shoulder back pack routine. It may look cooler and be more comfortable, but extra forces on a spine that isn’t optimally positioned can increase scoliotic curves.
  3. Stay active. Movement is life and a spine that moves early and often has more pliability and flexibility than one that is sedentary and stiff.
  4. Keep the weight down. If you had a crooked house and you add more weight to it, what happens to the house? It breaks down faster. The same thing happens to the body. If you build more mass on top of a crooked structure, it will lead to earlier degeneration. Stay fit.

If you want to learn more, check out this paper that I published about structural correction and a young girl with a larger scoliosis. She came to see me because of migraine headaches secondary to Atlas Displacement, but found help with her scoliosis as well. In the meantime, take a look at some of these images of scoliosis improvements from a chiropractic and surgical standpoint. Enjoy!
x-ray pre and post












scoliosis pre and psot










harrington rods

“It Must Be Because I’m Getting Old”

“It Must Be Because I’m Getting Old”

Are you suffering because of age, or might it be something deeper?

getting-old1“Don’t get old, you end up like this”

“That’s just because of old age”

“See, this is why you shouldn’t get older”

These are some of the most common phrases that I hear in the office or when I’m out in public when people talk about the pain they’re having. Most of the time, they’re being said by someone in their early 40’s ; less than half of a normal American’s lifespan. It’s spoken as if Father Time had a magic shot that make a person start experiencing pain and arthritis completely out of the blue when they hit nature’s halfway point.


Let’s take a look at it for a second. When most people talk about the pain of getting old, they’re usually referring to a cascade of problems that’s lumped into the name Arthritis. We’re talking about the joint shrinking version known as osteoarthritis, and not the hot and burning inflammatory arthritis. Osteoarthritis is usually used to describe any one of these problems: degenerative joint disease, degenerative disc disease, spondylosis, bone spurs, and spinal canal stenosis.

Let’s take a look at one example:



A 55+ year old person with degenerated discs and arthritis in the neck

A 55+ year old person with degenerated discs and arthritis in the neck



This is the x-ray of a neck from a side view. This is a person in their late 50’s or early 60’s with neck pain and arm pain for the past year. The yellow arrows are pointing to areas that have severe degenerative disc disease. Estimated 40-50 years of breakdown. When these badly degenerated discs were pointed out to them, guess what was said?

“Oh, those are just due to old age”

Now, of course there will be wear and tear on the spine of a 60 year old person. There’s no question about that. But the extent of damage to the lower part of the neck is substantial. Now the interesting thing is this, how old is the healthy disc at the top of the spine?

That’s a trick question of course, because all of the discs are the same age. If this problem was strictly a matter of aging, wouldn’t you expect every single disc to have similar levels of degeneration?

“Here’s the truth, this person did not have a problem of age, they had an aging problem.”

There are definitive problems with the structure of this person’s spine. When a structural problem happens into the neck, 2 things can happen:

  1. The biomechanics of the spine become distorted and accelerate the wear and tear of the joints. Think about what happens to your car when the tires are improperly aligned. Would you expect the steering wheel to pull to one side? Would you expect one tire to wear out on one side faster than the other? Would you expect the ability for the tire to hold air to be different from side to side? The same thing happens to the joints of the spine too!
  2. The structural shift will distort the signals going in and out of the brain. As the spine shifts, the spinal cord and spinal nerves will misfire into the brain. This misfiring causes the muscles of the spine to tighten and spasm, and create dysfunction to anywhere where those nerves travel.

Those are the facts. Here’s where things get tricky. This person had a problem in their spine for upwards of 50+ years. However, she did not show any signs of neck pain until the past year. What gives?

Problems in the spine can be left undiagnosed and unidentified for several years. Research shows that many of us have herniated discs in the spine, and  out of those people 60% of you will feel no symptoms.  Thus, a problem that should be of primary concern can be wreaking havoc  on the body without us knowing it.

With that said, these problems are almost always preventable. With proper exercise and proper postural awareness, you can save years of wear and tear on the spine, and maintain full function of the delicate nervous system. As with anything else, it’s always important that you protect the parts of your body that you hold most dear through routine check ups.

We always find time to check our blood pressure, cholesterol, eyes, and of course your teeth. When was the last time the structure of your spine was checked?



Dirty Jobs Star Presents Sad Fact in Newest Commercial

Mike Rowe Inadvertently Makes Sad Point About American Health

mike roweMike Rowe one of the most well known faces of Cable Television, as well as the latest and greatest spokesperson for the Ford Automobile Company. The latest Ford campaign has him asking patrons “Who’s healthier: you or your car?” Check him out in the latest commercial if you haven’t already.





As you can see, every person who was interviewed emphatically said that their car is healthier. Some even made jokes about how some parts of their body are breaking down and laughed about it. I completely understand the fact that this is just a commercial. I also understand the fact that Ford is just trying to make a point about their Fuel Saver Package. Trust me, I understand what they’re trying to say.

However, do you think that this is very far off from reality for most Americans? A close look at the leading causes of death in the US shows that the top 3 causes of death (cancer, heart disease, and diabetes) are almost 80% preventable through diet and lifestyle modifications. So what gives America?

Believe me when I say that I understand how important it is to take care of a car. I drive a nice 2007 Blue Honda Civic.  I understand what all of the maintenance schedules are, how often I need to get my oil changed, and I know the benefits of higher quality fuel. Am I the best at keeping up with my car maintenance? Nope. I take care of it, but not as if it were say…a Ferrari.

What kind of performance are we preparing our bodies for?

What kind of performance are we preparing our bodies for?

The truth of the matter is this; no matter how nice my car is, the car and all of it’s parts are replaceable

And until stem cells start getting a lot more advanced, we only get one shot with one body.

The human body  is meant to be a high performance vehicle that should be able to perform through most of your life time. It’s built with a self-repairing and self-maintaining mechanism that is working day and night to keep us healthy and alive as long as we can provide it with the right materials and keep it moving properly. Sadly, we treat this beautiful Ferrari of a machine like a 1973 Pinto.



Instead of loading up with Premium Fuel (fresh organic meats and vegetables), we find the cheapest gas on the street (McDonalds). Routine maintenance? Nah, let’s just wait till it breaks first.  Between the cigarettes, trans fats, smoggy air, and chronic sitting disorder that we place out bodies through, it’s pretty remarkable how far we can take them.

Now we’re not given any guarantees in life. If we lived like an ascetic Yogi who meditated and ate lettuce for all of our meals, we still don’t have a definitive outcome on the future of our health. Our bodies will still fall into some wear and tear no matter what, that much is known. However, studying cultures in the Mediterranean and Okinawa, Japan where chronic degenerative disease is much less prevalent, we may have a  big say in the direction our health goes in the future. While we may not have the definitive answer, we do understand some simple truths. Vegetables are great for you, and you should definitely be moving more than you’re sitting. How we choose to take these steps is up to you.

You can either invest in taking care of your bodies now, or we can pay for it with increased health care costs and treatment in the future. It doesn’t have to be one or the other, but the next time you see Mike Rowe, and he asks you which is healthier, I hope you can say “I am”.



Why Counting Calories is Silly

Why Counting Calories is Silly

In May of 2002, I weighed in at a svelte 5’9” and 155 lbs. As of yesterday I weighed in at 5’10” and 165 lbs. Though my body has gone through many changes over the last 11 years, I’ve managed to maintain a healthy body weight despite the fact that my metabolism should be showing signs of slowing.

The interesting thing is, I often live in 2 worlds. My family thinks that I eat a perfect diet of nothing but fruits, vegetables, and lean meats, while counting each and every gram of sugar that gets consumed. On the other end, my friends see me eating pizza and snacking on all but the last bit of oatmeal chocolate chip cookies. Two seemingly conflicting views of the same person. What gives?

As a Structural Chiropractor, I’ve had the pleasure of working with some extremely bright minds in the fitness and nutrition world. One of the best lessons I’ve ever learned is this:

Counting calories is silly….for the most part

Now before everyone starts to tell me about the bad advice I’m giving, hear me out. Calories in vs calories out does have an impact, but what’s starting to become more important is the way our body chemistry reacts to particular foods and exercises.

For example, there are two main biochemical processes that help regulate energy storage. One is called glycolysis and the other is called gluconeogenesis. Now the names really aren’t that important. What’s important to know is that when your one prepares the body for energy storage (glycolysis) while the other promotes energy usage (gluconeogenesis). Depending on what kind of fuel you put into your body, and how much energy your body utilizes for your day to day activities primes your metabolism.

So what does that mean in English Dr. Chung? What that means is, that you can have a direct impact on your metabolism by the types of food you put into your body and how much you use your body. Anything that we do sends a signal into our nervous system to release hormones and chemical messengers to prepare the body for the future. Here are a couple of easy rules to keep in mind.

  1. 1.       Sugar/starches releases insulin which promotes energy (FAT) storage

I remember when I was a kid in my elementary school health classes that if we wanted better energy as an athlete, we need more pasta because it allows us to store energy. That was why the bottom of the food pyramid had bread, grain, and pasta at the base, so we would consume more of it.

Now for an athlete, that might be okay, but most of us are not athletes. One of the most important things that it left out is that energy storage in the body primarily happens in the form of F-A-T. Sure, our muscles get fuel from stored energy called glycogen, but our bodies can only store so much glycogen before we start turning towards triglycerides and fat.

So what has happened since then? We had a whole generation of people eating way more stored energy then they could possibly burn off. The end result is an obesity epidemic. While I’m not strictly into a Paleo/Atkins/Ketogenic type diet, I think it would serve a great majority of people to drastically reduce their sugar and starch consumption.

2.       Exercise releases growth hormone which leads to Energy Usage

Exercise, especially of high intensity, sends signals for your brain to release growth hormone. Not the artificial, Barry Bonds type growth hormone, but the one that is found normally in your body all of the time. This same growth hormone tells the liver to go into gluconeogenesis which starts making plans to release the energy that is being stored. The result is the body dipping into its glycogen and fat stores in order to accommodate for the body’s needs.

Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t permission for people to follow a dogmatic nutrition or exercise program. I’m just asking you to think about the impact that your actions have on your body. I’m no nutrition expert, but if you want to know more, check out Robb Wolf’s blog. Here’s one of my favorite posts. He brings a rational and scientific view that’s not often seen in the world of nutrition.

Any change into the neuro-endocrine system will create lasting changes in the body. The thing is, our nervous system and endocrine systems are primed based on habits. New habits take time to take place. Just like how Rome wasn’t built in a day, a spine doesn’t change overnight, your body’s programming takes about 90 days for a pattern to take place. Once you’ve set new patterns, then you can make CHOICES for when you want to eat poorly or be lazy without experiencing some of the severe consequences.

If we can push through those 90 days, give ourselves some positive reinforcement for those changes. Your body may thank you for it in the long run. Rather than counting calories, or worrying about what that next piece of will do to your caloric intake, take a moment to figure out how this food may impact your metabolism. Don’t play tedious, play smart.