Chiropractors as part of the opioid reduction strategy in Canada

It is hard to live in Canada and not be aware of Canada’s current Opioid Crisis. An estimated 2,000 Canadians are dying annually from prescription opioids. Our country is facing a national crisis. Currently, Canada is the second highest consumer of prescription opioids in the world. Evidence points to back pain and other musculoskeletal (MSK) conditions as one of the key drivers.

Headlines related to chronic pain and fentanyl overdose are rising in frequency and urgency. Many chronic pain patients have been universally mismanaged by all health professions even with the best intent and the best minds clamoring for solutions.

Chiropractic can be a piece of the puzzle in the development of an effective opioid reduction strategy. By providing prompt access to effective health care options, like chiropractic care, evidence suggests that we can reduce reliance on opioids to treat acute and chronic MSK-related pain.

In fact, new guidelines released by the Canadian Medical Association Journal, recommend a coordinated multi-disciplinary healthcare team, which includes chiropractic, be used to help manage pain and avoid the dependency of opioids.

Albertans and all Canadians deserve earlier access to conservative chiropractic care for their MSK health issues before they become chronic pain sufferers. It is now understood that current solutions in the pain management of non-cancer conditions affecting the MSK system (bones, ligaments, tendons, muscles and joints) have become too reliant on opioids.

Chiropractic is a safe, evidence informed option to treating chronic pain, and our high patient satisfaction levels make chiropractic a popular option for patients looking to address pain and improve function.

Federal and provincial governments are widely recognizing the crisis that exists with opioid addiction and overdose. The Canadian Chiropractic Association (CCA) has engaged in months of advocacy with the federal government and other health professions to build awareness and understanding that available evidence points to back pain and other MSK conditions as a leading reason for opioid prescribing. We have also had the opportunity provincially to discuss how conservative treatment options like chiropractic can contribute significantly to the health care of Albertans who suffer from pain.

As the national media discuss the link between over-prescribing and the opioid crisis, it appears that the public needs the expertise of chiropractic services more than ever.

Originally posted by the Chiropractic Association of Alberta

Alberta College and Association of Chiropractors

Your feet may be causing your lower back pain

Can’t seem to find an answer as to why your back is aching? The answer might lie right below you … your feet.

It’s easy to assume aches in pains in our backs are originating from where you are actually feeling it. So if your back hurts, it must be coming from an issue within your back, right? This is not necessarily the case. Everything in our bodies is connected through tissue and our nervous system.

How are my feet inter-connected to my back and why does this cause me pain?

Your body has three main shock absorbers: your feet, your knees and your spine. The shock of walking, running, jumping etc. is first felt by your feet. If your feet can’t handle the shock, it passes the impact absorption to your knees. When your knees are ill-equipped to handle the shock it passes the absorption to the last stop on the chain, your back. Your back will eventually fatigue and begin to cause you pain, especially if there is a misalignment in the lower region or the pelvis.

Why can’t my feet handle the shock in the first place?

Most of the problems associated with our backs caused by our feet are simply because of the surfaces we walk on. Our feet were designed to walk on grass, sand, dirt, mud and other natural terrain. Human innovation has brought us cement, tile, wood, etc. which are actually detrimental to the health of our feet and in turn our back. Natural terrain is suited to the shape and structure of our feet. This causes our arches to be supported and causes the muscles, ligaments and tendons of the foot and ankle to work in a supportive fashion.

How can I prevent this cycle of pain?

Shoes: Find the right kind of shoe to support your foot type. If you have flat feet or have a minimal arch, shoes that have a good amount of cushioning or stability will work best to absorb the shock.

If you have a pronounced arch, “Minimal” shoes are a specialized option to consider. These shoes are designed to promote the foot striking the ground with the front or middle of the foot rather than the heel.

Sorry folks, there are no high-heels on the planet that are going to do anything good for your feet or back, so try and wear them as sparingly as possible.

Chiropractic adjustment: A visit to your chiropractor can do wonders. First, they will check the joints in your feet and ankles are working properly. Your chiropractor will perform an examination, which could include examining your feet, analyzing your gait and posture, requesting an x-ray and checking your shoes for improper wear.

If it’s determined that your feet are the cause of your back pain, your chiropractor  will develop a program, which may include an adjustment of the foot to stabilize your postural foundation and to help relieve related stress/pain to the rest of your body.

Custom Orthotics: Your chiropractor may also suggest individually fitted, orthotic arch supports if they’ve determined your feet to be the cause of your back discomfort.

Orthotic arch supports are heat moldable plastic shoe inserts designed to support the arch on the inside of the foot. Orthotics also help in realigning your foot’s ankle joints and bones.

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Originally posted by the Chiropractic Association of Alberta

Alberta College and Association of Chiropractors

Arthritis? Chiropractors can help

This blog is brought to you by the Alberta College and Association of Chiropractors, in partnership with the Arthritis Society. Cindy Stephen is a 61-year-old Calgarian, professional communicator, mother of six and grandmother of seven. Below is her experience as someone who suffers from arthritis and uses chiropractic treatments to help alleviate the symptoms.

Many people my age have arthritis in a variety of joints.

Folks over 60 who have led active lives find themselves with arthritis of the knee or hips, maybe a touch in the joint of the thumb or in the ankles. Professional athletes are prone to arthritis in their shoulders and elbows from years of repetitive motion activities like shooting pucks, throwing balls or taking hits from other players.

The arthritis I suffer from, in the back of my neck and lower spine, came from decades of sitting at a desk job, bad posture and giving birth to six children. My issues with pain began in my mid-30s; by the time I was in my late 40s it was difficult to get out of a chair or car. By my mid-50s I began to experience pain in my legs and walking up stairs was difficult. At that point, I consulted with a chiropractor. It was he who not only found the arthritis through an X-ray but was able to explain all the muscle and ligament dysfunction that caused it in the first place.

There are over 100 types of arthritis.

Two you may have heard of are Osteoarthritis (OA) which is a degenerative, wear-and-tear type of arthritis and Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) which is inflammatory; an auto-immune response which can affect people of any age. I have OA, and the good news is that with proper treatment and management many types of OA can be prevented.

When I was 20, I had a boyfriend who pulled a chair out from under me as I was sitting down to dinner at a fancy restaurant. I landed hard on my rear end. (He landed hard on his when I dumped him the next day).

I suffered pain in my tail bone for years afterward. Doctors took X-rays and saw no break, yet I had pain in my backside for years afterward, especially during each pregnancy. What no one was able to detect was that the true injury was to the ligaments around the sacroiliac joint, which were stretched because of the fall.

Loose ligaments combined with prolonged sitting, poor posture, the aging process and inactivity meant the muscles surrounding the joint in my lower back weren’t doing their job of holding my body in position. Or, as my chiropractor says, “ligamentous laxity which allows painful abnormal motion”. Despite the damage occurring in the lower back, my hips were out of place which created more pain and stiffness while walking.

Flash forward 40 years later:

My chiropractor detected the arthritis in my spine. It might have been prevented if the true damage from my fall had been discovered, if I had practised better posture while sitting at my desk or in front of the television and if I had maintained a consistent exercise program and kept active.

Today, I visit the chiropractor twice a month for regular adjustments. He says my ligaments can be repaired through surgery if it gets to that point, in consultation with my family physician, but with exercise the muscles in my back can be strengthened to better support my spine, and daily walking will assist with the muscles in my hips and upper legs.

My chiropractor also uses Active Release Therapy on the muscles around my lower back and hips which have been impacted by poor ligament structure.

My OA isn’t reversible at this point but chiropractic helps.

I’m able to slow the progression of the disease by keeping up in my chiropractic appointments and following his advice to keep active. It assists with reducing pain, because my chiropractor aligns my spine which decreases the stress that aggravates the pain generated by the arthritic joints.

When the spine isn’t aligned properly, there’s increased stress. When everything is in alignment, the stress is reduced and there is less pressure on the joints.

One of the biggest benefits for me of chiropractic care is the increased range of motion I experience. OA is uncomfortable – I’ve had years of stiffness which I attributed to growing older, not with how my body was functioning mechanically.

As you age, degeneration of your joints can begin silently and your body can begin to compensate for it slowly until suddenly, the pain creeps up on you.

Chiropractic care won’t stop you from getting older, but it can certainly help you from feeling old!

If it hurts, see a chiropractor.

Chiropractors are educated to assess, diagnose, treat and prevent problems of the spine and muscloskeletal (MSK) system (joints, ligaments, tendons, muscles and nerves).

While there is no cure for arthritis, chiropractors can help manage the chronic pain associated with the condition, as well as work to restore and maximize the function of an arthritic joint. The goal is to help arthritis pain sufferers improve their overall health and well-being so that they may return to the activities they enjoy.

Consult with your chiropractor or find a chiropractor near you.

For more information about how chiropractic can change pain and help arthritis, as well a tip for how you can manage the symptoms of arthritis, try this easy-to-print document.

Originally posted by the Chiropractic Association of Alberta

Alberta College and Association of Chiropractors

Setting the record straight: scoliosis and chiropractic

You don’t have to be a chiropractor to know that our backbones are some of the most important bones in our bodies. They protect our spinal cord and for most people, they keep us walking straight and tall. For a person with scoliosis, however, the spine can also be the source of a number of challenges.

While scoliosis is a common condition, affecting 1 in every 25 people, there is not a lot of awareness about the condition. In recognition of this month being Scoliosis Awareness Month, we are taking this opportunity to shed some light on scoliosis and how chiropractic can provide support and relief to those who have it.

What is scoliosis?

Scoliosis is a common spinal deformity in which the spine develops with one or more abnormal curves. While most cases of scoliosis are mild, severe cases can require surgery to prevent the condition from worsening. Depending on how badly the spine is misaligned, symptoms of scoliosis can include uneven posture, pain, reduced flexibility, difficulty breathing, organ damage and in severe cases, death.

Who can get it?

Anyone can get scoliosis. The most common type of scoliosis, idiopathic scoliosis, generally develops in children and more often in girls than boys. There are a number of factors that can prompt scoliosis to develop, such as neuromuscular conditions, birth defects and old age but there is uncertainty about what causes idiopathic scoliosis.

Who can screen for scoliosis?

A physician, chiropractor or other healthcare professional can assess whether or not you have scoliosis.

Scoliosis care

There are three main components to scoliosis care; assessment, diagnosis and treatment.

Assessment: This is composed of a screening to determine if a patient has scoliosis, and if they do, how severe. A scoliosis screening is a non-invasive physical exam that can take as little as 30 seconds. The healthcare professional examines the patient’s body for any signs of uneven posture or irregular curves in the spine.

Diagnosis: Once a scoliosis of the spine is detected, healthcare professionals can begin conversations about ongoing monitoring, and treatment. Ongoing monitoring of scoliosis is a critical component of scoliosis care.

Treatment: The primary goal of scoliosis treatment is to maximize the mobility and function of the patient’s body. The abnormal curves associated with scoliosis can cause stresses on weight-bearing joints. This can cause pain throughout the patient’s body, not just the spine. Some examples of treatments include bracing, exercise and chiropractic adjustments. Very severe cases of scoliosis may require surgery to correct the curve.

Scoliosis and chiropractic

When a condition causes the backbone to develop abnormally, people can be unsure whether chiropractic treatment is safe and effective. Dr. Brian Gushaty, Registrar of the Alberta College and Association of Chiropractors provided the following explanation about how chiropractic can help.

“With their educational background, chiropractors are especially well-equipped to work with individuals with scoliosis,” Dr. Gushaty says. “They can assess and safely treat people with scoliosis. They can also monitor the scoliosis, order x-rays and refer patients directly to a medical specialist when necessary.”

How can chiropractic help people with scoliosis?

Chiropractors spend over seven years studying how to assess, diagnose, treat and prevent problems of the spine and musculoskeletal (MSK) system (joints, ligaments, tendons, muscles and nerves). This educational background can make them ideal healthcare providers for the management or co-management of conditions like scoliosis.

Chiropractors can provide support to patients on a number of different fronts, from lifestyle counselling to alleviating pain and restoring levels of mobility.

Here are three specific ways that chiropractic treatment is beneficial:

  1. Expertise in monitoring scoliosis.
    In some cases, the scoliosis can worsen and cause additional challenges to a patient’s quality of life. A chiropractor has the ability to track the progression of the scoliosis, which is especially important in adolescents. Since their bodies are still growing, there is a chance that their scoliosis will become more severe during growth spurts. If this is identified, chiropractors can refer directly to the appropriate medical specialist.
  2. Treatment for functional support.
    “Functional support refers to other related conditions that may present in relation to scoliosis, not just the treatment of the spine,” Dr. Gushaty explains, “For example, a patient with scoliosis may experience more discomfort in one side of their hip due to an uneven posture. Chiropractic treatment can alleviate that pain and support full function of these other joints.”
  3. Direct referral to medical specialists when appropriate.
    Chiropractors regularly work in collaboration with other healthcare professionals. If a chiropractor notices a condition worsening or if their patient requires specialized care, they will refer them to other professionals in the medical community who can provide additional support or optional treatment.

If you have scoliosis and are interested in trying chiropractic, here are some things to keep in mind:

  • Let the chiropractor know that you have scoliosis and any prior treatment you have received.

    In most cases, the adjustments are nearly identical to what a patient without scoliosis will receive, but special consideration is given to immobilized parts of the spine and weight-bearing joints.

    “Your chiropractor will be able to treat you more efficiently and effectively if they know ahead of time that you have scoliosis,” says Dr. Gushaty, “In addition, patients who have had corrective surgery and have implants in their spine will need to have their treatments customized to fit their needs.”

  • Ask about the chiropractor’s approach to treating scoliosis and their relationship with related medical professionals.

    Asking this question will help you understand what kinds of treatment the chiropractor can offer you and will demonstrate their understanding of scoliosis management. You will also be able to determine whether they have the resources to refer you directly to the appropriate medical specialist if you require specialized treatment.

  • Listen to the chiropractors’ recommendations for care.

    Recommendations should sound sensible and include specific re-evaluation intervals. Re-evaluation is important because it will help track whether the scoliosis is progressing. It also helps ascertain whether the patient is gaining function and eased ability to perform daily activities.

    For more information about how chiropractic can change pain and help people with scoliosis, consult with a chiropractor, or click here to find a chiropractor near you.


Originally posted by the Chiropractic Association of Alberta

Alberta College and Association of Chiropractors

Back health beyond the classroom

Let’s face it: the long hours spent sitting for class, hunched over a computer or bent over homework isn’t good for anyone. Whether you’re preparing your child for the new school year or you yourself are heading back to the classroom, there are some things you should keep in mind about two everyday items every student uses; backpacks and handheld devices.

Backpacks and messenger bags have often been at the centre of student health conversations since they can easily contribute to injuries. Carrying an overweight backpack unevenly or improperly can result in a number of different issues, including poor posture, joint pain, muscle strain and headaches.

And, while handheld devices have only joined the conversation on student health recently, they have just as significant an impact on spinal health. It’s estimated that for every inch forward that you crane your neck, an additional 10 pounds of pressure is being applied to your neck. That adds up fast and can harm your spine in several ways, from hunched shoulders to poor posture and headaches.

As spinal and musculoskeletal system experts, chiropractors are acutely aware of how damaging this can be, especially on young, developing bodies.

Here are two information-packed infographics, full of chiropractor-approved ways you can plan ahead and respond to school demands through creating healthy lifelong habits.

Pack it Light, Wear it Right

Tech Neck

If it hurts, see a chiropractor.
If you or your child already have recurring aches and pain, it is important to consult with a health care professional. Chiropractors are trained to assess, diagnosis and treat musculoskeletal health throughout the body; not just the spine.

Additionally, chiropractors are proficient at treating all age groups, including children, and can provide advice to help bodies of all ages function at their optimum level. Consult with your chiropractor or find one near you.

For more news and tips, visit us on Facebook or on Twitter.

Originally posted by the Chiropractic Association of Alberta

Alberta College and Association of Chiropractors

A tool for your self care kit: chiropractic for optimal well being

Chiropractors have a role to play in their patient’s general well being and self care. One way that chiropractors do this is through maintenance care.

Most people associate a visit to the chiropractor with injuries like whiplash, thrown backs and other kinds of pain that require immediate treatment. That is only one part of a much bigger picture.

What is maintenance care

The goal of maintenance care is to maintain optimal function and movement, keep your body balanced and to prevent future injuries.

“Think of it like when you go to the clinic for an annual check up.” Explains Dr. Taylor Cooksley. “When you go to your chiropractor for maintenance care, they will assess your posture, movement and general musculoskeletal health. This kind of care is beneficial for everyone, not just people who are physically active.”

Based out of the Brentwood Chiropractic Clinic in Sherwood Park, Dr. Cooksley regularly sees patients of all ages for acute and maintenance treatment.

“When we examine younger patients, we can monitor how their bones are developing and ensure their movement patterns are correct and normal. When we see senior patients, we often work to keep our patients mobile and help prevent future falls and injuries.”

Maintenance care goes hand in hand with self care

The end goal of maintenance care and self care is the same: to ensure you are healthy. Maintenance care focuses your physical well being, which is one part of the bigger picture of your health.

“Good self care and health is a balance between looking after your physical health, as well as your emotional health and mental health.” Says Dr. Cooksley.

It isn’t hard to incorporate self care into your day. Maintenance care, getting restful sleep and eating well are just a few ways to keep you at your best. Dr. Cooksley maintains her own self care in a number of ways.

“My own self-care practice includes deep, belly breathing throughout my day to help calm my mind and relax tension from my muscles. I also try to get at least 20 to 30 minutes of physical activity a day, something I recommend to all my patients.”

Maintenance care extends beyond the chiropractic clinic

A maintenance and injury prevention-style treatment plan is unique to each patient, just like self care. After an assessment, chiropractors work with their patients to set health goals and make recommendations on treatments. Often, patients are able to fulfill these recommendations independently.

“It’s common for chiropractors to teach their patients stretches and simple exercises to build into their lives,” Says Dr. Cooksley. “These activities can help build strength, loosen stiff muscles and joints, improve your quality of movement and help break unhealthy movement habits we get into during our daily life.”

Maintenance care does not mean you will need to visit your chiropractor forever

“We are here to support you when you want to change your activities or lifestyle and need new tools to get you to your goals.” Explains Dr. Cooksley.

Maintenance care can include teaching patients stretches, helping to monitor existing physical conditions, nutritional counselling and providing advice to empower patients.

“A good chiropractor wants to give you the tools to become self-sufficient and in control over your aches and pains, not have you rely on his or her services for the rest of your life.”

How do I know if chiropractic is a good choice for me?

It’s important to keep in mind that self care requires different tools to successfully support your health. Chiropractic is a great way to keep your body flexible and relieve pain, and it fits well with other kinds of self care activities.

The best way to determine whether chiropractic care is for you is by having a conversation with a chiropractor. Depending on your needs, your chiropractor may work with another health care professional, or refer you for a different kind of treatment.

“Seek out health-care professionals that are dedicated to helping you live a healthier, happier life. That may be a chiropractor, and it may be massage therapists, acupuncturists, nutritional counsellors and physiotherapists,” Suggests Dr. Cooksley.

If it hurts, see a chiropractor.

Maintenance care can help prevent pain and keep your joints functioning to the best of their ability but injuries can still happen. If your pain is persistent, seek advice from a chiropractor.

Chiropractors are highly educated and specially trained musculoskeletal experts. Your chiropractor can treat aches and pains, as well as build customized stretching routines and whole-body wellness strategies in conjunction with your chiropractic treatment. Consult with your chiropractor or find a chiropractor near you.

Originally posted by the Chiropractic Association of Alberta

Alberta College and Association of Chiropractors

Chiropractic care for arthritis

Chiropractors see many patients who present with various forms of arthritis. Here are some things people don’t typically know about arthritis and how chiropractic may help relieve the associated pain they are experiencing.

First off, let’s define arthritis

‘Arthritis’ can sometimes seem like a catch-all term. It literally translates to ‘arthro-‘, meaning ‘pertaining to the joints’, and ‘-itis’, meaning ‘inflammation of’.

The most common form of arthritis is osteoarthritis, which is also referred to as degenerative joint disease. Osteoarthritis tends to be localized to individual joints, where the protective cartilage between bones begin to wear down. This may occur in a singular location, or in multiple locations.

Chiropractors can treat your arthritis whether it’s in your back or not

It’s a common misconception that chiropractic treatments are only for neck and back conditions. Chiropractors can help with arthritis, whether it’s in your back or not! Your chiropractor will work with you to create an appropriate plan for each area of the body arthritis is affecting.

If you’re curious about chiropractic and how it can help you, have a conversation with your local chiropractor for an individual assessment. Your chiropractor will then be able to give recommendations to help serve you in a way that appropriately meets your needs.

It is safe to see a chiropractor if you have arthritis?

Chiropractors have the expertise and knowledge to be able to assist patients with all kinds of new or pre-existing conditions. Chiropractors are trained to differentiate the various forms of arthritis, with joint problems being one component of health management by chiropractors.

Chiropractors will assist patients with mobility and other health challenges at many different stages of their life. The care for patients may span from education to lifestyle modifications to hands-on body work.

There is nothing special or different that a person with arthritis needs to do to prepare for a visit to the chiropractor. When you visit a chiropractor, they will have a conversation with you about your unique needs and then perform an assessment to ensure chiropractic is a safe treatment for you.

Chiropractic care can help support a patient in several ways

One of the benefits of chiropractic care is the focus on improving joint mobility and helping patients move more. This is done primarily through manual adjustments to a joint or joints, along with corrective exercises like the program available through Straighten Up Alberta. Patients often report improvements to pain and increased quality of life.

Another component of care can involve lifestyle modifications, such as advice on diet or sleep modification, which can have a positive influence on the overall health and wellness of an individual.

Chiropractic adjustments of the spine are shown to not only restore movement to the affected joints, but also influence the surrounding tissue and muscle tone to help re-engage the spinal stabilizers, restore ease and improve posture.

If it hurts, see a chiropractor.

Maintenance care can help prevent pain and keep your joints functioning to the best of their ability but injuries can still happen. If your pain is persistent, seek advice from a chiropractor.

Chiropractors are highly educated and specially trained musculoskeletal experts. Your chiropractor can treat aches and pains, as well as build customized stretching routines and whole-body wellness strategies in conjunction with your chiropractic treatment. Consult with your chiropractor or find a chiropractor near you.

Originally posted by Chiropractic Association of Alberta

Alberta College and Association of Chiropractors

Adjusting for you

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought about unprecedented times and it’s normal to feel uncertain and uncomfortable.

While chiropractic clinics have undergone some changes, their commitment to your health remains the sameLINK TO UPDATE As the Alberta College and Association of Chiropractors, we work to protect the public. This is a mandate we always take very seriously, and especially so now.

When you walk into your chiropractor’s office, we want you to feel confident that you remain in safe hands. Your visit should be focused on why you came to see your chiropractor, and be free of any concern related to COVID-19.

That’s why the ACAC, in partnership with chiropractors across Alberta, developed an extensive Return to Practice plan LINK TO UPDATE that clearly outlines clinic requirements to achieve the highest level of patient safety.

What Alberta’s chiropractors are doing to keep you safe

Pre-screening patients

Before you even enter the clinic, you will be asked some questions to ensure that the clinic is kept as safe as possible by having any symptomatic patients reschedule for when they’re feeling better.

Encouraging the use of hand washing stations

Hand hygiene has been recognized as the most important factor in preventing the spread of COVID-19. That’s why hand washing and sanitizing stations have been set up in all Alberta chiropractic clinics to for both patients and clinicians.

Using enhanced cleaning protocols

Cleanliness has always been a priority in clinics, but new, more rigorous cleaning and disinfecting procedures have been put in place to ensure that high-use areas are being attended to regularly.

Encouraging physical distancing

Maintaining six feet between you and others lowers the risk of infection being spread. Physical distancing is encouraged throughout the clinic by spaced seating, encouraging patients to wait in their cars and using contactless payment methods.

Wearing masks

Chiropractors are wearing personal protective equipment, such as masks, during treatments.

Staying home if sick

All patients or staff that are feeling unwell are directed to stay home until they’re better.

Your experience at a chiropractic clinic will be different going forward, but those differences are there to put your mind at ease. And, while your experience visiting a clinic will change, the quality of care never will. So don’t remain in pain — Find a chiropractor near you.

Originally posted by Chiropractic Association of Alberta

Alberta College and Association of Chiropractors

Headaches: the role your diet plays

By Dr. Jill Mckinnon

Migraines are one of the top disabilities in young adults across the globe. 14 per cent of the population suffers from migraines and like most aches and pains, we often tend to reach for quick fixes. Although things like pain meds, peppermint oil and manual therapies may help in the moment, it’s always better to tackle the source of the problem instead of just treating the symptoms. Rather than asking how you can get rid of pain, try asking why you’re experiencing it instead.

Growing up, I believed headaches were normal as myself and everyone in my immediate family experienced them regularly. Now, as a chiropractor, I’ve realized that while some of us identify as “headache people,” there are many lucky enough to rarely, if ever, experience headaches. The best explanation I’ve heard around this has been coined the “bucket theory.” Imagine that within our brain we all have a bucket. When your bucket overflows, you experience a migraine and “headache people” tend to have particularly small buckets. So, what makes the bucket overflow? Can I increase the size of my bucket? First off, stimulus and inflammation contribute to “bucket overflow,” and therefore, a migraine. Overstimulation can be caused by weather, pressure changes, stress, food or environmental intolerances, bright lights and noise, hormonal imbalances and musculoskeletal stressors. While we may not have control over things like the weather, or how bright the fluorescents in our workplace are, there are some things we can control.

What many of us fail to realize is just how much of an influence the things we put into our bodies has on our wellbeing. When I ask a headache sufferer what their diet is like, the reaction I get is often shock for being asked that by their chiropractor. This is always one of the questions I ask because the food we eat influences our hormones, our pH, our mood, our energy and yes, our “buckets.”

To begin, we need to identify potential foods or environmental factors that could be overflowing your “bucket.” By identifying and eliminating potential contributors, you can free up space in your “bucket,” meaning you will be less sensitive to stimuli that can bring on a headache. The easiest way to do this is by tracking both your food and your headaches. Yes, this may be a tedious task, but it can be extremely helpful in identifying habits that you may not be aware of. I’ve had multiple patients identify their headache triggers with this step alone. When considering environmental factors, try noting down where you are when you begin to experience your headache symptoms. Remember to note details such as recently used cleaning and beauty products, chemical sprays and lighting at your workplace. When I was a teenager, I remember trying out a new shampoo with a distinct smell. I noticed I was experiencing nausea and headaches following showers. It was tracking this pattern that allowed me to identify that the shampoo was the culprit.

When it comes to diet, most of us are creatures of habit and tend to eat similarly most days of the week. However, if you’re experiencing consistent headaches and you’ve not noticed any patterns with environment tracking, it’s a good idea to track food next. I typically suggest seven straight days of tracking all food and beverages along with headache symptoms. If you are a female suffering from headaches, be sure to also track your menstrual cycle. For many women, headaches coincide with menstruation due to low levels of progesterone and estrogen.

Once you have tracked a full seven days of food and symptoms, it is time to start identifying patterns. For many migraine sufferers, the most common dietary culprits are amines, additives and chemicals. Dietary amines are a result of the breakdown of proteins in food and are found in many processed meats, aged cheeses, fermented foods and beverages like beer and wine and dried or very ripe fruits. It is thought that “headache people” lack the enzymes required to properly break down specific amines, so eliminating these foods for four weeks is often recommended. Now for some light at the end of the tunnel—the word amine is a category involving histamine, tyramine and a few others. That said, when you reach the reintroducing phase (after four weeks of elimination), I suggest researching which specific amines are present in the foods you find yourself reacting to and this will help you determine a more specific grouping to avoid instead of avoiding all amines.

When it comes to chemicals and additives in food, we tend to be more familiar with these offenders because they’ve already been given a bad reputation. It’s not a coincidence that many headache sufferers also experience digestive issues, irritable bowels and skin irritations or rashes. Monosodium glutamate (MSG), aspartame, high sodium and nitrites are some of the more prominent triggers that would be good to avoid if you experience any of the above symptoms. MSG is not only found in restaurants and fast-food joints, but is a common additive to many sauces, canned veggies and soups you likely have in your fridge or pantry. Aspartame in diet soda is another common trigger I see. Nitrites are most commonly found in processed meats like bacon and deli items.

Now that you have an idea of the common headache triggers, it’s time to begin tracking your food, identifying your problem ingredients and eliminating your triggers. Stay tuned for next month’s blog, “Five steps to identify and eliminate headache triggers.”

Before becoming a chiropractor, Dr. McKinnon achieved a Bachelor of Phys.Ed specializing in Fitness & Sport Performance leading to a career in personal training athletes. With this background, Dr. McKinnon focuses on educating her patients to be proactive in caring for their bodies and to alter habits that lead to aches and pains. By utilizing both exercise and healthy eating habits along with her chiropractic services, Dr. McKinnon strives to teach patients how to maintain an active, injury-free and energetic life. When she’s not working, you can likely find Dr. McKinnon at the lake boating or hiking with her husband, dog and new baby boy.

Originally posted by the Chiropractic Association of Alberta

Alberta College and Association of Chiropractors

Parenting is a tough gig — don’t let back pain add to it

Whether you’re carrying a diaper bag, pushing a stroller, or playing endless games with your little one, it’s no secret that parenting can take a toll on your body. Luckily, there’s good news — taking a few minutes per day to stretch will give your body a break, and has positive, pain-relieving benefits.

In part three of this three-part series, we will be covering three stretches specifically designed for the strains and pains that are placed on parent’s bodies. These three, quick stretches can be done any time of day, and only take five minutes to complete – perfect for when you get only a few minutes to yourself.

Core twist

Core twists will not only help relieve tension in your upper and lower abdomen, they can also help build strength!

How to perform a core twist: 

  • Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and arms out to the sides.
  • Turn your head to look at one hand and slowly twist your spine to watch your hand go behind you.
  • Relax before slowly returning to centre.
  • Repeat twice on each side.

Side bend

Side bends will relieve tension between the ribs and strengthen the intercostal muscles (the muscles between your ribs). This movement can also help relieve tension in your neck and shoulders.

How to perform a side bend:

  • Standing straight, move your feet shoulder-width apart and raise your arms.
  • Breathe in and slowly bend to one side as one arm goes over your head and the other slides down your leg.
  • Slowly return to centre.
  • Repeat twice on each side.

Shoulder pull

Shoulder pulls can help relieve tension in your shoulders (no surprise there!), as well as in your chest and upper back.

How to perform a shoulder pull:

  • Place your hands behind your head and draw your elbows back.
  • Gently press your head into your hands, count to two, and release.
  • Repeat three times, then massage the back of your neck and head.

Straighten Up Alberta is a public education program offered by Alberta’s chiropractors, designed to increase awareness of and strengthen posture and improve spinal health. This scaled-down version, designed specifically for workers, is intended to provide relief when and where you need it. To see what else this program has to offer, visit

Alberta College and Association of Chiropractors