Until recently many fitness instructors, training experts, and health “gurus” collectively swore by sit ups and abs crunches as the best methods to strengthen the core. Interestingly, planking was nearly unheard of. However, trends have changed. There are several reasons why experts have shifted way from crunches and advocate more readily for planking. I, too, strongly recommend planking over sit ups. After all, if you’re a patient of mine you know I’ve had you perform these in my office, as well as the dozens of other movements based out of the plank. Below are just a few conclusions I have regarding sit ups versus planks:
I should start by first saying that I do not condemn the sit up or the crunch. In fact, I still do them. However, deep core strength and coordination are required for sit ups to be performed safely and effectively. Sit ups can cause you to round your lumbar spine as you perform the movement, which compresses the discs between the vertebrae. Maintaining a proper and stable lumbar curve is essential for doing sit ups safely. To help you better understand what I mean by this, imagine the way you should pick an item up from the floor. I’m sure you’ve heard many say, “bend at the knees instead of bending over at the waist.” When you bend at the knees rather than the waist, you’re not rounding your low back when picking something up. This is exactly what many people do when performing sit ups incorrectly. Your lumbar curve should be maintained when doing sit ups. This is extremely difficult and something you should only do under professional supervision if just starting out.
Sit ups primarily work the rectus abdominus muscles. These are the infamous “six pack” muscles. They also target the hip flexors and to a lesser degree the obliques. However, your core musculature does far more than you may realize. Essentially, your core is like a tube of muscles that holds your organs tight and also attaches your extremities to your frame (torso and trunk).
The core musculature also attaches to the cervical (neck), thoracic (mid back), and lumbar (low back) spine. That’s right! Simply holding a plank position strengthens muscles that attach to your neck, mid back, and low back simultaneously. That’s a lot more than ordinary sit ups can do. Planking requires the engagement of a broad spectrum of muscles, which generates a large amount of power that flows from your trunk to the extremities. The power of a golfer’s swing or a Muai Thai fighter’s kick starts in the central region of the body and propagates outward to the extremities. The “six pack” muscles have very little to do with these activities.
Whether you’re lifting a laundry basket of clothes, playing a game of catch with your kids, or simply walking, your core is hard at work. If you’re core is weakened even the seemingly simplest activities can result in injury. Many times I’ve heard stories like, “Doc, all I did was bend over to tie my shoelaces and I’ve since been laid up all weekend.” This immediately tells me that patient’s core is badly deconditioned and planks, and movements rooted in the plank, are going to be in the treatment plan. There are dozens of exercises that strengthen the core. Therefore, you can vary workouts widely as to avoid them from becoming boring and monotonous. Movements like Inchworms, Spiderman crawls, plank push-ups, bear crawls, bird dogs, mountain climbers, high planks, low planks, torso twists, the list goes on and on.
If you’re getting back into fitness and want to work on core strength, a good test is to perform a basic plank to start (See top diagram). If your limbs start to shake within 20 seconds, your core needs work. Start by holding a plank for 10 seconds and rest for 10 seconds. Repeat this cycle eight times. I would suggest staying away from sit ups and crunches for now. Stick to planks and you will have safer, more effective results.
Since many of my patients are athletes, a number of them have been asking about cryotherapy and its effects. Have you ever tried it, doc? What do you think about it? They know that I am a stickler for evidence supporting any claim, and as I started researching this topic I quickly realized there isn’t much out there, yet. Before we dive into the nitty gritty, first let me explain what cryotherapy is.
Cryotherapy is a medical treatment consisting of cold modalities to treat a number of ailments. These modalities range from ice packs to cryotherapy chambers, which is sometimes referred to as whole body cryotherapy (WBC). As a lifelong athlete I have on many dreadful occasions taken the plunge into the ice bath, yet another form of cryotherapy. Sitting in a frozen tub of icy water up to my nipples for a grueling 15 minutes was something I, or my teammates never looked forward to. The purpose, our trainers would say, is to “reduce the inflammation from training.” It makes sense when you think about it. If you tweak your knee or ankle, you ice it to help reduce the swelling. I still use ice. If I get banged up grappling on the mats or accidentally drop a kettlebell on my toe, I’ll throw on a zip-lock back of ice to help. However, needless to say my ice bath days are long gone.
Enter whole body cryotherapy. It sounds and looks a lot like some futuristic mechanism of deep freezing to be awakened in the distant future. Also, it’s not only athletes use WBC. People with inflammatory conditions like fibromyalgia and rheumatoid arthritis have also utilized the treatment. In fact, I came across research studies where volunteers plagued with these conditions were the test subjects. The chamber is no bigger than a single person shower. The individual who visits a cryotherapy center will strip down to nothing but his/her underwear or a bathing suit, gloves, and socks. The chamber temperature drops down to a bone-chilling minus 110 degrees Celsius or minus 166 degrees Fahrenheit. The good news is that you’re not in there for 15 minutes like the ice bath. Sessions last about two to three minutes. The idea, however, is the same as the ice bath; reduce inflammation to cut down on recovery time. Again, the idea seems to make sense. But does it really work? The evidence: inconclusive.
There isn’t any solid evidence that recovery time is reduced by using cryotherapy. In fact, cryotherapy appears to be as effective as using traditional ice for aches and pains. More importantly, inflammation isn’t the sole measure of muscle fatigue. An enzyme called creatine kinase is a hallmark sign of muscle damage. It is a measurable enzyme in blood tests and is a diagnostic measure for heart attack, among other medical conditions. Athletes who engage in rigorous training regimens will no doubt suffer muscle damage thereby having increased serum levels of creatine kinase in the blood. There is zero evidence that WBC reduces the levels of this enzyme. This means that despite possibly having reduced inflammation, an athlete’s muscles may still need more time to recover from injury.
I am sure that many of you know folks who have tried whole body cryotherapy. Moreover, I am sure some say, “yay”, whereas others say, “nay.” I do not endorse the use of cryotherapy any more or less than I condemn it. After all, I did not find any evidence that WBC is dangerous. In the end, you’re going to have to find out for yourself if cryotherapy works for you.
Car accidents happens suddenly and unexpectedly. They can have both short term to lifelong debilitating effects. One of the most common injuries from a car crash is the damage caused as result of whiplash. Whiplash occurs when a sudden, jarring movement of the head and neck is sustained backward, forward, or even to the side. Whiplash results in instability in the spine and causes severe pain as well as these other symptoms:
• Neck pain
• Shoulder pain
• Reduced range of motion in the neck
• Arm pain, numbness, and tingling
• Neck stiffness
• Low back pain
It is of utmost importance that chiropractic care begins as soon as possible after an automobile accident. Soft tissues such as muscles, ligaments, tendons, and spinal discs require specific treatment protocols to allow proper healing. These treatments are designed to reduce pain and restore optimal function. If treatment is delayed, the effects of whiplash can result in long-term pain and dysfunction. The level of bodily stress due to an accident is not always known or felt immediately. It can take days to weeks before major symptoms surface. This is why early chiropractic care is essential to reestablishing optimal health of the spine that has experienced trauma.
At Peak Performance Chiropractic, Dr. Jason Gross specializes in the care of bones, muscles, discs, and nerves that may have been injured in the event of an auto accident. It only takes the blink of an eye to sustain major injuries from a car crash. If those injuries are not treated effectively and rapidly, further detriment to the delicate soft tissues of your spine will continue to erode and decay.
Early treatment means effecting healing. The sooner you seek treatment the better. Even a car crash that is seemingly minor with limited damage to the car itself can cause serious injury to the driver and passengers. Peak Performance Chiropractic will take the utmost measures to treat your auto accident injuries effectively.
If you or someone you know has been in a traumatic car crash, do not delay…Call 817-225-4082! Peak Performance Chiropractic is here to help.