6 tips for better sleep - Waking up to being asleep (Part 2)

This article is about why sleep is important, what happens to us if we don't get enough sleep and 6 tips to improve your sleep. 

If you are just after the 6 tips, skip to near the end of the post. 

If you haven't read part 1 of this post, please read it here.

This is a continuation of my discussion of an interview on the Joe Rogan Experience podcast with British neuroscientist Matthew Walker. 

(To listen to the podcast, click here)

Man with some serious sleep issues...namely, he is not even trying to lie down...I'm not even sure what his plan is. 

Man with some serious sleep issues...namely, he is not even trying to lie down...I'm not even sure what his plan is. 

In the first post I focused mainly on how and why the information about the importance of sleep really spoke to me as an element of my life that I needed to address, but in this post I wanted to outline other elements of the interview, specifically, I wanted to talk more about the actual health issues associated with skipping a few hours of sleep. 

What do you mean when you talk about ‘sleep’?

In the interview, Matthew Walker classifies sleep as being between 7-9 hours of good quality sleep that contains appropriate time spent in each of 4 stages of sleep. 

Although all 4 stages of sleep are essential to the quality of your sleep, I wont get into the nitty gritty of how sleep works specifically here, because thats really a few massive posts all on their own, and like you, we only really have time to just hit the high notes here, so yes, I am GROSSLY oversimplifying the whole system here, but here is a general run down. 

Stages 1 and 2 are your “set up” stages of sleep, they are the period where your body begins to turn off your monitoring systems and relax, changing your heart rate and breathing to eventually get into deeper levels. This is also the stage where you can have a power nap as long as you don't doze for more than 20 minutes.

Stages 3 and 4 are where you get down into deeper levels of sleep. In Stage 3, your brain waves become very long and slow and become much less responsive and harder to wake up, while your brain “paralyzes” your body in a type of muscular incarceration so that during stage 4, otherwise known as REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep, you don't get up and start acting out your dreams…it sounds scary at first but its a handy survival mechanism. You have probably experienced this lock down first hand if you have ever suddenly felt awake at night time but been unable to move your body.  

Stages 3 and 4 are where most body replenishment occurs. This type of sleep is excellent for cardiovascular health, metabolism, and most importantly, removal of waste products that accumulate in your brain throughout the day. 

OK, get on with it - what health issues does it cause? 

Short answer? Heaps. Almost everything in fact. According to Matthew, the shorter you sleep, the shorter your life. Fewer hours of sleep predicts all cause mortality. Put simply, you’ll be dead sooner and the quality of your life will be worse.

Kieran, I want more detail than that…

Fair enough.

In the podcast, Matthew talks about the research he has done for his book “Why we sleep” and summarises a few of the more…well lets face it, scary side effects of a lack of sleep. 

Some of the issues are more functional than others.

As mentioned in the previous blog, fewer than 6 hours of sleep leads to a decrease of physical endurance and function of 30% due to lactic acid build up as well as the bodies ability to expire our breath, but anything below 7 hours has been shown to impair us, with decreases in our peak muscle strength, peak running speed and our vertical jump. 

Coupled with this fact is that according to Matthew, it has been shown that sleep and frequency of injury has a linear relationship, stating that 9 hours of sleep Vs 5 hours of sleep leads to a 60% increase in the probability of injury.

Another more functional element to sleep is that it has been shown to improve learning performance (in rats at least) by 20-30% as it is thought to be the time when our brain strengthens its connections when learning something new. 

Have you ever been trying to learn something new or studying and come to a point where you are just stuck so you give up for the night? 

If your anything like me, I know that you found that the next morning it just clicked. You were able to get through the whole song you were learning, the language came to you, or you could remember the whole quote correctly. 

It appears that the brain literally prunes away the unnecessary elements of the pathways and streamlines your new skill. 

This next one really spoke to me also, as someone who has always carried more weight than is strictly necessary, and frequently had a yo-yoing relationship with weight gain and loss, I was surprised to learn that sleep doesn't just help you lose weight, it actually helps you keep it away! 

Lack of sleep decreases the body’s levels of a hormone called Leptin, who causes the sensation of satiation (aka - feeling full). At the same time, the hormone Gremlin (the guy responsible for NOT feeling full, and making you hungry), is ramped up. 

It has been shown that people who sleep between 5-6 hours a night will eat 200-300 MORE calories a day, equalling roughly 70,000 calories a year, leading to 10-15 pounds (or 4.5-6.8kgs) of obese mass a year. 

Worse, you eat more of the WRONG THINGS, going for heavy hitting carbs and heavy processed food, while simultaneously staying away from leafy greens etc. 

Matthew claims that if the rise in obesity in last 70 years, is plotted on same graph as amount of sleep in society on average, the lines go in equal opposite directions.

So just to clarify…on average, if you slept more than 7 hours a night, you would eat fewer calories, crave better quality food and with no extra effort or will power necissary, you would have to manage up to 7kgs of fat FEWER, each year. 

Do you know any other “magic” weight loss solution that can offer all that with zero negative side effects and at zero cost?

And now, as promised…the scary stuff.

Insufficient sleep according to the podcast, degrades our DNA, specifically it has a negative effect on immune response genes, decreasing their reproduction. At the same time, we get increased chronic inflammation, increased stress response leading to cardiovascular disease and an increase in the expression of genes related to the promotion of tumour growth.

I shouldn't really need to go on about those points but I will. 

Matthew claims that this is most exemplified by people who do shift work. Night shift workers suffer from higher rates of obesity, diabetes and cancers, most notably bowel, prostate and breast cancer. 

This is apparently so prevalent he states, that the World Health Organisation now classifies night shift work as possible carcinogen in and of itself as 4 hours of sleep even for just one night, causes a remarkable state of immune deficiency, a significant drop in anti cancer cells in our immune system.

But wait, there’s more!

Sleep deprivation affects your sex hormones too, in fact, Men who sleep 5-6 hours a night will have testosterone levels 10 years their senior, a critical element of health, strength, muscular performance etc, in short, it ages you a DECADE.

Consider how you are when you're deprived of sleep; reduced alertness, impulsive, lack of ability to concentrate, difficulties with learning and memory.

Why could this be? What do you think happens to your brain when you are like this for weeks, months or even YEARS on end? 

While we are awake our brain builds up toxicity, especially a protein called ‘Beta Amyloid’. You may have hear of this protein before as it is the main mechanism in the  development of Alzheimer’s Disease. When we sleep properly, the process of sleep wipes our brain, reducing build up of Beta Amyloid.

Insufficient sleep across lifespan now appears to be one of THE most significant lifestyle factors in determining whether or not you will develop Alzheimer’s disease.

Simply put: wakefulness causes low level brain damage and sleep offers reparatory function.

Matthew offered two real life examples that are suggestive of these findings too. Love them or hate them, Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan have arguably had a huge effect on our world today. They were both known as having strong wills with sharp minds. They were both also famous for getting around 4-5 hours of sleep a night. They both died with Alzheimer’s. 

This anecdotal evidence is hardly proof of the research but it raises a few questions about the concept, two people with very active minds and social lives (two factors previously thought to be predictive of the disease) got it anyway.

But Kieran, I’m one of those people who doesn’t need that much sleep…so I’m all good right? 


Well…at least its a safe bet that you're wrong anyway. 

If you had read Part 1 of this post (seriously, why are you this far in if you haven’t?) you’ll remember that Matthew’s research has shown that people are completely incapable of determining how much they are affected by sleep deprivation. 

I was was of you, I was convinced of my own ability to get things done when I was working off lower levels of sleep, but it turns out, like you, I am completely unqualified to make that assessment. 

Negative effects of your lack of sleep can ONLY be assessed by external sources and measurements. 

“I’ve heard some people just don't need that much though. I bet I’m one of them.” 

Again, you're only partially correct. 

Although studies show us that there is a population of humans that can function as normal from just 5 hours of sleep, but those same genetic studies show that is a group of less than 1% of the population. 

In fact, you're MORE likely to be struck by lightening in your life time than to be one of those people, so you should probably assume that you aren't one of them. 

So…what can I do then? 

Get to sleep. Seriously, its as simple and as difficult as that. 

The minimum you should aim for is 7 hours! 7-9 hours appears to be our sweet spot as humans. 

6 ways to improve sleep:

  1. Regularity; go to bed at same time.
  2. Decrease light; Try away from screens for at least an hour before bed or at LEAST have your screens on night mode. 
  3. Halve the number of lights on in your home in an evening. Apparently, if you are in an environment with no lights at all, we fall asleep 2 hours earlier. 
  4. Keep it cool, brain decreases temp by 2-3 deg fahrenheit to initiate sleep. always easier to sleep in a room thats too cold rather than too hot. We fall asleep faster and deeper in cold. 
  5. Wear fewer clothes to bed. Again, its a heat thing.  
  6. Try to have warm feet and hands. It helps keep your brain cool as it stakes blood away from your core. You could also try having a hot bath or shower before bed, it brings blood to the surface then your core body temp plummets when you get out of the water and you're more ready to sleep. The reverse is true for waking up, studies have shown that its the rise in temperature in the morning not just the light that wakes you.

This is not an exhaustive list of things you can do to try improve your chances of going to sleep but I like them because they are the classic set you always read. If you have any other tips about sleep we’d love to hear them.

If you have any questions about how your body is working, sleep related or not, always feel free to contact us at Align to discuss your health issues. Its literally what we are here for. 

I am going to leave you with a few more things to think about. 

Sedation is NOT the same as normal sleep, pills and alcohol might help you nod off but they do not allow you to go through the full normal stages of sleep and so you will miss out on a lot of it’s benefits. Be sure to discuss your inability to sleep with a health practitioner about improving your sleep hygiene as Matthew Walker states in the podcast that sedatives are an absolute last resort.

Sleep is NOT like a bank, you cant accumulate debt during the week and then make it up on the weekend. As humans we've never developed the ability to create a safety net to overcome a lack of sleep as we are the ONLY species that deliberately deprive themselves of sleep for no apparent reason.

Remember too that every day in Australia there are car accidents that are linked to sleeplessness. Drowsy driving is apparently worse statistically than drinking or drugs. In fact according the Matthew Walker, being awake for more than 20 hours makes your brain act like it is over the legal blood alcohol limit for drink driving. 

Lastly NO ONE tells you to stay awake on a problem. “Sleep on it” so that you can have a fresh perspective is a suggestion with no cultural boundaries. 

Accumulated wisdom for centuries has promoted sleep as a way of better tackling your problems, getting things done and improving your life…do we really think that is no longer true just because television is so much better now?  

Text Neck

This post is a slight change of pace for us, rather than reading about what is on my mind this week, for the first time we invite you to WATCH it instead. 

Leading into Spinal Health Week with a theme of “chiro can help”, Martin and I thought we would make a very quick video about the dangers of “text neck”. 

Please watch me make my video debut as we discuss the importance of this simple but very under appreciated element of daily life. 

For those of you not inclined to enjoy a video format, I will summarise below. 

Text neck is that happens to us when we spend too much time with our head in our phones. Look out your window right now (or just as likely if you're reading this on your smart phone or tablet, think about your own posture) and you are bound to see people leaning their head right forward into the screens of their devices. 

Craning our head forward towards a device causes our posture to follow. Eventually our head stays forward and our shoulders roll forward to follow it. 

This poor posture does not only affect adults, unfortunately it is now very common to see this position in children as they can spend even more time on devices than some adults! 

This head forward posture can lead to number of conditions that we see in practice every day, such as headaches, neck pain, migraine, shoulder pain, tight shoulders or a dowagers hump, just to name a few.

There are several exercises we regularly recommend in practice to clients that we identify need to work on this posture but for this video we wanted to keep it simple. 

Stop, being, in, that, position. 

It is as simple and as difficult as that. Stop training your body to only be good at putting your head forward. 

The solution we offer in the video is to merely hold your phone up higher so it’s in front of your face. Bring the device to you, not you to it!

I know it sounds too simplistic or even glib but we are being sincere, make yourself aware of your posture and what position you are training your body to be in, try to stop staring at screens as often as you can, and if you find yourself looking down at your screen, as yourself, why is it in my lap and not up in front of my face?

Waking up to being Asleep (Part 1)

It's not often that new information scares the hell out of me. It's even less often that that information comes in podcast form. 

I enjoy a podcast about a serial killer more than the next guy but a few weeks ago, Martin sent me a podcast that literally changed how I live my life every day. 

I would say that it's kept me up at night but to be honest, it has done the exact opposite. Its made me fear being awake!

Let me explain my back ground to you a little bit...

I. Don't. Sleep.

There I said it. Since the age of 16, I can honestly say, it would be unusual for me to have slept for 6 hours or more. 

It wasn't because I was like Ronald Reagan, Margaret Thatcher or Winston Churchill, where I feel like any more than 4 hours of sleep was a waste of time. Nor was it because I thought that sleeping less proved that I was tough or even that I wasn't tired. 

Two people doing something most of us actively avoid...creepily being taken by a 3rd person in their bedroom while they aren't awake?

Two people doing something most of us actively avoid...creepily being taken by a 3rd person in their bedroom while they aren't awake?

I don't say it to boast. I don't say it to sound cool, the reality is, I just didn't go to bed. 

I can honestly say, that for a 15 year period of my life I got into a routine where I was sleeping for just over 5 to 5 and a half hours on average. I was known amongst my friends as "always being awake" or "just doesn't need to sleep". 

Yet for the whole time, even though I knew I SHOULD sleep more, but I was always able to perform how I thought I should. I did well enough in year 12 to get into the course I wanted to and then I finished a bachelor and even a masters of Chiropractic. I even graduated both of them "with Distinction" from RMIT (for even more #notsohumblebrags about me click here or follow my instagram). 

The point is, why did I need to get to bed earlier if I was able to do everything anyway? 

Then came...The Podcast.

So what is the deal with this podcast? 

Martin and I will frequently talk about new things we have learnt, new articles we have read, research we come across and like the true nerds we are, podcasts we are listening to. 

Martin knows well the ridiculous approach I have had to sleep and thought with the information shared by author of the book 'Why we sleep' and Professor of Neuroscience and Psychology Matthew Walker, that this podcast might be relevant for me. 

Relevant is an understatement. 

In the 2 hours this podcast goes for, I had my eyes opened to how I was looking at getting some shut eye. 

It showed me that how I organised an entire 3rd of my life, a feature on which I arranged my whole day, predicated a large part of my persona, as well as how I thought my body worked and impacted every second of my waking life, wasn't just wrong, it was dangerous. 

I strongly urge you to listen to the interview I have linked below, however if you think you haven't got 2 hours to listen to it, I will attempt to summarise the elements that most impacted me.



Firstly, understand that although I knew academically that sleep was good for me, I was convinced that I was just one of those people who didn't need as much sleep as everyone else. I didn't think that made me special, I just genuinely believed that lack of sleep obviously didn't affect me as much as it seemed to affect everyone else. 

After all, I never had to say "no" to anything because I was too tired, even though I felt it. I just thought that "everyone is tired" or "being tired is normal". What I know now is that being tired is COMMON, but it isn't NORMAL, and that makes a huge difference. 

Nowadays as a society we seem do deify being busy, getting things done, "you can sleep when you're dead", and that is where I see this post fitting into our Spinal Health Week theme of the month of May. I want to challenge you to recognise where it is that you're taking on too much, sacrificing yourself and your own health in the service of a deadline or those around us. Remember, you cannot give from an empty cup!

This obsession with never being unplugged, with getting things done, and especially, with not going to bed till late hasn't always been the case. 

It has taken millions of years to develop into homo sapiens. Homo sapiens came into anatomical being at least 315,000 years ago, with our modern behavioural and mental capacities being at least 60-80 thousand years old. 

We have had a reliable and controllable ability to erase the night using electric light for - give or take - 150 years. Since that time, humans have become the first and only known species to actively and persistently forgo sleep.

No other species will choose any activity over sleep outside of a survival situation. For us, far from being a survival situation, it means, to stay up and watch Netflix, scroll Instagram, or generally to just get a few jobs done without anyone interrupting us. 

Think about that...why is it that WE choose to avoid rest, when no other mammal will do this naturally? 

So what? Who cares if I choose to stay up and watch Stranger things even if other animals don't? 

I hear you, thats exactly what I thought, and I wasn't alone in thinking like that, according to Matthew Walker, 1 out of every 2 people are sleep deprived, and almost 1/3 of those people are sleep deprived on 6 hours sleep or less.

 So how much sleep are we meant to get?

According to Professor Walker, as humans we need between 7 and 9 hours of good QUALITY sleep for our body to operate the way it is intended to.

Thats not just physical time in bed, 

Quality in this sense refers to our biological imperative to get through all of the stages of sleep for an appropriate amount of time, in order for our brain to recharge. 

So...what happens when we don't get enough sleep?

Here is where things get scary.

This was originally intended to be a single post but I realised once I started writing there was too much to go through to cover in a single post. As a result, I have saved a lot of the more specific information about sleep for the next post.

I know, what a jerk, just get you started and then leave you hanging! 

I want this first instalment to get you thinking about how many hours you spend sleeping and if you are honest, what sort of quality do you believe you actually achieve?

In the next post, I will outline in greater detail what happens to our body while we are sleeping as well as discuss what happens to us when we try to cheat our body and brain out of it.

Most importantly, I will suggest a few different techniques you could employ to try get to sleep easier. 

For now though, I want to leave you  with the main point raised in the podcast that I can't keep from popping into my head.

When we sleep for fewer than 7 hours, our performance, both physically and mentally dimities by 10%. 

When the hours we sleep are fewer than 6, our performance is decreased by 30%. 


That means that for a 15 year period, my ability to work, to remember, to drive, to study or even enjoy downtime with my friends and family was down by 10-30%. 

Equally as scary, the research suggests that people who are sleep deprived are actually incapable of measuring the negative effects of lack of sleep on themselves. It's like knowing your exact blood alcohol while drinking (a comparison that will become more relevant in Part 2 of this post). We know we have been drinking but have no actual way to know if we are .05 or not until its measured externally. 

Imagine the compound interest of life lost over 15 years of being 30% less of yourself. I am certain I would likely still be at Align, and I know I would still be a chiropractor, but who knows how much further I would be in my career, how much more I could have given to my clients or how much more I could have enjoyed those years? 

Who would you be if you had 30% more of you to give every day to yourself or your loved ones?

I know this is a pretty esoteric finish to a health post but isn't that the whole reason we want to be healthy in the first place? 

In the 2 weeks I have been getting a minimum of 7 hours of sleep a day, I have already started noticing changes to what I can do and how well I can do it and how clearly I can plan it. 

So if you are like me and you're chronically sleep deprived, how important to you is it that you get 30% more you out of every day?  

Can Chiro Help? Discover how chiropractic can help improve your quality of life

I doubt that you already know it, but Spinal Health Week 2018 is the 21st - 27th of May.

Spinal Health Week is about two things.

The first is that there exists a lot of confusion about what chiropractic can help with, and so it is an awareness campaign designed to illustrate exactly who we see in our practices every day.

The second? In our practice, Spinal Health Week is a time every year we we ask our community to focus on how they are looking after their spine, but not just talking about being adjusted or doing rehab exercise. We want to challenge people to look at how their spinal health affects their lives as a whole, not just focus on whether they are in pain or not.

As a result, Align Chiropractic is encouraging you to make small lifestyle changes to improve their spinal health and wellbeing.

In Australia, there are 3.7 million people with back problems. Thats JUST back problems. That doesn't even take into account headaches, migraine, nerve pain, sciatica, shoulder pain, ankle sprain or the whole host of other conditions that people regularly see their chiropractor for.  

So what REALLY causes back pain and other issues that chiropractors see?

In some cases, the cause of back pain can be difficult to avoid (such as in the case of an accident or injury) however, everyday habits can be a big determining factor in how well our spines may handle stress.

This year, Align will be asking our community to focus on everyday habits which can be harmful to the health of our spines and encourage small, practical steps for the better.

What is the point in only making small changes to my lifestyle?

Part of our challenge to our community is to recognise the importance of each tiny effort. Health is like exercise, you can’t get fit every day, but each time you get out there and run, or make it to the gym, you make that incremental step towards a better version of you. 

There is no point trying to make many, or even just one MASSIVE change to your life from today onwards. If it is too big a leap from your daily routine then it becomes too hard to continue with and so inevitably you drop it.

Much like a new diet, its unsustainable to decide that you'll only ever eat grapefruit for every meal from now onwards in an effort to lose weight, instead the most impact comes from deciding what elements aren't ideal and take steps to make change that are realistic and most importantly SUSTAINABLE. 

For this reason, we will never suggest our clients do a 180 and completely change their lives, rather we prefer to help you in identifying a 5-10 degree change in course that when followed over the next few decades helps you end up in a much better place than your old path was leading.

Never underestimate the power of simple lifestyle adjustments can have on your quality of life long term.

Adjustments such as;

  • being mindful of your posture, 
  • being more active, 
  • taking breaks from mobile devices, 
  • a focus on sleep as well as a larger focus on sleep and, 
  • incorporating stretching into your daily routine

It is important to take preventative measures when it comes to spinal health and if you are already experiencing pain, it is not advisable to ignore it.

Over the next few posts I am going to attempt to address some of these concepts I have listed above so keep popping back over the next few weeks, however if you have any more specific questions on how you can approach your spinal health, please do not hesitate to contact us at Align. 



A happy life preserver because asking for help shouldn't be scary.  Also, truth be told, other stock images related to 'help' were a bit lame, not cute like this guy...and as well I thought this picture was funny because he has a shadow underneath him. Why? He is meant to be in the ocean...the shadow implies a light source above his head and that there is a floor underneath him, as if this is a photograph taken on a flat back ground rather than in water...even though its a cartoon. I'm not sure what is going on there. Anyway, if we can help you in at all, or if your are keen to know if we are the right people to help you, please get in contact.

A happy life preserver because asking for help shouldn't be scary.

Also, truth be told, other stock images related to 'help' were a bit lame, not cute like this guy...and as well I thought this picture was funny because he has a shadow underneath him. Why? He is meant to be in the ocean...the shadow implies a light source above his head and that there is a floor underneath him, as if this is a photograph taken on a flat back ground rather than in water...even though its a cartoon. I'm not sure what is going on there. Anyway, if we can help you in at all, or if your are keen to know if we are the right people to help you, please get in contact.

Ice Ice Maybe?

Before I get into this, I need to clear up two things.

1. When I use the term 'Ice' or say, 'use ice' I am of course ONLY referring to frozen water. Whatever you do, DO NOT take those terms out of context.

2. let's just get it out of the way:

An obvious yet somehow necessary gag to put at the top of a discussion on anti-inflammatory protocol

There, now that this blog has a soundtrack, we can get started. 

Should I use ice or heat?

As Chiropractors, we get asked this a lot. There appears to be a lot of confusion out there about what you should use, when and why, and that confusion is not just limited to the general public! 

There is a lot of debate and conflicting info about ice vs. heat amongst different health care professions and even between practitioners within the SAME profession, so it is little wonder that when people are injured, they aren't sure what to try. 

In this post I will attempt to explain a bit of the ins and outs of the issue, as well as some of the  the common sticking points in the discussion and ultimately, try to give a summary of the basic approach you could try, based on the best and most current research I am able to get my hands on. 

So, if you are the type of person who just wants to get a few tips WITHOUT having to go through the rest of it (and to be honest, I don't blame you if you do), then please feel free to skip down to the bottom of this post where I will summarise the main info in bullet point form. 

However, if you're like me and you're kind of into the back ground of things, then please read on. 

So why would I use ice or heat anyway?

Full disclosure...this will not be an exhaustive explanation of how inflammation works because that would be WAY too much info to put in this blog and to be honest I really couldn't do the topic justice with my explanation anyway (however, if you would really like to geek out and marvel at just how incredible the human body is, and get a much more complete picture of what is happening at a cellular level in detail, I suggest you check out a video called "Basic Inflammatory Response". Be warned though, videos like this are only the start of a fascinating rabbit warren so be sure to have a clear afternoon for all the other info you'll want to follow it up with).

To EXTREMELY oversimplify the situation: 

  1. You injure yourself
  2. Your body detects the injury
  3. Chemical signals are released to signal to your body to begin healing and cleaning the injury up.
  4. The chemicals also cause more healing factors in your blood to come to the area/slow down in the blood stream at the site of injury and help to clean up/heal
  5. The resulting 'inflammatory Soup' causes redness, swelling and alterations of movement at the affected site as well as activation of nerves that carry information about the damage to your brain where it is registered as being painful.

As stated above, this is a very simplified version of events that skips many steps in the process but I feel gives you an idea of the situation. 

The most important take home message though? The body is very smart and so it does all this to HELP you, so we want to allow healing to occur as much as possible without hindering the healing process too much.

The reason then that we employ heat or ice is to limit the levels of swelling and discomfort you have to experience, while allowing all these steps to occur and let you live your life while your body gets on with the task at hand. The cooling or heating of tissues is used to constrict or dilate blood vessels in order to modulate the inflammation to inhibit or help the healing factors to arrive at and move on from the site of injury.

Heat and ice have the added bonus of having relatively few side effects compared to their pharmaceutical counterparts, something I find clients are generally very keen to avoid having to take where possible.

Kieran, you haven't answered the question yet, do I use heat or ice? 

That depends on the injury. 

Generally speaking, we use ice for acute injuries (i.e. injury that has only occurred in roughly the last 48 hours) and heat for more chronic injuries (i.e injuries arising more than 2 weeks ago). 

In yet another simplification, we use different modalities because in the early stages of injury, the inflammatory soup is different to one that has been around for a longer period of time. In the gap between 2 days and 2 weeks, you can use ice or heat, or ice AND heat. 

You can however have a chronic injury that you exacerbate, in which case you might need to act like its a new injury and switch back from heat to using ice on it again. 

By now I am sure you can see why so many people can become confused as to what they should do. Don't worry, Ill still give that summary below. 

Does it matter where the injury is? 

No, that shouldn't be a factor.

In the past, some health professions have prescribed ice for acute inflammation for everywhere on the body EXCEPT the spine. For some reason they appeared to have forgotten that the spine is made up of joints, ligaments, tensions, muscles, blood vessels that have the same characteristics as other areas of the body. 

So, in cases of acute injury and pain in the neck and/or back, you should still use ice like you would on a knee. 

Some important points to remember...

As I have said, this is not an exhaustive discussion of this topic, and there is still a lot of argument among researches and practitioners as to the best practice for ice or heat (just type ice vs heat into Google and you'll get a sense of what I am talking about) I am just attempting to summarise what I have discovered from the best sources of research information I can find, as well as my experience with clients with acute and chronic injury in practice. 

Other important points to remember are:

  • It appears that crushed ice in a bag is more effective than traditional cooling packs
  • Do not return to activity immediately after using ice
  • Don't use ice for more than 20 minutes of constant contact/ 
  • If you have any questions or concerns about your injury, contact your health practitioner immediately.
  • If either of the approaches make you feel worse, stop using them immediately and contact us to discuss your options. 

In Summary:

  • Ice for acute injury (roughly under 48 hours old).
  • Use ice for 10 minutes on, 10 minutes off, repeat as often as you like.
  • Heat for more chronic issues (especially for injuries over 2 weeks old)
  • You can alternate heat and ice for 10 minutes of one, 10 minutes of the other 
  • There is no hard and fast rule, these are tools designed to make you more comfortable so let your body be your guide. 
  • I would still recommend avoiding heat for acute inflammation.
  • Do not just put up with pain or even just hope for the best with an injury, the earlier you act the better your prognosis. 
  • Call us at Align to have a chat about your injury and discuss how to get back on track. 

If you're the type of person who would like to know where the information I have talked about here came from, please feel free to contact me at the practice at any stage and I will send you through the details of the research articles I have used, 

I will be keeping my eye out for newer, more definitive research and promise to update this post if anything new comes to light.

If you have any other questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to get in contact. 



What is the best way to sit?

"How should I be sitting?"

We often get asked this by our clients and on the surface it sounds like a pretty simple and straight forward question but when you think about it, its a much broader subject than it first appears. 

If you subscribe to the theory that the researchers at QI are correct about pretty much everything (and let's face it, who doesn't?) then this video will explain to you a little about the *ideal* way to sit, but what do they mean by the BEST way to sit?

For instance, it could be argued that what you are sitting FOR might actually dictate how you could best attempt to sit. Then again, there are some people who argue that we shouldn't be sitting for more than just short periods at all! 

In this post I wanted to discuss a few different types of sitting and when you might want to use them.

But Kieran, what do you mean by different types of sitting?

I'm glad you asked! there are a few different ways in which we position our bodies when we sit and each has its own set of pros and cons. 

In the video above, they make reference to sitting with an angle between your low back and your hips of roughly 30 degrees. They don't specify this in the video but sitting with an angle like that refers to research for the best sitting position to ease pressure on your lower lumbar vertebrae and disks, hopefully reducing the risk of low back pain or injury including disk bulges. 

When I was studying biomechanics as part of my Bachelor of Applied Science (Chiropractic) at RMIT, (back then, the course was an undergraduate degree and a Masters by course work instead of the 5 year Bachelor degree Chiropractors currently undertake...also Youtube was only 1 year old...thats not relevant to that last point other than it gives you an indication of how old I must be) we learned that the ideal angle to sit was indeed NOT sitting up straight but between 100-110 degrees. Definitely within the ball park of what this episode of QI suggests.

So why are we always trying to sit up straight?

It seems strange doesn't it that despite scientific evidence to the contrary, that we should still be obsessed with sitting up straight. 

I can't find any rational reasoning for this but I posit that it's due to our societal awareness of posture in reference to our shoulders and head forward positions, rather than any awareness of our spinal health at large. 

Well then...which is it? Posture or low back health?

To be completely honest, I do not believe that there is one answer to this question. 

Firstly, if you know you have, or at risk of a low back injury, then it is reasonable for you to, as much as possible while sitting, attempt to have an appropriate angle of between 10 and 30 degrees beyond sitting up straight. I would also add, if you have or believe you are at risk of a low back injury, please contact us at Align Chiropractic to see what ELSE you can do to get on track beyond remembering how to sit. 

Secondly, if you don't have a specific reason or concern in reference to your low back, then as stated earlier, perhaps it is best to remember the context in which you find yourself sitting. 

If you are going to be at a computer for most of the day, then a focus on correct sitting posture. 

A couple of quick reminders are:

  • Key board - Positioned more directly in front of you, so you aren't reaching for it or turning your     wrists to get the correct angle.
  • Screen - Directly in front of you,at a height where your eyes are aimed directly in the middle just about the centre of the screen.
  • Chair - Adjusted to a height where your feet can easily touch the floor with your hips at or just past 90 degrees to your torso.
  • Mouse - Just to the side of the keyboard, easy to reach in a way that keeps your arm bent, not reaching for it.
  • Alignment - Sitting up straight, don't slouch and don't let your head and shoulders slump forward. 

Always remember to keep what you need to use IN FRONT OF YOU in an easy position to use.

Computers and equipment was designed to fit US, not the other way around!

Your other best line of defence is to try utilise a standing desk for at least some part of the day!

However, the above video raises an interesting point, If sitting more casually, i.e. watching a movie etc, then sitting up straight as if you are using a computer doesn't really feel like it makes much sense. Lets face it, it doesn't matter who you are, no one can sit up straight for extended periods of time. 

It makes sense to do it while working, where we can get up from the desk to stretch, get water or to stop our body from fatiguing, but if you're planning to sit and enjoy Casino Royal, re watch the Back to the future trilogy or binge The Sinner, then you can hardly annoy everyone you're watching with and interrupt the show with incessant stretching. 

This is where finding that 10 to 30 degree angle for your low back really comes to the fore.

Similarly while driving, I do not expect you to stop every 20-40 minutes on your daily commute for a walk, so keep that position in mind when you set up your car seat (I will post about correct driving position in the near future, but as a general rule, give yourself that slight angle, position the steering wheel so you aren't leaning forward to reach for it and make sure your head isn't being pushed forward by the headrest).

Another question we get asked frequently is should you sit on a gym ball instead? 

My answer is always the same...if your living room or office aesthetics suit the presence of a gym ball as a permanent piece of furniture, then perhaps posture and sitting is NOT the biggest issue you are currently experiencing. 

More seriously though, in my experience, sitting on a gym ball doesn't provide you with a better sitting technique for an extended period. Like anything, our body will fatigue if we ask it to hold a more rigid position for a long time and eventually we all end up slumping. Personally, I believe that a gym ball can actually help you to slump your shoulders forward as it offers you no form of support to relax into a better position. 

If you DO insist on sitting long term on gym ball, always be mindful of when your head slumps forward and your low back has started to curve in the opposite direction. 

Yep, just like any product sold on late night infomercials, the sad reality is, sitting on a gym ball will NOT automatically give you abs. 

The same can be said of ergonomic chairs or those kneeling 'chairs', not only are they usually more of an eyesore than you would hope them to be, they are really about trying to make the most of a crummy situation. They will try place you in a better posture but without adjusting your position, mindfulness of your body and remembering to get up and move frequently, your body will always try to reduce energy expenditure and slack off as soon as you aren't looking. 

So what SHOULD I be sitting on?

For a hint at the type of chairs we at Align DO actually like people to sit in, look at the furniture in our practice. 

The Eames chairs we have in the practice weren't just chosen for how beautiful they are, or how well they stand up to being sat on by hundreds of people, they also allow you to be comfortable in a relatively good position for a reasonable period of time. 

At the end of the day, there really is no substitute for body awareness. 

Listen to your body. Stand up when you need to stand up, move when you have to move, and re-position yourself when your body tells you it needs re-positioning. 

To discuss the best ways to combat bad posture, exercises to improve your ability to sit better, or discuss your concerns about your posture, contact us at Align on (03) 9696 1057, or bring it up during your next visit so that we can discuss your issues specifically and tailor an approach to your and your needs. 

School is Back so Back Pack chat is Back

Back to school time...

Yep, I'm sorry to ruin your child's holidays but we knew this day was coming eventually. 

Although to be honest, this blog shouldn't really just about going BACK to school. For some reason we only talk about back packs when we are about to commence a new school year, but really we need to focus on them the whole year through. 

No matter how old the school bag or how old your children are, back packs represent one of the most common physical stressors that children will face in our society. Research suggests that back packs should not be heavier than 10-15% of the body weight of the child carrying it, yet how many times have you picked up your child's bag and thought it would be uncomfortable for YOU to wear?

As a matter of fact, an international study printed in Spine found that 79.1% of children find their backpacks are heavy, and 46.1% complained that their bags caused back pain.

This is made worse by the fact that in the same study, it was discovered that even though nearly half of the students had back pain, 33% of all of the students were still wearing their back packs too low!

If you want an idea of what happens to posture and spines when you wear a back pack incorrectly, see the photos of our amazing practice model Nicholas below. Nicholas has great posture and is more active than an average boy of his age. (On top of that, he is hilarious and an absolute gun for being a part of this post!) As you can see, none of that matters when he wears his bag incorrectly.

Nicholas shows us what happens when your back pack is too low, note that his head is forward, his shoulders are rolled and his low back has increased curve. 

Nicholas shows us what happens when your back pack is too low, note that his head is forward, his shoulders are rolled and his low back has increased curve. 

The reality is, this overloading and incorrect loading of your child's spine may be putting them at risk of longer term spinal damage.

Add that to the time spent sitting or looking at the screen of a phone or iPad and....well I don't need to tell you what this means for posture. 


I have already discussed the issues with poor posture earlier in this blog, (for a look at a more in depth discussion about posture, read the post here) but in summary, poor posture is bad, and the longer it's left unmanaged the worse things get.

So what should you do?

At Align we are concerned about the future of younger generation's health and posture, which is why Martin and I will be providing free back pack assessments to ensure that your child starts the year off with their best foot forward. 

It is always fascinating to see how a small adjustment to a child's backpack can have far reaching effects. 

If you would like to book a Back Pack assessment for your children, please do not hesitate to contact us on 9696 1057.

Ankle Sprain 2: Standing on your own two feet

A few posts back, I said I would outline some important points you want to be thinking about if you have an acute ankle sprain, as well as what you can do if you already ARE someone with a "bad ankle". 

Even if this isn't your first rodeo when it comes to ankle sprain, I would encourage you to read this post as every time you injure your ankle will little different from the last!

The first place to start when it comes to ankle injury is just how serious is it? 

So what can go wrong?

We all know its sore, and we have all seen a puffed up and inflamed ankle, but what exactly is going on when you injure it? 

By far, the most likely mechanism of injury in an ankle is rolling outwards or "over the top" of your ankle. This direction of movement accounts for the Anterior Talofibular Ligament (literally meaning, the ligament at the front that connects your ankle bone of your foot, or Talus, to the bone that runs on the outside of your lower leg making that bump on the outside of your ankle, your fibula) being the most commonly injured tissue in an ankle sprain injury.

In my opinion, it is this injury to ligaments that causes ongoing issues in regard to ankle sprain, as ankles can take 12- 24 MONTHS to heal completely (depending on the severity of injury) and most people don't continue their specific rehab for long after the ankle is no longer in pain, which is usually much faster than this. This lack of correct rehab leads to other issues longer term. 

What else can be injured?

Beyond the Anterior talofibular ligament, other sites on injury can include the ankle cartilage or even in more extreme cases, fracture of the fibular or the foot itself!

When do you need to X-ray?

There are various factors to take into consideration when determining if you need an X-Ray of your injury.

Some are best assessed by a health care professional such as exactly where it is sore, what type of pain do you have, as well as the exact mechanism of the injury. 

As a general rule though, if you have injured your ankle and you are trying to decide if you should go to the emergency department, the best thing to ask yourself, according to the Ottawa rules for determining need for X-ray is this:

- Could I weight bear immediately after the injury occurred?


Can I walk at least 4 steps now?

If either of these are a yes, it is likely a radiograph will be warranted and I would recommend either contacting your health practitioner and letting them know, or visiting the emergency room immediately.

But if there is no fracture, what else can go wrong?

As discussed above and in a previous post, a major issue can be the damage to relevant ligaments, but there is yet another structure that can be affected by intense or repeated ankle sprain, and thats cartilage. 

The cartilage in your ankle is special in that it possesses healing and regenerative properties that are better than many other areas of your body, to account for extra stress in such a mobile weight bearing joint. Yet, even this area can be permanently damaged. 

Due to the healing, the ankle is an unlikely region to suffer from arthritis as a primary issue, but is one of the MOST likely joints in the body to develop arthritis in response to an injury as secondary symptom. Another reason that ongoing and thorough management and rehab is paramount to insult to the ankle!

When can I be back on it and how much can I do?

This is the most important question in getting you  (for want of a better term), back on your feet. The main area of focus is OPTIMAL LOADING. Not too much too soon injuring you further, and not too little so as to hamper your recovery. 

This is best assessed in person with your health care practitioner. 

If you have any concerns about your ankle, or you re not sure who you SHOULD be seeing about your injury, please do not hesitate to contact us at Align, we would love to help you be back up and running as soon as possible.


Image of ankles doing what they are MEANT to do, take you confidently wherever you would like to go.

Image of ankles doing what they are MEANT to do, take you confidently wherever you would like to go.

Coccyx pain, its a literal pain in the...well...you know where.

If you don't already know what I'm talking about its fair to say that this post isn't for you. 

If you have experienced Coccyx Pain (aka coccydinia), then you already know just how painful and potentially debilitating it can be. It can stop you from exercising, driving, walking or for some clients I have seen, even from being able to work! 

So what is a coccyx?

A coccyx (pronounced COX-SIX) is the proper name for what we usually refer to as our "tail bone" and is small bit on the end of our sacrum. It *kind of* looks like a little tail, but in reality is that little curved forward bit you see on the pelvis of a skeleton. 

Why does the tail bone get it's own blog post?

The tail bone has its own post because it's small and seems so insignificant, which in my opinion, has meant that it has never had much coverage. This has lead to many people suffering, frequently needlessly, with a condition that leaves them feeling powerless when chiropractic can potentially help them.


If its so small then what is it's issue?

Some people are more likely to suffer from coccyx pain than others for anatomical reasons such as degenerative change in the area, the presence or absence of vertebral disks, scoliosis, or even the shape or angle of the coccyx itself. As well, lifestyle reasons like being overweight, recently pregnant or from extended periods sitting can also contribute to the likelihood of suffering from coccydinnia.

By far the most likely reason to suffer from coccyx pain is from direct trauma like a fall onto your buttocks, which is why as chiropractors, we don't find videos like this funny at all.

Most unfairly however, just by being a woman you are anatomically 4-5 times more likely to suffer from coccyx pain as a result. 

(On a personal note, it was a fall off a swing set onto my coccyx when I was 4 or 5 that was the reason I started seeing a chiropractor in the first place...so it is fair to say it's a pretty powerful injury for me, however not everyone's experience is so positive)

An artists impression of me about to injure my coccyx

An artists impression of me about to injure my coccyx

So what can be done?

Firstly, you want to try if possible to get to the bottom of WHY your coccyx is painful in the first place.

We take time to assess you more globally, to see what other factors can be affecting your coccyx and your healing. As well, we have to determine exactly what area or tissues actually are inflamed, causing your pain. Is it the bone itself? The disks? The ligaments attached to it?

One of the other factors that might need to be taken into account is, does this client need to have X-Rays taken to get to the bottom (no pun intended) of this issue?

Most importantly, we need to know, how can you be helped and is chiropractic the right thing to get this person back on track?

If you think you or someone close to you might be having issues with coccyx pain, please call us at Align so we can see if we can't have you sittin' pretty.


Survival in a season that can be almost too Festive

Well…this year has felt even faster than the last, so it’s that time again already, time to take a moment to prepare for the onslaught of parties, socialising, work deadlines, kids’ holidays, and Christmas shopping. 

If we’re going to make it through successfully and most importantly, get to the other side having enjoyed it all, it’s paramount to remember one very important thing: Ourselves. 

Remember, you can't pour from an empty cup. 

So how do we keep filling our cup when it feels like all we get to do is pour out non stop?

The first step is to MAKE TIME FOR YOURSELF.

Don’t worry though, it may be a lot less time than you think. More and more people are finding meditation doesn’t just fit into their work day, it actually MAKES it, as “regular practice helps combat stress, improves focus and increases resilience.

If you're like me and you feel you can never shut off completely, try a guided meditation app like Smiling Mind. The app allows you to choose how long to meditate for AND help quieten down your brain chatter. 

If that STILL feels like its a little too much commitment for you this December, recent research has shown that listening to certain types of music with your eyes closed can have similar effects to meditation.

The research was specifically done to “Strawberry Swing" by Coldplay and "Someone like you" by Adele, but personally, I'm more of an Enya man #onlytimeftw

De-stressing can even be as simple as attempting to drink a cup of tea or coffee in silence. It’s really all about taking time for yourself, even if only in small amounts. 

In my opinion though, the most important thing you can do to improve your overall wellbeing at this busy time is to re-frame the stress you’re feeling. Let’s face it, it is seemingly impossible to avoid being busy at the moment, much less avoid the concept of being stressed! 

We have talked about it on this blog before but there is a brilliant Ted Talk about making stress your friend. It’s well worth the 15minutes!

Failing all this, we suggest you re-watch Love Actually. Bill Nighy, Colin Firth, Emma Thompson AND Liam Neeson? How can such a perfect movie NOT de-stress you?

If you have any questions about de-stressing, your health heading into the end of the year or if there is anything else we can help with, please don't hesitate to contact us at Align.

A stock image of festive items

A stock image of festive items

Ankle Sprains...are you doing it wrong?

I don't know if its the time of year or if I have just been noticing it more, but it feels like there has been a lot of ankle injury limping into the practice in the last few weeks.  

Ankle sprains and strains are common, they are not just for sports people and most importantly, are usually really poorly managed when they happen. 

Sure, getting people out of pain doesn't usually take too long but there is a lot more to it than that. 

As a lot of you already know, at Align a big part of our practice is looking after families. There are a few things you notice when you have families with school aged kids coming in and one of the more common injuries we will see is ankle sprain or strain.

So what do I mean by poorly managed? The problem is, getting on top of these very common injuries is at the same time, very important but very BORING to deal with. 

If you are lucky enough to have avoided issues with your ankles, I am willing to bet we all know SOMEONE we went to school with who rolled their ankle early on in high school, and by year 12, nearly overtime they took to the field, court or even walked next to you down the street, they would put their foot down at one point and over they would go!

In practice, we often here this described as their "bad ankle".

Structurally there is usually nothing "bad" about their ankle, so why do they have such a problem? 

A "Bad Ankle"

A "Bad Ankle"

In my experience, up until recently, treatment for most ankle injury would consist of people would ice on their ankle till the swelling went down and they could walk on it without pain, then they would hope for the best until inevitably, the next episode of the "bad ankle" would happen, increasing in frequency, leaving them with no confidence in their own body and an inability to enjoy playing sports or exercise how they should be able to. Sound familiar?

The reality is, when you really sprain your ankle, what you are actually doing is causing damage of specific ligaments around your foot and ankle. The pain from these injuries is just one part of the issue. The other, equally important part is the movement issues that a sprain will introduce into our ankle's support systems. 

I touched on these movement issues in my last blog about posture but in a nutshell, when we injure tissues it can cause movement control issues in the affected joint, making it harder for our nervous system to be certain of how to position and manage that joint in the future. 

This is why it's so important that any management of these injuries includes longer term rehab thinking, as well as care for the immediate area and work on the connected support structures. 

In my next blog, I plan to outline some important points you want to be thinking about if you have an acute ankle sprain, as well as what you can do if you already ARE someone with a "bad ankle"





In a slump...Is it time to stand tall and stop your mum from nagging you?

Good Posture...I know, I can feel how bored you are already. I don't blame you. Can you even count how many times you have been nit picked about slouching? 

And why the hell should you care right? I mean, who cares that you slump a little? Plus, its so hard to stop doing! You try so hard to be upright when you first get to your computer but sure enough, 2 hours later you find yourself leaning into the screen of your computer with your shoulders hanging from your ears and a back hunch that would make Mr. Burns envious. 

A man displaying woeful posture...in need of nagging

A man displaying woeful posture...in need of nagging

As a Chiropractor, 2 things happen often in my life. 

The first is that at almost every time I am introduced to a person or group, most people instinctively straighten their backs and sit or stand taller, as if they all instinctively know that 'Good Posture' is important (even if we don't know why) and that its something we only think about when prompted to (even though we know deep down that our posture isn't great in the first place)

The second is that poor posture is one of the leading causes the issues that we see in our practice every day!  

Low back, neck pain, jaw pain, shoulder injury, predisposition to spinal degeneration, carpal tunnel type symptoms, migraines and tension headaches are some of the most common symptoms we see day in and day out and it doesn't take much Googling to find that a lot of these problems are either caused by, or at the least made worse by, poor posture. 

So, how does having bad posture lead to these issues? 

The answer is actually really simple and its actually a major part of understanding what we do as chiropractors:

Nervous system feedback and the body’s position in space

"The deeper layers of muscle are concerned with ‘sensing’ our position in space and relaying this information to the brain. If this function is taken over by muscles... (As a result) the brain gets an incomplete picture. The brain assumes that the body needs to be propped up to counteract the effects of gravity, so it triggers further muscle contraction. This adds to the general fatigue and pain felt by the person with poor posture." - The Victorian Government's better health website 

The issues with poor posture appear to go beyond just the physical mechanics as well! 

If I told you to imitate a person who is stressed out, anxious or depressed, I bet you would tighten and slightly raise your shoulders, pushing your head forward and making you shorter. Sound familiar? 

Some authors discuss that consistently being in this position might actually lead to deepened depression, increases in perceived stress, circulation issues, as well as negatively affecting digestion, breathing mechanics and the we way we are perceived by ourselves and others!

So what can we do about it? Well I'm here to tell you that dealing with posture is both simple AND challenging. 

Simple in that there are very basic ways that we can start to work on and improve how our body holds itself, yet challenging in that as Australian's, we are sitting or lying down for an average of 23 hours and 47 minutes, so we have a lot practice at bad posture to try and work against!

Over the space of a few more blog posts, I am hoping to talk you through some strategies to start tackling this problem, but until then, if you have any questions, or if yourself or someone close to you needs help getting out of their slump, please do not hesitate to contact us at Align on (03) 9696 1057.




Are migraines getting you down?

If you get migraines you know it is WAY more than just a bad headache!

Over the 25 plus years that I have been taking care of people with migraines I have noticed that they often have other problems. One of the most common is that they have also had challenges with anxiety or depression.

So I was really interested to read a recent (it was published yesterday so when I say recent I mean recent!) research article that was published in the prestigious medical journal “Headache”.



The study looked at 588 people who get migraines. The researchers looked at a number of factors but the most interesting one (for me anyway) was that they looked at the people’s scores for depression and anxiety relative to how frequently they had migraines.

So what did they find?

Not surprisingly they found that the people who got more frequent migraines correlated with higher scores for depression and anxiety.

The small print! This study is a correlation study - it doesn’t show causation. We don't know whether having more migraines caused them to be more anxious or depressed, whether the relationship is the reverse or if there is some other explanation! If you want to learn more about correlation vs causation (and have a laugh at the same time!) check out this article.

If you have migraines and want to see if we can help please call 03 9696 1057.
Our chiropractors have years of experience and a special interest in taking care or people who get migraines.

Walking for exercise?



As chiropractors we get asked about exercise a lot. People are looking for the most 'bang for their buck' so to speak to get the highest impact for their life for the smallest investment in time and energy. 


The reality is, there is no magic bullet for every one. Each of us have different strengths, needs and capabilities. 


What IS clear, is that our bodies are better with exercise. It makes us healthier, feel better and improves our quality of life. 


Usually when asked “what sort of exercise should I be doing?”, at Align we will answer with: “what do you like to do?”. The improvements to your health from exercise are dosage dependent, i.e. the more you do, the better the outcome, so to us, the best place to start is by assessing, what is it that you enjoy doing the most? 


If you’re anything like most people (ourselves included) if you don’t LIKE the exercise you’re trying to do, you’ll find nearly any excuse to not go and do it, so just pick ANY physical activity you enjoy and get out to do it.


The other mistake clients tend to make is thinking that simple exercises aren’t “enough” to bother working at. The classic example being walking. People often think that because its so slow and relatively low intensity, not to mention, free and available any time you feel like exercising, that it won’t give them enough return on their investment of time and energy and therefore they don’t make time to do it. 


Personally, I believe that you should NEVER underestimate the power of walking. This recent article by the ABC discusses walking as exercise and I think covers the topic quite well. Granted, its not the most efficient way to build muscle, flexibility or cardio, if you walk consistently you will find improvements in all of these areas, as well as significant improvements in cardiovascular health, decreased risk of diabetes and can improve stress levels as well. 


In my life I have found walking to be a ‘gateway’ exercise, the more of it I have done, the more I feel like its what I want to do, even going as far as inspiring me to try other more intense exercise, literally proving to me that I had to walk before I could run.



Keeping it Festive

Keeping it Festive



Every year the festive season seems to start earlier and get more and more involved. And as with anything in life, failing to prepare means preparing to fail. So with all the silliness of the season about to hit us all, it’s time to take a moment to prepare for the onslaught of parties, socialising, work deadlines, kids’ holidays, and Christmas shopping. 

If we’re going to make it through successfully and most importantly, get to the other side having enjoyed it all, it’s paramount to remember one very important thing: Ourselves. 

It might sound selfish to focus on yourself but it’s not. Remember, there is nothing heroic about being the most run down and stressed out version of you. After all, it’s the festive season; a season to come together, express gratitude, share love and be the BEST version of YOU! 

Remember, you can't pour from an empty cup. 

So how can you stay on top of things yet still take on everything you have to over the next few weeks? 

Glad you asked!

The first step is to MAKE TIME FOR YOURSELF.

Don’t worry though, it may be a lot less time than you think. More and more people are finding meditation doesn’t just fit into their work day, it actually MAKES it, as “regular practice helps combat stress, improves focus and increases resilience.

If you're like me and you feel you can never shut off completely, try a guided meditation app like Smiling Mind. The app allows you to choose how long to meditate for AND help quieten down your brain chatter. 

If meditation isn't your thing, why not try something simple like turning off technology for an hour or walking around on grass or the beach without shoes? It can even be as simple as attempting to drink a cup of tea or coffee in silence. It’s really all about taking time for yourself, even if only in small amounts. 

In my opinion though, the most important thing you can do to improve your overall wellbeing at this busy time is to re-frame the stress you’re feeling. As let’s face it, its seemingly impossible to avoid being busy at the moment, much less avoid the concept of being stressed! 

We touched on this topic a few months ago on this same blog, but if you missed it, there is a brilliant Ted Talk about making stress your friend, you can watch the video here. It’s well worth the 15minutes!

Failing all this, we suggest you re-watch Love Actually. Bill Nighy, Colin Firth, Emma Thompson AND Liam Neeson? How can that NOT de stress you?

If you have any other questions about making the most of your time towards the end of the year or if there is anything else we can help with, please don't hesitate to call us at Align.


Festive Sandman, 

Festive Sandman, 

The most exciting thing to happen for Low back pain sufferers in YEARS!

We cannot get enough of this headline. It seems like every few weeks in the media there is some big expose’ espousing the latest and best way to deal with low back pain. Yet, if this is true, why is it still such a huge problem for more than 3 million Australians? In fact according to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, in Australia, low back pain is MORE prevalent than on average world wide.

Take into account how many days we lose from our lives, our work and our families due to pain and we have a massive…well…pain in the butt on our hands.

The most important metric that these stats don't cover though is simply that, there really is nothing that makes you feel older than back pain. 

Thats why we keep seeing these headlines about the latest breakthrough or Low back pain’s silver bullet, we are all hoping for that easy, uncomplicated and virtually instant relief.  


Unfortunately, reality is rarely that fast acting and the human body is NEVER that simple. Back pain has different causes, some have different outcomes, different tissues can be injured and each of us individually can have our own individual needs when it comes to healing and moving beyond back pain. 

That’s why there can’t be a ‘one size fits all’ approach to low back pain. The sad truth is that there is no sexy silver bullet treatment approach, rather each person and their situation needs to be assessed separately and managed accordingly. 

Does this person need deep tissue massage? If so, should they get myotherapy or see a Sports Massage therapist? 

Would they be better cared for utilising pilates immediately, or should other work be done with them before putting their damaged tissues through core exercise work? 

Whether you have an acute injury, a ruptured disk, you feel like you would like another option than pain medication or you have been suffering from chronic low back dysfunction, our approach at Align is simple. 

We see people with back pain day in and day out, so we are confident that from our first visit we will know if you are in the right place to get on top of your issue, or if not, who do you need to see instead. 

It may not be immediate. It may not make a great headline but in the end we think its exciting, see the right person, with the right approach and the right plan = better outcomes for back pain.


Take the Headache out of dealing with a Headache

Understanding your individual headache can be difficult, so you need a subtle, thorough and educated approach. We see people with head pain, headaches and dizziness every day in practice and often we can help. 

There are certain types of headache however that really aren’t our forte or require a different, sometimes medical approach, this is why chiropractors spend 5 years at university and are primary contact practitioners in Australia, we need to be able to not only know what is going on with your headache to know if we can help but just as importantly, know that if we can help, where you need to be.  


Virtually everyone gets them. Its so common that a lot of us actually find it weird when we meet someone who DOESN’T get them. 

In Australia we start early. Studies have shown that by their mid teens, 57-82% of children suffer headache. Scarily, headache is listed as one of the main reasons a child will miss school, leading to concerns about a child’s ability to take part as fully as they should both educationally AND socially. 

With adults, rates are suspected to be even HIGHER, as some sources suggest that in Australia, the most likely group of people to report headaches are aged between 25-44 years. Add to that the fact that women suffer from headaches more frequently than men and that’s a huge amount of us facing headaches every day.

Those stats don't tell the whole picture though, www.headacheaustralia.org.au alone lists at least 36 different types of headache ranging from the very mundane such as dehydration and ice-cream headaches, to the much more scary and un-appealing. Confusing the matter for the average sufferer is the fact that virtually all of these different types of headaches have their own signatures and causes, requiring different approaches to deal with them. Not everything is as easy to deal with as a dehydration headache. 

Headaches are annoying but they don't have to rule your life. If you want to decrease your chances of getting headaches, lifestyle can play an important role. Not smoking, cutting back on drinking, sleeping regularly and well, eating more appropriately and especially getting daily exercise are likely to have a large effect on your chances of attack.


If you are looking to make a bigger impact than just decreasing your or your family and friends likelihood of headache and want to find out “What type of headache do I have?” “Why?” and (to me most importantly) “How do I get on top of it?” then feel free to contact us at Align. 


'Don't worry be happy' or 'Make stress your friend'?

One of the most significant triggers for tension type headaches and migraines is psychological stress. Ongoing stress is also a predictor of how well people recover with back and neck pain. So is the answer to “don’t worry be happy?” "Just cut out stress", "You need to take more stress out of your life" or the always ridiculous: "You need to stop work or make it less stressful". Or my personal favourite, "Just don't let yourself feel so stressed"

But what happens if you CANT just let it go so easily? Or you haven't won tattslotto and you have to keep working to be able to live?

Well there is a possibility that decreasing stress might not be all that important anyway. What IS important is how you look at it.

We all have stress in one form or another and for most of us its actually SO constant that we may not even realise that we have it.

New research suggests that if you view your stress response as being your body's way of helping you out of a tough spot, rather than something that makes your life harder, then not only might you live longer but your stress may actually help PROTECT your heart from heart disease!

Watch the TED talk below to find out what I mean. Its not short but it is worth the investment of your time. How often can you spend 15minutes and potentially save your won life?

How do you think you're dealing with stress? Is it time you updated your perspective?

Let us know what you think next time you're in the practice!


All the best,


Are you Sitting too much?

Maybe you've heard the new catch phrase, "Sitting is the new smoking"? 
Have you wondered why that is?  Are you curious as to how prolonged periods of sitting is causing you harm?  How sitting decreases brain activity, can cause back pain, shoulder pain and neck pain? How sitting can decrease fat metabolism, contribute to metabolic diseases, heart disease, depression and even some cancers?
For a simple explanation, watch this 5min Ted Ed talk (perhaps do it standing!) and learn what impact sitting is having on your posture and health.
If you're curious, you can even take this survey and calculate just how much sitting you are doing each day, the results may shock you!
Here's a few strategies you may use to get off your butt;
1. If you work in an office at a desk, perhaps get into the habit of taking phone calls standing up
2. Set an alarm for every 30mins to get up out of your chair and do a few stretches
3. If you commute to work via Public Transport, you could choose to stand instead of sit
4. There are great options for standing work stations - check this one out
5. Walk to work, or at least park further away from the office.  This serves two purposes, increases your exercise for the day AND reduces sitting time in the car
6. If you're into computer games, try playing them standing up, instead of sitting!  It may surprise you to know that standing actually increases brain activity and reactivity.  So standing may help you get to that next level.

A bitter sweet blog post by Caitlin Lewis

As most of the Align Chiropractic community now know, I am about leave the nest and move to the other side of the world to get married and start a new chapter of my life with my future husband and his family in Ireland. My final shift is this Saturday the 6th of June!
Its a scary yet exciting adventure. Scary because for the last 9 years I have been a part of the Align Chiropractic Team.
Some of you will remember I started on the front desk as a Student Chiropractor in 2006. I worked a with Martin and as I sat watching him adjust, I would think to myself  "Wow how amazing would it be to work as a Chiropractor under his wing".
Lucky for me the stars aligned and I became Martin’s 3rd associate in 2007 followed by Carmen and Kieran, and we have all been the of Chiropractors at Align Chiropractic since 2010.
I’ve loved being a part of this team and couldn’t think of better people to have started my career with. They have shaped who I am today both professionally and personally.
Martin has been a HUGE support and influence in my transition from student to professional Chiropractor. He is a fantastic mentor in all situations and one of the best practice owners I’ve ever had the priveilage to work with. His unwavering support, diplomatic attitude, dose of tough love when needed, unbiased advice, encouraging words, personal development and mind set coaching has given me an unshakable foundation to flourish in my future endeavours, not only as a Chiropractor but as a person as well.
It is with a heavy heart I say goodbye to the Align team and community. I can’t thank everyone enough for making my time at Align Chiropractic so fun and memorable for nearly a decade. All the kind words and thoughtful gifts I have received since deciding to leave has been more than I could ever have expected! I feel very loved and spoilt.
If you are ever in Dublin, please make sure you get in touch! The guys at align have my contact details and I would love to help you find the best place for Guiness :)