Wednesday, September 23, 2015

The Common Core

The Common Core

Core Strength and Regular Chiropractic Care
When you begin a core muscle strengthening program, it's important to ensure that your spinal biomechanical structures are functioning at their optimum. Proper functioning of your spinal vertebras is especially significant in the context of core muscle strength. The presence of spinal misalignments causes tightness of small muscle groups that connect adjacent vertebras and of large muscle groups that connect spinal regions such as the mid back and low back. Muscle tightness leads to pain and persistent tightness leads to pain that may last for days, weeks, or months. Core muscle strengthening becomes very difficult in the presence of such tightness and pain. In fact, when spinal misalignments are left uncorrected, attempting to perform core exercises may even cause injury.
By detecting, analyzing, and correcting spinal misalignments, regular chiropractic care helps restore normal biomechanical function to your spine and, correspondingly, to the rest of your musculoskeletal system. As a result, regular chiropractic care helps you get the most benefit from your core strengthening activities and helps you become healthier overall.
Core strength is critical for everyday activities such as placing heavy grocery bags into the trunk of your automobile, carrying a gallon jug of milk from the refrigerator to the dining room table, and even walking to the mailbox. When your core strength is diminished, even bending over to pick up a pencil may result in a serious spinal injury. Weakened core musculature causes simple, daily physical activities to be problematic. When standing up from a seated position or getting into a car causes you to experience twinges in your back, you may be sure your core muscles are not working in the manner for which they were designed.
Your core muscles consist of the four abdominal muscles – the transversus abdominis, internal obliques, external obliques, and rectus abdominis – and back muscles such as the erector spinae, longissimus thoracis, and multifidi. The most important core muscle may be the transversus abdominis, a sheet of horizontally oriented muscle that lies underneath the other abdominal muscles and provides deep mechanical support to the low back and pelvis. Similarly important are the multifidi, a group of small, powerful, deep spinal muscles that interconnect pairs and series of vertebras.
In times past, when the concept of work meant actual physical labor, there was no need to pay attention to training the core. In those days, your core muscles were being trained all day long by lifting, carrying, pushing, and pulling loads with heavy resistances and/or bending, digging, hoeing, planting, and raking. Working on a farm or in a factory provided more than sufficient exercise for the core. But in today's developed world, farming and manufacturing jobs have been greatly reduced and the large majority of work is done in the so-called service sector. In the 21st century, people living in developed nations spend the largest portion of their day sitting at a desk. In such circumstances the core musculature will weaken drastically, unless specific attention is paid to training these muscles.1,2
The good news is that a wide variety of exercises are available for training the core. Most of them require no equipment. Many of them may be done at home and do not even require a gym membership. For example, yoga provides thorough and complete exercise for core muscles. Self-motivated persons might only need a yoga DVD and a yoga mat, minimizing financial cost and doing their yoga training at home. For others, taking yoga classes at a gym or yoga center might be more appropriate. But yoga is only one possible solution. Numerous highly efficient core exercises may be done on a physioball. Dynamic exercises such as the plank provide substantial core benefit and the only equipment requirement is a mat. Other dynamic exercises include squats, gluteus bridge, lunges, jumping jacks, and the grapevine.
When you spend the time to make sure your core musculature is strong, daily physical activities begin to be done with ease and grace. Back pain and other mechanical aches and injuries fade into memory.3 The overall result is a body that works efficiently and optimally. Thus, a strong core helps provide for a lifetime of health and well-being.

1Kumar T, et al: Efficacy of core muscle strengthening exercise in chronic low back pain patients. J Back Musculoskel Rehabil  2014 Dec 2. [Epub ahead of print]
2Granacher U, et al: Effects of core instability strength training on trunk muscle strength, spinal mobility, dynamic balance and functional mobility in older adults. Gerontology 59(2):105-113, 2013
3Huxel Bliven KC, Anderson BE: Core stability training for injury prevention. Sports Health 5(6):514-522, 2013

Climbing the Hill

Climbing the Hill

cardio-respiratory exercise
Regular Chiropractic Care and Healthy Exercise
Regular vigorous exercise is critically important for retaining and maintaining optimal good health. But injuries may happen, disrupting our plans and best intentions. It's difficult to prevent random injuries, which by definition occur without cause or warning. One key to prevailing in your long-term exercise program is to minimize the likelihood of injury by maximizing your fitness potential.
Preventable, rather than random, injuries are often caused by tightness and/or imbalance of muscles that support spinal movement and spinal weight-bearing. These muscles include the erector spinae, quadratus lumborum, longissimus thoracis, and longissimus cervicis. These spinal stabilizers assist in all forms of exercise and their optimal functioning is required for any maximal effort. By identifying and correcting misalignments of spinal vertebras, regular chiropractic care helps ensure full and free movement of these important spinal muscles. As a result, regular chiropractic care helps you and your family get the most benefit out of the time you spend exercising, helping you to improve your long-term health.
Climbing a hill is a useful metaphor for activities involved in accomplishing a major goal, overcoming longstanding obstacles, or achieving a noteworthy milestone. But you must be prepared to engage in such a climb. Striking out without a metaphorical map, compass, bottle of water, or raingear will consistently result in limited success or actual failure. From a health and fitness perspective, climbing a hill may represent a real, concrete process. When you're out on your daily walk or run, unless you live and train entirely at sea level you're going to encounter changes in elevation. If you live in mountainous regions such as Southern California or along the Appalachian Trail, such variations in terrain require greater levels of aerobic capacity. Unless you want to spend your exercise time huffing and puffing, climbing a hill in the literal sense necessitates a high level of cardiovascular fitness.
Cardiovascular fitness may also be termed cardiorespiratory fitness.1 Such fitness refers to heart and lung capacity. With increased cardiorespiratory fitness, your heart's stroke volume increases. In other words, your heart pumps more blood with each beat than it did prior to attaining such fitness. More blood pumped per beat means your heart works less to achieve the same result. Your heart becomes more efficient, your blood pressure goes down, and your cells and tissues receive more nutrition more quickly.2,3 Similarly, with increased cardiorespiratory fitness your lungs take in more air with each breath. Such increased lung capacity means more oxygen is available to cells and tissues more quickly. Your entire cardiorespiratory system becomes more efficient. You're expending less metabolic energy and obtaining greater metabolic returns. Cardiorespiratory fitness substantially improves your overall health.
Attaining the goal of cardiovascular (cardiorespiratory) fitness involves the same type of thoroughness as that involved in achieving family and business-related goals. You plan your work and then work your plan. Interval training is a proven method of enhancing cardiovascular fitness, a method that is both mentally and physically challenging. Accomplishing your interval training goals also provides a great deal of fun and personal satisfaction.
Interval training involves alternating intense and slow periods of activity. Let's say you run three days a week, you average approximately 12 minutes per mile, and you run 3 miles per day. Now you'll substitute one interval training day per week for one of your regular running days. On your interval training day, you'll begin by lightly jogging 1 mile. Then you'll run 1/4 mile at 2:45, that is, slightly faster than your regular 3-minute per 1/4 mile pace. You'll continue with 1/4 mile at a very light recovery pace. Next, you'll repeat the sequence of fast (2:45) 1/4 mile followed by the slow recovery 1/4 mile. Repeat the sequence once more, add 1/2 mile of lightly jogging cool-down, and you've run your daily 3-mile quotient. Going forward, you may infinitely vary your interval training sequences, running 1/2 mile, 3/4 mile, and 1 mile interval distances at slightly faster than your race pace. You'll get faster gradually as your cardiovascular fitness and aerobic capacity increase. Within 6 months of engaging in consistent interval training, climbing hills may seem no more difficult than running on flat ground. Not only will you have become much more fit, you will have made tremendous gains in overall health and well being.
1Lavie CJ, et al: Exercise and the Cardiovascular System: Clinical Science and Cardiovascular Outcomes. Circ Res 117(2):207-219, 2015
2Myers J, et al: Physical activity and cardiorespiratory fitness as major markers of cardiovascular risk: their independent and interwoven importance to health status. Prog Cardiovasc Dis 57(4):306-314, 2015
3Nayor M, Vasan RS: Preventing heart failure: the role of physical activity. Curr Opin Cardiol 2015 Jul 3. [Epub ahead of print]

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Sensory Processing Disorder

Sensory Processing Disorder

By Dr. Tony Ebel

Boy behind glassSensory Processing Disorder goes by many names (Sensory Integration Dysfunction, Neurosensory Dysfunction, etc.) but no matter what you call it, the underlying causes of it don’t change. What is more, we strongly feel that sensory issues are one of the most commonly missed diagnoses out there. A properly trained health care provider understands that many common conditions such as ADD/ADHD, Autism Spectrum Disorders, and many Learning and Behavioral Issues have many sensory-based challenges, and therefore proper care of these challenges must address the sensory processing aspect.

Unfortunately, most of our current health care providers have little to no clue how to recognize and treat sensory challenges, especially in young children. There are many warning signs that sensory challenges are developing, but too often are missed at a young age and dismissed by the child’s doctor with “he’ll grow out of it” or “let’s wait and see what happens.”

Well, waiting and seeing is the same as doing nothing, and too often these children have a difficult time later in life overcoming these challenges. It is our mission to educate the community, and especially parents, how to recognize these challenges and also how to treat them as soon as possible.

In most cases when these sensory challenges are finally realized, therapy is the first option. If done properly this care is usually done by specifically trained occupational and/or physical therapists in a “sensory gym” or setting. While we support this form of therapy whole-heartedly, with Pediatric Chiropractic care we offer a different approach that zeroes in on addressing the root cause of the challenges and imbalances.

So, What Causes It?

Our sensory system is a “read and react” system. What this means is that our body is “preprogrammed” to respond appropriately to environmental stimuli. This programming occurs throughout life and can be thought of as ‘sensory learning’ or processing.

The clearest example of this is a child placing their hand upon a hot stove… once it is done, it is rarely done again. This is because the burning and painful ‘sensation’ of the hot stove becomes ingrained in our sensory memory, and helps prevent us from making this mistake again. All sensory patterns in the body work in this way.
This great quote from Dr. Bruce Lipton really helps explain things further:

“The function of the nervous system is to perceive the environment
and coordinate the behavior of all other cells.”

The key elements to understand here are PERCEPTION and COORDINATION. Without proper perception, there cannot be proper (normal) coordination. Kids who suffer from SPD have an inability to properly perceive their environment, whether that be from vision, hearing and sounds, balance and coordination, touch and tactile sense, or others.

For children with SPD, this system “perception and coordination” system is essentially not “programmed” correctly. For various reasons, it becomes imbalanced and disorganized as the child develops, leading to improper neurological and brain development.

This can be caused by a variety of different things. In our office the most common causes we encounter are traumatic birth injuries to the upper neck and brainstem regions (ie. forceps, vacuum extraction, C-section), childhood falls, and improper development through excessive use of infant car carriers, walkers, and jumpers.

The birth injury aspect is likely the most impactful, and unfortunately most overlooked and unknown. The reason this injury so commonly leads to neurological challenges related to “perception and coordination” or processing/integrating type functions, is that this area of the brain and nervous system is the area most responsible for these functions, specifically the brainstem, cerebellum, and a specific nerve called the Vagus Nerve.

The best way to understand this is to think of the entire nervous system (brain, spinal cord, and nerves) as the “Air Traffic Control System” for the entire body. It’s constantly PERCEIVING the environment through it’s millions and millions of sensory receptors and nerve endings, and then “reading and responding” accordingly.

Taking the analogy a step further, it’s important to know that the brainstem and upper neck regions essentially act as the “Air Traffic Control Tower” and are largely responsible for the processing, integrating, organization, and “filtering” of sensory information from all over the body. Another words, it is in charge of letting certain sensory information “in” and moves it on up the ladder to higher brain regions such as the prefrontal cortex… and in turn, it “filters” out all of the sensory information not deemed important enough to reach those higher centers.

Child with booksWhat kids who suffer from things like SPD, ADD/ADHD, and ASD have in common, is that they have an inability to properly process, integrate, coordination, and adapt to their sensory environment. All of these issues are really neurological INPUT and COORDINATION problems, not output and behavior problems.

The most common forms of treatment for these issues today are still focusing on modifying behavior, or output. But if we go back to that quote from Dr. Lipton, and really understand how the brain and nervous system work, it’s easy to understand that the only way to change and improve the output or behavior for these kids, is to change and improve their INPUT and ability to COORDINATE and ADAPT.

Put frankly, it’s not an environmental issue, it’s an adaptation issue. To best help these kids yes we want to help improve their environment wherever possible, but the main thing they need is a better ability to process and adapt to it.

Our doctors are absolute experts in neurological development and function, and can help determine if your child is properly perceiving their sensory environment and adapting to it.

Our examination includes:

  • A thorough case history looking at detailed aspects of the pregnancy and labor/delivery, early motor development, and more.
  • Computerized testing of the NeuroSensory System that gives us a great look at how well the nervous system is functioning and how well it is organized and integrated.
  • Physical examination to check for imbalances in posture, gait, coordination, etc.

If imbalances are found, we will then discuss with you how specific, gentle, neurologically-tuned chiropractic adjustments can help restore proper function to your child’s brain and nervous system. For more information on whether your child could benefit from this, please contact our office today to set up a consultation and examination!

For one last bit of information, below is a list of common case history findings we see in kids diagnosed with things like Sensory Processing Disorder and ADHD. Each of these issues can also be traced back and connected to injury to that “Air Traffic Control Tower” early in life… often as early as the birth process. In fact, in 7 years of working with these kids in our office we find that over 90% of them who have these diagnoses had some form of injury to the upper neck at birth.

Common Signs and Indicators of Neurological Dysfunction and Incoordination:

  • Use of intervention during the labor and delivery process: C-section, vacuum, forceps, or increased difficulty, pulling, or twisting of the child’s head and neck during delivery.
  • Colic, reflux, and gas pains in infancy.
  • Torticollis and plagiocephaly.
  • Constipation and digestive issues.
  • Frequent ear and sinus infections.
  • Speech delays.
  • Abnormal motor development early in life (i.e. Skipped crawling).
  • Poor balance and coordination, frequent falls and injuries.



By Dr. Tony Ebel

For some reason, ADHD seems to afflict boys more often than girls.

For some reason, ADHD seems to afflict boys more often than girls.

We do not “treat” Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.

However, since ADHD appears as a neurological disorder and chiropractic care helps reduce nervous system disturbances, many parents who want a natural, non-drug solution for their child have found chiropractic care helpful, even miraculous.

Common Symptoms

The classic signs that parents and teachers notice:

  • Inattention, hyperactivity and being easily distracted
  • Difficulty concentrating and sitting still
  • Inability to control impulsive thoughts and behaviors
  • Easily distracted by noises and activities
  • Always moving—fingers, hands, arms, feet or legs

First Things First

Begin by making nutritional and lifestyle changes. Rule out environmental factors by reducing your childs exposure to substances that are increasingly common these days:

  • Remove food dyes, preservatives and additives from the diet.
  • Focus on natural, organic foods grown without pesticides or herbicides.
  • Determine if an allergy involved such as dairy or gluten and eliminate.
  • Eliminate all sugars and artificial sweeteners.
  • Reduce the use of cleaning agents, detergents, fabric softeners and other chemicals.

These are wise choices whether your child has the symptoms associated with ADHD or not!

Traditional Treatment

The most common treatment is drugging the child with a Class 2 psychotropic drug.

The most common treatment is drugging the child with a Class 2 psychotropic drug.

The artificial approach to controlling symptoms of ADHD is to administer regular doses of methylphenidate. More commonly known as Ritalin®.

Ritalin® is a schedule II controlled substance related to, and producing similar effects as, amphetamines and cocaine. The side effects, including personality changes and permanent changes to the brain, cause many parents to look for alternatives. More and more are wisely turning to chiropractic.

Chiropractic: Pure and Natural

Hyperactivity is not the result of a Ritalin® shortage! Instead, we look for disturbances to the child’s nervous system. We almost always see problems caused by the spinal distortions in the upper neck.

In fact, this link between the spine, brain stem dysfunction and ADHD is common. A thorough chiropractic examination can reveal noticeable spinal distortion, even a reversal of the normal neck curve. With a schedule of safe and natural chiropractic adjustments, these often resolve, reducing and nervous system tension.

Find Out More

As parents, we want the best for our children. If your child exhibits the symptoms of ADHD, you know it affects virtually everyone your child is in contact with. Before you submit to drug therapy, make an appointment for a chiropractic evaluation. Call our office today!

Autism and Chiropractic

Autism and Chiropractic Care

By Dr. Tony Ebel 

Often times when I am in the community and introduce myself as a Pediatric Chiropractor, I get quite a few puzzled looks as if I’d just made up a new profession.

wellnessThe truth is, pediatric chiropractic is growing by leaps and bounds and the results we are getting are astounding.

One of the areas our practice focuses on is helping children with autism and other spectrum-related disorders. So, in order to better help explain my answer to the question “Well, how can chiropractic help with autism?” I thought I would write out a general summary and make it available on the website! So here goes…

Warning – this is a very lengthy explanation, but if there is one thing I have learned in my years of helping parents whose children suffer with autism, it is that “no amount of information or help is too much” for their children. So hopefully, this helps…

How can Pediatric Chiropractic Care Help with Autism?

Well, as is the case with so many questions, the response to this one is going to be multi-faceted. However, it will also have one recurring theme… and that recurring theme will be our focus on the Central Nervous System.

Anyone who knows anything about autism knows that the nervous system is greatly affected in this disorder and the challenges this brings about are responsible for many of the issues seen in children with autism, such as hyperactivity, attention issues, sleep challenges, behavior problems, social issues, sensory processing issues, and more. In addition, the nervous system is so intimately linked with the digestive and immune systems (the other two systems most commonly affected in autism) that it can also contribute to things such as bowel and bladder problems, autoimmune challenges, and more. From here on out we will look at these systems in a “triangular” sort of approach with the nervous system being the link between them.

Possible ways the Nervous System can be Damaged or Injured

There are numerous ways to discuss, so we will focus on the major one for purpose of this article. The primary mode of injury we see in our office is what we would term Traumatic Birth Injury. For many of these children their nervous systems have been damaged right from the outset due to this birth injury, or even prior to that due to in-utero constraint issues (i.e. breech positioning).

Unfortunately, in the United States we have levels of birth intervention that even the WHO has termed to be at “epidemic” levels, especially the use of Cesarean delivery. The WHO states that C-section rates around 10% are normal and necessary, while anything above 15-20% “likely does more harm than good” – in the US 33-50% C-section rates are the norm for most hospitals.

It must also be realized, that even most vaginal deliveries are now induced or “augmented” as well. A recent study in the journal Pediatrics showed an increase in autism later on in life for induced births, confirming what we’ve been talking about in pediatric chiropractic for a long, long time.

The area that is most commonly injured during the birth process is the upper neck and skull. The risk of injury to these areas, and the resultant issues from it, go up exponentially as intervention levels go up. C-sections, forceps, vacuum extraction, and prolonged pushing all lead to greater risk of traumatic birth injury to the infants head and neck.

Unfortunately, no one in the medical system is really trained to check (or address) these sorts of injuries, so most of the time they go completely unmentioned to the parents… If the injury were addressed by a pediatric chiropractor shortly after it occurred, most of the neurological injuries associated with it could be prevented. If we are truly going to win the battle for autism in this country, we must learn how to prevent it, not cure it. This area would be a vital first step.

Effects of these Injuries

Once that injury occurs, it can put pressure on the brain stem and spinal cord, as well as the spinal nerves in the vicinity. What is more, by creating a misalignment and joint fixation complex (subluxation) in the area, it leads to improper neurological “signaling” or “communication” into and out of the central nervous system. This challenge to the communication system of the body is one of the primary reasons so many children with autism have challenges with sensory processing, social interaction and behavior, and learning.

All of this eventually puts the nervous system into a chronic or permanent state of stress. This is often referred to as the stress response, or fight/flight response. It is a response that is vital for short term reactions, but detrimental when “stuck on” for extended periods of time. Most children with autism have been in fight/flight from their first moments. This is why we see such a high correlation with infantile colic, ear infections, digestive disorders, and autism.

Again, if our health care system were designed to address these challenges immediately, rather than waiting for the symptoms to appear, far fewer children would be suffering with autism and related disorders. One can simply observe a child with autism and see the “stress and fear” in their eyes. It is such a joy to see this look change in their eyes as they progress through care in our office.

Getting back to our triangle example, this chronic state of stress wreaks havoc on the immune and digestive systems as both of them are “down-regulated” during chronic states of stress. Speaking specifically about the digestive system, sustained neurological stress responses can lead to an increase in decreased motility, constriction, cramping, and inflammation. When the digestive system is in this state it does a very poor job of breaking down foods and other substances, leading to even further inflammation and irritation that can spill over into the bloodstream and cause an immune response.

The immune system faces the same challenges… when we are in a constant state of neurological stress the immune system dysfunctions and leaves a child susceptible to allergies, asthma, eczema, and other inflammatory type reactions. All of this leads to more and more inflammation and irritation, and the cycle continues. This is why so many of these reactions and challenges are what we refer to as “viscous cycles” that essentially continue to feed each other and lead to greater and greater challenges. Somewhere, this cycle must be broken, and that is where chiropractic adjustments come into play.

Getting to the Root of the Problem

By addressing the injury and resultant subluxation, a specific chiropractic adjustment restores proper balance and alignment to the neuro-spinal system, and thus can help restore balance and function to the central nervous system. Depending on the severity and duration these injuries have been present, sometimes repeated adjustments can create positive change in a step-by-step process that leads to an improvement in behavior, digestion, immunity, learning, sleep, and more. As I have stated many times before, the sooner we start, the better our chances of having success with such care.

In summary, most every child we see with spectrum disorders has two major challenges at the root of their issues: An overstressed nervous system that is stuck on the “gas pedal” and thus in protection mode right from the beginning of life, or even before. Therefore an amazing quote by Dr. Bruce Lipton summarizes both the cause behind the issue, and if we really understand it, the solution as well. His quote states, “You can’t be in growth and protection at the same time.”

Translated to our analogy here, a child’s nervous system cannot be on the “gas pedal” (stress/protection) at the same time as it’s on the “brake pedal” (growth/development/organization/healing). A subluxation, specifically to the upper neck and brainstem area “locks in” the nervous system to that stress mode. A specifically trained pediatric chiropractor is the only provider on the planet trained to find and locate that subluxation, and if found, correct and resolve it. Doing so is analogous to “pumping the brakes” and getting the growth, relaxation, and healing system working again!

We believe that when a family has a child who is challenged by something like spectrum disorders, the number one thing they need is someone who can support them and help them make the proper decisions. Unfortunately, despite the enormous growth in this disorder, most pediatricians are quite lacking in their understanding of spectrum disorders and how neurology, nutrition, and toxicity play a role in it. Thankfully, Pediatric Chiropractors are experts in this area, and you can be rest assured that you will get the support and care your child needs to overcome these challenges and lead a bright and promising life!

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Pediatric Chiropractic

I've been told from many people including medical doctors that chiropractors should stick to neck pain, back pain, shoulder pain, car accidents and nothing else... Over the years I have had the pleasure of taking care of 1000's of kiddos from breastfeeding and colicy issues to autism and ADHD. From failure to thrive to severe kidney/liver disease in newborns. I have taken care of kiddos on more than 4-5 medications and are now on NONE! Kids DO NOT need to be drugged, find the cause to fix the cause to express health... 

Whats the one thing in common with all of these kiddos regardless of symptoms or conditions, their nervous system is not functioning 100%. My job as a pediatric chiro is to simply improve neurological health and get sick kids health while keeping health kids well! Chiropractic supports the full expression of optimal health and wellness, not just neck, back and shoulder pain....

Kids, just like adults, need to have their spines checked just like we take them to the dentist to have their teeth checked. 

If you have any questions about Pediatric Chiropractic, please give my office a call. 

Thank you
Jon Wise, DC., CACCP
Board Certified Pediatric Chiropractor

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Your Hardware / Your Software

Your Hardware / Your Software

Regular Chiropractic Care and Nerve System Health
The main components of your nerve system's "hardware" are the neurons, that is, the nerve cells themselves. There are more than 100 billion neurons in the brain and several hundred trillion synapses connecting these nerve cells. It is estimated that you have more neuronal connections in your brain than the number of stars in the sky.

As your body's master system, your nerve system controls the functioning of every cell, tissue, and organ that comprise your body. Thus, the health of your nerve system is critical to your health and well being. Problems arise when spinal misalignments are present. Such biomechanical dysfunction causes spinal nerve irritation and nerve interference. The result of nerve interference is musculoskeletal pain and symptoms of various diseases. Regular chiropractic care helps maintain the health of spinal nerves and your nerve system by removing nerve irritation and nerve interference. Thus, the short- and long-term benefit of regular chiropractic care is enhanced health, wellness, and well being.

The metaphor linking the human brain with computer hardware is now so well known that it features regularly in news media stories. But computers have only been with us since Colossus and ENIAC (electronic numerical integrator and computer) were constructed in the mid-1940s. The metaphor linking the code embedded in human DNA and computer software is less frequently cited. The general public only became aware of the concept of computer software in the early 1980s, with the launch of IBM's Personal Computer in 1981 and Apple's Macintosh computer in 1984. In contrast, our genetic code has been evolving for 2 million years.

We could consider computer hardware the metaphorical analog of the human nerve system, consisting of the brain, spinal and peripheral nerves, and neurons (nerve cells).1,2The nerve system comprises the physical structures that initiate and transmit electrical signals that control the physiological processes of your cells, tissues, and organs. Activities involving your heartbeat, your breath, your digestion, and hormonal function are all regulated and directed by interaction with the nerve system.

Computer software provides encoded instructions for programs that run on the processors, memory banks, buses, and drives of the computer hardware structure. Such programming is analogous to our genetic code, which contains instructions for the growth, development, and functioning of every cell in our bodies. The nerve system carries out its functions based on instructions derived from the DNA contained within its cells.

Computers and the software they run on do not require much maintenance. You certainly don't want to spill coffee on your keyboard and you don't want crumbs to wander into any open ports or drive slots. You do want to backup your files and run security checks periodically. But that's about it. In contrast, the human body requires a fair amount of upkeep in order to ensure optimal performance. Many people are unwilling to do 30 minutes of vigorous exercise 5 times a week. Many people will not take the time to shop for nutritious food and prepare healthful meals.3 But if you engage in these important activities on a regular basis, you will go far to securing long-term health for yourself and your family.

Most of us put a lot of thought into decisions concerning our computers and the software we're going to run on them. We take good care of these helpers of our personal and business activities. But few of us are similarly conscientious when it comes to taking care of our own health and well-being. It would profit all of us greatly to take such care of our metaphorical hardware and software, that is, the physical and physiological structures that keep us healthy and well.

1Cash SS, Hochberg LR: The emergence of single neurons in clinical neurology. Neuron 86(1):79-91, 2015
2Xu J, et al: What does a neuron learn from multisensory experience? J Neurophysiol 113(3):883-889. 2015
3Asher G, Sassone-Corsi P: Time for Food: The Intimate Interplay between Nutrition, Metabolism, and the Circadian Clock Cell 161(1):84-92, 2015