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3620 Henry Street Norton Shores, MI 49441

 

 

The White stuff is here in West Michigan and it's getting cold outside.  Its is a time for sledding, snowmen, skiing, snowball fights, and school cancellations.  It is also a time for weather-related slips, trips, and falls on icy surfaces.  These injuries can trigger (or re-aggravate) spinal problems.  This can lead to neck pain, back pain, sciatica, and headaches.  Of course, the doctors of Zehr Chiropractic are well equipped to treat these when injuries when we see them, but the following steps may help you prevent such an injury.

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Norton Shores Michigan Chiropractor - "Your back hurts?  You've just got weak abs!"

As you sit at your desk in agony, this is the last thing you want to hear from the fake-tanned, self-proclaimed fitness guru in the cubicle next to you.  However, he is not the only one repeatedly spouting this half truth.  It is a common misconception in the health care and fitness world, even among "experts."  Strong abs = no back pain.  The premise is simple and seems to make sense, but when taken too far it will only set people up for failure.  The reason is this: when most people think of 'abdominals,' they think of the rectus abdominis muscle, or the "six pack" we see on professional volleyball players, superheroes, and statues.

First of all, let's forget about back pain.  I first want to address the notion that sit ups and crunches with help the rectus abdominis become more visible, producing that sought-after "washboard" stomach.  This is a fallacy.  The idea has been pushed by cheesy infomercial salesman for funky exercise equipment and ab-targeting exercise videos and ill-informed amateur personal trainers.  The reality is that unless you have a healthy diet, a solid fitness plan, and an overall healthy lifestyle, even "strong" abdominal muscles will be forever bathed in a layer of fat, hiding them from the world.  So people continue to eat nasty food and do endless sit-ups and crunches in order to look good (which doesn't work) while they ignore the muscles that do the most for helping them FEEL good.  I'm talking, of course, about the CORE muscles. Technically, the rectus adbominis is a part of the core and it should be exercised, but there are other muscles that play a much bigger role in core stability and are often forgotten.

Transverse Abdominis (TVA): This is the deepest of the abdominal muscles.  It acts like a corset, wrapping around the torso from front to back and from the ribs down to the pelvis.  This muscle stabilizes the pelvis and spine while the prime movers (quads, gluts, pectorals, etc.) perform their functions.  Loss of coordinated contraction of the TVA leads to lower back injury.  Anyone who has done Pilates knows all about this muscle! Exercise: Plank

External and internal obliques:  These muscles aid in lateral bend and rotation of the spine.  They also help to compress the abdomen and help protect the organs.  They are the largest, thickest muscles of the core. Exercise: Side plank , Oblique cross crunch

 

 

 Erector Spinae:  This group of muscles travel along the entire spine, aiding in extension and lateral bend of the spine.  This collection of three muscles also helps maintain posture and proper spinal curvature.  They also stabilize the spine during flexion. Exercise: Back extension

Multifidus:  This muscle runs along the back of the spine, deeper than the erector spinae.  It aids in flexion, lateral bend, and rotation of the spine, as well also helping to maintain posture. Exercise: Bird dog, Bird Dog 2

The great thing is that the exercises listed work more than one part of the core.

Doing these exercises routinely will strengthen the core muscles and improve your overall spinal health.  However, chronic muscle imbalance also has a lot to do with muscle tightness, as well.

Many people who have weak core muscles also have tight hip and trunk flexors.  I will tackle that in a later post.  But what if you're in acute pain?  Exercises and stretches may aggravate your condition.   In that case, all the exercise in the world is not going to realign a dysfunctional spine.  If you are currently experiencing lower back pain that is caused by spinal or pelvic misalignments, chiropractic care may be just what you need to take the pressure off the nerves and joints and restore the proper biomechanics of your spine.  Once the joints are stable, then a good core stability program will help to prevent problems from re-occurring.

I recently met a new patient who presented with acute neck pain after an apparent seizure.  She had very sharp pain in her neck and upper back, as well as very diminished range of motion.  This patient was very similar to many neck pain patients I see in my Muskegon chiropractic practice.  However, during her initial consultation, I discovered something very interesting.  In her recent past, she sustained a very serious head injury which resulted in a subdural bleed. Although she had surgery on her brain which alleviated the bleed, she experienced bouts of neck pain later as a result.  The most recent seizure, likely a result of the initial head injury, caused a very sharp rotation of the neck, greatly exacerbating her neck pain symptoms, which is why she came in to see me at Zehr Chiropractic.

Upon examining her spine and taking Atlas Orthogonal x-rays, it was apparent that her neck problem had been lingering for quite some time.  She was already showing signs of degenerative disc disease in her neck (which is very atypical for a 40 year old) and some very severe biomechanical abnormalities in her spine and pelvis.  To put it plainly, her problem had been there way before her recent flare up.  The good news is, after her first atlas adjustment, her neck range of motion improved dramatically and the acute tenderness in her neck was all but gone.  I have full confidence that she will do very well under my care and expect her to "graduate" with a pretty normal spine after her treatment plan is completed.

However, we are left to wonder how long she would have dealt with her neck problem had she not suffered that seizure.  She most likely would have stuck it out with the tightness and discomfort until it became a "crisis."  It may have been weeks, months, or years, but it eventually would have happened.  It is amazing to me how bad a person's spine can get before the more severe symptoms show up.  People will put up with loss of motion, muscle tightness, decreased sleep quality, and some pain for quite a while.  The spine and pelvis will no doubt compensate to keep the pressure off until "it" happens.  And "it" could be a slip on the ice, "sleeping wrong," or working in the garden.  Of course, when the "it" happens, the proverbial straw breaks the camel's back and the patient seeks treatment for a problem that has most likely been lurking for years.

The moral of the story is that if you or someone you know has EVER sustained a head injury, the delicate tissues of the upper neck have most likely been damaged, even if the resulting symptoms are not that debilitating (yet).  Upper cervical injuries often lead to neck pain, headaches, dizziness, nausea, migraines, and extremity pain, to name a few.  Just like your teeth, the spine will deteriorate and become unhealthy well before these symptoms show up.  An evaluation with an Upper Cervical Specific Doctor of Chiropractic is a great idea to make sure the neck hasn't sustained any damage that could become a long term problem if not dealt with immediately.  The sooner the problem is discovered and treated, the odds of having a permanent correction improve dramatically.  The longer you wait, the worse it gets and the longer it is going to take to fix.  Taking a proactive approach may save you from lots of trouble down the road.

I recently read an article linking a popular "osteoporosis medication" with an increased risk of fracture (I'll comment more on this in a later post).  The term osteoporosis describes the loss of bone density, which increases the patient's risk of skeletal fracture.  Hence, any substance that would further increase the likelihood of fracture would be counter-productive, right?  You would definitely think so.  Unfortunately, long term use of Fosamax has caused a frightening amount of fractures in people performing every day activities like walking.  Of course, one must always determine whether or not the risk of any health intervention outweighs its intended benefits, but how often does a medication actually make the patient sicker than when they started?  More often than you might think.

But doesn't the Hippocratic Oath state that the doctor should "First, do no harm?"  It sure does, but new doctors who recite the Hippocratic oath also state that "I will prevent disease whenever I can, for prevention is preferable to cure."  Is this why my mother's physician tried putting her on Lipitor and never ONCE mentioned diet, exercise, or supplements (which actually work better than statins and without the pesky muscle aches, liver damage, and loss of memory)?

Unfortunately, the likelihood of unintended consequences is evident with so many other medications that the public doesn't know about.  Biased research creates a perceived benefit, which gets the medication cleared for public consumption.  Even conservative estimates on Vioxx (a pain medication which had an annoying side effect of causing heart attacks and strokes) state that the final Vioxx death toll reached 28,000 people, or nearly TEN TIMES that of the attacks on the World Trade Center.  A more recent re-analysis of the data estimates the death toll could be up to FOUR TIMES higher still.  To put it in perspective, this would put the Vioxx death toll greater than the number of Americans that died in the wars in Vietnam, Afghanistan, and Iraq combined.

Just let THAT sink in.

The problem is that these facts do not come to light until well after patients have been exposed.  Since the drug companies themselves usually conduct the research that proves a drug's safety and efficacy (or they just give a pile of money to a university to do it for them), the real "test" of a drug occurs once it is on the market.  Patients become the lab rats, the only difference being that that real lab rats don't actually have to pay for their medications at 200 dollars per bottle.  The organization whose mission is to protect us, the FDA, is funded by pharmaceutical companies. The agency is so corrupt, that a group of scientists at the FDA have urged that the white house step in and "clean house"in an open letter to the President.  The organization itself is loaded with former doctors and big pharma employees.  In this case, the fox actually owns and manages the henhouse.

So who do you trust?  Your doctor?  She is too busy seeing patients (and fighting with insurance companies). She doesn't have time to pour over research journals all day (which are biased, anyways) and keep up with every single drug on the market.  Of course doctors want to make sure they are offering the latest treatments in order to help their patients.  They rely on pharmaceutical reps to keep them updated on the newest medications, taking it on faith that the information they receive is unbiased and accurate.  Are we seeing a problem yet?  The pharmaceutical representative is paid on commission.  Of course they are going to paint as sunny a picture as possible when peddling their wares, like any good salesman.  By the way, have you noticed that most pharmaceutical salespeople you see are attractive females?  No, that is not a coincidence.  In fact, drug companies have been known to recruit college cheerleaders to help sell more pills.  If these life saving medications are all they're cracked up to be, why would you need paid models, errr..."salespeople" to convince the doctors to prescribe them?  The whole system itself has gotten a pass for decades.  It is high time we question the credibility of the medical establishment when it comes to the safety and efficacy of pharmaceuticals.

However, I am not asking anybody to throw the baby out with the bathwater.  Good, appropriate medical care has its place, for sure.  My mother, the same woman who was frustrated by her doctor's flippant Lipitor prescription, also received a life saving surgery by a brilliant neurosurgeon after she suffered a brain aneurysm.  When it comes to acute crisis care, medicine is where it's at. No doubt about it.  What we do need to keep in mind, however, is that we must make informed decisions when it comes to our personal health care, especially when it comes to preventing and managing chronic disease.  Relying on large pharmaceutical companies and government bureaucracies to look out for our best interests when budget concerns, stock prices, and commisions are at stake is a risky proposition at best.  Listen to your doctor, but make sure your doctor is willing to listen to you.  Be open and honest about your concerns.  Inquire about healthy alternatives to medications.  Do a little research before putting anything in your body (or allowing somebody to take something out).  If your doctor is unwilling to take your concerns seriously, find one who will.  There are some fantastic medical physicians who are willing and able to treat you as an individual and not just a list of symptoms.

With that in mind, let's turn the tables and identify the person who is most often to blame if you are not healthy: yourself.  You owe it to yourself and those who depend on you to "first, do no harm."  The healthier you make yourself, the better off you will be in the long run, decreasing the chances you will ever be exposed to invasive treatments like drugs and surgery.  The (wo)man in the mirror is the most important figure in your health care, not just a Michael Jackson song.

Quit drinking soft drinks (yes, even the diet ones).  Quit smoking.  Quit your sugar addiction.  Quit stressing about things you can't change.  Quit using cleaning supplies with harmful chemicals.  Quit eating processed food with 14-syllable ingredients.  Quit putting off sleep so you can facebook, watch TV, and play video games.  Quit covering up your poor health decisions with stimulants, painkillers, and antacids.  Quit making excuses about why you haven't done this already.

Get more exercise.  Get more sleep.  Get a water filter.  Get more vegetables and grass fed meats into your diet.  Get a massage.  Get your spine adjusted.  Get your teeth cleaned.  Smile more.  Laugh more.  Read more.  Think more.  Be a regular at your local farmer's market.  Pick up a hobby.  Volunteer.  Spend less time at the computer and more time at the community center.  Be a better spouse.  Be a better parent.  Be a better friend.  Be a better you.

You are in control of your own health.  Your body is the most valuable thing you own.  Take care of it and it will last you much longer.

Fibromyalgia.  What is it?  What causes it?  How is this condition diagnosed?  Does it even exist?

"The Yuppie Flu" or "If We Can't Figure Out Your Condition, We'll just blame YOU"

I have never come across a condition that is as misunderstood (or mistreated) as fibromyalgia.  While I was in chiropractic college, it seemed like the diagnosis, treatment, and findings were inconsistent in the textbooks.  Nothing seemed to agree.  Every other neuromusculoskeletal condition had a specific set of symptoms, positive lab values, etc.  Fibromyalgia was pretty much understood as something that was diagnosed by exclusion.  If it’s NOT rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, etc. and nothing else seems to fit, the patient could possibly have fibromyalgia.

Unfortunately, this lack of understanding is still pervasive throughout the medical community at large.  Many physicians do not understand this condition at all while some still contend that it only exists in the patient’s mind (which is why it used to be called “psychogenic rheumatism,” which translates to "widespread pain that is generated in the mind"...AKA "It's in your head"....very empathetic, huh?)  These patients are often pushed from doctor to doctor, subjected to a shotgun approach of multiple medications to see if they can find enough relief to keep them quiet.  They are often told that they are just depressed or stressed and told to seek counseling.  Most fibromyalgia patients I meet are oftened stressed and depressed BECAUSE of the symptoms of fibromyalgia, not the other way around.  They have lost friends, spouses, and jobs because of the debilitating effects of this condition, while their doctors tell them that there pain is not real.  Wouldn’t that make YOU depressed?

Fibromyalgia is a syndrome characterized by widespread, chronic pain throughout the muscles and soft tissues of the body.  The pain is severe and is often accompanied by digestive troubles, sleep disorders, mental impairment, headaches, and extreme fatigue.  It is also commonly related to Chronic Fatigue Syndrome because for many the extreme fatigue is the most prevalent symptom.  This condition affects more than 6 million people nationwide, a number that is steadily growing.  For reasons unknown, women make up 80 to 90 % of fibromyalgia sufferers.  For years, medical doctors also referred to this condition as the “yuppie flu,” a term used to describe what some doctors thought were a bunch of bored housewives whose pain was the direct result of depression and a lack of attention.  How’s that for compassion?

Research (that takes a bit of research to find)

Regardless of the incredible misconceptions surrounding this condition, there has been some very important research done about fibromyalgia and its origins, although it is not widely publicized. Fibromyalgia has been proven to be the direct result of a dysfunctional CENTRAL nervous system, which is the "CPU" of the human body, coordinating the function of every cell, tissue, and organ (which is why sufferers also exhibit digestive, endocrine, and cognitive symptoms in addition to pain).  Patients exhibit an increased sensitivity to physical stimuli.  What a normal patient may perceive as light touch or pressure, a fibromyalgia patient may perceive as excruciating pain.  The role of the central nervous system also explains why the pain moves around so much.  If fibromyalgia was the result of individual nerves being irritated (like sciatica or carpal tunnel syndrome) the pain would stay in the area surrounding the innervation of that nerve.  However, with fibromyalgia, the pain changes from day to day, both in location, severity, and type of pain (burning, aching, stabbing, etc.).

According to research done by the University of Michigan, fibromyalgia patients also show increased senstivity to pressure and sound.  A research article published in the Journal of Nuclear  Medicine demonstrated that patients with fibromyalgia had significantly disturbed metabolic processes and blow flow in the brain: Fibromyalgia Brain Image Study.   This proves that fibromyalgia is NOT just a pain problem, but a central nervous system processing problem.  We'll get to why the CNS is not functioning properly in a bit.

Treatment or Lack Thereof

Most patients who have been diagnosed with fibromyalgia are on a myriad of prescription medications, including pain meds, anti-inflammatories, muscle relaxers, sleeping pills, anti-depression, and anti-anxiety medications, to name a few.  Recently, so-called “fibromyalgia medications” have come in vogue.  These medications are not new.  They are actually anti-seizure medications that have been recently re-branded and re-packaged to sell to the ever-growing fibromyalgia patients because these meds literally “turn down” the patient’s brain function (sounds great, huh?).  This may improve some symptoms in some patients, but side effects are common and varied.  I have done several workshops on fibromyalgia and have met literally hundreds of patients with this disease, yet everyone I know who has tried a fibromyalgia medication was forced to quit because the side effects were not worth it.  Weight gain, dizziness, drowsiness, headaches, memory loss, suicidal thoughts, weakness, fatigue and sleep disorders have been reported.  For those of you keeping track at home, you will notice that some of the side effects are the same symptoms that fibromyalgia patients are suffering from in the first place!

Although I obviously am not a fan of the "fibromyalgia medications," I am not throwing the baby out with the bathwater, so to speak.  Some of my patients continue to utilize medications on an as-needed basis to get them through the bad days.  Fortunately, my patients will find that after starting upper cervical chiropractic care, the good days start outnumbering the bad, and the really bad days are few and far between.  Part of the goal of treatment is to limit the dependency on pain medications as a whole.  However, I NEVER tell any of my patients to up and quit their medications cold turkey, even if they are not working.  They must work with their medical physician in regards to the weening process.  In most cases, a good medical physician is all too happy to see their patients decrease their dependency on pain medications.

What about exercise?  In general, exercise is a crucial part of any healthy lifestyle, but fibromyalgia patients suffer from a phenomenon called “exercise intolerance” so exercise must be handled properly.  They often have flare ups of extreme pain and fatigue after activity, making vigorous exercise next to impossible.  The best exercises for fibromyalgia patients are low impact activities, such as walking, light yoga, swimming and water aerobics.  Since symptoms are often inconsistent, patients are often tempted to do way too much on a good day and often end up bedridden for days afterwards.  Working closely with a therapist or trainer that is well versed in fibromyalgia is advised to avoid overtraining and ensure proper muscle balance.

Nutrition is absolutely huge for fibromyalgia sufferers.  I cannot stress this enough.  Diet modifications are an absolute must for fibromyalgia patients.  There are many factors in the Standard American Diet (SAD) that cause chronic inflammation and autoimmune responses in the body, which can be a huge factor in the symptomatology of fibromyalgia sufferers.  Everyone is different, but there are some basic "rules of the road."  On the whole, too much sugar in the diet has a huge impact on the symptoms of fibromyalgia.  Empty calories in the form of processed sugars (table sugar, high fructose corn syrup, flour, etc.) are not good for ANYBODY, but they cause a lot of problems in fibromyalgia patients.  The ratio of Omega 6 to Omega 3 fatty acids in the diet is another factor because it promotes inflammation.  You can read more about that here.  Food allergies are also cause for concern in fibromyalgia patients.  Dairy products, gluten, and other foods can contain anti-nutritents which can lead to an autoimmune response.  Other foods to avoid include artificial sweeteners (aspartame), caffeine, yeast, and really any processed food. An elimination diet for 30 days will tell you whether or not these foods are a problem.  "Oh, my God!  What can I eat?"  Anything that grew or lived and hasn't been altered with any 14-syllable chemicals would be a great place to start!  Namely, fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and animal products (free range or grass fed is preferable) are good to go.  Try it for 30 days and then you can add things like dairy and legumes and see if they cause any problems. Adopting an "ancestral diet" will naturally limit your intake of "franken-foods" and you can learn more about these diet approaches from www.marksdailyapple.com or www.robbwolf.com.  These diets are referred to as a "paleo" or "primal diet" because they are based on what human beings were designed to eat, only including whole foods.  However, if you have any mechanical dysfunction in the body, no dietary change can change that.  For that, you need some bodywork, which is where we're going next.

Where Does Chiropractic Come In?

Research has shown that fibromyalgia patients have elevated nitric oxide (NO) levels in their bloodstream.  Nitric oxide levels are also increased in individuals who have sustained a physical trauma, primarily to the central nervous system (yup, the CNS keeps popping up, doesn't it?).  Studies on fibromyalgia patients have also uncovered a link between fibromyalgia patients and a history of previous trauma, especially to the (drum roll please).....central nervous system! Because of this, many patients have sought out chiropractic care for help with the symptoms of fibromyalgia since we have found our niche in finding and correcting nervous system dysfunction.  Misalignments of the spine cause irritation and dysfunction in the nervous system, resulting in pain, muscle tightness, and diminished range of motion, etc.  This has been well established, however many fibromyalgia sufferers who start their diagnosis/treatment journey start out in the medical system and never make it out of the constant loop of pills and more pills.

A recent seminar I attended showed an amazing research study with pre and post MRIs that demonstrated diminished blood and cerebrospinal fluid flow to the brain and spinal cord in patients who had sustained upper cervical (C1) misalignments in whiplash injuries.  This research is currently in review and expected to be published this year in a leading medical journal.  In the study, the patients received specific adjustments to the Atlas (C1) vertebrae, using the Atlas Orthogonal chiropractic protocol.  The patients' blood flow was restored and of course their symptoms improved, which ranged from neck and back pain, extremity pain, and headaches, etc.  So if we KNOW that fibromyalgia is A CENTRAL NERVOUS system issue, and we KNOW that upper cervical chiropractic care is successful in relieving nervous system dysfunction, it would stand to reason that upper cervical chiropractic care should be the FIRST intervention in the management of fibromyalgia case, since it is free of harmful side effects.  Proper diet will also help keep inflammation down and aid in the healing process.  Drugs and surgery should be an absolute LAST resort.

We have seen great results with patients suffering from fibromyalgia by restoring the proper alignment of the Atlas (C1) vertebrae by using the Atlas Orthogonal method.   The Atlas Orthogonal method is especially suited to fibromyalgia patients because it is very gentle, which is important because most FM patients are unable to tolerate more aggressive treatments.

Renowned rheumatologist Frederick Wolfe, MD in his research on fibromyalgia concluded that chiropractic was “among the best” treatments for fibromyalgia patients.  Peer-reviewed journals have also published studies that indcate the effectiveness of chiropractic for fibromyalgia sufferers.  Of course, chiropractic has never been as mainstream as allopathic medicine so, unlike the plethora of Lyrica ads the average American will likely see on a regular basis (I saw one last night during the NFL championship game), our message is not getting out there.  However, there are some great case studies that have gotten some publicity and given people hope.

One great case is the one of Brig. General Becky Halstead, the first female general in the U.S. Army to command in Iraq, who suffered from fibromyalgia during her service.  I would love to see an MD diagnose HER with the “yuppie flu.”  After getting nowhere with the military physicians, she decided to give chiropractic a try, now that the armed forces have been integrating chiropractic into the health care program for soldiers.  “The adjustments and nutritional advice I received from my chiropractor helped in relieving the fibromyalgia and made me feel better on a day-to-day basis.”  Since finding success through chiropractic care, General Halstead has lead the charge as an advocate ensuring that chiropractic care establishes a larger presence in the overall healthcare program of our nation's service men and women.

We have seen some incredible results with fibromyalgia in our own practice.  This depends on the patients’ own circumstances and overall healthcare picture, of course.  By and large, if we can get the patient's spine stable and relieve the extra stress on their nervous system, they absolutely do better while under our care.  Just like any condition, the earlier we can get to the problem, the better.

Spinal problems are very common in the elderly.  The wear and tear that accumulates in one's spine can often lead to problems down the road, especially when they go untreated for long periods of time.  Back pain, headaches, neck pain, and limb pain are very common as a result.  In fact, back pain is the most frequent reason for activity limitation in those over 55.  This limitation in activity causes depression, loss of muscle mass, fatigue, and overall poor health.  The problem is that they seldom have anywhere to turn for these problems.  They are often told by their doctor that their age is the cause of all their concerns and they are given meds they can't pronounce and a few empty words about the caveats of old age.  I for one do not ascribe to the whole "It's your age" or "It's just arthritis" catch-all excuses for every single ache, pain, and problem plaguing our seniors. Elderly people should be tending gardens, attending their grandchildrens' recitals, and playing the Wii!

Pills, Pills, and More Pills

In most cases, prescription pain medications are the first thing offered to these patients by their doctors.  However, the majority of elderly patients are already taking several medications for various other conditions, increasing the risk of harmful drug interactions.  In addition, the medications are only covering up the symptoms rather than actually relieving the cause of the problem.  This sets the patient up for failure because the drugs may make them "feel good," even though they are not, which will increase the chances of making the problem worse by abusing already damaged joints and soft tissue.

The absolute worse case scenario involves spinal surgery.  Nowhere in the history of medical care will you find a more dubious practice.  There is absolutely NO statistical evidence showing any long term benefits of spinal surgery for backpain, except in extreme cases like fracture, disc herniation, and dislocation.  In fact, most studies show that the patients that have lumbar fusion surgery are actually worse off in the long run: Read "Why You Should Never Get Fusion Surgery" from Forbes magazine.

The interesting thing is that despite this lack of evidence, American doctors perform 5 times more lumbar fusion surgeries than doctors in the UK, which is the most comparable country to us in regards to lifestyle and genetic factors.  Why?  Because there are so many more surgeons that perform this surgery in the US.  And companies that make the equipment to perform the surgeries pay MILLIONS in fees back to the doctors that perform the surgery.  It doesn't take long to figure out why so many surgeries take place.  Just follow the money.  To quote well-respected pain management expert Dr. Seth Waldman, MD, who is critical of back fusion surgery, "If you have a screwdriver, everything starts looks like a screw."  We apparently have a health care system stacked to the gills with screwdriver-toting surgeons that cut first and ask questions later.  Luckily, many primary care MDs try to steer their patients away from surgery, and try to encourage alternatives, which is a refreshing step in the right direction.

So, Now What???

So what is an active, virulent elderly person to do if they have back pain (or would like to avoid it)?  if you are wary about the risks of drugs and surgery, you may want to consider checking into chiropractic care.  Chiropractic care has been around for over 115 years and has become the 2nd largest primary health care profession in the US.  Chiropractors offer a safe, effective treatment for back pain, neck pain, and headaches, even for the elderly.  Unfortunately, some critics of chiropractic spin yarns of fracture, stroke, and other risks which often scare off patients.  However, when asked where the research is to back up these risks, these critics often shrug and have nothing to offer, because there is no research indicating that chiropractic is unsafe.  In fact, there is plenty of research proving that it is safer and more effective than drugs and surgery. In a recent study done by Consumer Reports, chiropractic care was rated #1 in regards to patient satisfaction for treatment of back pain.

Of course, all the research and testimonials in the world mean nothing if you cannot fathom the thought of someone "snapping and cracking" your joints.  Fortunately, doctors of chiropractic have a number of different techniques to choose from.  Some utilize the more traditional manipulation while some, including my Muskegon practice, use gentle non-manipulative techniques. Using the Atlas Orthogonal and Activator methods of chiropractic treatment, we utilize precision instruments to adjust the spine, re-aligning the spinal joints, and taking pressure off the nerves and soft tissue without the pain associated with more aggressive manipulation.  This makes our treatment safe even for those with osteoporosis, advanced arthritis, and other bone abnormalities.  Once the spine becomes more stable, we also encourage stability exercises to help keep the joints flexible and strong to help prevent flare ups.  Plus, the extra range of motion gained by chiropractic does fantastic things to your golf swing!  (There's a reason why the PGA has a chiropractor on hand at each event).

So, what do you have to lose?  The drugs aren't fixing the problem and they're probably causing some side effects you would rather avoid.  Surgery is costly, risky, and generally not effective.  There is another option.  When I talk to patients or teach at seminars in the community about ditching what hasn't worked and trying something new, I remind them of one of my favorite quotes of all time from the late great Albert Einstein when he tried to define insanity:

"The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results."

Although I am not saying that you or your doctor are insane, I can tell you that the only way you are ever going to get to a different place in regards to your health is if you take a different path.  A consultation with a doctor of chiropractic may be the first step on a journey towards better health and renewed vitality.

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