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.
"I really just want to get off of all these PILLS!"
These people are looking for alternatives because their faith in medicine has been shaken. I hear this every day in my office. I hear statements like "My doctor just keeps giving me pills. That's his answer for everything." "I am worse off than I was before the meds." "I wish I never had that damn neck surgery."
And these are not just anti-establishment types who always buck trends. These are people who were raised in the medicine cabinet and never questioned their doctor but started reading and started asking questions, and they decided to go in a different direction based on their own personal experiences. One of those directions is into our Chiropractic practice.
Chiropractic has been around for 115 years. It is not a "new wave" treatment by any means. Chiropractic has gone from being considered a miraculous new fad to 'voodoo' to illegal to legal to officially blacklisted (thanks to the AMA, although they lost when chiropractic had its day in court and won). Now Chiropractic is the largest alternative health care profession in the United States. It has gained in credibility and availability, with Doctors of Chiropractic licensed in all 50 states and over 70 countries.
Hundreds of research studies have been done proving its efficacy, even though the profession gets a tiny percentage of the government research funding that goes to pharmaceutical companies and medical schools. And the biggest voice for chiropractic is not chiropractors themselves, but patients. According to a comprehensive study done by Consumer Reports, Chiropractic care was ranked #1 in the treatment of back pain. 59 % of respondents were "highly satisfied" with the treatment they received from their Doctor of Chiropractic, while only 34 % of respondents said the same about the treatment from their primary medical doctor. I guess 1 out of 3 people must really, really like pain meds, apparently.
Chiropractors are on the training staffs of the PGA, US Olympic Team, NBA, Major League Baseball, and the NFL. Hall of Fame athletes such as John Stockton, Jerry Rice (who apparently is quite the dancer, I'm told), Joe Montana, and Lance Armstrong have sworn by chiropractic care and credited their Doctor of Chiropractic with improving their performance and prolonging their careers. Future NFL hall of famer Michael Strahan had his chronic neck pain and migraines corrected with Atlas Orthogonal Chiropractic and won the NFL's Defensive Player of the Year afterward. (And when some patient tells me that our adjustment is "too gentle" to move a bone, I ask them if they have more muscle mass than a 300 pound All-Pro defensive lineman...)
I am amazed at the change in perception that I have seen in my own backyard of Muskegon, Michigan; even among the medical community. We treat nurses, pharmacists, dentists, optometrists, therapists, and psychologists. We also have a few local MDs that refer patients to us (gasp!). Patients who tell their doctors that they are coming to our office are often surprised when they receive a blessing instead of a tongue-lashing, although some are still close-minded to anything but drugs and surgery. It's almost like medicine/alternative medicine is an all-or-nothing thing. It shouldn't be. They both work, depending on the situation. I'll gladly refer a patient out if I have reason to believe their pain is due to a kidney infection, gallstone, or fracture. So, why do some MDs (not all) keep a patient strung along for years on the same medications for their pain, without considering another option? Pride? Ignorance? Pressure from within their profession? Who knows? Rather than dwell on the close-mindedness of some, I prefer to focus on what we can do to make things better for the future generation. I was recently reminded by a colleague of a quote from the late great Dr. B.J. Palmer: "It is better to light one candle than curse the darkness."
One area we need to improve on is making chiropractic care more top-of-mind in today's health care landscape. Chiropractic should be one of the first things people think of in regards to gaining and maintaining health along with dental care, vision care, hygiene, nutrition, and exercise. In many cases, though, we remain a last resort. Many times we succeed after other treatments fail, which is very rewarding, but frustrating at the same time because many patients have to suffer for years before making their way into our offices. They often say "Why didn't anybody ever tell me about this?" I don't have an answer for them. I simply encourage them to inform others about the importance of the spine and nervous system and how specific Chiropractic care can improve their health. This grass roots effort has worked for over a century, but it is time to take Chiropractic MORE mainstream so we can help as many people as possible to quit covering up their symptoms with pills and potions and improve their quality of life.
This branch of our nervous system deals with controlling the involuntary actions of our body (digestion, breathing, blood flow, temperature regulation, metabolism, etc.). It consists of the Sympathetic Nervous System and Parasympathetic Nervous System. The sympathetic side is for “fight or flight” while the parasympathetic side helps us “rest and digest.” Like most things in life, it is all about BALANCE. Think of the sympathetics and parasympathetics on a see saw. If one side is high, the other is low. When your body perceives a threat, the sympathetic nervous system springs into action. This can happen with either physical or emotional stimuli. If you are walking around your home and you stub your toe, your body performs a number of tasks simultaneously (in addition to the muttering of guttural language). Your heart rate goes up, your eyes dilate, your breathing quickens, and your muscles engorge with blood. The same happens if you’re walking in the woods and see a bear. Why? Because whether the stimulus is physical or emotional, your nervous system detects a threat and it is helping you prepare to deal with that threat by helping you improve your ability to either fight that threat off or run away from it. Eventually, the threat is gone and your body recovers because things are back to normal. You go home and relax and your parasympathetic nervous system kicks into high gear. Your blood pressure decreases, your breathing slows down, your digestive juices get ramped up, etc. Pretty cool, huh?
Many of my patients who come in suffering from chronic musculoskeletal pain have also experienced the effects of autonomic nervous system imbalance. When we take the cause of that irritation away, not only does their pain decrease, but they often experience other changes in their health. Some of these changes are obvious, like better sleep, better digestion, improved cognitive function, and improved energy levels. A lot of times, they are able to ditch some of the meds they were taking that were merely covering up these symptoms of nervous system imbalance. Cool, huh?
I once had a patient tell me that when he gets adjusted, it feels like he “took a shower on the inside.” Your own internal hygiene notwithstanding, it stands to reason that any prolonged stress on our bodies can lead to autonomic imbalance, which without a doubt can have negative effects on our health. This is not to say that every single malady, symptom, and sickness can be fixed with chiropractic care (wouldn't that be nice?) Obviously, emotional stress, lack of sleep, food sensitivities (ahem...I'm looking at you, gluten), overtraining, and other factors can also lead to this problem. However, a healthy spine is a great place to start if you want your nervous system to work at peak efficiency.
Muskegon, Michigan -- We've all done it. We ignore problems and put off treatment when it comes to our health. Americans are a funny breed. When it comes to relationships, finances, and even our sports teams, we are often pessimists at heart. We often see the bad and contemplating the "ifs" while failing to see the good in things. We dwell on what "might happen," which is why insurance is the one industry that has gone largely untouched throughout the recession.
Unfortunately, when it comes to our health, we often do the opposite. Hypochondriacs aside, most of us are quite cavalier about our health when we shouldn't be. We often figure that if we can get through the day without a symptom, we are generally healthy. Unfortunately, this is not the case. In fact, a THIRD of those who die from heart attacks showed no prior symptoms leading up to the attack. We don't often think about our health until we lose it.
This is why people I see in my office have such rotten spines when I first meet them. The wear and tear of sports injuries, falls, stress, and neglect accumulate over the years and they often do not even consider having their spines evaluated until they are already dealing with a major health crisis. By that time, their problem has been there for years, before the initial symptoms.
"Do you adjust your own kids, doc?" I am amazed at how many times I am asked that question. I ask "Do you take your kids to the dentist?" The answer is always "Of course." I completely understand why someone would want their children to have straight, healthy teeth. What I do not understand is why there is a disconnect when it comes to parents ensuring that their children have a straight, healthy spine. So yes, I adjust my kids...when they need to be adjusted.
It is no secret that kids in America are sicker than ever. Flu outbreaks. Obesity. Headaches. Asthma. Scoliosis. Type 2 diabetes. All of these conditions are on the rise. Our kids are taking more medications and undergoing more surgeries than ever before. People don't often think twice before putting their children on an antibiotic when no effort has been made to ensure that the child's infection is bacterial or viral. For those of you who may not know the difference, a virus does not respond to antibiotics at all. Yet the vast majority of physicians do not go to the trouble of determining what type of bug the child has, whether the condition is a fever or an ear infection. Viruses are much more common than bacteria in childhood illness. However, more often than not, the physician puts the child on antibiotics and sends them home.