Ain’t No One Gonna Do It For You!

There’s something you should know.  The health you’ve lost, the health you’ve been looking for, is still there.  You just have to reach out and get it.  Just about anyone has the potential to live a long healthy life as long as they invest a little bit of time in themselves and do the work required to stay healthy.  But therein lies the conundrum.  Are you willing to work for it?  Are you willing to do what’s necessary to recover your health?  Are you even interested?  Or is it too much of a bother?

I once heard the great speaker Les Brown say, “The hardest part is getting the person to be an active participant in their own recovery.”  It’s so true and one of the most succinct observations about the state of America’s health, especially nowadays. People want health handed to them.  They want the benefits of good health, the energy, sleep, strength, and ability to enjoy life, but don’t want to do the work to get it.  So, they suffer through life with symptoms, making excuses for their bad health and habits, all the while passing up opportunity after opportunity to improve their lives and enjoy life.  Instead, they rely on pills to take the pain away, give them the energy they’ve lost, and even keep them alive.  I’ve even had patients in my office outright refuse to exercise, even when they know how much better they’ll feel.  So, I guess they prefer to suffer through the pain and disease potential, unwilling to make the simple changes required to get their health back and keep it.

Nothing in life is easy.  If you want a big house, you have to work for it.  If you want a happy marriage, it takes commitment.  If you want to live the dream, you have to invest in yourself.  So, why should health be any different?  I’m not sure why, but many people seem to have a separate set of rules for their well-being, a complete contradiction leading to their own destruction.

One of the things experience teaches is that anything worth having requires hard work.  Well, health is probably your greatest asset.  Your health is your wealth, as they say.  After all, if you had to put a dollar amount on the human body, if you actually had to pay to buy a new one, how much would it cost?  Millions?  Maybe more?  The problem is, you only get a single shot at this life and even a billionaire can’t buy new one.  Just ask Steve Jobs.

Sadly, we’re sold the lie during our lives that illness is inevitable and we’ve swallowed it, hook, line, and sinker.   We’ve been told that sickness is just an inevitable form of aging and there’s nothing you can do, that disease is just part of life.  “It’s just normal for your age,” is what they say.  Well, sickness is never normal.  Isn’t that the definition of disease, anyways?

Look at high blood pressure for example.  You can go 40 or more years without blood pressure issues then Boom! – hypertension.  So, you make the excuses that, “It runs in my family.  It’s genetic.”  The problem is, your genes are the same at 39 as they are at 40, so how do genetics explain that?  Is there a specific gene that codes for hypertension at 40?  Is it magic?  The answer is no.  You did this to yourself.

I encourage you to start taking responsibility for your health, before it’s too late.  Stop expecting it to come easily.  Stop waiting for some magic pill to improve your health or some chemical to ease your burdens.  Stop waiting for health to be handed to you on a gilded platter.  Stop waiting for external solution to an internal problem.  Worse, stop just waiting for the “inevitable.”  Get off your butt. Make the time.  Change your lifestyle. Do the work and collect your reward.  A small investment of effort now is much less costly than a lifetime of regret.

Remember, your health potential is still out there.  You just have to reach out and grab it.  I’ll say again, YOU have to reach out and grab it.  Being healthy isn’t a matter of luck or fate.  It’s a choice.  But you have to decide to become an active participant in your health.  You have to choose to be healthy, invest in yourself, and do the work.  It won’t be easy, but it will be worth it.

 

Be well.

Why Chiropractic Works

There’s an awful lot of nonsense out there about chiropractic care, most of which is from people who don’t care to understand how it works.  That being said, spinal adjusting and joint mobilization have been proven time and time again to improve healing outcomes, decrease pain, and improve function.  Anyone who denies the effectiveness of chiropractic care just hasn’t read the research, has never been to one, or worse: has an agenda.

So, how does mobilizing the spine improve your health?  I mean, how can something as simple as spinal adjustment affect a person’s well-being?  Well, it’s not magical or mystical at all.  It’s physiology.  And if you have a thorough understanding of the mechanisms behind an adjustment, the physiology of the human condition, everything suddenly becomes clear.

Chiropractors adjust subluxations (misalignments).  It’s as simple as that.  They don’t treat cancer or diabetes or heart disease.  It could even be said that a true chiropractor doesn’t even treat back pain.  While there’s a temptation to apply a medical model to chiropractic care, the two don’t really overlap.  They truly are complimentary forms of care.  While the medical profession, as a whole, has transition to a disease-management focus, chiropractic care still has its roots in healthcare and prevention.  Unfortunately, too many people still carry their medical model into a chiropractic office expecting one treatment for one symptom and if they don’t improve quickly, then chiropractic care has failed.  The problem is that most issues are fundamentally bigger than a quick fix and while medication works to decrease your symptoms, chiropractic adjusting works to increase your health.

There’s a saying among chiropractors that “An adjustment won’t make you instantly feel better, but it will make you instantly heal better.”  It’s so true, and oftentimes how you judge the successes or failures of an intervention depends on your expectations going into care.  The question then becomes, how does a chiropractic adjustment help me get better?  Well the answer’s not so simple, so here’s a list of common physiologic effects of spinal adjusting:

  1. Decreased nerve pressure.  This is probably the most fundamental and important aspects of spinal adjusting, namely, that misaligned vertebrae put pressure on spinal nerves.  Pressure on nerves, directly or indirectly, causes nerve pain.  Not only that, pressure on nerves deceases their ability to conduct normal impulses, meaning that the overall function of the nerve is impaired.  So, what happens down the road if that poorly functioning nerve or nerves goes to your muscles, your digestive system, your immune system, or even your heart?  That’s right. ‘Dis’-ease.

    Poorly position vertebra can apply pressure to nerve roots along the spine in a variety of different ways.  They can apply direct pressure, the bone sitting right upon the nerve root or, more likely, indirect pressure, the bone pressing other soft tissues, such as a disc or connective tissue which are in turn pressed into the nerve root.  Alleviating this pressure via spinal adjusting not only helps to decrease pain, but helps to ensure maximized nerve functioning.  And since the nervous system controls all the other cells, tissues, and organs in the body, I’m sure you understand how important that is.

 

  1. Improved motion in the spine. The spine is the core structure of your body.  It’s the foundation from which your extremities arise and upon which your head sits.  So, you can image how a spinal column with a loss of mobility, even at one segment, can affect the other parts of the body.  Chiropractic adjusting ensures mobility in the spine, which leads to improve mobility in the extremities.  And while there’s a temptation to think of a single vertebrae as an isolated structure, your spine really does function as a unit.  Even though there are 26 separate segments, each one is important.  Even one fixated bone is enough to affect the function of the entire system.

 

  1. Decreased disc pressure. This particular point centers on why discs herniate. Why is it that two people of similar age, build, and health, can have dramatically different pain profiles?  Oftentimes, the difference is due to acquired misalignments in the spine.  Every person’s subluxation (misalignment) pattern is unique to them, based on their own life experiences and exposures.  Disc herniation occurs when a person develops misalignments over time that are never addressed and then those imbalances lead to tissue failure when then joint is expose to a stress.  Ensuring proper alignment of the spine ensure proper balancing of the spine and normal load bearing by the discs.  It may not prevent all herniations, but it certainly helps.

 

  1. Maintaining proper balance. Your body is a machine that thrives in symmetry.  Correcting poorly aligned vertebrae helps restore balance.  It helps re-center the vertebra and take asymmetrical stresses off the muscles, ligaments, and tendons.  Restoring balance to the spine increases ‘ease’ of motion.  The problem is, none of us live in a bubble.  We develop asymmetries over time.  These imbalances, if left unchecked, can lead to muscles spasming, herniation, and even accelerated degenerative changes.

 

  1. Improved coordination. Chiropractic adjusting also affects a part of the nervous system called the proprioceptive system.  That’s the function that allows you to tell where your arms and legs are, even with your eyes closed.  People with impaired proprioception can develop coordination difficulties, loss of muscle function, and even impaired health.  When your proprioceptive systems are functioning at full, you’re able to move and exercise better, tend to be less stiff, and even heal better.

 

  1. Improved autonomic function. How does your heart know to beat 72 beats per minute?  How do your pupils know to dilate?  How do your blood vessels know to constrict?  These functions and others are controlled by your autonomic nervous system.  It controls the things you don’t think about.  Well, many key elements of the autonomic nervous system are housed in and along the spine.  Vertebral misalignments can affect the function of these critical nervous system parts and lead to everything from heart palpitations to difficulty sleeping.  And it’s impossible to be at maximum health with an impaired autonomic system.

Of course, there’s a lot of outright bad information out there about chiropractic adjusting and what it can or can’t do.  Sadly, my experience has been that most of the useless junk about chiropractic care comes from people who have little to no experience with it.  It’s easy to belittle a healthcare choice you choose to know little about, but it’s difficult to argue against the known physiology that controls the body.  Chiropractic care is a healing art that’s been around, in one form or another, for just as long as medicine.  And, for better or worse, it’s here to stay.

It should be noted that chiropractors don’t treat disease as much as they remove any obstructions to the healing process.  I think that one of the main misconceptions patients have, when arriving at a chiropractic office, is that they are somehow being ‘treated’, much as a medical doctor would treat a condition.  It’s not a fair comparison, for chiropractic care only seeks to eliminate the innate ability of your body to heal, by making that process as obstacle free as possible.  So, the next time you’re at your chiropractor, remember all the things that simple adjustment is trying to accomplish.  Most important of all is helping your body fulfill its health potential.

Are You Paying Attention?

 

Watching television today, it’s no wonder so many of us are sick.  We’re literally bombarded by advertising for all sorts of different things that sabotage our health.  From fast food, to microwaveable meals, to prescription drug ads, and none of them are making us any healthier.  Have you been paying attention?

Let’s face it, we’re a nation of consumers driven by advertising.  The next time you’re watching your favorite show, count the number of commercials that showcase products which either specifically sabotage our health or promise better health with an alarming potential for side effects.  Have you ever marveled at the prescription drug ads that spend a few seconds (if at all) telling you about what the medication is for but then spend the bulk of the rest of add telling you about all the harmful effects of taking their product?  Sure, it may cure your hiccups, but when your teeth fall out it suddenly doesn’t sound like a miracle after all.

Just open your eyes.  First, there’s the commercial for frozen pizzas and fast food just before the ads for the bag of chips and soda come on.  Then there’s the alcohol commercials.  You know, the ones that make drinking hard liquor somehow glamorous and convinces you you’re a loser if you’re at a party and don’t have a beer in your hand.  I mean, who doesn’t want to be glamorous or sophisticated?  After all, I always drink my bourbon in a tuxedo with my tie undone…every night (kidding).  But wait, there’s more.

Next are the prescription drug adds…the advertising for chemicals to address the symptoms that came about from shoveling all that garbage into your mouth.  High blood pressure? Here’s a pill.  Diabetes?  Here’s a pill.  Can’t poop?  Here’s a pill.  Why take care of yourself?  Here’s a pill.  The problem is that the cause of all these problems is never really addressed.

Then, there are the insurance companies.  A product you’ll definitely need because your health has become a flaming dumpster fire that you keep fueling with bad habits and the treatment you need has become so expensive, you can’t afford to pay for it on you own.  I mean, who can afford to pay the hundreds of thousands of dollars for preventable diseases like diabetes, heart disease, and cancer out of their own pocket?  But it’s really no problem because next, there are the attorneys and they’re itching to sue pretty much anybody, especially the medical companies, because they hurt you.  It’s a nuthouse in a nutshell and so the cycle continues.

So, here’s the translation.  First, you’re bombarded by ads for stuff that poisons you and makes you fat.  Those are followed by the drug companies trying to sell health in a bottle that turns out only to be empty promises of symptom control with a potential for side effects, so you need better insurance to pay for it.  Next, the attorneys are ready to sue just about anybody to get you some money so you can continue to eat more crap and drown your healthcare sorrows in a vodka and tonic.  Still paying attention?

You see, you may have no idea how much of your heath is controlled by the quest for profit.  Here’s a good example.  I would define someone who’s healthy as a person who does not depend on prescription medication or regular medical intervention.  In other words, drugs don’t make you healthy and a healthy person doesn’t need drugs.  A healthy person is pain free, can manage stress, sleeps well at night, and experiences general well-being.  Have you ever wondered how many of the patients that take prescription medications actually become healthier as a result?  Unfortunately, the answer is almost zero.  Remember, symptom control is not the same as health. Just because you’re taking a medication that keeps you blood tests within a certain range doesn’t mean you’re healthy at all. The fact that your symptoms need to be chemically altered to prevent you from dying, by definition, means that you are ill.  So, chew on this: Do you really think that the pharmaceutical companies have any vested interest in getting you well?  They wouldn’t want lose a good customer after all.  How much of their money is spent on advertising versus research after all?

The point is to open your eyes and become an active participant in your health.  Rather than being a sheep, the victim of the next ad or fad, do your own research.  Turn off the boob-tube, the advertising that brainwashes you into a product you really don’t need or want, and start thinking for yourself.  All the tools are there, after all, and most people already know what it takes to become and stay healthy.  They just don’t do it.  But, breaking out of the endless cycle of advertising and gimmicks may be a potent first step to better health.  Be well.

Are You In The Right Office?

A common question I frequently ask my patients is:  Are the people you’re trusting with your healthcare decisions really a ‘healthcare’ provider?  Seems like a pretty simple question, right?  The problem is that we’re living in a day and age where the lines between ‘healthcare’ and ‘disease management’ are terribly blurred.

For example, on my case history form, I have a section that asks:

What medications(s) are you currently taking?

Then, it asks about their vitamins and is followed by a question that asks:

How would you describe your overall health?     Excellent     Good     Fair     Poor

I’ve been in practice for nearly two decades and it still surprises me to see patients who may take a half dozen or more medications (and no vitamins btw) but describe their health as “Excellent.”  Why?  Because the commercials on TV tell them that if they want to be healthy, they have to take this or that medication.  Because the people that they trust tell them that if they don’t take the medication, they won’t stay healthy.  The problem with both scenarios is that medications are not vitamins.  Whether helping to marginalize your symptoms or not, they’re still toxic and have side effects.  Further, I propose that if you are taking medications, prescription or otherwise, to manage a chronic illness, you’re definitely not in “Excellent” health.  A healthy person doesn’t need medication.

Nowadays, advertising has sold you on the notion that medicine is health.  It’s not.  Medicine is disease management and disease management is not the same thing as healthcare.  Now, I’ll be clear.  Modern medicine is a marvel of crisis care and intervention saving countless lives every year.  But you have to understand that it really stinks for chronic illness.  That’s why so many chronic illnesses are on the rise like cancer, heart disease, and diabetes, despite miraculous advances in medicine and technology.  The interventions we turn to in these illnesses just aren’t helping us to become healthier.

So, how do you know the difference between the two?  Here are a few clues:

You develop some sort of symptom and go to your doctor.  Your doctor performs all the tests, as appropriate, to determine the nature of your issue.  If he/she then:

 

  1. Gives you a pill (Disease Management). This is symptom control.  The pill does nothing to necessarily improve your health but it does at least manage your symptoms enough to make you comfortable and/or prevent you from becoming sicker or even dying.  That being said, all medications are toxic and have variability of side effects.  So, while you’re directly managing the symptoms of your disease, you may actually be compromising your general health in the long run.  So many meds are tough on your liver, kidneys, digestive system, heart, nervous system…etc.  Not only that, many medications breed dependency, meaning that if you take it long enough your own body chemistry may never recover.
  2. Hooks you up to some sort of gadget or gizmo (Disease Management). I run a chiropractic office and we routinely use passive therapies like electrical muscle stimulation and ultrasound to help decrease a patient’s pain.  But this type of intervention is also not healthcare.  It’s pain control.  It’s disease management.  A TENS unit, on its own, does nothing to improve your general health.  It just temporarily covers up your symptoms.  The same can be said for back braces, orthotics, and even hot packs.
  3. Tells you it’s “normal” for your age (Disease Management). Now, this is a total cop-out.  Not only is it false in too many cases, it steals a patients hope and gives them a crutch to justify their illness.  Your body is designed to be healthy.  It will fight with every fiber and molecule of your being to resist disease and stay alive.  So, at what point does “dis-ease” become normal?  Always be wary of anyone who tells you that.  In many cases, what it really means is:
    1. “I see this a lot but don’t have much experience with helping people with it.”
    2. “I don’t know what’s wrong with you. (Here’s an antidepressant.)”
    3. “I don’t know if a referral will help.”
    4. “I’m too busy to help you fix it.”
  4. “Pops” your back when you’re in pain (Disease Management). As a chiropractor, this one also strikes particularly close to home and so many of my peers operate their offices this way:  “Just give me a call when you’re have problems again.”  Seriously?  I thought as chiropractic physicians, our mission was to educate and keep the patient healthy, not just pick up the pieces after everything falls apart.  We should not be mimicking a failing model of disease management and you should expect more from your chiropractor.
  5. “Pops” your back when you’re doing well (Healthcare). Chiropractic care has been shown to help improve a patient’s health above and beyond just pain management.  The problem is that most patients who see a chiropractor for pain don’t maintain their alignment and functionality after the pain subsides.  How can you expect to be at maximum health when your pain levels are never truly stable?  You can’t have consistent health when your pain is in flux.  My experience has shown me that the patient gets the most health benefits from adjusting once they are out of pain.  And, ironically, it’s much easier to keep a person well than get them well.
  6. Tries to help you make meaningful lifestyle changes (Healthcare). Maintaining and restoring health is not mystery.  It’s largely about the choices you make, good or bad.  Truthfully, most people know what they need to do to stay healthy, but they still fail.  Why?  Because becoming sick is easy.  Anyone can do it.  But not everyone will stay healthy.  Additionally, most people don’t have a support system and they’re turning to the wrong people for healthcare advice.  Too many people turn to a disease management provider for healthcare advice.  That’s like asking an electrician about why your sink is backed up.  Listen, I’ve said it before.  Maintaining optimum health is about 6 things: Proper Diet, Exercise, Stress Management, Proper Sleep Habits, Limiting Toxic Exposure, and Healthy Nervous System Function.  But, you may not know how to do those things well.  You need a healthcare provider.  You need a coach.

If all you’re getting from your doctor is a pill or procedure and you’re trying to get your health back, I hate to break it to you: you’re in the wrong office.  If, however, your provider is spending time with you to council you on better nutrition, help you with exercising better, and work with you to better your lifestyle, then you’re on the right track and in the right place.  Think about it.  Almost all of us have a disease management provider, but how many of us have a healthcare provider?  If you can find a good one, you may even surprise yourself at how healthy you can become.

What Would A Caveman Do?

After nearly two decades in practice, you start to notice some common themes and, among them, certain questions that are shared by large portions of the population.  One, in particular, is a broad sweeping question that I’m asked quite a lot:  What do I need to do to stay healthy?

Sounds simple right?  Well maybe not so much.  We live in the Information Age with nearly limitless amounts of good and bad advice from nearly limitless sources.  One person will stay do this and you’ll be healthy but then another article will completely contradict it.  And it’s not just relegated to opinions on health.  There are even plentiful examples of research that contradicts other research, studies that are completely contradictory.  So, who’s right?

A person could spend an entire lifetime trying to sort through all the good, bad, and misleading information out there and still be confused.  Consequently, I try to keep health easy to understand for my patients and this is what I ask them: How did our ancestors live?

I mean, think about it.  Were we really designed to sit at a computer all day, munching on processed bags of food?  Were we built to endure near constant stress in an artificial environment?  If you really consider today’s lifestyle, it’s no wonder chronic illness is on the rise.  We don’t exercise like we should, we eat a lot of garbage, our stress is ridiculous, we’re too busy, and we’re literally bathed in toxins every day.

Now, every day patients will ask me, do I do this or that?  Do I eat this or that?  Is this good for me?  Is that bad for me?  And, so on.  My response will generally be, what would a caveman do?  After all, that’s what we are.  We’re hunter gatherers, designed to roam the land hunting for food, water and shelter.  We’re designed to get 12-16 hours of exercise every day.  We’re built to eat real whole foods.  We’re meant to live free of the human zoo we’ve created for ourselves.

Look at tribal cultures around the world.  Do they suffer from cancer, diabetes, heart disease, and obesity like we do in more developed countries?  No way!  Granted, in many of those places, infectious disease and traumatic death is much higher, but if you’re lucky enough to make it to old age, you’ll live a fuller healthier life.  Accordingly, how can we, as members of a highly developed country without the threat of environmentally caused death, ignore the huge potential we have for a longer, healthier, more satisfying life?  Why do so many take our health for granted and just accept illness as the inevitability of aging?  The answer is simple.  We’ve set up too many barriers between us and our genetically programmed, natural lifestyle requirements and our herd mentality falls for the lie that illness is normal.

Here’s a news flash.  Your body’s not designed to be sick.  It’s designed to be healthy.  In fact, it fights with every molecule of your being to be healthy and resist disease…if you’ll help it along.  Go out and get some fresh air.  Stop eating your food out of a bag.  Break away from your desk and get on your feet.  Take on the world like the alpha predator you were destined to be, not the lapdog that chains your seat.  Being healthy isn’t magical and becoming sick isn’t a mystery.  If you make better choices, you get better results.

So, the next time you wonder about which choice about your health is best, ask yourself:  What would a caveman do?