Why Not Chiropractic?

Why isn’t everyone getting adjusted?  I mean, what is so terrible, scary, or wrong with a chiropractic adjustment?  There are plenty of other things that are far more risky.  In my opinion, there are also few other things that offer the same health benefits as a chiropractic adjustment.  So, why isn’t everyone seeing a chiropractor?

Chiropractic, as an art and science, has been around for over 100 years, since 1895.  Even then, Hippocrates, the father of Medicine talks extensively of the spine as a cause of disease and joint mobilization has been used for thousands of years by various cultures from around the world.  True, chiropractic as a healing art has gained traction in recent years, being covered by Medicare, recognized by the Veterans Administration, and addressed by most health insurances.  Chiropractors can even train in specialties like orthopedics, neurology, radiology and other disciplines.  Still, I get the impression that chiropractic is the ugly kid in the corner of the room no one wants to talk to.

One of my assistants recently told my about a visit she had to her son’s pediatrician that encompasses effects of poor information.  The pediatrician, recognizing that my assistant was in scrubs (our office uniform) asked what her profession was.   When she told her son’s doctor she was a chiropractic assistant, the tone of the visit changed.  The pediatrician asked with some apprehension, ‘well your son doesn’t get adjusted does he?’  My assistant was quick to say that he did and further explained that we see lots of kids in our office.  The pediatrician, knowing she was an assistant to a chiropractor, began to attempt to re-educate her about adjusting and told her that they ‘don’t believe in chiropractic.’  My assistant asked why, because we see children do amazingly well in our office all the time.  The doctor then continued, ‘Well, I’ve never been to a chiropractor but…’  Need I go on?

This unfortunate scenario is only the most recent of frequent reports I here from other “health” professionals.  Within this past week, I had another of my assistants visit a doctor’s office and introduce ourselves to them.  We were looking for a medical physician to refer some of our patients to and were wondering if that office would be interested in seeing some of our patients.  The catch was that we would only refer them our patients if they were open minded to chiropractic care.  To our surprise, my staff member was informed that their office ‘doesn’t work with chiropractors.’  Why not?  Well, it turns out that while the physician’s assistant in the office is very open minded, the head doctor is vehemently anti-chiropractic.

Over the years, I’ve discover that the most ardent opponents to chiropractic care I’ve encountered have never even been to a chiropractor.  Most of them have never read any research or even know a chiropractor.  All they know is what they’ve heard, what they gleaned from some casual third party interpretation, what they saw on some expose, or, more insidiously, what was taught to them erroneously in school.  Yet, they offer advice on chiropractic care as if they are an expert on the field, doing both a disservice to chiropractic and, more importantly, to the patient who now loses the potential benefit that adjusting may have offered them.  The blind truly leads the blind.

Here are a few of the objections I’ve encountered over the years and their simple reasons why they are simply nonsense:

1.        Chiropractic is Dangerous – Really?  Chiropractic is dangerous?  So, the reason that chiropractic malpractice rates are a mere fraction of the Medical profession means that chiropractic is dangerous.  I once saw a statistic that showed that adverse drug interaction and hospital errors account for so many deaths annually, that it’s the equivalent of a 747 full of people crashing every day in the United States for that same time period.  I can tell you that if a commercial airline were actually falling out of the sky every day for a full year, there would be a national emergency.  Yet, chiropractic is dangerous.  You see, the average E.R., urgent care, or family physician only sees those very few people who may have had a rare complication to adjusting.  They don’t see the millions who get well in a chiropractic office.  So, they base their opinion off their limited exposure without a complete picture.  Their assessment of chiropractic care is not based off the healthy patients who feel great that, frankly, no longer need medical services.

After all, how many people has chiropractic killed?  How many people has chiropractic even injured?  In a century of chiropractic care would we even match the adverse reactions and deaths of one year of traditional medical care?  Just look at the AMA or CDC annual morbidity and mortality statistics.  Sure there are risks to chiropractic care.  There are risks to everything in life, but they are small and, statistically speaking, very remote, especially when compared to other healthcare options.  And yes, there are side effects.  You might sleep better.  You might have more concentration.  You might actually not get sick this year.  You might not need your medication.  I think you get the idea.

2.       Chiropractic care is for back pain only – Well, you may not realize this, but the first documented case of a chiropractic adjustment for the treatment of a condition was NOT for back pain.  It was for hearing loss.  In 1895, D.D. Palmer  applied the first adjustment to the upper back of a deaf janitor named Harvey Lillard.  Miraculously, his hearing was restored and the chiropractic profession was born.  Unfortunately, I think even some of my colleagues forget this little piece of our history.  We are not just back doctors.  Of course, there is more complexity in the story but there is little debate about the effect that nervous dysfunction can have on health.  It’s simple physiology.

I agree that our profession often subjugates the power of spinal adjusting to back pain treatment, but true spinal adjusting and maintenance has far more potential.  Relatively speaking, back pain is quick and simple.  Helping a patient realize their full health potential is a longer, complex journey, not a destination.  I see in my office that my wellness care patients don’t get sick like their friends, they sleep better at night, have more energy during the day, and are just healthier overall.  And, I am not unique in this observation.  There is more to a healthy spine and nervous system than just pain management.  An aspirin can manage your pain.  An adjustment will help improve your health.

3.       Kids shouldn’t be getting adjusted – Last time I checked, kids have spines too.  No, having a spine isn’t something you get at puberty or once you graduate from high school.  You have a spine from birth.  Spinal hygiene is about maintaining full spinal function.  It’s about preventing spinal decay and maximizing health throughout a person’s life.  Your spine can decay just like your teeth.  The difference is you can replace your teeth but you’re stuck with the same spine for life.

What’s the first trauma you ever experienced?  I would bet heavily that its your own birth.  Pulling and twisting and trying to push and pull a much larger baby through a much smaller opening would traumatize even the fittest of newborns.  I would argue that some of the trauma of childbirth can even haunt a person for their entire life.  Why?  Because their parents were told that adjusting is just for “back pain” and “kids shouldn’t be adjusted.”  In a society where we seem to be getting more obese and sicker with chronic illness, despite amazing advances in medicine, I think it’s time to change our approach to health.

I’ve even heard that adjusting kids is dangerous.  Are you telling me that a kid can take a fall from a 6 foot jungle gym and take off running without a pause where an adult would easily break their arm, but a pediatric spinal adjustment is dangerous?  Are you kidding?  We need to start getting real.

4.       Chiropractors are not real doctors – I once had a medical doctor tell me, to my face, that he wouldn’t refer his patients to someone who calls himself a doctor but only got his degree in a weekend course.  What a jerk!  In almost every state in the United States, chiropractors must have both a Bachelors Degree and a Doctorate in Chiropractic from an accredited chiropractic college.  So, essentially, a chiropractor has 9 academic years of education, the equivalent of a medical physician.  That doesn’t even include the doctor who chooses a specialty or board certification.  Chiropractors are required complete a national board examination and state exams.  They are also required to fulfill continuing education requirements just like their medical counterparts and are licensed by a State Board.  A chiropractic license is not just handed to the doctor after taking some internet classes.  It takes years of study and discipline and the term “doctor” is not used without merit.

5.       Chiropractors are ‘quacks’ – You don’t see this one too much anymore but I just read an article about how a state association in Texas that was trying to halt a run for congress by a chiropractor because he was a “quack.”  Besides being completely unprofessional, and that association should be ashamed no matter what discipline it is, I think the label needs to be put in perspective.  Dedicated hardworking chiropractors work every day to not just placate symptoms, but make an actual difference in the health of their patients.  We not only work to improve spinal and nervous system health but work to improve the general health of the patient.  We help improve nutrition, modify lifestyles and re-introduce a patient to exercise.  Rather than just covering up the patient’s symptoms with chemicals, our discipline works to remove obstructions to the body’s inborn, innate healing processes, helping the patient to maximize their health potential.  We track our patient progress, follow up with continuing care, and encourage prevention.

In this era where chronic illness is on the rise, “traditional interventions” only detect disease once it’s occurred and even then only offer symptom control by chemically altering bodily processes.  That’s not health.  So, the condition continues to progress but at least the symptoms are decreased and the condition is more difficult to measure.  I guess that actually working to improve a patient’s health and healing potential is now quackery while symptom control is now health.  The world has truly become upside down.

6.       Chiropractic is not scientifically based – The biggest area where I see this claim is from the traditional medical field.  Now, I’m not sure if they feel threatened by chiropractic care, but I really haven’t come across another procedure in all of healthcare that has more efficacy and research to support it than the chiropractic adjustment.  It has clinical control trials, peer reviewed articles, retroactive case studies and has been put to the test for years.  Moreover, colleges and institutions have been trying to poke holes unsuccessfully in the chiropractic model for years.  Consistently, adjusting comes out on top and the research proves the safety, efficacy, and effectiveness of chiropractic care.  Chiropractic is here to stay.

Anyone who says that chiropractic is not science based has just blatantly exposed the fact that they are not staying current on their research and have no idea what chiropractic is.  If they were, I don’t think there is any way they would discourage adjusting.  And, shouldn’t every family physician who, more likely than not, has many patients treating with a chiropractor, be fully informed on all the healthcare choices their patients are making or may potentially make?  Or, is it better to guide that patient with less information and make poorly informed health recommendations?  A patient shouldn’t have to suffer because their doctor doesn’t know, or worse, refuses to learn.  Their doctor needs to know chiropractic.

I once was doing a health fair and, being normal mild-mannered myself, was taken aback by a physical therapist who decided to get into an argument with me in front of a crowd about how he didn’t believe in chiropractic.  I’ve since discovered this to be commonly taught to therapists in school.  What a shame!  I was met with a few sly grins when I explained that “It was a good thing, then, that there are piles and piles of research out there to support what I do and people don’t have to rely on just your opinion when deciding to see a chiropractor.”  Chiropractic care is not some fringe healthcare choice.  It’s based on accepted physiology and is backed by research.  Now, if only more healthcare professionals would actually read the research or, at the minimum, give chiropractic a shot themselves to see if it works.  I’ve been blessed to see many medical professionals as patients over the years and have changed many minds in my office.  If only we could expose every medical professional to chiropractic care.

Spinal adjusting is safe and effective for all ages when performed by a chiropractic physician.  It takes years of schooling to learn the techniques and years of practice to hone adjusting skill.  Not just anyone can adjust a patient’s spine with the skill and expertise of a chiropractor.

So, the question becomes, again, why isn’t everyone being adjusted?  Well, the answer is simple really: lack of education and fear.  Unfortunately, many of the professionals that people turn to for their healthcare decisions really have no idea what a chiropractor is, what we do, or how chiropractic works the way it does.  As a result, chiropractic care, which may be the solution the patient really needs, is dismissed outright out of ignorance.

How much success has been lost to fear?  Fear of trying something different?  Fear of trying something new?  Fear of thinking outside the box?  Fear that it won’t work?  Fear that it will?  The problem is, you may never know because you’ve never tried.

We are facing an unprecedented healthcare crisis in our country with skyrocketing costs, increased prescription drug use, and rising rates of chronic illness.  Isn’t it time that we reconsider what health is and what it’s not?  Shouldn’t chiropractic care be at least a consideration in every healthcare regimen?

In my opinion, with chiropractic care, the potential is high, the risks are low, and it should always be attempted first, before more invasive procedures.  Is chiropractic a panacea of wellness?  No way!  Chiropractic care makes no promises and has no guarantee.  But, it is should be included in the infinite options you may not have even considered.  They say that the biggest risk may be not taking one.  I mean, what might you actually do if chiropractic care worked for you?

Cancer On The Rise?

According to a recent report by the World Health Organization, based on research by the International Agency for Research on Cancer, cancer will soon hit a new benchmark.  In 2012, cases of new cancer were estimated worldwide at 14 million but are slated to rise to 22 million within the next 2 decades.  Why the rise?  The World Health Organization blames smoking and obesity, but is that all there is to it?

The most common cancers were lung cancer, breast cancer, and colon cancer.  The cancer that caused the most deaths was of the lung, nearly 20% of cancer deaths.  The liver and stomach were each nearly 10% of cancer deaths.  They further go on to point that “the burden of cancer internationally has doubled over the last 20 years, and it will double over the next 20 years.”  With more and more research on cancer every day, how can this be?  Are we really winning the war against cancer?  The only conclusion that can be drawn from this report is a resounding ‘no.’

So who’s to blame?  With absolutely huge amounts of money being spent on research and treatment, what are we getting for our money?  A cancer rate set to double?  The report is quick to blame western civilization and our “bad habits” that are being exported exponentially.  I can’t really argue against that point because I see patients every day in my office living tragic lifestyles.  Of course everyone knows that smoking causes cancer.  In fact, it’s a wonder that anyone still smokes despite all the evidence pointing toward not only cancers, but strokes and heart disease.  But, what of the other potential exposures?  Are people even aware of how their habits, lifestyles, and choices may be killing them?

According to some sources, there are over 80,000 potential toxins in our environment, many of them are known carcinogens.  The U.S. Food and Drug Administration even allows over 14,000 non-food chemicals in our food supply, many of which Americans consume as “healthy” alternatives to actual food.

For example, artificial sweetener is a common non-food chemical additive.  Some sweeteners like saccharine have been linked to increased cancer rates, yet people continue to lace their food with it as a healthier alternative to sugar.  It seems like it’s almost impossible to find foods nowadays that are not laced with chemicals, from antibiotics in our meats, to medications in our drinking water.  Our food is laced with preservatives, colors, flavor enhancers, dyes, and limitless other additives.  Combine this with lack of exercise, poor sleep habits, high stress, and generally poor nervous system health and you have a recipe for disaster.

Think your medications are healthy?  Well, that depends on your perspective.  They’re definitely healthier than dying.  A better solution would be to work to achieve true health, rather than just covering up the symptoms of your disease with more chemicals.  That is a task you need to work through with your doctor.  You can’t get health from a bottle, only symptom control.  A true healthcare provider will work with you and for you to move you away from disease and back toward health, not just placate your symptoms.

So, what’s the solution to this cancer crisis?  Worldwide, we’ve spent almost too much money to count, so why can’t we get a handle on this life-threatening disease?  The answer could be that we’re not addressing the right problems.  Rather than spending nearly all of that money on research for cancer treatments, would we be better served to allocate larger portions to cancer prevention?  We should be investing in identifying potential exposures and then working to eliminate the potential for risk.

So, are you going to wait for this to magically happen?  You shouldn’t.  You have more control than you know.  If you really want to prevent cancer and preserve your health, here are some practical steps you can take to lower your risk:

1.        Eat better – Anything you put in your body that’s not food is a poison.  You remember what food is, right?  It’s those pesky fruits, vegetables, and healthy meats.  No, soda isn’t food.  Alcohol is a poison.  Artificial sweetener is toxic.  Even your medications come with some risk.  Instead of buying pre-made or packaged convenience food, you’ll have to start cooking again.  This means fresh and organic as much as possible.  If it’s not food don’t eat it.

2.       Limit your exposure – We are constantly under assault from our external environment.  Everything from our cleaning products to air freshener and non-stick cookware has potential toxins in it.  Did you know that plastic is a potential toxin and when microwaved may leach some of those toxins into your food?  If it’s made in a lab, it most likely has the potential to be a toxin, bad news for you.  One of the best things you can do to decrease your cancer risk is consider all of your decisions and do your research before you make them.

3.       Avoid destructive habits – This would include regularly exposing yourself to known recreational toxins such as cigarette smoke and alcohol.

4.       Boost your exercise – Sure people who exercise can get cancer.  Lots of professional athletes have even struggled with this disease.  That being said, however, cancer rates statistically plummet in people who regularly exercise.  Think 30 minutes 3 times a week is enough?  I would argue it’s not for a human organism genetically designed to get 12-16 hours of movement per day.  You may not be able to prevent it altogether, but at least to can decrease your risk.

5.       Limit your weight – Simply put, less tissue means fewer cells.  Fewer cells mean a decreased risk that some of them will become cancerous.  Additionally, fat cells have an affinity for toxins.  So, the heavier you are, the more likely you are to be storing accumulated, potentially cancer causing, toxins.

6.       Maintain a healthy nervous system – Your nervous system is the circuitry for the body.  It controls everything from motion to immune system.  It’s impossible to keep maximum health with a corrupted nervous system.  Exercise is a way to keep the nervous system functioning at a high level.  Spinal adjusting by a trained chiropractor, too, can also decrease nervous system interference.  I won’t say that chiropractic is a definite cancer preventative, but it probably wouldn’t hurt.  Physiologically, a healthy nervous system is critical to a healthy immune system, which should, theoretically, keep cancer at bay.  Sadly, less than 2% of Americans get adjusted regularly.

If you want to beat cancer, you need to take control of your health.  Don’t ever live under the illusion that you can never get cancer but also never believe that cancer is inevitable or inescapable.  If you can take control of your health, make better decisions, and think of health as a journey and investment, perhaps you can reap the rewards of better health and a longer cancer-free life.  Be well.

 

Source:  USA Today, Cancer to Skyrocket Worldwide, WHO report faults smoking, obesity, and increased population; by Nancy Hellmich, February 5th, 2014

What’s Holding You Back?

What’s preventing you from being well?  I mean, for the vast majority of us, total health is completely in our control.  Sure, many will claim it to be the effects of bad luck or bad genes but, the truth is, you are largely in control of whether or not you ultimately develop one of the myriad of chronic illnesses that plague millions of Americans.

Poor health is not a matter of fate.  It doesn’t occur because we are genetically programmed to get sick either.  If we were, humans would be the only animal on the planet that was actually genetically programmed for disease.  Contrary to what you may have been told, we are programmed to thrive and live abundantly, not gradually decay and live at less than our full potential.

So, what’s holding you back?  Why aren’t you living at your full potential?  The bigger questions is, why have you accepted it as normal?  Having practiced as long as I have, you realize that the list of reasons that people have not to take care of themselves is as limitless as there are stars in the sky.  Here are just a few:

1.        I don’t have time – The truth is, everyone has time.  It’s just not a priority for you.  Sleeping in, watching a little extra television, or relaxing on the weekends is just more important to you.  We all have 24 limited hours within the day.  Why is it, then, that some people can find time to take care of themselves while others just never seem to be able.  The reality is that you must make the time.  If your health is a priority, your other activities would be scheduled around taking care of yourself.

2.       It’s too expensive to be healthy – In reality, being healthy can be very inexpensive.  Eating fresh foods, fruits and vegetables, can be a lot less expensive than the pre-packaged garbage we so readily consume.  A gym membership you say?  Work out at home, it’s free.  Regular preventative chiropractic care is a lot cheaper than treating acute back pain.  Heck, taking care of yourself is a lot cheaper than getting sick.

3.       It’s too much work to take care of myself – Of course, being well takes work.  Anyone can get sick but can everyone be well?  The answer is, for the most part, yes.  However, wellness doesn’t just happen on its own.  Health is a matter of deliberate intent.  The body is definitely designed to be healthy in optimum circumstances but who lives an ideal lifestyle?  We are all constantly bombarded by physical and mental stresses.  What separates the healthy from the disease is how we address those stresses and help our body’s adapt to the constant assault.

4.       I have no self control – We all have self control.  Without it, we’d all be criminals.  More likely. You’ve chosen not to control those aspects of your life that contribute to a healthy lifestyle or may be inconvenient.  Whether you manifest any control around a piece of chocolate cake or not is matter of choice.  It’s not to say that your choices will be easy for you but all of your decisions have consequences, good and bad.   You have to choose to be in control.

5.       I just keep forgetting – Again, this is a reflection of priorities.  You probably wouldn’t forget to pick your kids up from school.  You probably also wouldn’t forget to eat.  If you want to be successful at being healthy, you need a schedule and a routine.  Write down what you need to do and when you need to do it.  A short pencil is better than a long memory.

Now, what does this all mean?  It generally means that a person can have every reason in the book to excuse their apathy and neglect.  It also means that the only thing standing in your way is you.  The reality that many may face, though, is that if you don’t remember and make time to take care of yourself now, time will be found for you later when you get sick.  The choice is up to you.  Choose to be healthy now or expect to be sick later.  Either way, the decision is in your hands.  Be well.

The Cost of Health

Recently, a patient commented to me that “supplements are so expensive.”  What struck me as peculiar about the statement was how ill the patient was prior to coming into our office and how much money he was probably spending on disease management for the his array of chronic illnesses.  I know that he wants to be healthy.  We all do, but I guess I found the objection to having to pay for health as a strange one considering he had certainly paid enough for his diseases.

I would figure that between his hypertension and diabetes along with his osteoarthritis and obesity, he had spent thousands of dollars just in deductibles and co-pays managing the symptoms of his various ailments.  Further, he’d probably spent countless hours dedicated to checking his blood pressure and sugars as well as doctor’s visits and working with other healthcare providers.  Yet, “supplements are so expensive” and exercise was an anathema.  I wish this patient was unique but, to be honest, I’ve worked with too many patients with the exact same perceptions about disease and health over the years.

It turns out that the reason this particular patient felt that the supplements were “expensive” was because he really had never taken them during is life, at least not in any meaningful way.  He also had invested very little time or money in regular exercise throughout his lifetime, never having belonged to a gym or making time for regular exercise.  When he got sick, he went to his doctor, like many people do, and, instead of being given solutions to improve his health, he was given an expensive pill that his insurance paid the lion’s share of and told to just live with the chronic illness.  In a nutshell, this patient reminded me of the cost of health versus being sick.

The simplest way to put the cost of your health in perspective is the true statement that being sick is a lot more expensive than being healthy.  I would argue, based on dealing with the public for over 15 years, that the list of reasons for neglecting your health is a long one.  Number one on that list, based on my experience, seems to be a fear of losing.  Ironically however, it’s not a fear losing their health.  I would even gather that many people mistakenly assume that losing health is an inevitability.

It seems to me, based on patient interactions over the years, there two common mitigating factors that patients fear to lose when relating to health:  Money and Time.  I’ve noticed that your ability to better manage these factors can have a direct substantial positive impact on your health.  While many claim to have a shortage of both, my personal experience as a healthcare provider has been that both are more a matter of confused priorities.  For many, health is just not as important as other commitments in their life.

You have to realize that health is an investment.  Just like investing money will produce a future financial return, so too will investing in your health more than likely pay dividends in the end.  If you are slow and deliberate, taking your time but remaining consistent, your wise health investment will most likely pay off in higher quality and prolonged life as you age.  If, however, you choose to largely ignore your investment, never donating the time or money that it takes to be well, then you can’t be surprised when you get little return on your health as you get older.

Many think that health is beyond their reach because it may be too expensive, but is that a matter of money or perception?  Have you set of a barrier of false beliefs regarding the cost of health that is preventing you from being well?  Do you live under the myth that being well is only for the rich?  Too often I see the patient who claims they can’t afford the costs of health but can afford a brand new car, fresh landscaping, or expensive meals eating out.  In that case, money isn’t the issue.  Priorities are.

Our ability to commit to ourselves has also been affected by our expectations from society.  Today we live in a culture that has been trained to rely on insurance to cover every health related eventuality and keep us well.  We forget, however, that insurance is just that: insurance meant to cover the unpredictable expense of disease.  As such, insurance doesn’t cover expenses related to prevention such as nutrition, exercise, and preventative chiropractic adjusting.  Insurance will cover what it takes to become healthy if you get sick, not prevention.  “But they cover annual physicals and blood work” you say?  There is nothing preventative about an annual physical or blood work.  These tests are actually a form of early detection, not prevention.  As such, your insurance will cover tests meant to detect disease but if you are looking to stay healthy and prevent disease, you will have to pay for that on your own.  So, it’s not a matter of “supplements are so expensive.”  It’s a matter of you having to get used to paying out of your own pocket for prevention and investing time and money on your own to stay well.

Lifelong health is within your reach if you are willing to change your preconceived notions about what it takes to be healthy.  You don’t have to join a fancy gym to exercise.  Try exercising at home.  Milk containers can substitute for weights (a gallon of water weighs 8 pounds) and walking is free.  Often, people also don’t realize that fresh fruits, vegetables, and meats are cheaper than meals eating out or the packaged non-foods we so readily consume on a nearly daily basis.  Changing your diet and increasing your exercise will also help your body respond and adapt better to stress.  Further, supplementing your diet now with a good quality whole food supplement is a lot less exensive than treating the symptoms of a disease once you become ill.  Regular chiropractic adjusting for prevention and maintenance of health is also generally very affordable and within the budget of many people.  In fact, people are turning to chiropractors more and more for many non-back pain related health issues because of its effectiveness and low cost in maintaining health.

Additionally, you can’t confuse disease management with health.  We are literally bombarded regularly by advertising for all sorts of treatments and drugs which are sold to us as “health.”  Most, though, are really just symptom management and come with a hefty financial price tag.  While complex testing, medications, and doctor’s visits can be fairly expensive, the generally healthy person does not require these often.  Staying healthy is much cheaper than becoming sick.

The second perceived lack that prevents a person from being well is time but, to put it simply, it’s never a matter of time.  It’s a mater of priorities.  Have you ever wondered how a certain person “finds the time” to exercise or is able to regularly cook healthy meals.  The truth is that we all have 24 hours in a day.  Sure, you have kids, and work, and stuff.  We all do.  The difference between the healthy person and the ill person is not that they necessarily have more time.  It’s that exercise and planning for a healthy lifestyle is more of a priority for them.

For the health conscious, catching up on the latest television episode, sleeping in, or putting in extra time at work just isn’t as important as healthy habits.  As a result, they make the time.  Having kids is not an excuse either.  Kids have to sleep sometime and adults require far less sleep than children do.  A viable option is to either exercise before they wake up or actually make them exercise with you.  Who knows, maybe you’ll pass your good habits on to them so that they’ll be healthier adults.

Time is a linear factor.  All of us are subject to its daily limitations on our physiology.  Are you mastering your time or is time mastering you?  One activity I have my patients in the office do, and I suggest you try it, is sit down and write down all of the tasks you do during the day.  Almost without exception, people have more than enough time to exercise in the day.  Too often, people are very surprised at how much down-time they have and time they really waste during the day where they could be more productive.  If all that time were set end to end , there would be plenty of time and then some for better health choices.

“But I’m so tired.  I’m just so busy all the time and don’t have the energy,” you may say.  Perhaps it hasn’t occurred to you that improving your lifestyle may actually increase your energy levels.  Not only will a better planned day reduce your stress, but you’ll be sure to set time aside for assuring your wellbeing.  Further, improved health will remove illness as a distraction and may even help you get things done more effectively during the day.

So, is your reason for not being healthy as out of your control as you perceive?  Or, more likely, have you set up excuses that prevent you from growing and fulfilling your health potential.  No matter the reason, there is a solution for the self imposed limitations that we hide behind.  When all is considered, you must keep the end in mind.  Ultimately, you’ll need to put some skin in the game to achieve and maintain your own health.  Investing a little now in your health will, most like, pay large health dividends in the end because in the long run, the cost of health is a lot cheaper than the price of disease.

Are You Even Willing To Be Healthy?

The great motivational speaker Les Brown once said “The hardest part is getting the person to be an active participant in their own recovery.”  As a healthcare provider, I’m faced with this dogging anathema regularly.  People want health, but are unwilling to do the work and invest in themselves enough to obtain and maintain it.

Participating in our local community is very important to me and our chiropractic office regularly attends dozens of community events every year, from health fairs to senior expos.  Consistently, a regular occurrence during these events are those looking for solutions to the near limitless potential problems that ail the average individual.   I probably speak, at least briefly, with thousands of separate individuals at each of the multitude of venues we associate with annually.  Of issue, is how few of those people are actually willing to pursue any form of solution to their problem.

Recently, we attended a wellness expo for the local school district.  We performed nearly 60 screenings in a single morning, evaluating the attendees for muscular and postural issues.  Most of the people I consulted with during the screening were suffering from various conditions, often for years.  Most had also “learned to live with it.”  What always continues to surprise me about these events is that a person can list a litany of ailments but how very few will actually take any further action to correct them, even when a solution is presented to them.  Often, I can offer my confidence that we may have the potential solution they’re looking for to significantly improve or even resolve their issue, yet the person will refuse any additional commitment to being health.  My observation is that they are more content in their illness than in the potential to be well.

This is a phenomenon I have seen in broad ranges of patients in all avenues of care.  From the person who won’t commit to beginning care to the person who does not follow through with their treatment to completion, there seems to be a generalized non-committal attitude toward being well.  I think that even if I could promise a free guaranteed 100% cure, many people would still turn it down.  Now, I don’t promise cure and nothing is guaranteed, but you get the point.  Many people are unwilling to invest in their own recovery.  Why?  The answer is fear.

I once heard someone say that F.E.A.R is False Evidence Appearing Real.  Fear holds people back.  It keeps the greatness of individuals trapped inside them so they never realize their full potential.  The same is true of health.  You have an amazing healing potential.  The question that should be asked is fear preventing you from living up to your full health ability?  Is fear limiting your willingness to try alternative treatment options?  Is fear stealing your hope?

Fear with regard to health manifests itself in many ways.   Fear is a pernicious multifaceted beast that prevents many from realizing wellness.  Do any of these describe you?

1.        Fear of commitment – Health will never be handed to you on a silver platter.  Health is something you must commit to.   Health isn’t a matter of happenstance or occurrence by chance of fate.  Being healthy is a matter of deliberate intention.  Being healthy requires a time investment.  You have to invest in time to exercise, time to pick the right foods, time to take care of your spine, and time to manage your stress.  The excuse that “I’m to busy” is just that…an excuse.  You have to have health as a priority.

Committing to a lifestyle change that includes healthy choices forces you out of your comfort zone.  Albert Einstein said “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”   Too often, unfortunately, a person will wait indefinitely to magically get well.  As the old saying goes, “If your ship doesn’t come in, you may have to row out and meet it.”  If you’ve been waiting indefinitely to get better, you’ll ultimately have to come to the realization that change may be your only solution.  Change can be uncomfortable but, in my experience, more often change can be extremely fulfilling.  Let go of your unrealized fear and make a commitment now to change.

2.        Fear of trying something new – If the solutions you’ve always done aren’t working for you, why are you still doing them.  It always fascinates me when I talk to a patient who has had back pain for years and has been doing the same interventions they have always tried but they don’t get any better, at least not in any meaningful way.  Again, change can be uncomfortable but fear may be preventing you from growing and improving for lack of trying.  William Shakespeare has said “Our doubts make us traitors, and make us lose the good we oft might win by fearing to attempt.”  Maybe the solution you need is out there.  You just haven’t found it because fear has prevented you from even trying anything outside your self imposed comfort zone.  What solutions have you eliminated, not because they didn’t work, but because you were too afraid to try them in the first place?

3.       Fear of financial expenditure – Of course, in our current economy, this can be a very real fear.  Many people are afraid to commit to being healthy because they feel it may be a bad investment.  They’re afraid of sending for their health but not getting a likewise return.  Well, let me tell you, being sick is a lot more expensive than being healthy.  You have to look at your health as an investment for your future.  A little time and money invested now may save a literal fortune later.

I understand that money can be a touchy subject for a lot of people but, like a time commitment, my experience has shown me that money is truly less of a mitigating factor than priorities.  Frequently, we’ll see patients in our office who, once they calculate an estimated cost of their care plan, claim poverty and will completely discontinue care for financial reasons.  Too often however, I’ve found that these same people drive a $50,000 Mercedes, have a personal trainer or a cleaning lady, or even recently remodeled their house.  For them, health is just not a priority.  Their luxury lifestyle is more important and it may eventually cost hem their health.  Do you have your priorities straight?

4.       Fear of hope – One of the things I am seeing more and more often at some of the events we work, and with many new patients who present to our office, is a loss of hope.  Many have been told they are destined to live with pain or disease for the rest of their life.  Many have been told that they are fated for illness or that sickness is inevitable for them.  In my opinion, there is no greater disservice done to a person than to steal that person’s hope.

There is always hope for any condition or disease.  I don’t think there is a condition out there that doesn’t have a documented case of a miraculous recovery.  Too frequently, I’ve seen people with reversible conditions completely give up on the ability to be well because someone foolishly told them it can’t be done.  Just because someone says it can’t be done doesn’t make it true.  Obviously, there are no guarantees in life and you shouldn’t expect or believe absolutes but that doesn’t mean you should give up.  It’s heartbreaking for me to talk to a person who has a condition that we can most likely help, only to have them never commit to wellness because they’ve had their hope stolen from them.  Don’t give up!  Become the inspired healthy individual you were meant to be!

Ask yourself, are you even willing to get well?  Are you willing to commit to you?  My experience has shown me that, more often than not, the answer is no.  That’s why only about 8% of the population will ever see a chiropractor.  That’s why less than 25% of people have a regular exercise regimen.  It’s why so few people take vitamins.  It’s why fast food is a multibillion dollar industry.  It’s why prescription drug sales are on the rise yet, according to the World Health Organization, we’re 37th as a nation in general health.  Unfortunately, my experience is that people expect health but reject commitment but you can’t have one without the other.

No one will ever care more about you than you.  To that end, no one can force you to be well.  Being healthy is a choice.  What you have to decide is whether you can move past your fear and commit to being the amazing, inspiring, and unstoppable individual you were built to be.

Fat and Happy or Fit and Healthy

There is an old expression that describes contentment as “sitting fat and happy.”  Our modern lifestyle seems geared toward having both, often at the expense of your health and longevity.  While the United States has one of the most sophisticated healthcare delivery systems in the world, we rank 37th in overall health according to the World Health Organization.  Why is that?

Look around you.  We live in an age that is designed to sabotage our health.  Cheap, poor quality food is readily available at every turn.  Our jobs are slowly moving away from physical labor toward a computer driven economy that inhibits exercise.  We even have moving sidewalks.  So, the question becomes is “sitting fat and happy” the picture you had for your life?

Let’s look at the results of a sedentary lifestyle.  There are endless known effects of lack of exercise and poor diet, including:

1.        Increased risk of heart disease

2.       Increased risk of diabetes

3.       Increased risk of cancer

4.       Increased risk of stroke

5.       Decreases immune system

6.       Sleep difficulty

7.       Depression

8.       Digestive problems

9.       Decreased life expectancy

10.   General decline in health

The “fat and happy” lifestyle is a recipe for disaster.  While you may enjoy temporary satisfaction, you are setting yourself up for long-term failure.

Unfortunately, many people are led to believe that being healthy is out of their reach.  They’ve been told that illness is just inevitable and they are destined to suffer the rest of their life with some form of chronic infirmity.  Worse, many of the people telling them this are the very people they trust with their health decisions.

The truth is exactly the opposite and you have more power than you know.  Being healthy is a choice as much as being sick is your decision.  Your body is a self healing machine and functions optimally with adequate fuel and proper maintenance.  Further, where you are in your health right now is more likely a reflection of the decisions you have made up to that point rather than an accident of genetics or fate.  The biggest detriment to being healthy may be you.  Lack of exercise, poor diet, high amounts of stress, and poor nervous system health all contribute to a decline in your overall well being.

If we’re told that as we age getting sick is normal, does that make the 90 year old healthy individual on no medications abnormal?  When did sick become the new normal?  Where you are in your health is a product of the choices you make, a cause and effect.  If you choose to exercise or not, there will be an effect.  If you choose to eat junk food or vegetables, there will be an effect.  If you are able to manage your stress or not, there will be an effect…and so on.

Disease does not occur in a vacuum.  It’s the deliberate result of years of poor decisions and neglect…years of “sitting fat and happy.”  You need to understand that the decisions you make now about your health may determine whether you spend the later years of your life sick and tired or fit and healthy.  The decisions you make now may even shorten or prolong your life.

Even if you are sick, there are ways to restore your health.  No, taking ibuprofen for pain, an acid reducer for acid reflux, or an antibiotic for a sinus infection does not make you healthy.  You can’t get health from chemicals in a bottle.  Medications are only designed to alter body functions in order to manage a disease process…cause and effect.  They are not vital nutrients.  In other words, you’re still “fat” (or, more appropriately, sick) but at least you’re happy.  Health can only come from one place…from inside you.  The decision you have to make is whether you are willing to make the good decisions to take care of yourself as an insurance policy for your future.

The ironic thing about health is that most people know what they need to do to be healthy.  They know they need to stop eating the junk.  They know they need to eat more fruits and vegetables.  They know they need to get more exercise.  They know they should take care of their spines.  Many of the patients I talk to even know that the medications they take are not the solution they are looking for.  Still, they choose not to do anything about being well and prefer to live “fat and happy.”

Each day is a new cross-road in your life.  Each day, you have the option to take care of yourself or not.  Keep in mind that every day you choose not to act builds upon the next.  Ultimately, you need to decide for yourself whether you are going to live each day “fat and happy” or fit and healthy.

Limitless Choices: Finding The Exercise That’s Right For You

When it comes to exercise there are almost limitless options available.  With so many choices, people are often left guessing which type of exercise is right for them.  Facing this decision, there is a lot to consider, including:

1.        What are your goals?

2.       What are you physically able to do?

3.       What form of exercise will fit in your time constraints?

4.       What do you enjoy?

5.       What can you afford?

What are your goals?

This question is probably one of the most neglected when starting a successful exercise regimen.  To truly succeed and be consistent with your exercises, you must begin your goals in mind.   Which of the following is most important to you?

1.        Flexibility

2.       General Muscle Strength

3.       Endurance

4.       Overall muscle definition

5.       Core muscle strength

6.       Weight loss

Becoming clear on your goals will help point you in the direction of the exercise or exercises that will most allow you to accomplish those goals.  So, you have to consider what’s possible given the following primary exercise forms:

1.        Range of motion exercise – This form of exercise can include yoga, pilates, generalized muscle stretching, Tai Chi, or Qi Kung.  Range of motion exercises are ideal for that person who is looking to regain flexibility and decrease stiffness.  Generally, a person who suffers from stiffness or generalized soreness should include some form of range of motion exercise, though this form of motion is ideally suited for anyone.  Flexibility exercises will help lengthen tight muscles, decrease stiffness, and improve overall range of motion.  A weakness with this form of exercise is that it generally does very little to improve cardiovascular tone and may only minimally improve muscle strength.  Weight loss is also nearly impossible with range of motion exercises alone.

2.       Strengthening exercise – Building muscle strength is an extremely popular form of exercise.  Generally, this includes lifting weights (free weights or machines) and any other exercise that is done against resistance.  This form of movement is extremely effective for the person looking to boost muscle strength, produce definition in their muscles, and increase muscle mass.  Weaknesses with this form of exercise are that it produces very little cardiovascular workout unless resistance is produced with ballistic repetition (quick reps with a higher risk of injury).  Additionally, if weight loss is your goal, and it is for some, visual body changes will be a more reliable method of tracking progress than measuring weight.  Generally, resistance exercise will produce a bulky muscle mass rather than the leaner look which accompanies cardiovascular exercise.

3.       Endurance Exercise (Cardiovascular) – Probably the most important requirement for staying well is a healthy cardiovascular system.  Endurance exercises can include walking, but biking, running, elliptical, pool laps, or even calisthenics to help elevate your heart rate while boosting your exercise endurance.   This type of exercise helps to build lean muscle tone and can help to boost your metabolism, leading to increased energy.  Calorie burning is also relatively high, which can lead to rapid weight loss and generally results in a slimmed physique.  While cardiovascular exercise will help to boost your endurance, it will be more difficult to build muscle mass and short resistance to heavy load (found in strength training).  That being said, cardiovascular exercise should be a critical component of any exercise regimen as it helps to strengthen the heart and improves circulation to the extremities.  Keeping that in perspective, no one ever died of muscle weakness, but a weakened heart and circulation can kill you.

Generally a combination of all three is most ideal.  Having worked with thousands of patients over the years, I can say that flexibility exercises are the most neglected of the three major forms of exercise.  All, however, are important to improving and maintaining optimum health.   Many newer forms of exercise are emerging that incorporate aspects of all three such as cross-training, plyometrics, cardio kick-boxing, or boot camps.  There is an exercise regimen out there for you.  You just have to do it.

What Are You Physically Able To Do?

When beginning a new exercise regimen, you have to consider your own physical ability and limitations.  Not every exercise is meant for every person.  For example, a deconditioned person, not used to regular exercise, may not want to begin with a rigorous plyometric exercise.  Likewise, a person who is unable to bear weight for very long may benefit from starting with pool exercises before beginning a walking regimen.

Injuries while exercising are extremely common, usually the result of exercising beyond a person’s ability.  Two popular exercises I would also generally recommend against for most individuals are squats and dead-lifts.  Both have a very high risk of injury, usually because they’re done incorrectly, and have alternative exercises that will produce the same result with much lower risk of damage.

Exercising within a comfortable pain free range of motion is also key to preventing injury.  While the desire is to tax the tissue so as to produce a desired effect, that has to be weighed against the risk of tissue damage if you cross that line.  Exercising with proper form and being proactive about safety will give you a better workout and decrease the likelihood of having to stop your regimen due to an injury.

What  Form Of Exercise Will Fit In Your Time Constraints?

We live in a day and age where time is limited and valuable.  So, then, is your health.  With more and more people becoming more sedentary than ever before, it becomes ever more critical to incorporate an exercise regimen into your daily routine.  Simply put, you have to get moving.

The excuse I always hear is “I don’t have time to exercise.”  I need you to understand that statement is a total cop-out.  What it really means is “exercise is not important to me.”  Incorporating exercise into your regiment is a matter of priorities.  It’s always interesting how the person who “doesn’t have time to exercise” has plenty of time to watch TV, go out to dinner, sleep in on the weekends, or hang out with friends.  It’s never a matter of time.  It’s a matter of priorities. If it were important, you would make the time.

For those looking to be healthy, exercise becomes something that other commitments are scheduled around, not the reverse.  Ultimately, you will have to find an exercise that not only works for you but you can schedule your lifestyle to accomodate.

What Form Of Exercise Do You Enjoy?

It can truly be said that the best exercise in the world is the one you will actually do and do consistently.  With limitless possibilities for exercise, there is an exercise for just about anyone and there is some form of exercise that everyone will enjoy.  You just have to find it.

Whether, you have a knee replacement, back pain, or are just generally ill, there is an exercise for you.  So, what do you like to do?  Some like to hike while others prefer lifting weights.  Still others enjoy an evening run or a morning swim.  Finding what you love doing and sticking with it is a critical key to be successful at any exercise regimen you choose to pursue.

What Can You Afford?

This section should almost be a non-issue, because exercising is basically free.  You don’t need a fancy gym membership or home equipment to exercise.  You can go walking or running outside for no charge.  You can also make a ‘poor-man’s weight set’ out of some empty milk jugs.  Stretching can be performed in your living room and you can do calisthenics with no additional equipment.   You need to change your perspective on what it takes to get moving.  Unfortunately, many people use expense as an excuse not to exercise.  True, there are many amazing gyms and facilities where you can get a great workout, but don’t let the lack of a membership deter you from getting the movement you need to stay healthy.

Joining a gym does offer several benefits, however.  Exercising with your peers adds motivation and being away from home may decrease the likelihood that some form of distraction will take you off task.  Further, the classes offered in a gym may also guide you toward specific forms of exercise and help you exercise more safely.  The equipment available may further open options for specific exercises not possible at home.  A personal trainer may also add accountability and ensure that you exercise safely.

If you are fortunate enough to afford a trainer, choose one that most matches your fitness ideal and seems to represent your own goals.  So, a person working toward larger bulk muscle mass and definition should not necessarily choose a fairly slim, slender trainer, and a person looking to build a more feminine physique may not want a male body builder to train them.

Ultimately, the most successful form of exercise for you is the one you will actually do and continue with.  Oftentimes, people will give up on regular exercise because they feel like they don’t enjoy it.  Well with so many possibilities, find what you do enjoy and stick with it.  Only consistency will give you the desired results you are looking for.  Becoming healthy takes time and you have to invest in yourself to get the results you expect.

The Exercise Paradox: Movement Is Not An Option

Movement is not an option.  It’s a requirement.  A common conundrum that I see on a regular basis in my office is whether or not to exercise when you have chronic pain.  The correct answer is you should always be exercising.  Now, that doesn’t mean that every exercise is meant for every person and doing the wrong ones, based on your condition, may even have a negative effect on your health.  That being said, incorporating some form of exercise into your regimen is critical to maintaining your health and there is always some for of activity you can do regardless of your current health status.

Unfortunately, many people make the mistake of assuming they cannot exercise because of some form of ailment.  Generally they report that exercise “aggravates my knees” or “hurts my back.”  The problem is that the ‘no exercise’ solution really does nothing to improve that person’s health and may even be making it worse.  Your body is designed to move and the ‘use it or lose it’ rule really is directly tied to your health,

The World Health Organization has said that “sedentary lifestyle is more harmful than smoking.”  This is a fact that often does not occur to those stricken by pain or where exercise is more of a burden than a benefit.  To be honest, we’ve become a sedentary society where convenience is the rule.   It seems that every aspect of our lifestyle from computers to mobile phones is designed for convenience.  Of the thousands of patients I’ve seen in my office, I’ve noticed that being sedentary for large portions of the day can do more to aggravate a chronic pain issue than even some traumas.  Further, most exercise physiology research confirms that the sooner you can return a person to exercise, the better the long term recovery.

The reasoning for lack of exercise that many patients make is “the more I exercise, the more it hurts.”  The paradox is that the less you exercise, the more it will continue to hurt.  Worse, the less exercise you get, the more deconditioned you will become and the more your condition will advance.  You have to understand that your body is a sensory input and motor output machine.  It requires constant sensory and motor stimulation to stay healthy.  While it may “feel good” to not exercise, it is well known and accepted that prolonged immobility leads to muscle weakness, poor circulation in the extremities, increased risk of cardiovascular disease, respiratory problems, and can contribute to neurological symptoms.

For most people, a better solution is not that they can’t exercise, it’s that they need to exercise smartly.  For example, you can’t expect a person with severe arthritis in the knees to begin a walking regimen.  However, pool exercises may be a good place to start, then transitioning to a recumbent exercise bike.   Likewise, arm exercises using weights may also be a viable option to help maintain skeletal muscle tone and improve circulation to the extremities.  Either way, not exercising is not an option.

From heart disease to degenerative arthritis, exercise is possible and even necessary to maintain or restore health.  The question becomes then, what exercise is best for you when establishing an exercise regimen?  Many people just don’t know where to start when they are in pain and looking to rehabilitate themselves.  I will generally advise my patients to begin as easily as possible, exercising in a pain free zone.  While there is a temptation to work through the soreness, exercising while in pain can often aggravate the affected area and does little to rehabilitate it because the targeted muscles are guarded, your body compensating with other muscle groups.  Begin at the beginning.  Ease into any new regimen and exercise in a pain free range of motion.

Once you find a regimen you are comfortable with, begin building on that foundation.  Avoid those motions and movements that may aggravate your condition, focusing instead on the movements you are able to do well.  Over time, increase the amount of time, reps, and resistance as the exercise becomes easier.  Ultimately, you will begin rehabilitating yourself, improving your strength and range of motion via your own physical work.

Besides pain, exercise is a fundamental requirement for the person looking to become healthy and stay healthy.  In fact, your body depends on small amounts of stress in order to more adequately heal.  Movement improves circulation to the tissues which brings in oxygen and nutrients to help keep muscles, ligaments, tendons, cartilage, and even organs healthy.  Movement also stimulates nerve firing to help improve nervous system function, decreasing pain, improving muscle tone, and improving balance and coordination.  Movement against gravity will help strengthen your core and improve your posture.  Increased heart rate will also help keep your heart, lungs, and blood vessels healthy.

There is a solution for just about anyone.  Of course, the best exercise anyone can do is the one they are actually consistent with on a regular basis.  Excellent exercise habits will produce excellent results.  If you are only hit or miss with your regimen, expect corresponding results.  If you neglect exercise all together, expect illness to be an eventuality for you.

Shoulder Pain: Is Surgery Your Only Option?

In my experience, besides back pain, shoulder injuries and pain are some of the most common reasons a patient presents to our chiropractic office.  In fact, I have observed that most of my patients who suffer from chronic neck and upper back issues have at least a minor shoulder condition complicating their case.  The biggest fear with our shoulder pain patients is the dreaded ‘rotator cuff’ injury.  Why dreaded?  Because so many people have been trained to think that he only solution for rotator cuff problems is an invasive procedure.  Generally, the race to expensive, invasive interventions, in my opinion, is largely unnecessary overkill but can include pain management injections, which are generally only temporary and don’t really fix the cause of the pain, and surgery, which has a potential for risk, and recurrence of the condition. Surgery also limits additional future conservative care options in the likely event that the surgery fails.

Your shoulder can experience pain and dysfunction just like your back can.  Acute traumas and chronic stresses can lead to wear and tear on the joint just like they would in the low back.  It reasons then, if a patient can experience an excellent recovery with conservative care of their low back, conservative care of the shoulder is also a viable method of improvement.  So why, when you go to your doctor, do they so often immediately refer you to an orthopedic surgeon?  There are several reasons for this:

1.        Your doctor may not know or understand the nature of a shoulder injury.  The shoulder joint is a complex one with multiple muscular, tendonous, and neurological involvements that can affect areas other than the shoulder.

2.       A lack of understanding of how the body heals if the obstructions to the healing process are removed.

3.       A lack of understanding of the role conservative intervention can play, including chiropractic adjusting of the extremities, in helping the patient to heal themselves.

4.       Surgery is a perceived quick fix (despite the fact that surgery is not without its potential complications and failure rates).

So, you have shoulder pain…now what?  Shoulder pain is not as simple as just ‘rotator cuff damage.’  You have to understand what the mechanism of injury is, what tissues are involved, and whether there are other areas that may be contributing to or aggravating the shoulder region.  There are countless reasons a person can develop pain in the shoulder and rarely is the pain ‘just a shoulder problem.’

Your shoulder joint mechanism is an extremely complex one.  It allows for the largest range of motion of any joint complex of the body.  It has muscular attachments not only to the shoulder joint, but to the neck, rib cage, elbow, and even the low back.  The rotator cuff musculature represents only 4 of approximately 2 dozen muscles that affect shoulder function.  Did you know that the collar bone is the only one that directly attaches the bones of the entire arm to the rest of the skeleton?

In order to adequately diagnose a shoulder problem with the greatest level of accuracy, an MRI of the shoulder may be required.  While many will rely on plain film x-rays to diagnose a shoulder condition, x-rays alone don’t generally reveal the information necessary, especially for a chronic shoulder issue.  An MRI on the other hand will reveal information about all the soft tissues in and around the joint, including the cartilage.  It can even offer information as to whether the injury is acute and whether there is an active inflammatory response currently progressing.

Understanding how the shoulder functions is a key to helping it resolve.  Most injuries to the shoulder are either acute sprains or chronic overexertion injuries.  Either way, most shoulder conditions will improve with conservative care.  Now, many will argue that physical therapy is the best solution for a shoulder issue and I would agree to an extent.  Physical therapy is extremely effective at helping a shoulder condition to resolve.  However, to limit conservative care to only pain management and exercising the shoulder joint may prevent the patient from reaching full resolution of their condition.

Ideally, these factors need to be addressed when caring for a person with a shoulder injury:

1.       Misalignments of the shoulder joints need to be identified and corrected manually.  This requires the expertise of a chiropractor.  There are 3 true joints and 1 potential joint in the shoulder that must be corrected to restore full function before additional care can be rendered.  Exercising or stressing a deranged joint may actually aggravated it and slow your recovery.  The muscles, ligaments, and tendons of the joint rely on proper alignment for their proper function. Your soft tissues cannot function correctly if the skeleton is functioning incorrectly.    Only a chiropractor or, arguably, an osteopathic physician has the training and expertise to identify and correct misalignments in the shoulder with precision.

2.       Pain must be controlled.  While rendering care, there is the temptation to jump right into exercise to rehabilitate the area.  True, studies have shown that the earlier you introduce exercise, the better the long term recovery, but this has to be done within reason.  Applying stress to a guarded and deranged joint experiencing debilitating pain may aggravate the condition.  Additionally, the person is most likely not using the damaged tissue when they are in exercising the area and are, instead, recruiting other tissues to compensate for the loss.  Getting your pain under control is a critical step to rehabilitation.

3.       Exercise is critical.  Ultimately, you will have to add active exercise to strengthen the affected soft tissue damage.  Because your body lays down new tissue and builds up existing tissue according to the stress you place upon it, stressing the joints and soft tissues within reason is a critical component to resolving a shoulder issue.  It will be very difficult to expereince a full recovery without eventually adding a structured exercise regimen.

4.       Don’t ignore other associated areas.  Often, when you feel shoulder pain, you think it is necessarily only a shoulder problem.  In fact, it may not even be a shoulder problem at all.  Neck issues, upper back problems, postural issues, elbow dysfunction, and even low back pain can contribute to derangement in the shoulder.  They can both cause pin in the shoulder and aggravate a shoulder condition.  So, it’s critical that ALL these areas that interact with the shoulder also be addressed when helping you recover.

Conservative care for most mild to moderate shoulder conditions can be extremely effective.  When cared fro properly, I generally see a 90% recovery in our office in 90-120 days, depending on the type and nature of the shoulder injury.  The biggest detriment to a person’s improvement with conservative care, though, is their own impatience.  Healing takes time.  Conservative intervention for these types of shoulder injuries should at least be attempted before any invasive medical intervention is considered.

Unrealistic Expectations: Are You Standing In Your Own Way?

Generally, there is very little guesswork in staying healthy.  If you eat a healthy diet, get adequate exercise, manage your stress, minimize your toxic exposure, and maintain the health if your nervous system function by visiting your chiropractor regularly, you should significantly decrease your risk of disease.  Likewise, doing the same by changing your lifestyle from generally poor habits to excellent behaviors should reverse certain chronic illnesses that many people just assume are inevitable.  Essentially, so-so habits will give you so-so results.  Excellent habits, though, can change your life.

In most cases, you have the control over whether you are sick or not.  Unfortunately, many people believe or, rather, have been trained that disease is inevitable, an unstoppable force we are destined to collide with at some point during our lifetime.  The reality is, however, that the choices you make now will impact not only whether you will have a long life, but whether you have a quality life.  Less a matter of genetics, chronic illness is more impacted by the poor choices we make, neglect, and missed opportunities for health that we allow throughout our lifetime.

While the road to health is a journey, not a destination, one of the largest obstacles standing in a person’s path to true health is unrealistic expectations.  Now, I’ll be clear.  I don’t think it’s unrealistic to have full health as a goal even if you are suffering from chronic illnesses like high blood pressure and diabetes.  I’ve seen enough patients with everything from asthma to sleep apnea experience full resolution of their condition over the years to know with certainty that your body is an amazing healing machine capable of miracles.  What is unrealistic, though, are the artificial time frames, illogical conclusions, and nonsensical methodologies employed to accomplish those goals.

When looking at your health goals, there are several factors you must consider:

1.        Is your time frame realistic?

Many people, when expecting improvement for a chronic condition, are completely unrealistic with their time frames for improvement.   Much of the chronic illnesses that are rampant in older populations are the results of years of neglect.  Still, I work regularly with patients who expect to be well in a matter of days or weeks.  You cannot accumulate the effects of aging for decades and then expect immediate recovery.

Getting sick takes time, as does becoming well.  Your body is a self healing machine with incredible capacity as long as it’s given adequate fuel and proper maintenance.  Unfortunately, unrealistic expectations cause too many people to give up on improving her health, often long before the beneficial effects of their lifestyle change begin to take effect.

2.       Is what I’m doing helping or harming?

You have to ask yourself whether the solutions you are relying on are helping you, making no difference, or may even be hurting you.   We live in an age of limitless options, where there seems to be an answer for everything.  The problem is that often the solutions you’re given are just empty promises.

For example, many people who drink soda with choose a ‘diet’ option because they perceive it to be a healthier alternative to sugar.  Besides the fact that soda has almost no nutritional value, the artificial sweetener they are consuming may be linked to cancer or is toxic to the nervous system.  This ‘healthier’ choice is probably worse than a regular soda.  The better alternative is to avoid consuming soda altogether.

And there are countless other shortcuts and changes that people make that they perceive are better for their health like margarine versus butter or pool exercises versus weight bearing exercises.  Even your medications that you take to control your symptoms come with a price.  Mark Twain once said to “be careful of health books, you may die of a misprint.”  It still rings true today.

3.       Is this a fix or a cover-up?

On the topic of medication, a common unrealistic expectation is that your pharmaceuticals are somehow making you healthier.   You have to understand that if you are taking medications to begin with, you are not healthy.  The medication only chemically alters normal bodily function to produce a desired effect, decreased symptoms and risk factors.  The problem is that you’re just as sick while taking them.  You just don’t feel it because your symptoms have been suppressed.

There is not a medication out there for chronic illness that reverses any type of disease.  Granted, they will help you feel better and may prolong your life, versus not taking them, but they are by no means a pathway to health.   The results of taking medication are also temporary.  Meaning, if you stop taking the medication, the symptoms of the disease return relatively rapidly.

In my experience, I would also argue that taking medication for your condition means you have a suppressed disease process that you may not be realistically and directly addressing in a more meaningful way.  Unless you take real action to improve your lifestyle and the causes of your illness, you will have a hard time truly being well.

4.       Have you corrected some of the bad habits and neglect that contributed to this condition in the first place?

Albert Einstein said “the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”  Chronic illness is not a matter of luck but a matter of choice.  The pains and illnesses a person develops as they age are the result of the decisions they’ve made.  Essentially, you become a picture of the good or bad choices you’ve made up to that point.  In order to maintain and improve your health, you have to move away from the bad habits and behaviors that keep a person sick.  You can’t expect to continue to eat poorly, get no exercise, and have high levels of stress but remain healthy.  In the case of a person with chronic illness, you have to begin incorporating healthy choices into your regimen while eliminating the bad.  To change your health, you have to change your lifestyle.

Are you willing to make the difficult changes necessary to improve your health?  If you are, maintaining realistic expectations in the face of disease may be a critical factor in whether you improve the way you should or not.  Often, a person may never realize their true health potential because their unrealistic vision of improvement prevents them from attaining their goal.  How?  Because the person who thinks recovery should be fast and easy is more likely to give up on trying all together when they realize recovery is long and hard.  They are also more likely to prematurely stop an effective intervention before realizing the pull potential of that change.  Does a difficult road mean that you should give up on health altogether?  Many do.  Unfortunately, the end result is an opinion that illness is inevitable and uncorrectable…an opinion based merely on unrealistic expectations.

To change your health, you have to become realistic with your expectations.  To change your life, you have to commit to the difficult path, that may seem hard at first, but is worth your commitment in the end.  You’ll be able to make sizable changes in your quality of life and may even extend your life.  The choice, however, is up to you and your ability to be realistic with your expectations.