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?

The 5 Things That Prevented You From Being Healthy Last Year (And How To Change That)

Like most people last year, you probably made resolutions.  You started with the best of intentions, you wanted to be healthier, lose weight, be happier, but by March you had probably slipped back into your old habits.  So what happened?

Like so many, you like became the victim of your routine, the rut that you’ve carved for yourself that you just can’t seem to climb out of.  They say that there is comfort in a rut because the route is predictable and you can feel both sides.  Albert Einstein, however, argues otherwise, noting “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”  So is this the year you are going to do something different?  Are you going to break out of your rut into something new?

Frankly, cemeteries and hospitals are full of people who were “too busy” or “not interested” in changing.  Why did the dinosaurs become extinct?  Because of the inability to adapt.  While you may live the illusion that your life is stationary, in fact it’s changing all the time.  You are not the same person now that you were last year, last month, or even last week.  The box that you’ve created for yourself is just an illusion of stability.

So, what’s holding you back?  Why are you so afraid of change?

1.  Time – Lack of time is an illusion.  While many people may claim to not have enough time to modify their lifestyle, in reality it is more of an issue of not setting aside time to change the lifestyle that seems to control them.  In other words, you must control your life, not the other way around.  While, at times, it may seem that you life is always out of control, this too is an illusion.  Ultimately, your lifestyle is determined by the decisions you make and your priorities.  For example, many patients in our office claim they are too busy to exercise or don’t have time to get adjusted.  The truth of the matter is, however, these things are just not a priority.  Going to happy hour with their friends or watching their favorite show or having time to relax is just more important.  Does that make it wrong?  No!  It just means that exercise and health are not a priority.

You have the same amount of time as everyone else.  Why is it, then, that it seems like other people are so productive or can get so much done in a day.  The answer is time management and priorities.  Maybe, for them, exercise is more important.  Or, maybe they have become more adept at managing their time.  Either way, they are in full control of their time and its effects.  Be it for better or worse, so are you.

2.  Money – One of the biggest misunderstandings about health is that being healthy is expensive.  Sure, having a personal trainer and buying all organic foods can have quite a price tag, but you might be  surprised at how inexpensive health is.  You don’t need a trainer or fancy gym membership.  You don’t have to eat unusual foods that you can’t pronounce, but you do have to eat food.

Back in the day, there were no gyms or gym membership.  People got their exercise by living life.  Admittedly nowadays, people are more sedentary than ever.  With more service professions, televisions, computers, and telephones, we are becoming more inactive with each year.

The good news is that the outdoors are still there.  You can still go for walks or ride a bike.  Can’t afford weights?  Make a “poor-man’s weight set” out of some old milk cartons (a gallon of water weighs 8 pounds).  Or, use cans of food.  Gravity is also a form of resistance.  Calisthenics, such as jumping jacks and push ups rely on gravity as a resistive force.  Both are also free.

If you’re trying to eat healthier, fruits and vegetables are a lot cheaper than processed versions of the same and are definitely better than the frozen preserved foods on grocery store shelves.  Now, certified organic foods will cost more than other foods in the supermarket, but there are many inexpensive natural ways that you can research online to remove many of the chemicals used to treat our food.

When it comes down to it in the end, being healthy is a lot cheaper than being sick.

3. Ability – I’ve heard every excuse in the book about why a person can’t make the lifestyle changes necessary to change their life.  Having worked with thousands of patients over the years, one truth consistently proves itself over and over again.  The only person standing in your way is you.

So many people suffer from pain or some form of disability that they feel prevents them from exercising.  In all my years working with the public, I don’t think I’ve ever run across a patient that can’t exercise and I’ve never seen a person that can’t make better choices.  You need to get control if yourself.  You need to take charge of the decisions that you make or live with the consequences of the your bad decisions.

Can’t exercise?  Baloney!  You just need to find an exercise that you can do.  If you can’t run,walk.  If you can’t walk, bike.  If you can’t bike find a pool, or do seated exercises, or even exercises in bed.  You have to move.  It’s what your body is built to do.

4. Drive – I can honestly say that you are probably no different than everyone else.  Most people don’t like to exercise.  There’s a reason that only about 25% of people have a regular exercise regimen.  There is also a reason that only about 2% of people are actually consistent with their exercise routine.  You are not alone.  That being said, there is a significant statistical difference in health between people who exercise and eat well versus those who don’t.  Simply put, people who exercise and make better choices tend to live longer and better.

You control your destiny and illness is not an accident.  The choices you make now good or bad will have a significant impact on your health later in life.  In this era of instant gratification, it’s sometimes difficult to see the end of the game while you are still playing, but you have to think of health as an investment.  Small deposits now can yield a much larger return later.  While your friends are falling to illness and infirmity, you are still chugging right along because you chose, even though you hated every minute of it, to make an investment in your health.  Is that enough drive for you?

5. Fear – What have you got to lose?  Weight, inches, risk for disease?  Or, are you more concerned about time, money, and change?  Many people are so afraid of losing their quality of life now that they give no thought to the quality of life they will lose later unless they change now.  Is fear of change holding you back?  They say that the one constant in the universe is change.  Every day you are getting older.  Every day you have new stresses, new challenges, new opportunities.  How can you hope to stay healthy in a changing world if you are too afraid to adapt.

Are you afraid of failing?  Thomas Edison once said about inventing the light bulb, “I haven’t failed.  I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”  Life is about failure.  Growth comes from failure.  You learn from failure and can look at it as either in the way or on the way.  The choice is yours.  How much potential for growth and change is your fear costing you?  Great things come from great changes.  You just need to find it within yourself to make the changes necessary, even if you may not like them or they may make you uncomfortable.  I would think that the greatest fear would be knowing that you can become healthier but not doing enough to realize the possibility.

 

Get out of your own way.  Ultimately, health is a choice.  First, you have to decide to be healthy.  Then you have to formulate a plan.  As they say, no plan is a plan to fail.  You can’t build a house or win a war without a plan.  You need a plan.   So, here are some recommendations to help you realize health success:

1.  Begin with the end in mind – You need a goal or goals.  Be realistic with them.  Rome wasn’t built in a day and losing 10lbs. a week just isn’t realist or even healthy.  The more realistic your goals, the more likely you are to achieve them, which fuels additional drive for success.

2.  Create a plan – Your plan should include your goals and a step by step approach to achieve them.

3.  Do your own research – You’d be surprised how many of people you may trust with your health and health decisions may not be giving you health advice but, rather, disease management advice.  You may also be surprised that some of the “health” advice you are getting may actually be unhealthy and just downright wrong.

4.  Don’t be afraid to try new things – Often, you’ll find a solution in the least likely of places.

5.  Find an exercise that you love – The number one person to sabotage your exercise is you and the most successful exercise you will ever do is the one you will actually do consistently.  Working out should not be a punishment.  It should be fun.  If you resent working out, you have not found the right workout for you.  It’s out there.  Keep looking until you find it.

6.  Don’t make too many changes to fast – Improving your health is about lifestyle change.  That being said, too much rapid change becomes a punishment, and no one likes to be punished.   Make smaller changes over time.  Begin by adding things (reward) rather than taking things away (punishment).

7.  Don’t feel like you have to live in a bubble (punishment) – Even a dietician cheats from time to time.  Even a personal trainer skips a few days working out.  The difference between a healthy person and an unhealthy person is about consistency.  Are you consistently eating cake or carrots?  Are you consistently exercising regularly or have you taken the past few months off?  You can still enjoy life.  Just be more moderate with your indulgences.

8.  Be consistent – Consistency breeds results.  So-so habits, so-so results.  Excellent habits, excellent results.  Don’t ever give up.  Being healthy is a journey, not a destination, that requires time, consistent work, and patience.

 

You can be healthy this year, if you put yourself to it.  If you require additional assistance in being well, do your research and find a health partner you trust to guide you back on to the road to health.  The path to wellness changes very little.  You just have to decide to get back on the path.  Be well.

I’m Just A Chiropractor. What Do I Know?

When you’ve worked with thousands of patients over the years you learn a few things. Of course you learn to care for people and you learn what people expect from their care. You learn to satisfy expectations and figure out how to address even complicated cases. Unfortunately, you also learn the low opinions other healthcare professions have for chiropractic adjusting and I’ve been accused many times of not being a “real doctor.”
Well if not being a “real doctor” means helping my patients through their pain, improving their function, stabilizing their condition, and improving their health, then I’m guilty as charged. I’d rather not be a “real doctor” if the only solution I could offer my patients was a pill. In our office, a large number of our patient’s health actually improves. They sleep better, have more energy, don’t get sick like their friends, and their pain starts to go away, all without the addition of chemical pills or potions. They heal themselves.
Now, when a patient enters our office they have several choices. They can rely on my experience to improve their health and generally get the results they are looking for. They can write their own plan and allow their own excuses and preconceived notions to limit their improvement. Or, they can reject chiropractic care altogether and just live with the symptoms and diseases for which they are suffering as if they are inevitable permanent. After all, it’s normal for your age, right? My experience has shown me that the level of improvement that a patient experiences is directly proportional to their ability to trust in my 16 years of experience and let go of the misconceptions and outright incorrect information that has been programmed into their brains.
So, what have I learned? Here’s what I’ve discovered so far:
1. Health is normal. Disease is abnormal. Health is health and disease is disease. Healthcare, therefore improves health. Disease management does exactly that: it manages the symptoms of a disease. Disease management does not restore health and disease management is not healthcare.
2. Your body can heal itself. Period.
3. Chiropractic care is not medical care and does not follow a medical treatment model. Don’t expect medical care in a chiropractic office.
4. The nervous system is the circuitry for the body. It controls every cell, tissue, and organ either directly or indirectly.
5. It is impossible to be truly healthy with a corrupted nervous system.
6. There are three types of stress – Traumas, Toxins, and thoughts.
7. Stress contributes to subluxations (misalignments) in the spine.  These misalignments of the spine can decrease nerve function and lead to disease.
8. There is no magic bullet. Most people develop symptoms of their disease, from back pain to high blood pressure, over a series of time. There is no such thing as an instant cure.
9. Healing takes time. You have to allow the innate healing processes inside your body to health the defective tissue.
10. Health does not come from a bottle. Medication does not make you healthy. It only suppresses your symptoms. Health comes from healthy choices over time.
11. Consistency Breeds results. Becoming healthy and staying that way is about mastering habits. Habits become behaviors and behaviors improve health.
12. Your ability to heal depends on several factors:
a. Your particular problem
b. Your age and general health
c. Your habits, good or bad
d. Your attitude
e. Your stress level
f. Consistency
13. There are six fundamental requirements to stay healthy:
a. Adequate exercise (30 minutes, 3 times a week is NOT adequate)
b. Proper Diet (Nowadays supplementing with vitamins is critical)
c. Stress management
d. Proper sleep habits
e. Avoiding toxic exposure (Toxins are EVERYWHERE)
f. Maintain the health of your spine
14. Most people don’t do any of the six fundamentals. Then, they are surprised when they get sick.
15. You need to trust in your body’s ability to heal. Your body can heal itself from even massive assault. Almost every acute or chronic injury has an example of a miraculous recovery, especially when adequate lifestyle changes are employed.
16. The number one thing that sabotages a person’s ability to heal is the person.
17. Number two is following bad advice from other people who don’t know.
18. Number three is doubt.
19. You have more power than you know.
20. The decision to be healthy or sick is yours.
It’s time for you to become an active participant in your own recovery. You have a nearly limitless ability to heal if you’re willing to change your habits and open your mind. But, who am I to say. I’m just a chiropractor after all. What do I know?

Pregnancy Related Back Pain: Real Solutions

This is the most amazing thing to happen to you!  Congratulations!  Few things will change your life more than having a child.  It’s a joyful time for you, filled with anxious excitement and planning.   While you relish this 9 months and the anticipation of your baby, there was one thing you weren’t planing on: pregnancy back pain!  Ugh!

Pregnancy related back pain is an extremely common complication of pregnancy. Some estimates place as many as 61% of women as experiencing low back pain while carrying their child.  That being said, there are many practical conservative solutions to the stress on the low back that occurs while pregnant.

So, why does a woman develop low back pain? Well there is the obvious answer that with added weight, comes added pressure on the joints. True, the average woman, in a healthy pregnancy, gains 25-35 pounds on average. However, there is more the back pain it than a simply weight gain.

Many women describe pregnancy related low back pain as back pressure, pain across the back, or pain in the hips. Additionally, they may report achiness, stabbing, burning, or instability in the low back.   Regardless of the description, the causes of pregnancy related low back pain are many and include:

  1. Increased weight gain – as your body increases in weight, increased stress is applied to the joints. Gaining the typical 25-35 pounds in a period of 9 months is a relative rapid weight gain, and change your body may have difficulty adapting to. Generally, the impact of weight gain will be affected by general health going into the pregnancy and other factors such as core strength and exercise levels. While healthy weight gain should not generally be discouraged, there are ways to get the body to adapt better to the increased weight, minimizing stress to the joints and maintaining full function of the back through the duration of your pregnancy.
  2. Changes in weight bearing – Generally, most of the weight gain during pregnancy is in the stomach causing the center of gravity to shift forward. While non-pregnant individuals will generally have a center of gravity that is somewhere over the mid-pelvis, pregnancy causes trunk weight to shift forward. This forward weight bearing can cause an increase in the curvature of the low back leading to cramping as the back muscles struggle to support the weight of the abdomen. Additionally, forward weight bearing stress the sacroiliac joints, those tailbone joints that work with the pelvis, to cause sacroiliitis.
  3. Changes in hormones – As your body approaches its due date, your body will start to produce hormones which will increase flexibility. While the hormones do allow for increased motion in the pelvis to allow for birthing, they also make it more difficult for the pelvis and low back to stay in proper alignment, leading to increased instability and pain. Pain may come and go as the pelvis and low back shift and move more easily, resulting in low back irritation and pain.

So, you have low back pain from your pregnancy, what can you do? There are a lot of conservative interventions available to help your deal with your back pain. Some can be accomplished on your own, others require the help and intervention of others. Here are a few suggestions:

  1. Weight bearing exercise – A moderate amount of walking will help keep postural muscles strong and improve circulation to affected tissues. Additionally, walking will help improve motion in the pelvis which should, in turn, decrease the likelihood of joint instability, asymmetry, and misalignment of the pelvis.
  2. Stretching – Later in pregnancy, your body does produce hormones that increase joint flexibility and make birthing possible. However the degree to which flexibility improves often depends on pre-pregnancy range of motion. It’s been my experience that many women have developed such muscle tightness before pregnancy that the relaxing hormones can’t even get those individuals to normal ranges of motion. Your body is designed to have a certain level of flexibility that we lose due to life circumstances. Maintaining and improving that flexibility will help decrease the stress on your low back and pelvis. Often, stretching areas you would not associate with your back can even help, such as hamstrings, upper back, and hips. Sitting on an exercise ball and rolling the hips or laying on your back and using the ball to roll the hips back and forth are great exercises for improving your back pain. There are also yoga programs for pregnancy that are available. True, you may not be able to do every pose, but working on your range of motion is generally a good idea.
  3. Improved diet – Of, course, it should go without saying that you should be eating well during your pregnancy, and I’m not talking about volume but quality. After all, you are eating for two now. You should be eating whole foods free of artificial ingredients. Not only will you be healthier for it but your baby will thank you. Improved nutrition will increase nutrient supply for the muscles, ligaments, and tendons of the back. Good food will decrease the likelihood of muscle spasms due to nutritional deficiency.   Avoid excessive carbs/sugars because they can be pro-inflammatory and contribute to inflammation in the joints. Also, watch your water intake. Dehydration can also lead to muscle spasming and soreness in the soft tissues. Finally, a whole food pre-natal vitamin should be part of any regimen to help fill the holes in your diet, not to mention prevent possible birth defects.
  4. Stress management – Mental stress causes physical distress. True, your low back pain is most likely due to the physiologic changes you’re experiencing with your pregnancy but mental stress can take a physical problem and make it that much worse. Pregnancy in and of itself can be a trying time mentally, especially for single or first time mothers. Finding an outlet or your stress, such as exercise or even counseling will help your body adapt better.
  5. Improve your body positioning – Being conscious of your posture and taking active steps to alleviate the stresses on your back may improve your pain symptoms. This may include everything from sleeping on your side with a pillow between your legs to using pillows to support the back and legs while you’re sitting. Back supports may also help.   Avoid standing or sitting in one position for too long and try to get moving as much as possible.
  6. Massage Therapy – Because much of the pain experienced during pregnancy is due to tension and stress on the muscles, soft tissue mobilization may help alleviate a portion of the pain. Massage therapy will help relax tightened muscles, improve circulation to the tissues, and promote a general sense of well-being.
  7. Heat or ice – While many sources will include hot baths for relieving pain, I will generally discourage that for my patients. In fact, many physiotherapy resources discourage the application of heat over the abdomen as a contraindication during pregnancy. I generally tell patients to use a regional warm pack over the back for no more than 15-20 minutes. It can be repeated but allow about an hour or so for re-application. I want the patient to avoid increasing their resting metabolize temperature and the goal isn’t to cook the tissues. A warm pack can often provide just as much effect as a hot pack, with less risk. A microwaveable heat pack or hot water bottle will generally suffice to ease tension in the low back without the danger of overheating the area. As a general rule, avoid placing heat or ice over the abdomen while you’re pregnant.
  8. Kinesiotaping – This is an athletic taping technique that has been gaining popularity in recent years. Kinesiotape is being increasingly used by professional and amateur athletes to help alleviate pain and improve tissue healing. It’s safe to use during pregnancy because it does not use any drugs and is strictly a cloth tape with a skin adhesive.  In fact, there are specific taping regimens for pregnancy, to not only alleviate low back pain, but possible abdominal pain associated with carrying your baby. To be effective, though, the tape should be applied by an individual with training and experience in kinesiotaping. There is a certain art form to its application. It can, however, offer notable decrease in pain and improved stability in the back, hips, and abdomen.
  9. Proper spinal alignment – Arguably one of the most important aspects of decreasing pain in your back, I saved this for last. Proper alignment of the low back will decrease pressure on pain sensitive nerves, improve motion of the joints of the low back, decrease stress on the soft tissues, and improve overall function of the low back. Chiropractic care has been routinely shown to be safe and effective for relieving the back pain associated with pregnancy. Spinal adjusting has also been linked to improved labor and delivery. There are certain medical conditions that may be a contraindication to chiropractic care but, for most women, chiropractic care can be very effectively incorporated into a pain management regimen. In my office, I will frequently see pregnant patients on a weekly or biweekly basis for their pain and most women will see decreased pain immediately following their adjustment. They also will report improved ability to sleep, decrease generalized soreness, and an improved ability to function. In my opinion, chiropractic adjusting should be incorporated for most women with pregnancy related low back pain.

If you are struggling with pregnancy related low back pain, there are solutions out there for you. Perhaps the best place to consult about your back pain is with someone who sees a lot of back pain patients, like a chiropractor. Besides adjusting your spine, they can provide you with additional tips and tricks to alleviate your pain.

Has your doctor suggested pain medication to you? Always ask better questions. The decision to take pain medication while pregnant should be a thoughtful one made with your medical doctor.  You need to know what research has been done on that medication and its effect on a developing fetus. Certain conditions like asthma and autism have risen to alarming rates, with little research done on the effects of oral medications on an undeveloped fetus. While there is little overt evidence to explain the remarkable rise in childhood illness, that is mostly the result of a lack of research. Just because there is not an established 1 to 1 relationship between a specific cause and disease does not discount an overall trend toward increasing illness due to an accumulation of exposures. I don’t think it’s an accident that autism rates have risen to 1 in 88 kids. Too much of the research focuses on, and debunks, a single specific cause like vaccination and I fear conditions like autism are not due to a solitary cause but a series of toxic exposures over time. Unfortunately, there is very little research on the effects of pre-pregnancy, intra-pregnancy, and post-pregnancy toxic exposure on the developing child. However, it reasons that the rises in childhood illness rates may be linked to the fact that our environment is as toxic as it’s ever been. Anything you put in your body that is not food is a potential toxin. That toxin can affect you and your baby. Pain medication is not food. Anything you feed your body while pregnant, your baby will respond to, either for good or bad. Try to remove as many toxins as possible from your diet and lifestyle. Turning to natural means for alleviation of your pain may make you and your baby a whole lot healthier and happier for a lifetime of wellness.

Sources:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Symptoms_and_discomforts_of_pregnancy

www.webmd.com/baby/guide/back-pain-in-pregnancy

http://icpa4kids.org/Chiropractic-Research/Pregnancy-and-Adjustments/