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.

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?

Kinesiotaping: Managing Your Pain Like A Pro

One of the latest trends in healthcare over recent years has been the use of kinesiotape for managing pain and injuries. Professional and amateur athletes alike are turning to the tape in increasing numbers to help manage soreness in muscles and joints as well as accelerate healing.

Not familiar with kinesiotape? You should be. It’s an excellent alternative to potentially risky medications for the management of acute and chronic pain. It can be used on just about any part of the body and risks of any side effects are fairly low.   It doesn’t contain any medication and can be effective for a broad range of conditions, from sprains and strains to arthritic pain.

Kinesiotape is, basically, just a cloth tape with a skin adhesive. Unlike a traditional athletic tape, kinesiotape does not restrict movement but, instead, moves with your body. Full range of motion is still possible with application of the tape. The skin over the affected area now works with the kinesiotape to help improve function in an affected area and decrease pain. How does it work? Well there are several theories:

  1. Improved proprioception – Now, this is one of those fancy health terms but, basically, the tape improves your body’s ability to sense and respond to the environment. Applying the tape to the skin acts as a minor stimulus to heighten the sensitivity of the soft tissues to movement (improved proprioception).   Increased soft tissue sensation allows the body to respond and adapt to stress better, including additional stresses to the joints and tissues. It will also decrease the likelihood of additional injury.
  2. Lifting the skin off the affected area – In many instances, the inflammatory processes that produce pain lie below the skin. When taped properly, contraction of the kinesiotape will help to lift skin off the affected area and decrease pressure of more superficial tissues on the affected area, leading to decrease deep tissue irritation.
  3. Improved circulation – As you move the tape expands and contracts with the skin according to your movement. This will help pump new blood supply into the area and encourage a decrease in swelling. The tape improve oxygenated blood supply to the area but also increase vein activity to draw fluid, including swelling, away from the affected area. Improved circulation will also decrease muscle spasming and will bring in immune cells to help repair the damaged tissues.
  4. Improved lymphatic flow – Your lymphatic system is you “other circulatory system.” Consisting of a series of vessels and lymph nodes distributed around the body, your lymphatic system helps to remove cellular waste from the tissues, including lactic acid which can cause pain. Like your veins, the lymphatic system requires movement to accomplish lymphatic flow. Kinesiotaping helps to improve lymphatic flow, drawing inflammatory products away from the injured area. Additionally, because the lymphatic system is a critical component of the immune system, improved lymphatic flow will improve the body’s ability to heal.
  5. Gate theory – Most patients with chronic pain are familiar with a TENS (Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation) unit. A tens unit works by electrically stimulating mechanical nerve receptors for the tissues and joints. By stimulating those receptors, you can trick nervous system into paying less attention to pain sensitive nerves (nociceptors). In a similar fashion, kinesiotepe stimulates these receptors mechanically, desensitizing the pain sensitive portion of the nervous system.
  6. Shifted load – Because kinesiotape is an elastic tape, taping over the area will shift some of the physical stress load off the soft tissues and onto the tape. While it is not generally intended to restrict movement, the tape does have some bracing effect by supplementing your soft tissues.
  7. Mobility reatraining – The Tape can be applied in such a way as to retrain a joint to move and function differently according to how the tape is a applied.   Accomplishing this may require additional training by the person applying the kinesiotape.

While taping is not generally indicated for joint restriction, there are some instances where you can accomplish stability with kinesiotape, including taping the shoulder blade into position or taping an extremity joint to minimize motion, such as an ankle or wrist.

Will kinesiotape replace physical therapy or chiropractic care? No. The tape is simply a tool used to improve a soft tissue’s ability to function while managing pain. In many cases, rehabilitative care is still necessary and taping will not substitute for spinal adjusting, exercise therapy or practical prevention. Kinesiotaping is a low tech simple approach to managing pain without harmful chemical side effects of medications.

There are some contraindications to taping. This includes taping over a rash or skin irritation, application over a sun burn, open wounds, specific contraindications to bracing, and in patients who have sensitivities to adhesive bandages. Out of the hundreds of patients to whom I’ve applied tape, I’ve only seen a few patients with any negative reaction to the tape at all, generally a mild skin irritation. That being said, kinesiotape is an excellent choice for the following applications:

  1. Neck and back injuries
  2. Shoulder injuries
  3. Knee injuries
  4. Sprained ankles
  5. Joint swelling
  6. Muscle tightness
  7. Joint stiffness
  8. Point tenderness
  9. Trigger points
  10. Scoliosis

The tape can be left in place for up to 10 days. You can shower and swim with it. Just be sure not to rub it dry as it may rub off the tape. Occasionally, some residual adhesive may remain on the skin when the tape is removed. Baby oil is a simple solution to remove any residual. You may experience some itching with the tape but my experience has been it is more due to improved circulation than any allergic reaction. Again, negative reactions to the tape are extremely rare.

Before kinesiotaping, I would recommend a thorough evaluation by a healthcare provider who works extensively with musculoskeletal conditions and injuries, to rule out serious issues that may require more intensive intervention. This is especially important in conditions that don’t improve or are worsening, pain that does not respond to kinesiotaping or medication, pain at night, or excruciating pain. Kinesiotaping is not intended to substitute for evaluation or adequate rehabilitative care for a serious injury.

Kinesiotaping is safe for most adults and children, including the elderly.   In my office, I’ve used it effectively on kids with sprained ankles and seniors with knee swelling. It’s also excellent for tightness in the shoulders and low back pain. To be most effective, it does take some training to apply properly. There is a bit of an art-form to the taping procedure. I would recommend working with a healthcare provider who has the expertise and training to properly apply the tape for therapeutic benefit.

If you are an athlete, have a regular workout, suffer from chronic pain, or have recently had a sprain type injury, kinesiotaping may be an excellent way to help manage your condition and accelerate your recovery. Talk to your healthcare provider today about getting taped!

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/

Are You Living Below Your Potential?

Life is brief. As humans, we’re tasked with making the most of the limited time we have on this earth. Realizing this, it breaks my heart to see people live below their potential.   Now, I have been in the healthcare business for 15 years and have seen miraculous recoveries in conditions ranging from low back pain to cancer.   In fact, I would argue there are very few conditions out there that do not have an example of a full recovery with nearly every level of intervention.

Unfortunately, most people hurry through life, never stopping to smell the roses and only decide to try for health after years of neglect. People will literally spend decades of their life abusing themselves, then are perplexed when they develop some disease. The frustrating part for me, as a healthcare provider, is that for most of us, there is no mystery to being healthy. In fact, I would say that most people know what to do, they just choose not to do it. Moreover, many of the conditions for which patients chronically endure are correctible with adequate lifestyle change and focused intent.

In my experience, being healthy is not a matter of chance but a matter of choice. For the average individual, your health at any given period of your life is more a reflection of the decisions you’ve made than fate or some form of destiny for illness. Humans are not built for illness. We’re built to be healthy. It’s what we do to ourselves that makes us sick.

You see, you have a near limitless potential for health inside of you. Even a basic understanding of health shows that your body is constantly repairing the effects of physical and mental stresses. Each and every one of us is under relentless assault. Our jobs, our homes, our hobbies, and our lifestyles are constantly attacking us. And, our body is constantly adapting to the assault.

So, why do people get sick? Is it genetics? Recent genetic research suggests that our environment may be actually changing our genes over time. But, does this mean that chronic illnesses are necessarily passed down? Does it mean that if your father and grandfather had heart disease, then heart disease is inevitable for you too? Perhaps genetics does play a mild role but I don’t think genetics explains the measurable rise in chronic illnesses in recent years. Diseases like high blood pressure, diabetes, asthma, and even cancer have been steadily rising in the U.S. for quite some time. The World Health Organization ranks the U.S. as 37th in general health but I recently heard a statistic that said we consume 42% of the world’s pharmaceuticals. What does that mean? It means that the ‘solutions’ we are turning to are not making us any healthier. Could a more reasonable solution be that chronic illness is learned? I mean, your habits and attitudes about food, exercise, and lifestyle were learned from your parents, who learned from their parents, who learned from their parents, and so on. So, maybe “it runs in my family” is a less accurate description than “I learned about health from my family.” Break the cycle and live up to your potential.

We are becoming a reflection of the choices we make. They say you are what you eat. In a way, that is very true. They also say ‘garbage in, garbage out.’ I think a more correct phrase would be ‘garbage in, garbage stays.’ You become a reflection of the choices you make, good or bad.

Your body is a machine. Much like a car, for example, how your body functions depends on how you treat it. You can’t expect your car to run well if you only drive it every 6 months and fuel it with garbage. The same is true of you. The difference is, and this fact is lost on too many people, your body can self heal. A car can’t. Your physiology is designed to heal. When you cut your finger, you heal. When you break a bone, you heal. When you get the flu, you heal. So, why is it that when we get, say, high blood pressure, we no longer heal? Why do we stop healing when we get diabetes? Is it because you have some form of genetic marker that says, “Ok, at this age you will get sick with a chronic, incurable disease?” Or, is it more likely that you are no longer able to heal from this illness because your potential has been suppressed due to years of neglect? More importantly, is there now hope for you now?

There is a belief in the population that I have seen all too frequently, and believe to be incorrect, that being sick is part of getting older. What if there was a way to change your direction and restore your body’s ability to heal? I’m not talking about magic potions and hocus pocus. I’m talking about getting your health back by making a measurable lifestyle change. You have a limitless health potential inside of you that you’ve suppresses with your neglect and bad choices. What if you could get some of that back? Wouldn’t even a 10% improvement in your health be a huge win? Your potential for health is still inside of you. You just have to remove any obstacles to the healing process and rediscover your potential. Your body is designed to heal. It wants to heal.

No one has all the answers for completely restoring your health. Frankly, I would be skeptical of anyone making such a claim. However, having worked with thousands of patient’s in my office, I have found several consistencies in patients who have reversed their disease processes:

  1. Stop eating so much junk – Your food is laced with poisons. From preservatives, to artificial colors and flavor enhancers, the FDA allows over 14,000 approved non-food chemicals in the food supply. Most of us consume copious amounts of these toxins annually. Remember, anything you put in your body that is not food is a poison. Your physiology is not designed to process artificial sweetener, additives, and chemically synthesized fats. It is designed to process carrots, and broccoli, and chicken. You need to eat food, the fresher the better.
  2. Lay off the sugar – As Americans, we consume an obscene amount of sugar every year. Now, I’m not talking about apples and strawberries. Honestly, I’ve never seen a patient get to 300 pounds by eating fruit. I’m talking about processed sugar and refined wheat. Sure, we need a little sugar in our diet, but we shouldn’t be eating our body weight in it every year. Worse, much of the sugar we add to our food is highly chemically treated and concentrated. Not only does it contribute to weight gain and diabetes, but sugar is pro-inflammatory, leading to joint pain and fatigue. I’m not saying to be alarmist about it, but you need to know that if you want to stay healthy, refined sugar is going to keep you from that goal.
  3. Get off your stinkin’ butt and move – Your body is designed for exercise. No, not the 30 minutes 3 times per week that’s been taught to us for years. How can you stay healthy on an hour and a half of exercise when you spend the other 166 hours a week largely sedentary? We are literally sitting ourselves to death. Humans are built to be hunter-gatherers. To that end, we are built for 12-16 hours of exercise per day. So, knowing that amount, is the exercise you are getting every day going to keep you healthy? Not unless you get in the game and get off your butt. And no, walking to get the mail or cleaning your house doesn’t count as exercise.
  4. Enough with the ‘stinking thinking’ – If you want to be healthy, keeping a positive attitude is a must. We live in a day and age where we are constantly bombarded by bad news. So, stop subjecting yourself to it. You are what you think about. When it comes down to it, it’s not the circumstances that affect us as much as our attitudes about our circumstances. What I see in my patients, and research confirms this, is that happy positive people are generally healthier. So, turn off the news and enjoy your life. You’ll be happier for it.
  5. You have to supplement – For years, we were told that vitamins are just a waste of money…that they don’t improve health. Vitamins were reserved for nutrient deprived countries to help prevent disease. Here’s a news flash! Americans are nutrient deprived. We’re overfed and undernourished. The reality is that many of us eat such a terrible diet, that we’re not getting all the nutrients we need to stay healthy. Worse, even the healthy foods we eat nowadays don’t have the same health benefits as they did 50 years ago because of chemical treatments and depleted soils. I’ve seen that my patients who supplement consistently are generally healthier in almost every way than patients who don’t.
  6. Get adjusted – Physiology doesn’t lie. It’s impossible to be at maximum health with a corrupted nervous system. Your nervous system is in your spine and it probably needs attention. Do you really think that the mental and physical stresses we endure on a daily bases will have no affect on your nervous system function? Taking care of your spine and nervous system is just as important as diet and exercise to staying well. There is a reason that the number one disability in adults over 50 is spinal disorders. Why? Because fewer than 8% of the population has ever been adjusted in their life and less than 2% of the population gets adjusted for prevention. Our wellness care patients in our office don’t get sick often, generally sleep better, and are generally healthier than the patients we see who choose not to purse a spinal wellness plan. Get adjusted. It may make the difference in your health.

Don’t know how to get well? Find someone who does and listen to them. There are tons of healthcare providers and coaches out there who do understand health and still have faith in the body’s ability to heal despite huge obstacles. A key piece of advice that you must remember though: health is not the same as disease management. Health is health and symptom control is an illusion. Symptom free does not mean healthy.

Whatever you do, don’t give up on yourself. There is always hope. No matter how dire the circumstances, you still have healing potential inside of you. The question is: are you going to stand in your own way or are you going to make the changes necessary to change you circumstances? You have more power than you know. Choose to be healthy!

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