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.

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!

You Are What You Eat

Anything you put in your body that’s not food is a poison…period.  While this fact is lost on the masses who shovel chemically laced food and medications into their mouths without a second thought, the truth is the truth.  From a genetic and developmental standpoint, your digestive system is designed to process food.

So, what is food?  You probably remember.  No, it’s not a microwavable burrito, curly fries, or a bag of potato chips.  Food is a carrot.  Food is a piece of grilled chicken.  Food is an apple.  Food is a salad.  Essentially, if it comes from a plant, but doesn’t grow on a plant, a lot of what’s in it is not food.

Nowadays, we live in a society of convenience.  Quick and easy meals are everywhere.  Why cook dinner when you can just pick it up on the way home?  Even illnesses have become more convenient as there seems to be a treatment for just about every sort of symptom.  Our lifestyles abound with chemical exposures, the most direct of which is what we ingest.

The United States Food and Drug Administration allows thousands of non-food chemicals into the food supply.  This includes everything from artificial sweeteners and flavor enhancers to preservatives and colorings.  Much of the meat we consume is tainted by hormones and antibiotics and even some of the chemical additives we regularly ingest are sold to us as “healthy.”

Let’s take the example of margarine.  For years, margarine was sold as a “healthier” alternative to butter.  Lo and behold, after years of consumption, it turns out that the exact opposite is true.  It really shouldn’t have been any surprise.  Look at the back of a package of margarine versus a package of butter.  Margarine is a chemical soup of up to 20 different ingredients, most of which are unpronounceable, and in my opinion not fit for consumption.  Butter’s ingredients are simple: milk, cream, and salt…all food.

Artificial sweetener is another example of a chemical alternative that’s been sold to the masses as “healthier” for them.  Never mind that there is some research that suggests that saccharine is a potential carcinogen, and aspartame and sucralose are both potential neurotoxins.  Your body is designed to process sugar not the reasonable approximation of sugar.  The problem is not the sugar itself, it’s the copious volumes we as Americans consume per year.

Even the vitamin supplements you take may not be all they are cracked up to be.  Many of the larger vitamin suppliers provide their vitamins as a “chemical isolates.”  Meaning, the vitamin has been mass produced in a laboratory from simpler chemicals to manufacture a reasonable approximation of a natural vitamin.  The problem is that many of these chemical vitamins are missing key enzymes and cofactors that make the vitamin usable by your body.  So, some of the supplements you take may actually be worthless.  For instance, many supplement manufacturers list vitamin E as ‘alpha-tocopherol’ but this is only one component of a larger vitamin E complex.  To get the complete vitamin, you need beta, gamma, and delta tocopherol along with selenium, xanthine, and lipositols.  I know that sounds like a chemistry lesson, but what you don’t know about your supplements may be costing you money and even affecting your health.   Go with a whole food supplement manufactured from food.  After all, that’s what you’re built to digest.

Last, but certainly not least in the chemicals we regularly ingest, are the medications we take. Your body is not a chemistry set.  It’s a finely tuned biochemical producing machine.  Medications are not vital to life and are not essential nutrients.  Granted, for a person suffering from acute and chronic illness, their effects can be miraculous, but no one ever died of an aspirin deficiency.  Still, patients routinely list aspirin in their vitamins on our new patient intake forms.  That’s the effect of marketing and deficient patient education.  Medications are designed to produce a desirable effect within the chemistry of the body.  Often, this comes with a barrage of less than desirable effects (side effects).  The medications you ingest will chemically affect the tissues of the body in specific ways and your body will respond to those effects based on your individual health.  Your liver then has to process and package those chemicals for excretion out of the body.  Well, what happens when your medication consumption becomes greater than your body’s ability to excrete them?  You become toxic.

Now, you may be so ill as to need the medications you take just to stay alive.  As a chiropractor, I’ll be the first to say that I would never tell a patient to take or not take their medications.  That’s between the patient and their medical doctor.  I have no objection to required medications as a life preserving and improving methodology.  You just need to be aware of the positive and negative effects of regularly ingesting significant amounts of artificial chemicals.  It does not come without a price.  What I will encourage, however, is the patient to become better informed about the treatments they receive, both positive and negative, and ask their doctor better questions.  Your physician works for you, after all.

You see, illness is not an accident.  Illness is the result of neglect and exposure.  Not eating correctly, feeding ourselves convenience foods laced with chemicals, and even intentionally ingesting non-natural chemicals are all factors that can make us sick.  The most overlooked aspect of this scenario is that you ultimately have near full control over your chemical exposures.  If you want to be healthy, make better decisions, ask better questions, and make health a priority.   When you decide to take charge of your own health and be conscious of the good and bad decisions you make on a daily basis, that’s when you have true power over your health.

Adjust Your Thinking: Chiropractic First For Low Back Pain

Recently, I was doing some research on low back pain and common treatments for the condition.  What struck me as peculiar was how difficult it was to find accurate information on chiropractic care in the medical literature.  Having seen thousands of patients with back pain over the years and watching the vast majority of them improve with spinal adjusting, it seems to me to be inexcusable that chiropractic care is not the number one consideration when discussing caring for patients with back pain.

My search was rife with cautions and contraindications, most of which were inaccurate to say the least, and very few medical sites even referenced chiropractic spinal adjusting at all as a valid treatment for back pain.  Sure they’ll list about every other form of medical procedure from drugs to surgery, rarely mentioning known complications to those treatments, but chiropractic care is noticeably absent, ironic considering the success rate and safety record of chiropractic care versus traditional treatments for this condition.

According to WebMD, one of the foremost sources of health information on the internet, over 22 million Americans seek chiropractic care annually and over a third of those patients are seeking care for back pain.   Additionally, research confirms that chiropractic care is effective for the treatment of back pain, neck pain, and headaches.  Moreover, WebMD also reports that the satisfaction rate for patients seeking care in a chiropractic office is 95%.

So, why does the mainstream medical establishment still apparently have difficulty embracing chiropractic care as an effective valid option for patients with back pain?  I have spoken with many medical physicians over the years and their opinions are generally across the board.  Most, I have observed, really have no idea about how chiropractic works, why it is effective, or even what happens in a chiropractic office.  Essentially, I’ve inferred that they just think chiropractors ‘crack backs’ and the patient gets better either by magic or would have improved anyways.

Part of the reason for this misconception and poor understanding of the nature of spinal adjusting is that so many doctors, in my experience, have ever even been to a chiropractor.  Worse, with so much antiquated and disinformation prevalent from “respected” sources, it’s tough to sum up chiropractic care from a medical literature perspective.  I’ve seen, though, that those few medical doctors we’ve worked with in our office have a completely different opinion of chiropractic care once they become a patient.

When researching treatment options for low back pain, options such as lifestyle modification, physical therapy, oral medication, or even surgery are very common in searches.  Too often, unfortunately, chiropractic care is omitted altogether, though it may arguably be the most effective method of addressing the cause of the pain, rather than just covering the symptoms or offering temporary relief.  Even the National Institute of Health refers only briefly to ‘spinal manipulation’ and does not use the term ‘chiropractic’ at all when suggesting treatment options for back pain.  This is despite the fact that a 1992 government sponsored study by the RAND organization found chiropractic care to be more effective and less costly than medical care for the treatment of acute back pain.

Deepak Chopra, M.D. has said “instead of thinking outside of the box, get rid of the box.”  For too long, options for the treatment of back pain have been confined to limited ‘box thinking.’  Chiropractic care has been an established healthcare choice for over a century and its effectiveness for treating low back pain is well documented in the peer review literature.

Sites that offer back pain relief suggestions should be recommending chiropractic care as a first choice, especially given its effectiveness rate and safety when compared to medical care for comparable conditions.  Instead of burying ‘spinal manipulation’ in the second half of an article on back pain, the article should be saying, “If you have back pain, see a chiropractor first!”

It’s time to toss out the box that traditional methods are the only ‘solution’ for back pain.  Medication, for one, does nothing to address the cause of the pain and merely offers symptom relief.  It completely ignores the fact that pain occurs for a reason.  Surgery may directly address the cause of the back pain but comes with high procedural risk due to its invasiveness and relatively high potential for failure, not to mention limited options for care post-surgery, should the procedure fail.

Chiropractic care has a proven track record of safety and high effectiveness for low back pain.  Risk of complication from adjusting is also very low.  So, why then is chiropractic not the first choice in all instances for mild to moderate back pain?  The only answer can be fear.  Fear that more patients may choose chiropractic care over traditional medical care for one of the most common ailments in a doctor’s office.  Fear that patients may take fewer pharmaceuticals.  Fear that patients may actually get well and may not need expensive, invasive procedures.  Fear that maybe medicine doesn’t have all the answers.

There is a history of discrimination against chiropractors that goes back 100 years.  As recently as just a half century ago, chiropractors were still being jailed for “practicing medicine without a license.”  This changed in the 80’s, though.  In 1988 the American Medical Association was sued in a case many refer to as Wilk vs. AMA in which the AMA was found to be guilty of violating the Sherman Antitrust Act, essentially conspiring to restrain chiropractic care and guilty of working to prevent medical physician referral to chiropractors.  It also found the AMA guilty of preventing chiropractors from obtaining access to hospital diagnostic procedures and staff.  The effects of this discrimination against chiropractic however, are still being felt today.  While chiropractic care is certainly becoming more mainstream, it still appears as though many medical sites regard chiropractic care as a fringe alternative treatment method.

Fortunately, the art and science of chiropractic has moved ahead by laps and bounds despite the lack of recognition in medical circles.  Most insurance companies now cover chiropractic care and even Medicare will cover spinal adjusting.  An important question is, when will medicine get with the times?  With more and more people choosing alternative medicine every day, chiropractic care has become the wave of the future.

I once saw a quote that said that “research is proving every day what chiropractors have been saying for a hundred years.”  It’s so true.  Chiropractic care is a method whose time has come.  Is it a panacea for back pain?  Not by any means.  But chiropractors should be the gatekeepers for back pain, limiting access to more invasive medical interventions only if conservative care fails.  Who knows how many spines we may save, and how much of a difference we might make in the lifestyle and health of a patient if we adopt this approach?

Referrences:

http://www.acatoday.org/level2_css.cfm?T1ID=13&T2ID=68

http://www.webmd.com/pain-management/guide/chiropractic-pain-relief

http://openjurist.org/895/f2d/352/wilk-dc-dc-dc-dc-v-american-medical-association-a-wilk-dc-w-dc-b-dc-b-dc

http://www.onhealth.com/back_pain_health/page4.htm#low_back_pain_treatment

http://www.rand.org/pubs/research_briefs/RB4539/index1.html

http://pain-medicine.med.nyu.edu/patient-care/conditions-we-treat/failed-back-surgery-syndrome

http://backandneck.about.com/od/faqs/f/failedbackfbss.htm

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21463472

Unrealistic Expectations: Are You Standing In Your Own Way?

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

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

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

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

1.        Is your time frame realistic?

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

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

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

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

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

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

3.       Is this a fix or a cover-up?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Autism Conundrum

One of the things that has always struck me is how few people in the “healthcare” system are alarmed about the skyrocketing Autism rates.  Recent research shows that the risk for autism is now 1 in 88 kids!  In some states, the rate can be as high as 1 in 47!  The question remains, why?

The argument has been made that autism is due to childhood vaccination as the rates of autism seem correlated with the application of childhood vaccines.  While vaccines do demonstrate some questionable efficacy and their long term toxic effects remain an enigma, there does remain much debate as to whether or not vaccination directly contributes to autism or not.  Vaccination alone, however, also doesn’t explain how you can have multiple children from the same family with the same vaccine exposure but only one gets autism.  Many other sources will say they simply don’t know what’s causing the alarming autism numbers.

When it comes to autism, we invest a lot of time looking for a singular, simple solution to a complex problem.  Unfortunately, there is very little research on general toxic exposures and their effect on autism rates.  While study after study is done on the effects of vaccines we give our kids and their relation to autism, very little relative research has been done to evaluate our daily regular toxic exposure and its effect on our long term health and the health of our kids.

Your body is constantly bombarded by toxins from the cleaning products we use to the chemical medications we consume.  To complicate matters, everyone’s exposure may be different based on their level of lifestyle, awareness, steps taken to limit exposure, and knowledge about the toxic effects of chemicals on the body.  Too often, we just assume the chemicals we are exposed to are safe because there is not enough research done documenting the long term or lifelong effects of our exposure.

When you take a look, however, at the average American’s exposure, the question as to why Autism is on the rise becomes less of a mystery.  For example:

1.      Prior to getting pregnant, the average American female gets very little exercise and eats a relatively poor diet that includes all sorts of chemical food additives that affect her body both short and long term.  As a casual social consumer of alcohol, she may also be causing small amounts of toxic damage to her liver.  It may be even worse if she is a social smoker.  Oblivious to the toxic effects, she microwaves her food in plastic and has an array of chemical exposures during the day from car exhaust to perfumes to cleaners.  She has allergies and suffers from migraine headaches so takes allergy medication and ibuprofen, both of which have to be processed by her body.  She also consumes diet soda because that is “healthier” for her.  Her future children will, of course, depend on the health of their mother for their own healthy development inside her.

2.      She discovers she pregnant after missing her first menstrual cycle.  Of course, she immediately stops her active alcohol consumption.  The problem is, she’s been to 3 dinner parties since conception, in which she’s consumed alcohol and has been exposed to second hand smoke.  She continues to microwave her food in plastic containers, eat food full of chemical food additives, and drinks diet soda (artificial sweetener is toxic to your nervous system), unaware they all contain potential toxins.  She consults with her obstetrician about her pregnancy and is given medication for a some hives she developed.  Much of the chemicals she is ingesting will cross the placenta and affect the fetus in micro-doses in the uterus.

3.      Ultimately, after 9 months of variable exposure, she has a baby girl who uses  a plastic pacifier, drinks out of a plastic bottle and is smothered in chemicals from diaper rash lotions to the medication she is taking for her reflux.  She also gets her typical round of childhood vaccinations that are a chemical soup of everything from mercury (a neurtoxin) to formaldehyde (a carcinogen) injected directly into the blood stream.  She eats processed baby foods and drinks baby formula (which is not food by the way).

4.      Around a year later or so, her mother starts to realize that her daughter is not reaching the developmental milestones that she should be.  Ultimately she finds out her daughter is autistic.

Talking with patients in my office and the public at large during and at health screenings or events, I’ve found that that average American has absolutely no idea how bathed we are in toxins almost continuously.  That’s a big change from 100 years ago and an even bigger change from the environment that shaped our genetics.  Some research even suggests that our stresses and toxic exposures may be affecting our genetic code long term and permanently.

So, why do some kids develop autism while others do not?  Why do two children from the same family have different outcomes?  There may be many answers for this:

1.      Perhaps with the first child, the mother was younger and healthier, with less toxic exposure.

2.      Maybe one of the pregnancies was planned while the other was a surprise, so the mother prepared differently prior to the pregnancy and during that critical, initial first trimester.

3.      Perhaps alcohol consumption or smoking habits have changed between children.

4.       She may be taking more or less medication with a second child.

5.       Her lifestyle may have changed drastically in other ways between children.

6.       Maybe she’s grown smarter with a new pregnancy and limits her toxic exposure by educating herself.

7.       Perhaps she’s applied lessons from her first child to the second child, correcting mistakes and implementing better choices.

Autism is a complex problem with no simple solution.  The only plausible solution seems to be identifying and eliminating the potential chemical exposures the mother and child have early in development.  We also need to get serious about what health is and what it is not.  The good news is, for parents of autistic children, autistic kids in my office respond amazingly well to chiropractic care, in improving their sensory acclimation by removing obstruction to normal nervous system function.  It’s no cure by any means, but they should be getting adjusted.