Sunday, October 17, 2010

Can You Be Your Own Chiropractor?

At least once a month I get a question from a patient asking some version of “Why can’t I just adjust myself?” And more often, I have patients that regularly do adjust themselves, particular grabbing their own head or neck and performing a maneuver that gives them a bunch of “cracks” and makes them feel like they’ve done something good.

There are probably more reasons than what I’ll list here, but the answer is “no” you can’t be your own chiropractor. You can be your own mechanic (to a point), you can be your own handyman (to a point), you might even be your own doctor at times, but you leave the more specific and more complicated tasks to the experts.

Getting a spinal adjustment is one of those complicated things that doesn’t seem so complicated on the surface. What is it that the chiropractor is really doing? Why do I need to have a chiropractic adjustment, what’s wrong with just twisting my own neck?

I think you’ll agree that if you are trying to move your spine, you have determined that it is either not moving or it has moved out of place, right? If it can go the wrong direction and cause pain and discomfort, then it makes sense that if you move it further out of place you can make it worse. So… how do you know which way to move your vertebrae? The move that I see being performed is a “move everything and hope I get the right one at some point.”

Each vertebrae can move up to sixteen different directions. Do you know which way your vertebra has gone? That’s where the chiropractor comes in. They are trained to determined which way the bone has moved and how to move it back into the correct place. Some of the directions are extremely difficult to accomplish on your own. Chiropractors don’t adjust themselves either!

The same principle that applies to adjusting yourself also goes for having someone “bear hug” you at a family gathering and having your kids walk on your back. It’s just not specific and the person performing the “therapy” has no way of knowing which part of your spine needs to be adjusted.

The next question is “If I can’t adjust myself, why does it feel better when I do it?”

You’ll notice that when you do it, the good feeling doesn’t last long. That’s why you keep doing it over and over again during the day. You still get the endorphin release, so you’ll temporarily get a influx of pain relief that makes you think you’ve done something good for yourself. However, you’ve more likely either moved something the wrong way or moved a different bone than the one that needs it. The pain and discomfort returns once the endorphins are gone and you’re back to where you started.

In summary, you cannot be your own chiropractor. I know it can seem like a simple thing, but chiropractors are the experts at finding the right area of your spine to be adjusted and then moving it back the right way. See the experts!

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Take Charge Of Your Health!

Most health problems can be avoided. Many of the problems we deal with every day didn’t have to be there at all, if we were willing to take a good hard look at ourselves and decide to be healthy.

The first question is, do you think your body wants to be healthy or do you think you have to medicate it into being “healthy?” An easy example is if you get a cut on your skin. You know that the bandage doesn’t heal the cut, your body does. It just knows that it needs to heal that area and it gets to work. If you are a healthy person, the cut will likely heal much faster than if you are unhealthy.

I see this in my practice every day. I’m a chiropractor and we work with aligning the spine to improve the patient’s health. In order for the spine to stay in its proper position, the muscles will need to work with us. The health of the muscles will determine how fast the patient gets results.

Too many people are in pain, come in and get treatment, just to find that the results take much longer than they thought they would. Then I see patients in moderately good health that bounce back much faster than expected. The patient that consistently makes more healthy choices will get better faster than the patient that doesn’t. Period.

So how do you avoid most health problems and stay healthy? There’s not a lot of mystery to it, believe me. I’ve tried, probably just like you, to find any other new possible way to get healthy other than what has been tried and true.

1. Eat right – What does this mean? Fruits and vegetables, you know, all the stuff you don’t want to eat. If you look at your health as just the results of what you’ve been doing so far, this will help in your motivation. Eliminating one bad food at a time and replacing it with something healthy will go a long way. Maybe no more sodas, instead you’ll be drinking water. Replacing green tea for coffee, or reducing your sugar intake.

Continue to make these better choices and eventually you’ll see a big difference in how you feel. Many conditions are the result of long term diet issues. If you eat poorly, you don’t give your body any materials to maintain your health.

2. Exercise – Don’t start your new exercise program by opening up your front door and running 10 miles. Find some ways to build momentum in your exercise program. Take a walk, go play catch with your child (or even your dog), or get a bike and start doing laps around your block. Find a way to get started and go from there.

Exercise will improve the tone of your muscles, make you stronger, and most importantly, will help you deal with stress. Stress is a huge factor in your health.

It all sounds to easy, right? It’s not easy. Staying consistent with these elements of your goal to get healthy will yield plenty of benefits, just figure out your best way of sticking with it. I’ve found that adding in (or taking out) one thing at a time will make all the difference. You won’t lose fifty pounds in six weeks, but whatever you do lose will stay gone. Over the long-term, that’s what will make all the difference in your health. Take charge of your health!

Monday, September 27, 2010

Does Chiropractic Help With Shoulder Pain?

Chiropractors are known for their abilities in helping people with neck and back pain. The most common reason why someone even considers seeing a chiropractor is for back pain, specifically low back pain. Research and studies and the general consensus is that we can help in this area. What about shoulder pain? Is there anything a chiropractor can do to help shoulder pain?

You can certainly have a chiropractor take a look at and evaluate your shoulder problem. While the spine is most commonly adjusted, the chiropractic adjustment can be performed at any joint. A joint is anywhere two bones meet. In the case of the shoulder, we’ll be looking at three different areas; the clavicle (collarbone), the humerus (upper arm), and the scapula (the shoulder blade).

Any of these joints can move out of their normal position with extended use in the wrong way. Stress and poor posture in the upper back can lead the shoulder blade to become stuck and fixated in the wrong position. The chiropractor can adjust this area and work with the muscles to get things moving again.

The same principles apply to the humerus and the clavicle. There are certain movements in which each bone will take on a more primary role. The chiropractor can feel with his hand if the right areas are moving or not. If the joint is not moving, this means it is likely not functioning correctly. This is where the chiropractor’s expertise can be of most use.

The first evaluation of the shoulder is really to see if any of the muscles, ligaments, or tendons have torn. Depending on the severity of the tear, you may need an immediate referral for an MRI and a visit to an orthopedic specialist. You don’t want someone moving your bones around if you have a tear, and the chiropractor doesn’t want to do that either.

If you haven’t had any trauma to the shoulder joint and the pain has just come on gradually over the years. The chiropractor can take a look and provide adjustments and work to the muscles that can make a world of difference.

Friday, September 17, 2010

How Much Do Your Activities Cause Your Pain?

Uh oh, it’s happened again. You can feel the initial “twinge.” That is, you can feel the early warning sign that you low back pain problem is about to come back again. You knew you should have been keeping up with your chiropractic visits and the exercises your doctor gave you, but you just haven’t done it.

You feel great most of the time, but you’ve learned that when you get this feeling, things are about to go downhill…fast. Sometimes you get off easy, just a few over-the-counter remedies and you can get back to work. Sometimes you’re going to be spending the weekend putting ice on your back and waiting for the doctor to open up first thing Monday morning.

Worse case is that you’ll spend the next couple of weeks trying to get yourself back to feeling not just pain-free, but to the point where you don’t feel like things are about to go bad at any point. That’s the worse feeling.

So it’s somewhere in one of these episodes that you begin to ask yourself, “Why does this keep happening? Is it something I’m doing or not doing?” Most of the time, the answer is “yes!” Now, our bodies are not made out of concrete, and no one can make sure that your back pain will never, ever return again. However, there’s plenty that you can do to keep the episodes at bay and keep from feeling bad more often than not.

Let’s not even get into some of the preventative measures like regular chiropractic care. Let’s just realize that your daily activities are usually what is contributing to your problem. If you sit all day on the computer, then get in your car and sit, and then go home and sit, and then go to sleep and do the whole thing all over again… you’re going to have problems.

Some people will do some exercises, but that seems to be primarily made up of sit-ups, walking, and riding their bike. None of these activities will strengthen the spine to any noticeable degree. Certainly nothing that is going to keep that “feeling” from coming back again. Your normal daily activities have a focus on actions that occur in front of you with almost no engaging of the back muscles for anything other than keeping you upright.

If you’re going to keep a back problem away, you’re going to need to strengthen your back. Taking some time out to follow your doctor’s recommendations and perform some regular activity for the sake of your spine will go a long way in keeping things together. Keep the weight down, the stress away, some regular general exercise, and some regular exercise focused on strengthening your spine and you should do okay.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Just Do One Thing At A Time.

If you’ve started to notice that your health is declining and it’s time to do something about it, you’re probably wondering where to start. You know you don’t feel good, you know you’re not doing enough healthy things for yourself, but it can all be a bit overwhelming. Even if your primary goal is to drop a few pounds and just feel better… which action should you take first?

One school of thought is to take massive action. This is certainly a good thing and has helped many overcome great obstacles. Taking massive action should lead to massive results. However, when it comes to changing your health, which massive action should you take? Go and buy every vitamin in the store? Run laps around your block until your legs won’t move? Schedule appointments with a chiropractor, personal trainer, massage therapist, and psychologist?

My suggestion is to take massive action… on one thing at a time. Pick something. It doesn’t have to be anything other than something that will move you closer to a long term goal of being healthy. To me, that would mean that I’m an appropriate weight, I’m generally free of pain, I have lots of energy, and my moods are pretty consistent in a positive way.

The major categories are going to be eating better and exercise.

Eating right can start with eliminating the things that you know are bad for you that you regularly eat. Too many sodas? Trips to the vending machine? Double frappacinos with whip? Something just popped into your head and you know it’s been slowing leading to a decline in your health. Pick one and let it go.

Bring your lunch to work a couple of days per week or find something healthy that you can eat at least once per day. Start taking a decent multi-vitamin if you’re not doing so already and drink a lot more water. Just do something healthy.

Once you’ve got this habit formed and are starting to feel pretty good about your results, time to reassess and eliminate something bad and add in something good. Keep this up until you get where you want to go.

What about exercise? I have to admit, doing this regularly is not always the easiest thing for me. I say it’s about spending the time and effort, but I think it’s more about not spending the time finding something that I really enjoy doing. You don’t have to start an exercise program by planning to run a marathon (unless that helps you get motivated).

Walking 1 mile and running 1 mile burn about the same amount of calories since it takes longer to walk that same distance. Find ways to walk more, even if it just means parking your car further away from the building at work. You can do it, but you have to start somewhere and that means taking action towards your goal.

You can get healthy, really! It’s possible for those that are willing to make the effort. If your health has declined to such a degree that you need professionals to help you heal and feel better, then by all means do that too. Take massive action… just do it on one thing a time.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Back Pain: It Isn't Always What It Used To Be

If you ignore a back problem, it will likely not go away on its own. Sometimes you can get through an episode when it’s early in the condition with some over the counter medications and rest. So you’d think. If the underlying problem is never addressed, the back pain problem is there to resurface again at a later date.

Usually when the pain returns, it hurts a little bit more and lasts a little bit longer. Over time, the episodes will start to show up more frequently until the person takes the actions necessary to create a more substantial healing. (Hopefully they go to see a chiropractor and get their spine in its proper alignment instead of relying on stronger and stronger medications.)

More often than not, the person dealing with the back pain follows their doctor’s orders and concern themselves with their back only when the pain shows up. Then they return to doing all the same things that led them to the the problem in the first place. Then the symptoms return and they show back up to their doctor.

“I know what I’ve got, doc. Last time you told me it was my L5 disc.” They then expect you to do what you did last time, give them the relief in the same time frame you gave it to them last time and they can get on with their lives. Sometimes it happens just like that, sometimes the episode takes a couple of extra days to return back to normal.

Eventually, they’ll get the same condition, they’ll show back up to your office, expect the same results… and they won’t happen. The doctor will end up doing more tests and discover that they don’t just have an “L5 disc” problem anymore. They now have L4 and L5 and the sciatic nerve is being compressed. The previously minor disc bulge at L5 has turned into a full blown disc herniation with potentially more invasive treatment needed to alleviate the pain.

How could this have been avoided? Once you’ve been notified that you have a back problem, seek relief from the pain first. Once the pain is gone, you must distinguish that your “pain” and your “problem” are two different things. Celebrate the relief of your pain, but evaluate what may have led to the problem in the first place.

Are you strengthening your back muscles? Are you getting enough exercise? How are your daily activities contributing to the problem and how can they be modified. Don’t accept your back condition and assume it will never change or get worse. Most of them can and do get worse over time.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Why Don't More People See Chiropractors?

According to various polls and questions asked of the public, more than 50% (sometimes 60%) of the population indicate they would consider visiting a chiropractor. For the last forty years, the percentage of people that actually do so has remained the same. While more people are seeing chiropractors than ever before, consistently only 10% of the population does so.

Why? If so many people would consider chiropractic as an alternative to other medical choices, why don’t they actually do it when the need arises?

They don’t know what to expect.

Most people have gone to see a medical doctor. They have an overall understanding of what they can expect when they walk in the office. They expect a little window, to be handed some paperwork to fill out, and then eventually get a chance to visit the doctor and tell them where it hurts. They also know that they’ll likely be handed a prescription that will help their symptoms and they can be on their way.

What happens when they go to see a chiropractor? That’s just it. They don’t really know. They assume it’s similar to a visit to an MD, except that instead of a prescription the chiropractor is likely to “pop” something. Do they really need something “popped”? They’re not sure so they go with what they know.

They don’t know if their condition can be helped with chiropractic care.

They think of chiropractors as helping with auto accidents and low back pain (if you just go by the most common advertisements seen), but they don’t have that. They have headaches, or neck pain, or shoulder pain. Can a chiropractor help with that? They look at a couple of yellow page ads or run through some websites. Some say they do, some don’t say anything about it.

Can they get help by seeing the chiropractor? Again, they’re not sure so they just go back to what they know. They want relief and they want it fast. They’ve gotten relief before by getting a prescription so once again they find themselves at their physician’s office.

They don’t know who to see.

All the chiropractic ads say different things. Activator Methods? Gonstead? Palmer Graduate? Do I need that? Is one really better than the other? This guy seems okay, he’s wearing a white coat and advertising “decompression.” Do I need to be decompressed? All of the chiropractors seem to be advertising slightly different things, while the medical doctor offices all seem to be closer to the same.

There can be a lot of confusion about visiting a chiropractor. While many chiropractors offer an initial no-charge consultation, most people just aren’t going to sit through a consultation when what they really want is pain relief as quickly as possible. It’s really up to the chiropractic profession to continue to educate and get a consistent message out there so people will know what to expect, which conditions are regularly treated, and understand some of the terminology that is out there when it comes time to make their choice.