Chiropractic Beyond Back Pain

by Jenny L. Bruck DC

I had finally put the finishing touches on my health workshop for a convention in Vancouver. I was shutting my laptop down and blissfully anticipating a short nap before the plane landed. As my eyelids were finally getting heavy, the jolly man next to me asked what I did for a living. “I’m lucky I haven’t needed a chiropractor” he proudly boasted. “I haven’t had back pain in years!” I paused for a moment, knowing I had to make a decision. I could either smile and congratulate him or take a deep breath and do what I’ve done so many times before: educate about what chiropractors really do. I somewhat reluctantly chose the latter.

Helping to change the pubic’s paradigm of chiropractic healthcare is a necessary component of my profession. Symptoms or pain are only signs of imbalance. Correcting the imbalance, and not just the symptoms or pain, is a key to optimal health. Only getting spinal healthcare when you have back pain is like only cleaning your teeth when you have a toothache. The true benefit of chiropractic care comes with regular wellness check-ups and adjustments as necessary.

Steven*, a 59 year old male, came to my office a few months ago with a limp, a “tired feeling all the time”, high blood pressure, decreased breathing capacity since high school, and inability to sleep well due to back pain. In addition, he appeared irritable and anxious. I examined his spine and found distinct areas of spinal imbalance. Chiropractors refer to this imbalance as subluxation.

By definition, subluxation is spinal misalignment causing potential injury to the nerve system. The central nerve system is protected by the skull and spinal column. Any misalignment or lack of proper motion may stretch the spinal cord five to seven centimeters (as reported by Alfred Brieg, leading neurosurgeon) and even small pressures on the nerve can cause organ dysfunction (1). Subluxation can be caused by injuries such as car accidents or sports and from repetitive motions like poor sleeping positions, sitting all day or excessive computer work. Unfortunately, pain is not always present with subluxation since only ten percent of the nerve system can perceive pain. Organ dysfunction can be occurring without any symptoms. Corrective chiropractic aims to restore normal motion and position to the spine by using low force spinal adjustments. Reduction of pain or discomfort can often happen even after a few adjustments, but stabilizing the spine and stopping degeneration or arthritis takes time and frequency of adjustments. In essence, our objective for working on the spine is to affect the function of the nerve system and slow down or stop spinal degeneration.

Steven’s initial postural analysis showed uneven shoulders by 1 ½ inches on the left and uneven hips at ¼ inch on the right. Dual weight scales showed an imbalance of twenty eight pounds to the left. Posture is the window to the spine, so postural imbalance suggests spinal imbalance. Dr. Hans Seyle, a Nobel Laureate, states that “the beginning of the disease process starts with postural distortion.” The rest of the initial examination showed a severe subluxation of the first vertebrae in his neck with a dramatic loss of the healthy normal neck curve. This meant that the spinal cord inside the spine was likely being stretched and compressed. Due to the location of his spinal subluxation, we determined involvement in the sympathetic nerve system, which controls immune function, blood supply to the brain and reaction to stress.

After ninety days, re-examination results showed a thirty percent restoration of normal neck alignment and increased mobility in the spinal column. When asked to write down how he felt since under chiropractic corrective care, Steven wrote, “My irritability has also been dropping off. My energy has gone up. I’m walking without a limp for the first time in a decade; I’m breathing clearly for the first time in a long time, and most impressively my medical doctor took me off my blood pressure medication (my blood pressure is now “normal”) and I have started to read for short periods without needing my eyeglasses (I have used glasses for twenty one years.) It’s important to note that no special adjustments were done for a limp, irritability, energy, breathing, blood pressure or eyesight. Steven’s body was displaying its innate healing powers once his nerve interference was lessened. Nothing was added or taken away from his body. We often tell patients, “we are not the doctors, you are. We are trained to remove the interference that is not allowing your body to fully express itself.”

Each patient’s experience in our office is different in terms of healing. We primarily focus on specific and gentle spinal adjustments done by hand. However, many factors go into a patient’s healing success such as commitment to care recommendations, nutrition, exercise, sleep strategies and spiritual health. Addressing each area is a significant part of a patient achieving optimal health. Providing literature, workshops and accountability are key components in how we contribute.

I believe that more important than a patient receiving an adjustment is the understanding of why they are receiving the adjustment. Regular chiropractic care, along with healthy lifestyle choices, gives the body the best chance to function and heal well, preventing problems and maximizing health. As for the man on the plane, his name was Greg and he now has biweekly wellness adjustments with a fantastic chiropractor I found for him in New Jersey.

*Name has been changed.

(1) The Effects of Mild Compression on Spinal Nerve Roots with Implications for Models of Vertebral Subluxation and the Clinical Effects of Chiropractic Adjustment R. Scott Alderson, D.C Bio, George J. Muhs, D.C., DABCN, CCN Bio [May, 2001 Vol 4, No. 2, p 1-13 ]

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