Monday, August 23, 2010

Chiropractic: Solutions Beyond Pain Management

A Message From Dr. Amy A. Elliott

What fascinates me the most about chiropractic care is the world of possibility it provides. Recently, a woman who came to our clinic for pain issues asked me a question after her second adjustment. “Is it possible that my head is clearer from getting an adjustment?” she asked. She continued to tell me that she’d been operating in a “brain fog” that day until she got off the adjusting table. Moments like that always remind me of the true power of a chiropractic adjustment.

At some point in time, we, as chiropractors, did ourselves a disservice. We promoted ourselves as experts in curing back pain. While it is true that chiropractic care offers relief to various musculoskeletal conditions, focusing on pain discredits the true importance of the chiropractic adjustment.

Using the spine as a window into a person’s state of health, it is easy to see how chiropractic was oversimplified as a method to fix backs. The spine, however, is not simply a conglomeration of bone, muscles, ligaments and intervertebral discs. They work together to house and protect your nervous system. This intricate network delivers messages to and from every part of your body, from your brain to your liver to your fingers and toes. If a roadblock is present to any part of the superhighway that is your nervous system, information cannot travel efficiently to its final destination.

These roadblocks are caused by things that we encounter in our daily lives: thoughts (sadness, negativity), trauma (car wrecks, poor posture, repetitive movements) and toxins (air we breathe, food we eat). Our bodies process, integrate and adapt to all of our experiences. Sometimes these adaptations occur in the spine, compromising the nervous system’s ability to work as well as it could. Chiropractors refer to these interferences to the nervous system as subluxations.

As a chiropractor, my goal is to remove all subluxations from your spine. This helps your nervous system to operate freely thereby allowing all systems of your body (movement, respiration, digestion, reproduction, cognition) to function at higher levels.

Many people come into a chiropractic clinic with a pain complaint, and often they leave with relief AND improved quality of life in other arenas that they hadn’t even considered would be helped. This leads me to my own “Aha!” moment, an experience that had a lot to do with my decision to become a chiropractor. I was in my final semester of undergraduate school in the Fine Arts program, preparing for my senior show and suffering massive insomnia. My boyfriend, now husband (Dr. Jon), convinced me to see a chiropractor because I didn’t want to take drugs and I’d already tried therapy and exercise. Though skeptical, I was so exhausted after months of little sleep that I was willing to give it a try. After just a couple of visits, I was sleeping like a baby. Beyond that, though, I realized that I just felt better in general. I continued to come in for a monthly visit for preventative purposes. Reflecting back about six months after my initial visit, it occurred to me that I hadn’t had a single panic attack in the time that I’d been under chiropractic care. Prior to that, I’d struggled with anxiety and panic issues for approximately five years. Chiropractic helped me regain my ability to move through life with more ease. Since then, I’ve also experienced remission of symptoms related to a pituitary tumor I was diagnosed with in 1997. Additionally, my Endocrinologist told me that it would be difficult for me to get pregnant with this type of tumor. At age 32, I conceived and gave birth to my daughter, Emery. I attribute these successes to chiropractic care, supported by healthy lifestyle choices.

It has come to my attention that many people are unaware of how chiropractic can help them. Chiropractic adjustments can improve your quality of life in many ways. Are you a chiropractic patient? If so, how have you benefited from care? In the upcoming weeks, follow us online to see testimonials from some of the patients at our clinic (if you have a story to share, let us know next time you’re in!). Learn about how their lives have improved through chiropractic, and be sure to share this information with your family and friends. You just might help them to live a better life!

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Food Wisdom from Michael Pollan

7 Words & 7 Rules for Eating

Pollan says everything he's learned about food and health can be summed up in seven words: "Eat food, not too much, mostly plants."

Probably the first two words are most important. "Eat food" means to eat real food -- vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and, yes, fish and meat -- and to avoid what Pollan calls "edible food-like substances."

Here's how:

1. Don't eat anything your great grandmother wouldn't recognize as food. "When you pick up that box of portable yogurt tubes, or eat something with 15 ingredients you can't pronounce, ask yourself, "What are those things doing there?" Pollan says.

2. Don’t eat anything with more than five ingredients, or ingredients you can't pronounce.

3. Stay out of the middle of the supermarket; shop on the perimeter of the store. Real food tends to be on the outer edge of the store near the loading docks, where it can be replaced with fresh foods when it goes bad.

4. Don't eat anything that won't eventually rot. "There are exceptions -- honey -- but as a rule, things like Twinkies that never go bad aren't food," Pollan says.

5. It is not just what you eat but how you eat. "Always leave the table a little hungry," Pollan says. "Many cultures have rules that you stop eating before you are full. In Japan, they say eat until you are four-fifths full. Islamic culture has a similar rule, and in German culture they say, 'Tie off the sack before it's full.'"

6. Families traditionally ate together, around a table and not a TV, at regular meal times. It's a good tradition. Enjoy meals with the people you love. "Remember when eating between meals felt wrong?" Pollan asks.

7. Don't buy food where you buy your gasoline. In the U.S., 20% of food is eaten in the car.

*Click here for the full article.

Michael Pollan is an American journalist, food activist, and professor. He has authored several books that we recommend reading, including Food Rules: An Eater's Manual, The Omnivore's Dilemma, and In Defense of Food.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Adjust Your Ideas About "Self-Adjusting"

Patients frequently ask questions such as "Is it okay to adjust myself?" or "Is it bad that I have my kids walk on my back?" I've even seen a patient walk into the room and "adjust" his own neck without any awareness that he did so, indicating that the habit is so routine that it has become second nature. When I say that he "adjusted his own neck", I use the term loosely. We've all seen people performing these types of maneuvers, stretching their necks from side to side, grabbing their chin or jaw with one hand and the top of their head with the other, giving a quick impulse to release pressure in the cervical spine.

A famous perpetrator of such behavior is Tiger Woods. There are multiple pictures available of the golfer twisting his own neck. posted an article on 5/12/2010 reporting that an MRI revealed inflammation of a facet joint in his neck causing local pain and difficulty in turning his head. (In case you're wondering, the article goes on to state that Woods experienced neck pain prior to his November car accident).

So what's wrong with "self-adjusting"? To answer this question, let's first take a look at the chiropractor's criteria for adjusting. At our clinic, we detect levels in the spine that we believe to be compromised by the "Vertebral Subluxation Complex" (which I'll refer to as subluxation for short). Subluxation occurs when there is aberrant motion in the spine leading to various types of interference to proper nervous system function. This may present as pain, loss of function, hypersensitivity, or, in many cases preclinically with NO symptoms at all! Using posture and range of motion assessments, motion and static palpation, and x-ray evaluation, we quantify the subluxation. To put it simply, we search for the hypomobile segment and figure out in which ranges of motion need to be restored.

When you find a vertebra that is limited in motion, or hypomobile, you will most likely find excessive motion above and below that segment. This is due to the fact that the stuck segment is not fully participating and pulling its fair share of the workload when it comes to range of motion. Areas above and below move more in order to pick up the slack. The increased motion at these segments, when juxtaposed with the decreased movement at the level of subluxation, may have a torquing or shearing effect in the spine.

Now that I've outlined what it is that chiropractors are looking for (subluxations), let's examine why a chiropractic adjustment differs from self-manipulation. Once we find the level of subluxation, the patient is positioned in a fashion that provokes the spine back toward normal. Then a specific force is introduced along the plane-line of a specific joint in order to restore proper motion. Restoring motion to this joint will allow for the segment to participate fully in all movement and ease the burden on its neighboring vertebral brothers and sisters.

When a person tries to coerce his or her own spine back into alignment, he/she is more than likely moving the areas that are already moving too much. So why is that a big deal? After all, as some people point out, it feels good for a little while afterward. Let's think back to Tiger. As I mentioned earlier, there are many photographs of Tiger Woods manipulating his own neck. Introducing force that is essentially a gross mobilization of the area can lead to further instability in regions of the spine that are already moving too much to begin with. Even the most skilled of chiropractors cannot detect the level of subluxation in their own spines and give themselves a specific adjustment!

The moral of this story is that you cannot adjust yourself in a manner that is beneficial to your spine. If you feel the need to chronically "pop your neck", the cure is to stop "popping" and start stabilizing. As we see it, we are partners in your spinal hygiene. Leave the adjustments to the experts (your chiropractor). We'll get things moving in the right direction, and then we'll empower you by providing exercises to strengthen your spine so that you can feel good without causing yourself further or future pain and instability. If you don't, it might just take you out of the game for a while, and life is too short to watch from the sidelines!