A recent study published in the scientific journal ‘Spine’ by researchers from Dartmouth Medical center, suggests that most health care providers have seriously underestimated the impact that spinal problems have on people’s quality of life. Importantly, those authors found that spinal problems detract more from the quality of life than due to having chronic lung disease, chronic heart failure or cancer. Because of the close relationship between the spine, nervous system and immune system, the high prevalence of spinal problems in general, is likely to leave many of us short of achieving our full potential in life.
Another often overlooked fact is that many spinal problems start very early in life. By the time most youngsters have reached their mid-teens their spine has already undergone some of the most challenging experiences of a normal lifetime. These extreme challenges include birth, learning to walk, spinal curve development, and the spinal strengthening that takes place during one of life’s most rapid periods of growth – The Adolescent growth spurt. In a number of surveys up to half of all children and teenagers had, at one time or another, experienced obvious spinal related problems.
Adding to the importance of us all having our spine checked, is the fact that spinal problems often start many years before signs and symptoms first appear. Unfortunately, because this information is not widely known, the well-being of many children and adults is being compromised by subtle spinal related problems. In fact, for a significant percentage of us, spinal decay will have already started by the time we enter early adulthood.
Your chiropractor’s approach, born out of a respect for the body’s inborn wisdom, believes that there are times when back pain, like many other symptoms, is a sign that the body is responding exactly as it was designed to. Pain is not an abnormality in and of itself. In fact, it is well known that people who are born without the ability to feel pain, usually die before they reach adulthood. Just as there are time when back problems indicate damage or an injury to the spine, there are also many occasions when the discomfort that you experience in your spine, is part of an appropriate message or adaptation by your body.
Whether you do or don’t have back pain, your chiropractor’s objective is the same – to help the body’s inborn wisdom better integrate and respond to the body’s messages.
Your chiropractor, therefore, chooses not to simply mask pain and other symptoms. Instead, your chiropractor sees pain as one important way that your body and mind communicate. Those messages (symptoms) are relayed across the body’s communication network – the nervous system. When these messages are free from interference, the brain and immune system are more likely to generate the ideal healthy response.
This is where the role of the chiropractor comes into play.
The professional objective of your chiropractor is to reduce nervous system interference caused by subtle spinal misalignments (called vertebral subluxations). In this way, your chiropractor strives to ensure that the information traveling between your body and brain is accurate.
If you and the members of your family are going to reach your full potential in life, a good place to start is with optimizing, and then maintaining, your spine and nervous system at their best.
Reflecting on the research discussed at the start of this booklet, it is certainly safe to conclude that it’s never too late, and never too early, to start caring for your spine. Moreover, your choices today shape your health and that of your children for life!
Why should your children be checked by a chiropractor?
A main concern for you as a parent is how to ensure each of your children have the opportunity to become their healthy best. You should be aware of the following:
- Many studies now show that achieving our best as adults, on physical, mental, social and occupational levels is in large shaped by the windows of opportunity opened to us during childhood.
- What constitutes a healthy response to the challenges that go with a normal childhood, have finally been appropriately redefined. Up until recently a child was seen to be healthy when he or she had no symptoms. However, a number of studies now suggest that is not always the case and that health is better defined as the ability of a child’s body to interpret, and then appropriately respond, to environmental and lifestyle stresses.
There is one system in your child’s body that is in charge of accurately interpreting the messages coming from the environment, and deciding which message to send so that the body appropriately adapts. That system is the nervous system. It is the master control system of growth, repair and the function of every tissue and organ in the body. Your chiropractor has undergone extensive training in order to become highly proficient at detecting and correcting one of the most common and often undetected causes of interference to a child’s nervous system, the ‘spinal subluxation’.
What is a subluxation?
If your child’s body is stressed, either by physical, chemical, or emotional stresses, there may occur a loss of normal spinal bone position and movement. This, in turn, causes a disturbance in nervous system function. This loss of normal spinal function and accompanying neurological disturbance, are together, called spinal subluxation. Often this results in the impairment of your child’s nervous system to accurately receive, process, and respond appropriately to changes taking place within the body and in their environment.
When should your children have their first chiropractic check up?
One of the most physically, chemically and emotionally stressful events that we all go through in this life is being born. Because the birth process is unavoidably stressful, newborns are particularly susceptible to becoming subluxated during birth. Such an injury may not be immediately obvious and, if left uncorrected, may not become apparent for many years. To ensure your children get the right start in life they should be checked by a chiropractor as a normal part of postnatal care, to facilitate their optimum growth and development. If your older children have not had a chiropractic check-up, the sooner they are examined by a chiropractor the better. It has been shown that negative patterns if laid down early in life, may persist and limit a child’s future growth on a number of levels throughout their lifetime. The sooner subluxations are detected and corrected the sooner you children can begin taking advantage of their full potential.
If subluxations are detected, how will they be corrected?
Instead of focusing on treating the symptoms of the disease, your chiropractor corrects subluxations with the objective of allowing the full expression of your children’s inborn wisdom so that they may experience life to its fullest. Your chiropractor will achieve this end by making a series of gentle ‘adjustments’ carefully restoring normal alignment and function to the spine. By having subluxations corrected throughout childhood, your children will be better prepared to face all the challenges that life has to offer.
Every atom that now makes up the Earth, its oceans, its atmosphere and our bodies was once part of a simple molecule or a microscopic dust particle floating freely in the vast open spaces of the Milky Way Galaxy.
Deep within each of us dwells a strong connection with the universe. It is from that same deep place that your inborn, or innate, intelligence flows. That innate intelligence is the very essence of life. From moment to moment, it coordinates your breathing, healing, growth, digestion, and adaptation to chemical, emotional and physical stresses. It does this with such perfection that you are able to live most of your life oblivious to the complex dance taking place within. However, there is much in our modern way of life that can interfere with the full expression of that life force.
Chiropractic, as practiced by your chiropractor, offers something very unique in healthcare. It is based on a philosophy which recognizes that the body has within it self-healing, self-regulating mechanisms that, without interference, are all you need in order to optimize health and well being. Your chiropractor strives to guide you through life so that you understand, respect, and better connect with your innate intelligence which coordinates those self-healing and self-regulating mechanisms.
In working towards that goal, your chiropractor will carefully apply a series of chiropractic adjustments.
A chiropractic adjustment is a gentle, but specific, movement of the spine which your chiropractor makes by hand, or using a small hand held device. The technique your chiropractor will use depends on many factors. A chiropractic adjustment can vary from a rapid, but calculated movement, to a sustained light pressure. An adjustment, once delivered by your chiropractor, enables your body to more accurately process information and then make the appropriate spinal and nervous system corrections.
By having your spine and nervous system adjusted when necessary, your body is guided toward expressing its full potential: A unity of body, mind, and spirit. In this way we may be freed, as nature intended, to pursue, experience, and explore life to its fullest.
In the past symptoms were seen to result from the body malfunctioning and upon seeking medical care, a patient was often medicated with the objective being to eliminate or mask the symptom. However, a recent editorial in the American Journal of Medicine states that, ‘Physicians have adopted their understanding of symptoms automatically and uncritically as the foundation of diagnosis and medical care. In fact conventional medicine by attempting to treat diseases focuses on eliminating symptoms.
It turns out that your body has within it an incredible intelligence which has evolved across millions of years. From moment to moment, it coordinates your bodily systems with the information it is receiving about your external environment. When you are confronted with what at first appears to be an annoying symptom, you will be best served by considering it your body’s appropriate response to an environmental or lifestyle stress. Alternatively, it may be a signal telling you what not to do in order to help the body restore, and then optimize, health.
Symptoms are most usually a result of the body functioning exactly as it was designed to. For example, researchers now say of morning sickness: ‘Available data is most consistent with the hypothesis that morning sickness serves and adaptive, protective function’, and that there is a, ‘decreased risk of miscarriage associated with morning sickness.’ Chiropractic is based on a philosophy which recognizes that within each of us resides a self-healing, self-regulating intelligence that, without interference, is all you need in order to achieve a state of optimal health and well-being.
The interference-free expression of symptoms is, in most cases, an important part of healing and being healthy. The masking of symptoms with medication, or any other therapy, may not be in the best interest of your body’s attempts to adapt to challenges. Researcher Matt Kluger says: ‘There is overwhelming evidence for fever being an adaptive response. It is probably that the use of analgesic drugs when they lead to suppression of fever, result in increased morbidity and mortality during most infections.
Either way, we need to respect what we feel and hear from our innate intelligence and not simply mask those signals with drugs. Masking symptoms make us more disconnected from our bodies and potentially interferes with the body’s inborn healing mechanisms. Your chiropractor strives to ensure that such important mechanisms are not masked, but that the occurrence of symptoms reflects what you innate, adaptive intelligence knows to be appropriate.
So what is the relationship between chiropractic care and symptoms?
Almost all other healthcare providers focus on doing something in order to make their patients feel more comfortable. They ‘treat’ diseases – which is a label for a collection of symptoms – in an attempt to make the body work without symptoms so the patient is more comfortable. However, one study found when looking at patient symptoms in ambulatory care, that: “No specific physical disorder could be established as the cause in 30-75% of instances even after careful investigation.” Such research further raises the questions -‘Do symptoms mean more than just ‘something’s broken?’, and, ‘Is covering up symptoms necessarily conducive to long term well-being?’
Although some chiropractors choose to focus their efforts on alleviating back pain, headaches and neck pain, the chiropractor you have chosen has a different perspective.
Your chiropractor’s objective is not simply to alleviate back and neck pain, although that is often one of the beneficial side-effects of chiropractic care. Instead, your chiropractor, out of respect for your inborn intelligence, focuses on removing interference between the brain and the body so that your symptoms and health can be better understood and optimally expressed.
We live longer today than at any time in the past. Researcher, John Wilmoth, from the University of California, Berkeley, believes that the life-span of humans is expanding and that there is no clear upper limit.
Starting in the Swedish health records, from 1861, Wilmoth and his team found that the longest living person was age 100. That maximum rose at a slow rate until 1969, when suddenly the trend shot upwards. From 1970 to 1999 the maximum age advanced rapidly so that by 1999 the oldest living person was 108.
An immediate response might be, ‘That’s because of better medical care’. However, to beter understand what is causing the increase in life-span you need to look at the average life expectancy figures. Amongst westerners average life expectancy has increased by 30 years over the last century. According to a recent study:
Twenty five years, more than 85% of the increase in life-span is due to lifestyle related factors: “cleaner water, better sanitation, more refrigeration, econimic development and healthier diets and less than 15% of the increase is due to improvements in medical care.”
It seems obvious that extending the quantity and quality of our lives is largely related to lifestyle factors and decisions over which you have control.
A good question to ask yourself based on the above studies is: “What can I do to increase the quantity and quality of my life?”
Research suggests that a number of aspects of the chiropractic lifestyle, if neglected, can cause chromosomal damage and thereby lead to reduced quality of life as you age. Most importantly, nervous system interference, of the kind often associated with spinal related problems – spinal subluxations – has been linked to chromosomal damage, loss of muscle strength and loss of memory.
It’s nice to be living longer, as the above quoted research shows we are, but just as important is the quality of life during those extra years. How will you fill them? Well known author Joseph Heller turned the traditional image of aging on its head when he stated, “When I grow up, I want to be a little boy.” Thought provoking isn’t it?
Maybe a useful question for us to ask is, “how might we all better sustain the child within as we age?”
Well, chiropractic care provides an answer. The findings from two recent studies suggest that older people who receive ongoing chiropractic care:
- Are more likely to exercise vigorously
- Are less likely to be hospitalized
- Are less likely to need to use a nursing home
- Are more likely to report a better health status
- Are less likely to need to use prescription drugs
- Are more likely to be active in the community