THE SPINAL COLUMN
ALPHA CHIROPRACTIC NEWSLETTER

MARCH 2002



Stress and Chiropractic

 


Your boss is getting on your nerves; you have to get a project finished but the phone keeps ringing; you still have not met the right person to marry to have the children you want so badly; your car breaks down; your bills are piling up; your in-laws are coming to dinner; your mother says she never sees you anymore; you are overwhelmed by your cholesterol count, your sodium intake, your sugar intake and your fat intake; you or someone you know has cancer or AIDS and ... YOU'VE GOT STRESS!!!


Can you get rid of it? No way! There is simply no escaping it. Our lives and the world we live in are loaded with stress. It has been estimated that between 66-85% of all visits to a primary-care physician are for stress-related disorders. Every week over 112 million people take medication for stress-related disorders. Job stress costs American industry more than 150 billion dollars yearly in absenteeism, lost productivity, accidents and medical insurance.


It is worth noting that some stress may be good. Stress expert Hans Selye, M.D. said, " No one can live without experiencing some degree of stress all the time...Stress is not even necessarily bad for you; it is also the spice of life, for any emotion, and activity causes stress. But of course, your system must be prepared to take it. The same stress which makes one person sick can be an invigorating experience for another." With too little stress we'd be bored to tears; but with too much we'd develop emotional and physical problems. Many people are more alert, more productive and consequently happier and healthier with a certain amount of stress. In the biographies of many famous innovators in all fields, times of intense personal stress were also the times of insight, creativity, accomplishment, and personal growth.


Stress is a double-edged sword. Things going wrong produce stress and it causes other things to go wrong. Stress over an extended period of time can make you quit your job; can lead you to depression or to drugs and alcohol. All of these can and will certainly affect your ability to perform, your ability to earn money, and your quality of life. The only way to get rid of all the stress in our lives is by dying, so you really have no choice. You can either grow, thrive, and heal in the face of stress or be reduced by it to dullness and disease.


The things in life that cause stress are called stressors. When you are faced with them the first thing that happens is that your body goes into an "alarm" phase. Messages stream from your brain to your endocrine (hormonal) system in a "fight or flight" response. If the stress stops, you revert to normal. If the stress continues you go into a phase of "resistance". Your body tries to adapt to the stress in any way that it is able to. For example, you can run away from your stress, you can tense your muscles, you can raise a fever, etc. The goal is to struggle until you overcome the stressor. If the stress still continues, you may pass into the phase of exhaustion. Your body is not made to be primed for action indefinitely. Your system will fall prey to anxiety, ill health, and chronic disease.

 

Years ago, if you'd be confronted by a bear in the woods you could run from it, fight it and kill it, or become its dinner (in which case you would never have to worry about stress anymore). But what about you boss, your spouse, your children? What about making a living and paying bills? You cannot run away and you can't kill - you have to stay and cope. Living in this world of not quite fight and not quite flight, causes you to carry around unresolved, chronic stress much of the time. With chronic stress you can never completely relax - your muscles are always tense, energy is drained, and your body becomes fatigued, more susceptible to colds, infection, ulcer, digestive troubles, high blood pressure, asthma, allergies, heart disease, and premature aging. This unresolved stress slowly robs you of health and vitality and, ultimately, of life itself.

 

We all need to do more to combat stress. We have to learn to find a balance in our work and personal lives. Certainly there are some things that you simply cannot do anything about, for example, the unexpected death of a loved one, natural disasters, and accidents. However, everyone can and should carefully examine their lives and make an honest attempt to reduce the stress-producing circumstances that make unnecessary demands upon them. Determine which things you can do something about, concentrate your time and energy on them and try to avoid the obvious ones. We should emphasize wellness: focus on positive things and relaxation, whatever the circumstance.

 

Chiropractic should also play an important role in your stress management. When a stress-inducing event occurs, muscles contract, breathing becomes faster and deeper, heartbeat increases and digestion is halted. This all occurs as a response to a nervous impulse. Continually contracted muscles will cause subluxation and being subluxated will lower your ability to deal with stress. Subluxations alter body chemistry, which in turn will cause your body to function abnormally and less efficiently resulting in fatigue, physical and emotional weakness, and a whole host of other problems, setting up a vicious cycle of stress. Of course, just as different situations produce varying amounts of stress for different people, different stress management techniques will have varying degrees of effectiveness. Some may benefit from exercise while others respond to meditation, deep breathing or spending time on an enjoyable hobby. Chiropractic, however, can work for everyone because it removes nerve interference and interrupts the contracted muscle/increased stress cycle.


Chiropractic care coupled with positive thinking and other stress management techniques can create a sense of well-being and a zest for life and lead to a longer, more productive, happier and healthier life.

 

Not Tonight Dear -
I Have a Headache

 

We've all heard that statement either on comedy sitcoms or unfortunately in real life. Headaches are not fun for anyone. Not for the person who has them and not for those who are around the person who has them.


We all get headaches from time to time, but figuring out why we're suffering or how to get rid of them isn't always easy. The causes of a headache can be numerous from something as simple as a low blood sugar due to a missed meal, too much alcohol, or a need for glasses due to failing vision, to more severe causes such as brain tumors. Other causes can include stress, muscle tension, nutritional deficiencies, and hormonal imbalances, and you guessed it - vertebral subluxations. But more on that later.


Headaches are among the most common physical complaints prompting people to treat themselves or get professional assistance. One estimate holds that some 50 million people in the U.S. get severe, long-lasting, recurring headaches. That is a staggering number!

 

Headaches can be very distracting, debilitating and account for significant amounts of time lost from work. They can effect the quality time you spend with your children or spouse. Physically, you do not feel like exercising or doing anything strenuous. Mentally, it affects your ability to think as well as your emotions. Headaches affect every aspect of a person's life.

 

The results of years of drug commercials on TV is that millions of Americans take daily or near-daily doses of pain relief medications to combat headaches, often providing only temporary relief and causing a variety of unpleasant side effects.  An obvious concern for a headache sufferer is to obtain safe, dependable relief and a correction of the problem instead of just symptom management. You should try to avoid making things worse by using drugs - even over-the-counter, nonprescription drugs - that can have serious side effects and dangerous interactions with other medications or supplements you take. You should also be aware that many people experience what are termed "analgesic rebound headaches" from taking painkillers every day, or nearly every day. Watch out! The medicine you take to get rid of today's headache may give you a headache tomorrow and the days after. Thousands of people (at least 20,000) die every year from taking over-the-counter pain medications when taken as directed in the United States alone. This does not include overdoses or taking them inappropriately. Obviously, this method of dealing with a headache, while convenient and relatively cheap is proving to be deadly, while never getting to the root of the problem. Let's remember that the reason you have headaches is not because your body ran out of drugs.


A few years ago a study at Syracuse University produced the following headlines, "Chiropractors were right. Many headaches are caused by damaged structures in the neck - and scientific evidence proves it." That quote was from a Toronto medical doctor. "Damaged structures" are his way of saying subluxations.

 

Last year a study done at Duke University showed that chiropractic care greatly improved the health of people with headaches.

 

A number of clinical studies note the effectiveness of chiropractic care in getting "rid of headaches" an observation confirmed by a recent literature review that provided evidence of a potential spinal cord connection. Specifically, the search of previous research revealed that subluxations in the upper part of the cervical spine have the potential to create headaches.

 

Chiropractic is not a treatment for headaches. It is not a treatment for any symptoms or diseases. What chiropractors do is check the spine for subluxations, misalignments of the bones of your spine that cause nerve interference. When you have a subluxation every aspect of your health and well-being is affected in a negative way. The simple fact is that when you remove interference to the nerve system and allow the body to function better, many symptoms and diseases go away.

 

Chiropractors have had considerable success relieving a cause of the body not functioning as well as it should - subluxation. Millions of people with headache pain have been saved from the dangerous vicious circle of taking ever-larger doses of ever-stronger painkillers that may even be causing new and worse headaches, among other things. Chiropractic adjustments have shown to be more effective than medications in reducing the severity and frequency of headaches. On top of that, all the side-effects of chiropractic care are absolutely wonderful and beneficial.

 

If you know anyone who suffers from headaches, suggest they come in to have their spine checked. If they have subluxations, they are better off without them. Their bodies will function better, and in most cases, their headaches will disappear.


Are You Taking Full Advantage?

 

Too often we just do not take advantage of good things that are available to us. We may stay at a hotel and never use the pool or exercise room because we do not have time. We may never use the cruise control on our car because we only drive around town. We may feel like we have wasted money staying at a hotel with those features or buying a car with extras that we may never use. But the real tragedy is not taking advantage of something because we just do not know about its advantages. Imagine having a television set that you could turn on and off but having no idea it also had a channel selector. You would never get the maximum enjoyment out of a television with a 300-channel hookup if you did not realize you could get anything more than C-Span! I usually cannot handle more than 5 minutes of C-Span so that would be a real tragedy.

 

Not utilizing its full potential is exactly what some chiropractic patients do. They go to a chiropractor for a back problem and never realize that chiropractic is so much more than a mere "treatment" for a musculoskeletal problem. When a vertebra becomes subluxated, probably the LEAST important thing that happens is that back pain may result. Please read that sentence again. Getting rid of pain may be important to the person with pain, just as C-Span is important to someone who enjoys that type of programming, but there is a whole lot more to television than that one channel. Likewise there is a lot more to chiropractic than problems with the back. Chiropractic addresses the vertebral subluxation, which interferes with the vital messages that travel over the nervous system between the brain and every organ, tissue, and cell in the body. This interference seriously impairs the body's ability to carry on all its normal and natural functions. The body's chemistry is upset, organ function is affected, resistance is lowered and all coordinated activity is decreased. You cannot think clearly and you cannot get all the benefit from your rest and exercise that you should. The digestive system does not work at its best and the body will not utilize the food that you eat properly if there is nerve interference. When a vertebral subluxation occurs, the body begins to function in an abnormal manner. The individual in this state may be totally unaware of what is happening in his or her body. Unless someone tells them about the benefits of regular chiropractic care, they may never know until it's too late to regain their health. If all you could ever watch on television was C-Span, you could just find other forms of entertainment, like reading a good book. Unfortunately, there are no alternatives to correcting vertebral subluxations and keeping the life channels open so your body's nerve system works at its maximum. Consequently, it makes sense to have your spine checked on a regular basis and to have vertebral subluxations adjusted whenever and wherever they are found.

 

Why Do Children Need Chiropractic?

 

Let's start at the beginning. Following fertilization of the egg by the sperm, the first visible structure in a growing embryo is the notochord, which becomes the brain and spinal cord. Next the beginning of the spine grows around this structure to protect it. All the bodies' organs grow off of extensions from these first structures. Certainly there is significance in the order in which the body develops. The central nervous system develops to be the primary controlling organ for all bodily functions including healing.


As the twig is bent so shall the tree grow.
As we discussed last month, the "causes" of subluxations fall into one of three categories - emotional, chemical, and physical. Emotional and chemical are by far the most common, but today we'll talk about the physical since they are more obvious. A child may have many physical stresses to overcome in their short lives: Birth Trauma - difficult labors, forceps and vacuum extraction births, C-section births, etc. can all have traumatic impacts on a newborn, especially in the upper neck and cranium. It has been estimated that over 80% of all birth produce subluxations in the neck. Your child comes into the world subluxated. Infancy - Close to 50% of infants experience a significant fall in the first year of life from a bed, crib or infant dressing table. Toddler - Let's just focus on how many times does a toddler fall learning to walk. A child is expected to fall on their rear end about 3,000 times by the age of 3. Yet this number does not include other falls. Childhood - accidents, playground bumps and falls, sports injuries, large book bags etc.

 

The human body is wonderfully designed to heal and release many traumas, but daily stresses in our lives produce vertebral subluxation. This dysfunction between the spinal bones and the nervous system creates interference in the normal nerve transmission between the brain and body. Not only do we then have a subluxation at the point of injury, but elsewhere in the spine as the rest of our body compensating for that asymmetry. This sets up an abnormal pattern that the body will continue to grow into. When we get new tires on our car we align them so that they wear evenly over time. Our bodies also need alignment and the earlier in life, the better.

 

Structure equals Function.
A basic law of engineering states that any change in structure causes a change in function. As the spinal structures change in response to stress and trauma, the functioning of those tissues must be affected. It takes 10 mm hg of pressure on a nerve to change the frequency of signal transmission through that nerve. In other words, it takes about the weight of a dime to significantly change the functioning of a nerve and therefore the functioning of whatever that nerve controls, whether it is a muscle, an organ, or the immune system.

 

A Matter of Life and Death.
9 Infants die each day of SIDS (Sudden-Infant-Death-Syndrome) in the United States. SIDS remains the #1 cause of death for infants from one month to one year of age. According to the American SIDS Institute, one in 1500 children died of SIDS in 1998. More children continue to die from SIDS in one year than from cancer, heart disease, pneumonia, child abuse, AIDS, cystic fibrosis, and muscular dystrophy combined. The brain stem is the control center for respiratory and cardiac functions. Over 100 research papers point to brain stem abnormalities as the cause of SIDS. A subluxation of the top of vertebra of the spine (the atlas) may cause brain stem malfunctions, leading to SIDS. There are many speculations as to what causes a subluxation in the upper neck region besides the birth process, but that is a discussion for another time. The important thing to realize is that the first year of life is critical for a child to be checked regularly for subluxations.


But children don't have back pain.
The human body is an amazing thing. It allows us to function for 10, 20, or even 30 years before we exhibit musculoskeletal pain related to vertebral subluxation, but that does not mean we are not affected? Just like diseases like cancer and heart disease that may be present for years before a symptom appears. By keeping a child's spine free of subluxations a child's body will function at a higher level.


Chiropractic is not meant to be a treatment for any specific health condition, but by reducing spinal stress children with many different conditions have been helped. Research has shown children with colic, ear infections, asthma, and learning disabilities have improved with chiropractic care. And that's just the tip of the iceberg. What we must remember to remember is that a subluxation will affect everything your body does. It negatively impacts everything in your life. This is a major reason why chiropractors want people (especially children) to live without subluxations.


When should I have my child's spine checked?
At birth and periodically throughout their lives, to be determined by how well they hold their adjustments. Our children get their hearts, lungs, eyes, and teeth checked, which are good things to do. Yet, rarely are their nervous systems checked for interference. The health of the central nervous system and the spine are critically important to our overall health. In fact, they control the heart, lungs, eyes, teeth and every other cell, tissue, and organ of the body is under the control of the nervous system. So in reality, spinal check-ups are the most important check-ups your child will have. Parents that have their children checked regularly will attest that their children are sick less often and less severely. They are less prone to infectious processes like Otitis Media (ear infection) and tonsillitis and have fewer allergies. They also have a decreased history of antibiotic use indicating a lower susceptibility to bacterial infections as a result of greater immune response. These children also miss less days of school. They also have fewer emotional, learning, and neurological difficulties associated with childhood.

Bring your child in for a check up and an adjustment, if needed, as soon as possible so they can be the best they can be.

 

Why Straight Chiropractic?

 

As an objective straight chiropractor, I recognize that the body possesses a unique internal wisdom that strives to maintain it in a state of health by continually adapting to changes in its internal and external environment. The brain is the control center that distributes information throughout the body to coordinate its trillions of cells and myriad functions to facilitate the constant change and adaptation needed for optimum function. The brain must get the right information at the right time in the right amounts through the nerve system to all cells, organs and systems of the body.


If the flow of information through the nerve system is interfered with or modified, such as by the existence of vertebral subluxation, the body will be less capable of responding effectively to its environment. Therefore, the chiropractor plays a crucial role in helping people adapt and function most effectively by eliminating vertebral subluxation.


I believe that identification and elimination of vertebral subluxation is critical to the overall function and health of all living beings with a spine. I feel, therefore, that from the youngest baby to the oldest grandmother, everyone can benefit from chiropractic care that focuses on correcting vertebral subluxations. When the body is free from subluxation, the nerve system has the best chance to help the body adapt effectively to its internal and external environment.

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