Why Do Chiropractors Adjust/Manipulate/Crack the Spine?
I spend a large portion of my day explaining to patients what is causing their pain. That is usually followed with recommendations for treatment. Since I am a chiropractor, it should come as no surprise that chiropractic adjustments are often a main part of the treatment plan. I have become so accustomed to explaining why an adjustment would help that I have omitted explaining how it can help. In the heat of a painful injury, most people don’t care how anything helps, they just want relief.
Hopefully all my patients know, and agree, that a chiropractic adjustment results in a relieving crack or pop. That sound that is made is from the pressure that is released from our joints during that quick movement. The movement of our joints through its full range of motion helps spread this slippery stuff called synovial fluid. When we suffer trauma or subject our body to repeated movement, we experience a buildup of pressure in our joints. Without the mobilization that comes from adjustments, that pressure will continue to build. Our joints will ache, the neighboring joints will have to compensate, and we start to have increased pain and restriction. The adjustment is a treatment that restores proper movement in the joint, reduces the pressure that causes pain and stiffness, and helps improve quality of life.
Research continues to show that adjustments are beneficial. I thought about quoting studies here, but I don’t want to reward those that have read this far with boring stats. The most effective study is to experience it yourself. If you know you want adjusted, but are curious what it looks like, check out this clip to get an idea. Notice the smile on the patient’s face when she feels the relief!
–Dr. Aaron England
Weekend Warrior Syndrome
I have seen a lot of weird things at the gym, but I would like to think that none of us would walk in off the street and start throwing around 100 pounds. Performing some sort of a warm up seems like common sense. Most people also know not to lift more than they are able.
This might come as a surprise to many of you, especially those approaching middle age, but the same rules apply at home. Too many people wake up on Saturday morning, throw on their comfy jeans, and walk straight out to their garage. Once inside they look around and find the most awkward, heavy item in there and lift it as quickly as they can. Many insist on using only their back. Once they have hurt their back they move on to raking, shoveling, or weeding to ensure that they have properly wrecked themselves.
Even those that know their limits and avoid heavy lifting can fall victim to Weekend Warrior Syndrome. Seemingly menial tasks like weeding can create a pain in the back that burns deep and stabs like an ice pick. The two enemies to our lumbar health are overloading the spine through heavy lifting and fatiguing the tissues through repetitive movement. Being bent over and pulling those darn sprouts falls under the latter. These injuries do not just happen in the backyard, but also on the pick-up basketball court and behind the ski boat. Perhaps it happened because the kids goaded you into going on that hike or your friend who called you grandpa when hesitated to jump into the lake from the high cliff. In the end the result is pain, aches, and an emphatic “I told you so” from your wife.
That all sounds so scary. Few things are as bad as a finger wag and a head bob from the spouse while you are already hurting. It seems best to avoid the situation entirely, so our natural inclination is to avoid the thing that hurt us. We stop waterskiing and avoid kayaking. Power walks become slow walks and then shuffles. Eventually we consider the walk to the mailbox to be our exercise for the day. But the answer is not to avoid physical exertion; we must do a better job of preparing ourselves to move. Regular and meaningful exercise, proper stretching, a nutritious diet and chiropractic care are all essential to staying active, being healthy, and living well as we age.
Did you notice that I included chiropractic care? It is a key component of overall health. It helps us avoid the injuries that come with being a weekend warrior or the vacation viking. Adjustments help the joints in our back and extremities to work correctly. They help keep us remain balanced and moving as we were designed. Whether you come in before you need it or after you told someone to hold your root beer, chiropractic care can help prevent injury or help your recovery. Give us a call today and let us keep your weekends full of warrior activities.
-Dr. Aaron England
The Importance of Strength and Function
What exercise do you think is the most important for physical independence and daily function? I hope you said the squat, because the answer is probably the squat. They are a wonderful exercise to improve function at any age or ability level. Think about the movements you go through to get in and out of your car, or the muscles that you engage to get out of bed in the morning. What about going up stairs or getting in to the bathtub? All those daily activities require you to flex your hips and knees and use the muscles in your thighs and butt.
Before we go further, I think a little anatomy review is in order. The muscles in the front of your thighs, the quads, are some of the strongest muscles in your body. They help us step up, get up, and control our descent into chairs. The glutes, or the booty muscles, are also very strong and important. The glutes help us stand up straight. They help us avoid the bent over shuffle posture that you unfortunately see in senior population. It is very common to hear the wife of a middle-aged gentleman complain that he has lost his butt or that he now has “chicken legs”. A wife can be so cruel. The husbands have lost strength because they have become sedentary over the years and have stopped using their glutes and quads.
Reduced activity and loss of lower body muscle mass can be even more problematic in women. Osteoporosis is a scary word after menopause, but it is usually directly tied to muscle use. Resistance training, namely weight lifting, is essential to prevent osteoporosis. That means that as a woman ages she should make weight lifting a priority. I am not suggesting that they copy Holga from the East German Olympic team, but a moderate weight lifting regime can do wonders, for both men and women, as we age.
I do not have the time, nor the energy, to name all the other benefits of building and maintaining lower body muscle mass in this blog. Some of them are pretty cool, like increasing metabolism and driving your significant other crazy with your awesome booty. What seems to be most important to people, especially as we age, is to maintain personal independence. We recognize that as a society we are living longer, but if we are not living better those extra years on the end can be fairly frightening. One of the main reasons that people end up in nursing homes is that they become unable to take care of themselves physically. They can no longer get in and out of bed, they cannot get up after a fall, or they are unable to dress themselves. Squats, dead-lifts and lunges all help us continue to daily activities throughout life.
I love helping people begin a workout program. Sometimes starting is as simple as doing 10 air squats a day. For one patient it was getting in and out of a dining room chair 10 times. A few time I have been asked to design a more elaborate leg routine involving multiple exercises with various performance goals. But an important part of improving function is to make sure that you are moving as you should. Subluxations, or joint dysfunction, can limit your potential and make you susceptible to injury. For instance, upper back tightness and restriction can make it impossible to do a proper squat. That is why it is important to get yourself checked, regardless where you are in your workout program. Call today and get better!
-Dr. Aaron England
This August my wife and I will celebrate our 12th anniversary. That means we have been married long enough that she doesn’t listen to my whining or complaining. She doesn’t give me sympathy if I’m sick and doesn’t care if I don’t like the drapes. I am not sure when couples pass the point of listening to whining, but I will guess it was around the sixth or seventh year…or maybe she never actually cared. Even though wives don’t listen to whining they do hear it, and eventually they force their spouses into action. That is why quite often I will be face to face to a stubborn husband who says the words that every man eventually says: “I don’t want to be here but my wife made me come”.
When I was a recent graduate I hated those words. It intimidated me because I took it to mean that he wasn’t going to cooperate or give me a chance. After a few cool experiences from these types of patients I learned to love these situations. The patient was in my office because they wanted something fixed. If they truly didn’t believe that I could help they wouldn’t be here. Deep inside there is a hope that this can somehow get better.
As we proceed through the new patient encounter I become much like Androclus from the old fable. Since most of you don’t want to google that name, I’ll just tell you that Androclus was a Roman slave that escaped into a cave. He was frightened to realize that he shared the cave with an angry and grumpy lion. Androclus realized that the lion was not angry, but was suffering from a thorn in his paw. After Androclus removed the thorn the lion became docile and friendly. These visits most often result in once grumpy patients becoming friendly and loyal. The stubborn husband becomes the one prodding his wife to make her appointments so that she will also quit her whining.
I’ve talked in the past about how pain changes people. It can be depressing and overwhelming at times. The great thing about chiropractic care is that it doesn’t matter if you believe it will help or you don’t. This is not Tinker Bell’s fairy dust helping you fly to Neverland. It is a researched treatment that has been shown to be effective. And not only is it effective but it has been shown to reduce the chance of surgery and abuse of medication.
What does this all mean? It means that if you are a spouse that is tired of hearing your Hunny Bun or Sugar Pie complain, you should make an appointment for them to feel better. Their back pain (or whatever pain) going away will help that pain in your neck that you get from hearing their whining.
-Dr. Aaron England
People often ask me how or why I chose to become a chiropractor. It’s not the first thing that kids shout out when you ask them what they want to be when they grow up. I kind of always wanted to be what I am today, I just didn’t know the name for it when I was younger. I’ve always like helping people and have loved sports since I can remember. I knew I wanted to find a marriage of the two and thought that being a medical doctor was my best avenue.
I began as a pre-med student in college and loved the biology and science classes. Learning about the body was fascinating. On a break, I shadowed a family doctor that I had known for a long time. After a couple of hours he asked me if I was sure this was what I wanted to do. I said yes and he told me that I didn’t ask him a question that I needed to ask. He told me to ask him if he would do it all over again. When I asked he decidedly answered in the negative. He mentioned a few things about the job that I would have never thought about, but one thing that stood out was that he said he felt like a pill dispenser. He got to help people get better, but not in a hands-on way that I really wanted.
I left disappointed and a little worried. I thought I had this all planned and life was going to be straight forward. But I knew he was right and that I needed to find something else. The easiest thing would be to just shift my goal from medicine to a similar field, I set my sights on dentistry. I didn’t like dentistry and I never thought it was interesting. But the hours and the money seemed nice and pursuing that career wouldn’t require any change in my current academic path.
I took my dental plans right up to my first scheduled interview with a prospective dental school. About the time I scheduled the interview I observed work on a heavy smoker. I’ve cleaned rotten meat out of a broken freezer in the summer and it didn’t compare to the smell of whatever gum disease this poor lady had. I left the office, took a look at my meat-hook hands and realized that I had made a huge mistake.
As fate’s perfect timing would have it, this was when I met my first chiropractor. My lovely wife’s family was in town to visit and brought along a family friend, Terry, who happened to be a chiropractor. DeA had been suffering from low back pain that I couldn’t get to go away with my athletic training techniques that I had picked up from school. Terry checked her, adjusted her and gave her exercises. The pain that wasn’t going away with stretching, massage, ice, heat, exercising, voodoo or prayer was gone. That was when I realized that what I had always wanted in my career was found in chiropractic.
Thanks to my pre-med background and Biology degree it was easy to shift gears (well, easy except the part about explaining to my dad why I was giving up on dentistry and moving to Iowa to do something that he wasn’t sure about). After researching schools I decided to attend Palmer College of Chiropractic and after a few stops I was able to move my family back to the Lake Chelan Valley.
To this day I get a thrill and excitement out of helping people move and feel better. It literally makes my day to see someone walk without pain, sit without cringing or pick up their child without wincing. I cannot think of a more rewarding career that would fit me as well as this one. In a way I feel like I didn’t chose chiropractic, but more discovered it for myself. I try to share that same sense of discovery with my patients who, just like I used to be, aren’t sure what chiropractic is or how it can help them.
-Dr. Aaron England
Dr. England’s Healthy Lifestyle Advice
Pain is a mechanism that our body uses to tell us that something is wrong. It is an alarm that warns us to change or avoid doing something harmful. Unfortunately, too many of us have learned to ignore that warning and we keep pressing on. We try to minimize the meaning of pain with cliché sayings like “No pain, no gain” or “pain is weakness leaving the body”. Unfortunately pain rarely brings gains and it is definitely not weakness leaving the body. Pain is different than the soreness, achiness or fatigue that accompanies exercise. Pain is “ouch” and swear words. Ultimately pain is suffering and misery. The true cost of pain is how it changes us from a happy person to a grump that hates life and all the people in it.
The cost of pain was made perfectly clear to my lovely wife after we opened the office. She worked as a massage therapist in a day spa while I was attending Palmer College of Chiropractic. The people she would work on were typically looking for a little relaxation after stopping at Starbucks and before their kids were done with school. Before their massage, they would have their nails done and rub some skin off their face with sandpaper. It was a luxury and a pleasure. After graduation, my beautiful wife worked as a massage therapist in our office. After a few days, she told me she hated working for me and wanted to quit. I took it personal and asked what was wrong. She said that everyone she worked on was grumpy. No one was happy and relaxed, instead she was dealing with cranky sourpusses. It was then that I realized that she had never actually dealt with people in pain. These were people that needed relief, not people killing time between yoga and play dates. I convinced her to stick with it, mostly because I didn’t have another therapist at the time and was desperate. About a week later she told me that one of her crankiest patients had become one of her favorites. She was amazed to see that this former grouch was a truly wonderful person once pain wasn’t weighing on her any longer.
That transformation is one of the reasons that I love my job. The first visit can be a rough encounter. The patient is usually in considerable pain and because of it they are irritable and frustrated. The pain can be overwhelming, scary and depressing. But after a visit or two that sour outer shell starts to crack and before you know it their sweet, gooey insides are spilling out. It’s like a human Sour Patch Kid, but even more rewarding.
The reasons that we put up with discomfort are many, but we should address them immediately. Pain wears us down whether it is severe or subtle, long or short term. There is no such thing as a “normal” pain but is a signal that something is wrong. Chiropractic care is a proven way to effectively treat many issues from head to toe. Call or stop in at England Chiropractic to start getting back to who you really are when you aren’t in pain.
-Dr. Aaron England