Archives for April 2010
There are problems that have just started, lurking beneath the surface where you have not yet felt their pain. You may go years, occasionally feeling some soreness and stiffness, just to have it go away on its own. Maybe you feel a twinge, take a pill, and it all seems like it’s going to be okay.
Then one morning you get up, accidentally drop your socks on the floor, bend down to pick them up and you can’t get back up. You are having so much pain that you barely manage to make it to your bed and hang on. You start taking pills like crazy until you manage to pull out the yellow pages and find a nearby chiropractor.
On your visit to the chiropractor, he explains that your spine is showing signs of wear and tear, that your problem likely began years ago. “What? I just bent down to pick up my socks. My problem started this morning.” The problem with believing that your problem is new is that you will also likely believe that your pain should go away quickly.
You are likely forgetting about all the times you felt warning signals and quickly dismissed them or medicated them away. You don’t realize that you haven’t been able to touch your toes in years, you don’t exercise regularly, and your job entails you sitting for extended periods of time. These were all factors in the building of your spinal problem, long before you ever felt your first symptom… the back pain.
The back pain ended up as the final result of the years of build up on your spine. Now you can either go for stronger drugs to cover things up, or you can begin to undo the years of ignoring the warnings and work to build up a healthy and normally functioning spine. The good news is that it rarely takes nearly as long to put your back together as it took to make it bad in the first place.
There is a point of no return. There is a point when you’ve ignored and dulled the warning signals for so long that the degeneration in your spine and the bulging of your spinal disc have eliminated some of the more conservative treatments. There is a time when your only choice is a spinal surgery or injections to stop the pain even if they aren’t fixing anything.
What can you learn from this? When the back pain hits, take a good look at when your problem began and not just when your symptoms began. Seriously evaluate what its going to take to get your spine back to a good place and pain-free. The longer you wait in taking the proper steps, the more difficult the journey.
At least once a month I get a question from a patient asking some version of “Why can’t I just adjust myself?” And more often, I have patients that regularly do adjust themselves, particular grabbing their own head or neck and performing a maneuver that gives them a bunch of “cracks” and makes them feel like they’ve done something good.
There are probably more reasons than what I’ll list here, but the answer is “no” you can’t be your own chiropractor. You can be your own mechanic (to a point), you can be your own handyman (to a point), you might even be your own doctor at times, but you leave the more specific and more complicated tasks to the experts.
Getting a spinal adjustment is one of those complicated things that doesn’t seem so complicated on the surface. What is it that the chiropractor is really doing? Why do I need to have a chiropractic adjustment, what’s wrong with just twisting my own neck?
I think you’ll agree that if you are trying to move your spine, you have determined that it is either not moving or it has moved out of place, right? If it can go the wrong direction and cause pain and discomfort, then it makes sense that if you move it further out of place you can make it worse. So… how do you know which way to move your vertebrae? The move that I see being performed is a “move everything and hope I get the right one at some point.”
Each vertebrae can move up to sixteen different directions. Do you know which way your vertebra has gone? That’s where the chiropractor comes in. They are trained to determined which way the bone has moved and how to move it back into the correct place. Some of the directions are extremely difficult to accomplish on your own. Chiropractors don’t adjust themselves either!
The same principle that applies to adjusting yourself also goes for having someone “bear hug” you at a family gathering and having your kids walk on your back. It’s just not specific and the person performing the “therapy” has no way of knowing which part of your spine needs to be adjusted.
The next question is “If I can’t adjust myself, why does it feel better when I do it?”
You’ll notice that when you do it, the good feeling doesn’t last long. That’s why you keep doing it over and over again during the day. You still get the endorphin release, so you’ll temporarily get a influx of pain relief that makes you think you’ve done something good for yourself. However, you’ve more likely either moved something the wrong way or moved a different bone than the one that needs it. The pain and discomfort returns once the endorphins are gone and you’re back to where you started.
In summary, you cannot be your own chiropractor. I know it can seem like a simple thing, but chiropractors are the experts at finding the right area of your spine to be adjusted and then moving it back the right way. See the experts!
There are many signs that you’re developing a posture problem. Back and shoulder blade pain is a common one. These areas of the body are under a lot of additional stress and pressure when your spine is not in a good position all day. If your daily activities require you to sit in front of the computer all day, back and shoulder blade pain may be on their way if you don’t take steps to prevent it. If you’ve already got these symptoms, the treatment is the same as the prevention. As a frequent computer user, you’ve probably already been told to take breaks from sitting in that position at least once per hour. Doing this give the muscles a chance to relax and regroup. A good formula is to figure out how long you can work before you experience the first symptoms. Let’s say that’s 55 minutes. Subtract ten minutes from that time and you’ve got the longest amount of time you should spend in front of the computer before taking some sort of break. What are you doing during that five minutes of rest? Are you still in a position that will continue to allow the muscles in the front of your body to grow short? Take the time to stretch them out. Or you can keep working, but maybe it’s time to return a few phone calls or drop off those files to the guy down the hall. Just break up your activity and get some movement. A quick and easy stretch that will actually keep the pain from coming back right away can be done right in your office. Find an open doorway and brace yourself against the frame. Push forward and feel your chest muscles and the front of your shoulders stretch. Hold it for just a few seconds. Now repeat that about five times. Are you giving your back muscles a chance to improve in strength? A simple exercise to help with back and shoulder blade pain is slowly move your shoulder blades together. One way of describing this motion is to imagine that you are squeezing an orange between your shoulder blades. Hold that position for a few seconds and release. It’s not necessarily your work that’s causing your problem, but it is likely that your daily activities are very repetitive and they are leading to your posture issue and your back and shoulder blade pain. Take some small steps and you’ll be amazed at the difference.