Vomit. Not quite your standard opening to a newspaper article, but it does have a way of catching your attention. Most of my patients are very familiar with this word. It perhaps is the most popular of the words that I scribble on my white board every week. “So what does vomiting have to do with chiropractic?” you ask. More than you might think…
When you vomit, are you sick? Or are you well? Think before you answer. Because while the natural tendency to say “sick” might be the first off your tongue, the answer truly is “well.” Let me clarify. Say you accidentally ingest a piece of your aunt’s casserole that has been sitting in your fridge for the past three weeks. Chances are, this piece of food (if we can still call it that) has discolored and is teaming with bacteria, and your body will most likely want to reject it immediately. Hopefully, you would vomit in this situation. And, if you did, it would be a sure sign that your body was functioning in a healthy manner. So, while no one of us looks forward to having to kneel before the “porcelain god,” the fact that our body is able to vomit — like in this situation — is a good thing.
This “off the wall” example illustrates a very important point about health — and your grasping this point will revolutionize the way you view health. True health has nothing to do with how you feel. Sure, feeling good is something we all want. Our human nature yearns for this. But when it comes to health, true health is really a reflection of how well our bodies are functioning. If you fall into the trap of judging your health based upon how you feel, you put yourself at risk for being blind-sided by the many disease processes that can silently sneak up on you without your ever knowing it — such as high blood pressure, heart disease, cancer, and dental cavities. When you judge your health by how you feel, you lose out on your chance to take proactive measures to curb a disease process in its early stages before it gets out of hand — measures which could have helped you avoid needless pain and suffering, dart disability and, perhaps, even add more years to your life.
This is precisely why you have a team of health professionals to watch over you and assist you in this endeavor — medical doctors to monitor your vital organs, dentists to care for your teeth, optometrists to keep your eyes focused, audiologists to keep your ears tuned, etc., etc. Even with all of this, one area consistently gets neglected — which prompts me to ask you this question: “Who is managing your spine?”
Unlike our teeth, for example, we don’t flash our spine to other people, so it’s easy to forget about it — let alone even think about managing it. (When was the last time you flossed your spine?) But here are the facts. Your spine, which is composed of 24 movable bones known as vertebrae, houses and protects the spinal cord and nerves which branch off from it. These spinal nerves literally split off of each other countless times forming vital communication pathways which allow the brain to “talk” to each and every organ, tissue, and cell in the body. This “talking” is very important to one’s overall health. Simply put, the body is able to do its best work when the lines of communication are open. Pressure or irritation on any one of these nerves can degrade the communication link, kind of like static on a T.V., and thus rob that part of the body of its potential for optimum health.
Though it is the spine’s job to protect the spinal nerves, it is also, ironically, the most vunerable of spots in which these nerves are subjectived to this pressure or irritation. The movable vertebrae are pelted with stresses every day — stresses that shear, torque, stretch, and compress. These stresses might be obvious like falling down a flight of stairs, or they might slowly accumulate from poor posture, for example. The stresses don’t necessarily have to be physical. Emotional and chemical stresses to the body have their ways of tweaking the spine as well. Regardless of the type of stress, though, because of the stress, the vertebrae are likely to become locked up, fixated, jammed, degenerated, or misaligned. This becomes a problem. A problem (functional or structural) that rubs, chokes, or irritates the tissues of the nerve — interfering with its ability to optimally communicate and thus not allowing the body the chance to express its optimum health potential.
This problem is known as a vertebral subluxation. This is a problem so significant that an entire profession (the third largest in the health field) has risen to face it head on. Chiropractic is that profession. More and more people suffering from back and neck pain are seeking out chiropractors than ever before. With few exceptions, the vast majority of these people are in a state of crisis. They are in pain, have problems moving, and are desperately looking for some relief. What most of them don’t realize — what no one ever told them — is that the reason they have found themselves in this predicament is that they didn’t know to maintain their spines.
We have over 72 spinal joints that we require movement, stability, and coordination of nearly 24/7. With all of the stresses that this complexity of spinal joints faces on a daily basis, it would be naive to think that some form of proactive maintenance would not be a wise idea. We do it for our cars. We do it for our teeth. Why not our spines? Why? …Because people just don’t know.
What we do know, though, is if something that requires maintenance is neglected, it will develop a problem. Here’s the kicker: the vertebral subluxation problem is always silent. Silent! There is no possible way for you to know that you have one — no possible way to know if you have a problem — no possible way unless you are having your spine regularly checked by a doctor of chiropractic. Which leads one to wonder, “What if my husband or wife has a subluxation? What if my kids are subluxated?”
The vertebral subluxation is, in many ways, like a dental cavity. Initially, cavities do not cause symptoms. They too are silent. If they weren’t, the need to visit a dentist — the need to bring our children in — to check for these things that dentists have been trained to detect would not be needed. We’d already know they existed. We’d simply make appointments for fillings. If, however, the problematic cavity is neglected, the disease process escalates, eventually hitting a threshold in which symptoms spring to life — prompting you to page your friendly dentist on a Sunday morning.
You see, the vertebral subluxation doesn’t cause symptoms either. Instead, the tissue (nerve, muscle, disc, ligaments) that it slowly damages over time eventually does. Symptoms that might initially be overlooked or not even associated with this problem begin to compound sending the patient into a state of crisis. It’s not the patient’s fault, they just didn’t know to maintain their spine.
Try this little experiment. Wrap a rubber band around your finger. What happens after 5 seconds? What happens after one minute? After 3 minutes? Circulation is cut off, nerve impulses are squashed, things begin to change. Suffice it to say, the health of the finger is not as good as it possibly could be. Removing the rubber band would be a good thing. Wouldn’t it make sense to periodically have your fingers checked for rubber bands instead of waiting to find out that you have one by noticing a numb, purple, throbbing finger?
Even in an acute trauma, it’s important to make the distinction that the symptoms are not coming from the vertebral subluxations but the damaged tissues associated with the subluxations. You can (don’t try this one) create the same numb, purple, throbbing finger by slamming it with a hammer. The hammer, though, is not the cause of the symptoms — but rather the damaged tissue that it created is.
Vertebral subluxations are a problem. A problem that can creep up on you and escalate into a crisis if you are not maintaining your spine.
Okay, so now you know. Ready to maintain your spine? Why not add a chiropractor to your health care team — to your family’s health care team — to do just that.