“It’s Never Just a Muscle!”

Back Pain

I hear it just about everyday. I don’t know how or why people think it. There is no known conspiracy about it. It may be because it is the only explanation people can think of. It drives me crazy and takes all of my energy to control my emotions when I hear, “I think it’s just a muscle.”

Let me explain why it is never just a muscle when you are talking about back and neck pain. The muscles in the back and neck are slow twitch muscle fibers. They are designed for endurance. They are not fast twitch, speed muscles. In addition, there are three layers of muscles with a ton of overlap amongst the muscles of each layer. For this reason, it is nearly impossible to tear or “pull” one of these muscle without doing damage to a much more susceptible structure first. 

The most common tissue to receive damage in the spine is the disc which can bulge, herniate, mishape, and swell when over worked or over loaded. Then there are the joints and ligaments of the spine which will sprain long before a postural muscle reaches tearing status. Finally, you have the nerve roots which if irritated even slightly will cause a muscle spasm which essentially protects the muscle. Herein lies the issue. 

When a muscle spasms it can be a lot more painful and noticeable than the underlying cause. Don’t be fooled. Muscles don’t just decide to spasm on their own. It is a protective measure. 

There can be occasions where a muscle due to overuse, usually because of postural strains, will form a knot (the technical term being a trigger point). When this happens it is commonly like asking, “which came first the chicken or the egg.” If there is a trigger point it will immediately affect the joints, discs, and nerves. There will also be a good argument that the trigger point only developed because of a lack of motion or subluxation of the joints. Either way, it is never just a muscle. 

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The Most Pressing Issues Regarding Healthcare!

I joined a group on LinkedIn for healthcare providers who want to discuss issues regarding health. The title of my blog is essentially one of the topics that was raised. It was interesting to read that most of the people discussed the issue of reimbursement for healthcare. My response was a lot different and set up in a way that hopefully, the others ranting about money will see the forest despite the trees. Here is my response:

In my humble opinion, the problem with so called healthcare today is that it is, in fact, rarely health care. I would argue that all of our healthcare problems are because we, as a society, focus on symptoms. This is true with the cause of disease and administrative woes. Although we are making strides towards some early detection studies we as patients, providers, administrators and insurers mostly give lip service to the underlying causes of disease. Instead, as patients we rarely give a thought towards our health unless there is a symptom bad enough to warrant an appointment with a doctor. Most doctors are not interested in seeing someone who does not have significant symptoms and administrators know that there is nothing to bill if there is no diagnosis based on symptoms and less if there is no medication or procedure that can be done. Symptoms, symptoms, symptoms and not how can I climb the ladder of improved health everyday of my life.

This focus on symptoms is perpetuated by the percieved notion that someone besides the individual is in charge of healthcare. Concern for one’s health should first and foremost rest on the shoulders of the individual. When there is a sincere desire to be healthy then the rest of us are there to show the way.

Today we argue about the fact that the government does too much or too little for healthcare. In addition, we blame insurers for not covering enough and doctors for being too busy to really help. This is all wrapped up in a ridulous sense of entitlement by individuals who, for the most part, have mostly themselves and their poor choices to blame. We assume people are not going to change so we have to change everything else to accomodate them.

Granted accidents happen and ill health is not always a function of unhealthy living, but if every individual felt responsible for his/her own health then the paradaigm completely shifts 180 degrees. In this scenario people reduce risky behavior because there is true risk involved. Loss of life, lifestyle and livlidhood is potentially on the line. They seek providers whom they trust can help in a manner that is cost effective and know that proactive healthy habits are also less expensive in the long run. If the majority of people thought and acted this way they would be healthier. Doctors would educate and coach and occasionally treat individuals with disease which would significantly decrease the taxing burden they bear. Insurance rates would be reasonable because fewer people would need to utilize the extreme measures to extend life that cost so much. In this way, insurance would be utilized as it is intended, to reduce the risk of losing everything in the face of an unfortunate circumstance; not benefits that we hope to use because we paid so much for them. Finally, the government would keep the hell out of the arena in which it has no business.

Complacency in the absence of symptoms and entitlement in the presence of is the disease of what we call healthcare today. Personal and individual responsibility to improve one’s health on a daily basis is the cure.

What A Day!!!

On Saturday I had my annual Patient Appreciation Day and Anniversary party. We had a fantastic turnout. The party went from 10-2:00 pm and in that time I adjusted a little over 100 patients. My awesome massage therapist gave 40 chair massages much to the delight of all who were actually able to receive one. The place was packed and the food was stellar! In all, I cannot think of too many better ways to spend a Saturday then helping that many people improve their health.

The week before I saw new patients at no charge. That included the x-rays. I am actually going to continue the promotion informally this week, as well.

I want to express my appreciation to all who helped and all who came. I am grateful to have so many patients that I can call my friends!

“Nothing Helps My Mid Back Pain!”


At least once a week I get a person in here who presents with mid back pain that is dull and achy but can go really sharp. It is a stabbing pain that feels like a knife going right through to the front. Taking a deep breath is difficult and forget about sneezing, coughing or laughing. Often times they feel like they are having a heart attack because of the tightness, the altered breathing and because it can even refer pain into the arm.

That, my friends, is a rib subluxation. The worst part about it, besides the unbearable pain, is that unless you address the concern directly, it can linger for a long time and go chronic. It is also something that doctors, including chiropractors, don’t always look at and don’t always know how to handle.

Luckily for me (insert tongue into cheek), I have a rib that subluxates quite often and have had it since I was 20. It was the cause of of miserable pain and some nasty heart burn (another topic of conversation that we can address later). When I finally found a chiropractor who figured out that it was, in fact, a rib and not my neck or a thoracic vertebra that had subluxated, then adjusted it properly, it was heaven. Since then, I make sure to educate my patients that have a history of rib subluxtions to let me know if it is acting up before I get too far into adjusting the spine. Otherwise, we can keep adjusting and never quite see full improvement.

Does This Frustrate You?

I was talking to a patient the other day about the problems she was having with her feet. The symptoms didn’t seem to be consitent with any musculoskeletal trauma and the presentation was a little vague (generalized pain but in the joint line, kind of achy, hurt at random times, etc.) At the same time, she has also been complaning  that her psoriais is acting up. This sparked a thought in my brain that she may be suffering from psoriatic arthritis. 

I told her to look up some information and also to talk to her MD about it to see if he woul do any follow up testing. She reported back later that when she mentioned it to him he said, without even examining the foot, “I dont’ think it’s that.” To which the patient replied, “What do think it is then?” The doctor said, “I have no idea.” 

WHAT? How can you say it is not something but also say you have no idea what it is? Does this make sense? If it were completely out of the range of possibilites like, “Hey doc my ankle hurts do you think I may have been bitten by a cobra while in bed last night (assuming you don’t live in India)?,” then I could see answering the way he did. But please, give the patient a break! At least tell her why you don’t think it is psoriatic arthritis. Better yet, try diagnosing for real before you rule out something. Frustrating!

Stellar Article Review!

I read this great article review by Dan Murphy, one of the leading chiropractic researchers. If you have the chance, click on this link for his review. If everyone read and understood what this article is about, my office and every other chiropractor in the world would be flooded with patients. Here are just a few bullet points from the article if you don’t want to read the whole article review. I added a few notes in orange to help clarify some things:

1) Curvatures of the spine adversely affect the sympathetic nervous system.

2) The sympathetic nervous system controls the blood supply to the viscera, and
is therefore related to all manner of visceral diseases and pathology, and
specifically, “the ordinary diseases of adult life.” (Visceral means organ)

3) Visceral diseases and pathology can be traced back to the segmental levels of
sympathetic involvement with nearly 100% correlation. (For example: Nerves that are irritated in the low back cause bowel and reproductive organ dysfunction, mid back=heartburn, neck=thyroid, etc.)

4) Prolonged abnormal spinal posture stretches the sympathetic nervous system,
firing the sympathetics, causing reduced blood supply to visceral organs, and
resulting in visceral pathology. (Irritation causes decreased blood flow to organs which causes problems)

5) Abnormal spinal curvatures precede organic visceral diseases. (Sit up Straight!)

6) The author perfectly describes pelvic-lumbar subluxations, fibrosis, reduced
motion, and sympathetic nerve interference adversely influencing blood flow and
resulting in visceral pathology. (Read my previous article to find out about subluxation)

7) Spinal disease precedes old age and to cause old age.

8) Stiff distorted spines cause sympathetic irritation, vascular spasm, arterial
hardening, and old age follows. (Motion is Life, get up and do something physical!)

9) A person is as old as his spine.

10) Postural distortions causing sympathetic dysfunction can be treated with
fulcrum-assisted reversal of the postural distortion. [Incredible] (Adjustments work!)

11) This author references both osteopathic and chiropractic literature in his
bibliography.

Subluxation

You many not know this, but there is a word which is either the bane or the glory of almost every chiroprator out there. That word is “subluxation” pronounced sub lux a (long a) shun). Don’t ask why there is so much controversy. Suffice it to say that people squabble over semantics. What is important is to understand the concept.

The literal translation of the word subluxation is minor dislocation. “Sub” means minor or small and “to lux” means to dislocate. When the modern founders of chiropractic started using the term, the thought process was that vertebrae would sublux from its natural position. This minor dislocation would then pinch on the nerve root which exits in between the vertebrae. Pinching the nerve root wouild then lead to poor communication along that nerve channel to the intended organs. Poor communication would then lead to disease.

Makes sense, right? Well, through the years we have learned more. First off, it doesn’t take a dislocation to cause problems with the nerve root. All it takes is a little bit of irritation. This can happen from direct contact from the vertebra, muscle, ligament, whatever, or from inflammation in the area. The point being, the vertebra doesn’t have to shift and pinch the nerve to create what we think of as a subluxation. If the joints of the vertebrae are funcitoning properly in any form that is enought to create irritation of the nereve root and therefore disease.

The goal then for chiropractic patients is to strive to reduce one’s subluxations in order to improve one’s health. So, when we get down to it, chiropractors find these areas of dysfunction and help train the joints to funciton properly.

What is Health?

What is health? I ask this question all the time both to others and to myself. When I remind myself of the answer on a daily basis, I have real purpose to my work.

The definition of health used to be the absence of disease. That is a pretty narrow definition and, to my way of thinking, isn’t really possible. I think everyone has something that causes dis-ease and therefore, by definition has a disease. For that reason I think we have evolved as a society into a broader more dynamic view of health.

Health can be good or bad. It is a spectrum, if you will. Everyone alive has health to some degree. It is kind of like the old saying “If I didn’t have bad luck, I would have no luck at all.” Some people have bad health and others have good health.

To me, good health means that all aspects of the body function as they should. This includes functioning with other parts of the body. Proper function and even synergy of the body relies on good communication. Good communication is in large part dependent on a properly functioning nervous system.

The nervous system consists of the brain, the spinal cord, the cranial nerves, the nerve roots, and all the nerves with their bundles that come off of the nerve roots. The most common area of the nervous system to have a problem is the nerve root.

When vertebra in the back is dysfunctional it irritates the nerve root which alters communication to the organs and other parts of the body that nerve root innervates and leads to disease. Chiropractic helps relieve the irritation of the nerve. Simple as that!

Venting

The title is meant to be a pun. If you have ever been in a hyperbaric chamber you will get the joke. I find humor a good way to calm down my anger towards idiocy.

I posted about the hyperbaric chamber yesterday and now I am going to vent about some mis-information out there. I operate a mild pressure chamber as opposed to a high pressure chamber. I went with the mild pressure because it does everything that a high pressure chamber does but was much cheaper to purchase and operate and much much safer.

I have gotten a few calls lately and it is very clear that there are some individuals with an interest involved saying that mild hyperbaric therapy has no value. They are obviously saying it loud enough that people are scared and need to be educated.

First of all, what makes hyperbaric therapy work is in the pressure that drives ambient oxygen (the oxygen in and around the body but not in the cells) into the cells. It is not in the oxygen you breath in. In fact, breathing in pure or concentrated oxygen only improves the treatment slightly. Secondly, pressure is pressure. The old riddle what weighs more a pound of feathers or a pound of lead applies here. The answer is they are the same. It doesn’t matter whether there is a soft wall (which is not so soft when it is pressurized) or a hard wall be glass, metal, or whatever.

The only difference between a high pressure chamber and a mild pressure chamber is in the name. High pressure chambers can go up to a much higher pressure than mild pressure. Since I am mostly interested in dealing with brain and nervous system healing and repair, which research has shown to be more beneficial at lower pressure and not 100% oxygen. In fact, the clinics working with kids on the Autistic Spectrum and other brain issues only go up to about 1.3 ATA. The chamber I operate goes up that high as well.

It drives me crazy that professionals are out there preaching that if a little is good a lot is much better when the research is pretty clear. For additional information check out this link to an article written by Julie Buckley, MD.

Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy

I took the time today to spend an hour in my hyperbaric oxygen tank. I have decided to take at least one hour a week to decompress (or really compress if you are being literal). The benefits of hyperbaric oxygen therapy are vast. Ultimately though, it comes down to a very simple concept.

If you think of the cells of our bodies like little engines the analogy is easy to grasp. There are two major things that make the engine work. It needs fuel and it needs oxygen to burn the fuel. The more oxygen the quicker it will burn the fuel.

We have plenty of fuel in our bodies but we have a limited amount of oxygen that we can take into the cells of our bodies. The reason for the shortage is because oxygen gets into the cells by piggybacking on red blood cells. We have a limited number of red blood cells in the body at any given time. (If you want more spend some time in high altitude where the body will adapt to the decreased available oxygen in the air by creating more red blood cells). Red blood cells also have a certain number of oxygen molecules that can bind to it. Oxygen binds to red blood cells in the lungs and then oxygen is transported to the cells of the body.

This is where hyperbaric comes in. If you increase pressure you can dissolve oxygen into liquid. So, all of the oxygen in the air around us and in the body, but not in the cells, can now be transferred into the cells. More oxygen in the cells equals faster burning motors.

So what? When cells burn quicker we observe things we wouldn’t normally see. For example, in children with Autism new brain patterns develop. In stroke victims, oxygen can reach the damaged area and start the healing process. Athletes use is it to recover from the stress, strain and injuries inflicted upon them. The list of benefits goes on. We have seen success with MS, stroke, autisms, chronic fatigue, injury recovery, recovery from chemotherapy, lyme disease, cerebral palsy, wound that wouldn’t heal, and so much more.