You Can Adjust the Bones in Your Skull?

There are 22 bones in the skull connected by a type of joint called a suture. In the old days, doctors thought these bones fused together in adulthood. Now, we know that they can and do move with some regularity. The suture as a joint is only found in the skull. It doesn’t pop like the synovial joints in our backs and extremities, they just shift a little here and there. Because there is movement, though, it can be adjusted, and because of the proximity to the brain, the results can be very beneficial.

There are several reasons people need the cranial bones adjusted. Most often it is due to a build-up of sinus pressure which changes the shape of the skull. The sinuses are open areas in the middle of cranial bones. They have a mucous lining and are sensitive to atmospheric changes. When full, as a result of a cold or allergies, they tend to hurt from the pressure. When one gets cranial bones adjusted, it regulates the pressure and promotes drainage into lower sinuses and into the lymphatic system.

Another reason to adjust the cranial bones is for TMJ issues that won’t resolve with adjusting the jaw. The “T” in TMJ stands for Temporal, as in the temporal bone. It makes the socket part of the joint where the mandible articulates. If it is shifted, the joint is not going to work right no matter how much you try to increase the movement of the mandible.

I have seen great success adjusting the cranial bones. It seems a little odd but it can make a difference. It can help with sinus issues, headaches, TMJ syndrome,  and a host of weird neurlogical conditions due to mild pressure on the brain.  Let me know if you want me to check it out.

Even If I Want to, I Cannot Help Everyone. Neither Can Chiropractic.

The great Aristotle once wrote that “The more you know, the more you know you do not know.” For me, the more experience I gain, the more I realize my limitations. People who know me well, know that I do not lack confidence. I try not to be arrogant but I do my best to assure myself that I can be a force for good in this world. That saying, I must confess that no matter how much I may want to make everyone better, there are just some people that I cannot help.

Recently, I had a patient come in that I hadn’t seen in a couple of years. She did not come in for an adjustment. She came in to explain why I couldn’t help her. You see, back then I gave her several adjustments which provided little to no relief and then she started heading south so she discontinued care. As a doctor, that is the most helpless feeling. It is made significantly worse when there is no explanation why. In her case, she was born with a birth defect called a Chiari Malformation where the lower part of the brain drops below the skull. This can lead to a syringomelia, a pocket of fluid in the spinal cord which can be very painful and dangerous. Anyway, this was never mentioned in her MRI report from years earlier. The neuro/spine specialist that she saw some time after seeing me saw it on the MRI. This little bit of information explained everything. I am grateful she came in and shared that with me.

There will always be conditions that are too far advanced for me to help. I don’t like it, but that is the way it is. We do not always know when a condition is beyond help until after we have tried. I have had many patients with serious back pain come in and ask if I can help. As a chiropractor, I know I can adjust them. In most cases, this will help in the healing process. At the very least, it is a conservative start. Most patients get better and we can manage. Others do not. I have recommended MRI’s and surgery when it is beyond my help. For the most part, those patients have seen good results and have come back to me for care after their surgeries.

Finally, there are people who either do not really want to be helped or have unrealistic expectations of how long and what it will take to heal. Healing takes time and effort. One adjustment can make a big difference in how a patient feels but it does not mean that their injury has healed. Consistent care is tentamount to healing properly. Likewise, just because there is still pain, it does not mean that injury is not healing. Pain can be tricky and is not a very good indicator of the level of damage.

In short, I sleep at night knowing that I do my best to help others live healthier lives. There are always challenges and there will be people that despite my knowledge, skills, and determination, I cannot help. For those people, I am sorry. I feel bad for you and hope there is some one out there with the answers and approach to help you in your journey.

To X-ray or not to X-ray?

It is the trend these days for chiropractors not to have x-ray machines in their office . Some docs would never dream of adjusting a patient without x-rays and “proof”. For them the cost of x-rays and the radiation exposure is completely justified by their style of care. The other extreme is the doctor who feels like radiation should be avoided always. A lot of doctors just do not want to deal with the cost and hassle of x-rays. If their patient needs imaging, they refer them to an x-ray facility.

For me, it always depends on the situation. I have digital x-rays in my office. It costs me the same to take 100 x-rays as it does to take none, so cost is not a factor. That saying, there are plenty of factors that come into play when deciding to take x-rays on a patient.

First, is there a reasonable need to take x-rays? I do not believe taking x-rays on everyone before adjusting them is necessary. I respect some chiropractors methodology, but I do not adjust people based on x-rays. I take x-rays when a patient has had trauma and I want to rule out fracture or instability or if I suspect a scoliosis or some other malformation. On occasion, I take x-rays because of a gut feeling. I had this experience the other day on a fairly healthy patient who had been seeing other chiropractors for months. I was glad I did when I discovered a condition known as a spondylolisthesis which completely altered my approach to adjusting her.

Conversely, there are significant reasons not to take x-rays. I will never take an x-ray on a female who is or thinks she may be pregnant. I also have a policy in my office that I do not take x-rays of children under the age of 12 unless we need to visualize a scoliosis. Finally, if someone has had a lot of radiation, I try to avoid more exposure.

In general, x-rays do not expose someone to a lot of radiation these days. Nevertheless, they are still radioactive and should be respected. If I feel like a patient can avoid having  x-rays taken, I do my best to avoid them. If you see a chiropractor and want to avoid x-rays or feel like you need them, it is very helpful to let the doctor know why or why not. In most cases you can start care without x-rays. If the treatments are not working and the doctor suspects there may be more insight using x-rays, then do them then.

It’s a Wonderful Life From This Chiropractor’s Perspective

I love the movie, “It’s a Wonderful Life.” I am especially moved by and relate to the main character, George Bailey. George consistently puts the needs of others before his own wants. He is flawed for sure, but when it comes down to it, he does the right thing for others. In the end, we see just how much his generosity and selflessness has affected others and when George is in dire straights, they lift and support him.

I often tell people that I strive to work by the George Bailey Principle where people and community are more important than money and business. I really believe this. I am also thoroughly convinced that when we focus on relationships and helping others, money and business will come.

Why am I sharing this? It kills me that there are people out there who need help but do not seek it because they fear the expense. They suffer because of something as stupid as money. Now, I get that for some it is a priority issue. I try not to know or judge. Honestly, what I care about most is helping people live healthier lives. Because of this, I know that money and success will come. It has come, and will continue. If you need care and finances are a concern, come talk to me and let’s work it out to make it affordable.

The two quotes that impact me the most in the movie are: “Remember, George, no man is a failure who has friends.”  and “A toast to my big brother, George: the richest man in town.” In my practice, I do not need to have the most money; I just want to help the most people. This will make me the richest man in town.

Holiday Stress and Chiropractic

I probably should not admit it but, “National Lampoon’s, Christmas Vacation” is one of my favorite Christmas shows. There are few actors who pull off a complete melt-down like Chevy Chase. I think we can all relate at some level with Clark W. Griswold as it concerns the stresses and strains of the Holiday Season.

There are several reasons why stress levels rise around the holidays. Day Light Savings ends forcing us to change our internal clocks. Day light decreases unti the 21st of December. The weather changes, creating all sorts of issues with cold and pressure. We are busier with parties, school plays and concerts, and all the prep work for the holidays. Shopping. Finally, there can be an overwhelming pressure to make sure this time of year is  special. All of these things can make the Holdiays a very stressful time, indeed.

Here is my advice to help deal with the holiday stress and especially how chiropractic can help. From a mental health point of view, first, remember to keep things in perspective. The spirit of the season is, after all, one of celebration and giving. Also, things are great, but people are much more important.

From a health stand point, sleep and daylight are very important. It is getting darker earlier so, go to bed earlier! Countless studies have shown the benefits of good sleep and low stress. Your body needs time to rest. Patterning your schedule to the sun and not just the clock can make a difference. With the days being shorter, be sure to get some sun light. Light from the sun helps produce a useable form of vitamin D which affects the production of seretonin. Seretonin helps maintain a positive mood. Some of you will go to work in the dark, work in a cubicle all day and go home in the dark. Be sure to take a lunch break and go outside to soak up some sunlight for at least 10 minutes. Seretonin, by the way, also helps boost the immune system so it will help fight off all of the viruses that tend to be more prevalent this time of year.

One of the biggest issues with stress is that it creates a vicious cycle. When there is emotional stress it creates physical stress. During physical stress the postural muscles tense which causes joints not to move as freely. Blood flow is altered and the sympathetic nervous system is stimulated causing an increase in adrenaline and cortisol. This physcial stress can lead to pain which causes emotional stress and the cycle continues. Getting adjusted will help break the cycle. Chiropractic adjustments work at the joint level to restore proper balance to the sympathetic nervous system. If you are feeling stressed, it is time to come in and get adjusted.


Increased Days and Hours for Thomas Chiropractic!

Patients have spoken and we are listening. Effective immediately, Thomas Chiropractic will be open Monday through Friday from 8:00 am until 6:00 pm with lunch from 12:30-2:00 pm. Below is a list of the hours for each doctor:

DrThomasTwitterDr. Thomas 
Monday: 8-6 w/ lunch from 12:30-2
Tuesday: 9-12:30
Wednesday: 8-6 w/ lunch from 12:30-2
Thursday: 8-6 w/ lunch from 12:30-2
Friday: Off
Saturday: Random time based on availability
Dr. Nowland
DrJNowlandPicMonday: 8-6 w/ lunch from 12:30-2
Tuesday: 8-6 w/ lunch from 12:30-2
Wednesday: Off
Thursday: 8-6 w/ lunch from 12:30-2
Friday: 8-6 w/ lunch from 12:30-2


Dr. Thomas and Dr. Nowland are both happy to treat each other’s patients should they come in at a time when their regular doctor is unavailable.



Low Back Pain and Tight Hamstrings

If you are around my age, you might remember having to pass the Presidential Fitness Test in P.E. Part of that test was flexibility demonstrated by sitting on the ground with the legs extended and the knees straight. Then, you would reach forward as far as you could. Not to brag, but I could reach well beyond my feet. I was, in fact, the most flexible boy in my whole middle school. I remained pretty flexible until I was in college when I hurt my low back. Since then, I can barely touch my toes on a good day.

With any injury, the body has protective measures. When you hurt your low back, the hamstrings will shorten to protect against bending forward and causing further damage. Like most of these reactions though, the body doesn’t always know when to stop guarding which can prolong the healing process or lead to more problems down the line. My recommendation is to first start improving the function of the low back through chiropractic adjustments, and then to start regularly stretching the hamstrings.

I created the following video to help you do this stretch properly. Remember that in order to actually lengthen a muscle, you must sustain the stretch for at least 30 seconds. It can take time before you see results. If after several weeks of stretching you are not improving, it most likely means that there is still a significant amount of  dysfunction in your low back that you need to address.

Hamstring Stretch

Do Your Hands Fall Asleep?

Most of us have experienced it. There you are sitting in what seems like a comfortable position, watching tv. All of sudden you notice that you have no feeling in your hand! It has fallen asleep. You move from the all-of-a-sudden awkward position trying to pause the show you are watching but you can’t because you have no feeling. You do the obligatory shaking of the hand trying to get it to wake up. It starts to get some feeling back but really it just feels like someone is jabbing you with thousands of pins and needles. Then you start to flex and extend your fingers. It finally starts to wake up and you are able to reverse back and watch what you missed. Slowly, the hand goes back to normal. You have just experienced paraesthesia.

The scenario described is the least serious form of paraesthesia. It is usually temporarily caused from either a direct pressure on a nerve or by cutting off blood supply to the nerve. Once you release the pressure or get the blood moving, feeling starts to return. One still needs to be careful in such a situation. I have a  patient who tried to walk when, unbeknownst to her, she had a foot that had fallen asleep. When she got up to walk, she fell and shattered that numb foot requiring surgery and a litany of issues. So, be careful!

The bigger issue, however, happens when paraesthesia comes on insidiously. In these types of situations, there is something deeper that is irritating the nerve. For the hand, this can happen at the carpal tunnel, at the elbow, at the shoulder, under the pectoralis minor muscle, under the scalene muscles, and at the nerve roots in the neck. Irritation can be caused by swelling of soft tissue (ligaments, muscles or tendons), by bulging discs, by stretched nerves due to poor posture, by a deficiency in blood supply due to a host of conditions, and the list goes on. If your hand consistently falls asleep, you need to figure out the cause. It could be a simple remedy or it could be a sign of something serious. The longer a nerve is injured, the longer it takes for it to heal. In addition, you run the risk of injury to the area the nerve supplies. So, if you are getting numb hands, get in and let us help you.

Photo by Matilda Vistbacka on Unsplash

What Makes a Comfortable Adjustment?

When a chiropractor adjusts a person, the goal is to get joints moving properly. Because we are talking about movement, the force equation comes into play: Force = Mass x Acceleration. So, in order to adjust, a chiropractor needs mass and acceleration. If there is not enough mass, they need enough acceleration and vice versa. In general, the greater the acceleration, the more comfortable the adjustment.

There are a number of reasons a quick adjustment is preferable. Most people guard to some degree when getting adjusted. It is a natural response. Guarding only gets worse when someone tries to increase the force by increasing mass because the body is aware of the force. Along those same lines, an adjustment when someone is guarding doesn’t always move the joints thoroughly enough which leads to an unsatisfied feeling that there is still something not moving correctly. In addition, the  nerve sensors of a joint, known as the proprioceptors, need to be stimulated to get the full benefit of an adjustment. The only way to do that is with a quick movement of the joint.

Everybody is different in how they interpret comfort. Some like a firm touch others gentle. Some like to hear the cracking sound and some do not. Regardless of preference, thorough movement of joints is critical for a proper adjustment. Whether the speed is achieved through skilled hands, an adjusting tool like the Activator, or a drop table, the quicker the movement, the less mass and the less trauma on the body.

A Brief History of Chiropractic (It is not all about pain).

As the story goes, in September of 1895 a man by the name of Daniel David Palmer, also known as D.D., met a custodian named Harvey Lillard. Lillard developed significant hearing loss many years earlier when he was hunched over working and experienced a loud pop in his spine.  Dr. Palmer convinced Lillard to let him look at the area that popped and found a lump. He persuaded Lillard to let him “rack” it back into place and as a result, Mr. Lillard’s hearing started improving.

Palmer had been studying under the founder of Osteopathy, Andrew Stihl. Osteopathy was a healing art that utilized manipulation of the body to allow it to heal naturally. Palmer had also been involved in a variety of healing arts and believed he could blend science with metaphysics. Eventually, D.D. Palmer created his own philosophy and style of healing which focused on restoring health by correcting nervous system interference caused by spinal misalignment or spinal subluxation. Where Osteopathy used general manipulation to restore proper blood flow; Palmer’s healing art was specific and focused on the flow of nerves. He named it Chiropractic meaning done by hand, a tribute to how D.D. Palmer adjusted the spine.

Since those early days, chiropractic has grown into a mainstream form of healthcare. The tendency is to paint chiropractors into a corner by thinking of them as back doctors who only treat when there is pain. The truth is that the most benefit from chiropractic care goes well beyond pain. We, as chiropractors, want to restore the function of spinal and extraspinal joints. Proper joint  movement leads to proper nervous system flow which leads to proper function of the body as a whole. Symptoms can be useful in determining where there is a problem but it is not safe to assume that no symptoms means no problem. Instead, it is best to maintain good proper function and allow the body to heal and manage disease and illness whether it is typical like back pain and headaches or something different like hearing loss.