Allergies and Immune System response have an intimate relationship with the Nervous System. Learn how Structural Chiropractic care may boost immunity and lessen the severity of allergies.
“Dr. Megan, my pain is in my neck. Why are you adjusting my low back?” We get questions like this often in our office, and the concerns are extremely valid. There are several things that go into deciding what bone(s) needs to be adjusted and surprisingly, the location of the adjustment is not dependent on the location or even the presence of pain.
For starters, the need for an adjustment is not reliant on whether or not you have pain. Your nerves have several different functions — motor function (movement), automatic function (organ function), and sensory function (including the feeling of pain). Sensory function is just small part of your nervous system, so there could be tension on your spinal cord and nerves without the feeling of pain. This is why you sometimes need an adjustment even though you do not have symptoms.
It is also important to note that the spinal cord attaches at the very top and the very bottom of the spine. When one or more of those spinal regions are misaligned, it increases the amount of tension throughout the entire spinal cord and can create discomfort in other spinal regions. For example, when a spinal bone in your neck has shifted from its normal position, it changes the tone of the spinal cord. Since the spinal cord is also attached at the bottom of your spine, you may feel symptoms in your lower back from the increase in tension caused by the misalignment in your neck. You can see in this instance how the area of pain isn’t always the area that needs to be adjusted.
When dealing with spinal structure, it’s important to remember that all of your bones, muscles, ligaments, organs, etc. work together to keep you alive in a somewhat “normal state”. With that being said, if there is a structural shift within the spine, the body’s natural response may be to compensate for that misalignment. This could mean a distortion in posture or a shift in spinal structure in another region of the spine. If this is the case, you may experience pain as a result of this compensation, but again, the site of pain may not be the primary area that needs to be adjusted.
With so many things to consider, how do we know where to adjust? This is one of the many reasons we chose our unique focus (NeuroStructural Correction). Our analysis of spinal structure is very specific, locating the areas where the primary misalignment(s) are (meaning it doesn’t look for compensations). Once the adjustment is made, the tone or tension of the spinal cord and nerves are able to return to a more acceptable state. When this happens, there can be a decrease in the amount of discomfort caused by that structural shift, whether that discomfort was in the same area as the adjustment or in a completely different region of the body.
In the example of the lower back pain caused by a misalignment in the upper spine, once the shift is adjusted back toward normal, and the added tension on the spinal cord is released, the symptoms in the lower back can decrease. In a similar fashion, if a spinal bone is misaligned and the body responds via compensation, once that shifted bone is adjusted, the compensation can often times self-correct.
While it is important to note the presence of pain, pain does not dictate the adjustment. Because your body can respond to structural shifts in many different ways, we would rather use a very specific, objective analysis to determine what needs to be adjusted, rather than relying solely on pain or other symptoms. Correcting the primary shift(s) of you spine will help you achieve the greatest results in the shortest amount of time!
A common condition that we have seen more frequently in our office is temporomandibular joint dysfunction, or TMJD. Many people have the occasional jaw pain when taking a bite of a big burger or crunching down on hard candy, but people with chronic jaw pain can suffer terribly.
TMJ problems occur in the joint that connects your jaw to the rest of your head. Normal motion of this joint is not an option when it comes to having a jaw that functions normally. When correct jaw motion is compromised, the impact can be severe and can cause a variety of secondary issues, including:
Generally, problems with the TMJ have two main causes:
To understand why the muscles of the jaw become dysfunctional, it’s important to understand what controls the muscles of the joint. Every muscle in your body, from your heart to your back to your bicep, is controlled by a nerve. The muscles of the jaw are under control of the Trigeminal Nerve, which is one of the 12 special nerves known as Cranial Nerves. Cranial nerves are special because they do not originate from the spine, they originate from the brain stem and exit out of the skull. Due to this, issues with the cranial nerves are usually a sign of a problem at the brain stem.
People with TMJD typically don’t have isolated jaw pain, they often have neck pain and headaches as well. A PubMed search shows numerous studies outlining an increased occurrence of TMJD in patients who have suffered a whiplash injury or head trauma. There is a close relationship of the Trigeminal Nerve and the top vertebrae in the neck. A strucutural abnormality at the top of the spine can create conditions where abnormal pain signals can occur.
How can NeuroStructural Chiropractic help with TMJD issues?
At Keystone Chiropractic, we look for structural abnormalities in the spine. Most of the cases we see, a structural shift is present at the topmost bone in the neck, the atlas, due to its unique shape and biomechanics. This area of the spine is connected to key structures of jaw function and can be the culprit in many TMJD cases. Our goal is to correct and stabilize this area so that the nerves can function normally again. We end up co-managing many cases with dentists who focus on TMJ treatment, which has been of great benefit to the patient.
Please contact us to schedule complimentary consultation where we can discuss if NeuroStructural Chiropractic can be part of the solution for your TMJ issue.
If you or someone you know has one or more of the following signs, it is likely an indication of a structural abnormality in the body’s inner framework, the spine.
1.) Chronic Headaches
Headaches are a huge indicator that someone has a problem in their upper spine. There are many different types of headaches and a few stand out in relation to spinal structure.
Just because headaches are common does NOT mean they are normal. Many people suffering for months or years have a structural problem in their upper spine. Abnormalities in this area can disrupt proper blood flow to the head and face and disrupt proper nervous system function throughout the whole body.
2.) Popping and Cracking of the Spinal Bones
This typically indicates that one or more segments of a person’s spine have become unstable. There is an increased risk for serious injury and spinal decay can occur in these areas at an accelerated pace.
3.) Anterior Head Syndrome (AHS)
AHS occurs when the center of the ear has shifted in front of the center of the shoulder. This causes a loss of the healthy C-curve in the upper spine and can also lead to spinal decay.
AHS is often associated with the dreaded Dowager’s (Granny) Hump appearance common in women.
Other secondary conditions associated with AHS include:
4.) Numbness and Tingling
Numbness or tingling down the arms or the legs is also a big warning sign. There may be a spinal problem that has progressed to the point where the nerves branching from the spinal cord are being affected. Nerves are very important and fragile. It only takes a small amount of pressure on them to create secondary issues in the body.
5.) Uneven Head or Shoulders
If you look in the mirror and see your head tilted slightly to one side or the other, and one of your shoulders more elevated than the other, this is a very strong indicator that there is likely a problem with the Upper Spine.
When you look in the mirror with your head relaxed, you should be able to draw a straight horizontal line through the following points:
The Upper Spine is where the skull attaches to the neck and is a critically important area of the spine. A problem here can affect the entire body.
If you, a friend, or family member has one or more of the above warning signs do not wait for them to get better on their own! These are signs that indicate a structural abnormality. Problems with structure lead to problems with function in your body. The sooner these problems are detected and then corrected, the better the outcome will be.
Your stress is high and you are frustrated because nothing you try seems to soothe or calm them down. You’ve fed them, changed them, sang to them, rocked them, and you’re not sure what to do next. It’s interfering with your mother-baby (or father-baby) bonding. You don’t want to leave the house. You’re starting to feel like you’re going crazy.
Why won’t my baby stop crying?
Although there are many different factors that play a role in the development of a colicky baby, in all cases Nervous System stress is present.
The birth process is a stressful one no matter how natural it is. The introduction of any intervention (bed rest, induction, augmentation, pitocin, antibiotics, epidurals, continuous fetal monitoring, inability to move around, manual traction, vacuum, forceps, C-section, intensive care, etc.) has a direct effect on a baby’s spine and the system that it protects: the Nervous System.
Any pressure on the Nervous System, especially in the upper cervical spine (top of the neck) can be detrimental to a baby’s health, physiology, growth and development. That is because the Nervous System is the master controller – it absolutely controls and coordinates everything the body perceives and does.
In numerous research studies, chiropractic care has shown excellent results for helping babies with colic. One study reported 94% of colicky babies demonstrating improvement with chiropractic care. In another study, the improvement in crying behavior and reduced hours spent crying was significant when compared to groups where parents just waited it out (a 67% reduction in crying time!!).
Not to mention the endless case reports of happy parents all over the world the first time after they watch their baby go home and sleep for several hours straight after an adjustment. It happens quite often.
To be clear, there is no “colic” adjustment. No adjustment to a crying baby is by any means a “treatment” for their behavior. A chiropractic assessment on any human (a few days old or many years old) determines whether any obstruction to the nervous system is present. If there is, gentle corrections are made to the spine. This removes obstruction to the nervous system, allowing it to function optimally.
When consulting with parents, we find out as much as we can about the mother’s pregnancy and birth experience, and the health and behavior of the infant thus far. The examination involves observing the baby for asymmetries in their structure and function, assessing the overall tone of the body, and gently assessing the position and motion of their joints. Neurological tests and findings will indicate if there is any obstruction present and how severe it is.
If you, a friend, or family member is struggling with a baby who won’t stop crying we would be happy to see if we can help.
As you may have heard on sports news, one of the devastating injuries feared by athletes is the “terrible triad” the combination of a torn ACL, MCL, and medial meniscus of the knee. Often requiring surgery, this injury can knock athletes off the field or court for at least six months or more, or force them into retirement.
In pregnancy, there is also a terrible triad. It is not a surgical emergency jeopardizing a 4-year contract, but it is unpleasant just the same.
The Terrible Triad of Pregnancy
1. Weight gain: Predominately occurring in the third trimester, women will naturally gain weight as the developing baby adds 3.5 pounds and 5.5 inches of growth during this phase. The growth of the baby also compresses the diaphragm and ribs, making a full inhalation seem impossible. Swollen ankles, varicose veins, hemorrhoids, and indigestion round out the consequences of weight gain in the third trimester.
2. Structural shifts in alignment: As the center of gravity for mother shifts forward and upward with her weight gain, the weight distribution to her joints changes. The new postures and stresses to her knees, hips, and low back can create changes to her entire spine. The lumbar spine and hip joints are most commonly challenged. Gait alterations may occur as well, altering the load on her spine and increasing the incidence of strain/sprain injuries to her spinal segments and supporting structures (Ohm, 2013).
3. Ligament changes due to hormones: The hormones relaxin and elastin are critical to allowing the pelvis to successfully deliver the fetus. Their function as the name suggests is to “relax” and create an “elastic” effect on not only the ligaments and structures of the pelvis, but the entire body. While integral to a successful birth outcome, these powerful hormones can cause shifts in alignment and gait alterations in the third trimester. Mom may notice an increase prevalence of turning her ankle and changes in her overall posture as her mid-back and neck compensate for her shifts in weight. Chiropractic care is extremely effective during pregnancy, but the doctor needs to be highly aware of the changes in the spine and ligaments as they deliver the chiropractic adjustment. The same adjustment given to a woman before pregnancy and in her third trimester may have different outcomes if the doctor is not familiar with prenatal chiropractic care.
The combination of these three factors adds to the likelihood of pelvic distortion or misalignment, intra-uterine constraint, and low back or hip pain. Pelvic distortion relates to a change in the normal alignment of the pelvis. Intra-uterine constraint refers to any changes in sacral positioning that could interfere with normal positioning or movement of the baby. Low back pain has been reported in 42.5% (Clapp, 1993) to 90% (Revelli, 1992) of pregnant women. “There are no known contraindications to chiropractic spinal and pelvic adjustments throughout pregnancy other than those affecting any non-gravid (non-pregnant) individual (Ohm, 2013).”
The Terrible Triad in Pregnancy include changes that occur during pregnancy to ensure a successful birth. They are necessary physiological and biomechanical processes, but they can cause challenges if proper structural alignment is not maintained. Our office, in West Des Moines, supports the normal functioning of the spine and nervous system to create a healthy pregnancy and birth environment.
When was the last time you had a headache? Perhaps it was it was last month, it may have been a few days ago, or maybe you have one right now! Headaches are a well-known and common discomfort that most people experience in their lives. They can range from a dull discomfort the morning after a few too many alcoholic beverages to an intense migraine with a variety of unpleasant symptoms. Our focus in this post is to more closely examine migraines, a severe condition that millions of people suffer from each year.
To determine whether or not you are experiencing a migraine there are a few key components that distinguish them from other types of headaches. The most unique thing is that there are four different phases:
The predrome phase is characterized by subtle changes that are indicative of body chemistry changes. They may include secondary conditions (symptoms) such as constipation, depression, irritability, craving of certain foods, or possibly a stiff neck. These changes serve as a warning of a beginning of an episode and signal a person to take action. Acting quickly may stop an episode before it becomes a full-blown migraine.
The aura phase is unique to migraine headaches. Aura describes the visual, auditory, or speech disturbances experienced by a migraine sufferer. There may be flashes of light, sensitivity to sound, or inability to speak clearly. Thankfully, most people do NOT experience an aura during an episode and therefore have what are called “common migraines.” Those that do experience an aura have “classic migraines.” These symptoms can typically last anywhere from 20-60 minutes.
In the pain or attack phase there is typically a one-sided pain that is experienced in the head. In some cases the pain involved both sides of the head (bilateral). The pain usually occurs after the aura phase is over and can last anywhere from one to 72 hours.
The postdrome stage is the phase of decreasing secondary conditions and pain and the onset of fatigue. Migraine sufferers usually report feeling rundown and worn out. They are similar to the ones experienced in the predrome phase. Things such as head/neck pain, digestive issues, mood swings, and even mild euphoria have been noted.
How is it that some people can eat the salty or processed foods that can cause migraines without issues while others avoid them entirely because they would cause a migraine? Or, why do some women get migraines that occur during their menstrual cycle while other women don’t experience them at all?
There are varying causes for migraine headaches. However, a common theme is that they rely on the body’s inability to adapt to its environment. In part, migraines can result from a chemical imbalance. That is why they typically come on during menstrual cycles, after consuming certain things such as aged cheese, processed/salty foods, or alcohol. A period of prolonged stress can also trigger an episode.
Proper communication of messages to and from the brain are critical to how your body perceives and is able to adapt to its changing environment. As you may know, there are tiny webs of nerves surrounding the vessels that allow blood to pass into the outer areas of your skull. When the electronic signals to that area are obstructed (via a structural shift in the spine), the result is a release of an excessive amount of blood into the outer area of the skull – resulting in a migraine. Even if a migraine is triggered by a glass of wine, the primary cause is typically a structural abnormality.
There are various trigger for migraines just as there are a variety of treatment options. The most common is over the counter medications such as Excedrin. Typically, if that fails to work, someone would obtain a prescription that may help lessen the chance of a full-blown migraine when in the predrome phase. This may also help decrease the effects of secondary conditions in the aura or attack phases. Acupuncture has also been shown to decrease the frequency and intensity of migraines. If those options don’t work, more invasive procedures are typically explored. Devices such as neurostimulators may be implanted or decompression surgeries of the nerves affected may be used.
At Keystone Chiropractic, we focus on NeuroStructural Correction of the spine. By correcting the abnormality, we allow the nerves to function like a highway absent of any traffic. Thus, the person who had to worry about drinking a glass of wine no longer has an issue.
If you suffer from migraines, feel free to contact us to see if our unique focus on Neuro-Strucutral Correction could be the right approach for you.
Have you noticed a squishy bump on the back of the neck of yourself or a loved one and wondered what it was? One of the most common postural deformities for women (and sometimes men, too) is seen on the image to the left; the small little hump at the point where the neck meets the upper back. Most women feel like this hump makes them appear heavier and older, and look for ways to conceal it. It is a common feature in women as they age, so it naturally creates a sense of insecurity about one’s age when it appears.
So, what where did this hump come from? Is it from aging? Is it a hormone problem? Can you get rid of it?
The rounding of the upper part of the spine is commonly referred to as a Dowager’s Hump. In medical terms it is called hyperkyphosis. Both terms describe a pronounced rounding of the spine near the head and neck. Not all rounding is bad. The upper back is supposed to have a slight rounded appearance. In the more pronounced cases, there is extra curving is this area of the spine. This extra rounding is often accompanied by a small pad of fat on top of the hump.
A Dowager’s Hump can be caused by postural distortion and muscular imbalances affecting the neck, chest, and upper back.
If the rounding is NOT related to spinal fractures, osteoporosis, or hormonal issues like Cushing’s Syndrome then you are dealing with a problem that is primarily posture related.
Common posture-related causes include:
Any type of humping related to a deformity in the spine like a fracture, severe scoliosis, or congenital malformation is not changeable. You cannot change the shape of anatomy that has been broken or misshapen.
However, if the humping is related to posture, then there are options for improvement.
– Postural corrective exercises can be performed to address weak musculature.
– Massage therapy can be performed to address a component of muscular imbalances related to upper cross syndrome.
– Fat pad removal which is performed by plastic surgeons to remove the fatty pad on the back of a hump.
The above steps can help reduce the superficial effects of a Dowager’s Hump.
However, it is important to understand that there is a Structural issue stemming from this phenomenon. The reason most people who have this humping are older is because a shifting of the spine can advance the age of your spine through degeneration.
One of the most important conditions to address in people with a Dowager’s Hump is Anterior Head Syndrome (AHS). AHS is when the head shifts forward in front of the chest. This creates slumped or rounded shoulders, collapsed chest posture, which can result in a variety of secondary problems like neck and arm pain, headaches, numbness and tingling.
Over time, if this issue isn’t addressed, the joints of the neck stop moving smoothly and lock the head in that forward position. When the forward shifting of the head is corrected, the rest of the spine will often shift back into a normal position again and reduce the rounding automatically.
Reducing AHS can decrease the appearance of Dowager’s. More importantly, it can help decrease the likelihood you or a loved one suffers from secondary conditions as a result of AHS. If you’re serious about addressing this issue, then don’t let your fix be purely cosmetic in nature.
One of the most common problems that people talk about is lack of energy. If you’re reading this right now, you may be in the midst of a mid-afternoon crash, and looking for some stimulation to keep your energy and focus up.
The “energy crisis” problem has become so widespread that energy drinks such as 5 Hour Energy®, Red Bull®, Monster®, and the like, have become a massive 9 billion dollar industry!
So, what’s the deal? Why are so many people running on fumes in terms of energy?
Are we not sleeping enough?
Are we working too hard?
Do we all have a caffeine deficiency?
If you think about it, it doesn’t make much sense that people inherently need a pick-me-up during the middle of the day. Quick fixes like energy drinks and heaps of coffee exist, but you may be looking for a long term strategy that can help create a higher energetic state without the detrimental effects.
There’s a lot of debate about how much sleep the average adult needs. The truth is, everyone operates well with varying amounts. The most important factors are consistency of sleeping times and the timing of your wake cycle.
There are a variety of sleep tracking apps and wearable devices on the market. An app that you may find useful is Sleep Cycle. It allows you to place your phone under your sheets and it senses how much you move during the night. You set an alarm with a 30 minute window to wake you up. Using these criteria, the application will sound the alarm during your lightest period of sleep.
The end result is waking up at a time when you will feel refreshed, even if it means waking up a little earlier than your set alarm time. Using an inexpensive application like this can make early mornings seem MUCH more bearable.
We won’t go into too much depth today on fueling your body. Keep an eye out for our December Keystone Update in your inbox that will discuss this more in depth. In terms of fueling your body with food for lasting energy, keep in a mind a few things:
A. Avoid Processed Carbohydrates and Refined Sugar
Processed grains, which lack fiber and nutrients, and refined sugar both get digested and absorbed quickly, which can wreak havoc with your blood sugar and energy levels. Ditch sugary drinks like soda, sweet tea, and lemonade and stick with carbohydrates from whole foods including fruits, vegetables, and whole grains like brown rice, quinoa, and oats.
B. Avoid Carbohydrate-Only Meals
Carbs are the most efficient source of fuel for every cell in your body, which is probably why they’re so abundant in nature, and why they get digested and absorbed pretty quickly. But if you’re looking for sustained energy over a longer period of time, combine carbs like fruit and grains with lean protein and good fats. That means steady rise in blood sugar and better insulin control, so your cells will receive even, time-released fuel (read: energy) over a longer period of time.
C. Eat the Rainbow
…And NO, we’re not talking about Skittles®.
Eating a wider variety of foods exposes your body to a broader spectrum of antioxidants and nutrients, which means better overall nourishment and energy. Expand your variety by aiming for five different colored fruits and veggies every day (blue, green, orange, red, white) and use a variety of antioxidant rich herbs and spices to season your food (basil, garlic, ginger, cinnamon, etc.). Ensuring your body is getting both the macro nutrients (fat, carbs, protein) and micro nutrients (vitamins & minerals) it needs helps optimize energy through food.
It doesn’t have to be extreme, especially if you currently do little to no exercise. Our bodies are built to move. It doesn’t have to be a full hour workout or running miles at a time, but movement will help keep your brain oxygenated and alert.
A good recommendation is to get at least 30 minutes of exercise most days of the week. Can’t fit 30 consecutive minutes in? Break it up into manageable increments throughout the day for a quick energy boost. It may be 15 minutes of yoga before you get in the shower or squeezing in a 10 minute walk at lunch time. Or, if you’re a pretty fast runner, why not knock out a quick mile?
You may be asking, what does that have to do with energy? While there are many causes of low energy, a common one you may not have heard of is abnormal nervous system function. Energy and messages flow between your brain and the rest of you body through your nerves. Structural imbalances in the spine can obstruct the flow of these messages, which can lead to secondary problems like fatigue.
If you haven’t had your spine checked for structural abnormalities, it may be time, as this could be a contributing factor to your “energy crisis.”
Here’s the deal, if you have to stare at a clock and fight that miserable feeling of fatigue every…single…day, does it make sense to make a few changes to improve your life? The choice is yours.
Achy joints, a twinge in the knee, or even a sharp pain from the shoulder to the elbow? That’s all part of normal aging, right?
These are complaints that we commonly hear. You may be surprised to learn that most often this is heard from people in their 40’s and 50’s. This type of pain is a serious problem for these people because it can affect their livelihood and interaction with family and friends.
All too often, people assume joint pain is a normal part of aging; that we just have to learn to live with it. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Let’s delve deeper for a minute. When most people talk about pain associated with “getting old,” they’re usually referring to a variety of problems that can be thrown under the umbrella of Arthritis. This type of arthritis is known as osteoarthritis, and doesn’t refer to inflammatory or Rheumatoid arthritis. Osteoarthritis can be associated with things like: degenerative joint disease, bone spurs, degenerative disc disease, and spinal canal stenosis, to name a few.
Below is a side view x-ray of the neck.
This person is one of those we just talked about, and has had neck pain for the past month. The red arrows are pointing to areas that have degenerative disc disease and are the result of many years of breakdown. When seeing this damaged disc on their x-ray, they said, “That’s just because I’m getting old.”
Now, as someone approaches the middle of their life, there’s no question that there will be wear and tear of their spine. That’s not the issue. Rather, the extensive amount of damage to their lower neck, is.
Here’s an interesting question, how old are the healthy discs at the top of the neck?
It’s a trick question, because all of the discs are the same age. So, if this problem was only due to aging, wouldn’t you expect every disc to have similar degeneration?
In the picture above, there are problems with the structure of the person’s spine. When a structural problem occurs in the neck, a few things can happen.
So, this person has had this problem in their spine for many years, but did not show any signs of neck pain until last month. How is that possible?
Structural issues in the spine are often left undiagnosed for several years. Research shows that many of us have herniated discs in the spine, but 60% will feel no pain or symptoms. So, a problem that should be of great concern, may be decreasing the function of your body without you knowing it.
These problems are almost always preventable. There are things you can do to reduce the amount of wear and tear on the spine and maintain full function of the body’s control and coordinating system, the nervous system:
You likely have your blood pressure, cholesterol, eyes, and of course your teeth checked to maintain optimal health. Structural abnormalities which lead to breakdown of the joints in your spine can only be detected and corrected by a doctor who focuses on Neuro-Structural Correction. Routine checks of your spine for structural abnormalities are critical to reducing your risk of arthritis and a variety of secondary problems.
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West Des Moines, IA 50266