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You Have to Go Forever – The Chiropractic Myth

go-forever

It’s always fun to meet and get to know the people that make up the Des Moines community. When people learn that we’re chiropractors, we get an array of responses. We mostly hear about their problem areas, chiropractic experiences, and how chiropractic has positively impacted their lives. Sometimes, we get a look of fear with a response of, “I’ve never been- I heard that once you go, you have to go forever.” While this is a common myth in chiropractic, it’s not necessarily true.

The goal for many conventional chiropractors is to help their patients manage pain. Unlike conventional chiropractic, our office is focused on helping our patients achieve normal spinal structure through NeuroStructural Correction. Let’s be clear- this does not mean perfect spinal alignment. However, just like there’s a normal range for things like blood pressure and blood sugar, there’s a normal range when working to correct spinal structure. As our patients go through what we call their initial phase of care, the goal is to make structural changes in the spine so that their spinal alignment is within or closer to that acceptable range.

When the body can communicate with itself appropriately, it functions appropriately- it’s as simple as that!

To review anatomy- the spinal cord runs down through the spinal column, and each spinal nerve branches out between the vertebrae. Chiropractors work with the spine because of that intimate relationship between the spine and nervous system. When the spine shifts beyond its normal alignment, this can lead to many possible secondary conditions, including pain. On the contrary, when the spine is in alignment, it puts the nervous system in a state of ease without added tension on the cord or nerves. When the nervous system is free of the added tension caused by spinal misalignment, it’s able to function more optimally. This means the messages being sent from your brain to the rest of your body, and from your body back to the brain are able to travel through the nervous system effectively and efficiently without disruptions. When the body can communicate with itself appropriately, it functions appropriately- it’s as simple as that!

We often times find that when our patients achieve a more ideal spinal alignment, many of the secondary conditions they were experiencing before they started chiropractic care begin to diminish or completely resolve. This is not to say that the adjustment treated or healed whatever condition they presented with. However, by addressing spinal misalignments and removing stress on the nervous system, the brain and body are able to adapt and reorganize. This allows your body to function at its best which can many times result in the reduction of secondary conditions!

At the end of the initial phase of care, many of our patients achieve a normal spinal structure and their spine becomes stable in that healthy position.  Our patients then have the option to continue with what we call a protection plan which is geared towards protecting and maintaining the positive structural changes made during the initial phase of care. Major trauma (car accidents, falls, etc) and repetitive microtraumas (sitting for long periods, sitting at a computer, driving, bending the head forward to check e-mail or social media) are the biggest contributors to spinal structural abnormalities. It’s near impossible to say that any of us don’t experience these things on a regular basis.  You likely have regular maintenance done on your car to keep it functioning properly, we encourage our patients to be checked on a maintenance basis to prevent chronic spinal misalignments caused by trauma, stress, and/or toxins. By maintaining proper spinal alignment through a protection plan, we are avoiding the need to continuously “fix” a patient which would require them to rehash the same issues over and over again.

The truth is we’d rather not adjust you!

Yes, you read that right! We actually prefer not to adjust you because this means that your spine has stabilized in its proper alignment and the nervous system is functioning without disruption. We use a very specific analysis that determines whether or not an adjustment is needed. If there are no objective indicators, and an adjustment is not required on that visit, we’ll celebrate your victory with you, knowing you are continuing on the path towards greater health and healing!

We work hard together with our patients to help them achieve a stable spinal structure and allow them to decide what the best option is for them moving forward.

With that being said, our goal is to help our patients achieve and maintain proper spinal structure so that the nervous system can function optimally. Rather than forcing patients to stay under care forever, we work hard together with our patients to help them achieve a stable spinal structure and allow them to decide what the best option is for them moving forward. More often than not, our patients choose to protect the investment they just made in their spinal structure and overall health. They never want to go back to the way they were before regular chiropractic care, and it becomes an exciting thing to prevent secondary conditions and to maintain health!

My Pain Is In My Neck, Why Are You Adjusting My Low Back?

neck-pain

“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!

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Why You Need to Know the Difference Between Stretching and Warming Up

training-603981_1920As the New Year began, you may have started a new exercise regime or class.  Whether you’re new to exercise or not, many people, especially if pressed fro time tend to skip the warm-up, figuring the main workout is what really counts. Warming up before exercise is neither the fun nor glamorous part of your routine, but forgoing it sets you up to decrease your performance and increase risk of injury.

Many people get to the gym and start doing a few static stretches before they get going.  You may not know that stretching and warming up is not the same thing. You may think stretching is a warm-up, but this is a common mistake. In fact, stretching before an activity is not doing much for you at all.

What the Research Says

Traditionally, it was thought that you should stretch before strenuous activity to reduce the risk of injury.

Studies have shown stretching before activity does nothing for the reduction of injuries.  According to a study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, injuries are believed to occur during the eccentric phase of contraction, which is part of a muscle’s normal range of motion.  If injuries occur during the normal range of motion, then why would increasing that range of motion prevent injuries?  So, if stretching before activity is not going to help prevent injuries, what is the answer?

What to Do Before a Workout

It is really simple.  Warm-up in a way that is specific to the activity in which you plan to participate.  Here’s something profound, a warm-up must actually make you warm.  The goal is to slightly raise your body temperature, just enough so you break a sweat. This, in turn, allows for less strains, tears, and sprains and results in a safer, more efficient workout.

Then consider that the warm up must match the movements you will be doing during your more strenuous activity. Perhaps an easier way to think of this is with weight training. If your workout calls for weighted squats, then a good warm-up would be body weight squats. This begins to activate the muscles around the hip, knee, ankle, and core.

Remember, the goal is to warm up with the same movements or as close as you can get to the actual movements required by your workout or sport.

Examples of versatile warm up moves that can be performed before most workouts include: jumping jacks, arm circles, walking lunges, butt kicks, air squats, and trunk rotations.  Start out with 30 seconds of each move.

The Takeaway

In order to get the most out of your exercise session, focus on warm-up movements that mirror the movements of the activities in which you plan to do. Do as many reps as you need until you feel ready.  Save foam rolling or static stretching for after training or at night. Unless you are a professional athlete, your training time is limited. By following the steps above, you will place your body in the right situation in the time you do have for increased performance and reduced risk of injury.

*Also, in winter your warm up is even more critical. We are in the middle of the season of tight, cold muscles and decreased mobility.  For optimum performance all winter long and an injury-free return to spring, a serious warm-up is your best friend.

Is Running Bad for My Body?

running

Many people look forward to this time of year due to the high number of running and walking races across the Des Moines area, including the IMT Des Moines Marathon that was a few weeks ago.  Running is a common form of exercise chosen by people that want to increase their fitness abilities. Programs like Couch to 5k have encouraged millions of Americans to get off the couch, lace up some running shoes, and hit the pavement toward better health.

However, running is also a very common source of sports related injury in this country.  Injuries to the foot/ankle, knee, hip, and low back can often sideline a runner for weeks, while delaying them from reaching their fitness and weight loss goals. We have seen this far too often when taking care of runners with chronic injuries.

Many times, the problem isn’t the sport itself, but the specific technique used while running.  Improper running form from poor running posture or repetitive heel striking are the most common culprits. Over the course of dozens of miles, heel striking can jar all of the joints of the lower extremity causing the spine to shift out of place. Of course, once the spine shifts out of place, then secondary conditions will inevitably result.

midfoot-strike-running-7810

Keep these steps in mind to help safeguard against structural breakdown while running.

So how can you make running safe?

  1. Change your form. The 4 steps above are a good start, but for personalized instruction, go to a local running store like Fleet Feet Sports or Fitness Sports. These establishments often have great classes and resources on proper running form.
  2. Evaluate your footwear. If you’re wearing the wrong shoes, then you will continue to get injured. The local running stores noted above have experts ready to fit you for the right shoe for your specific foot.
  3. Get checked for any underlying structural shifts that may be causing weak running posture, altered gait, and reducing your body’s ability to heal and repair.  It is hard to achieve proper form and be evaluated for proper footwear without first having a structurally sound foundation.

Don’t let injury slow you down from achieving your goals. Run safe!

 

 

 

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Is it Necessary to Have X-rays of My Spine?

Many people have concerns about visiting a chiropractic office and the potential exposure to ionizing radiation through spinal x-rays. People are concerned with the cumulative effects of the radiation, particularly after the media and TV icons discuss it.

The GW425H600use of x-ray, even in chiropractic, is mixed.  Some use it to rule out conditions, like fractures, arthritis, and cancer, while others do not use it at all.  We’re not here to argue the pros and cons of x-ray use.  That is not our purpose here to day.

When it comes to Neuro-Structural Chiropractic and examining the mechanics of the spine, we at Keystone Chiropractic use precise Digital Structural Radiography.  These allows us to capture specific images which help identify the specific structural shifts that may exist in your spine.  These structural shifts can create significant problems, even with very small shifts; down to 1mm.  A small displacement of the spine can affect the brain stem, spinal cord, and the nerves that branch from there.  It obstructs the nervous system from properly communicating with, and controlling the body.  The longer a structural shift persists, the greater the chance that secondary conditions  begin to appear.

As Neuro-Structural Chiropractors who focus on restoring your spine toward its normal position, performing an adjustment without the use of x-rays is the same as guessing.  The difference between relief from debilitating migraine headaches for the first time in months, or continuing to battle daily migraines can come down to very small shifts in structure.

What many people don’t understand is that Digital Structural Radiographs will expose you to LESS radiation that dental x-rays and CT scans.  You are even exposefoundationd to more ionizing radiation if you fly across the country, from California to New York.

We would all agree that having a sound foundation of your house is important.  And, it is important that the foundation of your body, your SPINE, is sound as well.  Would you want someone working on your house without first taking precise measurements?  While Neuro-Structural Correction certainly isn’t for everyone, the unique radiographs used in the office help us provide the highest quality of care we can, so YOU can protect your health.

 

 

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“I’m Just Getting Old”

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.

Notice at the arrows, there is decreased space between the bones, and the shape of the bones themselves have changed.

Notice at the arrows, there is decreased space between the bones, and the shape of the bones themselves has changed.

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.

  • The structure of the spine becomes distorted and speeds the wear and tear of the joints.  What happens to your car when the frame of it has shifted?  Would you expect the steering wheel to pull to one side or one of the tires to wear faster than the others?  This same concept happens to the joints in the spine!
  • The shift in the structure of the spine will hinder signals traveling to and from the brain.  This decrease in information from the brain to the rest of the body can cause dysfunction in the nervous system and will ultimately lead to secondary problems.

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:

  • Lose weight: if you are overweight, the first step is to shed the excess pounds
  • Exercise: walking, biking, weight lifting, jogging, or any activity that improves strength, endurance, and range of motion
  • If you smoke, QUIT: research has shown that smoking has an effect on bone health

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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