CHIROPRACTIC…NOT JUST FOR BACK PAIN
If you ask most Americans about what chiropractic is, you will most likely get one of three responses. Number one: they have never been.
Number two: they know the chiropractor to be a ‘back-cracker.’
Number three: an even smaller section of the population that swears by chiropractic due to being fortunate enough to have been treated by a knowledgeable chiropractor. These people have not only been healed, but have been effectively enlightened as to the remarkable mechanism behind how chiropractic works. Of course chiropractic can work for your headache, neck and back pain, but the potential extent of its reach goes so far beyond that.
To truly appreciate and take advantage of the healing power that chiropractic possesses, we must have a firm grasp on the all-encompassing governing body of our existence; the nervous system. We are speaking of your brain, spinal cord and peripheral nerves (the nerves that extend from your spinal cord to virtually everywhere in your body, from all your organs to your big toe.) This interconnected chain is an astoundingly complex and intricate system that allows you to function properly in all aspects of life. Movement, pain perception, digestion, sleeping, proper immune function, all the way down to subconscious function of your heart pumping blood; all governed by the nervous system.
When everything along this interconnected chain is flowing properly, we are at our best. However, for countless reasons, the proper reciprocal flow between brain, spinal cord and all the tissues in our body can become dysfunctional. This can lead to a lack of flow causing things like numbness, imbalance or overstimulation causing things like pain or tingling. Even worse, when the proper flow of the nervous system to your internal organs becomes disrupted, vital functions that we take for granted can be compromised.
One of the most appealing things about chiropractic to me is the many different techniques and avenues that can be utilized in order to stimulate the nervous system. Functional neurology is an approach which I have been drawn to that has amplified my excitement about this chosen career path. It utilizes the known anatomy and physiology of the nervous system to accurately diagnosis and purposefully treat with intentionally delivered stimulation, including the most powerful, the adjustment.
It is based on the concept that the brain is divided into two highly connected, but separate hemispheres. These hemispheres have the ability to function on different levels. For a seemingly countless number of reasons, the level of function of one hemisphere can actually become decreased. This decreased level of functioning of one side of the cortex (or hemisphericity) can then manifest itself in a variety ways throughout the human body. On one level, this is a good thing because it provides us with the ability to assess using observation and by having the patient perform various tasks. On the other hand, this can be troublesome because suboptimal function at any level in your nervous systems can lead to undesirable signs and symptoms.
To more clearly elucidate the havoc this hemisphericty can wreak on your body, it must be understood that there are two main nervous systems at play that, when balanced, enable life. The sympathetic (responsible for the “fight or flight” response), and the parasympathetic (responsible for rest and digest) nervous systems each serve their own vital purposes and are necessary for proper function. They are generally responsible for producing opposite effects throughout the body. However, when one becomes uninhibited or overstimulated, a domino effect can begin to occur in the body that can lead to minor to catastrophic consequences. When there is decreased function in one hemisphere of the brain, the sympathetic nervous system is left unchecked or uninhibited and begins to run wild. Well, that seemed like a mouthful, but a foundation of understanding is necessary to appreciate the following examples.
I was recently performing an exam and treatment on my Pops. He had a blood pressure reading on the left that was significantly higher than the right (130/78 compared to 110/68). After concluding the examination, it was determined that his left cortex was operating at a lower level than his right. We went through a serious of therapies, including the adjustment, utilizing the right side of his body. All stimulation was done to the right, based on the fact that almost all sensory information from one side of the body crosses over and provides stimulation to the opposite hemisphere. This stimulation now has the potential to increase functioning in that hemisphere. Increased function in a hemisphere now puts the sympathetic nervous system back in check. Remember, one of the outcomes of decreased cortical function is an uninhibited or overactive sympathetic nervous system. Amongst other things, an uninhibited sympathetic nervous system leads to vasoconstriction in the blood vessels. Vasoconstriction means the space in the blood vessels is now constricted, leading to higher pressure, as he had on the left. After the stimulation, we did a post check of the left blood pressure and guess what? It was now down to 122/72. That is an 8 point swing in blood pressure after a brief, all natural, manual treatment that can be intelligently explained due to increasing left cortical function, thus inhibiting the sympathetic nervous system (inhibiting vasoconstriction which = higher blood pressure) and allowing greater expression of its counterpart the parasympathetic nervous system (which leads to vasodilation = lower blood pressure).
Imagine if people where to be checked regularly and this mechanism was used (along with dietary modifications and exercise) to keep blood pressure at a healthy level. This could eliminate much of the overuse of blood pressure medications and all the detrimental side effects they bring with them.
Another example of utilizing this knowledge and pathways can be illustrated by a recent treatment I performed on my Mother. She is similar to most these days and feeling a little under the weather. She listens to her son and refrains from a flu shot and from the all mighty Z-pack the doctor prescribed to her after diagnosing her with bronchitis. (It is straight from WebMD that acute bronchitis is mostly caused by a virus, and rarely bacteria, THUS other than attacking her already compromised immune system, the anti-biotics would be useless. I maybe would’ve understood this doctor’s rationale if a lab test was performed to determine the origin of the bronchitis, but this was never done. We’re getting off topic here but legal drug dealing doctors and overprescribing to a trusting public needs to also be addressed). In her case we wanted to do something to open up her airways which were restricted due to the bronchitis. Utilizing the knowledge of nervous system, I took advantage of the fact the sympathetic nervous system causes broncho-dilation (open the airways to make more oxygen available to your body, as you would want in a “fight or flight” mood to fight or run away) and parasympathetic causes broncho-constrcition. Having this knowledge I was able to purposefully deliver an adjustment, which in this case, was intended to increase sympathetic function and assist her in opening up those airways. The same principal could be utilized for an asthma patient.
Last example also pertains to my Mama. Last fall she was in the hospital for a “routine” surgery when she suffered complications and required a second surgery. The complication was a bowel obstruction and she required surgery to remove that obstruction. However, due to the blockage in her bowel, her body went into protection mode and decided to shut down all bowel function in order not to complicate matters worse. Normally, the bowel resumes function shortly after surgery, but hers seemed to be stalling for whatever reason. Needless to say, it would be natural to sit there and feel helpless. Even with traditional chiropractic training, what could I do? “Crack” her neck in an attempt to ease some of the discomfort of being bed ridden for two weeks? Utilizing what little knowledge I had obtained from my fairly recent venture into the field of Functional Neurology (and with a consult from my man and colleague Joe Bova), I decided to at least try. The rationale here is again, being based upon decreased cortical function leading to an imbalance between the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems. Bowel function and digestion are a function of the parasympathetic nervous system which was obviously being overpowered by the sympathetic nervous system due to the traumatic stresses of back-to-back surgeries. After diagnosing the side of decreased function, treatment by way of stimulation and an adjustment was applied. I left the hospital around 11:30pm.
Upon awakening the next morning, I called my mom in the hospital. She had big news for me. (And she’s going to kill me for this, but this is for educational purposes. Love you mom.) She told me that she finally passed gas for the first time in a week and a half at 2:30am. Even better, she had a solid bowel movement for the first time in a week and a half when she woke up in the morning. Obviously thrilled by the news, I was also amazed that the bowel literally woke up hours after treating her. Was this directly attributed to the treatment I applied? Was it just a coincidence that her bowels finally came around when they did? There is no way to know for sure. The point of this is that the knowledge enabled me to purposefully treat her in an attempt to directly stimulate the nervous system and thus a desired function. It provided hope.
These examples are so much more than back pain or headache cases. These are examples of providing a drug free, hands on approach by way of external stimulus to produce a desired internal effect. I’ve heard of many people claiming to have delivered or have witnessed a “chiropractic miracle” when in fact it wasn’t a miracle at all. These people simply happened to hit a bulls-eye with a blind fold on. Meaning they delivered an adjustment and happened to dial up the appropriate nervous system pathway in order to remedy a seemingly unrelated problem. Was it repeatable? Probably not. Could they explain it? Doubt it. Recognizing the potential power that the adjustment has to deliver to the nervous system and understanding the subsequent anatomical pathways removes that blindfold and opens the door to intentionally treat so much more than just back pain….oh, but we’re pretty good at that too.