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  • Writer's pictureDr. Doug Pooley

Doc, I feel fine. Why do I have to come back?

Troubles must be prevented before they occur”…Ancient Chinese proverb on health.

Over the past several decades, we have been conditioned to believe that a lack of pain equates to a return to health but is this always the truth? As science and research is demonstrating, this is certainly the case for most acute injury or illness but not so for most of the degenerative conditions that plague us as part of the aging process. For example, rarely is a heart attack or cancer of acute onset. These conditions are almost always the end product of various circumstances that eventually over time manifest as a crisis event. The spine/pelvis responds to the effects of cumulative insult very much the same as the rest of the tissues of the body. Repeated irritation or dysfunction creates eventual adaptations such as soft tissue breakdown and arthritis. For the most-part the development of this process is sub-clinical (without symptoms). We don’t know it is going on until the body’s ability to adapt is so compromised that it can no longer efficiently function and a health breakdown results. This is why patients will often present with a severe injury with no obvious cause…”Doc I was fine yesterday and woke up this morning with excruciating back/neck pain.” Logic dictates that independent of precipitating injury, the condition has to be developmental in nature. Clinical experience demonstrates conditions that develop in this way are among the toughest to resolve and intellectually difficult to process from a patient’s perspective. “What do you mean this is going to take 8 weeks to resolve? It only happened yesterday.” Sadly, as a practitioner it is difficult to tell patients like this that had the underlying mechanical derangements been identified and corrected earlier, the resulting pain and disability could have been largely or completely avoided. Not only does neglect and avoidance result in more pain, but the impact on health generally as you will see going forward can be staggering.

As the research community continues to explore the parameters of health and disease, one component of what it means to be human dominates predictability for wellness and longevity and that is the critical importance of movement to the wellbeing of the human organism. We have been genetically engineered over thousands of years of evolution to be efficient moving machines. We move to gather food, seek pleasure and avoid danger.

This is the defining purpose of the human body, and every biochemical and neurological process is impacted by how efficient and effectively we do it.  Changes to both work and lifestyle over the past 25 plus years have cultivated an ever increasingly sedentary environment with the rise of chronic and degenerative disease of all sorts. Inactivity is a quiet parasite that subversively consumes vitality and increases susceptibility to the most devastating of diseases. This is not conjecture, it is fact! Research is demonstrating with clarity that all of the major diseases that impact our bodies as we age from diabetes, cancer, heart disease to impotence are directly impacted by the quality and frequency of how we move. Our body, that magnificent movement machine holds within its purpose the very keys to health and longevity. Quite simply the more efficiently and regularly it moves the healthier you become. Movement is medicine - as it has been shown that just the act of going from a seated to a standing position stimulates a cascade of biochemical reactions in the body designed to process nutrients to produce energy and remove waste.

The spine/pelvis provides structural form to the body and facilitates movement for the trunk and head. Its shape serves to enhance efficient locomotion and distribution of stress and weight to the legs and feet. Most importantly it serves as a protective conduit for the nervous system. This allows the brain to efficiently communicate with the rest of the body as absolutely every mechanical and biochemical function is dependent upon the efficiency of this brain-body connection.  The complex roles of the spine/pelvis, make them particularly susceptible to the effects of abnormal loading, postural alteration, repetitive strain and deterioration associated with a sedentary lifestyle. This often manifests over time as structural instability and degenerative arthritis.

We have been wrongly led to believe that arthritis and other soft tissue wear and tear are inevitable consequences of life. Even worse, once these phenomenons occur the best you can do is reduce your levels of activity and take medications for inflammation and pain.  In reality this is a catastrophic strategy that will only lead to even less movement, more pain and disability as well as the advanced consequences of general health decline. Arthritis is not a naturally occurring phenomenon in the human body. Most arthritic changes are classified as “wear and tear” and are a direct result of severe injury, mismanaged injury or repeated insult associated with chronic joint dysfunction. Most of this is preventable, or able to be managed to the point of impacting the progression of the arthritis through stabilizing the affected area thus reducing or eliminating the associated discomforts. For some individuals this is achievable through an initial period of care. Others may require extended treatment to achieve reasonable stabilization, and still some, due to varying factors such as severity of injury, chronic nature of the complaint, other over-arching health concerns, lifestyle and work factors have a need for ongoing periodic care. One thing is without challenge…whatever does not get fixed gets worse. Never take your health for granted and know without question that the lion’s share of what comprises health is directly related to the efficient functioning of the human body. 

Remember…nothing looks as good as healthy feels.

If you have suffered an injury significant enough to require the attention of a chiropractor take the time to get the condition structurally rectified to its maximum potential. As mentioned earlier, keep in mind that pain should be used as a measure that your condition is improving, never as a vilification that any health concern is resolved. In order to structurally stabilize an area that has been significantly compromised may in fact take weeks, months or even years to occur.  It is not uncommon for orthopaedic surgeons to tell patients that it may take up to a year to fully recover from knee of hip surgery, why would anyone believe that serious debilitating injuries to the spine would follow a different set of rules for recovery. There is absolutely no science to justify this and the complexity of spinal mechanics is far more sophisticated that most other joint structures.

When your injury is of significant enough magnitude to require professional intervention, the likelihood of the need to extend treatment beyond the removal of the pain is just logical. This is in order to ensure that as complete a recovery as possible has been achieved and thereby reduce the potential for recurrence or advanced deterioration.

Having said this, never continue care needlessly. Have any practitioner who is working with you demonstrate the need for any treatment.

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