By Dr. LEAH HAHN, D.C.
Jake’s story was so common yet, of course, unique to him. When he was in his teens he played football with a few tough injuries, a concussion, and hard falls that were too many to count. When he was 26, he was rear ended and suffered severe neck and lower back pain for several weeks but it had gradually gotten better. In his mid 30s and 40s, he sat at a computer almost every day and had played baseball and soccer with his sons and reported small injuries here and there. Now that Jake was in his late 40s, he had intense shoulder pain, numbness in his right arm, and achiness in his lower back and knees almost constantly. Jake was living on over the counter (OTC) pain relievers and was very worried about how they were affecting his stomach, liver, and kidneys. Jake’s friend, who had completed 8 Weeks to Wellness and “felt like he was in his 20s again,” referred Jake to our office.
After completing an exam, we saw many of the factors affecting Jake’s health that I see in so many of our patients. One of the tests we performed looks at how the muscles are firing around the spine. Jake’s lower neck had severe levels of muscle tension, especially around the right side. His lower back had very low muscle tension (common in chronic conditions). Another non-invasive test showed he had quite a bit of inflammation in his body. Testing showed that Jake had several misalignments in his neck as well as osteoarthritis in his lower back.
This is a common situation. So many patients come into our office with chronic pain and health issues. When we discuss their health history, they report minor symptoms that eventually turned into chronic, persistent pain. Osteoarthritis is often to blame for the pain they are experiencing.
Why does osteoarthritis form?
Think of Jake playing football, experiencing a car accident, and sitting at a computer day in and day out. All of these experiences can cause misalignments of the spine. Most of my patients think the major injuries would do the most damage, but typically, it is the things we do consistently that cause the biggest problems. These mis-alignments lead to the spine not moving in the correct patterns. The misalignment combined with improper motion is like driving on a car that is misaligned: it wears out faster in specific areas. Jake (like many of us) then sat, stood, walked, and ran on this misaligned structure for years, causing specific joints to wear out faster than others. This led to degeneration and arthritis in his lower back that could be seen in his tests.
Jake was coping with this issue by taking OTC pain relievers on a daily basis — actually many times a day. He was worried about the long-term complications of taking these meds. The drugs were not correcting the issue. He realized what we know: There is not a chemical solution for a structural problem. The OTC drugs may have temporarily relieved the pain, but they were like putting tape over a warning light in his car. What is the solution? By analyzing the misalignments, motion patterns of the spine as well as testing the functional strength and mobility of the spine, we can create a plan to decrease pain and improve the alignment, strength and flexibility, as well as function, of the spine.
For Jake, we used a combination of gentle adjustments with mobility and strength work at our fitness center to help him heal. Jake put in effort to heal his spine and now rarely takes a pain reliever. He has a set of skills to use for consistently strengthening his spine, and keeps his spine functioning well through adjustments. He can now join his friend in saying, “Yes, I feel years younger.”
We took an in-depth look at osteoarthritis on March 15, 2018, at Body In Balance. We discussed the details of what causes osteoarthritis as well as healing your body through progressive, natural solutions in “Osteoarthritis: The Top 3 Secrets to Healing and Functioning Well!”
As always, create Health by Choice, Not by Chance. Visit our website at www.BodyinBalanceChiropractic.com.
[Published March 8, 2018, in the Denver Post. As I have written in earlier posts written by this Functional Medicine practitioner, there is information available on this holistic view on health care, preventive medicine and how to achieve optimum health. Be an involved part of your health care,]