To Your Health
April, 2008 (Vol. 02, Issue 04)
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The Well-Adjusted Spine

By Dr. Brian Jensen

How many visits does it take to have a well-adjusted spine? It depends on your definition of well-adjusted. For many patients who experience complete pain relief after their first adjustment, the answer might be one. But if you understand you can have a problem even without pain, you'll see that it takes a lifetime of minor tune-up visits to be at your best. These minor tune-ups also prevent many of the problems that can show up in your 40s and 50s.

It's important to look at the big picture to understand what is going to take place during your lifetime. This can help you see how chiropractic can work to preserve many of your body's functions and prevent degeneration of your spine. Degeneration is when your bones and the surrounding tissues deteriorate. This can lead to major problems for you later in life. Two basic principles form the underlying theme to lifetime care and a well-adjusted spine:

  1. Balance is better than imbalance.
  2. Mobility is better than immobility.

Notice that these two principles do not mention being pain-free, because simply being pain-free doesn't mean you are in perfect health. Pain is the weakest basis for evaluating long-term wellness. Obviously, pain is an important indicator of a problem and needs to be addressed, but dealing only with pain is not the main principle of chiropractic care. That's because right now, you may have a poorly functioning spine, full of degeneration, but not feel pain.

Let's examine some general ideas about what happens to the body during the first six decades of life.

Childhood and the Teen Years

Women stretching on the floor. - Copyright – Stock Photo / Register Mark Arthritis is considered to be an older person's disease, but it can start as early as childhood. Here's how: In your first two decades of life, you will have indirect and direct stresses. Indirect stress is poor posture and direct stresses are sprains and strains from sports activities or other childhood traumas. These stresses, if left untreated, can lead to degeneration and other problems - such as arthritis - down the road.

Poor posture is very subtle and rarely causes pain, yet it can lead to degeneration. It is important to have your feet, the foundation of your posture, evaluated. Flat feet can cause one leg to act shorter than the other one, which affects the pelvis and spine, as well as putting excessive stresses on your knees and hips. These stresses can lead to weaknesses that could make you more susceptible to injuries and/or degeneration (more about this later), and also can cause stress in your spine, which can create chronic misalignments. If you've ever said to your chiropractor, "My back is out," chances are, it all started with your feet!

Recent advances in technology have provided us with the ability to take a digital image of your feet. This will help us determine if custom-made, flexible orthotics (shoe inserts) would be beneficial for you. This is the starting point to the support that will pay off for you in the later decades of your life.

Your 20s and 30s

This period of time is when your chiropractor can start to see the early stages of degeneration and arthritis that actually had its beginning in your childhood and teens. You may begin to experience diminished flexibility and joint aches and pains. Athletic performance typically begins to decline. You might say, "I just can't (run, jump, swim, stand) like I used to." The early signs of joint degeneration begin to appear on X-ray. These are all signs of long-standing physical decline, yet you still don't have pain most of the time.

Symptoms flare up occasionally but are usually manageable with the types of care chiropractors provide. Again, pain is a late response to the process and is a poor indicator of health when you are trying to prevent degeneration and maintain overall wellness. A few visits to your chiropractor may provide temporary relief from your symptoms, but to get to the root of the issue and maintain overall wellness for a lifetime, a few visits won't be enough.