We have a sick kid.
Our poor little sick kid, he won't be able to . . .
You don't know what it's like to have a sick kid, you must have to . . .
If I went to the store and was shopping in the milk aisle, if there was a large red and black sticker with a skull and crossbones, I would do a double-take on that. You can be sure as hell I wouldn't buy that particular carton of milk. Such is the power of a label. That label told me, even without directly telling me, that there was something wrong about that milk, as a result, I treated it differently.
Labels extend far beyond the poison control into our health destinies. Does this sound familiar? ADHD. OCD. Dumb. Slow. Dyslexic. Short. Weak. And the one I hate the most: sick.
We've become a culture that labels sickness as a part of who we are instead of recognizing it as a state in a dynamic system. My boy had a food allergy that we were unaware for some time, on top of that he contracted a virus (hand, foot and mouth) that made him flare up and develop extremely sensitive skin. Luckily, he had a great allergist who gave him medication to get him over his extremely inflammatory slump, and -- I'm going to toot his parents' horn here -- then he had a couple of parents who understood health enough to provide his body with the raw materials it needed to be able to be healthy.
But, a label has stuck.
I've heard this more than once, and it drives me bonkers. How's your sick kid?
Let me tell you the ways that question is wrong. First off, the wording. I am always careful to say Your child is fighting a sickness, not Your child is sick. It's a subtle change that can have big effects. Calling a young, developing mind a "sick kid" over and over again, and that label becomes a part of them instead of accurately describing a passing phase. That label can even come so much a part of a young mind that he/she begins defending that label of sickness because they have come to identify themselves with it. You've met those people that are in this phase, those people that gladly own their sickness and wear it like a merit badge; these are also the same people that -- despite seeing the most expensive doctors around the country -- can't find "help" for their "illness", because deep down inside they don't want to be cured. Being cured would mean losing a part of them that they believe makes them unique and special from everyone else, and everyone needs to feel unique and special -- but holding on to a disabling label isn't the healthiest way to do this.
On the flip side, you can witness the exact opposite in those stalwart soles who have an honest-to-goodness challenge in their life that can't be worked away with healthy lifestyles, and you see these people thriving because they refuse to accept their "label". People like this guy.
Truth be told, my "sick" boy is far from sick. Many occasions I think he's too healthy, and I wish he'd back off a little bit on the vibrant life energy. Sheesh. He has more energy than a caffeinated chihuahua, picks up more words than should (What did you just say?!), and can operate an iPad. The foods he are allergic to are mostly foods that you shouldn't be eating. Period. Imagine a child that only ate fresh fruit and vegetables, and wild, organic meats? Umm, that's my boy. His sensitivities to dairy, peanuts, and soy have only forced our family to eat healthier. Our boy is a blessing.
Oh that poor soul, he can't eat that diabetes-inducing ice cream like all other healthy children?
Yeah, you nailed it. Watch those labels.
I get this question almost every day. When studying, I find it important to understand principles, then the details seem to fall right in line. Although tailored, specific exercises prescriptions work wonders, there is no "one size fits all" program for, let's say, tension headaches. The best thing one can do is learn the principles behind how exercise works to alleviate pain and muscle knots.
Exercise Principle For The Day: Motion is medicine for your brain. The brain craves bodily movement and the barrage of electrical firing that comes with it. A cool side effect of moving your body is that is helps to regulate pain levels of all sorts because it helps create a healthier brain that will probably be more apt to not express pain. (I spoke on the subject that pain is a brain output not an input last post.) Therefore, it's more important that you move than how you move. Let's take the person with a tight neck from working at the computer for all hours. If this person does a google search for "stretches for tight neck" she'll find a ton of cool youtube videos. These may or may not help. Instead of looking for the absolutely perfect stretch for that one muscle at the top of your shoulder blade, try setting a timer on your phone or watch for 30 minutes. Every time this timer goes off, stand up from you desk, and move you head around gently (not spasmodically... please) in all different ways: looking far to the right and left, looking up and down, and giving a good yawn (relaxing the front neck muscles). Then, go back to your desk and reset the timer.
Just moving around and avoiding the stagnant postures we frequently subject our body to day in and day out will work wonders for your pain levels. Worry less about the miracle exercise and/or stretch, and focus more on making sure you give your brain enough movement.
There... you have one of my secrets.
Pain is amazingly complex, and I must first give the disclaimer is that there is much we are still learning about pain. This post isn't about what we do know, it's about what we know and probably know, and how this conflicts with a popular mis-understandings about pain.
Myth: Damage In Your Body = Pain
Few things are clearer than this, pain does not come from nerves, or pain pathways; bain is a brain output, not an input. I repeat (because this is absolutely vitally important, if you get nothing else from this post, get this): pain is a brain output, not a brain input. Yes, there are neurological pathways that get activated when the body gets an ache, a sprain, a cut, but activation of these neurological pathways causes pain in some subjects, and no pain in others. This explains why one person is out of work for the afternoon with a papercut and the next may be coming into work with a broken leg. Pain is a vary individualized brain expression dependant on more factors than just the activation of some neurons.
A pioneer in these field is a man by the name of Melzack, and his research paper regarding what goes into expressing pain can be downloaded and read in full from HERE. His theories are summed up in the graphic below:
What's hopeful about more accurate description of pain is that is provides hope for those dealing with nasty, chronic pain that can't be pin pointed with any x-ray, MRI, or labwork. People who suffer with chronic pain hear this all the time, and it makes me furious: "Umm, you're MRI must be fine. It's probably all in your head."
This makes me want to slap someone. Of course it's all in your head! Everything is all in your head! The misconception is that because pain is sometimes expressed in the absence of anything visibly messed up on imaging or lab work (i.e. no tumor pushing on stuff, or no pinched nerve in the spine), that we can't do anything about it. WRONG. Look at the image above, how many other variables can we can we manipulate that feed into the nervous system, other than just rx'ing ibuprofen for inflammation? I'll give you a hint: try to label all the variables that are targeted with pharmaceuticals. OK, good. Now, how many variables does that leave untouched if we stop there. Answer: a lot.
The good news is that this myth is slowly being overturn by the masses of healthcare providers, but we still have a long way to go. I'll leave you with two great resources to delve into the subject of pain even further:
1) The guys who are basically at the forefront of this research have a website, go to that website here. Abso-friggin'-lutely jam packed with amazing research... for free.
2) An amazing book that is worth its weight in gold. Literally, reading and understanding pain may prove to be one of the most effective therapies in treating pain in the long run. Here is the book, if you struggle with chronic pain, dish out the cash and give it a read.
Here's to kickin' pain in the face.
First off, please get the new understanding that pain is not simply a brain input; pain is brain output. And there's a difference. This is a deep discussion that we can have, but I'd rather refer you to someone who did a great piece on this (DOCUMENT).
How can food relate to this?
Inflammation is the process that happens when you sprain an ankle. There is a chemical cascade that is set off around and at the damaged tissue, and the end result is redness, swelling, and — you guessed it! — pain.
But, what if I told you that what you eat, your chemical composition, lends itself to someone who is easily inflamed, or someone who is not. (The opposite of inflammation is rest, calm, non-irritated.)
The truth is, you can. This is the secondary link with food intake and pain.
Two Pathways: One is More Painful
Ever wondered how a non-steriodal-anti-inflammatory works? It works by shutting off an enzyme called "COX." NSAID's are called COX-inhibitors. Please look at this picture.
At the top, on the left, is omega 3 fatty acids. On the right is omega 6 fatty acids. You've probably heard a lot of buzz about "taking your omegas," this is one reason why. Your body is made of up tons of fats. In fact, most of the outside lining of cells is made up of this fat. Omega 3's have a tendency to be anti-inflammatory. Omega 6's have a tendency to be inflammatory. Why is this important? Because your body needs a balance of the two. Not too much, not too little.
It has been estimated that the human body is supposed to have a ratio around 1:1 of omega 6's to omega 3's. Most humans nowadays have a ratio closer to 15 - 20: 1. Not 1:1. That tilts the scale heavily in the direction of omega 6 saturation. That means that your cells are made out of the PRO-inflammatory molecules, which means that they are naturally more likely to get inflammed, irritated, and lead to "pain output."
One of the chief fatty acid scientist, William Lands, was frequently hired on as a consultant to pharmaceutical companies who were then just beginning to make the ibuprofens and Aleves that we are so familiar with today.
"...you can change the kind of [inflammation] signaling in your body by changing the kinds of fats that you eat.
... He [Lands] always told the companies that nutrition would regulate the availability of prostaglandins [molecules that signal inflammation] too. And their answer was always the same: There's no way to make money on nutrition. Lands said the same thing about nutrition to john Vane when he met this very famous pharmacologist on a trip to Vienna. "Yes," he remembers Vane replying, "but you can't patent that [nutrition]."" - Queen of Fats. (2006) Susan Allport. pp. 99-100
This same truth is available to you now. Want to stop popping an aspirin every morning before heading to work? Try limiting the inflammatory foods you eat, those foods rich in omega-6 fatty acids. Here is a list (LINK). Then, add an omega-3 supplement to your diet while increasing your food intake of omega-3's (usually fish, sardines being one of the best — I know they smell nasty... think of it like medicine), and see the change in pain.
...is a structure that I think gets missed in most treatments, although many of the manual and massage therapists have been ahead of their time evaluating and looking at this structure.
What is it?
If you're a hunter or a butcher, and have seen the inside of an animal, it is that white, net-like covering that is the "in between" substance covering muscles, ligaments, blood vessels, nerves, and more. It's a structure that is meant to be a lubricant of types — allowing muscles to easily glide, as well as providing structural support. It's recently been shown to be a great source for proprioception (the bodies neurological signals giving the brain general "body awareness"), which is why I think treating fascia can have great effects on pain.
For a great breakdown of some cool research a team out of Germany are doing, go HERE.
Honestly, fascia is a hot topic — some practitioners loving it, some thinking it's hokey pokey. Clinically, I find that working with fascia and muscles decreases healing time remarkably.
I use a technique called "direct myofascial release". A lot of pressure — and I do mean a lot — is applied in a specific direction to cause fascial restrictions to "release". Once these areas are "released", range of motion increases, muscle strength usually returns, and pain subsides. The body is more able to move through free-er motion because the snags are out.
I think treating fascia works because it is often overlooked. Fascia doesn't show up nice and clear on x-rays and even most MRI (although dynamic ultrasound looks promising). Secondly, it can be painful. It seems illogical to dig into a painful area to make you feel and work better, so fascial problems probably go untreated for a very, very long time (but if this is what is wrong, this can be a "miracle" treatment for you and take weeks — even months! — off of your healing time).
Next time you get an injury, check the fascia; it may just be your "missing link" in your treatment.
Pain is like a foreign language that we learned about it highschool. We get the gist of what you're saying, but when sometimes it is too much. In the previous post I pointed out how pain is good.
But what if you don't know why you're hurting? You know you're in pain for a reason, thanks to the last article, but you just can't figure out why.
That's when I, and the rest of the field of doctors in their various fields, come into play. We help you figure out what the pain really means. That pain that you've had in between the shoulders that Aspirin can't touch, maybe we can help with that. Those headaches you've been getting on a nearly daily basis, maybe we can help with that. That pain in your lower back that you get when bending over to pick up a pencil, maybe we can help with that.
I don't like to use fear as a motivator, but it's necessary to provide a warning: It's possible that -- that minor pain you're having -- if left alone, becomes something serious, and something more expensive than conservative preventative measures could have corrected. (I calculated that the price to have one spinal disk in your neck replaced would pay for my chiropractic services for over 12 years. 12 years!)
Call our office to see if we can help you decipher your pain, we're the most thorough therapy you'll ever have. If you're a candidate for our care... our therapy works, and works fast (no "two times a week for the rest of your life" type of stuff).