Keys to Recovery
It is important for you to know that you would not need us if there wasn’t some type of damage and/or weakness in your spine, primarily the disks and ligaments that hold your vertebrae together. The muscle patterns are also incorrect and will adapt or have adapted to your problem. In order for you to enjoy optimum results, it is important that you work with us to enhance the corrections we are making. When the dentist cleans your teeth, it helps if you brush and floss daily. We can’t control what happens to your spine once you leave the office, but we can teach you a few strategies. A large part of your recovery depends on you. Your spine’s support tissues need time to heal, strengthen, and adapt to the corrections. So you want to avoid whatever tends to undo your corrections as much as possible. If you see a doctor to treat your painful thumb, it helps if you can quit hitting it with a hammer every day.
Here are some helpful hints:
- Good posture is a must. Poor posture creates undue strain on spinal support tissues and muscles. It is like practicing a bad habit. Stand or sit tall with a normal forward sway or curve in your lower back, shoulders relaxed, and eyes level. Hold your abdomen secure by slightly drawing it back toward your spine. You can practice standing flat against a door or wall with eyes level, then draw your lower abdomen in as if you are trying to touch it to your spine. You can’t do it, and you need not stand this way all the time, but this will help you settle into a more normal posture.
- Sitting creates up to two to three times more pressure inside your disks. If you must sit, use good posture and find a chair that helps you do this. If your rear end sinks down and your back is rounded toward the back, this opens the disk spaces where they are usually damaged and weakest, plus it strains muscles and ligaments. A slouched sitting posture also reverses the normal forward curve in you neck and cranes your head forward, creating substantial strain on muscles and ligaments. The normal curves in your spine, as seen from the side view, are the primary shock absorbing mechanism – not the disks. Without these curves, your disks are forced to endure extra loads.
- Take breaks every twenty to thirty minutes. This especially important while sitting and while working on a computer. It really helps to add some variety to your positions to keep things from locking into a pattern. Joints need to move to be healthy.
- Avoid repetition, or doing the same thing over and over. Some activities that aren’t even bad can create a problem if overdone. Take breaks and add some variety here also. It is a lot more difficult to hurt yourself when you maintain the normal curve in your lower back. If you must lift something like a child or a piece of paper off the floor, remember this. You definitely don’t want to bend with your back rounded toward the back, and it is even worse if you bend and tilt or twist at the same time. Therefore, vacuuming can be a real problem. This type of combination movement can really shear the disks and ligaments.
- Avoid over-extending and reaching. This just makes it easier to get caught in a precarious position and over stress a joint.
- Computers can be a real problem. Set your workstation to avoid looking up, down, or to one side, and avoid reaching for the mouse or keyboard. Keep everything as even and neutral as possible, then take those breaks so you at least interrupt whatever stress is accumulating.
- Get a pillow that keeps your head, neck, and shoulders in a neutral position. You don’t want your chin up or down while on your back, nor do you want your head cocked to one side while on your side. Don’t sleep on your stomach. I like the Down Around pillow because you can mold it to your preference, and they don’t go flat.
- If your bed sags like a hammock, try a ¾ inch piece of plywood under your mattress. A soft bed is OK as long as it doesn’t sag or have a hole where your hips are. Some like a hard bed, but a hard bed is not necessary. People always ask us about beds, and there is no bed that is good for everyone. The air beds and foam beds are expensive and while many people like them, a good percentage don’t. A good Sealy, Serta, or comparable quality bed can work just as well. I don’t think you need to spend a fortune. At a certain point, the spring count and construction is the same and the higher priced models just have fancier padding and cover material. Unfortunately, finding the right bed is trial and error just like pillows. We haven’t found a method of taking measurements or matching body types to determine the perfect bed or pillow.
- Don’t assume that if something doesn’t hurt while you are doing it that it is OK. Sometimes you won’t hurt until hours later, or the next day. This is why you must think of principles of good spinal care, rather than only paying attention to what hurts. Balance and symmetry is a good principle to follow. Sitting with your head turned to watch TV or your computer screen may not cause pain, until the next morning. By symmetry I mean making things even on each side. Reaching, turning, bending, etc. to one side more than the other would be an asymmetrical activity.
- Stress is a major obstacle to your recovery. People seem to “carry stress” in certain areas because those are the areas that are already stressed from the mechanical irritation caused by vertebral dysfunction. When you need an adjustment spinal nerves are irritated. This causes a build-up of stress hormones and inflammation in those nerves according to research. Muscles are already tense in those areas as well. It’s no wonder that these areas are more prone to being aggravated when other factors trigger a stress response. It is like a weak circuit breaker that keeps tripping. Adjustments can reduce the background irritation enough that you will be able to better handle the other stress in your life. We recommend adjustments, but everyone needs to learn how to manage stress. You can read books on the subject, take a time management seminar, find a good church, even seek counseling if necessary. A good start is to eliminate unforgiveness and resentment. Make a list of everyone who as wronged you – then wad it up and toss it in the trash. Dwelling on past hurts can lead to a person being consumed with bitterness. Someone said this is like drinking poison and hoping it hurts the other person. A lot of what we call “stress” is just worry. Most of what we worry about never happens, and worry stops you from finding solutions. I could go on, but I think you get the idea. Many patients have seen major improvements when they reduce the stress in their life.
- Most patients have already quit carrying refrigerators and digging ditches. But for many, it is the everyday activities that created their problem. Now that a weakness has developed, from an accumulation of wear and tear, an injury, or both, some things may now be an aggravating factor. It could be your favorite chair, your bed or pillow, workstation, or anything you do a lot of. Sometimes it isn’t something “bad”, just the same old thing that wears on the same weakened areas the same old way day in and day out. If something rubs your skin in the same small place an injury will occur. If you hold your hand over a candle after a while it will burn you, unless you move your hand around. Take inventory of your everyday activities and determine if something may be aggravating your condition. Some patients are fortunate, and nothing they do stresses their weak areas. Some people need us because of a weakness that resulted from what they do every day, and their weak areas never get a break.
- The same injury will affect people differently. A chiropractor, surgeon, electrician, or concert pianist cannot do their job if they lose a hand, but an accountant, lawyer, or teacher could still do their job. If a baseball pitcher just jams a finger he can’t do his job. If the pitcher has the exact same injury to both elbows, the one on his throwing arm will take much longer to heal – unless it is during off-season. But even in the off-season, the elbow on the throwing arm may not heal as well because of previous damage. Same injury, different recovery time and different effect on one’s life and career. Your recovery depends upon you and how your daily life and activities affect your ability to heal and strengthen without aggravation. You can see why we must treat each patient as a unique individual, and how foolish it would be to treat patients according to the protocol for the “average” or “typical” case.