Fact of the Week
Your stomach is
the size of your fist,
Have a Happy Thanksgiving!
“What’s the Connection?”
It’s not uncommon to walk into the chiropractic adjusting room and find a patient hypnotized by a death notice. Some are so entranced they don’t immediately look up. If you are also someone who reads death notices and obituaries, you would agree the color photo of the deceased makes it even more attractive to get a piece of their story. “Look how young this one is” is a common refrain, or “It says ‘unexpectedly’, likely an opioid overdose again.” We can agree those listings have become all too common.
Last week, two announcements caught my attention due to what the deceased had in common. One was a fairly vivacious woman (yes, I knew her) and the other was a 54-year-old man who “died in his sleep”. What they had in common was both had a history of low back surgery – one even reported “botched low back surgery”. They both also had a history of leukemia.
So, what’s the connection? Failed back surgery, more common than not, leaves the patient in constant pain in which there is no escape. Often, the patient repeats the spinal surgery hoping for any remission in the suffering. This intense, chronic pain leaves the patient weary and even hopeless at times. It’s been said many cancers are a 7-year wearing out of the immune system.
Is there a correlation between the leukemia and back surgery for those two death listings? A back that is irreversibly irritated due to surgery is going to wear down a person’s immune system over time. Similarly, cancer has been determined to be a progressive wearing down of the immune system. Connection between leukemia and failed back surgery? It’s a possibility best avoided. Together let’s get your spine younger.
“The People We Meet”
A broken-hearted young mother presented herself in a natural state of stress. With tears close to the surface, she shared how she had recently lost a baby. It was easy to see the hurt was overwhelming her. It was also easy to see the comparison between her and the patient that followed. She was an elderly woman who had buried two of her kids at a young age. Having been battle tested by grief, her sorrow began to show in a different way.
This elderly patient has both a peace and strength that radiates from her. When in her presence, you can’t help but feel she has discovered the secret to life. She is a lover of family –including her husband of forever – and is so quick to give gratitude, especially to her steel like faith.
The trick question is how do we get that relentless faith and overwhelming presence of peace without actually suffering? The answer is: we don’t. Life and health are all about adapting. Every time I adjust you, I am in essence checking how you (your nervous system) are adapting to the challenges of life.
The young woman who lost her baby is a remarkable person who also has a great family life. My guess is she will adapt in a way where she becomes a source of peace and strength to others who may be experiencing heartache. She will gradually take on the role of the elderly hero who has sought supportive chiropractic care for 37 years and counting.
“Teach Your Children“
As children, we were taught that there were two positions in our community who demanded respect: the parish priest and the family doctor. On this day, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and Philadelphia newspapers had the same front page headline: “They Hid It All”. This reference to the superiors of the Catholic Church tolerating and hiding sexual abuse of children by clergy is beyond understanding.
This past Saturday, a recently published book arrived in my mailbox. It was the eagerly awaited and critically acclaimed book by Beth Macy titled “Dopesick: Dealers, Doctors, and the Drug Company that Addicted America”. Just who did they get addicted? Not senior citizens, who are taught that taking a countless number of pills daily is the only path to staying alive. They addicted our kids, particularly teens in many cases, who suffered routine injuries associated with being active, especially in sports. In both cases, parents bought into our institutions without questioning their intent to better our lives.
The Catholic Church was expected to be our conduit to experiencing a relationship with God. In too many cases, however, it was a conduit to the devil. Medical doctors were thought to be a conduit to a healthier future. Instead, it was a straight shot to an early and painful death that tortured many family members and friends along the way.
Institutions that were cornerstones of our society go through changes. Even the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette newspaper that delivered the “They Hid It All” report is struggling to avoid extinction as it shifts to becoming paperless. Do the Catholic Church and the medical doctor face extinction as well? Most likely not; however, big change is needed. As more people access information that can help them create a better future for themselves and their family, hopefully better and safer alternative choices will be made.
“Can I come in a little later? The exterminator is here longer than expected?” This is a common request in the late spring as we fend off the ants that desire to move in like squatters.
People can also use chiropractic care like they approach ridding their home of ants. The ant is like a pain you certainly didn’t invite into your body. The pain is the unwelcomed guest you want gone and will do anything, including chiropractic care, to get rid of.
I admit I don’t like ants and I don’t like pain. I approach ridding both with the same attitude. Getting rid of ants requires being more careful with crumbs and food the ants like to munch on. Pain requires a broader lifestyle adjustment, perhaps less sugar, more or less exercising, more water, and perhaps less hours spent doing yardwork.
The bigger view is what is your nervous system reflecting about your inner environment and your future? Touching a person, talking to a person and simply looking at a person are powerful tools to see how someone is doing.
Treat your pain as a messenger from your body wanting you to clean up your lifestyle in some way. Become a detective to figure out short comings in your lifestyle the same way you figure out the source of the ants.
“It’s a Great Life…”
Before you start thinking this is about Jimmy Stewart, remember his movie was “It’s a Wonderful Life”. A patient once shared a quote with me from her father, George Abbey. He repeated these words to her throughout her upbringing: “It’s a great life if you don’t weaken.”
What does the above quote have to do with your health? Health requires many things including healthy relationships, creating a positive future, an active lifestyle, a diet with minimal sugar intake and mental toughness.
Life and health require we show up with grit, toughness, and strength of mind, body, and spirit.
Any adult knows the tough times are going to come. If you desire a great life, you mustn’t give in. Face your inevitable weaknesses and step forward anyway. The more you train your strengths to show up, the more they show up. What a coincidence.
Research shows chiropractic care helps the nervous system become more resilient. Call it what you will: resilience, grit, or toughness– we all need some.
“Stop the Madness – Part 1”
The patient complained of thigh pain and numbness. Sounds like a possible sciatic nerve problem, doesn’t it? The additional clue was the growing hard spot in the center of the right thigh. It was too localized to be a tumor. So, what was it?
The hardening muscle and nerve tingling were the body’s response to repeated trauma. It turned out the patient had developed a habit of accidentally smacking his thigh with his racket while playing racquetball. Initially, it hurt; but, with repeated hits, the body went on defense to protect itself. More signs and symptoms were a request by his body to change something. The habit was actually subtle enough that the patient wasn’t even aware he was hurting himself.
Let’s not throw too many stones at the self-abusing racquetball player. We all love our habits that gradually injure ourselves. How often do you sit or stand tall like a champion? Patients will show up with a bad back but want to maintain the sitting habits of a slouch. How about the person who wants to be fit but isn’t willing to give up the sweets?
A positive change takes some form of sacrifice. Only one or two small changes can often make a huge difference in your overall wellbeing. Have the courage and discipline to become your best.
Quickly in 5 seconds or less: do you believe in the chiropractic principle of health beginning and ending inside you controlled by your nervous system? Yes or no? In 5 seconds or less: are you 100% responsible for how healthy you are? Yes or no?
Realize if you are 100% responsible and your health comes from within, then flu shots, flying in planes full of stale air and germs, washing your hands with anti-bacterial soap, and all the other advertised “have to do” health aids don’t matter. So, do you really believe health begins solely inside you?
What about Jesus? Do you believe in Him? Didn’t Jesus promote an inside out philosophy of living from your heart, not the rules of the rulers, and loving God with a pure forgiving heart, not solely honoring the custom of the day? Perhaps you are thinking His philosophy of life doesn’t apply to your health.
What about Shakespeare? Didn’t he promote a life lived from inside out instead of one ruled by the stars? Wasn’t he one of the first writers to teach us life and love begin within? Perhaps you are thinking that philosophy doesn’t apply to your health.
Think again. Perhaps think for the first time. The greats left us with a philosophy that applies to all of life.
“Cause and Effect”
My dearly departed father saw a cardiologist for many years. This doctor always spoke with 100% certainty, was self-assured, and quick to share how his lower-level medical colleagues were “idiots” compared to the education he received.
I recall meeting my father at Shadyside Hospital one day. His doctor had prescribed him a blood thinner, which caused blood to pour down his leg like a leaky, gushing pipe. His cardiologist, however, used a very effective psychological tool to keep my father on this medication. When asked “Can I get off this medicine?” the doctor rapidly responded, “Do you want to die?”
Psychologists long ago figured out humans are naturally more protective of losing what they have compared to the opportunity to gain. As chiropractors, we too often make the mistake of asking patients to embrace the power they have to become healthier. The cardiologist was much more effective in creating patient compliance through a simple psychological trick of asking the patient: “Do you want to die?”
My father eventually quit the medication and did quite well for years. Ironically, he went back to his doctor one day when he was not feeling well. They put him back on the blood thinners and he was gone in weeks. Was it simply cause and effect? Who knows?
Whether you focus on losing your health or gaining it, always remember to seek your best you.
“Power Tools to Build a Better You”
One of my favorite sayings is “You can’t give from an empty cup.” This quote came from Mother Teresa and implied you must take care of yourself in order to be able to give to others. There are 3 powerful tools you can use to take better care of yourself. They will help you improve your quality of health and life.
Tool #1 is to remember the quality of your life is equal to the quality of the questions you ask yourself. What kind of questions do you ask yourself on a daily basis? “Why do I always screw up?” or “Why am I such a loser” are not very self-empowering questions. Ask a negative question and you will in turn get a negative response. What if you asked yourself questions like “What can I learn from this situation, challenge, mistake or problem?” Get your internal compass pointed in the right direction through positive questions.
Tool #2 is to take a look at your contradictions. How about the fitness fanatic who loves going to the gym, but eats a diet full of sugar and fast food? What about the health expert who relies on smoking cigarettes to calm their nerves? Or even the preacher who visits prostitutes or steals from the collection basket – both are extreme contradictions. A hospital administrator recently questioned me as to why so many nurses appear to snack on junk food all day at work. His point was they need to be a frontline for healthy habits to the patients around them. We all have contradictions that show up in our behaviors. Look at yours and work to eliminate them, or at least reduce them.
Tool #3 is so simple it is easy to overlook. Here it is: keep your promises, especially to yourself. If you tell someone you are going to do something, do it. You benefit as much as they do by building your integrity muscle. If you make an appointment, keep it. Not even showing up is a huge void you establish internally.
The opposite of contradiction is congruency. The opposite of broken promises is integrity. Better internal questions point your internal compass in the right direction. Be kind and patient with yourself. Compassion is the opposite of criticism.