I’m sure you see it almost everyday. Whether it’s the fidgety co-worker who likes to hear all of his joints pop, or the guy on the plane that’s been rubbing his neck all day.
It’s the serial neck popper. They look straight out of the warm up scene of a martial arts movie, sound effects and all. While most will cringe and bite their tongue when they see it, the serial neck popper looks more focused and at ease. In fact, if their joints were capable of it, these people might pop it more often. It might even be you.
“It feels so good, how bad can it be?”
Some of the people who come into my office for care used to be serial neck poppers. Emphasis on the words “used to be”. One recommendation for people when they get their first adjustment is to avoid popping or cracking their neck. There’s usually a look of defeat on their face when the recommendation is given. The truth is that one of their greatest sources of relief from neck discomfort was actually the very thing that was making their problem a chronic issue.
The loose ligaments, and uncontrolled forces from self-manipulation prevent this neck from staying in place.
The x-ray on the right is an example of someone who spends a lot of time popping their own neck. He had no history of a car accident, sports injury, fall, or trauma. However, he has been popping his neck aka, self-manipulating multiple times per day for years.
The green line represents the center point where a person’s head and neck should line up. The red line represents how the patient’s head and neck currently line up in their “normal” seated position.
The level of displacement is not hard to see. In fact, most of you would probably notice someone like this who always holds their neck off to the side.
Though he always feels his neck is very tight, the neck tends to be very floppy without a strong degree of stability. Even after several corrections, his neck will continue to have a tendency to slip towards the side until the ligaments tighten up and heal.
So what exactly happens when you self-manipulate?
Despite popular belief, there is nothing insidious about the popping sound made by joints. The classic crunching sound that you hear, and is stereotyped with chiropractic has nothing to do with broken bones, or rubbing bones against each other. The sound comes from tiny gas bubbles within the fluid that lubricates your joints. When the joint opens up rapidly, these bubbles get released and pop causing those sounds.
It’s more like opening a can of soda than the crunching of a bone. If your neck or back cracks here and there with normal movement, it’s not a cause for concern most of the time.
The sound is ultimately not the problem. What truly is a problem is the way the thrust affects the spine.
In recent years, there have been videos, articles, and books that teach people how to adjust themselves. Now bear in mind, the neck is one of the most sensitive and important pieces of anatomy in the human body. So people are being taught to manipulate their neck without regard for the following factors:
1. Risk factors – Does your neck have disc bulges or protrusions? Are there plaques or anatomical malformations? Some of these risk factors are susceptible to rotation/twisting forces in the neck. Many of these problems can be identified and planned for with a proper examination, but without one, how do you know?
2. What is the current structure of the spine? – How is the spine currently aligned? Do you know which direction puts you into a better position? Are you moving the right vertebra? Are you pushing the vertebra into a worse position than it already is?
Our office uses x-rays to identify these malpositions. Can your own hands measure precise alignment in your neck?
3. Constant Manipulation = Loose ligaments = Poor Stability – Every time you manipulate your spine, you are causing ligaments in the spine to stretch like a rubber band. When you stretch a rubber band enough times, it eventually loses it’s shape and becomes less stable. Your ligaments work the same way. If you keep pounding on your neck with self-manipulation, your neck eventually becomes a sloppy mess like the x-ray above.
When people have ligament instability, it leads them down the road where they depend on manipulation to keep feeling good. Not a good situation, and a big reason chiropractors get a bad rap for getting people “addicted to adjustments”.
So what now?
When choosing a chiropractor, it’s important that they are actually measuring what they are doing to the spine. Almost any chiropractor is able to make someone feel better with manipulation. Manipulation sends a rush of feel good signals into the brain. However, a Structural Chiropractic approach is more than about feeling better in the moment.
It’s about restoring your spine and your nervous system to a state of Normal. A normally functioning spine has the ability to heal and maintain itself without relying on constant manipulation.
That’s why the procedures we perform in our office is truly about fixing the problem and getting it to stay fixed. Many times, these corrections can be performed without any rotation or twisting of the spine. It’s very gentle, and very effective.
Self-manipulation, while a temporary rush and feel good sensation can create hyper-mobility and long term structural problems in the neck. Additionally, it’s easy to become addicted to that feeling, and make your body dependent on constant manipulation to feel normal. In our world, we call that getting “hooked on the crack”. There are just too many questions about what can happen when you self-manipulate. It just doesn’t make sense to do something likely harmful for a few minutes of temporary relief.
of the most common and troublesome problems is a condition known as
Temporomandibular joint dysfuction, or TMD for short. In fact, many
of you may have heard someone talk about their TMJ or having TMD, but
didn’t quite know what it was.
involves the joint that connects your jaw to your head. Proper
movement of this joint is critical to proper function. It has a
profound affect on people because dysfunction of that joint can cause
a variety of problems including:
to open the jaw properly
has rapidly become one of the more common reasons for visits to a
neurologist and pain clinics, because of the dramatic impact that
this sensitive piece of anatomy has on a person’s quality of life.
Many times, this condition is treated with medications. In some
cases, muscle relaxers or injections to the joint.
does this have to do with the neck?
search of PubMed will show numerous references for increased
incidence of TMD in conjunction with a whiplash injury, or head/neck
trauma. A systematic review of
these papers show that people with whiplash/head injury actually have
more severe pain and more pronounced dysfunction of the joint.
Another review showed
that just treating the TMJ in these whiplash related cases poor
outcomes suggesting that the cause of the problem may be outside the
joint itself. The whiplash associated cases showed just a 48%
improvement compared to the non-whiplash cases which improved 75% of
the time. That leaves a huge amount of people who are still in pain
and suffering because the primary insult to the body was not
usually comes in 2 varieties:
Muscular dysfunction – the muscles of the jaw (pterygoids,
masseter, temporalis) become hypertonic and dysfunctional creating
painful musculature and sloppy movement.
Articular dysfunction – the joint itself can have problems.
Dislodging of the disc, arthritic degeneration, and inflammation can
irritate the very sensitive nerve endings that cover the joint.
much can be done about arthritic breakdown of a joint. However, this
is a less common cause of TMD. The most common causes of TMJ problems
stem from muscular imbalance and dislodging of the articular disc. In
a way, these two problems are intimately related. When you have bad
jaw muscles moving the jaw abnormally, then it leaves more room for
the articular disc to shift out of place.
what can make these jaw muscles dysfunctional? To know that, we have
to know what controls the muscle. Every muscle in your body is
controlled by a nerve. Whether it be a big bulky bicep, an achy sore
back muscle, the blood pumping heart muscle, and the food digesting
the jaw muscles, a special nerve called the Trigeminal Nerve emanates
from the skull and provides innervation for the face, jaw muscles,
teeth, brain, and other important structures. (as seen in the above image)
trigeminal nerve is one of twelve specialized nerves called Cranial
Nerves. The unique thing about Cranial Nerves is that they do not
exit out of the spine. They actually begin come out of the brain and
the brainstem, and exit out of the skull. Therefore, a problem with
one of the cranial nerves is usually indicative of a problem at the
Cervical Displacement, Whiplash, and the Brain Stem
of the reasons that our office gets referrals is because of how Cervical Displacement impacts
the health and function of the brain stem. While the top of the neck
doesn’t apply direct pressure to the brain stem, the movement and
function of the neck has large implications for this important piece
someone has an episode of whiplash, there can be substantial damage
and injury to the neck, but the more concerning portion is what
happens to the nervous system. A phenomenon known as Central
Sensitization occurs. This problem happens when the brain stem fires
inappropriately to the limbic system (controls the basic emotions (fear, pleasure, anger) and drives (hunger, sex, dominance, care of offspring)) and reticular activating system
(the places where pain is interpreted in the brain). When this
happens, even the slightest touch or movement can trigger a pain
sensation in the brain.
is why many doctors can find no physical damage to the body, but
people will suffer with chronic pain issues like fibromyalgia. People recognize this quickly when the pain is stemming from the
neck, shoulders or back, but the reality is that this same thing is
happening in the jaw muscles.
get to the root of someone’s problems, we have to evaluate this
critical, but under studied part of the nervous system.
Structural Chiropractic address this?
1. Restore healthy biomechanics to the spine –
create a state of Normal Structure in the neck so that the proper
signals get to the brain.
2. Increase circulation through the brain –
proper alignment ensures that blood to and from the brain stem
properly. Proper blood flow means better nerve firing.
3. Restore health biomechanics to the jaw –
Once the neck alignment is restored, most of the time the jaw will
reset on it’s own. However, sometimes gentle jaw adjustments may be
I Have a Military Neck, Now What?
My doctor told me that I have a military neck and that it was causing my neck pain…
My last chiropractor said that I have a military neck and I needed a year to fix it
Over the past 10 years, the general public is becoming increasingly aware about certain facets of spinal alignment. For years, parents of small children are showing more concern about their child having scoliosis and other postural problems. Today, more and more patients have voiced their concerns about having a military neck in our office.
While it’s refreshing from a chirorpactor's stand point to see a greater awareness about spinal health, there are still a number of misconceptions that need to be addressed.
What’s a Military Neck?
The images on the below show x-rays for 2 people. The top image is a smooth C-shaped Arc representing a normal curve, while the image on the bottom shows a straightened appearance from a loss of the normal curvature.
When people talk about having a military neck, people are talking about the straightened appearance that the neck takes when it loses it’s normal curvature. Military neck has less to do with being injured in the line of duty, and more to do with the straight and stiff appearance of a soldier’s posture.
The straightened and weak structure of a military neck
How Bad is it Really?
When patients come to our office for a consultation they will mention if they had x-rays in the past. I’ve had several people who had a previous chiropractor promise the world by putting the curve back in their neck. I’ve also had a few medical doctors tell people that the cause of their pain is from the loss of curvature in their neck as well.
The presence of a curve in your neck allows for smoother motion of each of your neck vertebra. It also plays a key role in distributing force throughout the discs of the cervical spine. In essence, a C-shaped curve in the neck can and will prevent early breakdown and degeneration of your spinal joints. As the discs and joints begin to breakdown, it can create the environment for inflammation to build up around the nerves, or even lead to disc protrusions and disc bulges.
You may not feel the effects of a military neck immediately, but just like you don’t feel plaque building up in your arteries, it is something than can and will eventually become problematic as you go.
Can It Be Fixed?
This part is a bit of a loaded question. The answer really comes down to this fact:
Why is the neck straight to begin with?
Many cases are induced by compromising neck positions from texting/computer/screen time and has lead to weakness of the intrinsic muscles of the head and neck. Some cases involve malformed vertebra that force the neck into a straight or reversed position. Then of course are the neck’s that are a result of traumatic injury like whiplash.
Many of the postural and some of the minor traumatic injuries can see their curves restored nicely under structural chiropractic care. However, the cases of misshaped vertebra and some of the traumatic cases may not see a return back to normal, no matter how skilled or how well the intention of that chiropractor is.
I Tried to Get it Fixed, but my Neck is Still Straight. Now What?
Here’s the good news:
You don’t necessarily need the curve in your neck fixed in order to get great results!
We often see Military Necks as Structural Problem. Although it’s really fun to see a straight neck get it’s curve back, it’s not a requirement for the patient to get improved biomechanical function of their spine again.
Take Home Message
Military necks are associated with problems in the neck, but it’s not a death sentence. While we all want to be perfect, it’s important to understand that your body will always do what it can to adapt to any situation. Curve or no curve.
Some structural distortions like may not have the popular awareness of military neck, but carry far wider implications for spine problems, and brain problems.
The most important thing to remember is that the care you choose to receive makes an impact on the quality of your life.
What is a food allergy?
A food allergy is an immune system response. It is caused when the body mistakes an ingredient in food — usually a protein — as harmful and creates a defense system (antibodies) to fight it. An allergic reaction occurs when the antibodies are battling an "invading" food protein. The most common food allergies are shellfish or fish, nuts (peanuts, etc), and milk/dairy products.
What is food intolerance?
Food intolerance is a digestive system response rather than an immune system response. It occurs when something in food irritates a person’s digestive system or when a person is unable to properly digest, or break down, the food. Intolerance to lactose, which is found in milk and other dairy products, is the most common food intolerance.
What are the symptoms of a food allergy?
Symptoms of a food allergy can range from mild to severe, and the amount of food necessary to trigger a reaction varies from person to person. Symptoms of a food allergy may include:
· Rash or hives
· Cramping stomach pain
· Itchy skin
· Shortness of breath
· Chest pain
· Swelling of the airways to the lungs
Anaphylaxis is a very serious and potentially fatal allergic reaction that involves a sudden drop in blood pressure, loss of consciousness and body system failure.
What are the symptoms of food intolerance?
Symptoms of food intolerance include:
· Stomach pain
· Gas, cramps or bloating
· Irritability or nervousness
When experienced the episode is a mild inconvenience, the affected individual will associate it with a unrelated event.
How common are food allergies and intolerance's?
Food allergies affect about 1 percent of adults and 7 percent of children, although some children outgrow their allergies. Food intolerance's are much more common. In fact, nearly everyone at one time has had an unpleasant reaction to something they ate. Some people have specific food intolerance's. Lactose intolerance, the most common specific food intolerance, affects about 10 percent of Americans.
What causes food allergies and intolerance's?
Food allergies arise from sensitivity to chemical compounds (proteins) in food, even compounds that are found naturally in food. Food allergies are more common in people whose family members have allergies, suggesting a genetic — or hereditary — factor may be involved with the development of food allergies.
Food allergies develop after you are exposed to a food protein that your body thinks is harmful. The first time you eat the food containing the protein, your immune system responds by creating specific disease-fighting antibodies (called immunoglobulin E or IgE). When you eat the food again, it triggers the release of IgE antibodies and other chemicals, including histamine, in an effort to expel the protein "invader" from your body. Histamine is a powerful chemical that can affect the respiratory system, gastrointestinal tract, skin or cardiovascular system.
The allergy symptoms you have depend on where in the body the histamine is released. If it is released in the ears, nose and throat, you may have an itchy nose and mouth, or trouble breathing or swallowing. If histamine is released in the skin, you may develop hives or a rash. If histamine is released in the gastrointestinal tract, you likely will develop stomach pains, cramps or diarrhea. Many people experience a combination of symptoms as the food is eaten and digested.
There are many factors that may contribute to food intolerance. In some cases — as with lactose intolerance — the person lacks the chemicals, called enzymes, necessary to properly digest certain proteins found in food. Also common are intolerances to some chemical ingredients added to food to provide color, enhance taste and protect against the growth of bacteria. These ingredients include various dyes and monosodium glutamate (MSG), a flavor enhancer.
Substances called sulfites, which may occur naturally — as in red wines — or may be added to prevent the growth of mold, also are a source of intolerance for some people. The Food and Drug Administration has banned the use of spray-on sulfates to preserve fruits and vegetables, but sulfates are still found naturally in some foods. Salicylates are a group of plant chemicals found naturally in many fruits, vegetables, nuts, coffee, juices, beer and wine. Aspirin also is a compound of the salicylate family. Foods containing salicylates may trigger symptoms in people who are sensitive to aspirin. Of course, any food consumed in excessive quantities can cause digestive symptoms.
How can you tell the difference between an allergy and intolerance to food?
Food allergies can be triggered by a small amount of the food and occur every time the food is consumed. People with food allergies are generally advised to avoid the offending foods completely. On the other hand, food intolerance's often are dose related; people with food intolerance may not have symptoms unless they eat a large portion of the food or eat the food frequently. For example, a person with lactose intolerance may be able to drink milk in coffee or a single glass of milk, but becomes sick if he or she drinks several glasses of milk. Food allergies and intolerances also are different from food poisoning, which generally results from spoiled or tainted food and affects more than one person eating the food.
How are food intolerance's diagnosed?
A simple blood test can measure your immune system's response to particular foods by checking the amount of allergy-type antibodies in your bloodstream. For this test, a blood sample taken in and sent to a medical laboratory, where different foods can be tested. Once completed the individual would receive a report (based on complexity of the test).
How are food intolerance's treated?
Treatment is based on avoiding or reducing your intake of problematic foods.
Can food intolerance's be prevented?
Taking a few simple steps can help you prevent the symptoms associated with food intolerance.
· Learn which foods in which amounts cause you to have symptoms, and limit your intake to amounts you can handle.
· When you dine out, ask your server about how your meal will be prepared. Some meals may contain foods you cannot tolerate, and that may not be evident from the description on the menu.
· Learn to read food labels and check the ingredients for problem foods. Don’t forget to check condiments and seasonings. They may contain MSG or another additive that can lead to symptoms.
Contact our office for more information – 248.287.8700
kids are way too young for spinal problems…”
my years in practice, people have often asked why we check so many
kids in the office. Most people are under the impression that
children are way too young to have a structural problem in the spine.
For the most part, you would be absolutely correct. About 60% of the
kids we check in the office have no structural problems at all, and
thank goodness for that.
statistics from the Center for Disease Control show some alarming
numbers. Each year, over 1 million children between the ages
of 0-5 will be hospitalized due to a fall. Another 700,000
will be hospitalized from an accidental trauma. That’s not even
including the number of kids who will suffer a trauma to the spine,
but are never taken to the ER!
think about this, most people will never even know or think about
taking their kids to a chiropractor following a fall or trauma.
The great news is that kids are extraordinarily resilient to injury.
They bounce back up, and their ability to heal is just much better
than that of an average adult. However, structural problems in the
spine don’t necessarily cause neck pain and back pain, especially
in children. What they can do is create other secondary conditions.
Whenever there is pressure in the nerves at the base of the brain
from a structural misalignment at the top of the neck, many kids can
show conditions like:
are just some of the common conditions that parents bring their kids
to chiropractors for. While it’s not a chiropractor’s job to
treat these symptoms, they are signs that the nerve supply from a
child’s spine is compromised. On many kids, this can be tied to a
difficult or traumatic birth process.
best part of all is how much kids love getting gentle adjustments.
It’s often times a parent’s worst nightmare to take their kids to
a doctor. The screaming and tantrums on display at a pediatrician or
a dentist can unnerve even the strongest parent. A child and infant
adjustment is very different than adults, and you’ll usually see
kids jumping on to my tables excited to be checked!
the most important reason that kids should be checked early is just
because it makes sense. When most of us adults
develop some bad secondary conditions, x-rays usually show that a
problem has been growing in the spine for 15+ years. Why let kids
develop the same problems that us adults have had. Just like we take
our kids for a dental check-up to ensure that they are free of
cavities, our kids deserve a structural check-up to prevent the
damage of a developing spine.
a fair question to ask as a patient. In some branches of health care,
such as dentistry or orthopedics, x-rays are routine and are
performed without any doubts or questions. Patients understand that
without x-rays, the dentist or orthopedic surgeon would be flying
blind, and the quality and safety of the procedure would be
in other branches of health care such as chiropractic, the use of
x-rays is debatable. In fact, the majority of chiropractors do not
take x-rays as a standard practice. So when a patient enters Premier
Chiropractic and discovers that x-rays are a standard practice for
all cases, naturally they have a few questions.
most patients, the questions arise from the fear of receiving too
much radiation and increasing their risk of cancer. Although that
fear is valid – excessive exposure to ionizing radiation (like
x-rays) can increase the risk of cancer – once our patients
understand the clinical need for x-rays, and the actual dosage they
receive, their fears are quickly put to rest.
quickly address the fear of increased cancer risk first. X-rays are
form of radiant energy, like light or radio waves, but x-rays have
the ability to penetrate body. X-rays occur in nature (called
“background” radiation) and most commonly come from cosmic
radiation (space) and radioactive materials (most commonly from radon
gas). Therefore we are always exposed to them at some level. The
dosage is most commonly measured in millisieverts (mSv).
damage caused by x-rays is like a wound in the sense that, with time,
the body can fully heal and recover. So a large dose of radiation
from x-rays can be tolerated as long as it’s not too frequent. And
a small dose of x-rays can be tolerated on a more frequent basis. To
put things in perspective, one chest x-ray exposes a person to 0.1
mSv, which is equivalent to the amount of radiation exposure they
would experience from their natural surroundings in 10 days.
x-rays we take at Premier Chiropractic amount to roughly 0.5 mSv,
which is equivalent to the amount of radiation exposure you would get
from your natural surroundings in about 2 months.,
let’s address why we need to take take x-rays. The
bones in your spine are highly variable from one person to the next.
Just like no two people look exactly alike (except maybe identical
twins), no two spines look exactly alike. Furthermore, the uniqueness
of the individual, how they are shaped, how they move, makes it
nearly impossible analyze accurately with palpation (touch) alone.
summary, just as an orthopedic surgeon or dentist needs x-rays in
order to perform his or her job and provide the highest quality of
care to the patient, so do structural chiropractors at Premier
Chiropractic need to take x-rays.
your health is on the line, you don’t want us to be guessing do
try to be an educated consumer when you’re choosing a car, house,
or TV, but what about when you’re choosing something else that is
also very important… such as a chiropractor? There are some key
questions to ask yourself before choosing a chiropractor to care for
your spine and nervous system. After all, your nerve system is a very
important part of your body that controls all of your functions;
picking a care provider is not something to jump into without careful
here are some questions to ask yourself when choosing a Doctor of
Why Am I Looking For A Chiropractor?
is the first question that you want to ask yourself to help you
choose the type of chiropractor you go to. If you have a
surface-level ache, pain, or strain, and you simply want a quick fix
so you can get back on the road again, you’ll want to look for a
chiropractor who will take care of you for the immediate issue. When
you see a chiropractor for this type of objective, he/she generally
will not do a complete assessment of your spine or nervous system,
but will rather work on relieving acute pain/muscle spasms and
improving range of motion.
just like any other area of your health, there’s a difference
between a quick fix and sustainable change. If you are looking for
sustainable results or improvement for your spine or nervous system,
or to get to the root cause of a recurring health concern, you would
want to find a chiropractor to perform a comprehensive assessment.
Do I Want Less Or More… Or Maybe Both?
often people are motivated to go to a chiropractor because they want
less of something that they don’t like: back pain, neck pain, arm
pain, shoulder pain, knee pain, something that is disturbing how they
are living. They just want to go back to the way they were before. If
that’s you, make sure you have the right expectation when you go in
to the chiropractor that you really just want to experience less of
something that is disturbing you.
people want more. In addition to eliminating something that they
don’t like, they would like to have more of what they do want: more
energy, more joy, better sleep, better mental state, more life
enjoyment and improved quality of life. When you want more of
something, you want to look for a chiropractor who is going to be
able to help you improve your overall function, retrain and
reorganize your nerve system and not just get you back to a prior
minimal state. The state that led to you ending up where you are now.
Am I Looking For A Conventional Experience Or An Outstanding
majority of conventional chiropractic practitioners, physical
therapists, and other healthcare providers related to the spine are
focused on eliminating the condition the patient is presenting with
on the surface. This is generally working on temporary range of
motion improvement, bone re-alignment, or muscle spasm and pain
relief. If you want to have an outstanding experience, then find a
chiropractor who can identify and focus on the underlying Structural
dysfunctions that may be at the root cause of the structural and
behavioral shifts which are affecting your health and life
experience. Go for outstanding in your chiropractic care and your
you would like to have your nerve system checked for its Structural
integrity, a consultation to discuss your concerns may be a great
place to start. Find out where to go from here by contacting
our office at248-287-8700
One of the most common problems I hear about with patients with chronic pain is that rainy weather seems to make things worse. Is there a real biological reason for this or is this just an old wives tale that has been passed on through time?
Don’t Stop Believing: The Uncontrollable Factor
People have been talking about how they can sense weather patterns in their joints for thousands of years. You’ve probably heard of this phenomenon from your grandmother or another relative whose arthritis pain flared up when it rains. They might say that they feel the rain in their bones.
Hippocrates, the Father of Medicine, was the first to note changes in a person’s illness status due to weather way back in 400 BC. Yet, as long as this idea has been around, studies about this phenomenon have been inconclusive. Some studies show that pain patients can feel a difference, while others say that the weather makes no difference.
It’s hard to study this effect because of the impact that belief systems have on pain. When human beings have a strong enough belief in something, it can drastically affect their perception of the world. This is seen in pain science all the time, and it makes studying pain very challenging and difficult.
Short of locking people in a box and hiding them from weather reports, it’s hard to know how this affects humans with any degree of certainty.
Animal Studies Leaving Clues
While belief systems can impact humans, some of our furry friends have helped leave some clues.
Scientists believe that the pressure in the air (barometric pressure) is what allows people to feel pain when the weather changes. When storms come, the pressure in the atmosphere begins to drop. The theory is that as air pressure drops, it decreases the amount of pressure on your joints leading to the joints and soft tissues to expand and irritate nerve endings causing pain.
In Michigan, we get experience weather changes quickly so pain patients have the unfortunate opportunity to experience this regularly.
Scientists tested this idea on guinea pigs and rats. They placed animals bred with with a pain predisposition into two environments. One group had normal air pressure while the other group had the air pressure lowered artificially.
They found that the low pressure animals showed increased pain behavior compared to the controls.
This is important because you can’t sway or convince an animal that lower pressure is going to make them hurt more. It’s a much closer relationship to cause and effect than can be currently studied in human beings.
So What? Is This Treatable?
So we know that feeling weather changes when you have pain syndromes is at least plausible based on animal models, but why does it happen and is it treatable? The truth is, we still don’t really know what mechanisms cause this type of pain so we have no idea if it’s treatable or preventable.
Based on my experience, I believe that when pain tends to be triggered or aggravated by weather, there’s likely a pain processing problem in the body.
Tissue Damage vs Pain Perception
The most common conditions associated with weather-related pain are osteoarthritis (wear and tear arthritis, not joints on fire arthritis), headaches, and fibromyalgia. The important thing to note about these 3 conditions is that the pain related to these conditions is NOT dependent on tissue damage. What does that mean?
It means that the level of pain associated with these conditions is not tied to the amount of damage that’s in the body. When you have a sprained ankle, broken bone, torn muscle, or a cut, there is damage done to the tissues that sets off a series of chemical signals meant to trigger a pain response. It’s a very linear relationship.
With joint degeneration, you might feel pain, you might not. With headaches and fibromyalgia, there’s not necessarily any physical damage that’s related to the the pain being felt.
It’s not to say that the pain isn’t real, it just means that there’s no obvious source of damage that’s causing the pain. The problem is related to the way your brain processes pain. Your brain has a built in volume control for pain perception. It can turn these signals up in certain situations, and it can turn it down in others. Chronic pain patients have their volume dial on high all the time.
It’s not just a matter of belief. Although that’s an important piece of the puzzle, there are other factors like:
Hormones in the blood
Joint movement, especially in the spine
That’s why pain isn’t just a physical phenomenon. I’m sure you’ve been in a situation where you you suffered an injury, but you didn’t feel it until much later. This happens frequently after the shock of car accident, the thril of playing in a championship game, or the necessity of escaping a dangerous situation.
You get stunned, your heart races, adrenaline is surging through the veins, and you don’t notice any pain until hours later when those hormones leave the blood stream.
Pain Perception is Malleable
This brings some good news and bad news.
Bad News: It means that for lots of cases, there might not be a treatable lesion that is generating some of the chronic pain problems you’re feeling.
Good News: This also means that your pain levels are malleable and there are different things you can do to turn down the volume of the pain you experience. Things like meditation, exercise, and cognitive therapy can all allow us to change our experience with pain, and get a little bit more control over how we feel. It gives us control over the volume dial.
This is actually one of the primary mechanisms that Structural Corrections can help people with headaches, fibromyalgia, and arthritis related pain syndromes. We are not fixing or repairing damaged tissue, we are creating an environment for healthy neurological function.
When the structure of the spine are disrupted, it decreases 2 things:
Blood supply in and out of the brain
Mechanical input into the brain
Both of these factors cause the brain to be more sensitive to pain signals. When the spine moves better and normal blood supply is restored, you can see not only an improvement to someone’s weather related pain, but also an improved resiliency and control over chronic pain syndromes.
my experience, I’ve found that whiplash is a commonly misunderstood diagnosis
among the patient population. Many people self-diagnose the pain in the neck
following a bad roller coaster ride or car accident as a whiplash injury. While
they may or may not be correct, the truth is that whiplash is a type of injury
with serious implications, and is frequently mismanaged by unscrupulous folks
with a big stake in the business of personal injury.
Whiplash is a common name for a
group of neck disorders known as cervical acceleration-deceleration injury or
cervical sprain/strain injury. It occurs when the head and neck are placed in
motion and suddenly forced to a stop causing a hyperflexion or hyperextension
This irregular movement of the neck causes the ligaments of the spine
to sprain and the muscles to splint the unstable structure. This type of injury
is also known to cause the discs of the spine to bulge and herniate, thus
complicating matters even further.
It’s easy to see how whiplash can be
a real pain in the neck (pun intended), but most people treat it like a
sprained ankle and hope that the pain goes away in a few weeks. However, there
can be long term consequences; even for people who don’t have pain symptoms
immediately. Research has shown that whiplash associated disorders are related
to inflammatory and endocrine problems like those seen in chronic fatigue
syndrome or fibromyalgia1. Whiplash is also associated with chronic
pain by making your brain more sensitive to pain signals, which explains why so
many people can suffer without any evidence of physical damage2.
Additionally, people who report whiplash injuries after a rear-end accident are
likely to show complaints of headaches, TMJ, back pain, fatigue, and sleep
problems even 7 years later3! Whiplash has even been associated with
chronic inflammation by making the body’s own immune system overly responsive
to normal stimuli4,5.
Though the focus of my practice has
never been on auto-accidents cases, the truth is that most drivers will be
involved in a collision no matter how good a driver they may be. Most will
probably not experience pain immediately after a collision, especially if
you’re in your teens or early 20’s. However, the impact of a vehicle traveling
at speeds as low as 15 mph can show visible signs of structural damage to the
neck. These include s-shaped curves in the neck, anterior ligament instability, atlas displacement,
and Anterior Head Syndrome. A recent study has found that this type of trauma
to the spine can cause parts of the brain and brain stem to slip further into
the neck creating a condition called Chiari Malformation6. While
they may not be painful in their early stages, these structural changes can
pre-dispose the spine to early degeneration and arthritis if left uncorrected
over the course of several years.
Normal Neck X-Ray
S-shape X-ray Characteristic of
As a chiropractor focused on Structural Correction, I see patients everyday with Secondary Conditions like headaches and TMJ related
to accidents that took place many years earlier. While some of these patients
suffered painful injuries and received treatment following an accident, most
people will walk in and say they didn’t have any symptoms until years later.
When someone asks why their pain seemed to come out of nowhere, I can usually
look at their x-ray and see that the structure of the neck fits the familiar
S-shape of a previous rear end collision.
Here are your take home messages:
First, problems can grow in the body in the absence of
symptoms. Much like cancer and heart disease don’t happen overnight,
people with chronic pain usually under go slow physiologic changes in
their brain and hormonal systems for years before they have a condition
that won’t go away.
Second, if you have a physical/structural problem, then
you must go beyond treating the pain symptoms to help get full resolution
of the problem. Whiplash injuries cause distinct structural problems in
the spine. While pain relief is important, making the pain go away while leaving
the structure in bad shape is like taking the battery out of a smoke
detector when a fire is burning in the house.
Whiplash associated disorders can be
a complicated problem that requires a comprehensive solution. When selecting a
team of doctors, make sure that you have someone in your corner that can look
at you from a functional standpoint rather than sheer pathology, that addresses
the structure of your spine in 3-dimensions, and understands the nature of
1. Banic B, Peterson-Felix S, Anderson OK et al. Evidence
for spinal cord hypersensitivity in chronic pain after whiplash injury and
in fibromyalgia. Pain. January 2004. 7-15.
2. Berglund A, Afredsson L, Jensen I, Cassidy JD, Nygren
Ake. The association between exposure to a rear-end collision and future health
complaints. J of Clinical Epidemiology. Aug 2001 (54): 851-856.
3. Kivioja J, Rinaldi L, Ozenci V et al. Chemokines
and their receptors in whiplash injury: elevated RANTES and CCR-5. J
Clin Immunol. Jul 2001; 21(4): 272-7
4. Kivioja J, Ozenci V, Rinaldi L. Systemic response
5. Gaab J, Baumann S, Budnoik A et al. Reduced reactivity
and enhanced negative feedback sensitivity of the
hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal axis in chronic whiplash associated
disorder. Pain. December 2005. 119(1). 219-224.
6. Freeman MD, Rosa S, Harshfield D et al. A case-control
study of cerebellar tonsillar ectopia (Chiari) and head/neck trauma
(whiplash). Brain Inj. 2010; 24(7-8): 988-94.
If you have experienced this kind of injury, call our office today and book your consultation. 248-287-8700
year, hundreds of THOUSANDS of people will under go some form of
spinal surgery. These surgeries range from spinal fusions,
discectomies, disc replacements, and more.
would like to discuss a popular misconception. Many people think that
if they’ve had surgery on their spine, then there’s no way that
they can see a chiropractor. Now, based on what many people perceive
of chiropractic, I can’t say that I blame them at all. If you’ve
had rods, plates, and screws placed into your spine, then the thought
of someone wrenching or twisting the spine, causing damage in the
surgical attachments…it sounds downright terrifying.
All Chiropractic Techniques Are the Same
people associate chiropractic with a move you’d see out of a
martial arts movie. The truth is, there are many ways to bring about
a correction of the spine, and some are very gentle and non-invasive.
Some are so safe that they can be used on elderly folks with
osteoporosis, new born babies, people with herniated discs, and even
people who have had surgery. In our office, we use only the most
precise and gentle chiropractic approaches so that we can take care
of people of any population.
to say, safety isn’t the main issue when you’re armed with the
correct chiropractic tools. The big question that remains is:Can
chiropractic help me even if surgery didn’t?
was taking care of a patient who had had surgery on her neck for neck
pain and arm pain. Since the surgery, her pain persisted. She was
tired of trying to fix the problem and had basically given up on
herself. Very unlikely that she would ever walk into my office of her
was referred to the office to give Structural
care a try. After a consultation and an explanation of my adjusting
techniques, she felt safe enough to give it a go. In a few short
weeks, many of the symptoms she had before the surgery started to go
away. Now here is a VERY VERY VERY important point:
adjustments did NOT NOT NOT make her pain go away
this might sound crazy, but it’s not the adjustment that did the
healing. Adjustments in of themselves have NO capacity to heal
problem was that her neck had shifted so far out of place, that the
nerves in her neck were being compressed and irritated. When you add
the surgery on top of it, it had locked the neck in a shifted
position even further. The adjustments simply help to restore the
NORMAL alignment of the head and neck. When the spine goes back to
normal, then the nerves can work again. It’s that simple.
is not an unusual situation. In fact, because of the focus on
structural correction and the gentle adjustment techniques, I have
been referred dozens of patients after surgery in the past, and
almost all of them respond great to our care.
you, or someone you know has had surgery, there are very real
limitations to how much the structure of the spine can be corrected.
As much as I love and enjoy helping patients post-surgery, the best
thing anyone can do is to have their structure corrected BEFORE
surgery becomes part of the picture. That way you can achieve a
maximum correction, and have less dependency on chiropractic to stay