This blog is becoming something different now. I have entered a phase (let’s hope a lasting one) in which I am aiming to be healthier in all things. I’d like to keep track of these efforts somehow, and this seems like as suitable a place as any.
A while back, I purchased a LivingSocial deal for a local chiropractor, which included a 30-minute massage, X-rays and a digital nerve scan. Having never heard of that last item, I was intrigued and bought it, figuring – if nothing else – $39 was pretty darn good for a decent massage and a peek at the craziness that is my spine.
I used the deal over the past two weeks (the X-rays and nerve scan came first; the massage was on Monday) and have learned some interesting new information about my back issues. Rewinding to the second half of 2010, when I first saw a chiropractor while living in Knoxville, I was diagnosed with scoliosis, mild sciatica and some pretty bad rotation in my lumbar spine that needed addressing. Over the course of about six months, I had regular adjustments, muscle stimulation, massages and even a little acupuncture, but nothing seemed to help my lower back pain and spasms or my growing hip and leg ache. Fast forward to last week and my learning that, while I do have a curved spine, the main source of my issues is my neck and cervical spine, as well as a tilted pelvis. Now, I’m sure the curve is still an issue, but apparently this doctor sees it as minor in comparison. I suppose I would have to visit a third doctor to triangulate the results, but this doctor seems confident, straightforward and honest, so I’m going to go with his proposed treatment plan for the time being.
One thing the doctor mentioned was that the treatments I received in Knoxville were very much pain related, rather than bio-mechanical, whereas his efforts will be almost solely the latter. While there will be pain lessening as bones get moved and pressure comes off nerves, this is not about a pain Band-Aid – it’s about long-term prevention of disc loss, nerve damage and other debilitating effects from my orthopedic shortcomings.
Another super-fascinating thing the doctor explained was the impact traumatized nerves can have on the body. During the nerve scan, I could see the results come up on the computer monitor. He told me green and white readings were good, red was bad and black was off-the-charts terrible. Surprisingly, I had green and white (Go State!) from my mid-back downward, but red galore and one black up in my neck. (Later, when reviewing the X-rays, it was clear where that black came from – more on that in a bit.) The doctor told me that I was one of the calmest people he’s ever met that’s had this amount of pressure on these particular nerves. Apparently (how did I not know this?) the nerves extending from our spine are attached to our body’s various organs and systems. So, when you apply pressure, traumatize or damage a nerve, it impacts more than just that nerve – it can keep that part of the body from functioning properly. So, if a nerve is tied to your heart, maybe there are issues there. I’m not sure how it affects major organs like that, but when I think about the fact that this could be impacting my mood, my energy levels, my stamina, my metabolism, even my lower intestines – if I can chalk any of my issues up to nerve pinching, they make a hell of a lot more sense!
After the nerve scan came the X-rays, which showed some definite weirdness that I hadn’t seen back in Knoxville. While my lumbar spine (lower back) is curved when it should be straight, my cervical spine (neck) is straight, when it should be curved! Apparently the bones are supposed to be tilted at a 45-degree angle in a normal neck, whereas mine are about 6.5 degrees. This has caused a few things to happen: muscle has built up incredibly thick and bunched behind my shoulders as my body tries to compensate for my neck being basically useless for holding my head up; my head and neck have started leaning forward as a result of the tight muscles and flawed spine; and my ribs have shifted upward in weird ways. The X-rays also showed that my neck was angled sideways (toward the left) and my head has actually corrected for this lean and straightened itself over time. Crazy! The lessons learned here: I will be developing a dowager’s hump very early and I will develop disc issues in my neck if I don’t correct this. The doctor said he hopes to see my cervical spine corrected to 20-25 degrees through adjustments and at-home therapy. That would be pretty amazing!
My lower X-rays showed my pelvis is tilted and my lumbar spine is curved/rotated, but, again, my body has started compensating for these things. The doctor said he could barely tell I had such an intense curve by my posture because of this self-correction, which is nice and all, but it’s little consolation. I think he was just kind of shocked to see the issues when he couldn’t detect them that much externally.
The doctor is recommending 2-3 adjustments per week, occasional massages and a rigorous at-home stretching and exercise routine. He asked me to bring someone with me to my Monday appointment to go over the X-rays in further detail and make someone in my life aware enough to keep me accountable for the work I need to be doing at home. He said it will take about 15 minutes a day, but I feel like that’s an underestimate based on assigned stretches from chiropractors and physical therapists past. But I suppose if you add it to 30-60 minutes of regular exercise a day, that’ll be more than enough.
Since my first appointment, I’ve actually already seen some improvements in the way I feel. As always, I’m in a totally unscientific situation, since we’ve also been getting up earlier, snoozing the alarm fewer times and going to bed a little earlier to compensate for Bryan’s new work schedule, but I have to hope it’s not just those changes or the placebo effect making me feel better. I’ve had three adjustments in total, with another scheduled for this evening, so I hope the relief continues. I’ve still had minor sciatic nerve pain, but not nearly as irritating as usual, and I’ve been sleeping so much better most nights (fewer night terrors). I call that a win!
In other areas of life, I’m also attempting to make healthier choices. It’s such an incredible burden on my mind, to try to eat healthfully, make sure Bryan does the same, get both of us exercising enough, avoid heavily processed foods or ones bearing GMOs and pesticide-laden produce – I feel so stressed about it at times. But the thing is, I don’t blame that stress on myself or those cockamamie hippies telling me organic is better – I blame it on the conventional food trade, the fact that it’s incredibly challenging to get organic food at accessible grocery stores anywhere outside the most prominent major cities, the way I was raised to feel like anything more than $2 is too much to pay for a loaf of bread. I want to feel comfortable paying local farmers what they need to grow and (locally) distribute organic crops. I want to find those crops on my grocery store’s shelves. I don’t want to have to decipher whether something that’s labeled “natural” is really anything more than a GMO in sheep’s clothing. All politics aside, I don’t see organic, unprocessed, unmodified eating as a fad, a power grab or a way to stick it to the people by giving them something of no real value beyond what they were eating before. I don’t believe pesticides should be ingested. I don’t see the value in messing around with the genetics of food, especially without telling people about it. And I hate the idea that so many food producers are out there paying people little to no money to wrench their dirty crops from the fields, ship them thousands of miles to sit in a warehouse for innumerable days, before finally reaching my local store where they’ve already begun rotting. /rant
All that is to say that we’re trying to eat better. There will always be the occasional Lenny’s or Tellini’s run, but I’m hoping to see the frequency decrease to almost nothing over time. I’m looking forward to our local Whole Foods’ move to the neighboring storefront, offering more space and less stress for us to shop organic goods. And I’m determined to actually make it to a local farmer’s market soon to sample some real local fare. I can’t believe we haven’t made it after nearly a year back in Memphis (plus years before our move to Knoxville).
Today, I used fresh-squeezed lemon juice (from an organic lemon) and olive oil to dress my salad. It was the first time in a while eating a salad didn’t make me feel queasy from sub-par dressing choices. Even a little too much lemon juice didn’t make me like it as little as I did those other salads! I hope to continue this trend going forward.
Now I just have to get my exercise on track and maybe I’ll see an even greater boost in energy, concentration and happiness – and that, my friends, would be the best change of them all.