What Your Spine Says About Your Health

To Your Health
March, 2012 (Vol. 06, Issue 03)

What Your Spine Says About Your Health

By Perry Nickelston, DC, FMS, SFMA

You may have heard the saying, “the eyes are the window to the soul.” There is another saying in the world of chiropractic, “your spine is the window to your health.” How can the condition of your spine divulge so much information about overall health? Your spine is the central support column of your body and its primary role is to protect your spinal cord.

Think of it like the foundational frame of a house holding everything together. If the frame becomes dysfunctional many problems will begin to manifest themselves. The house begins to develop cracks, shifts, and structural problems. When your spinal foundation becomes dysfunctional you develop aches, pains, injuries, and other health related issues. The good news is you can do a simple spinal health checklist to determine if you may benefit from the expert intervention of a chiropractor or other healthcare professional. Becoming familiar with simple spinal anatomy, structure and function will help empower you to take control of your health.

Your spine is composed of 24 bones (vertebrae); 7 in the neck (cervical spine), 12 in the middle back (thoracic spine), 5 in the lower back (lumbar spine) and the base tailbone (sacrum). Your soft spinal cord is encased inside these 24 moveable hard vertebrae to protect it from injury. Your spinal column has three natural curvatures making it much stronger and more resilient than a straight design. There are cervical, thoracic, and lumbar curves designed with precise angles for optimum function. However, these curves are different than the abnormal curves associated with scoliosis and postural distortions. You may remember getting screened in school or your doctor for scoliosis when they had you bend over and touch your toes. This was an early checklist for spinal abnormalities. Through life’s stresses, genetics, trauma, injuries, and neglect the spine can develop dysfunctions in these curvatures and the body must compensate by changing posture as a protective mechanism.

image - Copyright – Stock Photo / Register Mark

What are some of the compensations your body develops and what can they tell you about spinal health?

Rounded Shoulders: This is a very common postural distortion resulting from more sedentary lifestyles. Hunching over in front of a computer screen hours on end simply feeds this dysfunction. This poor posture pattern adds increased stress to the upper back and neck because the head is improperly positioned relative to the shoulders. Common effects are headaches, shoulder, pain, neck pain and even tingling and numbness in the arms because of nerve compression by tight muscles.

Uneven shoulders: One shoulder higher than the other is indicative of a muscular imbalance or spinal curvature. You probably see this one on most people where one shoulder is migrating up towards the ear. Stand in front of a mirror and you can easily see if this asymmetry is present. You may also notice that one sleeve is longer than the other when you wear a shirt. This asymmetry is a common precursor for shoulder injuries, headaches, neck pain, elbow injuries and even carpal tunnel syndrome (tingling in the hands).

Uneven hips: Hips that are not level are like the foundation of a house that is not level. You begin to develop compensations further up the body so you remain balanced when walking. You develop altered spinal curvatures, shoulder positions, and head tilts. Your body has one primary purpose of maintaining symmetry and balance and it will do it whatever way is necessary. Signs of unbalanced hips may manifest in abnormal shoe wear typically on the outside edges and pants will fit unevenly in the leg length.

When you visit a chiropractor for a spinal evaluation some of the things they will search for during your evaluation are underlying signs of spinal damage that you can’t see. Spinal x-rays are a safe and effective way to get look at your spine for damage or potential problems. Just like a dentist takes an x-ray of your teeth to see if you have cavities or problems with the bones below gum line. If problems are detected, corrective or preventive measures can be implemented to help your body function at optimum.

Degenerative Disc Disease (DDD): This is not a real disease in the terms of how we think of them. DDD is term used to describe degeneration and excessive wear on the soft tissue disc structures between the spinal bones. It may come with age or from biomechanical asymmetries in movement causing excessive wear from overuse. Sort of like uneven treads on a car with imbalanced tires, one may be worse than the other. Although the degeneration cannot be reversed, once discovered there are strategies your chiropractor can implement rebalancing exercises and therapies to help prevent further damage.

Osteoarthritis: The breakdown of the tissue (cartilage) that protects and cushions joints. Arthritis often leads to painful swelling and inflammation from joints rubbing together. The increase in friction causes a protective pain response and excessive swelling where the body attempt to add artificial cushioning via swelling.

Herniated disc: A herniated disc is an abnormal bulge or breaking open of a protective spinal disc or cushioning between spinal bones. Patient’s may or may not experience symptoms with a herniated disc. Disc diagnosis is conformed via a special imaging study called an MRI (\Magnetic Resonance Imaging) which observes soft and hard tissue structures. You cannot see or confirm a suspected disc herniation via normal spinal x-rays.

Spinal stenosis: The narrowing of the spinal canal the open space in the spine that holds the spinal cord. Stenosis is a more severe form of arthritis that typically causes radiating (referred pain down the arms or legs) from an irritated or compressed spinal nerve.

If you experience spinal pain, tingling, numbness, weakness, muscles spasms or swelling near your spine or arms and legs consult a healthcare professional. These are all warning signal signs from your body that something is wrong and needs your attention. Pain is how your body communicates its function with you. A car has dashboard warning lights that tell you when the car has a problem. If you chose to ignore the signals bad things are going to happen. Your body has its own warning light system. Start checking for the warning lights. Ignore them at your own risk. See your chiropractor for a proper assessment and any concerns.

Perry Nickelston, DC, is clinical director of the Pain Laser Center in Ramsey, N.J., where he focuses on performance enhancement, corrective exercise and metabolic fitness nutrition To learn more about Dr. Nickelston, visit www.painlasercenter.com/Our_Practice.html.

Non Surgical Treatment

Why surgery is not always the answer to your sports injury

Sports are fun, and can be a great way to build camaraderie, self-esteem, and physical fitness, but they can also often be the arena where injuries occur, both acute and chronic. Acute injuries are those which occur suddenly during activity. Signs include sudden, severe pain, swelling, inability to place weight on a lower limb, extreme tenderness in an upper limb, inability to move a joint through its full range of motion, extreme limb weakness, and visible dislocation or break of a bone. Chronic injuries usually result from overuse of an area while playing a sport or exercising over a long period of time. Signs include pain when performing an activity, a dull ache when at rest, loss of range of motion, and/or swelling.

Common Types of Sports Injuries include:

  • Muscle sprains and strains
  • Tears of the ligaments that hold joints together
  • Knee injuries
  • Tears of the tendons that support joints and allow them to move
  • Shin splints
  • Dislocated joints
  • Rotator cuff injuries
  • Concussions
  • Fractured bones, including vertebrae
  • Dislocations


Whether acute or chronic, never try to “work through” the pain of an injury; do not subscribe to the “no pain, no gain” mindset! Pain is your body’s 911 call to STOP doing the activity or movement that is bringing you pain before it causes further harm. Pain is never an indicator that you should continue with any activity. While some injuries require prompt medical attention, some will require physical therapy, and still others may require corrective surgery.

Although severe injuries may need emergency treatment that includes surgery, most musculoskeletal sports injuries can be assessed and, in many cases, treated by your primary health care provider or professional chiropractor.

Depending on the severity of your injury or the likelihood that you could experience ongoing, long-term problems, your doctor may refer you to a physical therapist or orthopedic surgeon. However, surgery is a solution that often requires extensive recovery and healing time, and can sometimes come with unwanted side effects, not to mention the drain on your budget! If your insurance does not cover certain costs, you could be in for a big surprise in the way of an unwanted financial burden after surgery.

According to the National Institute of Health (NIH), you should seek the advice and treatment of a health professional if your injury causes severe pain, swelling, or numbness, you can’t tolerate any weight on the area, or the pain or dull ache of an old injury is accompanied by increased swelling, joint abnormality, or instability.

The NIH recommends using the RICE method to relieve pain and inflammation and speed healing immediately after injury, and to continue this treatment for at least 48 hours:

  1. Reduce regular exercise or activities of daily living as needed. If you cannot put weight on an ankle or knee, crutches may help. If you use a cane or one crutch for an ankle injury, use it on the uninjured side to help you lean away and relieve weight on the injured ankle.
  2. Apply an ice pack to the injured area for 20 minutes at a time, four to eight times a day. A cold pack, ice bag, or plastic bag filled with crushed ice and wrapped in a towel can be used. To avoid cold injury and frostbite, do not apply the ice for more than 20 minutes. (Note: Do not use heat immediately after an injury. This tends to increase internal bleeding or swelling. Heat can be used later on to relieve muscle tension and promote relaxation.)
  3. Compression of the injured area may help reduce swelling. Compression can be achieved with elastic wraps, special boots, air casts, and splints. Ask your health care provider for advice on which one to use.
  4. If possible, keep the injured ankle, knee, elbow, or wrist elevated on a pillow, above the level of the heart, to help decrease swelling.

Chiropractic care offers several methods of pain relief for sports-related injuries. These include muscle stimulation, ultrasound therapy, dry needling, laser therapy, kinesio tape, acupuncture, massage, and manipulation. All of these methodologies are available to help your body heal from injury, and we at Springs Chiropractic will tailor your pain management treatment to fit your unique condition and situation, and we will do our best to help you avoid surgery whenever possible.

If pain or other symptoms worsen, it is always best to check with your health care provider. If you want to benefit from sports injury doctors who offer various techniques to treat sports-related injuries, call the experts at Springs Chiropractic today for an appointment.

Got Back Pain? Chiropractic Works

To Your Health
May, 2017 (Vol. 11, Issue 05)

Got Back Pain? Chiropractic Works

By Editorial Staff

Whether you’re a current chiropractic patient or just considering becoming one, low back pain may be the reason why. Nearly 80 percent of adults experience at least one episode of low back pain during their lifetime, and for many, the pain can recur and/or become chronic.

Fortunately, the research continues to suggest spinal manipulation (chiropractic adjustments) is a primary treatment option to get rid of the pain.

Case in point: a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, no less, that reviewed 15 studies and found spinal manipulation reduced pain and improved function after six weeks of treatment. The benefits were similar to those achieved with nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), common over-the-counter pain relievers that come with a long list of potential side effects, particularly if used for more than a short time.

problem solution - Copyright – Stock Photo / Register Mark

These findings are particularly important because as we’ve discussed several times in recent issues, managing pain with drugs – particularly opioids – has become a dangerous epidemic, and health care providers of all types are increasingly appreciating the value of nondrug care for back pain. In fact, the American College of Physicians’ new guidelines on low back pain recommend spinal manipulation among the nonpharmaceutical options that should be tried first, before resorting to medication. Talk to your doctor for more information.