Wednesday, March 15, 2017

The Backbone of Mind-Body Health

Ever wonder why a sore neck and back goes hand-in-hand with anxiety? If so, then pat yourself on your sore back! You have intuitively identified the strong connection between the mind and body.
Unfortunately, for hundreds of years, Western medicine has ascribed to the belief that the mind and body are separate, isolated parts. This belief system, called dualism, dissects the body in such a way that a pill is prescribed for nearly every problem. Sound familiar? To our detriment, holistic (a.k.a. integrative) lifestyle changes are often (mis)characterized as ineffective.
But this is changing. Integrative medicine (including chiropractic care) has begun to edge out the pharmaceutical industry in the treatment of chronic disease. Researchers are beginning to discover the truth behind ancient wisdom: an aligned spine is literally the backbone of overall wellbeing, connecting the brain to the rest of the body. The brain is not isolated from the body after all!
If you understand this, you have the bedrock of psychoneuroimmunology (PNI). Do not be intimated by the lingo! PNI is a fancy name for a field that tries to connect the mind and emotions (psycho), the brain and spine (neuro), and the immune system (immunology). All in a day’s work!
Psychoneuroimmunology: The Body as One
But how does PNI relate to chiropractic care? The spine connects the brain and body. Changes in the body, like chronic inflammation, affect spinal health. And any spinal misalignment, no matter how minor, affects the brain and body.
In serious cases, spinal misalignment (often called subluxation) can result in neurological issues. More commonly, it causes subtle and gradual (but very noticeable and annoying) symptoms like low backpain, neck pain, indigestion, frequent illness, irritable bowel, and arthritis. These symptoms may be caused, in part, by the wide-ranging effects of an unhealthy spine on the digestive, immune, and endocrine (hormonal) systems. To understand this complex interplay, indulge in a military metaphor.
The General and His Troops
Imagine an army general. He is the brain of his entire compound (body). His mood sets the tone of the compound, and in turn, the actions (and health) of the individual members of his unit influence his mood.
In order for the army to stay safe in its compound, guards, watchmen, and sharpshooters stay alert all through the night. Like the body’s immune system, these guards identify and fend off the attack of enemies. If they slack on the job, the entire army is at risk.
As any veteran will tell you, cleanliness of the compound is a top priority, as is digestion and detoxification in the body. If the compound is clean, it runs smoothly and efficiently. But if not, the compound’s dirtiness might compromise the troops’ and general’s effectiveness.
To help the compound run smoothly, the general sends out orders, just as the brain sends fast-acting nerve-impulses and slower, longer-lasting hormonal messages throughout the body. Captains (the Peripheral Nervous System or PNS) receive and carry out the orders by commanding a platoon of cells. Each platoon has a different function, but all work toward the same goal of health.
Stress can wreak havoc on the general and his unit as a whole. It causes everyone to work overtime, trying to restore a sense of calm. But frantic troops and a panicked general will not do their jobs well. In a state of long-term stress, the immune system becomes compromised and digestive activity slows.
But what role does the spine play in this rudimentary metaphor? The spine is how the general transmits his orders to his Commanders (the PNS)! It is the basis for all of the unit’s activity. If the general cannot properly send orders, he is diminished and ineffective. Enemies can overrun the compound, further weakening the unit. This is the vicious cycle of chronic disease.
In a future post we will examine exactly how these systems work together. But for now, remember that a well-functioning “army unit” is the basis for health and longevity.

Reclaim Your Life with Regular Chiropractic Care
Because the spine is so important to overall health, it is easy to see why the foundation of healing includes regular chiropractic care. Not only does it promote overall wellbeing, it can help you regain the sense of empowerment and positivity that comes with freedom of mobility. PNI research demonstrates that such positive thinking will, in turn, solidify your higher state of wellbeing.
Forget the vicious cycle of disease. Let chiropractic help you rediscover the joy of good health and positive thinking.

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