As a Chiropractor in Spain, Dr Tim Errington is frequently asked “what does a chiropractor do? Firstly, chiropractic looks after the health of people’s spines and the nervous system housed within, and as that controls the entire body, it can have amazing health benefits. Dr Errington exudes a passion for the work which is seldom seen with other professions. “I find it amazing that this vital structure within the body is pretty much ignored until, of course, it becomes a problem later on. I see spines everywhere that I know are going to cause pain and suffering as they age and that is what keeps me going. I can help these people”.
In Spain there is so little awareness as to the importance of spinal health that the few chiropractors in the country feel they have an incredible opportunity to make a difference. In America there is a chiropractor virtually on every block, much as you see pharmacies in this country. Dr Errington and his colleagues believe there badly needs to be a shift in perspective more towards the prevention of these problems occurring in the first place. The problem is that we can’t see the spine unlike, of course, our teeth which get plenty of attention. I’m sure that if we could see the effects of life on our spine then more of us would make some changes. We as a nation are living longer and longer, such that very often we are outliving the health of our spines. The last few decades can, for many, be extremely uncomfortable.
We need to understand what our spines actually do; they allow us to stand straight and tall; they provide us with flexibility with their 24 joints and they provide protection to our central nervous system. Surely then, doesn’t this make our poor neglected spine at least as important as our teeth. We certainly can’t replace our spine if it wears out, and where does that leave us? Ask anyone with a back problem…¨We are only as young as our backs allow us to feel”.
So what kind of problems do Chiropractors see? Well, these are too numerous to mention them all, so for the purpose of this article I shall concentrate on the neck. Pain and stiffness, reduced range of motion, the feeling of tension across the shoulders and upper back; pain and numbness in the arms; and headaches. Yes headaches! Few people realize that a large percentage of headaches come from the neck. The most common cause of neck problems is trauma, for example whiplash in a car crash. An impact of as little as 15 Km/hr is enough to disturb the tissues of the neck so that inflammation and reduced motion allow scar tissue to form, inevitably resulting in problems later on.
A different type of trauma is being caused on a daily basis. The one force that continuously acts on our bodies is gravity. It is how we live in gravity that is important, especially if our spine is not in correct alignment, has poor posture and poor movement.
“With the neck I classically see people holding their heads forward, mostly due to how they live their lives – behind the wheel of a car, behind a computer or perhaps nursing a baby. Your ears, shoulders, tops of your legs and ankles should form a straight vertical line; increasingly we see that this is not the case. Our spines should be straight from the front and when viewed from the side have perfectly formed curves to the low back or lumbar spine, the upper back or thoracic spine and the neck or cervical spine. These curves are there for a reason and when we lose them we inevitably get reduced function, whether it be altered biomechanics and movement, formation of fibrosis or scar tissue, or pain. As the body attempts to provide more support to the area, more bone is also laid down and this is Osteoarthritis. All this causes increased pressure to the area and this can press on the nerves that pass through and leave the vertebrae of the neck as they pass to every part of the body. Yes, problems in your neck can affect virtually every part or organ of your body. A spine that has the correct shape and is exercised and provided with the correct nutrition will age well. Once poor posture, lack of flexibility and movement sets in then the spine will age poorly. “I regularly see 40 year old patients with the spine of a 70 year old due to the early onset of arthritis. It´s such a shame as very often it could have been avoided.
“I really do think that people should pay more attention to their spines. With the right treatment and exercise many of these problems can be improved and very often the effects reversed. If you see your child carrying a heavy school bag on their back with their head stuck out forward like a turkey then alarm bells should be ringing. Whilst their spine is growing, it is important that gravity should not be allowed to apply such unnatural forces on their spines; they are setting their foundations for new growth. If ever there is a time for good posture it is then. Guess what? Your parents were right all along when they said “sit up straight, stand tall and don’t slouch. If many of us had listened more then, we wouldn’t have as many problems today.
Chiropractic works by applying gentle and specific forces or ‘adjustments’ to the spine helping to restore normal movement to joints, dispersing inflammation and scar tissue, and allowing the body to heal itself. When joints move correctly they feel good. When certain simple lifestyle changes, mostly postural ergonomics, and a basic but consistent exercise regime are added we are far more likely to enjoy a healthy spine as long as it is needed.
By Tim Errington BSc DC, Marbella Chiropractic, 952 880 398
Dr Tim Errington completed his training in California and worked in New Jersey, USA and Madrid before opening his office in Marbella.
This post is also available in: Spanish