29 Jan Symptoms Are For Survival – Not For Judging Your Health
Dr Alex Ritza | Corrective Chiropractor
Symptoms Are For Survival – Not For Judging Your Health
One of the most common professional questions I receive from friends and strangers alike is, “Why should someone see a chiropractor if they are not in pain?”
The answer I give, which I have expanded upon here, should be the answer given by every health care professional: pain and or other symptoms are your body’s way of telling you that there is a problem, they come very late in the process of most diseases and the symptoms themselves are not the problem!
Consider these facts:
- Angina (chest pain) and heart attack-like symptoms do not appear until there is about 90% occlusion of the coronary arteries of the heart
- Parkinson’s disease symptoms are not evident and a diagnosis is not rendered until there is about 70-80% loss of dopamine-containing neurons
- Infectious diseases like measles, mumps, mono(nucleosus), and HIV have incubation periods from days to years until symptoms can present even though the body has already been infected. In the case of SARS-COV-2, you might never have symptoms!
- Low back pain and disc herniations, in particular, have been found to occur due to tissue breakdown over a long and slow process, where one last movement is the “straw to break the camel’s back”
The point is: The health problem exists long before you know about it.
On one hand, this is an incredible evolutionary adaption, whereby the body has reduced its sensitivity to pain. It has so many redundancy systems that allow it to get through daily life without being in agony or slowed down by imperfect physiology.
Imagine if you were told by your brain with a pain symptom every time that you did something that is poor for your health and would eventually lead to your long-term survival: life would be excruciating and we would never be able to enjoy an indulgent meal, drink, all-night party, lazy Sunday or any of the other things that make life enjoyable at times.
Our bodies have evolved so that we are only told about health problems with symptoms generated by your nerves system when said health problem could affect our survival (read: death) and ability to pass along our genes. In other words, your back might only start to hurt when it is to the point when it will not let you outrun or defend yourself against the metaphorical sabre tooth tiger.
By the time I consult most patients, like say the patient who injured his hip 25 years ago or whose neck pain and headaches have been worsening for months, the body part/affected tissues in question hasn’t worked properly in a long time. More and more compensation and changes accrue the longer the joint(s)/muscle(s)/nerve(s)/etc. are not working properly and typically the longer it takes to get better.
Consider the majority of women and men that I see for knee pain. Most knee pains are eventually diagnosed as patellofemoral syndrome (common in runners), which presents as dull and/or sharp pain broadly over the knee cap but is usually the consequence of a hip/spine/gluteal muscle problem.
These patients come in with pain in the front of their knee and say that it just happened on the weekend on a normal run. This is not true: It has been happening over days to weeks to years of the spine, hip and ankle not moving properly, with poor strength and poor nerve activation of the gluteal muscles that control and protect the knee.
The misguided manual therapist will focus on the knee because that is where the pain is. I know from staying on top of the research that the knee is not the problem.
The key to managing this condition is the fix the actual or Core Problem: restore proper motion and function to the spine and hip joints, ensure that the Brain-Body Connection to the gluteal muscles is strong correct and gait or ankle/foot abnormalities with proper shoes, orthotics, and/or corrective exercises. In these cases, I might never touch a person’s knee throughout their entire care plan.
There is rarely a case when this approach isn’t successful because the knee pain is the consequence of the other areas not working properly, just as the heart attack is the consequence a multitude of factors such as poor diet and lack of exercise. Correct the dysfunction that is the root cause and there will not be a problem in the future.
So, why should you see a chiropractor if you are not in pain?
A thorough examination should be able to tell you how your spine, nervous system and body as a whole is functioning and whether there are any problems that are developing without your knowledge. Analogous to having your physician check your blood work, you cannot know anything about your health by how you look and feel, you have to do some tests!
You do not wait for your car to be on fire on the 401 to get your car to the mechanic, and you most certainly shouldn’t wait to make sure your body and spine are moving great.
A Honda can be replaced; your body can’t.
Don’t let yourself end up in my waiting room putting X’s on a symptom diagram. Prevent the issues before they arise and continue to grow stronger, faster, and happier.
But if you do have pain, it isn’t too late to deal with it.