Headaches: Common, but not normal.

There is one condition that seems so common, making us believe that it is a normal part of life: the headache. It seems so normal to see someone take a painkiller for a lingering headache, or to see them leave an activity early due to a migraine. 

Contrary to popular belief, the headache is actually not a normal occurrence in a healthy body, and should be addressed rather than suppressed. As with any other symptom, it is the body’s way of showing us that there is a dysfunction.

So  many factors  may contribute to a headache ; poor sleep, high stress, poor nutrition, poor hydration, hormonal issues, eye problems, mouth/teeth issues, etc. On top of these factors, there is also the vertebral subluxation complex (VSC) that can highly affect the frequency and intensity of headaches.

The VSC is a chiropractic term for the misalignments that occur between the vertebrae of a spine. Headaches are especially susceptible to misalignments of the cervical spine (neck). When the vertebrae aren’t properly aligned and moving in their full range of motion, several things happen:

  • The nervous system (relaying the brain to the rest of the spinal cord and nerves) gets irritated, resulting in sub-optimal nerve transmission.
  • The blood vessels relaying blood to and from the head get compromised.
  • The CSF’s (cerebro-spinal fluid) flow gets compromised. The CSF is a fluid that flushes out toxins and metabolic waste away from the central nervous system, all while pumping helpful nutrients into it.
  • The muscles that insert on both the neck vertebrae and the cranium become tighter, causing tension on the head.

When chiropractors adjust the spines of their patients, they help restore normal alignment and motion of the spinal joints. This helps remove the tension on the nervous system, the blood vessels, the cerebro-spinal fluid, and the muscles, which results in fewer headaches (and less intense ones)!

For those that suffer from this symptom, make sure you are addressing all components of the issue. Re-evaluate your sleep, stress, diet, hydration, exercise… and make sure to get adjusted!

Most of the  patients at my clinic have reported a drastic cut in the frequency and the intensity of their headaches since starting chiropractic care! 🙂


Common factors that affect the speed of your recovery

This article has the goal of explaining what are the common factors that will influence the process of getting a patient better with chiropractic care. When we sit with our patient after their New Patient Exam and explain our findings, we expect to answer many questions. Here are the 4 most common  ones we hear: 1) How did this happen? 2) Can you help me? 3) How much will it cost? 4) How long will it take?

The amount of time to recover is based on several objective factors, and on the clinical judgment and experience of the chiropractor. Here are several factors:
  • The diagnosis: the root cause of the issue will determine the recovery length. The cause of the injury is one of the most important factors, as it indicates what structure of the body is injured, and how. For example, a disc herniation will generally take longer to heal than a rib subluxation.
  • Which structure is affected: different parts of the body (nerve, muscle, disc, ligament, tendon, etc) have different healing rates. Some tissues heal very fast, while some take longer (some tissues have less blood vessels and nerves feeding them, thus don’t recover as quickly).
  • The chronicity of the complaint: if a problem has been there for more than 3 months, it is deemed chronic. Chronic issues may take longer to heal, as they have taken longer to appear and have been around for a while.
  • The gravity of the issue: some injuries are worse than other, thus take longer to heal. For example, ankle pain caused by a fracture will take longer to heal than ankle pain caused by a sprained ligament.
  • The patient’s age: often, the recovery may be more lengthy for someone older. The cell turnover rate diminishes over time, which means tissues take longer to regenerate.
  • The patient’s overall health: the healthier the person, the better the body can adapt to new demand and recover quicker. If the patient has many co-morbidities, there is already lots of demand on their body, so the injury healing may take longer.
  • The patient’s lifestyle: some activities take away from the body’s healing process (ex: smoking, drinking, poor nutrition, poor hydration, poor exercise habits), while some activities promote the healing process (good nutrition, proper exercise, good sleep, meditation, social interactions, positive outlooks, etc).
  • The nervous system health of the patient: the nervous system (brain + spinal cord + peripheral nerves) is the system by which information travels throughout the body. An optimal nervous system is one which has very little interference, allowing the information to travel adequately between the brain and the injured structure. Chiropractic adjustments help to reduce the interference caused by spinal subluxations (mis-alignments of the spinal vertebrae, that may irritate the spinal cord).

To conclude, there are many different elements that go into determining the prognosis for every patient. Everybody is different, which means that no two people respond identically to their condition. Your chiropractor will explain your condition thoroughly, for you to have a realistic expectation of your care!


Do I have a pinched nerve?

Is it possible the pain going down my leg isn’t coming from my leg?? Or that my hand numbness didn’t originate from my hand?? Yes! Welcome to nerve pain, or as we call it, radiculopathy! 

Anatomy of the peripheral nervous system

Every nerve in your body originates from the spinal cord, which can be pictured as a big bundle of nerves exiting the brain and running down your spine. Between every vertebra of your spine, there is a foramen (small hole), where a nerve leaves the spinal cord to travel through a specific territory of your body. In simplistic terms, the nerves exiting the spine of your neck will innervate the arms, neck, and head. The nerves exiting the spine of your low back will innervate the legs, and several organs of the lower abdomen. The nerves exiting the spine in your mid-back will innervate the trunk and vital organs.

What can pinch a nerve?

A nerve can be compressed by structures anywhere from it’s origin in the spine, to its exit from the foramen between the vertebra, and anywhere down its course in the limbs and trunk. Here are common areas of compression:

  • Within the spinal canal by either:  a disc bulge; a thickening of ligaments lining the canal; a thickening of the bony structures lining the canal (spinal stenosis), or a pathology within the spinal canal.
  • By the small hole (foramen) between the vertebra by either: a lateral disc bulge, a thickening of the bony structures surrounding the foramen (facet hypertrophy), a vertebral subluxation complex (vertebrae misalignment).
  • Once the nerve has exited the spine and is traveling to the periphery of the body, it may be compressed by muscular, bony or fascia structures.

To determine what is causing your “pinched nerve”, your chiropractor will perform a thorough physical exam to determine what structure is causing the issue. The treatment will then address the root cause of the nerve compression.

Symptoms of a “pinched nerve”

You may feel the pains of the nerve compression at its source (in the spine or pelvis), and in the territory of that nerve within your body (extremities and organs). Common symptoms of nerve irritation are:

  • Tingling
  • Numbness
  • Burning
  • Loss of sensation
  • Loss of strength
  • Loss of reflex (evaluated by your chiropractor)
  • Organ dysfunction (i.e. digestive issues, urinary issues, etc)

Note: not all symptoms are present at the same time, or are needed to diagnose a nerve irritation.

What to do about it

Consult your chiropractor, who will determine the root cause of your problem and treat it accordingly. The treatment is hands-on, and you may receive exercises and recommendations to support your treatment at home!


Are all patients adjusted the same way?

Do you ever find  yourself looking at online videos of chiropractic adjustments, and wonder, “Is it the same adjustment for everyone”? From an observer’s standpoint, it might look that way. In reality, all patients are NOT adjusted the same way, and here is the explanation!

Different diagnosis, different treatment

First off, all patients go through the initial New Patient examination (history, physical exam, possible imaging), which leads to a specific diagnosis of their condition. Depending on the diagnosis, the chiropractor will choose which technique is best suited to treat the issue. There is such a wide variety of treatment techniques, such as manual adjustments, drop table assisted adjustments, decompression techniques, soft tissue release, instrumentation adjusting, trigger point therapy, and the list goes on! For example, the treatment technique used for a herniated disc won’t likely be the same treatment used for a posterior costo-vertebral joint irritation (rib pain).

Different adjustments within the same technique

When watching a chiropractor adjust several people using the same technique, it may look like they are doing the same thing on everyone. However, even when using the same technique (i.e. manual adjusting), there is a vast difference from one person to the next. The chiropractor must identify which joint is subluxated (restricted, fixed joint), and assess in which direction it must be adjusted. When performing the adjustment, the chiropractor chooses the appropriate point of contact on the joint, and thrusts in a specific vector, with a certain force and speed. These parameters of the adjustment vary depending on the joint restriction, and on the patient’s body type and skeletal maturity. Every adjustment is based on the findings of the assessment, and is meticulously planned and executed for the needs of that specific spine and diagnosis.

Does the patient have a say in it?

Absolutely! Chiropractic is a patient centered care, and the patient’s preference is a valuable part of the treatment strategy. Of course, the chiropractor will be the one determining WHAT needs to be adjusted, but will happily take into account the patient’s preference on HOW it is adjusted. For example, some patients prefer the low-impact instrument adjustments, whereas others favor the audible release from a manual adjustment. Patients are encouraged to voice their opinions. After all, the treatments we provide are easily tailored to fit with our patient’s needs and deliver the best outcomes possible!



Postpartum Chiropractic Care: Supporting the 4th Trimester

The arrival of a baby brings a woman to an exciting chapter of her life. Some new wonderful emotions surface, and different priorities are setting in. After giving birth, a mother’s lifestyle changes and may bring new challenges. Holding a baby for hours on end, diminished sleep quality (and quantity!), frequent feedings, and so much more! Post-partum moms often need assistance to cope with these new emotional and physical changes, which is where family, friends and health care practitioners come into play. After all, it does take a village! Here is how chiropractic care can bring tremendous value to a new mom’s life. 

Physical impacts of pregnancy

There are many changes to the female body during pregnancy : loosening of the lumbo-pelvic ligaments (by the relaxin hormone); shifting of the pelvic bones to accommodate the baby; forward displacement of the center of gravity; tautening of the uterine ligaments; larger breasts rounding the upper back (and pushing the neck forward), etc.

Many pregnant women consult chiropractors during their pregnancy to help them adapt to these progressive changes. However, the post-partum period is just as important to help them jump start the recovery period and get their pelvis, spine and nervous system back to their optimal state.

Physical impacts of the birthing process

Every birth story is different, but one thing applies to every one: the tremendous amount of strain on the mom’s body (and the baby’s!), and the dire need to rest and recover. The initial contractions bring on hormonal surges (by pumping of the pituitary gland), which tells the baby to prepare for its exit, and also signals the mom’s body to prepare for opening and pushing. There is some major movement in the pelvic bones (ilium and sacrum), some enormous stress on the soft tissue, and possibly some compression of the lumbar and sacral nerve plexus (bundle of nerves exiting the spine of the low back and pelvis).

Common complaints for the post-partum mom

Many of the pregnant women and new moms we see have similar issues. These include low back pain, sciatica, lower abdomen tenderness, hip pain, mid-back pain while breastfeeding, headaches, wrist tendonitis, etc.

The need for post-partum chiropractic care

After delivering her baby, a new mom may find herself with residual low back pain (and perhaps sciatica), pelvic girdle pain (in the front or the back), upper back tension, headaches, etc. Most of these things start during the pregnancy, but can linger on and be worsened by the strenuous birth process, and by the new habits developed while caring for a baby. Chiropractic care offers gentle and effective adjustments to the pelvic bones, the low back, mid back and neck. These adjustments help recover the structural biomechanics of the body, but also ease the nervous system (through the spine’s connection to the spinal cord and brain). The chiropractor will also assess for any soft tissue issues (such as diastasis recti, pelvic floor issues, ligament tension, etc) and treat accordingly.

Women can rest assured that their chiropractor understands the fragile state of the post-partum body, and will provide treatment in the most gentle and comfortable way. Chiropractic care is a great place to start a holistic approach to health for new mothers and their families!



Can I adjust myself?

How convenient it would be to safely and properly adjust ourselves! The reality is, there is an important distinction between “cracking” your own spine and receive an adjustment to your spine. The latter can not be done by ourselves, thus the reason why even chiropractors need to be adjusted by other chiropractors!

The adjustment

The adjustment is a very precise manipulation of the joints between the spine’s vertebrae, or between the joints of the pelvis. Prior to delivering an adjustment, the chiropractor conducts an assessment to determine what joint is subluxated (fixed in a malposition), and in what direction it needs to be restored. Then, the chiropractor adjusts the segment in a very precise vector, with an the appropriate force and speed. Voilà!

Why you can’t do a real adjustment on yourself

Many things have to come together for an adjustment to happen. The patient has to be in the right position, the joint needs to be taken to its physiological end play,  and the chiropractor must chose a precise point of the contact on the joint. Then, the thrust happens, in all it’s specific vector, speed and force. It is physically impossible to transfer the energy to create the thrust from your body to your own body, all while taking the specific contact on the joint and tension out of it.

Why your friend or family member can’t adjust you either

Anyone can make a joint “crack”. We’ve heard it all: the wife who steps on her husband’s back to help crack it, or the the soccer coach giving the “bear hug” to his players before a game. Even if the joint has an audible release, it does not make it an adjustment. These “back crackings” lack the assessment as to WHY that joint has to be adjusted, what direction it needs to be adjusted in, and what other segments need to be adjusted to maximize the effect. Without a proper chiropractic assessment of the spine, the cracking of it has no meaning.


What to expect at your first chiropractic visit

So many people are starting chiropractic care these days, and some for their very  first time! The question is: What is the process to becoming a patient? I will break it down for you, so you know exactly how the first encounters will go. *Note: not every chiropractic clinics function this exact way, but the process is similar in most clinics.

The first contact

You may call the clinic, email the clinic or fill out the “Request an appointment” form online, to schedule your New Patient visit.

The New Patient visit

The  big day is here! The first visit lasts around 1 hour. You will initially have to fill out a New Patient information form and a Health questionnaire before seeing your chiropractor. Once inside the exam room, your chiropractor will do a thorough consultation. They will ask many details about your primary complaint, your personal and family health history, your daily activities, and more. Then, your chiropractor will perform a physical examination. They will test your range of motion, posture, gait, vital signs, followed by neurological, orthopedic and chiropractic evaluations. After this exam, the chiropractor might send you for X-rays to complete your diagnostic testing.

Second visit- The Report of Findings

On your next visit to the clinic (approx. 45 minutes), your chiropractor will sit with you and discuss every aspect of your condition. They will show you your X-rays if they have been taken, and explain your diagnosis thoroughly. Your chiropractor will  go over your initial examination findings, and explain how chiropractic can benefit you. They will then explain the ideal program of care (method, frequency and duration), and any other logistics. An informed consent will be explained to you, and your chiropractor will answer your questions. And then, you will receive your first treatment!

From then on…

Subsequent visits will be very similar, at which you will receive the treatment that is best suited for you and your condition. A progress exam will be performed after a predetermined amount of treatments, to assess your progress and re-evaluate your needs.

I hope you enjoy your experience!