Archived Issue - PRAKTIKOS Spring Equinox, 2004

You can't turn back the clock. But you can wind it up again.
    – Bonnie Prudden

Looking for Health: Tragedy vs. Triumph

Two recent items in the national news caught our attention: one is a tragic tale with a powerful warning message, and the other is a joyful story with a fairy-tale ending that can serve to guide all of us toward true health.

The first cautionary tale is that of a well-known syndicated radio personality. His story hit the news recently when it was revealed that he was addicted to a powerful painkiller called Oxycontin. The reason this story hit me so hard is that this fellow began his descent into hell because he had spinal pain.

He was rich, he was famous, he could afford the best doctors and the best therapy; but his story is the same as so many others with spinal pain. We're certain that he was prescribed pain medication to help him through his "temporary" problem. In addition, he probably received physical therapy to strengthen the weak areas of his spine.

Unfortunately, these measures almost never seem to really help in the long run and so inevitably he faced the prospect of surgery to fix his pain. He probably thought he would improve after submitting to the knife. But everyone now knows that he did not get better; in fact, he probably only got worse.

At first his doctors gave him more medication for the post-surgical pain and he returned to physical therapy to help regain his lost motion and strength. When his pain failed to subside or maybe even worsened (as is often the case), he found that he needed even more pain medication. Soon his doctors started worrying that he was becoming an addict and cut him off.

Of course now he really had two problems; he still had the spinal pain and he was addicted to one of the most powerful opiates ever designed. He started buying his dope from multiple doctors and on the street. Freed from true medical supervision, his habit began to grow and take control of his life.

Oxycontin is also known as Vicodin. Either drug is supposed to be taken only once every 12 hours because of its strength and potential for abuse. Soon this poor guy was taking up to thirty pills each day just keep his demon at bay. Twice during this period he tried to dry out, but both times he failed.

Then, suddenly, disaster struck again. Just as researchers discovered a link between long-term opiate abuse and deafness, he went stone deaf almost overnight. This was a major problem for a man who made his living listening to and then responding to other people's opinions over the airwaves.

This man once again went into a detox center to try beating his addiction. We can't help but pull for him, even while a part of us wonders what his life would have been like if he had only tried chiropractic instead of drugs for his problem when it first began.

Chiropractors have always said that pain is much like a fire alarm in that it is not the problem but rather a warning that something is wrong. It makes no sense to merely remove the batteries from the fire alarm if your house is burning down. The fire itself must be addressed if you want to sleep at home tonight.

Now, let's change gears completely and talk of another way to live and to see life. Lance Armstrong and the entire U.S. Postal Service bicycle racing team have been dominating the Tour de France for five years running due to the team's unique strategy.

Other biking teams from around the world have tried to master this grueling event by cheating with drugs. Some have tried all sorts of magic and dangerous potions to build bigger muscles or to pack their blood with extra red blood cells to give themselves the competitive edge.

Thankfully, the days of unrestricted doping have come to an end with a hard-nosed attitude and stepped-up testing. The Tour de France organizers (along with the governing body of every other major sport) now recognize that not only are these drugs extremely dangerous to the athletes but also that competition is not fair if some are allowed to cheat.

Now that doping is outlawed and rigorously tested for, athletes are on a level playing field. Day after day and mile after mile, the bikers punish their bodies to the extreme limit. The opportunities to get injured are plentiful and the time to repair an injury is extremely limited. This is where the American team has an advantage.

You see, the has has who esn't just travel with the team;

He adjusts every member of the team, including Lance Armstrong, before and after every race for the entire three weeks. The team has recognized that by the time their riders feel pain it is too late. If a knee starts hurting 40 miles into a 120-mile race, by the finish line the knee will be swollen and too damaged to heal by starting time the next day.

So, the team chiropractor uses his intelligent fingers to look for tightness and swelling in the athlete's body before the rider is even aware that a problem exists. This preventive approach has allowed our USPS team to remain strong and healthy even up to the finish in Paris where the results speak for themselves.

In Armstrong's most recent book, Every Second Counts, he devotes two entire pages to singing the praises of the team chiropractor. At one point he actually calls the chiropractor "the most important member of the team."

Now most of us will never compete in the Tour de France but we all compete in our own ways. Maybe you like to run or swim; a chiropractor on your "team" will help you run or swim farther, faster and with less injury if you do like Lance Armstrong and get help before you need it.

Maybe you like to ski or snowboard; chiropractic can help. Maybe your sport is cleaning the house and caring for the next generation; chiropractic can help. Maybe your goal is to live as long and as happy a life as possible; chiropractic can help.

Maybe you already have pain, maybe you have already lost function, maybe you are even losing hope; chiropractic can help. Don't fall for the drug trap; it makes more sense to put out the fire than to just turn off the fire alarm.