Archived Issue - PRAKTIKOS Autumn Equinox, 2005

If you care enough for a result, you will most certainly attain it.
– William James

Health Partners for Life

“Robert, this is incredible. You have got to write about this in Praktikos.”

The speaker repeatedly probed at her right cheek and upper lip with a finger. She is my good friend Valerie, who has been cutting my hair for many years. I was sitting in her Cherry Creek shop called Rembrandt’s as she prepared to go to work.

As she spoke, her face in the mirror was smiling, yet I could tell that there was a hint of confusion and amazement mixed with her happiness.

The reason for her confused and happy amazement was an adjustment in our office that morning.

Valerie has been a patient for nearly fifteen years. It had been over ten months since we had worked on her because of the demands of raising her two teenagers.

You know how other priorities can get in the way of taking care of yourself. Besides, nothing had seemed to be that bad, until recently, that is.

She had returned to active care that Friday complaining that her left hand was going to sleep a lot. This was a real problem because it was worst when she raised her arms above shoulder level, such as while she was cutting hair. Perhaps even worse, it was beginning to interrupt her sleep.

Valerie needed help, now. She expected she would get relief for the numbing in her hand, this time as in times past. What she did not expect is what happened next.

As I was examining and marking her spine for the cause of the hand numbing she asked, in an offhand way, if her neck could affect how her teeth felt.

For the past several months she had been struggling with horrible, debilitating tooth pain. Her dentist had decided that she must have an infection spreading along the upper right jaw and teeth.

Surprisingly, the infection had not responded to medication. In fact, the pain had persisted despite five courses of different antibiotics.

In desperation, Valerie was about to allow the dentist to pull all of the affected teeth as a last resort. Needless to say, this would have been very painful in itself plus requiring long and costly replacements with implants.

That was the situation she found herself in that Friday morning. As she lay on my table she gently raised her right hand and gingerly pressed into her cheek and upper lip, causing a wince of pain.

Now, I am no dentist, and I do not believe that a chiropractor can treat dental problems. But I do know that spinal problems can be brilliant mimickers of other problems.

For example, a problem in the low back at the fifth lumbar vertebra (L-5) level can radiate to the foot muscles, causing spasm and pain. These symptoms could be misinterpreted by a podiatrist and lead to unnecessary orthotics or even surgery.

It seemed possible that a problem in the upper neck could radiate into the head and teeth, thereby creating a strong continuing pain that would fail to respond to conventional treatment.

After I worked the lower neck, shoulder, forearm and hand for her numbing, I examined her uppermost spine. Gentle finger-walking at the first cervical vertebra (C-1) level and up into the sub-occipital muscles revealed swelling and tenderness.

Not only was she tender at the logical region to be involved, but pressure over this region actually reproduced her symptoms. Now we were getting somewhere; we had a chance!

Gently, I began to slowly work the affected spinal level with our non-thrusting style of adjusting. This novel technique allows us to directly work these extremely hot spots without inducing further trauma or swelling to the already inflamed nerves.

We followed up with low-intensity, pulsed ultrasound over both the affected upper spine area and directly over the painful upper jaw and teeth to further reduce muscle spasm and swelling.

Valerie was instructed to ice her neck repeatedly and to stretch her mouth open while finger-walking the chewing muscles over her painful teeth.

It was only three hours later that I sat in her chair ready to get my haircut when she smiled in that confused and amazed way. She was actually feeling better for the first time in months.

When Valerie first asked me to write about this episode in Praktikos, I resisted because people should not think of chiropractic as a cure for dental problems as a general rule.

But, upon further consideration it occurred to me that there were some interesting points of similarity between chiropractic care and dental care.

First, both your teeth and your spine must last you a lifetime. Therefore, care must be for a lifetime. Children need care. Teenagers need care. Adults need care. Old people need care.

Second, by the time something hurts it is already getting late in the process. Both your teeth and your spine deserve a constant vigilance to catch problems before they become symptomatic.

Third, pain demands prompt and effective treatment. It never works to hide a problem with painkillers or anti-inflammatory drugs. Not only does this misguided approach allow the real problem to worsen, but reliance on drugs can also create secondary issues with the heart, stomach, liver, and kidneys.

Fourth, in addition to lifelong professional care, both your teeth and your spine require a personal commitment to home care. You are accustomed to daily brushing and flossing your teeth. You must develop a daily habit of walking and icing to keep your spine healthy for a lifetime.

Finally, old-fashioned notions that it is just “normal” for teeth to fall out or for a spine to develop arthritis are outdated. With the new painless and effective forms of dental and chiropractic treatment that are now available, there is no longer any excuse for disability.

You, your dentist, and your chiropractor need to be health partners for life. So get to it. Now is the time to begin a healthier future.

Salud!…….To your health!