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Five Things I Learned from Chiropractic Treatment

BY: Beth MacKay | Feb 29, 2016

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I, too, have been a victim of a fat cat.

A few years ago, I went to pick up my cat when something seemed to pop in my back. The pain was bad enough to finally convince me to see a chiropractor, but if I’m being honest with myself, I was having pain years before the cat incident. It started around the time I was in college, where I was a shining example of what poor posture looked like.

Back then, it was easy to convince myself that the pain wasn’t bad enough to warrant chiropractic treatment. Only the pain didn’t go away. I ignored it after college until just two years ago when I broke my tailbone, which only made things worse. I ended up developing piriformis syndrome, which was the main source of all my pain, from my hip and back to the left side of my neck. Yet it wasn’t the pain that ended up bothering me the most: it was realizing that I could have been pain-free much sooner if I had simply seen someone and made a few lifestyle changes.

Your mom was right about sitting up straight.

It turns out that not only are we sitting too much, but we’re doing it wrong. How many times were you told to sit up straight as a child? Or to not cross your legs?

My go-to sitting posture was with my right foot tucked under my left leg. Sitting like this seemed to take pressure off my back, only I didn’t realize that it was actually the source of my pain. Guess which side has the bad piriformis muscle? The muscle rotates the hip externally, and my bad sitting position put pressure on my right hip, which then made the muscle tighten up. After years of poor posture, the muscle tightened so much that it caused my hip to rotate inwardly, making my right leg just slightly shorter than my left, so suddenly everyday things like walking or standing became painful.

If you’re able to get a standing desk at work, do it.

It takes awhile to get used to, but it will do wonders for your body. And when you do sit, make sure to sit up straight with your shoulders back, distribute weight evenly in both hips, and don’t cross your legs. It also helps to take mini walking breaks throughout the day, even if it’s something as simple as taking a longer route to the bathroom.

You’re wearing the wrong shoes.

Unless you wear gym shoes all day, it’s safe to say that not only are you wearing the wrong shoes, but they could be the source of your pain. Living in a city means I walk, a lot. High-heels were always out of the question because I knew they did a number on your body (and because I would fall immediately).

What I didn’t know at the time, though, was my beloved flats were just as harmful.

While they were more comfortable to wear, the lack of arch support eventually led to stress and straining that I felt in my back and knees.

I was worried I would have to wear gym shoes everywhere to fix the problem, but my chiropractor offered customized orthopedics, which I now slip into my flats and boots. I also bought a pair of sandals with high arch support for the days I want my toes to be free. The takeaway: your feet are the foundation of the body; if you don’t give them any support, everything else will fall apart.

You’re probably not stretching enough.

There is a lot of information about stretching on the Internet. Is it best before or after a workout? How long do you do it for? How many times a day?

I used to only stretch when I would workout. When I stopped working out, the stretching stopped also, which may have been the worst thing I could have done. Stretching helps with pain relief by increasing blood flow, oxygen, and range of motion. I now stretch my piriformis muscle in the morning and at night. If I do happen to skip a session, I’ll feel it the next time. Don’t forget to strengthen the muscle as well; exercise bands are a great investment and can be used at home. Just make sure to have a professional show you first—doing a stretch or exercise wrong can make things worse.

You need a massage … and not the nice kind.

The type of massage therapy I go through isn’t as pleasant as it sounds, but it does wonders in the long run. I go to the chiropractor every two weeks for massage/physical therapy. It’s a great way to make sure I’m on track to recovering. While everyone may not need that much therapy, it doesn’t hurt to get worked on every once in awhile. 

Let me take that back—it does hurt. If you do have an injury, this isn’t some nice, relaxing massage.

The therapist will dig into your muscles and fight fire with fire. The first time my therapist worked on my piriformis, I may or may not have yelled at him ... a lot.

I hurt for days after and was couch-bound with my cats (let’s be honest, I would have been there anyway). But the more he worked at it, the easier it got and the better I felt. And since my therapist is at the chiropractor’s office, the two are able to work together on my injury. A Swedish massage sounds great, but what you really need is someone who knows what caused the injury and how to fix it permanently, not just make you feel better for a few days.

You set your own path to recovery.

I’m not quite there, but I’m on my way to a full recovery. Only a few months ago I couldn’t sit for more than a few minutes without my back going numb. I was on the couch all the time because my right leg was constantly throbbing. My recovery may seem slow at times, but one thing that helps move it along is making sure I don’t revert back to old habits.

The process is different for each person and their specific injury, but I’ve learned that the quicker you see a professional and change a few habits, the quicker you’re on your way to getting better. One size doesn’t fit all; some may benefit more from adjustments, while others respond well to electric muscle stimulation. What’s important is to find someone you can work with, and to be extra safe. And maybe put the cat on a diet.

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