General Wellness and Chiropractic
Wellness is not simply a lack of illness, but a more general and optimistic term referring to a balance of mind, body and spirit. The term was first used, in the healthcare sense, by Halbert L. Dunn, M.D. in the 1950's. In the 1970's and 1980's, wellness became a widely used term for a desirable state of physical and mental health, often connected to longevity and a high quality of life.
Dunn defined wellness as "an integrated method of functioning which is oriented toward maximizing the potential of which the individual is capable. It requires that the individual maintain a continuum of balance and purposeful direction within the environment where he is functioning."
While the term wellness may be relatively new, it encompasses older concepts from medicine, including the medical term "homeostasis." Homeostasis refers to balanced and efficient function in biological systems, a natural state to which a body tends toward. The concept of wellness has been adopted in many areas since its early definition: workplace wellness promotion programs, for example, employ the ideas of wellness in the context of exercise and health education programs for employees.
The Role Chiropractic in Wellness Promotion
For as long as there has been the term "wellness," chiropractic has been an important ingredient for many in the pursuit of health and balance. Chiropractic theory holds that a healthy spine is crucial to health and wellness. By reducing nerve irritations, normalizing nervous system response, and helping to improve blood circulation, chiropractic adjustments can set the foundation upon which wellness is built.
Why is the spine so important to wellness? The spine is made up of 24 movable bones, called vertebrae. These are stacked, one on top of the other, with the head balanced on top. Between each vertebra are shock-absorbing cushions called discs, and ligaments that hold the vertebrae in place. Passing through a central hole in the vertebrae is the spinal cord that carries messages from the brain to the rest of the body. Misalignments of the bones of the spine, called subluxations, affect the entire body from the feet to the head. These create pressure on the spinal cord and spinal nerves, stretch ligaments, and compress the intervertebral disks. This interferes with the brain's ability to communicate effectively with the muscles and organs, leading to pain, dysfunction and illness. Chiropractic adjustments work to resolve these conditions, restoring the normal geometry and functions of the spine.
Posture and Ergonomics
Chiropractors have also long been outspoken advocates for correct posture and ergonomics. Correct posture is the key to avoiding injuries and subluxations of the spine. Posture is so important to overall health that entire fields of health-care practice have developed around it, including Feldenkrais and the Alexander Technique. Chiropractors are experts at analyzing posture and movement, in addition to their training in diagnosing spinal problems. Corrections to poor posture, such as slouching, can often resolve chronic pain and patterns of ill health.
Posture and movement are all part of body mechanics, the engineering perspective on the body as a collection of parts that must move in proper order and harmony to achieve efficiency. Efficiency in body mechanics leads to health. Some essential ingredients of good body mechanics are:
- Using proper posture, lifting and carrying techniques, both at home and at work.
- Awareness of your body position throughout the day. Through awareness, poor body mechanics are discovered.
- Practice of posture and good body mechanics as a way of life.
- Good ergonomics at home and work to adapt your environment to your body's needs.
Ergonomics is another important area of analysis. Ergonomics is the study of how changes in work or home environment can encourage good body mechanics. No matter how many chiropractic adjustments you may have, if your work or home environment doesn't work with your body, health problems will eventually result. This is another area in which chiropractors receive extensive training. Relatively simple changes in workspace height, or a work chair, can have a significant impact on body posture, health and wellness.
Finally, just as good nutrition is important to wellness, chiropractors work with their patients to find the right balance of diet and supplements for each individual. This may include calculating an ideal weight, making dietary adjustments or starting entirely new diet plans, that may include taking supplements to correct health problems or enhance energy and well being.
Many chiropractors have also studied meditation, stress reduction techniques, hypnosis, and other tools that can help patients achieve greater peace of mind. Such tools give your chiropractor the ability to design complete, comprehensive wellness programs that help each patient achieve much more than simply a lack of illness.
With a holistic approach to wellness, encompassing posture, movement, environment and nutrition, chiropractors can serve an important role in the search for balance of mind, body and spirit.
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