There is a lot of talk these days about wellness. Wellness is everywhere, and with it, the image of what it should look like. Picture a TV commercial featuring a fit young woman running through a field with an organic granola bar, wearing Lululemon and a Fitbit. There is no end to the number of “wellness” products available – everything from vacations and spa packages to office chairs, supplements, and dog food. We all know that this ideal of wellness is impossible for the average person to live up to. So how can we sift though the pile of products and information and determine exactly what practicing wellness looks like for us?
What is wellness?
Not surprisingly, there are a variety of definitions wellness, and no one version is accepted by everyone. Personally, I like definition used by The National Wellness Institute, which describes wellness as “a conscious, self-directed, and evolving process of achieving full potential.” Regardless of which one you prefer, most honest attempts to define wellness seem to include generally the same characteristics. Lets take a closer look at what these characteristics are:
Wellness is typically defined as:
- Active: Wellness is something that you actually have to make a conscious decision to do. It is a goal that you strive for.
- Internal: It’s directed at yourself and under your own control.
- A Process: It develops gradually and changes over time.
- Focused on Self-Improvement: The goal of wellness is not to get out of pain or to get through the workday or the big game. It’s about achieving your full potential and being the best version of yourself that you can be.
Wellness is a journey, made up of everyday decisions with the goal of improving your self. Just like every other journey, there are going to be ups and downs, and that’s ok as long as we can stay focused on the bigger picture. Choosing water instead of juice. Getting up that extra half an hour early to take the dog for a walk outside. Taking an extra 10 minutes to stretch before bed. That’s practicing wellness. It’s about finding a balance that fits you.
Interestingly, research studies have shown that those who take good care of themselves and make habitual healthy lifestyle choices actually spend less on healthcare. One study found that patients who pursued a wellness model of healthcare had 17% less medical/doctor visits and a 35% decrease in medical visits for minor illness. That’s another cool thing… wellness actually works!
Wellness and Chiropractic Care
Chiropractic care is one type complimentary medicine that embraces the model of wellness. Being adjusted by your Doctor of Chiropractic on a regular basis (even when you are not experiencing symptoms) can help prevent future pain, improve the health and function of your spine, reduce your risk of injury, and improve the overall function of your nervous system (resulting in improved sleep, digestion, immune function, and learning). The list goes on! But all these cool health benefits aside, one of the biggest draws to a wellness-based lifestyle is the idea of prevention – the idea that the daily lifestyle choices we make now will decrease the chances of suffering from poor health later. That doesn’t mean that now is no fun either!
How do Regular Chiropractic Treatments Improve Health?
Your body is amazing! One of the most unique things about the human body is that it has been designed to move in hundreds of ways. Think about a pitcher throwing a fastball or a gymnast swinging between uneven bars – we can do some pretty incredible stuff! Our bodies are wired to move. And when they are restricted from moving the way they are meant to, problems arise. When you sit to work on a computer all day or perform the same repetitive movements all day, it causes a high level of stress on the tissues supporting your joints. (Hey all you office workers, students, and new moms: I’m talking to you!) Areas that are designed for a lot of movement, such as your hips and upper/mid back, become very tight and stiff and no longer move the way they were designed to. This has a major impact on how your body moves, how your body feels, and how your whole body talks and works together.
The effects of immobilization (or lack of proper movement) on muscles, ligaments, and connective tissues surrounding a joint has been widely documented. The result is rapid deterioration, atrophy (shrinking and weakening), and fibrosis (thickening and scarring) of tissue1,2,3. Scar tissue is only about 15% as strong and much less flexible than regular healthy tissue. These changes cause pain, swelling, and further loss of range of motion and communication capacity. Unfortunately, by the time your body sends the signal to your brain that something is wrong, the process has already begun. Animal studies have shown that these degenerative changes begin to occur after only 2-4 weeks and – here’s the scary part – they are not always reversible. The transformation of scar tissue back into normal, healthy tissue can take anywhere from 10-14 weeks to several years to occur4, if it is to occurs at all.
Chiropractic wellness treatments are designed to help your body heal, restore optimal joint movement and communication, and prevent degenerative changes from occurring. If we can address these problems before they begin to cause pain, we can often avoid a great deal of pain and suffering down the road. Like I said, it doesn’t even involve short term suffering for long term gain. You get to be healthy today AND tomorrow.
Getting “regular” chiropractic treatment doesn’t mean you need to be in the office every week; it means you are getting the treatment your body needs to function well and feel good. How often you should get checked out is individual to you; it depends you your personal history, lifestyle and activities, and anatomy. As it turns out, those who get regular maintenance treatments typically end up having less overall visits than those who only seek help when they are in a lot of pain.
It’s not always easy to make the changes that lead to a healthier lifestyle. Remember, it’s a process, it’s not going to happen overnight, and you are never going to “arrive” at a destination. It really is how you trek the journey that counts for this one. Start with making one small change at a time and develop your habits from there. Every little bit counts!
If you have more questions about wellness, healthy lifestyles changes, or chiropractic care, we at AltaVie are here to help.
References (for all you smarty-pants out there who like to check in a little further):
- Appell, H. (1990). Muscular Atrophy Following Immobilisation. Sports Medicine, 42-58.
- Järvinen, M., & Lehto, M. (1993). The Effects of Early Mobilisation and Immobilisation on the Healing Process Following Muscle Injuries. Sports Medicine, 78-89.
- Kauhanen, S., Leivo, I., Pettilä, M., & Michelsson, J. (1996). Recovery of skeletal muscle after immobilization of rabbit hindlimb:. Apmis, 797-804.
- Lee, S., Sakurai, T., Ohsako, M., Saura, R., Hatta, H., & Atomi, Y. (2010). Tissue stiffness induced by prolonged immobilization of the rat knee joint and relevance of AGEs (pentosidine). Connective Tissue Research, 467-477.