Backs and Packs and Facts

books-484766_1920aThe school year has started. Yesterday, my daughter brought her backpack to me and said, “Feel how heavy this is.” For her body weight, it felt about right. The recommended limit for backpacks is 10 to 15% of a child’s body weight. I said, “That’s good, I think you can manage that just fine.” “That’s just my folders and notebooks.”

Today, my daughter is supposed to receive and probably bring home her 6th grade textbooks. In addition to all of the “required” notebooks and folders, even one decent sized textbook is going to put her over the limit, never mind 6 of them!

As a parent and a chiropractor, how do I solve this dilemma? I don’t want her to get injured. The US Consumer Product Safety Commission estimates that 14,000 children are seen by doctors for backpack injuries and 5,000 of those are ER visits. I see kids with backpack related issues and injuries. Based on what I see in my practice, I wouldn’t be surprised if those numbers represented significant under-reporting and were actually much higher!

While solutions like digital textbooks and cloud-based access are still not being implemented widely, there are a few DIY things that you can do to protect your child. Good suggestions can be found here .

Unfortunately, even these measures do not solve the fundamental issue of too much weight in the packs. Paying attention to how the weight is carried is helpful and necessary to reduce risk, but it ignores the structure responsible for actually carrying the weight. Let me ask you this. Is your child active? Do they run and play and engage in activities of physical development? Have they fallen or run in to another child or been jerked around, even when it was fun? Did they ride a roller coaster, or get pulled behind a boat this summer?

If the answer is yes, then they may actually have a structural/functional issue in their spine. It may not show up during normal activities, but when you add another 20 or 40% of their body weight, that stress alone may reveal, aggravate, or even cause additional injury to a structural and functional spinal problem called vertebral subluxation.
If the answer is no, then your child may be even more at risk for injury due to under-developed strength and balance. Until they develop these aspects, making sure that they are not growing into injuries is a smart move.
Regardless, they need to be in prime shape to try and manage that much additional weight. As a chiropractor, I can’t think of a profession more qualified to help in this regard. Do not dismiss complaints of pain or discomfort as “normal”. Schedule an appointment to have your child assessed for spinal subluxation that may not be readily apparent.

As a parent, I know you want to give your child the best start to the new school year. I also know that this time of year puts more demands on your budget. From now until the end of September, I have a special offer. I will give your child a special spinal screening to check for evidence of vertebral subluxation for a special price of $50. PLUS, if you bring in the child’s loaded backpack, I will include a backpack fitting at no charge. These will be available on Saturdays from 11am until I’m done.Backpack Fitting

I’ll be checking my daughter regularly, just like I’ve done her entire life. Depending on what I see in the days and weeks ahead, I may be making more inquiries with the intention of keeping her safe and hopefully all the children safer.


Cake Auction 2014

Today’s blog is written by the lovely and talented Sasha Johns. She’s my wife and my kids’ Mom, as well as one of the regular bloggers at Middle Places. If you enjoy this, you should enjoy her other musings there. Thanks, Sasha!

For six years now Robert and I have been hosting a cake auction to benefit families experiencing some kind of traumatic loss. It started in 2009 when his employer’s brother lost one of his twin boys in a freak accident that racked up insurmountable medical bills. Unfortunately, it ended in the son’s tragic death. The next two years there were other families that experienced similar life-changing circumstances. These families just needed a little help and encouragement. One thing I learned from my grandmother, who was famous for her cakes, is that a pretty cake makes everyone smile.

Cake collage

When we moved in 2010, I drove back to Atlanta for what I thought would be one last cake auction. We had moved just two months before. A sweet family we knew had a daughter that became a victim to Guillain-Barré Syndrome. There was no insurance to cushion the blow from the medical bills. Up to that point I was happy to do the auctions, but felt frustrated that so little financial help had been gained from them. It seemed to be a Band-Aid on a gushing wound.

The week we moved back home to Birmingham, however, a young couple in our new church lost an infant daughter to SIDS. We didn’t meet them for many months. As fate would have it, our businesses ended up being right next door to each other.

In the aftermath of her daughter’s passing, Kristin reflected on how she could help others going through similar traumas. One of the most overwhelming parts of losing her daughter was planning the funeral. The expense was astronomical and unexpected. She wanted to make sure that if she could help another family avoid dealing with this part of loss, she would. From that reflection the Olivia Charles Foundation was born.

The Olivia Charles Foundation helps families with the funerals of their children among other things. When I first heard about Kristin’s idea, I knew I wanted to continue the cake auction here in Birmingham. All year, the Foundation was addressing what we had only been able to help with just once a year. They were doing the exact thing we had been already working toward, but were reaching more families.

This year the cake auction took on new meaning for our own family. We suffered the exact kind of loss we’d been led to help others cope with when Robert’s nephew went home to heaven 16 days after he was born. He’d been born with a heart defect that the doctors were unable to repair despite their best efforts.  Fortunately, our family had members with the resources to help Robert’s brother and his wife with the costs of laying Daniel’s body to rest. The Olivia Charles Foundation was there to offer the support anyway, and Kristin and Cannon have been so kind to our family in the process.

This year’s cake auction was already being planned when Daniel was born. The cakes were being coordinated the entire time he was in the hospital. Less than two weeks after his passing we held our 6th annual auction with renewed love for this event.

Setting up the cake auction this last week confirmed what my grandmother taught me. It’s very hard not to smile when you see so many pretty handmade cakes. Even more than their physical beauty and amazing taste, was the fact that so much love was put into each one of them. Even the ones that were bought and donated. People wanted to show their love and support for this cause, one that isn’t a pleasant one to think about. That is an amazing thing.

Thank you so much to the 20 men and women who provided the gorgeous cakes for our auction this year. Thank you to all the families that supported the event through purchasing the baked goods and making donations. It was a banner year this year for us as we finally broke the $1,000 ceiling with the auction. For the years going forward we will always do it, not only to honor the families we’ve been able to help in the past, but also to honor Olivia and our very own little Daniel.

A Lawn Mower, a Vacation, and a Crazy Uncle

You may have heard about a TV show called Duck Dynasty. Maybe you’ve even seen it. If you have, then you know about Uncle Si. He boasts two major attributes that you pick up on right away. He is an amazing story-teller and his mind… well, his mind seems to get stuck from time to time.

As an example, the boys decided to do some lawn mower racing and so they had everyone, including Uncle Si, bring their riding lawnmowers for a race. Everyone bought into the idea of a race, except Uncle Si, who couldn’t quite grasp the concept. Not because it confused him, but because he was firmly mentally stuck on the fact that lawnmowers just mow lawns. So, he proceeded to do his part to cut the grass while the others were racing.

Uncle Si, pleased with his lawn mowing skills

It made for good TV watching, but aren’t we all guilty of that from time to time? We get stuck in a rut, mentally. And that rut affects what we do physically, and also what we think we can do. Sometimes it sucks the fun out of life.

This happened to me recently. We were leaving for a long weekend. Instead of enjoying the ride to our destination, I was in a rush to “get there”. There was no reason to rush, but “getting there” was the goal. At least, it was my goal. But it was a goal with no fundamental purpose. It was founded on emotion and reaction and habit. The result was that I missed out on several hours of vacation. It was an opportunity for joy I stole from myself and my family.

Is my beard more Amish or Duck Dynasty?

Is my beard more Amish or Duck Dynasty?

The good news is, even though we get stuck in mental ruts, whether it’s an irrational hurry or a stubborn mental stand, we never forget to breathe or digest our last meal, or fight off infection to the best of our ability. Our innate intelligence is always on the job, and never gets confused. It’s the thing our brains are most used for. Your spine keeps you connected to it. We keep it tuned up.

Neuro health primary

Get Checked for Subluxation

Before adding something toxic to your body, we recommend getting checked for subluxation. No matter what your condition or diagnosis, you are better off when you are not also suffering the effects of dysfunction resulting from vertebral subluxation. Getting checked for subluxation is quick, safe, gentle, and can save you tons of money in the long run. This is why all of the chiropractors I know get themselves and their family checked for vertebral subluxation on a regular basis, regardless of how they feel.


subluxated vs intact

Dealing with Depression

Depression affects 20-30 million Americans. Suicide is in the top ten leading causes of death for Americans, claiming almost 40,000 sons, daughters, spouses, mothers and fathers every year. Look in the mirror. That’s the face of depression. People with depression take smart phone self-portraits with a smile, they laugh, they talk about their future, and they live with an enormous burden.

Conventional medicine is poorly equipped to deal with the problem and pharmaceutical solutions commonly have the side effect of increasing the risk for the very thing they are designed to prevent, worsening conditions and harm to self and others. The cause of depression is as varied as the person experiencing it. Depression during grief is both normal and expected. Depression after prolonged, chronic pain is predictable.

In 2005, after many years of chronic knee pain, after a gradual, but clear addiction to prescription pain meds, after years of self-medicating behavior involving alcohol, after, after, after… my father swallowed the barrel of a small caliber handgun and ended his life. My mother was 15 feet away. The small dog they both cared for is still an emotional wreck. I suppose we all are.

A death like that leaves a mark.

I could go on quoting stats or describing the devastation that depression and suicide leave in their wake. Google is full of that, if you want it. Instead, I will share with you what I was not able to share with my dad due to blind innocence, timing, and geography.

We know that depression is the result of neurological dysfunction with structures and chemicals.

It takes enormous strength to bear up under the weight of depression.

Proper pituitary function requires that the hypothalamus gets quality information from all nerve sources.

Too much or too little glandular activity can cause hormone (and likely) neurotransmitter imbalances.

Pathologic manifestations (like subluxation) in the neural pathways that supply the hypothalamus, with few exceptions, cause hormone deficiency or excess.

Hormones, neurotransmitters, and the high functioning centers of neurological, endocrine, and immune function all rely on an intact and properly functioning connection through the nerve system in order to be effective. Subluxation is the loss of normal alignment and function of the spine. While the spine has many critical functions, arguably the most important is maintaining the neurological connection between the brain and the rest of the body. If you disturb nerve function, you automatically disturb the ability of the body to heal and regulate.

Let me be crystal clear on this point: chiropractic, the adjustment, and the correction of vertebral subluxation are not treatments for depression. At the same time, I have seen people, with diagnosed depression and those who showed obvious signs of depression improve during chiropractic care to correct subluxation.

The conventional treatments we do have, frankly, suck. They encourage drug seeking behavior. They are poorly supported by research, and this assumes the prescribing doctor actually has access to the entire body of research, which is often NOT the case. Treatments and dosages are arrived at by trial and error and by short-term side effect management. This often means more drugs.

In addition to short-term side effects, there are also the long term side effects to consider. The Law of Large Numbers (LLN) is a mathematical expression that essentially means that if you have a large enough sample size, you will get every possible outcome. Apply 20-30 million people to the possibility of psychotic episodes. Of the children at the various school shootings, how many of the shooters were on mind-altering medications?

Doing nothing is also a poor option.

We can do better. To do so, we are going to have to make changes that exceed the narrow scope of depression. The first two steps involve resolving the various identified causes leading to depression.

Chronic pain predictably leads to depression. Chronic pain comes from an unresolved dysfunction. It may also come from prolonged treatments designed to silence the pain without resolving the problem. Stop treating pain.

If your healthcare provider is stumped, get another opinion. The phrase, “There’s nothing we can do” isn’t the signal to pause, but to seek out another set of knowledge and ideas. The dysfunction caused by subluxation, can and will cause pain and a variety of other symptoms if left unchecked long enough. Getting checked for subluxation has zero side-effects.

Chronic dysfunction of brain structures and imbalanced chemicals both lead to depression. SSRIs and other pharmaceutical remedies are, at best, stop-gap measures. Mental illness does not exist in isolation from the rest of the body, and we have to stop acting like it does. As I mentioned above, pathological manifestations in the neural pathway disturb hormone production. The vehicle through which this happens is the neurotransmitter. Subluxations qualify as disturbing neurological manifestations.

When subluxations are corrected, the restoration of normal function begins. This is measurable and quantifiable. People improve symptomatically as normal function is restored. Subluxation correction and chiropractic may not be the solution to depression. However, if we eliminate subluxation and the dysfunction it creates, we are at least addressing the known causes of depression in a systematic, scientific, rational manner. This is why I am participating in the 2013 Subluxation Outreach Campaign.

If my dad had gotten the chiropractic care that he needed 30 years ago, the dysfunction that led to degeneration in his knees could have been addressed. If the dysfunction had been addressed, he would not have needed powerful narcotic pain relievers. Had he not taken these powerful and addictive drugs for years, his body would not have grown insensitive to them. If his body had not grown insensitive to them, he would not have had to take so many at once that it caused him to throw up. If he had not had to take so many, he wouldn’t have turned to alcohol to augment their effects. If he had not turned to alcohol to augment the narcotic effects, he wouldn’t have added alcohol to his list of addictions. If he had not been so addicted to narcotics and alcohol, taking as much as his body could handle, and still been in continuous, intense pain, which by this time was showing up all over his body, he would not have lost hope.

If he had not lost all hope, my boys could go fishing with him. He loved fishing.