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Symptoms… Or Structure? Are You The Leaning Tower?

Posted Jun 09 2010 12:00am

Take your shirt off… Relax… and stand in front of a large mirror. Are your ears level? Does your head stand straight up and down? Are your shoulders level? Do your ribs stick out further on one side? Are your hips level? Now, do the same thing on your children, spouse, or significant other. If you can answer “No” to any of these questions, you may be looking at a clear sign of problems to come… or the underlying cause of some of your current problems.

Biomechanically, our bodies are built like a skyscraper. We are a very tall, narrow structure that depends on a stable foundation with balance and support throughout from the bottom up. Anytime the pieces aren’t working together, or individual parts are weaker than they need to be, dysfunction shows up. The Leaning Tower of Pisa was built upon a sandy foundation. As they built it taller, they began to notice that it was leaning to one side. Instead of correcting the foundation, they treated the symptom… they built the next level taller on one side to shift the weight back the other way. As expected, the building first righted itself, but then began to fall the other way. Again, they just built the next level out of balance to shift the weight back in the other direction. This continued for nearly 200 years until they arrived at the structure you see today. What many of us don’t know is that the only reason the tower still stands is because of the internal and external “surgery” they eventually had to perform to hold the building up. There are metal bands, support beams, lead weights, and traction devices that have been installed and are constantly monitored and adjusted in order to keep the building upright.

In the same fashion, structural dysfunction in our body will lead to imbalances that force it to adapt and lean this way or that in order to continue to support us. The changes or adaptations our bodies make may allow us to remain upright, but they will also lead to other symptoms. Symptoms are nothing more than our body’s attempt to warn us that something is wrong. In our example, the symptom of the leaning tower was an indication that the foundation wasn’t strong enough to hold the weight of the building. In our body, the symptom could be achy, muscle spasms. How many of us decide to take a muscle relaxer or anti-inflammatory instead of asking ourselves why the pain and spasm developed in the first place? If your symptoms involve interference in the nervous system… which then leads to symptoms wherever those nerves travel… what will happen if you choose to treat the symptoms only?

Go back to our analogy: As the builders continued to treat the symptom of the leaning tower, this only led to other symptoms and perpetuated the instability and dysfunction of the structure. Ultimately, this has led to permanent structural imbalance (the lean), surgical repair (the banding and beams), and constant monitoring of balance (the lead weights and soil removal). Following this logic, if you choose to treat the symptoms only, you will develop permanent structural imbalance (have you seen how some older people stand?), increasing aggressiveness of treatment (how many knee and hip replacements have you heard of lately?), and constant monitoring and treatment (know anyone taking meds for one thing… then meds for the side effects… then meds for another… OR… needs continual or repetitive treatment just to maintain their current state?). Sounds pretty familiar, huh?

Chiropractic is uniquely situated and qualified to deal with the underlying structure of how our bodies work. Most people think of low back pain when they hear “chiropractic.” However, chiropractors don’t treat low back pain. We don’t treat headaches… neck pain… indigestion or heartburn… carpal tunnel syndrome… intervertebral disks, herniated disks, bulging disks… We treat the underlying CAUSE that leads to those SYMPTOMS. We seek to optimize the body’s function, therefore the symptoms resolve themselves. If a “symptom” is just a warning sign given by our body to warn us of dysfunction, then correcting the underlying dysfunction will cause the symptom to stop.

Is chiropractic a cure-all? No. Of course not. There are conditions or diseases that are related to external forces (such as infection, trauma, or chemical poisoning) that need external assistance. Your medical doctor plays an integral role in helping to address these issues, and to help point you in the right direction. However, your chiropractor should play an equal role in helping you manage the function of your body. Ultimately, you are responsible to create and build your own foundation upon which you build your structure. When we are young, we rely on the foundation begun by our parents, but as an adult, will you continue to treat the symptoms? Will you treat only the symptoms, or will you correct the underlying structure?

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