Haven’t you ever wondered why humans have to endure such debilitating conditions as headache and backache? If you watch a lot of television, you will be bombarded with advertisements for analgesics (such as aspirin, paracetamol, ibuprofen, and the list goes on). They all claim to provide some version of “fast, effective temporary relief of aches and pains, such as headaches, migraine headaches, and back pain”, as well as other body pains. They are commonly called pain-killers.
From an anatomical viewpoint, we know that pain is an instinctive response, initiated by our brain to protect our bodies, by getting us to stop doing what we are doing, as it is potentially causing us harm to continue to do it. Our pain changes from being local to the area of injury, when we have “simple” injuries, to a more general headache or backache response when the injury, or stress, is a result of adverse chemical, emotional or “compound” physical injuries1.
The best way to imagine how this works is the view “pain” as the engine light on the dash of all motor vehicles. When the engine light comes on, it a top level signal that indicates that something general is wrong with your engine but does not tell you what it is. Treating pain with a pain-killer is analogous to sticking black tape over the engine light in your car. I am sure you have heard many a jokes about people who do this, yet we are led to believe, when watching popular media, that it’s OK to do this when our body gives us the same danger signals.
The actual pain you feel, may be the result of any number of causes, including physical (injury), body chemistry or mental (e.g. stress) and in many cases may not even be in the same part of the body as the source of the problem.
Chiropractors do not “treat” headaches or backaches. All professional chiropractors in Australia have undergone a minimum of 5 years of university education to enable them to perform medical diagnosis of your body in order to attempt to find the thing that is triggering the pain response.
So before you rush into the store to buy you next pain-killer, consider what your body is telling you and perhaps consider getting some professional medical diagnosis from your chiropractor and allow them to help get to the root cause of your headache or backache and offer appropriate treatment.
Informed consent is a person’s decision, given voluntarily, to agree to a healthcare treatment, procedure or other intervention that is made:
Following the provision of accurate and relevant information about the healthcare intervention and alternative options available; and
With adequate knowledge and understanding of the benefits and material risks of the proposed intervention relevant to the person who would be having the treatment, procedure or other intervention.
Ensuring informed consent is properly obtained is a legal, ethical and professional requirement on the part of all treating health professionals and supports person-centred care. Good clinical practice involves ensuring that informed consent is validly obtained and appropriately timed.
Informed consent is integral to the right to information in the Australian Charter of Healthcare Rights, and recognised in Professional Codes of Conduct. Additionally, the National Safety and Quality Health Service Standards require all hospitals and day procedures services to have informed consent processes that comply with legislation, lawful requirements and best practice.
For there to be valid informed consent, the person consenting must:
Have the legal capacity to consent
Give their consent voluntarily
Give their consent to the specific treatment, procedure or other intervention being discussed
Have enough information about their condition, treatment options, the benefits and risks relevant to them, and alternative options for them to make an informed decision to consent. This includes the opportunity to ask questions and discuss concerns.
These paragraphs above have been extracted from “Fact Sheet for clinicians – Informed consent in health care” 1.
When you come into our clinic you will be given some forms to complete which will help the chiropractor to understand your circumstances and initiate a diagnosis and subsequently recommend a treatment plan. You will also be asked to complete an “Authorisation For And Consent to Treatment” form which outlines the benefits and risks associated with chiropractic care which will in turn allow you to give informed consent to any treatment offered. In addition, at the time of the consultation, your practitioner will outline a treatment plan and again explain all available options, highlighting all risks and benefits of the proposed treatment. If supplements are recommended in your treatments, your practitioner will also go through all of the risks and benefits with you, along with their recommended dosages.
As you can see, the fundamental principle of informed consent is that you are fully aware of all of the risks and benefits associated with your care plan and thereby you are in control of what is done to your body. We therefore encourage you to ask questions if you are in doubt, or do not understand what is being proposed by your chiropractor. Remember that is OK to say no, if you need more time to do further research, need to review the references that we can provide for your proposed treatment plan, or any other reason. We understand that everybody is different (in fact, unique!) and that perception of risk versus benefit is ultimately a personal decision.
Rest assured that all of our chiropractors pride themselves with treating your health care as their No.1 priority and will respect any request, or decision you make, with regard to what they have offered.
Yes. Our bodies are programmed to react to our environment in such a way that it ensures our survival. This is commonly referred to as the “fright-flight” response. When our brains perceive changes in the environment as potentially dangerous, it triggers a response that serves to heighten our perceptions and reactions and effectively brings the issue to our immediate attention. Our heart races, our breath quickens and we begin to sweat. We get a rush of hormones and the result is that we get a “stress” response. While we often think of this as something external to our bodies, it can also occur when there is an over reaction to events that are not life-threatening. These can be things such as over work, a family crisis, and even, for some individual, chemical stress that occurs as gut changes that occur after ingesting some foods. A detailed article published in the Harvard Medical School1, gives a good detailed explanation of the background and the body chemistry involved in stress reactions.
When Does Stress Become Unhealthy?
The body is designed to manage the stress response for short periods of time. Once the stress inputs are removed, our bodies settle down and eventually return to normal functioning.
The Harvard Medical School article goes on to say: “Over time, repeated activation of the stress response takes a toll on the body. Research suggests that chronic stress contributes to high blood pressure, promotes the formation of artery-clogging deposits, and causes brain changes that may contribute to anxiety, depression, and addiction…”. We are effectively seeing permanent unhealthy changes taking place in our body.
The changes/symptoms that are connected to excessive stress include:
persistent pain (headache, backache, etc.)
changes in libido
obesity or weight loss
increased heart rate
addictions (smoking, drinking, drugs, gambling and other obsessions)
The problem is that once we start to have the symptoms of excessive stress, we may possibly be adding to it by eating the wrong foods, drinking too much, sleeping less, or having negative / destructive thoughts.
OK, I’m Over Stressed. How Do I Deal With It?
Most people have a clear idea that they are suffering from excessive or chronic stress, based on the list of symptoms above. Unfortunately, tackling the problem is a challenge, given that so many factors can contribute, or feed into, the stress response.
Once you have recognised that your state of constant stress is having negative consequences in your life, it’s time to seek professional help.
Chiropractors are primary health care practitioners. The first steps to addressing stress and its many consequences often starts with a discussion in your chiropractor’s office. Chiropractors are used to dealing with the physical causes of stress (that result in musculoskeletal issues) and some look further at the nutritional / biochemistry issues as well. There are a number of clinics, including ours, that include heart rate variability (HRV) testing as a biomarker of stress and use it to make sure that prescribed “exercise is having the desired effect2“. Chiropractors also “advocate for a whole-of-life approach to health – one that involves movement and social connection” in a state of spinal and neurological health.
Additionally, your chiropractor may refer you to other health professionals to assist you with the stress.
Psychologists & professional counsellors are trained to help you deal with your thoughts. We cannot emphasise how important it is to seek this type of help. Remember that some of these services are provided free, or at very low cost, from your local government.
Great Stress Reduction Strategies
It is possible to take some action immediately to help you manage some of the stress inducing factors in your life. They all help to bring your life back into your control.
Here is a list of some we would recommend:
Talk to a friend or colleague (preferably face-to-face)
Turn off all of the mainstream social media (including news and Facebook feeds) as they thrive on feeding you fear and uncertainty. They are designed to flourish in an environment of high stress and anxiety.
Get a pet
Start a hobby that makes you feel good
Take a walk in the park (any exercise is great but doing it outside is even better)
Get some sleep (greater than 8 hours per day) and develop a routine pattern of bedtimes.
Look around and see whether you help those that are less fortunate than yourself. Often when we do this, it puts our perspective into a more meaningful context.
Take up mindful thinking exercises (meditation, yoga, etc.)
Prolonged or excessive stress is bad for your health and wellbeing. Dealing with it in a timely manner is the key to recovery. This article has shown you what to look out for and where to get help.
At Happy Healthy Bodies Chiropractic we treat all enquiries discretely and are passionate about improving community health, so if you feel you need some caring professional help, just ring and see if we can help.