These special episodes will be a reoccurring series with Dr. Will Harden, chiropractor, creator of the Dr. Will Bar, and health and fitness guru. He will discuss health, fitness, nutrition, and chiropractic issues that have the potential to improve your health, and life, for the better.
Dr. Will Harden has been a chiropractor for 26 years. He graduated first in his class from National College of Chiropractic in Chicago, IL and moved to Portland, OR in 1989 and owns a practice called the Corbett Hill Wellness Center.
Each week we will end the episode with a listener question. If you have a question for Dr. Will, please use the contact form or the Speakpipe app below on this page.
In this introductory episode, Will explains why Dr. Harden became interested in chiropractic treatment, what chiropractic is, and perhaps most important, what it is not.
Courtney from Santa Clarita, CA asks: “My back aches in the night, and I change positions frequently, what is the best position for sleeping?”
Dr. Will’s response is in the podcast.
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- Dr. Harden’s website, Corbett Hill Wellness Center
- Dr. Harden’s Supplement Shop
- Dr. Will Bar (delicious, nutritious food bars)
Will: My name is Dr. Will Harden. I’m a doctor of chiropractic. I’ve been practicing for 26 years. I went to undergrad in Ohio where I got a degree in Psychology while fulfilling pre-med requirements, went to National College of Chiropractic in Chicago, graduated in 1989, moved to Oregon. I’ve been practicing here since then.
What can I tell you about without bragging you know achilleates, et cetera, but I graduated number one in my class, not because I was in any way competitive, because I was really and surely inlove with the material that I was studying and I could not get enough. There is nothing more fascinating than to study of the human body. And the truth is after 26 years of practice, I still feel this way. I still truly enjoy stimulating the natural innate healing capacities of the human body. And that’s what I do as a chiropractor.
So what is chiropractic? Well, literally, chiropractic means to practice with the hands but that really doesn’t tell you a whole lot. That doesn’t mean I rubbed people, that I massage, that I point a finger at you or touch you with my hands. Really when it comes down to it, chiropractic is the application of force using my hands to stimulate improvement in the alignment and the motion of the human spine.
Why is that important? Well, here’s a one-minute summary of how important it is to maintain good alignment of the spine. You have a stack of 25 independently movable vertebrae in your spinal column. And there’s bones in there not just simply to hold you up. They are also there to protect and surround the spinal cord and the roots of the nerves, 25 pairs of nerves – 25 on the right, 25 on the left. Those nerves go to and control your arms, legs, heart, lungs, liver, stomach, spleen, intestines, kidneys, immune system, hormonal system. Everything works by way of the control of the nervous system. We know that when a vertebra shifts out of alignment that it disturbs that level. By disturb, I do not mean it pinches the nerves. I don’t mean a kink in the hose. Just a little compression.
But in 1975 at the University of Colorado School of Medicine, it was demonstrated that the weight of a dime on a nerve root reduces the impulses along that nerve by 40 % after 3 minutes, by 50% after 15 minutes and that it does not adapt overtime and then start working again. If that amount of mild compression remains, so does the reduction in the nerve impulses along that nerve.
My job as a chiropractor, since we know that a vertebral misalignment can put way more pressure on a nerve root than that even without causing back pain, that’s critical. Even without causing back pain because most people say, “I don’t need a chiropractor. I don’t have back pain.” In any case, my job is to find and correct that spinal misalignment ultimately to restore full function to the nervous system and therefore the body’s innate ability to heal itself. I do not heal any one. And for sure Advil and Vicodin and Flexural, those things certainly don’t heal anyone. In fact, I might say those things, in many respects, interfere with the ability to heal. My job is to find out why a person isn’t healing him or herself, fix that and then they should. And as it turns out, the side effect of that is most people feel better after they are adjusted. So that’s what a chiropractor does, applies a very specific, precise force to the spine at a level where there’s misalignment or improper motion to restore that alignment, to improve the motion and thereby to improve the body’s ability to heal itself.
In reality, if you ask, “So is that what you do, you just adjust spines?” Well, that’s the majority. That’s the probably the thing of primary importance that I do. But that alone is useless if a person is completely dehydrated, doesn’t get enough sleep, has ridiculous stress, never exercises and has a diet that’s horrific. Therefore, as a chiropractor, based on my training, schooling, experience, I also talk to patients about sleep position, adequate quantity of sleep, stress reduction, proper exercise. Give patients specific rehabilitative exercises when appropriate. We talk about diet and nutrition. And I placed a heavy emphasis on nutrition. It’s just such a critical aspect of your wellbeing. If you don’t have the building blocks to maintain adequate immune function, regulate inflammation, control blood sugar, then you will never be capable of maintaining optimum health even if you do have a perfect spine. Therefore, those aspects of one’s health are really a critical part of being a chiropractor. That’s probably the most concise summary of what it is that I do as a chiropractor that I can offer you.
Glenn: Wow. Thanks, Will. That really helps. There’s really a lot to it. But I notice a lot of misconceptions about what chiropractic is but they also tend to think that it’s something that it’s not. Can you tell us what chiropractic is not?
Will: What chiropractic is not. One, I am not a back pain reliever. If my only goal was to relieve back pain, I promise you could do that if you took enough Advil. The goal is to restore good health to the spine to ultimately stimulate normal neurological function. And when we do that, your back should not hurt. So the truth is chiropractic has been kind of boxed in to being thought of as a practitioner that you see if you have back pain or neck pain or headaches. And yet the myriad of things that I see that I get better with chiropractic, often include things that have nothing to do with back pain or in patients who don’t even have back pain.
There is something that I previously mentioned that warrants attention. I said that we know that a misaligned vertebra can put way more pressure on the nerve root than the weight of a dime and that may not be associated with back pain. Bear in mind the cause of your and my misalignment, it’s lifting and bending and twisting and prolonged sitting and sitting in front of computers and postural implications that come along with that. It’s previous injury, repetitive injury, athletic endeavors, our hobbies, our recreational and vocational activities that we do the same way, day in and day out. And it creates patterns in our positioning and our motions that lead to misalignment.
The truth is its gravity acting on our bipedalism, right? We’re the only two-footed animal. And it’s that two footedness that causes a constant compressional stress on the system. And we have to fight that gravity to keep ourselves from falling. And how we fight that gravity determines to what extent we develop misalignment. So the truth is out of 10 people, walking through my parking lot, if I pull them all on to my office and check their spines, I could readily on every one of those people push on an area at which point they’d say “Aw, that’s really sore. I didn’t even know it.” And I’d say, “Yes, you rotated there or you shifted out of alignment there.”
And that’s another reason why say chiropractic is not simply about treating back pain because the misalignment which can adversely affect the function of the body may not be associated with pain. For example, if you have a misalignment at T4 or T5 right between your shoulder blades, we know the nerves there go to the stomach and esophagus and it might cause heart burn but no pain between your shoulder blades. We know that if C2 the second neck vertebra from the top is rotated, that maybe associated with sinus problems. C1 — headaches, visual disturbance, irritability or insomnia but not necessarily neck pain. And often when people come in due to let’s say low back pain, when we find and address those other things, they’ll say “By the way, my heart burn cleared up. My headaches are better. My sinuses are clearer. Is that possible?” Of course, it’s possible. In fact, it’s downright expected. I think that’s everything you might have asked.
Glenn: Sounds like we have a lot of information, potential topics for future shows. One question I wanted to ask, Will, is what is the most common misconception people come in to see you or maybe don’t yet come in to see you about chiropractors or about what you do.
Will: Wow. What a great question. Indulge me. There really are two things that are misconceptions about chiropractic. One, some people say, “Oh you better not see a chiropractor. Once you go, you have to keep going. Your body will become addicted to it.” Really the question is how much would I have to adjust you before you would become hypermobile. That means I would stretch ligaments so much that they would lose their elasticity and strength and you would readily and even spontaneously go out of alignment if you cough or sneeze or turn your head while checking your blind spot.
In the 60’s and 70’s due to a prevalence of that question, there were studies done, primate models, to find out how much would you have to be adjusted in order to create hypermobility, i.e. dependence. And the answer is twice a day, every day, for one hundred and 80 days and then you would become hypermobile. I jokingly tell people I hardly ever recommend that treatment plan.
The other misconception – no, confusion – that people have is they say, “You know those chiropractors, they just want you to keep coming back.” Remember I said that we know that the vertebral misalignment disturbs normal nerve function and that that misalignment is caused by lifting, bending, twisting, postural strain, in other words life so my response to the statement ‘ah you know those chiropractors, they just want you to keep coming back’ is yes, that is absolutely true. We do. It doesn’t mean with a specific degree of regularity. It doesn’t mean once a week for the rest of your life. It means anything less than a lifetime is not enough. And generally, that is considered appropriate at a once a month frequency and for some people maybe once every couple months. That is to say usually a month’s worth of lifting, bending, twisting, sitting at the computer, emails, texts, back packs and sporting activities, past history is more than enough to misaligned you and I, enough that when I palpate a spine, I can readily find areas that are misaligned and that correlate either with symptoms or tenderness or pain.
Glenn: Wow. That’s amazing. Great stuff, Will. I really appreciate you sharing this with us every time I hear it, I’m still amazed at how much benefit chiropractic can really have on the functioning systems of the body and not just the bones and the joints or the directly-related muscles either. It’s really amazing. Now I would like to move in to a portion of the show where you answer a listener’s question. And I’m going to choose this one based on something you said earlier about you talked with people about sleeping positions. I have one here from Courtney from Santa Clarita, California. It says “Will, my back aches in the night and I changed positions frequently. What is the best position for sleeping?”
Will: It’s amazing how commonly I’m asked that question. And the answer is the ideal sleep position, the most neutral spine position is on your side; legs bent; thin pillow between your bent knees; big, fat pillow in front you that you are essentially cuddling to do something with that top shoulder so as not to fold it down in front of the chest which overtime could essentially shorten the pectoralis muscles or the chest muscles; and then a small to moderate thickness pillow stuffed down to the shoulders supporting the head and neck ultimately trying to create a straight line between your neck and your upper back. The next most desirable sleep position would be flat on the back with a pillow supporting the neck but with your knees bent. And that’s difficult to maintain throughout the night because when you shift, generally you’re gonna kick out whatever was underneath your knees. But ideally, whatever’s under your knees would be equivalent of 2 or 3 pillows, a rolled up sleeping bag, a rolled up comforter with a pillow on it, etcetera. And you will notice a distinct difference between laying flat on the back with the legs out and flat on the back with the knees bent. It puts much less stress on the low back. But side sleeping ultimately is best.
Glenn: Thank you, Will. As usual, fantastic stuff. I have a summary and links of this and every episode at live fit podcast.com. This is episode 58.
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