Spinal Re-conditioning is Like an Old Baseball GloveJuly 4, 2009 • By John Olsen
Good analogies are hard to come by, especially when you’re trying to compare very complex things, like the human body, to inanimate objects.
For years, chiropractors have used analogies, some good, some bad, some just plain ugly, to describe chiropractic. For example: “The Garden Hose” analogy goes a little something like this — your spine is made of 24 movable bones. Between each of these bones emerges a pair of nerves off the spinal cord. These nerves are how your brain communicates with and controls the rest of your body. Sometimes the bones become misaligned, which pinches off the “flow” of the nerve like putting a kink into a water hose. Sometimes this is the case, but it is actually quite rare. A truly pinched nerve, or at least a nerve pinched to the degree of a kinked water hose, causes a whole lot more than just a backache. Now we’re talking about paralysis, total numbness, and sometimes, even loss of bowel or bladder function! These patients come my way sometimes, but it is extremely rare.
Another popular analogy is that of tires. If the tires on your car are not aligned properly, they will wear out unevenly. Likewise, if your vertebral bones are not aligned properly, your spine will wear out unevenly. I must admit, I use this one sometimes. It’s really not that bad of analogy. However, if your car has a bent frame, good luck getting the wheels aligned! Many of us have a “bent frame.” Maybe one leg is longer than the other. Maybe we crushed the growth plate in one of our vertebral bones while we were young, causing that bone to grow differently from the rest. Perhaps, a few segments of our neck or low back have lost the natural cushioning between the bones, causing bone spurs to form. None of these things are easily “fixed,” and they make it nearly impossible to re-align those bones to their proper position. Hmmmm . . .
Well, here is my analogy. It no doubt has it’s flaws (I’ll even list them if you’d like). I like it, though.
Imagine an old baseball glove. It was left in the rain a few times during its active years, and now its been lying in the garage for about 10 years under a workbench (that’s piled about 4 ft. high with stuff the workbench was never meant to hold). Because the garage has no heating or air conditioning, the glove weathers some extreme conditions year after year. Freezing cold and dry in the winter, moist and hot during the summer. Those conditions obviously wreak havoc on leather.
So now, It’s 10 years later and you’re 60 lbs heavier, which means your hand has expanded some, too. Your workmates decide to start a beer-league softball team and you were a mean short-stop back in the day. You dig out you lucky glove and are saddened to find that it’s just not in the same “pristine” shape that it was in when you got married and threw the glove under the work bench. It has shrunk. It’s hard. The color is not even right. You wonder just how did you go so wrong in your life (a bit dramatic, but you get the picture).
You’re now left with two choices: buy an new glove (which is never your ‘lucky’ glove), or re-condition your old one. The first choice is the easiest. Who needs stupid “luck” anyway? But that choice is definitely available. If we’re going to compare this thing to your spine, though, you can’t just get a new one, so we’ll go with the latter choice.
Your spine is stiff (you probably noticed this at your first softball practice). It just doesn’t move right. Some of the discs have shrunk, leaving less room for the nerves to come out (like the finger-holes in your glove – not enough room for your fingers). You may experience some pain (like the pain your fingers will feel if you try to shove them into that rigid glove).
So how do we re-condition this thing?
The first thing you do is take the glove inside. You remove it from the environment that caused it so much damage. In comparison, stop treating your spine so badly! Stop sitting hunched over, looking down at a computer screen while slouched in your office chair, you know, the chair with your permanent butt-print in it? Stand up and move around once in awhile. Move that screen up some. Stretch, for crying out loud!
Secondly, you have to really manipulate the parts of the glove that are badly stuck. As far as your spine goes, this is where the chiropractor comes in. Some parts of the spine don’t regain proper motion very easily, not even by hanging upside down on an “inversion table.” A chiropractor can detect these parts and establish motion in these areas. This is where the analogy breaks down – the human body is way more complicated than this. It has nerves and muscles and ligaments that all must work together to move the spine. Stick with me, though.
Now that the glove is becoming more flexible you can start to stuff your fat fingers into the glove. Likewise, in your spine, after a few chiropractic treatments, you notice that you can turn your head a little further. Your low back isn’t so tight at the end of the day.
Before long, you’re actually catching balls with that glove again. Plus, with the exercise of a few softball practices, you’ve lost some of those 60 extra pounds and your fingers aren’t as fat anymore! You’re more agile and quick!
Now, the glove isn’t perfect. It still has a couple stiff spots. It may even have a hole or two between the fingers. It is still discolored. It works, though, and that’s what matters. Likewise, I can take your spine, in its current condition, and make it work better. I can’t fix all of the problems. However, I take what you have and make it work better.
So, add this to the list of analogies for chiropractic care. Better yet, call my office and make an appointment for me to find those dysfunctional spots in your back. Experience for yourself what I can do for your health, just by re-conditioning your spine!