By Dr. Seth LaFlamme
When you look at the images below, one is familiar and the other…maybe not so much. When people find out we have extensive postgraduate training in pediatric chiropractic, people often say, “But kids don’t have bad backs!”
On the other hand, we don’t think too much of the image of the middle-aged guy holding his back and grimacing except to maybe think, “Welcome to the club.” The question is, how does one end up joining this club, or the migraine club, or the bum knee club, or the ADHD club (you get the idea)?
That dude on the left used to be a kid once, maybe something like the boy on the right. If he’s like most Americans, this isn’t his first go-round with his bad back. While some people can seriously injure themselves in one major traumatic incident like a car accident or a serious fall, chances are this guy—let’s call him Ed—chances are Ed had a story that went pretty much like this:
Ed was born in a hospital, pretty much like every other American kid. If you asked his mom, she would say he had such a round, perfect head from the C-Section that brought him into the world (she will likely not remember the odd sensation of her body being lifted slightly off the table from the fairly aggressive force required to pull Ed out. Ed was a little blue and didn’t start breathing right away, but a few smacks on the butt, and he was crying like a champ. No harm done. All of his baby pictures show him with his head cocked a little to the left side. Ed also crawled a little weird, scooting on half his bottom like a crab baby. The pediatrician said it was a normal variant, and everybody thought it was cute. As he got older, Ed would still wet the bed from time to time and wake up crying with severe pains in his legs. They figured he’d “grow out of” the bedwetting and the “growing pains” too. Nobody thought to question why it should hurt to grow, and why only in the legs, and sure enough, it seemed to eventually go away. Later on, Ed really developed a passion for football and in junior high made the school team. He seemed to sprain his right ankle a lot in practice, and one time got hit really hard from the side and twisted his right ankle and his knee really bad. The coach told him to “walk it off,” so he did. From then on, he ran a little funny with his right foot splayed out a little farther than it should be, but he still made varsity by the time he was a sophomore in high school. He would often have to ice his knee after games, and his back would be a little sore after hard running with full pads on. Ed soon got an after school job to save up for a car so he could go out on dates. We worked for a local landscaper raking, digging and lifting heavy bags of mulch all day on Saturdays and some afternoons when he didn’t have football practice. After a heavy day of work, he would sometimes wake up with excruciating cramps in his right calf. By his senior year, he would sometimes get a little tingling in the side of his right foot. With more schoolwork, he also would get headaches whenever he tried to read for more than half an hour. As a result, he mostly avoided doing homework, and his grades were so-so. He skipped on the idea of college, because he figured even more book time would be unbearable, so he got a job in construction. He was great at his trade, but started feeling really sore in his back especially working on ladders. Sometimes it would seize up on him, and he found that if he twisted it just right, there would be a huge pop, and he could get it moving again, downing a couple ibuprofen to take the edge off the next few days while the episode passed. This went on without much change every ten or twelve months for years. Ed started his own business as a builder, got married (Wife, Jennifer), had 2 kids (a boy, Reggie and a girl, Sophia), started taking them to various practices, concerts and recitals. Then one day, after winning a race at her track meet, Sophia ran and jumped into Ed’s arms. She had done this ever since she was big enough to walk, and it was one of Ed’s favorite things to catch his little girl, give her a big hug and twirl her around like a princess. This time Ed could barely keep his feet, let alone twirl. The searing pain shot all the way down his right leg and exploded across his back just above the belt. He hobbled home, and after a few days when it didn’t get much better, he went to his doctor, and was prescribed muscle relaxers and anti-inflammatories. These helped a little, and after a couple more days, he was able to get back to work. By this time, he had a crew working for him, so he was able to take it a little easier, even though it bugged him to do so. In the meantime, less activity without a change in diet meant Ed was gaining weight, and his blood sugar was starting to creep up (unbeknownst to him). The inflammation from high blood sugar started to push up his blood pressure and cholesterol as well. As Reggie and Sophia started thinking about college, Ed started noticing that every day his back was sore, regardless of staying off ladders at work, and he had to stay in the shower with the spray on his back until the hot water started to run out just to be able to move enough to start his day…the twisting trick didn’t work at all anymore. As he was able to do less and less without pain, he lost some of the impressive strength he had always relied on from his football days that carried him through many a twelve hour day trying to get a job done on time. He avoided heavy lifting to try not to injure his back, but one day when half his crew came down with a nasty stomach flu, he had to jump in and run shingles up a ladder himself. The exertion felt good, and he was happy to be getting his hands dirty. He got home that night bone tired but feeling like a million bucks. After a quiet dinner together with Jennifer, (The kids were away at a youth group outing) they sat down to watch their favorite show together (Game of Thrones) and hit the sheets. Ed was out like a light. At 2:49 AM Ed sat bolt upright with the worst pain he had ever felt stabbing him in the back and searing down his right leg. Jennifer had to help him out to the car to get the Emergency Room. He wet his pants on the way there, and again in the waiting room, and he noticed his inner thighs and crotch area were feeling numb. The doctor told him he had a massive disc herniation in his low back causing something called cauda equine syndrome, and he would have to go in for emergency surgery to remove the herniated disc material and remove the back portion of the bones (laminectomy) to relieve pressure on the nerves to try to restore his feeling and bladder function. The surgery went without complications, and over time, Ed recovered, and was thankfully able to control his bladder again…the doctors said it was very lucky that he didn’t wait to come in, or he could have lost function permanently. The pain in his leg was gone, but he had residual numbness in his right outer leg and foot and his back pain was still about the same, if not a little worse. It was also in the hospital they found his blood sugar to be well over 100 fasting and his cholesterol and blood pressure going through the roof. They put him on metformin for the pre-diabetic condition, blood pressure meds and statins. More time passed, Ed’s blood numbers kept needing higher doses of medication, and Ed wasn’t always the best at remembering to take the pills. Over time, he started to forget what day the game was, the name of his current client, and other small things that were never a problem for him (a potential side effect of statins medication). He would often joke that at least he didn’t forget his anniversary or his own name. He mostly supervised at work, which was OK, because he had lots of work, and two crews to keep an eye on, so he did a lot of driving and sitting figuring estimates. His weight kept going up, and his back started hurting a lot worse from all the sitting. Finally, it got so bad, he was only sleeping three or four hours a night. He went back to the doctor, and was recommended to get another surgery on his back…a spinal fusion this time. Unfortunately, this surgery was not so successful, and Ed had to start walking with a cane, as his right leg was getting weak and his back couldn’t take unsupported walking without fairly intense pain. By this time, Sophia and Reggie were away at college, and Ed and Jennifer drove a lot to their college games, and ate a lot more stadium and diner type food than usual. Ed started feeling pressure in his chest, and a little difficulty breathing at times. The day of Reggie’s college graduation came, and on the drive up there, Ed suddenly felt pain in his left arm and a massive pressure in his chest like an elephant was sitting on him. Ed spent the day of his son’s graduation being treated for a massive heart attack.
My big question to you is: when did Ed join the club? What you answer to this question is directly related to why we are so passionate about seeing children in our office, and why we have over 150 hours of postgraduate training in Chiropractic Pediatrics from the International Chiropractic Pediatric Association (ICPA). You see, Ed used to be a little boy, much like the one in the picture at the top of this article, but little signs of trouble were never noticed or corrected until they became a huge problem. We can help kids like Ed, or kids like yours. In short, we can intervene early, before this whole familiar story plays out and change it. We can help your kids grow up without your problems. We all want something better for our kids. It’s what drives most of us through harrowing days at work and taking on second mortgages to pay for college. Here at Great Works Chiropractic, we also want something better for your kids. You just have to bring them in to see how we can give them a new story with a much happier ending than poor Ed.
This story could just have easily been a little girl with colic who developed severe menstrual pain in her teens and struggled to conceive and start a family, or a boy with ear infections who developed severe migraines and had such poor balance as a senior that he fell and broke his hip. The specifics are played out in millions of different ways all across the United States. The exciting thing is that we have an opportunity today and every day to rewrite the future.
March is Kids’ Month here at Great Works Chiropractic, so keep your eyes open for our video on pediatric warning signs that they may need to get checked by a pediatric chiropractor coming soon.
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