Chiropractic care is designed to restore the integrity of your nervous system so that everything works the way it's supposed to.
What we chiropractors do is allow the body to heal itself by putting the vertebrae back in the right place. Your spine - and mine and that of everyman and his dog- needs to be correctly aligned so that messages to and from the brain pass without interference. The correct nerve function is restored when any interference is removed.
The nervous system is made up of two parts: the central nervous system (CNS) and the peripheral nervous system (PNS).
Sensory nerves carry messages to the brain. If you touch a hot stove, pain receptors on certain types of nerve cells tell your brain to move your hand. Plus tell your voice to squeal.
Motor nerves send signals from the brain to the muscles in the body. These nerves help us to do things such as walk, kick a ball or pick up an object.
The PNS transports messages between the CNS and the body. It consists of cranial and spinal nerves that carry messages to and from every nerve in your body. Part of the PNS is called the autonomic nervous system. The actions of the autonomic nervous system are automatic - actions such as breathing, heartbeat and digestion.
The autonomic nervous system is made up of the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems. The sympathetic system alerts the body when there is an emergency or danger. When this happens, your heart beats faster, your blood pressure rises and your pupils dilate in what is called a "flight or fight" response. The parasympathetic system returns your body to normal once the danger has passed.
OK, so what?
“Yes this is all very interesting Dr. Whitlow but why should I care?”
Well, you don’t need to know this stuff, but by understanding what is going on, you can watch out for your body’s symptoms, maybe prevent injury, or recognize that your stiff neck or shoulder problem or acid reflux is the result of a spinal subluxation decreasing it’s nerve function.
Getting the problem corrected would be a job for your health conscious and caring Gonstead chiropractor, ehem!
Do we have any idea how many of our problems are solved at night whilst we are sleeping? The stresses that we accumulate during the day can melt away as our eyes close. The tiredness and soreness in our bones and muscles are relieved as they are allowed to relax against a supportive mattress and pillow.
Sleep provides the body with an opportunity to repair and rejuvenate itself, the brain computes and sorts information that it has gained since it’s last sleep. Conflict and aggravation are soothed and put into perspective.
We all sleep in different positions and depending on our mood when we hit the sack it could change from night to night. If you love the creature who shares your sleeping space – breathing or inanimate! - you want to be close and you will probably sleep on your side. If you are cross or upset and feeling like you need you own space, you may want to be on your stomach. Then the total relaxed mode, flat on your back.
Who has enough cupboard space to have a pillow for each mood? Our personal preference and habits override our choices in pillows as in everything.
I will say that for a healthy back the best position to sleep is flat on your back. Horrible for snoring as some of us know or are told! The posterior longitudinal ligament ensures the spine keeps its beautiful curve and with a good supportive mattress and pillow - perfect for sleep.
Failing that, sleeping on your side providing that your pillow has good support so your spine is kept straight on the horizontal is the second choice for a healthy back.
Those of you who sleep on your stomachs - really? A recipe for aches and pains in your neck and shoulders I’m afraid. Sewing a button or a ping pong ball on the front of your pajamas might keep you from rolling over, but it is a drastic measure!
We are sometimes able to change our sleep positions by using a low key, easy remedy. Known technically as subliminal messaging. Say to yourself 10 times as you are falling asleep ‘I will not sleep on my stomach’ then after the last repetition, say ‘if I do I will wake up’. This can work and the fact that you wake will enable you to change position.
The goal of using a pillow is to help keep your head in what is called a neutral alignment position, meaning your head is sitting squarely on your shoulders without bending back too far, reaching too far forward or lateral bending (side to side).
How about a Shitou zhentou? Chinese for rock pillow, they played an important role in ancient China. Made from jade, it was believed to translate the energy from the stone to the human brain. I’m not sure whether Bed, Bath and Beyond are stocking them this season.
I use a Tempur-Pedic pillow. I have slept on one for the last 15 years and feel it is an excellent investment. They manufacture a number of different types to suit every need. The memory foam reacts to body heat, takes the form of what is around it but when it cools to room temperature, it reverts to it’s initial shape.
Down pillows are the most durable and luxurious of those filled with feathers. Down are the tiny tufts found under the feathers of geese, it is exceptionally fluffy and soft. Feathers are flat and have quills that run through their center, they too are soft but not as much as down and offer more support.
Synthetic fiber pillows were created to offer the same kind of support as feather pillows, allergen free. However they are not as moldable, slightly firmer, good quality ones will last a very long time.
Buckwheat hull pillows hail from the Far East. They are firm and will not compress, they make either what is a great soothing noise if you move on them or a diabolical sound – depending upon your point of view.
Cotton Pillows are flatter and firmer, absorbent and beautifully natural. Wool pillows are similar and breathe well.
Normally, you stomach sleepers need to have flatter pillows to ensure your head is not bent back too far. Side sleepers need the deepest type of cushioning to fill the area between the ear and the end of the shoulder and the bed. The broader your shoulders, the deeper the cushion needs to be. The best shape of pillow for those of us who sleep on our backs is called an ‘S’ shape pillow. It is not really that shape but has an indent across the width, one edge is fatter than the other.
Obviously there are tens of thousands of pillows from which to choose, I barely scratched surface of the subject. Feel free to email the office if you would like to ask a question.
Yours in Health
Dr. J B Whitlow