Wednesday, December 31, 2008

auld lang syne

Finally, 2009... I for one couldn't be happier.

After the gluttony of the holidays, it is now time to make empty promises to be better next year! Resolutions... do you ever think that perhaps the people who need them most are the ones with the least resolve? Most resolutions revolve around promises of better health or a vow to increase the proportion of virtue to vice (or vice versa). I suppose if they motivate change for the better resolutions can't be all bad, but the act of resolving to do something seems destined to fail. Better we choose our paths along the way, not just when the Gregorian calendar adds a year... no?

However, being of particularly sound and sober mind this year, I am ready to make a few... choices, myself. And not just regular boring 'get in shape!' or 'be nicer to my sister!' ones, but ones I can really do... or at least have fun failing at.

For 2009, I resolve and choose to:

Have a baby! Within the month of January!
Be able to do push-ups again, without my belly getting in the way. And chin-ups. Less one chin.
Continue to blog.
Not let this space turn into a 'mommy blog'. I'll try to remember why you come here - the health tips! The astute observances! The sarcasm!! (and... maybe a few baby updates...!!)
Aim for balance in my life. It is difficult enough at the best of times to balance being a chiropractor, a wife, a friend and an individual. Adding 'mother' to the mix can only complicate things, in the most wonderful way possible. I'm up for the challenge.

I hope whatever choices you make for the upcoming year bring you happiness and fulfillment. For me, 2009 promises to be a year of watershed moments and new milestones.

I'm ready. Bring it.
Happy New Year!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

A Great Miracle Happened Where?

I've been told that my baby-to-be is a miracle.

People stare in awe at my bump, and declare it miraculous. And though the fact that there are garments generous enough to cover my circumference is somewhat awesome, it has more to do with the extraordinary properties of lycra than any metaphysical occurrence. The word miracle gets thrown around a lot, and while I'm blown away that a HUMAN BEING IS GROWING INSIDE OF ME and privileged to be its host, with 4 births occuring every second around the world, you'd think we'd stop being impressed by the event.

A miracle is defined as an extraordinary event in the physical world that surpasses all known human or natural powers and is ascribed to a supernatural cause. A wonder, a marvel. The spiritualist in me agrees that this life being created is indeed a wonder, whose existence is the result of a love between two people, the whim of a higher being, and elements that we cannot understand like fate and chance. The scientist in me rolls her eyes, and says that specialized cells meet under favourable conditions, and approximately 40 gestational weeks later, baby is born. The scientist then goes on to ask, sarcastically, if something that can be created just as well by a pair of randy 16-year-olds can ever be called miraculous. She then gets kicked in the ribs by her very own miracle.

But 'tis the season, and there is a lot of talk about miracles, what with immaculate conceptions and oil lasting a week longer than expected, and it just has me thinking, 'tis all. I've decided that this is something of a miracle, but in the same way that a tree is a miracle; an everyday, beautiful, boring, miracle.

So whether you are spending this holiday season contemplating the arrival of a baby, thinking about people with big round bellies, lighting candles and eating deep-fried potatoes, or just spending time with friends and family, I hope it is a nice one for you. (I'll be doing all of the above!)

Merry Christmas, Happy Chanukah, and Happy Festivus (for the rest of us!)!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

As the twig is bent...

There is a saying in chiropractic.  Well, actually there are a few sayings in chiropractic, such as "Chiropractic adds years to life, and life to years!"  (incidentally, this was disproved...)  and "See you next Tuesday, Janice".  But one I really like is "As the twig is bent, so grows the tree".  

It is used to illustrate the necessity of chiropractic for kids.  For some reason the idea of adjusting kids is off-putting to many adults.  They picture me cracking delicate little spines, crunching tiny vertebra.  They reason that kids don't, or shouldn't, have back pain, that this is an affliction of the middle-age, like arthritis and mom-jeans.  

I'm not going to convince you that your children need to be adjusted regularly, I'm not convinced myself.  If it ain't broke, don't fix it, right?  But what do you do for the 8-year-old complaining of back pain?  Or the 4-year-old who fell really hard on his bum at the park? Maybe your child has been having unrelenting digestive issues but has been cleared by every specialist in town... and you've heard that chiropractic just might help??  What then?

Then bring that child to the chiropractor.  Find a doc who is comfortable working with little kids and little spines.  Learn how gentle adjustments are on children, the force proportionate to the person.  On tiny babies it is really more of a gentle, sustained pressure at a specific spot! 

We ask a lot of kids.  We encourage them to be active, making them vulnerable to the usual sports injuries, then sit them at a desk all day long like adults, predisposing them to postural problems.  Yet we are shocked when little bodies hurt, and often reluctant to treat them.  "Dylan shouldn't have back pain, he is only 10-years-old!"  Can you imagine doing this with any other health problem?  "Little Madison shouldn't have bronchitis, she is only 10-years-old!".  Pain is just as real and important in kids as in adults, and they are no less deserving of treatment than we are.  

One of the best things about treating kids is their lack of attachment to their aches and pains, combined with their short attention spans.  Most of the time when I treat a child, only two or three visits are needed to 'resolve' the problem.  They just... get better.  When I ask at follow-up how their pain is, they often shrug and say 'fine', as if only 3 days ago they weren't complaining about the pain and asking to be let out of gym class.  They just... get better.

As a chiropractor, I enjoy treating kids if and when it is appropriate.  As a parent-to-be, I'll treat the spine of my spawn the same way - conservatively, if and when needed.  I don't plan on ignoring their problems simply because they seem too young to be having them, and I don't plan to include back problems in their inheritance.  

So back to that saying.  As the twig is bent, so grows the tree.  Injuries in childhood can become big problems in adulthood.  Taking care of them early, nipping them in the bud as it were, will encourage good posture and spinal health.  

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Comings and Goings

I can't believe it is already now. Today, or soon from it, once seemed so far away. Impossibly far away. Unbelievably far away. In the spring, when I first considered the passing of time and what it would bring, the seasons seemed resolutely unchangeable. But it's astounding, how time is fleeting... almost like a time warp.

And here we are. Now is the winter of my content, and I'm full with child, (yes, still only one in there...), due in about 4 weeks, getting ready to take a break from work to do... well, I'm not quite sure. Other work, I suppose - more motherly, less chiropractically.

We all must leave sometimes, right? Change is good, right?

I will likely start my maternity leave around Christmas, just like Mary did. I anticipate returning to work... sometime in March, in part because our socialized government never thought to extend any maternity leave benefits to self-employed women (If I were the type to get angered by unfair politics and policies that punish female small business owners, I'd surely blog about this sort of thing...). This is of course dependent on the whims of my new boss and his feeding and sleeping schedule.

During my baby sabbatical, my patients will be attended to by Dr. Alanna Steiner and Dr. Zachary Bain. Many of you have already met Dr . Bain at the clinic, but please allow me to introduce Dr. Steiner, an extremely caring and competent chiropractor.

Dr. Steiner's technique is remarkably similar to mine, and I will be in regular contact with her to make sure that she is up to date on the details and particulars of any patients she will be treating. You'll be in good hands!

Remember, although I'll be absent physically (and mentally from what I hear - apparently Baby Brain progresses to Mommy Brain) for a few weeks, I'm never really gone. I'll be posting blog updates (chiropractic! babies! random thoughts!!) and I'm always reachable some way or another... in the meantime, I'm still here, so get that adjustment while I can still reach across the chiropractic table!

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Miss Conception

All seems to be fine on the baby-making front, everything (everything) rounding out as it should. I seem to have entered the 'nesting' stage, a phenomenon seen throughout the animal kingdom as gravid mammals prepare the nest for their offspring. We are opting for a crib instead of a nest, but the preparations continue nonetheless.

I'm at mother nature's mercy, powerless against this cruel taskmistress's drive to clean and organize. I've cleaned the skeletons out of my closets, dusted the insides of all my envelopes and even done the laundry. It is doubly grueling work for me, because my new OCD doesn't stay confined to the house. At my clinic I'm cleaning just as frenetically, straightening up and straightening spines, and I find I cannot stand to let a patient leave with a single vertebra out of alignment - my baby simply must be born in a state of order.

As I obsessively and cleanly come to the end of my gestation, I've had time to reflect on this procreative era, and while I think I've mastered Pregnancy 101 (except for the final exam!), I still have a few outstanding issues that I'm confused on, misconceptions if you will. Raise your hand if you know an answer.
  • Is it OK to ask a woman how much weight she's gained? I thought the answer was almost always unequivocally NO. But it seems that the more protuberant my belly became, the more people wanted to know it's mass. Oh, I'll tell them, I'm not ashamed and it's not like I can hide this bump (hell, a muu-muu couldn't hide it) or the ice cream stains running down it for that matter... I just... thought that... people, MEN in particular... knew not to ask this. And by golly, they asked.
  • "Are you sure it's not twins?" Is this funny? Am I THAT large, or do you think that I may have already forgotten (one of) my babies? For the record, I'm sure.
  • What is the point of the linea negra, that charming line that appears down the stomach? I like to think it is slimming, being a vertical stripe and all, but perhaps I'm deluding myself? Why isn't there more research on this phenomenon?
  • Why the fascination with food cravings? This is one of the more popular questions I've heard - and don't get me wrong, meals are a favourite topic these days, but I feel like I'm a big fat disappointment when I don't cop to craving pickles and ice cream. Does 'food' count as a craving?
  • Baby stuff. Do I really need all this stuff? I'm being given lists of things that bounce and swing and vibrate and play music. Things to use for the first few weeks and a whole new inventory for the next few weeks. Things to sterilize with and things to stroll with, and their many, many accessories. Are these all necessary? Because I thought that all I really needed to start was couple of lactation dispensation devices (got 'em!) and some blankets...
  • What is the obsession with knowing the sex? I'd like to find out eventually, perhaps on the baby's birthday at the latest, but am I alone in savouring this delicious surprise? I want so badly to know, I can't wait to find out, I studied sex determination on ultrasound imaging and stared at that screen like my life depended on it...therefore I think I know the sex of this child, but I don't know for sure (I'm told that can look like a number of things...). And that uncertainty is tantalizing to me. It's like an unread book by your favourite author, an unopened letter, the anticipation of a good meal. (See? Back to food. Always back to food.)
The funny thing about being pregnant is that just when you think you've got it mastered, it changes. And from what I hear, that's what parenthood is kind of like too. But until then (5 weeks!), I'm enjoying this time between life before and life after, this pregnant pause if you will. Just call me Miss Conception 2008.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

My Hips Don't Lie

Today's blog post is about hips.

I know... you think you know 'the hips'. Often curvy, located between the thigh bone and the back bone. (Oh, those bones, those bones, those crazy skeleton bones.)

But when patients come in complaining of hip pain, it often becomes obvious that one of us didn't pass Anatomy 101. "My hip hurts", you say, pointing to your waist or lower back. "Fix my hip" you insist.

The picture to the left was found by Googling 'hip pain', though I'd refer to that area as the low back, the upper glutes, or even the 'iliac crest' if I thought you'd be impressed by that sort of thing. True hip joint pain will present in the front near the groin, as demonstrated by the picture to the right. Note that these are my favourite patients, the ones who present with their bones visible through their clothes and the problem highlighted in bright red. Makes for an easy diagnosis.

Just so we are clear: the hip joint proper refers to the connection between the femur (leg bone) inserting into the pelvis. So in fact, the thigh bone connects to the pelvic bone, and I don't really know what the hip bone is. It is a fascinating joint, the hip (to me anyway... though my favourite joint is the shoulder. Fun!), influenced by a host of muscles like the iliopsoas and the gluteals. It is a stable ball and socket joint, which sacrifices mobility for stability. This means that it is strong enough to hold up your hefty 'hips', Beyonce, but just mobile enough to let you walk, and rarely mobile enough to do the splits or the cancan.

I've had some of my own hip pain lately, thanks to a certain fetus who shall remain nameless (Especially if it is a girl, seriously, we can't agree on a name. Suggestions welcome...). This is a common pregnancy complaint, hip pain, due to pressure from the growing baby directly on the pelvic joints as well as muscular compensation around the area. In my case, the baby was positioned diagonally, the head pushing against the inside of one side of my pelvis.

Funny thing, it felt just like someone was pushing my pelvis apart from the inside.

My relief came in the form of massage, pelvic adjustments, and the baby committing to a more head down position. A complete cure for my particular condition apparently involves becoming a parent. Fortunately, most hip pain problems are much simpler to treat. Hip pain from arthritis is often managed with a combination of massage and modalities such as ultrasound, as well as nutritional supplements like glucosamine. Hip pain in runners is commonly due to iliotibial tightness and can be relieved by releasing that muscle. Hip pain may also be due to bursitis, a local inflammation that responds to ice and rest.

Tragically, hip pain is often misdiagnosed due to simple anatomical confusion. (Tragically Hip pain is entirely different, often due to pain in little bones, but can be fully completely treated.*) The important thing is to really understand the origin of your 'hip' pain, and treat it accordingly.

So, Shakira, your hips may not lie, but they sure are misleading. Work that into a catchy tune.

*I'm so sorry for this... so very sorry.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Baby Brain

I've been trying to get a blog post up for the last week.  I've got many started, covering fascinating and sure-to-be popular topics such as: 'Anatomically Relevant Idioms!', and 'Hip Hip Hooray... not.  When Hip Pain Strikes', and the much anticipated 'Mind Over Uterus: Using Hypnosis to Manage Childbirth'.  Of course these are all working titles only, but I'm sure I've whetted your literary and chiropractic appetites.  
The problem?  I can't finish a damn thing.  This is not writer's block - I've got plenty to say!  I just can't find the words.  I'm... a little slow lately.  With words.  And stuff. Like on any given day I usually have at least one article of clothing on backwards.  Fortunately (or not, as it were) it is usually a garment not visible to the public.  I recently washed the television remote control along with the duvet cover, not noticing until halfway through the dry cycle (45 minutes of CLUNK CLUNK CLUNK didn't tip me off!).  I know I've done other dimwitted things, but they've seemed to have slipped my mind.  My sieve-like mind.  

It took me a while to catch on.  Perhaps I needed more sleep?  A case of premature senility? Maybe too much zinc in my diet... or would that be not enough?  Why was I so obtuse (thank you  

Baby Brain.  

To be perfectly frank, I had always doubted the veracity (is that the right word?) of this condition.  I felt it was an excuse that the, let's be honest here, more simple moms-to-be used to make up for their... uh... shortcomings.  Surely a braniac like myself would only thrive during pregnancy.  I'd spend the 9 months reading up on child-rearing philosophies while mastering sign language to teach to my genetically gifted infant, and maybe finish that book on Jung that I'd started.  

Well.  Mea Culpa (does that make sense?  Latin is not a strong subject right now either...).  My bad.  Apparently, you're with stupid.  I've got a bad case of baby brain.  My blood stream has been rerouted to the womb.  

So, loyal readers, forgive me if there is greater space between posts, for there seems to be greater space between my ears.  I've got a bunch of really, really good stuff started... but these days the only thing I seem to be able to finish is a meal.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

I Remember

Remembrance Day.

As a child November 11th was about fuzzy plastic poppy pins (and wearing them in your mouth as funny lips), reciting "In Flanders Fields" and listening to a trumpet sound. And something about soldiers.

I never really felt much on this day, but this year seems more momentous. Maybe my own life-changing events are causing me to reflect. Perhaps the recent political election and renewed sense of hope from down south are affecting me. I just find myself thinking a lot this remembrance day, hoping that soon, the concept of war will be so far from our day to day life that it will become harder and harder to relate to. That we will need Remembrance Day more than ever, because otherwise, we will have forgotten that some people are not free.

Until then, I remember.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Great Expectations

In the interest of full disclosure, I cannot take credit for the title of this post: that goes to a patient, Madeleine, and I fully expect that she will be in turn thanking Dickens for the inspiration in her blog.

I, or rather my belly, seems to garner a lot of attention lately. People are generally very nice to pregnant ladies, so I'm finding. In theatre restroom line ups I'm encouraged to use the empty facility set aside for those with special needs (I declined, for the record, choosing solidarity with my stall-challenged sisters...). Sometimes I am offered a seat on a packed bus, leading me to wonder about all the other lugs who sit contentedly in full view of my girth. Doors are held open, people smile at me more... the world loves a pregnant woman.

And why not? I'm glowy, I make you look thin by comparison, I waddle - that's always good for a laugh, and not to overstate my case, but the human race depends on us.

What I can't figure out is why the world wants to bring a happy, round, shiny woman down.

The horror stories! The pain! The tales of squeezing a thing THIS BIG through a space this big! The labours that went on for 63 hours! Only to end in an emergency operation! And the cord was here, and they got me just in time there, and then there was all the blood! And the pain - did I mention the pain??!?! Aaah!

Luckily, I'm not expecting any of that to happen to me. Not just because I'm an obstetrical marvel, or my generous birthing hips, or my heightened pain threshold or any masochistic bent. I'm not expecting any of that because I CHOOSE to not expect it. And frankly I'm sick of being told otherwise.

But I'm not naive. I'm aware of the size of this versus the size of that. I understand well the pain of muscular contractions. It is clear to me that child birth is a process that is typically and deservedly referred to as 'painful'. I appreciate that things often don't go according to plan.

I just choose to plan for it to go perfectly, and will modify my plan as it unfolds. I choose to prepare for it to go well, and will modify along the way as needed. I choose to assume that my experience will be positive until proven otherwise. Is that so wrong?

I'm visualizing. I'm taking a hypnosis for childbirth class (want to join me in November?). I'm listening to ALL your stories and experiences, and filing them under 'ways this can happen'. I'm reading and learning as much as I can. I'm preparing my body with yoga and keeping my pelvic joints moving with chiropractic. I'm doing everything possible to create the outcome I want, and I'm not going to be told that it can't happen.

I always thought it was funny, referring to a pregnant woman as 'expecting', as if exactly what she was expecting was up in the air (puppies? a baby? maybe a dolphin!). But I'm taking it literally, and I'm going to use this expectant time to create my positive expectations.

So the next time you spot a spherical woman looking all jolly (think Santa Claus) in her life-affirming state, think: should I smile and tell her how wonderful she looks? Or should I tell her about my cousin's HORRIBLE CHILDBIRTH EXPERIENCE, just in case she wasn't aware that in 11 weeks she will EXPERIENCE PAIN LIKE NEVER BEFORE, not that she can do anything about it now... ha ha ha....

Saturday, October 25, 2008


I'm sure you all have plans to exercise, stretch and eat healthful, homemade, organic meals all weekend... but take a break this Sunday night!

The fabulous Gavin Creel will be performing at the Diesel Playhouse on Sunday October 26th, at 8:00 PM. Robbie Roth, one of my favourite composer and husbands, will be accompanying him. The Tony Nominated Creel, who has starred in the Broadway production of Thoroughly Modern Millie and played the part of Bert in London's West End production of Mary Poppins, will be performing original material, familiar covers and Broadway tunes! If you've never seen him perform you'll be blown away... he is as charming as he is talented.

So... like this blog, take a break from being all Chiropractic and healthy, and come out for a great evening. Get your tickets now!

Hope to see you all there.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Top Ten

We all love David, right? (Please don't tell me you watch L.eno...) He is funny, Chiropractic is funny, so it was only a matter of time before his writers came up with a top 10 on this subject. Granted, though, it was aired in 1994, and a lot has changed since then. Like now maybe Jon is funnier.'s Top 10 Signs You've Gone to a Bad Chiropractor

10. When you walk, you make a wacky accordion sound.

9. Keeps saying, "A
spine is like a box of chocolates."

8. Repeatedly asks, "You a cop? You sure you aint' no cop?"

7. Over and over, you hear crunching sounds followed by, "Uh-oh."

6. There's a two-drink minimum.

5. At end of session, lies down on the table and says, "My turn!"

4. He was nowhere near Woodstock and yet he's covered with mud.

3. Rushes in late to your appointment still wearing his Burger King uniform.

2. Hints that for an extra $50, he'll "straighten" something else.

1. You're fully clothed
and he's naked.

Ha! Ha!
Since I'm a funny gal, I'll counter with a top ten list of my own. Except it won't be as funny.

Dr. Fagen's Top Ten signs you need a Chiropractor

10. You make a crackling sound when you nod yes or no.

9. One of your legs is longer than the other. Seriously, if you find yourself walking in circles, your seamstress has to do more work on the right leg than the left, or you just notice being 'off' - this can indicate pelvic unleveling, a major contributor to back pain.

8. Old people comment that you walk like an old person. Hunched is not flattering on anyone.

7. Your back pain is affecting your social life. When you are not just in pain, but can no longer participate in the things that make life enjoyable - well, you are choosing pain over life. See a chiropractor.

6. You are known as the 'girl with the bad back'. C'mon... there are better ways to get a reputation!

5. Your fashion is dictated by pain.
When your low back demands that you wear orthopedic flats all the time or carry a (gasp) backpack purse, you need a chiropractor.

4. You can't check your blindspot. Drive (carefully!!) to the chiropractor at once!

3. The top shelf of all your closets is wasted space - because
you can't raise your arm to reach there. Did you know that chiropractors help shoulders?

2. You've tried everything else! We love a challenge...

1. You are moved to tears by the robax.acet commercials... you really relate to that dancing wooden puppet!

Monday, October 13, 2008

Danke schön, darling, danke schön...

We shouldn't need fowl to be outwardly appreciative of our blessings. This year I've decided to kill two birds* with one blog; declare my gratitude this Thanksgiving day and produce yet another sincere and moving blog post.

I am thankful for my health. Really, we are all really just a carbon-based bag of bones, our bodies guaranteed to last a lifetime, the caveat being that the definition of 'lifetime' is subject to change without notice. So I'm grateful to be healthy at this moment.

I am also grateful for my experiences with poor health. My biggest challenges have been lower back related, though without having those experiences I may not have found my beloved vocation. My experiences with herniated discs gave me perspective and insight into my patients' suffering, and the ability to truly sympathize with my fellow disc herniators. We are a brave bunch. That said, I am forever grateful to my neurosurgeon, Dr. Tator. I doubt there ever was or will be a more competent or patient surgeon.

I am grateful for the little person inhabiting me. We haven't formally met, but I've got a good feeling about this. What an experience so far.

I am thankful for the internet - really, what did I do without it? So, thank you, Al Gore. I am thankful for my readers - those who read my silly posts regularly and those who pop in from time to time. I'm even thankful to those readers who find me by searching phrases such as "good chiropractor jokes". Hope you find some knee slappers here.

I am grateful for knowledge. As a self-declared (and other-declared) know-it-all, I love knowing stuff. I also love that there is so much that is unknown, unknowable... that some of the the most beautiful things are mysteries - love, the universe, where we come from and where we go when we are done, what really happened to Mikey from the Life cereal commercial. These things cannot be proven, and where there is no proof we are left with possibility. How lovely. I guess then, that I'm grateful for that too: possibility.

Finally, in keeping with the theme of this blog, I'm grateful to be a chiropractor. To have wonderful patients who put their trust and spines in my hands, to work with amazing associates who teach me and treat me, to have found something I love to do so as to never have to 'work' a day in my life... for these things I owe thanks.

*no birds were harmed in the writing of this post.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

The Rabbit Died

Recently I find myself in a family way.

I'm excited to meet the person who is currently residing on the far side of my navel, but in the meantime I'm enjoying playing scientist with my very own body. Really, is there anything more fascinating than one's own self, and more so when every day brings a new sensation, change, discovery, bodily function? I'm creating a pancreas, what are you doing this week?

Being my very own maternal experiment allows me to put my theories and preconceived (ha!) notions to test. Here are some of my scientific results.

Theory: Prenatal Yoga is beneficial
Conclusion: Affirmative! That front hip pain that my pregnant patients always complain about? It is real! Turns out that knowing that the hip flexor muscles tighten due to a forward shift in posture and pressure from the uterus, and experiencing said tightness and pressure - two different things. I'm finding that yoga is very helpful in releasing these muscles. It is also very calming. Oh, and hilarious to watch your friend who is 10 weeks ahead of you try to get into child's pose when her belly is hitting the floor...

Theory: Maternity clothes are for suckers and the unfashionable, just wear low-rise pants and long tops!
Conclusion: Negative. I assumed all the cute little bumps I saw on Eglinton Ave. (seriously, there is a baby boom right outside my clinic) just developed on top of previously toned abdomens. I neglected to take into account the general widening of... everything. If it doesn't have an elasticized waist band, I'm no longer interested. Buffet pants are my new fashion.

Theory: Chiropractic is good for pregnant women.
Conclusion: OH YES. Besides being a drug-free and safe option to treat the myriad of aches and pains that arise during this delicate time, chiropractic can actually make labour smoother. The pelvis is made up of a few parts, parts that work best when they are aligned and freely moveable. When these joints stop moving properly, pain arrives. A pregnant woman's pelvis really relies on the normal movement and alignment of these joints - not only for pain-free walking (waddling), but so that a baby can, you know, travel through said pelvis en route to the world. A fixated pelvis is not conducive to a smooth and easy labour.

Theory: Natural childbirth is possible!
Conclusion: Ask me sometime in January. Like every health care decision, this too is a choice, and like every health care decision, a not always controllable one. I hope that with my midwife, my hypnotherapy CDs, my loving and supportive husband and my faith in the power of the female body to manage this feat, that the birth of this baby will be gentle, pain-free and lightning fast. I also hope that the USA will elect the right president, that the Middle East will find peace, and that my favourite jeans will fit the day after the baby is born.

Theory: Pregnant women deserve to be pampered.
Conclusion: YES YES YES. First of all, hearing over and over that 'life as you know it is over' is getting tiresome, if not a little frightening. Prenatal massage turns out to be a wonderful antidote, relaxing my aching joints and giving me an hour of 'me time', something I'm told will be in short supply very soon. Reflexology and Reiki are positively wonderful, sending me off... elsewhere. I emerge relaxed, and it lasts for days. Acupuncture has been a wonderful tool as well, especially in those nauseating first few months. These treatments are all safe during pregnancy when done by qualified practitioners who understand the necessary precautions when treating expecting ladies.

I'm told over and over by grinning (smirking?) moms that EVERYTHING will change... and honestly, I can't wait.

So far all that has changed is my figure.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Here Wii Go Again...

I'm generally not one to say 'I told you so', and I can admit when I'm wrong.

I tried the Wii.Fit the other day, after having decried its value as a fitness aid. Don't get me wrong, I judged it accurately - I stand by my uninformed and strongly biased opinions - I just judged it early. Call me Judy, I don't care, I judge things.

But woo-hoo, is that thing fun!

It offers yoga, strength training, aerobics and balance games. Wow... just like a gym! What a concept.

I tried out some balance games, watched my husband attempt to pummel a cyber-opponent in boxing, and then I played with a virtual hula hoop. Oh the fun wii had!

But here comes my rant. Despite my cousin's insistence that she 'really works up a sweat' doing this, I just don't see how this is an ideal form of exercise. Sure I was working on my balance, but I'd be better using a wobble board with weights or walking on uneven terrain. The boxing was lame, hitting a virtual opponent has none of the resistance or satisfaction of hitting a real live person. Plus, uh, a thing called form? Simply punching the air at the right time to make the 'pow' noise does not a boxer make. Do yourself a favour - go see my friend Jon, he'll learn you to box. And hula hoop? While it is funny to watch my 60-year-old uncle do this (funny strange...), well, show me the hard-body who will claim that hula hooping made them that way.

Granted I didn't try all the 'sports' available, but I still maintain that standing on a pad, inside, eyes glued to a screen and imitating the moves one might make while actually playing a sport does not equal, well, playing the sport. And supervision and form matter too, you know. I tried some yoga poses, and the only 'advice' my Wii Yogi had was to keep my centre of gravity in a certain spot. It hurt, I was nowhere close to approaching Zen, and no one said 'namaste' when it was done. That's not yoga to me. Want to do yoga? Join one of Jen's classes. Guaranteed enlightenment and no USB cable needed!

I may need to try it out again though, you know, in the interest of providing my readers with a fair and balanced assessment... but so far I maintain that while Wii.Fit might be 'convenient', it might be easy, it might be fun... it is not fitness.

So as usual, I am right and I told you so.

Monday, September 29, 2008


Feeling; suffering; perception
a) disease: neuropathy
b) a system of treating disease: homeopathy

I wonder why I am a chiropractor, instead of a chiropath? (or a Broadway star for that matter - I always pictured my name in lights...). Why do I practice chiropractic, not chiropathy? Words are great.

Before being admitted entrance into chiropractic college, one must fill out many forms, write some essays, and participate in an interview process where we are asked such revealing questions as: "why do you want to be a chiropractor?" and "give an example of leadership in your past". I guess my proctors were impressed by my Machiavellian rise to the top of the water sport hierarchy at summer camp, running the greatest windsurfing and sailing program ever, and then moved by the disc herniations that would arise while windsurfing in a tragic twist of fate...

I digress. The most challenging question, one that still haunts me to this day, was "explain the difference between empathy and sympathy". See, sometimes when I've confused two things, the mis-association becomes permanently fixed in my brain, so that they are forever neurologically cross-linked. For example, I will never remember if my mother's birthday is on the 17th or the 18th. I've taken to celebrating both days, just in case. Empathy and sympathy - I've spent so long debating the subtle differences between these and getting them mixed up and losing bets with my associates when we remembered this damn interview question, that I've given up. If a situation may call for empathy or sympathy, I'll just give you both. General -pathy all around. I'm pathetic.

Empathy: the intellectual identification with or vicarious experiencing of the feelings, thoughts, or attitudes of another. In other words... I have not experienced your pain, but I can try to understand it and relate to it by drawing on other experiences I may have had.

Sympathy: harmony of or agreement in feeling. The harmony of feeling naturally existing between persons of like tastes or opinion or of congenial dispositions. The fact or power of sharing the feelings of another, especially in sorrow or trouble; fellow feeling, compassion, or commiseration. In other words... I know what you are feeling, I feel it too.

What does this have to do with getting into chiropractic college? The answer is: I don't know. I suppose they are screening for future chiropractors who will understand the importance of feeling for their patients, even if they can't feel with them. To be honest, the question seems to me to be an ineffective screening tool to ultimately find a caring doc.

So it turns out that it is rare for me to truly sympathize with a patient. I have not experienced what they are experiencing. I do not share their feelings, and I have not felt their pain. I have a particular softness for patients experiencing lumbar disc herniations, since I've had some myself and can really understand the pain and frustration, but overall, sympathy is in short supply here. What I can do is empathize. I can imagine your pain. I can live vicariously through you to understand your pain. This is harder - to not understand your feelings, but to respect them nonetheless.

Oh. I may have just finally gotten it.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Get off your buttitis

Please read this article, about a terrifying new condition, Wiitis.

Are you aghast?

Let's talk about inflammation, all things -itis, shall we? Then let's talk about video games and how they are a symptom of the general decline of civilization as I see it.

-itis is my most favourite suffex. It means 'inflammation of', and knowing this renders many a confounding sounding medical condition clear. Arthritis sounds less intimidating when you realize it is just some inflammation in a joint. Bronchitis? Appendicitis? Bursitis? All just 'inflammation of'! How simple medicine is! I should have been a 'real doctor'!

As a chiropractor, much of what I see is inflammation dependent. Went golfing for the first time and now can't pick up a pickle jar? (you'd be surprised how often I see the positive pickle jar sign...) You probably have lateral epicondylitis, commonly called tennis elbow. Designated the pitcher in your over 40 baseball league, and now it hurts to move your arm? You might just have medial epicondylitis, golfer's elbow. Interesting fact - golfers, tennis players and pitchers rarely contract the sports-appropriate condition, leaving me to wonder about the sports medicine docs who nicknamed these injuries. It actually doesn't matter which sport you participate in, what is relevant is the 'inflammation of' part.

But Wiiitis? Please. This bothers me on a few levels. As a chiropractor, I like my diagnoses to lead to a treatment plan. I know what to treat with rotator cuff tendonitis. I don't know what to treat with Wiiitis. Your Wii? I'm not that kind of doctor. As a human being, I find this a bit pathetic! You... uh, injured yourself, playing a video game? I may have to prescribe a walk in a park. Or a visit to a museum. Or a conversation. With another human. PUT DOWN THE JOYSTICK!

Do people even use joysticks anymore? I understand there is some sort of program that you use with this gaming system to get 'fit'. I guess the intention is good... it just seems so creepy to me. What happened to playing sports? Fresh air? Listening to music or the pounding of your heart?

I say, if you are going to injure yourself, do it while doing something worthwhile.  I love treating athletes - their injuries are real, they are motivated to get better, and they typically respond quickly by virtue of being in such good shape to begin with.  But video game sporting injuries seem to be a whole new phenomena, one I'm not sure I'm ready for.  

So go ahead, do what it takes to get you motivated and moving... but unless you go pro, don't ask me to treat your Wiiitis.  

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Lady Doctor

I guess I've always been a feminist.

I'm certainly all for women. One of my earliest and fondest wardrobe memories is a t-shirt that claimed "anything boys can do, girls can do better" (ok, fine... even earlier and fonder was the cowgirl outfit with real tassels - yee haw!*). But my general genderal pride was likely just my competitive streak - it never really occurred to me that being female was a hindrance in any way. I could do anything a boy could do - and better - and dress up all country pretty to boot. I am woman, hear me roar.

My great-grandmother lived to be just shy of 100 years old, though she adamantly claimed to have already reached that milestone, her logic getting lost somewhere in the fact that she was IN her 100th year**. Whatever, when you are that old you can claim to be whatever you want, as far as I am concerned. When I'm 99 I plan on calling myself the Vice President of the United States - why not! The age-old confusion aside, my great-grandmother remained lucid and sharp her whole life. Sure she occasionally called me Charlotte and wondered how my pharmacy was doing, but the point is she was proud of both of us - Charlotte the Pharmacist and Michelle the Chiropractor. She would parade me around the nursing home, introducing me to everyone who would (or could) listen as her granddaughter, the 'Lady Doctor'. And not as in 'gynecologist' - this was not a third identity for me and Charlotte... I was Michelle Fagen, L.D. Not just any doctor... but a Lady Doctor. Now THAT is feminism.

Feminism has been on my mind a lot lately, what with Sarah Palin entering the political arena. She is a creepy sort of faux-feminist, a femin-ish if you will. On the one hand, hooray for potentially bringing a woman into the White House! On the other hand, is she really a feminist candidate when her policies seek to limit choice for women? Are you a feminist just by virtue of being feminine? Maybe I could tolerate her more if she stopped touting 'hockey mom' as a credential? And can she quit making that horrible joke about the difference between a hockey mom and a pit bull being lipstick? Sure, in theory she represents progress for women... but when your supporters wear 'Hoosiers for the Hot Chick' and 'From The Coldest State Comes The Hottest V.P.' pins, well... one step forward, two steps back.

I'm not sure that this is the Lady Vice President we want. I look forward to witnessing a woman in the White House, because I want to see history made; because I think a woman can bring a unique approach to leadership that that country has not seen; because it shouldn't have taken this long; because we deserve to be represented; because why not? But I am more interested in witnessing a collective mentality that doesn't get so excited about the prospect of a woman in power at the expense of the appropriate woman in power. Be careful what you ask for, right sisters? Let's instead aim to hire the best person (male or female) for the job (chiropractor, pharmacist or vice president), but still be able to appreciate the unique qualities inherent in that person by nature of their gender.

I look forward to that time when working Ladies everywhere can wear lipstick (or not), and not need to compare themselves to a dog to prove that they mean business.

In the meantime, I'm still proud to be a Lady Doctor!

* ok - tell me the truth. I look like a young republican in this photo - no?

**I don't know that she was truly a 'feminist', but she was feisty, self-assured and intelligent, and dated more than any other woman in the nursing home. An inspiration to ladies everywhere.

Sunday, September 7, 2008


I'm not very political by nature.

But my television seems to be broken, the channel stuck on CNN. Lately, chez moi, it is all politics, all the time. Due to this reluctant reprieve from 'The Learning Channel' (what? Home renos, wedding dresses, disciplining obnoxious children, medical miracles, 'What Not To Wear' - what more do you need?) I've been forced to watch... politics. Gah. American politics. Blargh. And I'm dumber and more disillusioned for it. I was better off watching 'Jon and Kate plus 8'.

Thanks to my new roommates Anderson and Wolf, I've had opportunity and cause to formulate opinions, opinions that would be more useful were I an American, and could actually, you know, vote in the upcoming election. But my stat counter tells me that sometimes Yankee foreigners visit my humble blog and read my humble thoughts. Readers who by nature of geography and keyword searches are interested in both the USA and chiropractic (except for the guy who found me by searching 'mistress boxing gloves' - I don't know what to say to that) and it got me thinking... hey, I have opinions, and readers who can vote in this election... I could influence their vote! My very own manifest destiny.

So. Vote Obama!

Because... because this chiropractor says so. Because he just makes you feel good, you know?

My chiropractic predecessor and mentor advised me that there are three topics to avoid with patients: sex, religion and politics. I'm not sure what that leaves worth talking about, so at the risk of offending but in the interest of free speech... Americans, I hope your country elects Obama. It seems that what they are doing down there now isn't working... preaching abstinence to pregnant teens, an ongoing war forever on the verge of victory, a country slipping downward... isn't that the meaning of insanity, doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results?

But these are heavy topics for a simple chiropractor to address. Perhaps I should steer clear of discussions of human rights and the definition of a marriage, and wars and gun control and oil - perhaps I should stick with things within my scope of practice... chiropractic.

Guess who supports chiropractic? Barack Obama! Read the letter below. Obama supports Chiropractic - how wonderful! Leave the messy politicking behind, and vote with your spine!


Monday, September 1, 2008

Dr. Who?

It is both significant and silly, all the hullabaloo around what we call ourselves.  A rose by any other name would still smell as sweet, right?  Is Michelle not as capable of healing your sore back as is Dr. Fagen?  (Personally, I wouldn't trust Dr. Michelle... but that's just me)  Yet, it does matter.  

I was recently made acutely aware of the significance of a name and designation.  I attended a wedding sans Husband. I had trouble finding my place card, because as it turned out Dr. Michelle Fagen wasn't actually at the wedding, but Mrs. Husband's Full Name was.  I was confused by my emotions - I am proud to be Mrs. Composer Extraordinaire, but I wondered exactly when I had lost not only my first and last names, but my professional designation?  Who exactly was supposed to be seated at table 16?  And had she ordered the chicken or the beef entree?

And while we are talking names and designations, I must confess, I have a chiropractic pet peeve.

I mean no offense to my colleagues, but I cringe a little when I hear one of my cohorts refer to himself as 'Dr. First Name'. You know who they are, the Dr. Lisas, the Dr. Steves, the awkward Dr. James-eses. It is so reminiscent of the Simpson's Dr. Nick ("Hi Everybody!", "Hi Dr. Nick!"). I suppose I can afford some leeway to those chiros with long and difficult to pronounce last names, or the docs who treat children who might be less intimidated by Dr. Dave than Dr. Backbraeker.  But... I dunno.  

It just rings creepy to me.  In a nice way, of course.  But also in a creepy way.  Think Dr. Phil.  'Nuff said.  

When I first graduated as a green, wet behind the ears, fresh faced eager young chiropractor, I felt like a bit of a fraud just calling myself Doctor.  Little me?  A doctor?  Certainly it gave my family cause to giggle "pass the potatoes, DOCTOR Fagen, hee hee!", but I also learned that it had its benefits - speaking to customer service reps for example. "This is Dr. Fagen calling. I recieved my magic bullet after waiting 5 weeks, only to have it break after just one smoothie. This is unacceptable, and I demand recompense. No, I won't hold, I've got patients to treat!"

I've realized since that some people want to address me as Doctor. The formality of the title gives them confidence and the professional distance provides a forum where they can feel comfortable receiving care as a patient. Other patients see me as a health care partner, as someone they can relate to, and we address each other as Michelle and Patient.
Ultimately, I've decided that I don't care what you call me... as long as you call me!

Just don't call me Dr. Michelle.  

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Alternative Universe

I hate the term 'alternative medicine'.

I hate that it is used freely to describe chiropractic, iridology, acupuncture, homeopathy, yoga, and prayer, among others. Without passing judgment, these things are simply not equivalent, in terms of history, licensing requirements, efficacy as determined by research, general acceptance, and well... they are all just different! The only commonality is that they are NOT conventional medicine. And the connotation is of a binary system, an either/or of health care where choosing the 'alternative' precludes the conventional. This myopic thinking is insulting and, frankly, unhealthful.

Don't get me wrong - I am a big fan of modern medicine. You may remember me from "The Bride with the Herniated Discs: A young woman's drug-induced limp down the aisle", and its sequel "The Chiropractor and the Neurosurgeon - Doctors in Love". Of course, who could forget the great laminectomy and discectomy of '05, and I know I'll always remember Amoxicillin vs. Sinusitis in '98... the last year they ever battled in this venue. Amoxicillin won.

But I resent the implication that because one opts to take Vitamin A instead of a flu shot, or labours with a midwife instead of an obstetrician, that they eschew conventional medicine. I maintain, rather, that we are fortunate to be able to choose the most appropriate care and care provider at a particular time and for a particular condition. I believe that our varied health care needs are best met by a roster of qualified and compassionate care providers.

A much more palatable term is complementary medicine, since it is inclusive rather than exclusive. It allows that single disciplines cannot by nature address all health concerns, and that there are options such as chiropractic and acupuncture (and naturopathy and traditional chinese medicine and...) that can pick up where conventional medicine ends or may be undesirable. A back pain sufferer may be prescribed anti-inflammatories by a general practitioner and treated mechanically by their chiropractor. A person with colitis may have investigations and medications as prescribed by their gastroenterologist and still benefit from nutritional therapy and acupuncture. It is OK, if not preferential, to use more than one treatment modality at a time - especially when they complement each other.

With approximately 75% of people using 'alternative' medicine at some point in their lives, it doesn't seem so alternative, does it?

Friday, August 8, 2008

...summer vacation, part final: roaming in rome.

... so we arrived in Rome. They say that Rome wasn't built in a day, but I say they just weren't trying hard enough. "pfft..." I spat, "I'll prove 'em wrong and do it in half a day!" First stop, the Flavian Amphitheatre, known these days as the Colosseum (I also shop at Towne and Country mall, it will never be Centerpoint to me...). I was excited to be standing in the midst of such history - the movie Gladiator was filmed right here! It truly makes you reflect on your existence at this time and place in the universe. I was also fortunate enough to spot a real, live Roman gladiator - smoking. How anachronistic! Maybe this is why the Roman Empire was wiped out?

After the Colosseum, which frankly could use some maintenance and repair, we trekked to the Trevi Fountain. I love this site, mostly because of the fountains at which you can refill your water bottle and rinse your hands and feet of the roman grime they've acquired. Ancient cities and heat don't exactly go well together... we nearly melted. For some respite from the heat we patronized and were patronized at a cafe near the Trevi Fountain. As you can imagine, visiting a restaurant near a major tourist attraction is always an economical choice, and we thoroughly enjoyed the $20 glass of beer and bottle of water. Mamma mia!

After conferring with my accountant it became obvious it was time to leave Italy. And so ended my European vacation. Funny how this trip once seemed eons away, yet the two week trip itself felt equally as long. I'm returned to Toronto more brown, more cultured (I now only eat gelato, not ice cream) and in need of an adjustment!


Wednesday, August 6, 2008

...summer vacation, part two: mambo italiano

The next day was a blur of Italian. After being ripped off at dinner in Rome and then ripped off again in a taxi in Naples (number one taxi driver, my a@@!), I boarded a ferry for the island of Ischia tightly clutching what was left of my Euros, desperate for some intense relaxation. I have to comment here on the general civility of Europeans, despite their numerous and successful attempts to separate me from my money. They are somehow simultaneously crazy and calm - there appears to be a method in the madness, a serenity in the chaos. I've often witnessed my fellow North Americans yell at each other while standing in our perfect line-ups, but in Europe they just coagulate into a mass of wildly gesticulating but content people, each not noticing the other cutting in front of them - nessun problema! Drivers swerve in and out of traffic (who needs lanes?), narrowly avoiding scooters and pedestrians - no hard feelings! A woman on the train takes your seat, a man drags his luggage down the aisle cuffing each person on the way... va bene! They demonstrate a practiced sense of patience, those crazy, crazy Europeans... I think of all the lessons to be learned from them, patience is at the top of the list. That, and prosciutto.

I finally arrived on the island of Ischia, which offers many activities, my favourites being eating, sunbathing, swimming and scrabble. I must now use this forum to apologize, sort of, to my scrabble opponent, a know-it-all wordsmith who annoyingly pointed out an error in my last post when I was without internet access and unable to correct it for a WEEK... nary an error escapes his exacting eye. How annoying are people like that? However, I strive for truth and can admit my mistakes. For example, it turns out that flecky is a word; you must be so proud.

What else can I say about Ischia? It was belissimo, magnifico, molto meraviglioso. In fact, if I ever disappear from Toronto - check there. I noticed a distinct lack of chiropractors, and the hills alone could break anyone's back... nah, I could never leave T.O., would never, ever leave you, my dear friends and patients. I'll just start a satellite clinic... ;)

After 5 days spent on the island indulging in pasta, pizza, prosciutto and gelato, it was time awaken from my carbohydrate stupor and move on... back to Rome!

Sunday, August 3, 2008

How I Spent My Summer Vacation

Part One: first class and no class

My travels started out on a high note - a fortunate series of events led me to the front of the plane, to the previously elusive and exclusive executive class seating. Though I am not an executive, it turns out that by merely giving the airline a significant amount of money, all of your and your husband's air miles, your most convincing pouty face followed by your winningest smile, well you too can be seated (or laid down, as it were) in the front of the plane! Actually, I spent most of the time as horizontal as possible - and this was possible, given the fabulous contraption that is the pod. I can only hope that as much engineering detail was put into the engine. Suffice it to say that I have had a taste of the good life - comfortable seats, great food and service, clean facilities... I was likely the only one disappointed when the pilot announced that due to a tail wind we would arrive in London 45 minutes early. I wanted to get my money's worth... and after security pried me kicking and screaming from my pod, I truly felt that I had.

The euphoria was short-lived when I disembarked the plane and then embarked a train, albeit as a regular passenger, en route to Plymouth. This turned out to be a perfectly lovely-ish town, site of the world premiere of Flashdance the Musical!

I'm torn here. I want to sum up the show for you, to tell you about the jaw-dropping choreography, the iconic scenes from the movie come to life, the moving performances (I laughed! I cried!), the unbelievable score... but this blog pretends to have something to do with chiropractic, so I'll talk about how this humble chiropractor saved the show.

A few hours before opening night, one of the actors hurt his neck during a run through. I happened to be sitting in the theatre and overheard a debate over what to do (ice!! when in doubt, put ICE on a fresh injury!!) - and I couldn't help but offer my services (is there a chiropractor in the house?). The actor had pinched a joint in his neck, an injury I see all the time in my patients. The only difference is that when you come in unable to move your head, you aren't usually due to be breakdancing on stage in 3 hours. We massaged and iced and gently moved the joint, and the show went on... as it must, I suppose. You couldn't tell he was sore at all, and I like to think this had as much to do with him being a great actor as me being a great chiropractor. Do they give a Tony for best adjustment in a musical? Flashdance was a huge success, and I was honoured to make my small contribution to this amazing production.

Soon it was time to leave Plymouth, to race to Stansted Airport to discover the haluciousness that is Ryan.air (I'm sensing that 'halucious' isn't technically a word... but trust me, it is the only one that accurately describes Ryan.air). Discount prices but a charge for every little thing (luggage $64, check in $16, bringing along a guitar $100, life jacket $45...), pandemonium at the check-in counter, no seating assignments, advertisements on the overhead luggage compartment, lotto ticket sales during the flight, sexy pictures of the airline attendants in the Ryan.air magazine, tiny seats cramped together, all taking place amid a sickly yellow and orange colour scheme! Halucious! But we made it alive and on time (the timely arrival is celebrated by a gaudy horn arrangement over the loudspeaker... 'do do doo doooo doo do! Another Ryanair flight has landed on time!' I was more amazed that we landed at all...) in Rome!

Thus began my week long gelato diet...

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Take your passion... and make it happen!!

Nearly a month ago I pulled into Heathrow Airport, but there I go again. Really it is the exceptional value of the pound drawring [sic] me to England - 1 for 2 on everything you buy! But you can't control where duty sends you, and I've got business to attend to in Plymouth, an English seaside town mostly destroyed in the war. My sources tell me the locals enjoy drinking, brawling, and 80s music.

While in Plymouth I will be attending the world premiere of Flashdance the Musical! I know my jocular voice makes it hard to know when I'm being silly or serious, but there is nothing funny about the 80s. Welder by day, dancer by night... a theatrical piece examining the desire, nay the need to dance juxtaposed against the turning economy of Pittsburgh in the 80s... all choreographed and on stage to enjoy. I've got a 'thing' for the composer and I've never been more excited to see anything in my life. It is best captured in the grammatically horrifying yet strangely evocative and satisfying sentence, "Bein's Believin'", people. I've got rhythm now.

After Flashdance, it is off to... an undisclosed location. The composer I will be escorting does not know where we are going, and it is better that way. I can only say that we will be taking planes, trains, automobiles and ferries, and maybe even a scooter, if I'm lucky.

As usual in my absence Dr. Bain will be treating my patients, and as usual you are in excellent hands. Otherwise I'll be back after the August long weekend - leaving my crazy European escapades behind and getting back to normal life and business as usual.

Goodbye for now!

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Hump Day

Patients often ask me what I do on Wednesdays. They are really curious - "you don't work on Wednesdays? What do you DO all day?" This makes me laugh - why, more chiropractic-y things, of course! Tuesday nights after work I read chiropractic journals before bed (I put a heat pack on and go to sleep on a chiropractic table!), and wake up super early to spend the day adjusting friends and family! Of course sometimes I go really crazy and attend a chiropractic seminar, or spend a lazy day reading old chiropractic text books...

What did you think? What do YOU all do when you are not in my office?

Here's the truth: a day-off in the life of a chiropractor (today!).
Sleep in! Three days a week I see patients at 7:30 AM (I know, some of you didn't KNOW there was an AM version of 7:30...), so I enjoy this. Then it is off to work-out - check out previous posts if you haven't seen the videos. My sister-in-law has been joining me and it is a blast to watch a newbie discover the joys of hitting things. My rushed breakfast of a half-avocado and organic spelt ginger snaps (uh, maybe we need a post on nutrition soon?) leaves me hungry... so I grab a seat on a patio and enjoy a rye bagel and lox - YUM. I do some banking and consider closing a safe deposit box (help. Is it SAFETY deposit box, or SAFE deposit box? The latter seems to make more grammatical sense, right?). I decide to keep the safe(ty) deposit box for now, you know, in case I need to store large sums of foreign currency or passports. (I just watched the Bourne Identity, indulge me.) Off to the health food store for some brown rice and other healthy stuff, but I'm interrupted by a phone call regarding a somewhat urgent, non-chiropractic matter (all will be fine, but let's just say that if I had a fan, uh, some stuff would have hit it). Head home, do some bills and paperwork, deal with an electrician and a painter, get annoyed with bills and paperwork, head to

This warrants its own paragraph. I love - massive quantities of everything you may or may not need, in one convenient warehouse! Here I purchase clinic necessities - toilet paper, paper towels, computer paper... when you come for your treatment, you sort of assume these sundries will be here, and hey - do you you think paper goods just grow on trees? No, your chiropractor spends her day off at hunting and foraging the aisles for you. Somewhere near the food section I grow dangerously dehydrated, and pray to the gods for a sample lady dispensing tiny cups of lemonade. Instead she offers tortilla chips and salsa, and in my dehydrated state I ration that 'salsa is wet'... tip for my readers, salsa is not a thirst quencher. On Wednesdays I evidently leave my brain at the office. And yes, I remember to stock up on Werthers. My dear, dear patients, you are obsessed with the Werthers jar, don't think I haven't noticed. Many a RHCC meeting has addressed these delicious caramel treats, since they consume 78% of our operating budget and are not exactly healthy - and yet I don't dare remove them, seeing as how you panic when the jar approaches half-empty (or half-full - ha!). So I pick up the 25 bag weekly supply of Werthers. And for myself? A school of salmon, a few buckets of dijon mustard and wheel of cheese. You asked! One other thing I noticed at - do they sell babies there? I couldn't find the display, but every other cart had a baby in it, and I figured I may as well pick one up if the price was right... but then realized that being, they would probably come in packs of 8, and my storage space is full of jars of dijon mustard and toilet paper.

Then with little day of my day off left, I head home to water the garden and mentally write this post. I catch up on some emails, deal with the bills I had abandoned and attempt to make a healthy dinner. Spend a few more hours alternately cleaning around the house, debating watching a movie and surfing the internet... and here we are.

Are you sorry you asked what I do? Did you imagine the free time of a chiropractor to be more exciting?

Or... maybe this is all a ruse to distract you, and beneath my mild mannered appearance I'm really a former assassin running from the government (think about it, I am referred to by more than one surname, I head to Europe quite frequently lately, and my martial arts training has made me a formidable foe... sorry, that movie really was great!). Or perhaps on Wednesdays I shed my business casual attire for a size small (fine, medium depending on the cut) superhero suit, solving mysteries in the Forest Hill area. Since I'm quite the raconteur, maybe I just sit at home and write adventure/romance novels under my nom de plume, Daisy Yohang.

Or maybe I'll just keep you guessing!

What do YOU do when you are not at the clinic?

Monday, July 14, 2008

The long and wordy road...

The words we use are important.

Consider two patients. One tells me that she is in agony. The other says that there is a lot pain on the right side of her neck. They might have the same symptoms and findings, but the first is a victim, owned by the pain and without control, the second is observing her own pain, limiting it to the site in question. I wonder who heals faster???

I had a thought recently - that in a way, all that we sense is all that there is... (and all that we think/dream/love is all that can be? Indulge me - I was stuck on an airplane with a lot of time to think...) It seems to me that perception IS all there is. Though we all have different views and perceptive abilities, how one perceives their world is effectually how it is. So if you choose to perceive a situation as negative or painful, then so it will be. But what if, you may ask, a situation is inherently negative or painful - like a tragic accident or natural disaster? Well I still maintain that we have control - to choose to perceive ourselves as either a victim or a survivor.

We control our own worlds - with the decisions we make, by the reactions we offer, the words we use - our communication is our output in the world. The brain hears what the mouth says, the mind believes it (after all, who is more convincing than our own selves?) A book I'm reading offered this: "a word is a word is a sound in the air..." and I was taken enough by these seemingly silly words to jot them down. How amazing... words are just puffs of air - but minuscule air currents can create a butterfly effect. Are you in agony or discomfort? Do you hate someone or dislike them? Is it impossible or challenging? The words we choose matter. If we can chose less hurtful words, for ourselves, for others, for the universe... then I believe in doing so. "Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me" - this is not true, and we do a disservice to children by teaching them so. Words do hurt... words matter.

A pregnant friend of mine took a hypno-birthing class, where they don't describe contractions and pain, but refer to pressure and discomfort. How amazing. Can changing the way we anticipate and perceive the 'pain' of childbirth change the experience? We are conditioned to believe that childbirth is excruciating - and while I don't propose that with the right attitude it will be pleasant, I just can't see the benefit in reaffirming negative perceptions before even having had the chance to perceive or experience them. Will referring to labour as 'pressure' versus 'agony' make it less painful? I dunno... but it can't hurt, right? (or at least they say you'll forget it soon after, right???)

Consider the patient with the 'bad back'. As a chiropractor, this might be the most difficult condition to fix - I simply do not have the tools. I know how to restore motion to fixated segments and how to reduce inflammation in a facet joint and how to help you improve your posture and how to strengthen weak muscles... I can even alleviate your back pain and correct the cause of your problem - but if you are going to resign yourself to having a 'bad back', then you've already set yourself up for failure. Words matter.

In my own life, I'm making a conscious effort to select my words carefully, to choose the more positive and less hurtful way of communicating what I mean. I've even signed up for a 'word of the day' email, hoping that a larger vocabulary will provide me with more ways to describe, communicate and therefore create the world I want to live in. A recent word I received and am trying to grasp the meaning of is "laconic - using few words; expressing much in few words; concise".

Got it. Words matter. End post.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

That's it... back to Winnipeg!

Ah summer... season of ice cream, surreptitious hotel swimming pool excursions and road trips! Since you already know how I feel about ice cream (new favourite flavour: sour cream cardamom - trust me) and I failed to successfully infiltrate the pool at the Four Seasons, BUT I have successfully driven from Toronto to Vancouver and earned my Doctor of Chiropractic (separate events), I'll stick to subjects on which I am licensed to counsel... driving and how to safely do so, particularly spinally.
  1. Pack the car! Sure, you can pack essentials such as flares and a spare gas cannister blah blah blah, but let's be practical. Music is paramount, and as I learned after 87 hours of prairie driving, you never know which tune will strike the right chord - Guilty by Babs Streisand and Barry Gibb? J.T. bringing SexyBack? Total Eclipse of the Heart? You just don't know, so be prepared. Oh, and though your iPod can easily hold 80 gigs, your back may not; putting your back out before you've even backed out of the driveway is not a good start. When loading the car, bend with your knees, use your core when lifting and ask for help! No point in ruining a vacation before it even starts.
  2. Speaking of before it starts... did you receive your pre-trip adjustment? Plan for this - especially if you've been having 'twinges' lately. I can't tell you how often a distressed patient says to me "this happened last week and now I can't walk ... and we are going out of town in TWO DAYS!!" (No really, I can't tell you how often - it would violate patient confidentiality.) Get adjusted a day or two before you leave, and while you are at it, book a post-trip treatment too. Do you have everything you need? Though you can likely pick up whatever you need en route unless you are road tripping through Borneo, it is still wise to bring a back 'first aid kit', especially if you are prone to flare-ups. Throw an ice pack into the cooler with your Cristal, and bring Advil or your pain killer/anti-inflammatory of choice to have for emergencies. Remember your orthopedic pillow and shoe orthotics, and whatever else gets your back through the day.
  3. Hit the road! Gentle low back and leg stretches before you head into cottage-bound traffic are a smart idea. Wear comfortable clothes for the drive so that you can easily stretch on your breaks, and like the sign on the roadside diner, 'no shirt, no shoes, no service' applies. Good, comfortable shoes are important for, uh, comfort, and to prevent accidents, and shirts... well, topless only refers to convertibles.
  4. Now that we have covered the thoracic region, we must discuss the lumbar spine and proper sitting. Fancy cars (like my old '96 Pontiac Sunfire) have a lumbar support - pump this up to your comfort. In lieu of an internal lumbar support, a lumbar roll or ObusForme back support is best. In a pinch, put a t-shirt or small pillow behind your low back. The point is to encourage and maintain the curve in the small of your back. Unfortunately without some support, driving causes the low back to unwind into a C-shape, and allows the hamstrings to shorten.
  5. So... stretch those hamstrings! It is not always possible to stop the car when you want to, and trust me, you don't want to be sorry for not making a pit stop when you had the chance! Plan ahead to take a break before you absolutely need to, for restroom and back spasm reasons both. Take these opportunities to stretch your legs literally. This should be repeated at each stop, and again at the end of the day. Also, try eating a salad instead of another burger.
  6. After a long day of driving, check into your luxury motel and try not to think of those investigative TV programs that use a fluorescent light to reveal all the 'mystery stains' on the bedding and carpet. Don't be afraid to ask the front desk if any of the rooms have a newer mattress and let them know if yours is particularly lumpy or sinky... or consider splurging for a decent hotel, cheapskate! Take time to lay out on a towel or yoga mat (or the carpet if you dare!) and properly stretch out your low back and legs. Try to relax and get some sleep so you are safe on the road for the next day, and consider bringing your own orthopedic pillow for proper neck support and/or germ prevention.

Drive safely, remember to call your mother when you arrive, and enjoy yourself! And if your back should fail you, remember to stretch gently, apply ice for 15 minutes at a time and give up the wheel for a bit while someone else drives. Don't be shy to look up a local chiropractor - we are everywhere! Finally, please enjoy the following road trip video...

...posted because although it is embarrassing to me, it is hopefully more embarrassing to my sister (if you thought this was bad, ask to see the Total Eclipse of the Heart video... painful). Note also: driving with your leg on the dashboard should be discouraged for the negative effects on the lumbar spine and the danger of losing said leg should your sister drive into a ditch.
Fittingly, it turns out the correct words are: "it oughta be illegal".

Who knew?