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 Cost.co.

This warrants its own paragraph. I love Cost.co - 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 Cost.co hunting and foraging the aisles for you. Somewhere near the food section I grow dangerously dehydrated, and pray to the Cost.co 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 Cost.co - 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 Cost.co, 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?

Monday, July 7, 2008


A patient gave me a dandelion. And sadly, I killed it. Then she gave me another, and I ignored it. And it is thriving! I'm not sure what the lesson is here.

Before you go thinking I am a bad gardener, let me assure you that I am a horrible gardener. Who inadvertently kills a dandelion? But this plant is unique - not your typical dandelion. In fact, when I tried to do some research I could find nothing like it. I'll take my patient's word that it is indeed a dandelion, though it certainly doesn't look like any I've ever seen. This dandelion is one of a kind.

It got me thinking though, about what separates a weed from a flower. Emerson asked and then responded, "What is a weed? A flower whose virtues have never been discovered."

Well I discovered something spectacular about my dandelion. Every now and then, as it pleases, it blooms a beautiful but simple yellow flower.

At night.

For one night only.

In fact some nights I miss the late show, and only discover it in the morning doing the botanical walk-of-shame, spent from a night out doing god-knows-what with god-knows-whom. (No really - these randy-dandys must know that their nocturnal behaviour will only attract such unsavory pollinators as moths... or bats... eek. Not in MY backyard!)

Then this late bloomer shrivels up and dies.

Surely there is a lesson in this. Something about beauty fading? Or all good things coming to an end? Appreciating what you've got while you've got it?
Enjoying the moment? Seize the day? A good deed is its own reward? Finding beauty where you least expect it?

Perhaps I'm reading too much into it. Maybe there is no lesson, and it is what it is - just a bunch of stuff that happens, an unpopular flowering weed that sometimes blooms at night.

But for what it is worth, it makes me happy. As Ella Wheeler Wilcox said 'a weed is but an unloved flower'. No weeds here!