Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Holiday Public Service Announcement

Call your chiropractor.

The holidays are coming up. You're going places! Down south to Kingston perhaps, or eastbound on the 401 to Kingston... just come see me before you go.

Maybe your only plans are to lounge around in PJs, watch Elf over and over again, and eat left over leftovers. Sounds perfect. Visit me first.

The holidays are hard. Too much time with family (there is a reason you moved out in the first place, is all I'm saying...), too much time driving from one partay to the next, too much shoveling, too much packing, too much snow, too much traffic, too much eating, too much shopping, too much schlepping, too much... just too much. Factor in your chiropractor's holiday office hours... spinal mayhem ensues. This is when I get your panicked phone calls on December 22... you put your back out - and you are leaving for Boca in two days! You can't move your neck - and you're on the way out the door to spend four days with your in-laws!

Book your appointment now. 416.482.1332 in case you forgot.

I will be away from the office from December 23rd, returning January 4th. Check the holiday schedule for details.

Consider yourself forewarned.
Call me!

... and have a wonderful, healthy, pain-free holiday!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Preventing Holiday Back Pain - Tips you can REALLY use...

Ah, Winter - the time when you are inundated with tips on 'how to prevent back pain over the holidays!'. Sure, you need to remember to bend with your knees and to stretch before and after you shovel, but how boring.

Here's how to really save your back this season.

1. Get good boots. And by good, I mean serious sh*t kickers... er... snow kickers. You want good traction, warm and waterproof boots that will keep you upright and out walking in the most inclement weather. Wearing shoes that aren't weather appropriate makes you do that puddle-jumping dance... you know, when you have to leap over snowbanks and puddles so you don't get wet? Just put on your Sorels and plow through that crap. You're Canadian. Deal with it.

2. Delegate. Shoveling hurts. Finally, I have the solution. Get someone else to do it! For those of you who don't have a minion hanging around to do your bidding, you're best to do the shoveling ASAP. Snow is easiest to move when it is light and fluffy, freshly laid. Wait for it to freeze or accumulate, and you're in trouble. Remember to shovel small amounts at a time, and to lift the load using your knees, not your back. Try not to twist when tossing the snow - better to throw it straight ahead. But if it's gonna hurt, beg or hire someone else to do it.

3. Holiday travel can leave you achy... instead, fly first class! It is so much more comfortable and glamorous! All that leg room, and if you're lucky you'll get a pod - why sit down when you can lay down? If you must fly economy (what, you don't want to pay quadruple the price?), remember to walk around from time to time, and ask the flight attendant for a pillow to put behind your low back. Actually, bring your own, since I've recently learned that some airlines have stopped providing those little pillows for free - and I want to know, what is this world coming to, when I have to pay $3 for a disposable pillow? I bet they get them for free in first class. I'm just saying...

4. Stay home. Embrace your inner scrooge. No standing in long lines at the mall for you! I rarely treat hermits, though whether this is due to their lack of pain or lack of leaving the house, I do not know.

5. Request gifts from your chiropractor's office. Seriously! Do you really need more stuff? No, you don't. You need massages. Most massage therapists offer gift certificates. Ours do. Less stuff, more massages. Baby Jesus would approve.

6. Minimalize. The trouble with putting up things, like trees and lights, is putting them up. All that reaching, it can hurt one's back. Don't get me wrong, I love my neighbour's inflatable illuminated Santa - classy!

But maybe, in the interest of spinal health, we should scale back?

Sure, I could remind you to stretch your hamstrings when sitting for long periods, take breaks during long car rides and if all else fails apply ice to any new injury, but I think the above 6 points are much more useful. But the best way to prevent back pain over your holiday this year?


Take me with you!!

Friday, November 6, 2009

Quit your swining...

Hi! How are you? Are you going to get the H1N1 shot?

Lately, this is what passes for conversation. Never before have I used the words "shiraz" and "squalene" in the same sentence, but you asked what my weekend plans were...

Ah, vaccines. They kill us/save us, depending on who you ask. They are either the greatest example of medical advancement or proof of government conspiracy - pork barrel politics, if you will. I've heard the Illuminati are involved, but one can't be sure.

I have many conflicting emotions over this issue. I feel at once:

  • concerned. I don't go looking for viruses just like I don't go looking for trouble. I avoid them like the plague! Sometimes, however, they find me, virus and trouble both. I'm concerned enough to keep hand sanitizer at the clinic front desk. I'm concerned enough that I wash my hands even more than normal, and then sometimes spray alcohol (rubbing, not schnapps) on them for good measure. I'm concerned enough that I've bookmarked this site, which tracks the number of deaths associated with H1N1 in Canada.
  • skeptical. Did you click the link above? Uh...101? Out of 33,834,093 people? I am so sorry for each one of the victims and their families, but I wonder if we are exposed to more FEAR than virus?
  • apathy. All the information and misinformation becomes jumbled in my brain, and then I remember that I do not currently have a flu, swine or not, and that to date, I don't think I've ever had a serious flu, of any combination of letters and numbers. I simply don't feel like I'm going to DIE from the FLU tomorrow, and so apathy sets in, and I admit I'm inclined to wait a bit, and see what happens.
  • suspicion. Something's not kosher. Squalene in the vaccine... a few weeks of testing... deadly pandemic vs. mild flu variant... everyone either wants my money or my arm or my defiance.
  • fear. I'm suddenly in the position of having to make a decision for another person. At 9 months old Oliver hasn't yet decided what he thinks of flus and vaccines and all things porcine. But he's awfully little, and I dislike the prospects of him facing such an intense virus and such an intense vaccine.
  • phlegm. This isn't really an emotion per se, but Oliver and I have runny noses, and I'm loath to ask our bodies to fight an injected version of a virus (among other things) while we are currently fighting a virus. Give a body a break.
  • ennui. Swine flu? H1N1 still? Isn't this soooo last spring? Can we get over this? Let's talk about something more current. Like the balloon boy.
  • concern again. Sure, it's just a virus. But... it seems to be a fast virus. And an unpredictable virus. And a nasty virus. Fast, unpredictable and nasty, the kind a nice girl like me was told to stay away from.
So here we are. I'm still unsure of how my family will proceed, but we're formulating some plans. There are strong arguments on both sides of this issue, and I think in the long run we benefit by dispensing information and letting the individual decide what is best for themselves. Those who chose to vaccinate feel safe knowing that they are protected while contributing to 'herd immunity' (though the reference to 'herds' is a little touchy (incidentally, a herd of pigs is called a drove. Who knew?)). Those who decline the shot feel better about avoiding the less savoury vaccine ingredients (thimersol, squalene... yum!). We are all playing the numbers game, irrespective of which side we are on. And people aren't exactly dying in droves (catch that?).

Catch that?? The odds favour us, irrespective of what we do. Some people will have vaccine side effects. The vast majority will not. Some people will become seriously ill with H1N1. The vast majority will not.

The point is, we're going to be ok. Breathe. We. Are. Going. To. Be. OK. So make your decision using research and consideration and instinct, get on with your life, and quit swining about it!

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Tick Talk

They say Time Heals All Wounds.

This prognosis makes me uneasy, both as a wordie (for lack of a better word) and a doctor, because a) I dislike cliches and 2) it's just a way of beating around the bush, no? Isn't this what we say when we don't know when a problem will go away, or even if? Romance gone awry, lingering injuries, problems big and small that we are powerless to mend. Just when you think you are out of options - don't despair! There is one thing you haven't tried - Time! And the good news? It has a 100% effectiveness rate!

Furthermore, there is absolutely nothing in the entire universe that I despise more than hyperbole. All wounds? Each and every one? I assume this extends beyond basic flesh wounds and lacerations, but to what end? Wounds in which salt has been rubbed? The walking wounded? A wounded heart? Does it matter if the heart was broken via love lost or arrhythmia? Dropsy? (Does anyone even get dropsy anymore?)

I say with confidence and authority that time most certainly does not heal all wounds. Like trepanation, reparative therapy and retail therapy, Time as a treatment modality is not guaranteed effective (though I once used retail therapy in the form of these shoes to cure a particularly stubborn cough*).And I wonder - are we ever fully healed from the things that affect us? My own back injuries have been treated and no longer impede me the way they once did, but I still bear the scar and my nerve will never be the same. Am I healed? Does being healed mean that all evidence is cleared? Or just that the symptoms are gone? We are remarkably markable, us humans. Our bodies remember. And if therapy and treatment and ice cream and love can't heal us, what makes us think that something so amorphous (and debatable!) as Time, will?

One of the most common things I hear in my office is "I thought it would go away". Or else the problem seemed to 'go away', but then came back, usually with a vengeance. This is the problem with waiting instead of treating; you risk making an acute and often simple problem into a chronic and complicated one. Scar tissue builds up, compensating muscles take over. Inflammation sets in, pain cycles develop. Sure, healing takes Time, but it also takes effort. And in my experience, waiting and seeing is rarely the best choice of (in)action. All chronic problems started out acute, and only worsened with Time. So much for its healing powers...

So what is it about Time that we have such faith in, anyway? And if it truly is such a miraculous healer, wouldn't someone besides Jim Croce have bottled it up and marketed the hell out of it?

(get it? Time in a bottle? I've been working on an ending for weeks... and all I can come up with is a 70s song reference. But the point stands - when injured, don't wait! Get treated!)

* results not typical

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Gratuitous Baby Update

I'm working on posts relevant to this blog. I haven't forgotten why I started writing. Stay tuned for things chiropracticish... soon!

In the meantime... Oliver!

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Does this Manifesto make my butt look big?

I went shopping for yoga pants the other day, at a certain overpriced and unnamed yoga pants emporium. And printed on their shopping bag, was the company Manifesto. While I appreciate their use of Lycra and respect their dedication to athletics, I am perplexed by their Manifesto. For starters, why does a clothing store need a Manifesto? And why does making fabulous pants that mold my rear in ways that yoga promised to but has not, make one an expert on life in general? Please understand, I need these pants, I LOVE these pants, among my wardrobe, these yoga pants shoulder stand alone. They are suitable for work and for work-out, and worth every one of the $10,000 pennies they cost. I'm sure the yoginis on the mountain tops will agree that they've, like, totally changed the sport of yoga, for sure.

But a Manifesto... really?
Quit playing philosopher. Nietzsche you ain't. Witness the following gems of wisdom I received, when all I wanted were well-fitting pants...:

"Breathe deeply and appreciate the moment. Living in the moment could be the meaning of life." Could be? A bit under-convincing, no? Hell, the pursuit of the perfect pair of comfortable but cute sandals could be the meaning of life. A manifesto should be definitive! I need answers!

"stress is related to 99% of all illness" While I don't doubt that stress negatively impacts the immune system and makes us vulnerable to illness, this is so obviously contrived. Besides, people can come up with statistics to prove anything. 14% of people know that.

"the pursuit of happiness is the source of all unhappiness" Seeking joy is the source of misery? How depressing.

"Take various vitamins. You never know what small mineral can eliminate the bottleneck to everlasting health" Now really. Various vitamins? This is not a prescription for health. For starters, the prevailing concept of 'vitamins are good, so more vitamins must be better' is false. In fact, some vitamins negatively interact with certain conditions or medications. Also, vitamins in synthetic form are not the same as their natural counterparts. In vivo (fancy for 'in the living') vitamins interact with each other and cofactors and other stuff that I should have paid more attention to in biochemistry, whereas in pill form... well, it is processed by definition, hence, inferior. I believe in using vitamins as medicine - when needed and as needed. This careless advice is foolish, and if your health is so 'bottlenecked', then perhaps you need more than 'one small mineral' to lead you to 'everlasting health'. Bollocks.

"Don’t trust that an old age pension will be sufficient" - you are an accountant too? What can't you do?

"Children are the orgasm of life. Just like you did not know what an orgasm was before you had one, nature does not let you know how great children are until you have them". What? *blush*. I... I just wanted yoga pants?! Orgasm? I... uh... do you have these pants in a size orgasm i mean size 6? Does the person who wrote this have kids? Because I vow to never, EVER, refer to my child that way. I just... oh my.

"Communication is COMPLICATED. We are all raised in a different family with slightly different definitions of every word. An agreement is an agreement only if each party knows the conditions for satisfaction and a time is set for satisfaction to occur." Well. My brain officially hurts. I don't think we each have different definitions for every word, that certainly would make communication as COMPLICATED as they find it, since words would cease to have meaning, and THAT'S WHAT DICTIONARIES ARE FOR YOU CAN'T JUST DEFINE WORDS HOWEVER YOU WANT, EVEN IF YOU'VE STRETCHED THE DEFINITION OF YOGA PANTS TO MEAN SEMI-FORMAL WEAR. Hence, I disagree with your manifesto and don't anticipate being satisfied at any time in the future.

An eco-friendly shopping bag is a powerful thing - it carries purchases and the meaning of life and lets me save the earth by shopping. But few, if any, of history's great manifestos were printed on a shopping bag, and this one... I'm not buying.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Things that are a pain in the neck

1. The pain between your shoulder blades. You may think you have been stabbed in the back, but unless your name is Caesar, that sharp pain is probably due to a 'pinched' nerve in your neck (and not your best friend!). It is called cervicogenic dorsalgia, fancy for 'back pain originating in the neck', and it is very common. Et tu, Brute?

2. Tailgaters. Especially when you have to keep checking your blind spot, because some jerk is attempting to drive into your trunk.

3. The pain in my neck. Really, it hurts! Fortunately I was able to get an adjustment of my own today. Someone needs to treat the chiropractor!

4. Your flat pillow. Your really fluffy pillow. Your 4 pillows stacked one on top of the other. Find a pillow, one pillow, that gives you sweet dreams and neck support. I like a cervical pillow with memory foam.

5. Necking. Actually, I have yet to see a patient injure their neck while necking. So consider making out a chiropractically safe activity!

6. Headaches. Neck tension and misaligned vertebra in the cervical spine are a major cause of headaches.

7. The albatross around your neck.

8. Rubbernecking. It causes 16% of distraction-related traffic accidents, and whiplash is another major cause of neck pain.

9. Younger sisters. (Hi Pam!)

10. Trying to think of a 10th witty and relevant item to complete this list. Yeesh...

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Lunch is on me...

Pregnancy is said to be a beautiful and wondrous time in a woman's life. And it is. But in retrospect, it is also a bloated and hormotional time in a woman's life, and let's face it... a totally surreal and bizarre time in said woman's life. You not only double in size, but in number of people.

As my pregnancy crept ever so slowly to an end, I thought a lot about whether I would miss the experience of nourishing this other, of being able to provide everything it (he) needed to survive. Then I started having contractions, and 3 short weeks later Oliver was born. We got off to a great start breast-feeding, and while nursing him before dawn it dawned on me - aside from baby Gap, I was still the sole provider of everything he needed. Just the method of delivery changed.

I love nursing. I love that my son's chubby thighs are from me (my milk and my genes!), I am privileged to spend every few hours (a little less privileged in the middle of the night) cuddled up, bonding, nourishing... it is lovely. I didn't know I'd enjoy it this much - it surprises me still. It is sort of like discovering that what was previously only decorative is suddenly functional - like your favourite bracelet is also a GPS unit. Breasts - pretty and useful! Who knew?

I realize how fortunate we are, Oliver and I, to have navigated nursing with only a few minor injuries*. This 'natural' process is not so natural or easy for some, and I urge those mamas who have trouble nursing but want to forge ahead to seek out a lactation consultant. Irrespective of how you feed your baby, from the bottle or the breast, poor posture at mealtime will cause discomfort in the upper back; do this every two hours and it can become agonizing. Add in a lack of sleep and bending over a change table... and you get the picture. I'll leave the technicalities of nursing to Janice, my favourite doula, prenatal educator and breast-feeding instructor, but allow me to draw on my dual qualifications as a nursing mother and a chiropractor to offer a little help and some relief for nursing pain and discomfort unrelated to the chestal region.
  • Breast-feeding moms, nature and the laws of engorgement are on your side, since they dictate that you hold the baby on alternating sides with each feed. Bottle feeding moms (and dads!), on the other hand will usually pick a preferred side, leading to asymmetry and more pain. Another downside to single-sided feedings is that the baby may develop neck muscles asymmetrically from turning their head in one direction. Consider switching sides, even if holding the bottle in the other hand feels odd at first.
  • The most useful prop is a nursing pillow - especially in the early weeks when the baby is tiny. It helps bring the baby closer to the breast, to prevent hunching over. There are a variety of different types, so find the one that works for you. Mine was polka-dotted, that worked best for me. Really any pillow will do, you don't need a cleverly-named one (really - breast friends?) to support things (the baby, arms, low back). Stack pillows under and around yourself and the baby until you are comfortable. It's not rocket science.
  • Put a pillow or other support in the small of the low back - maintaining this curve is key. When you collapse through the low back, your shoulders are thrust forward and the neck must compensate to stay upright. Keep the lumbar curve supported, and your upper back and neck will fall into a better position.
  • Get a massage! Have someone watch the baby, or ask if you can bring the baby along (they sleep so much in those early days, and many therapists will be happy to accommodate you, especially during slower periods in the middle of the day). At the very least, have your partner attempt a shoulder rub. If anyone deserves a massage, it is a new mom. 'nuff said.
  • Get an adjustment! Really... just do it. Your posture has experienced so many changes throughout pregnancy, hormonal changes have relaxed and tensed your ligaments, you now carry around an ever growing load of baby... the stress on your spine is significant. A chiropractor can restore mobility, reduce pain, get things back to normal, whatever that is! The relief from that first adjustment after baby arrives is enormous. Moms... get your back adjusted. Aaah.
  • Relax the shoulders. There is a tendency to raise the shoulders when we don't need to! This shoulder hiking happens when feeding the baby, holding her, rocking her... but your shoulders are not needed! Relax them. You can hold the baby just as well with them down, away from your ears.
  • Get comfortable at the start of a feeding, so that 10 (or 45!) minutes later you aren't going numb or in pain from holding the baby in an awkward position. In a cradle hold, soften the shoulders and rest your elbow on a pillow, not against a hard arm rest. A food stool is great too, for taking pressure off the legs and low back. In a side lying breastfeeding position, put a pillow under the neck and another between the knees. If Mama's not comfortable, NO ONE is.
  • Experiment with different feeding positions. Bottle feeders, switch sides, or have someone else take over a feeding or two to give yourself a break. Breast feeders, there are many positions to try, and even though you may have a favourite, mixing it up may prevent muscle overuse. And be creative - you don't need to use the positions listed on a website or breastfeeding pamphlet. Whatever gets the baby to the breast comfortably is good. Lying across your chest, sitting on your lap... really, whatever works, works. Oliver will quite literally latch in any position possible. I once fed him suspended from the ceiling by a series of bungee cords.
Hopefully meal time is an enjoyable one, for all parties involved. Luckily, my young son has a sophisticated palate and really enjoys eating; indeed I am consumed with joy.

*don't let the baby latch onto your chin. It may seem funny at the time, but you will regret it.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

I love food...

When I met Devon Strachan, a holistic nutritionist who ALSO loves food... well, it was like a match made in heaven... or a kitchen... or a restaurant. The point is, I love food, she loves food, ergo, I love Devon. She and I will sit down and start to chat about food, real food versus the fake food we tend to eat, how to cook food, how to use food to be more healthy... food, glorious food, and whad'ya know, it is 2 hours later, and boy am I hungry.

So I did the only thing I could - I made her a part of the team at RHCC.

And the best part? Each week, she brings a snack for everyone to try. A healthful snack. An easy-to-make snack. A delicious snack. But most importantly, SHE BRINGS A SNACK.

Today Devon treated the patients of RHCC to the following concoction. If you weren't in the clinic to sample Devon's version, feel free to make it yourself at home!

Olive Tapanade
How to make it:
Blend 1 can black olives, 2 cloves raw garlic, 2 tablespoons caper juice in food processor .
Remove goat cheese from fridge to soften.
Spread thin of layer goat cheese on the bottom of the bowl,all of the olive spread, a second think layer of goat cheese, top generously with capers.
Serve with whole grain bread or crackers!

Why to make it:
Olives: good source of vitamin E
Capers: powerful antioxidant
Goat cheese: promotes good bacteria in digestive tract
Garlic: naturally anti-bacterial

Unfortunately we were too hungry to take the picture before diving in... enjoy!

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Post-partum recession

There comes a time when every new mother must accept that maternity pants are not meant to be eternity pants. When the 'maternity' part of the equation no longer applies, lets face it, they are now just pants; elasticized pants, large pants. In truth, they are buffet pants.

We are in a recession, it seems, and I'm ready to do some receding of my own. Time to get in shape, or rather out of my current pear shape and into something more angular. Muscles are the new black.

I admit to indulging over the last few weeks - the last 52 weeks, to be exact. A year ago I peed on a stick and saw a + sign. Since then, the '+' has come to refer to '+ sized' - portions, garments, waistline. It is getting harder and harder to convince myself that my gaining weight is good for the baby.

And so, back to the gym I go. Salads and grilled chicken for me please, maybe a little guidance from Devon the holistic nutritionist. A little hard work for a new pair of jeans. Spring cleaning for this body.

I have many motivations to get in shape. I want to be healthy for my family, for myself. I want to have the energy to keep up with my son, and be strong enough to carry him in my arms, always. And I want to go shopping for a new pair of jeans... ones without an elasticized waist band!

Is that so wrong?

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Hi Ho, Hi Ho...

Back to work I go!

My maternity leave is over. Though I much enjoyed the time with Oliver, I am excited to return to work, happy to have conversations with people who converse back and who don't drool on me. During these early days I will often have my young son with me at the office, which is convenient for feedings, cuddles and getting an early start on his chiropractic training. It also allows me to use him as a tax deduction - an 11 week old can be considered an 'assistant', no?

There is a lot going on at the clinic now; I am excited to start working with Devon Strachan, a wonderful registered holistic nutritionist who has joined the practice. She is a real foodie who understands that healthy can and should be delicious, and that simple is usually best. Monday night yoga classes are ongoing, and our monthly baby massage classes are a hit. There is nothing cuter than a roomful of nearly naked babies. NOTHING. Of course we also offer acupuncture treatments and qi gong classes and massage therapy, and of course... chiropractic.

Spring is a wonderful time, for renewal, returning to work, getting in shape, getting back into health. Let us know how we can help you fully express yourself this spring.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Welcome to the last resort, enjoy your stay

There is a time and place for everything.  That's what they say.  Actually, Barclay said 'there is tyme and place for euery thynge', but that's the kind of spelling you'd expect from someone who travels on a ship of fools.  The point is I haven't slept in a couple of months... oh, I've already used that excuse, excuse me.  

Ah right.  The point is, there is a time and a place for everything.  Of course, this assumes that I am referring to the observable universe and not the possibility of multiverse, in which case there would be more than one time and place for everything.  But dopplegangers and Hilbert Space are beyond the scope of this blog, so I'll leave the parallel dimensions to the less sleep deprived, to people whose conversations don't regularly include such poetics as "did someone make a poopy diaper?" and "who's mommy's little puppy bear?  yes you are!  yes you are my puppy bear!!". 

The point, for real now, is that there is a time and place for everything.  Of course, this relates to chiropractic, as do all things chiroscope.  See, chiropractic is remarkably effective.  It is safe, efficient and great at fixing a lot of ouches and twinges and whatnot.  But sometimes, it can't. Medicine and surgery, on the other hand, are also great.  Sometimes.  You see?  A tyme and a place for euery thynge.  

Take me, for example (well, I don't see any other volunteers...).  Chiropractic helped me manage my lower back issues for many years.  It still does.  But when the situation became unmanageable, despite my most dogged attempts at all things conservative, surgery was recommended to prevent permanent nerve damage.  It was time to visit the last resort.   And though I was drug-free and as natural as could be during my pregnancy, when my son's heart rate decelerated enough to make my own heart stop, a cesarean section was recommended. Again, I visited the last resort.  

It is not a place you go to easily, the last resort.  It is not a choice destination, but rather a choice we make when it seems we are out of choices.  Both times I have resorted to the last resort, I've been lucky and grateful to have the option.  I'd exhausted all other avenues, and it was the right place at the right time.  

For people who pride themselves on being healthy or able to resist pain, on choosing the natural path or being able to self-heal (uh... me?) it can be difficult to succumb to more drastic measures and interventions, hard to acknowledge that the simple solution isn't going to work this time.  For people whose identity lies in these factors, say practitioners of natural healing arts (me again?), it can be hard to admit 'defeat', that we couldn't fix this problem, that the philosophies and techniques that we espouse weren't helpful, this time.  

I've stayed at better places, but I'm glad to know that there is always an vacancy at the last resort.   

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Fight The Good Fight

I am a pacifist. Actually, lately I suspect that I'm also a pacifier, though I try to encourage the baby to not loiter too long after eating. The point is... what was the point? Oh, the point is that I haven't slept in a long time and can no longer hold a train of thought.

Oh! No. The point is, I generally avoid confrontation. If you are going to yell at me, I'll probably just give you what you want to save my eardrums. Please don't tell my child this, though he likely suspects my weakness for shreekiness. Take last night, for example, when I felt that 3 hours seemed like an appropriate amount of time to swing a person. My 10 lb 14 oz opponent disagreed. We compromised, concluding that I'll just swing him in my arms until he starts high school, and he'll never cry again. And it's fine, really it is!

There are some times though, when I cannot walk away from a fight, when standing up for myself becomes not just a matter of principle, but my well-being and possibly my survival. This is when the discussion turns to my health. There are no people more worth fighting for than myself and my family, nothing more important than our health, and no doctor or facility that will ever back me into a corner. Which is not to say that I go around looking to fight endocrinologists or to imply that I enjoy going head to head with psychiatrists. I have deep respect for those in the health professions, especially in Canada where the vast majority are overworked and underpaid for their efforts. Actually, Canada is a big part of the problem. Canadians are the rest of the problem. Oh, Canada.

Because of our FREE! and wonderful health care system, we wait in long lines to see a doctor and are just grateful to be seen. We are less inclined to realize our rights, since we aren't paying for the service (directly) and, well, the doctor knows, right?

But what about when the doctor isn't right, or the treatment just isn't right for you? What if the wait time is too long? Maybe the specialist you were so lucky to get into didn't listen to you or rubbed you the wrong way? Well, then you remind yourself that your tax dollars pay for these services, and you speak up. I realize this is easier to do when you have the vocabulary and training behind you, certainly hospital staff are less likely to think you are just a pain in the butt when tell them you have an acute gluteal antalgia, but even the less eloquent have rights. You are entitled to a detailed and thorough examination and explanation of your problem. You deserve to know your treatment options, including what happens if you don't accept a proposed treatment. You are entitled to seek a second and even a third opinion. You should be free to ask as many questions as you have, even the stupid ones. You deserve to be treated with respect and empathy. We need to understand that when we visit a doctor, we are hiring him to do a job, paying with our tax dollars instead of our wallet. We have rights.

I recently exercised my right to fight the system. A day after checking out of the hospital with my new son, I had to return. The baby was fine, but I was only a few degrees away from having cat scratch fever. The doctor recommended antibiotics, which after confirming that they were compatible with breast-feeding, I agreed to take. It was further recommended that I stay the night, and since I had no plans except to hallucinate my fever away, I also agreed. Then I was told that while I was welcome to stay chez Women's College, for FREE! natch, my 4-day-old son was not welcome, since he had already checked out. The hospital claimed that there was nothing they could do, it was impossible, their hands were tied. This was the best option they could come up with.

And just like Dee Snider, I wasn't going to take it.

To separate a newborn from his mother, his comfort, and his food source because of administrative 'impossibilities' was unacceptable. So much so, that I was prepared to take my medication, go home with my infant and return the next day for my next dose and follow-up, a plan the hospital did not like. After negotiations and help from my husband and midwife, we came up with an acceptable solution, one that satisfied my medical and personal needs. But I wonder what a more timid or 'compliant' patient would have done, and I feel for the patient who doesn't know that they can say no or request a different plan of action.

Fighting for your rights doesn't mean being belligerent or demanding, but rather it means tactfully insisting on getting the care you need. In my health history, this has meant 'hiring' a neurosurgeon, a midwife and an obstetrician, a family doctor, and many, many chiropractors. These experts have helped me to manage different concerns, but always it is me who is ultimately responsible for my health decisions and outcomes. I have declined some medications and taken others. I have refused some tests and demanded others. I have asked for help getting earlier specialist appointments when my body told me not to wait and been a patient patient at other times. I do my best to make my doctors aware of my expectations, my needs, and my preferences, and this way I have been best able to look out for myself, and know that I will always be OK. I hope that you can say the same.

As the Beastie Boys teach, "you've got to fight for your rights"...to party... but it still applies. Give a new mother a break, this was the best closer I could come up with on 3 hours sleep, besides, I'm busy swinging my son.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

You Make Plans...

There is a lot of talk these days about 'health plans'. These two words don't always go together well though, 'cause when it comes to your health, anything can and will happen.

I hope this isn't scary, but rather freeing. You might exercise a little or a lot, eat at Burger.King daily or never, follow the rules or break them, and typically, your health will follow suit. But sometimes the exercise freak has a heart attack, and his chubby friend rushes him to the hospital. Sometimes the yogi has low back pain and the weekend warrior cruises unharmed. Sometimes genetics/fate/happenstance intervene, despite (or in spite of) our best intentions.

So what is a fatalist to do? How does one accept that we can't always control or even predict how our bodies will behave? As corny as it sounds, I think the answer is to accept and let go. Search for the message in the event. Listen to your body, really hear what it is saying.

It is not unusual for people to come to me in crisis right before Christmas. Or a vacation. Or a wedding. Back pain often strikes at the worst time possible, in part because there really is no good time to be laid out flat on your back (well, not many good times). Fortunately, there are things you can do to expedite the healing process - chiropractic comes to mind (!), but always, time and patience are required. If you are injured, as frustrating as it may be, listen to your body, hear its message. It might be that you need to slow down, rest more. When we ignore the whispers (ooh, my back is a little tight!) the body shouts (AARGH my back REALLY HURTS!!!). Pay attention, spine owners!

I have a long history of painful back episodes, most coinciding with major life changes, as though my body was trying to sabotage my plans; the first time my back 'went out' was right before I started university. Other major flare-ups conveniently occurred at the start of my chiropractic internship, the week before my wedding, and during the first trimester of my pregnancy. My back is my weak spot and is at risk when I am under stress, and I now understand that I need to take extra precautions ahead of potentially stressful times. I get an adjustment before the vacation, start yoga before I'm stressed, get a massage before I really need one. I try to avoid being shouted at by my body by giving it what it needs, before it NEEDS it.

But it doesn't always work, and inevitably, we all will get aches and pains. So when those old familiar (painful) feelings come back, relax. Cancel your plans, call in sick, visit your chiropractor, have a massage or some acupuncture. Invest in a good reusable ice pack (really people, spend the $5, and make the peas for dinner!) and rent some DVDs (I recommend Arrested Development - even funnier the second time around). Get some rest, chances are you need it.

Remember, this too shall pass.

Monday, February 16, 2009

All In The Family

When I was pregnant, people warned me that when the baby comes, all other things fall by the wayside. Not for me, I insisted... I'm a multitasker extraordinaire. In fact, right now as I compose this blog, I'm concurrently typing, getting a head start on my 2009 taxes, baking a souffle and sanding the floors. Puh-lease, a little tiny baby should present no problem.

And yet, here we are, over a fortnight since my last post. My readers must be outraged. But trust that I've been racking my sleep-deprived brain for chiropractic and health-related blog topics all the while. Knee injuries? The effects of foot pronation on low back pain? Natural headache remedies? All fascinating, to be sure, but not as captivating as my TINY ADORABLE BABY!

To hell with lumbago, my baby is taking his first bath!

Who cares about proper sleep positions... my baby sleeps swaddled up tight!

Sure, I can treat your foot pain... but check out my baby's tiny foot!!

So you see the problem. But presently he sleeps, and here I blog. In the spirit of this weekend's holidays honouring St. Valentine and his family, please allow me this bit of cyberspace to 'kvell'. For I have recently gone from being part of a couple to part of a family, and I am deeply, severely, completely, in love.

So enjoy this long weekend, spend time with people you love and with your family (if you are lucky, there will be some overlap there), and forgive me for being slightly baby obsessed for now. I blame it on the oxytocin coursing through my veins.

But can you blame me?

Friday, January 30, 2009

Oliver Everett Roth

Born January 24, 2009.  Oliver shares a birthday with both his mother and his paternal grandmother.       
6 pounds, 11 ounces of fuzziness. 

I'm in love.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Labour Strike

It is now day 10 of the labour strike, but it is unclear who is on strike - the baby or I? Scientists don't fully understand which party initiates labour, who 'gets this party started' as it were. In sheep, where thankfully extensive research has been done, it is the fetus who makes the exit strategy. But my baby is no sheep, and here we are, on day 10 of our stand-off. Silly me for assuming that 41+ weeks of gestation entitled me to a baby, that contractions were part of the contract.

Further attempts at deploying a peaceful withdrawal strategy have included evening primrose oil, more acupuncture, spicy food in every form, meditation, recipes incorporating eggplant and pineapples (eww, not together!), homeopathic remedies and walking every mall and street in Toronto. I've also made tons of dates and appointments I couldn't possibly keep, in the hopes of tempting fate. Instead, I've brunched and lunched, visited the salon and watched long movies, and started, completed and eated 8-hour-crockpot recipes.

A good friend likes to tell me that this is my first lesson in parenthood, that things don't go according to plan. Got it. Lesson learned. Let's move on now, shall we? Surely there are other lessons awaiting me, like how to put on a diaper, or uh, how to raise a child.

There is a lot of talk about induction lately, and January 20th holds much promise. As I watched Barack Obama's induction into office as President of the United States, I thought a lot about my own induction ceremonies, though unlike Obama, mine may include castor oil. These are desperate times, people. It certainly is an auspicious time for a new arrival though, a good day to mark the end of one, full term, and start another, yes?

Yes we can, baby... yes we can.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

If I can't have you right now, I'll wait dear...

People have much to say about pregnancy, everyone seems to be an expert. Take me, for example - I've written how many posts about having a baby? And I don't even HAVE a baby!

Old wives, new wives and even my plumber all have tales about what to do, what not to do, what to expect when you are expecting. (Interesting fact: I've dealt more with my plumber than my midwife in the last few weeks. Everything water-related seems to be breaking, except my water.) Now that I'm officially overdue, I hear a lot about how to induce labour. I thought I'd sum up my experiences so far.
  • Chiropractic adjustments. These have been a part of my routine this whole pregnancy. Drs Bain, Steiner and Weisberg have all kept me aligned and feeling well. To be honest I didn't bother making an appointment this week, since I'd obviously be busy with my newborn. Ha.   
  • Red Raspberry Leaf Tea, said to tonify the uterus. I've drunk (drank? drinken?) so much of this. It is all we have in the house. Even my husband is drinking it. And neither one of us has birthed a baby, yet.
  • Prenatal massage. This is not a luxury, but a necessity. Amanda saved me when my back flared up early on, Kaaren kept me going in the middle months, and Kristy has worked her magic on my ribs and hips in these last weeks. I managed to get one more massage in last week, though if this baby stays put, I guess I'll just have to book another treatment!
  • Energy Work. I visited with Shawn Gallagher last week to try out some new therapies she has been studying. This is the same woman who taught us hypnosis for childbirth, a class I really enjoyed and will report on after I've had the chance to put her lessons to use. She is a wonderful practitioner, intuitive and calming, and we worked on releasing any blockages or fears that I may be holding onto surrounding this upcoming birth. I felt remarkably lighter after the session with her, no small feat for a person carrying around so much weight! I can't recommend her enough. 
  • Stretch and sweep. The midwife does this. On one's cervix. You may feel crampy after. That's all I'll say about that. 
  • People have recommended, uh, partaking in certain, umm, activities to induce labour, the kind of activities that get a lady in this sort of predicament in the first place. Ha Ha. That's all I'll say about THAT.
  • Acupuncture. Lisa Quaning is one of my favourite people, and without a doubt my favourite acupuncturist. She personifies tranquility and exudes peacefulness. Her treatments are as lovely and relaxing as they are effective. She painlessly inserted the needles, smiling as she suggested that there may be some tenderness to come... and I'll admit it, it was a bit tender.  But the baby moved a lot and got the hiccups, so that has to mean something, right? I will try this again on Monday if I haven't had the baby. 
  • Eviction notice.  Unfortunately the tenancy laws in Toronto are notoriously biased toward the resident, who at this point is technically a squatter.  
  • Evening Primrose Oil. I took this, though it is hard to say if it worked, because I also ordered in take-out that night. Leading me to...
  • Eat spicy food. Indian! Chicken tikka massala, aloo ghobi... yum. But I think it was the lamb vindaloo that got me. Because a few hours later, I woke up having contractions! They increased in intensity and frequency, enough that we called the midwife... only to be accused of the rookie move, jumping the labour gun.  Back to sleep it was.  
So, those are my experiences so far. I'm resting now, hoping that tonight's full moon works its lunar magic, but I'm open to suggestions for next week, just in case. I'm thinking: return to work (maternity leave isn't really living up to its name, is it?), trampoline lessons, eat jalapeno peppers, more acupuncture, install new shelving in the laundry room, begging and bribing the baby.

But you know, (love,) there's one more thing to consider - the words of the poet Axl Rose, who said woman take it slow, it'll work itself out fine, all we need is just a little patience...

Monday, January 5, 2009

Eviction Notice

Dear Baby;

The fat lady has sung (laaaa!). It is time... get out!

Your lease is up. I assumed it was understood that the current domestic arrangements were temporary, a place for you to stay until you could make it on your own in the outside world.

I also feel that you are too attached to me. Let's try some time and space apart - just a little bit! You'll be fine. Please vacate the premises ASAP.

You've generally been a great tenant, though at times I questioned the hours you keep, and apparently you are a cast member of Riverdance. We can talk about these things on the outside though, after you are born! (and can you get me tickets?)

Frankly you've outgrown your current space, you've run out of womb. The superintendent (your father) and I feel that you should expand your horizons. It is time, baby, to explore the world.

I look forward to meeting with you in person - I'm so excited, I'm literally bursting at the seams!

Respectfully and with love,
Your mother.