pdf of this article

For further information, contact:

John Ballam, DC
Adam Schnebelt, DC

201 Davis Grove Circle, #106
Cary, NC 27519
Telephone: (919) 363-2277

Removing Barriers to Optimal Health

“Two things come immediately to mind when I hear the term ‘optimal’ health,” observes Dr. John Ballam of Legacy Chiropractic in Cary. “First, there isn’t one universal definition for optimal health; everyone’s goals are different, and your optimal health—or what’s possible—will differ based on your health history, your age, and other factors.

“Each X-ray,” says Dr. Ballam “is a reminder of the advice of Hippocrates, the father of modern medicine: ‘Look well to the spine for the cause of disease.’”

“At the same time,” he adds, “if I’ve learned anything in my practice, it’s that our bodies are designed for optimal health. We’re meant to be healthy and balanced; our bodies are built to function well, to resist disease, and to heal injuries.

“There’s an expression common to chiropractors,” he explains: “We say: ‘the body doesn’t need any help. It just needs no interference.’ That’s fundamental to chiropractic practice. While in conventional Western medicine, the approach is often to give the body something. In chiropractic, we look first at identifying the things that interfere with health and then work to remove those roadblocks to healing.”

Removing Roadblocks to Healing

“A patient I’ll call Andrew,” says Dr. Ballam, “is a perfect illustration of both those things. For Andrew, achieving ‘optimal’ health meant overcoming the crippling pain that had resulted from a severe back injury and failed surgeries. We got there by removing barriers to his healing.”

Andrew’s problems, explains Dr. Ballam, began when he picked up a heavy piece of machinery and ruptured a couple of discs in his low back. And the three surgeries that followed had not been able to relieve his pain, or restore his function or quality of life.

“The approach we took with Andrew—as with other post-surgical patients,” says Dr. Ballam, “was not to focus on adjusting injured areas. Rather, we focused on taking away interference—finding the source of the mechanical distress and then allowing the body to heal naturally on its own. The goal is to make sure there’s proper movement above and below where the surgery was—because you’re trying to keep those areas from wearing out next due to the altered biomechanics of the spine.

“In Andrew’s case, we worked to strengthen another area of his back, so that the compromised, injured area didn’t have to work so hard. Basically, we found a way to help another area of his spine carry that structural stress more efficiently.”

Free Posture Assessment

“A posture assessment,” says Dr. Ballam, “is an invaluable tool in chiropractic care. It provides a baseline against which to evaluate future problems. That is why,” he says, “we offer a free digital pos-ture assessment and free consulta-tion to assess imbalances and risks.”

To schedule a free initial consultation and posture assessment, call:
(919) 363-2277.

This approach allowed Andrew to reclaim significant quality of life. For someone else, observes, Dr. Ballam, “Andrew’s improved condition wouldn’t be ‘optimal,’ but for Andrew, it’s a vast improvement over the low place where he started. He’s still disabled, and relies on regular adjustments to reduce pain, but he's much, much better—never having believed that he’d feel this good again.”

Chiropractic and
the Nervous System

“Going back to the idea that we are designed for good health,” observes Dr. Ballam, “another way to define ‘optimal health’ is when everything happens at the right time. Stomach acid is a good example. If you produce stomach acid at the wrong time, you have heartburn; but at the right time, stomach acid is key to optimal health— helping you digest your food and absorb specific nutrients, and protecting you from food-borne pathogens.

“It might surprise you that to learn that stomach acid relates to chiropractic care,” he says, “but it can. Chiropractic care specifically deals with the nervous system, which controls everything in the body. Stress on a certain part of the spine can directly affect stomach function,” he says, “causing you to overproduce acid and have heartburn or indigestion. And this is just one example of how structural stress relates to body function.”

The nervous system, explains Dr. Ballam, has two modes that contribute to your health, and they serve different purposes. “In the rest-and-digest mode, the body is in a state of healing, repair, and growth. But the fight-or-flight response is also important—that’s how the body deals with stress. Blood pressure increases, muscles tense—the body prepares physically to flee or fight.

“Problems arise,” he notes, “when stress is chronic and you get stuck in that fight-or-flight mode. Our bodies aren’t meant for that. They’re designed to respond to a short-term crisis and then go back to the rest-and-digest mode, which allows for healing and repair.

“Optimal health isn’t possible when people are stuck in that chronic stress loop,” he observes. “The body can’t heal and repair; the digestive system can’t absorb necessary nutrients. And it can become a vicious loop, setting people up for more disease. Poor digestion, for example, produces more stress; more stress interferes with the body’s ability to fend off illness; chronically tightened muscles can pull the spine out of alignment; misalignment itself becomes a structural stress affecting the nervous system and perpetuating the fight-or-flight response.”

Stress: Major Threat to Spinal Health

“One of the greatest threats to spinal health, and, indeed, to overall health,” observes Dr. Ballam, “is stress on our nervous system—especially chronic stress. The good news is that, by understanding the source of these stressors, there’s a lot we can do to mitigate or eliminate them and the harm they cause.”

Three types of stress—physical, chemical, and emotional—contribute to spinal problems, he explains. “Physical stress includes injury, of course, but probably the number one physical stressor is poor posture, coupled with our sedentary lifestyle. Sitting all day is terribly stressful!

“Chemical stress,” he says, “can pretty much be summed up in the adage ‘you are what you eat.’ If you eat garbage, your body builds garbage tissue. Joints, bones, and muscles will be less resilient and your skeletal structure weaker, and more susceptible to misalignment.

“But the stressors that have the greatest impact are emotional stressors. Mental/emotional stress is a normal part of life; everyone has it. And, over the last two years, especially, everyone’s had more stress than normal, so we can all relate. If you’re interviewing for a job or somebody cuts you off in traffic and your blood pressure goes up for a second and your muscles tense, that’s normal stress response. But health problems occur when that normal response does not subside, but persists; and cumulative stress is toxic.

“When patients are trapped in a state of constant fight-or-flight stress, chiropractic care can do a great deal break the cycle. A simple adjustment that relieves tension also allows the nervous system to downshift into its healing mode. But patients need to remember that they have enormous power to prevent that state of chronic stress.

“If you want to optimize your health,” he says, “cultivate habits that minimize or eliminate these stressors. Consider how you sit and how much you sit, and how often you bend your neck to look down at your cell phone. We need movement, plenty of water, and a healthy diet for optimal health—all choices each of us can make.”