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For more information about chiropractic treatment, contact:

John Ballam, DC

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

The Impact of the “COVID-19” on Your Spine

The COVID concerns and social distancing characterizing 2020, observes Dr. John Ballam of Legacy Chiropractic in Cary, “have created a perfect recipe for weight gain: less movement, eating too much, eating poorly, and being stressed. Ultimately, that’s also a recipe for musculoskeletal issues, such as back and neck pain.

Dr. Ballam points to the X-ray of a patient impaired by excess weight. “When I first met this patient, he was about 30 pounds overweight. While working with his spine he began working on losing the weight—and the combination of chiropractic and weight loss significantly improved his spinal health, and he eventually stopped coming in. However, after some time had passed, he had the same back pain again! It turned out, he had regained the weight and noticed the back pain began to return with the increased weight. Combining weight loss and chiropractic care, he again healed and is now continuing to do well; and the memory of his back pain is motivating him to keep the weight off.”

“Most people have hunkered down for COVID and joke about having gained the ‘COVID 19,’ as in, they’ve put on an additional 19 pounds,” he says. “People are staying put more and aren’t exercising the way they used to, and they’re not eating as well. When your body gets stressed, as many of us have been during 2020, it affects your physiology. Not only does stress encourage poor eating habits, it literally changes hormones, so rather than burning calories, your body shifts into storing calories.
“And weight gain is no joke,” he points out. “It can have major impact on spinal health. In fact, weight issues are probably one of the most common factors affecting my patients, with most needing to lose some weight.

“I’ve had patients who’ve had structural spinal issues that weren’t causing symptoms until they gained weight. The only change is that they added an extra 10 pounds to their structurally compromised spine. At that point, they’ve crossed the threshold and now have back or hip pain, tension in their shoulders, or maybe their knees are starting to hurt. It’s not because their knees suddenly got worse—it’s that extra 10 pounds they’re carrying.”
And, he explains, “for every four pounds you gain, you add sixteen pounds of pressure to your spine! Excess weight also increases the chances of developing osteoarthritis.

Diet, Weight, and Spinal Health—All Connected

Being overweight can cause spinal misalignments, especially if you lead a sedentary lifestyle, Dr. Ballam explains. “Indeed, sitting is probably one of the greatest stressors on the spine. Most people think that falls or accidents are the greatest cause of bodily trauma, but honestly, sitting is probably the greatest trauma to most patients’ backs because it’s sneaky. You don’t hurt after sitting one time, but it has a cumulative effect. And ‘sitting trauma’ is another consequence of the year of COVID. If someone is overweight, and not able to get around as much as they normally would, and now they’re sitting more, all that increased sitting can result in more trauma to the spinal joints.”

The connection between diet and spinal health goes beyond weight gain. “Spinal misalignments can also lead to digestive issues,” notes Dr. Ballam. “There’s a nerve, called the vagus nerve, that affects pretty much every part of the digestive system. Structural issues in the neck can affect the vagus nerve and some patients who complain of neck pain or headaches may also have digestive issues, but can’t make the connection that they’re related. But, typically, we find that adjustments that fix their neck issues tend to improve digestive issues as well.

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.

“And it’s not just the vagus nerve,” he says. “The thoracic part of the spine, which lies between your shoulder blades, relates to stomach function and how acidic the stomach is, causing some to have heartburn, acid reflux, and indigestion. Additionally, the lumbar area of the spine, encompassing the lower back, relates more to the colon. These patients tend to have more issues with constipation or irritable bowel problems.

“A very common pattern I see is that patients will come in because they may have a headache. And when I start working on their neck, they may find that their digestion starts to get better. Or, when I work on someone with lower back pain, their constipation improves.”

What We Eat Matters

“Excess weight and its impact on the spine is the problem that most obviously affects the patients I see,” says Dr. Ballam. “But I also see the broader consequences of poor diet and weight gain. One such consequence is inflammation. In fact, it’s almost impossible to be overweight and not have chronic inflammation, the kind that affects every cell of your body—and the healthy functioning of all your organs.

“And if there is one category of food that’s the greatest enemy to your health, it’s sugar. It’s not that sugar in itself is bad, but we consume way too much of it, which not only causes us to gain weight, but contributes to chronic inflammation, which in turn creates pain.

“That’s probably the greatest issue I see in my practice—the over-consumption of sugar,” he says. “In addition to the problems of weight gain and inflammation, excess sugar leads to slower healing and recovery. For example, someone with a back injury should know that their back is going to take longer to heal when they’re consuming excess sugar. When patients ask me how to lose weight, I always tell them to look at how many carbohydrates they’re consuming. Where’s the excess sugar in their diet coming from? Usually, it’s the carbs that they’re drinking. Soda would probably be the number one offender.”

Lose Weight—But Wisely

Dr. Ballam encourages his overweight patients to shed the excess pounds, but cautions them to do so thoughtfully. “The best advice I can give someone who’s trying to shed those COVID 19 pounds,” he says, “is don’t try to do too much, too fast. A lot of people set unrealistic goals. They’ve stepped on the scale and reached a weight that they never thought they’d see, and are motivated to go to the extreme. They do too much, they hurt themselves, and then they can’t exercise. Start a new exercise routine slowly, and think of this as a long-term program. The goal is to create a lifestyle change, not just to lose 20 pounds.”

Dr. Ballam acknowledges that some people get to the point where they’ve gained enough weight that it becomes a physical deterrent to being able to exercise, as well as leading to back, knee, and joint pain. “In those cases, chiropractic can help get them moving again. I often find that, after working with such patients, they start to feel better, and because they’re feeling better, they start walking, which causes their metabolism to start changing. They start focusing on their diet, changing how they eat. Chiropractic may begin a snowball effect of positive changes that lead to more positive changes.”