Confidently communicate chiropractic as a quality-of-life issue
One of the key factors for success in practice is your ability to confidently communicate the benefits of chiropractic care. Here I’ll make a case for the posture-longevity connection.
The science supporting chiropractic care has been growing by leaps and bounds. From the impact of posture on longevity to the improved function of the brain following a chiropractic adjustment, the evidence supporting chiropractic is stronger than ever before. Fully footnoted, this information is designed to help you communicate the benefits of chiropractic more clearly than you’ve ever been able to before.
The foundation of success in practice lies in your ability to look your patients in the eye and deliver both clinical and financial recommendations for care with absolute certainty.
The more certain you are, the stronger the action you take, the greater the results you produce, and that reinforces your certainty. When you’re wishy-washy, when you’re uncertain about the recommendations you’re making, you’re going to take weak or lame action, and guess what? That’s going to end up with poor results, poor online reviews, poor word of mouth, and that’ll reinforce your uncertainty. Let’s raise your level of certainty.
The posture connection
Posture is one of the most overlooked aspects of good health and longevity. When my dad was a chiropractor back in the 1960s, every chiropractic practice had a low-tech piece of analysis equipment. It was basically an eyehook, a piece of string and a fishing weight down at the bottom of it.
That was called a plumbline. Postural analysis was an essential part of the chiropractic evaluation. Today, research shows a clear connection between poor posture, diminished longevity and diminished quality of life. The effect of posture on health is becoming more evident. Spinal pain, headache, mood, blood pressure, pulse and lung capacity are all among the functions most easily influenced by posture. Researchers outside of chiropractic are noting the effects of posture on quality of life, longevity and all the biomarkers of a good, healthy life.1
Jack Lalanne was a fitness and nutrition guru and motivational speaker whose television show ran from the 1960s-1980s. He was also a chiropractor. I remember his television show when I was a child. He would do amazing feats of strength on every landmark birthday he celebrated. He would swim in the Hudson River pulling a barge. He’d pull tractor trailer trucks and perform other amazing feats of strength. One of the great quotes Jack left us is, “You’re only as young as your spine.” And that’s absolutely true.
Your ability to be flexible and remain mobile in your senior years is highly correlated with your longevity and quality of life.
Anterior head posture and oxygen
As the head moves forward, all measures of health status are reduced. Rene Cailliet, MD, the former director of the Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at USC, concluded that forward head posture can add up to 30 pounds of pressure on the spine.
More importantly, it can reduce lung capacity by as much as 30%, and that can lead to heart and blood vascular disease.2 That decrease in our ability to breathe in oxygen impacts our ability to replace the oxygen in our body that is dependent upon it for all our metabolic processes, including the function of the brain. Oxygen is essential for life!
Cailliet determined the relationship between forward head posture and the digestive system, as well as endorphin production. This affects the experience of pain. I’d like to give you an analogy. Imagine your head was a bowling ball. The average bowling ball weighs about 10-12 pounds, and so does the average human head. If you hold the bowling ball in the palm of your hand, with your arm tucked close to your body, you could hold it there for quite a while. If you slowly move your arm away from your body and continue to palm that bowling ball, what you will find is that the weight of the ball will put more and more stress on your arm, your shoulder joint, and the joints of the upper back and neck. They’d first become sore and tight. Eventually, they’d develop trigger points or knots in the muscles, and soon they’d fail, and the shoulder and arm might even be injured. The same exact thing can happen with the muscles of your neck supporting your head.
The tech neck epidemic
According to I. A. Kapandji, MD, in “Physiology of the Joints, Volume 3,” for every inch your head moves forward, the weight of the head on the neck increases by 10 pounds. The typical neck posture of the average person is three inches of anterior head translation, and that increases the weight of the head on the neck by 30 pounds, and also the pressure on the muscles in the neck by six times.3 This equates to a 42-pound head!
The neck and cervical muscles were never meant to support that type of weight, especially not over time. What makes it worse? Of course, our technology. Many of us are walking around with a smartphone attached to our hands. And instead of looking at that phone on the horizon, most folks are in full cervical flexion as they look at the phone. So that’s adding another 30, maybe 40, 50, 60 pounds of weight on the neck. Oh, those poor muscles. It’s no wonder tech neck is becoming a crisis in American society.
Posture and heart health study
I’d like to share with you a truly extraordinary study. This was a major study performed over a 20-year period. It’s called the British Regional Heart Study.
Researchers found that men who lost three centimeters in height (not very much, right?) were 64% more likely to die of a heart attack. Over the 20-year period of this study, the men lost an average of 1.67 centimeters. This was associated with a 42% increased risk of heart attack.4 Now, here’s what’s key. This was even in men who had no history of cardiovascular disease. Anterior head posture, combined with the loss of height, decreases our ability to perform full inspiration and expiration. The stress this places on the entire organism has a major impact on life.
Posture and longevity
The final study I would like to share with you was published by a group of scientists led by Deborah M. Kado, MD. This group wanted to see if there was a correlation between postural distortion and a person’s health.
They started with the biggest health problem: death. They asked: “Is there any correlation between a person having a hyperkyphosis and having a decreased life expectancy?”5 Kado reported, in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, that people with hyperkyphosis were two times more likely to die from pulmonary causes. They were also 2.4 times more likely to die from cardiovascular disease than those without poor posture.
Talk to your patients about posture
This is the conversation I want you have with your patients. They need to know how vitally important the changes you’re making in their posture are to their health, wellness and long-term quality of their lives.
Help them connect the dots between posture, oxygen and health. To live a long, active, energetic life, few things matter more than posture.
MARK SANNA, DC, ACRB Level II, FICC, is the CEO of Breakthrough Coaching. He is a board member of the Foundation for Chiropractic Progress, a member of the Chiropractic Summit, and a member of the Chiropractic Future Strategic Plan. To learn more, visit mybreakthrough.com.
- Lennon J, Shealy N, Cady, RK, Matta W et al. Postural and Respiratory Modulation of Autonomic Function, Pain, and Health. American Journal of Pain Management. 1994;4 (1):36-39.
- Cailliet R, Gross L, Rejuvenation Strategy. New York, Doubleday and Co. 1987
- Kapandji IA. The physiology of the joints. 6th ed. Vol. 3. Churchill Livingstone; 2008.
- Wannamethee SG, Shaper AG, Lennon L, Whincup PH. Height loss in older men: associations with total mortality and incidence of cardiovascular disease. Arch Intern Med.2006 Dec 11-25;166(22):2546-52.
- Deborah M. Kado, MD, MS, Mei-Hua Huang, DrPH, Arun S. Karlamangla, MD, PhD, Elizabeth Barrett-Connor, MD and Gail A. Greendale, MD. Hyperkyphotic Posture Predicts Mortality in Older Community Dwelling Men and Women: A Prospective Study Journal of the American Geriatrics Society Volume 52 Issue 10 Page 1662 – October 2004.