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Protecting the Body Temple: Pain is Not a Lifestyle Choice

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PAIN
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I love the kickboxing class at my local gym, but one day it didn't love me back. I remember watching this amazing young woman in the front row -- probably in her twenties -- who seemed to have the flexibility of Gumby when kicking her foot high into the air. What a great idea, I thought, "I too can get my leg well above my head." I did, but the result was terrible pain in my right hip.

It was the most painful exercise-induced injury I had ever experienced. I had torn some muscle in my hip (why didn't I pay attention in anatomy class?!) and it was extremely painful to sit in the car when driving myself home. I worried that this time I had really put myself out of commission.

This all happened on a Friday evening, and luckily, my sister's chiropractor was working on Saturday. Instead of going 48 hours with excruciating pain, I hoped the chiropractor could relieve my discomfort and help my body begin to heal itself so I wouldn't have to avoid the gym for the next month.

Fast forward to Saturday morning around 10 a.m., and my pain hangs in the balance of Dr. Betty Tupta, Chiropractor extraordinaire at Back Benders, a small but welcoming Pilates and chiropractic studio in the town of Eagle Rock, CA. I knew all week that my body had been a little out of whack and that my hips were out of alignment, but I just hadn't been able to get in to see my regular chiropractor. The thing is, I am lucky, I was raised in a family that routinely saw a chiropractor. I knew what they were and that you didn't have to live with pain.

Many people don't even know what a chiropractor is, nor do they have a core understanding that you don't have to live with pain. Dr. Tupta explained to me that even her receptionist, before working there, thought having a kink in her neck was just normal. I even mentioned while on the table getting adjusted that I felt old. I mean, aren't our bodies supposed to just adjust themselves? What did people do in the stone ages when they threw out their backs? But then she schooled me.

In addition to explaining some of the history of chiropractic work, Dr. Tupta told me "Essentially, our body is the most efficient machine ever invented but it also needs maintenance. Pain is an indicator that something is not right. We need to heed the warning and do something about it before it breaks down altogether." She added with extreme clarity, "I am here to tell you, pain is not a lifestyle. I would rather see my patients when they're not in pain, which means I am helping them maintain a healthy spine."

Healthy spine, huh? What a concept. The good news is we can choose to protect this beautiful and efficient vessel we inhabit during our time here on this earth. We can decide that pain is not okay, and that we want to get the utmost enjoyment out of the days of our lives. In our metropolitan centers, there are $20 massage spots as well as chiropractors that work on sliding scales. It is easier and easier to relieve pain, even if your insurance doesn't cover chiropractic visits or if you are uninsured.

The first 24 hours after my chiropractic adjustment I was still in excruciating pain. But when I woke up the next day, I noticed that I didn't have a constant ache and the discomfort had been reduced by about 60 percent. I took it easy on the exercising that week, taking walks and doing recommended stretches. By the following week, I was jogging again and back in the gym for less strenuous activities such as the elliptical machine. I haven't ventured back to kickboxing class since the incident, but happily I have taken boot camp classes and started a new routine of weekly Bikram yoga (because sweating is fun!).

So this was a story about a 30-year old trying to kick like a 20-year old in aerobics class (me). Chiropractic work is just one example to illustrate that we can decide to live without pain. Pain, whether physical or emotional, is not a lifestyle choice and we can decide to live without it, respect our bodies and get more enjoyment out of our lives.

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