Spinal Column: Summer Living

Dr. Jim Schaffer of Kimberton Chiropractic

As I sit hear in my desk writing this weeks Spinal Column, I can hear my family coming and going. Just a bit ago the boys came home from the township “rec” program. They love it. They stopped up to see me and tell me about their morning adventures.

They were playing a version of kickball earlier this morning that I think resembles dodgeball as much as it does kickball. Lots of running and throwing, diving and sliding. Great fun. At snack time they had a watermelon seed spitting contest. (I am not sure if this was an official activity or just something kids cannot help doing while eating watermelon outdoors) They were demonstrating how to swish the fruit around in their mouth to free up the seeds. Then cock your head way back while sucking in a deep breath through your nostrils…curl your tongue….then all at once…..using your neck to generate a forward thrust you release your breath through the tongue tunnel as fast as you can. “Sometimes you can even shoot 2 or 3 seeds at once!” They say with pride.

Before the program ended the local fire company stopped in for a visit. The entire throng of eager camp goers got to Stop, Drop and Roll all over each other. The boys break out in heaps of laughter at the memory of all the tangled bodies careening across the lawn. To finish off the morning there is nothing like a good soaking from the pump truck!

Ahhh summer time.

After lunch they tell me they are off to the pool. They insist that they are going to talk Mommy into allowing them to ride their bikes all the way to the pool. They love riding bikes. I know my wife is not keen on that idea lately. Luke is still getting comfortable on his new bike…but he doesn’t seem to know it. Last week while en route to the pool Luke was feeling a bit daredevilish. He was riding up and off the curbs, down hills much too fast, trying to pop a wheelie on driveways. Finally, while short cutting through the woods, he was in need of crossing a footbridge. He misjudged the turn and rode right off the side and crashed into the water. Since then Lisa is a bit hesitant to ride too far that she cant keep up on foot….to save the rascal.

Jimmy wants to practice the “watermelon” dive that he has been working on. He has to bounce once or twice on the diving board to get high enough so that once he releases into the air he can tuck and spin a bit more than half way around so that his upper back hits the water first, forcing him around in a full spin under the surface. As a man who remembers well how many errors occur before the dive is perfected, I pat him on the shoulder and say. “All it takes is practice, Son”

Ahhh summer time.

It seems my boys turned me nostalgic for summer activities all in one 10 minute greeting. Instead of writing my weekly article for the Phoenix, I am gazing out the window thinking about summer fun…..for me! I pictured me playing volleyball on the beach in Cape May. Diving for difficult saves…or jumping and slamming a spike over the net. I see me body surfing on waves all the way to the shore.

I am brought back to present day and the work before me as the boys appear on the other side of my window heading for the swing set.

Ahhh the task before me…..

Ahhh summer time.

Believe it or not, summer is a very hazardous time for our health! Our health can be challenged with so many activities of summer fun.

Sitting by the pool is not so dangerous, but whipping your body around so you land awkwardly is! So is spiraling down a waterslide and being dispensed suddenly into the water….or flopping into the water at an accidental 45 degree angle after pirouetting off a rope swing.

The risk factor that I am thinking about, as watch my 7 year old swing to new heights…then catapult himself attempting to beat his brothers’ mark, is that all this wonderful activity jostles our physical beings and can actually move bones out of their correct position. Since I am a Chiropractor my focus is always on the spinal bones. When I watch my own kids perform some of the usual kid activities, I cringe. Even though I know that I will adjust their spines regularly and put everything back where it belongs, I still see bones careening through the air as Luke releases from the swing.

But there is a positive here for me as a doctor. People; adults and children alike will “pull their back out” while engaging in good ol’ fashioned summer fun. Now don’t get me wrong here…..I do not wish ill health on anyone. What happens during the summer months when the weather is nice, and we have a bit more free time, is that people come to me for advice because they have “thrown their back out”. That is always a good thing…because…..

If you’ve been reading the Spinal Column all along you know that what I talk about is NOT back pain. Yes, unfortunately back pain is a symptom of poor spinal health. But only about 15% of your nerves are for “feeling” pain. And that means you will only feel pain if one of those 15% are being affected….but not if one or all of the other 85% are being affected… you will not know that you have an unhealthy spine.

But….sometimes you find out because “you threw your back out while trying to get your kid out at second base!” I love having folks call due to this injury 1. because they were playing with their kids. Something we don’t get to do too often, and… 2. Otherwise they may never have gotten to see a chiropractor until their spine was rotted and arthritic.

Often when the bones of your spine move out of their correct position they find their way back…..but not always. When bones do not go back to their proper place the nerves that run between these bones of your spine are squeezed off because bones are twisted or cocked or tilted in the wrong way. The squeezed nerves will not be able to get their messages through the Nervous System…to all the organs and cells in your body.

These are very important messages the Nervous System delivers. The Nervous System is the highway the brain uses to deliver specific instructions to, say the bowels or kidneys, on how to work, lets say for instance….how to breakdown and discard the food we eat. If the instructions are not completely or correctly transmitted can you guess what would happen? Your Digestive System will not work as it is designed and programmed to do.

Keep in mind this is an example of a spinal bone low on your back. A bone can be jostled anywhere affecting different functions…how your heart pumps blood, how your ears drain fluid, how your lungs take in breath, how ready to cope with an intrusion is your immune system?

It is rather simple and basic actually. If the nervous system cannot do its job of transmitting instructions due to the fact that the bones in the spine are crooked and pressing on it…..then some part of your body will be affected……..some part of the body will not be getting a clear set of instructions. It depends which bones are out of alignment and which nerves they are pressing on. But there is always a nerve coming out between each bone, so there is always some sort of disruption to the message.

Often when we see a patient with digestive problems, we see a vertebrae (spinal bone) in the lower lumbar area (low back) misaligned. The results are Irritable Bowel Syndrome, initially. The damage can progress to Colitis and Crohn’s disease. These are serious conditions that have been corrected by removing the interference to the nervous system, by returning the vertebrae to their correct position.

So, please indulge me here. If you didn’t suddenly “throw your back out” we would never have met. If we had never met, then I never would have had the opportunity to tell you how chiropractic is NOT about back pain. It’s about nervous system health. And your nervous system is conveniently placed inside the solid, yet movable bones of your spine. From a mechanical standpoint, the movable part is truly amazing. Without that feature we would not be able to turn a flip off the dive, or serve a tennis ball, let alone scratch that itch from the mosquito bike at your neighbors cook out last night! But because of that feature, the bones can often get stuck out of their correct position.

The wonderful thing about summer is the wide array of activities available for children and adults alike. There is a lot more play time for everyone. As I mention some of our favorites, imagine how perhaps they could jostle your child’s bone out of place.

Skateboarding, rollerblading, rock climbing, trampolining, chicken fighting, boogie boarding, red rover (each team takes turns trying to crash through the opposing teams line up), flashlight tag, water balloon fighting, and falling in a big hole some else dug on the beach. I know you can add 10 more of your own ideas to this list!

Don’t think we adults are all that much safer. While flipping burgers or reading under a tree may be safe…..Summer is a mine field of fun activities. Volleyball, Horseshoes, tennis, body surfing, cannon balls, Frisbee throwing….to name a few.

The goal: is to have a fantastic summer. To relax and to play.

The concern: is that we are all at a greater risk of nervous system malfunction.

The plan: is to see a chiropractor for a check up to avoid or correct a serious health problem.

And that‘s it for this week, folks. See you next time.

Yours In Health,

Dr. Jim

Dr. Jim Schaffer of Kimberton Chiropractic located in Phoenixville, can be reached at

484-921-4936. Or www.kimbertonchiropractic.com