Years ago, several years before going to Chiropractic School, I took a home chiropractic course which attempted to teach diagnosis and correction of the vertebral subluxation complex to the lay person. I studied the coursework with enthusiasm, knowing that I had a particular aptitude for learning from books and home study. Indeed, I learn far better that way than in any formal setting, though I have always been a good student.
From this course I learned two important things:
1. There really is a knack to correcting joints which can only be taught with hundreds of hours of hands-on training. Anything short of that is also going to fall short of satisfactory correction.
2. There is a real value to having a professional chiropractor take good care of you and your family which cannot be duplicated by minimal training with a lay person or weekend seminars with a professional in another field.
Fast forward nearly 20 years...
For my patients and for myself I saw a real need for getting the body to heal itself. In fact, without the right personal care, no amount of any type of chiropractic will provide truly satisfactory relief. Chiropractic care is highly helpful to a healthy lifestyle. Studies have shown that those under regular chiropractic care are happier overall, take fewer sick days and have less pain. Blood numbers are improved, such as white blood cell counts, inflammation indicators and stress hormones. Blood pressure is lower. I want to be clear that chiropractic care is well supported for both pain control and overall health and longevity. Having said that, I repeat that so much is dependent on what is happening personally in our habits. Further, as will be shown in this and later blog posts on this subject, it is certainly possible to take care of one's own health, alignment mobility and youthfulness.
Today we will talk about using hot and cold water. This is not the perfect beginning but I have to start somewhere, so we will start with the thing I recommend most often to my patients when I am out of town.
The tissues of the body only malfunction, lose flexibility, fail to adapt to stress, fail to heal, fail to self-correct, etc, when they begin to drown in swelling and fluid around the cells. This condition leads to localized hypoxia, inflammation and poor responsiveness. There are many ways and means of getting at this problem. We will discuss these problems in later posts. One very powerful tool--perhaps the most powerful tool we have for healing--is hot and cold water therapy.
No matter the part of the body, we can get it to start healing. No matter the cause of the problem, no matter if it is a tumor or autoimmune disease or infection or injury or malnutrition or malformation or scarring or defect of any kind...one of our most powerful tools is hot and cold water therapy.
Now, a warning, it is harmful to the tissues long term to use dry heat and cold and it is far less effective in the short run. It is not acceptable to have water present (such as a hot water bottle), but it must be water itself entering the skin.
A hot and cold shower is acceptable if the cold water gets cold enough. A pan of ice water and one of hot water is fine. These can be used as plunges or a hand towel may be dipped in each and laid over the area of the body to be treated.
We always start with hot and end with cold. 6-8 repetitions are effective. Duration can vary. Ideally, the person would stay in the hot until they feel the body part is as hot as it can get or until pain recedes and then begins to surge up again. Then they would switch to cold and do the same. If you must have a rule, a good rule is 2 minutes hot and 1 minute cold. More or less, 2 x as long hot as cold is reasonable.
What matters is that the tissue in trouble gets a localized heart! Heat brings blood in and cold pushes it out. As the fluid starts to move and flow and vitality increases, the fluids are highly oxygenated. In this stimulating process, the nervous system starts to modulate and awaken and communication is improved. This process leads to die off of infection and abnormal cells. Rapid healing occurs as oxygen and nutrients get into the cells with the speed of a happy infant! Pain disappears and strength comes in remarkably fast. Only the most severe malnutrition will stop this process from creating complete healing if done regularly over a period of time. Normally, I tell my patients to do this at least daily or perhaps 2 times daily. This need not be done every day but in serious cases perhaps 5 days per week. In less troubling cases it might be effective to do 2-3 x per week until the body is healed.
In cases of acute disc injuries, this method may be as effective as any type of chiropractic. Sometimes I will have my patients massage the area of pain or injury with Dr. Christopher's Cayenne Heat Ointment and castor oil. Once this has stimulated the area, the hot and cold therapy will be somewhat more effective, particularly when there is a joint, muscle or bone pain.
No matter the problem, whether chiropractic or other injury or tissue or organ malfunction, hot and cold water is always helpful. It is the first thing to do when there is pain, particularly intractable pain.