What is Health?

I am sure all of you have your definition of what health is. Some of you have a broader view and some a bit narrower. Some of you strive for the best health that you can achieve, some of you are a bit more fatalistic.

This is how the World Health Organization defines health:

"A state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being, and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity."

It is in this definition where the differences in focus of a chiropractor and a medical doctor collide, and where you the patient become confused as to whom to listen to. Here is an example.

One of my patients was recently in complaining of an inability to flex forward completely, and of a cough that he has had for 3 months, a residual of the flu. He is under age 50, has a degenerative disc in his lumbar spine, is somewhat overweight, under moderate stress, has had surgery for testicular cancer, eats processed foods regularily, and doesn't take supplements. He also had just been to his oncologist for his yearly physical. He was told that he was in good health. I said to him, "You're not in good health at the moment," and he replied, "I know, but my M.D. only meant that I was free of disease!" In my opinion, my patient needs to start to change his diet, increase his excercise, take supplements, and find some time to reduce his stress, and of course, come in for adjustments to get his flexibility back. But, the big question is, how many people like to pretend they are healthy just because at the moment they are free of disease? Did you know that 50% of all people that have a heart attack die from the first one and had no prior warning that they had heart disease? Were they "healthy" or "free of disease"?

As a chiropractor, I like to think of health as a triad. We call it the triad of health. Health is composed of structural, chemical/nutritional, and mental factors. When a person experiences poor health, one of the three factors is always involved. Generally, with severe or chronic problems, two or all three factors are involved. Personally, I feel that every health problem or symptom has a contributing factor from all three sides, but most of our simple problems have a dominating factor that when treated takes away the symptom but does not necessarily cure the condition permanently. For example, you come in for treatment of a stiff or painful neck. I check your spine and find a misalignment (structural), adjust it and the pain goes away, but in a few days it returns. Why? Maybe you are lacking in calcium (nutritional) and your neck muscles go into spasm, or maybe you have a major deadline at work and if you don't complete the project, you may lose your job (mental). So, the better treatment would be to check for a nutritional deficiency and give the proper supplement and counsel the you to get some excercise or meditate to reduce some of the mental stress.

So if you are wanting to improve your state of health, it is important to look at all aspects of of the triad. Any improvement in one area always improves your health. The more areas you can work on, the healthier you will be. Next week I will go into the what-to-do's such as diet, supplementation, water intake, sleep, excercise, and chiropractic adjustments.