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Month: July 2017

An Interview with a Healthcare Professional: Chiropractor Dr. Bryan Johnson (Part 3)

Q: Tell us a little about sciatica and what you can do to help.
A (Dr. Bryan Johnson): You do see that term on a lot of chiropractic websites and I don’t think that it’s often clear what exactly it is. Sciatica is pressure on the sciatic nerve. The sciatic nerve is actually a large bundle of nerves that come from the lower back and sacrum area. It forms one big nerve that runs down your buttocks and the back of your leg. A chiropractor’s role in alleviating this pain is adjusting the hips and the lower back take the pressure off the nerves.

Q: What is the sound that happens during an adjustment and why does it do that?
A (Dr. Bryan Johnson): That sound is actually air going through the joint space between the bones in your spine. The spine consists of 24 bones. In between each bone, there is a disk space that is known as a “joint”. Whenever the adjustment occurs and the bone moves, the joint space and disk opens slightly and air flies through the vacuum in the disk. It is not a bone cracking or ligament snapping, it’s just the sound of air moving through the joint space as the bones are adjusted back in the correct position. It is the same sound that happens when you crack your knuckles.

Q: I’ve had surgery on my back or neck. Is it still safe for me to see a chiropractor and why?
A (Dr. Bryan Johnson): It is definitely still safe, but a full evaluation is necessary before treatment is started. I always like to see the post-operation x-rays of the back or neck to see the stability of the given space. If it is not stable, obviously I cannot adjust it. If the surgery occurred a while ago, I like to take my own x-rays to make sure that it is still stable. Typically, sections of the spine that have been operated on contain pieces of metal, so they are very stable. The problem with this is that the rigidity eliminates some range of motion.
Using the neck as an example, there are seven bones in the neck, which move independently and give you the proper range of motion. If you have surgery on two of the bones, this gives you one less joint space for motion. Additionally, it is putting extra stress on the bones above and below it. This overwork and over-stress can become problematic after surgery. It is important that you work closely with a chiropractor after the surgery to maintain the joint above and below the surgical area.

Q: What are the similarities and differences between a chiropractor and an osteopath?
A (Dr. Bryan Johnson): Chiropractors and Osteopaths are both licensed to do adjustments, though osteopaths call it a “manipulation”. A chiropractor’s approach is always to adjust the spine in order to improve nerve flow. The osteopath’s approach is to adjust the spine and try to improve blood flow. Over time, osteopaths have also gotten away from the natural approach of no drugs or surgeries. They can now prescribe medications and recommend surgeries. Chiropractors try to let the body heal itself through optimal nervous system functionality.

Q: I work out and eat healthy. Why should I see a chiropractor?
A (Dr. Bryan Johnson): Life is about balance, no matter what you do. If you work out seven days a week or you sit on the couch all day, you are still putting stress on your spine. It is subject to wear and tear, so it’s important to get your spine checked on a regular basis. This will help you to prevent problems from occurring. It will also help you to be able to continue to exercise.

Q: Why do you take x-rays?
A (Dr. Bryan Johnson): Technically, a chiropractor does not need an x-ray in order to adjust someone. However, I like to take them for a multitude of reasons. Firstly, if a person has never had any work done on his or her spine, it will help me understand what is happening in the spinal column very efficiently and quickly. Secondly, it will help me determine the severity of their issues, how often I need to adjust them and how long the treatments should last. Thirdly, there are also instances where an x-ray will show a problem in the spine that is in contradiction to them being adjusted. There are certain issues, especially in the upper neck, that if I see a malformation of the bone on a person’s neck, I have to be very careful with the adjustment or the adjustment cannot be performed. Finally, I like to use the x-rays as an educational tool. I can show the patient their spine so that they can understand exactly what is wrong and what I can do to fix it. It goes from being abstract to concrete. If you can see the issues, most people will want to get them fixed to make sure that they have mobility function as they continue to age.

Q: How do you select a good chiropractor to see?
A (Dr. Bryan Johnson): Google, Yelp or Facebook reviews are always a good place to start. You can also ask your friends. Referrals are big in chiropractic because no one is going to suggest a chiropractor that they have had a negative experience with.
Once you get to speak with the chiropractor, make sure that s/he is asking you good questions about what is wrong with you. Make sure that they take a complete case history as well and do a full exam, complete with x-rays. A big red flag to look for is if a chiropractor makes promises that seem unrealistic or false. Chiropractic is about improving the function of the body, so there are some amazing healing situations that you can see with chiropractic care. However, if they tell you that they know that they can cure cancer or type 1 diabetes, you want to proceed with extreme caution. Make sure that you are receiving a proper education from your chiropractor.

Q: What is a sublaxation and why do I see it on all chiropractic sites that I visit?
A (Dr. Bryan Johnson): A sublaxation is hard bone in the body that is misaligned and putting pressure directly on soft nerve. I am a chiropractor who is sublaxation-based. This means that I look through all 24 segments of the spine to determine which bones are out of alignment and adjust them. A sublaxation can be silent, which means that they can cause a dysfunction and a miscommunication from your brain to your body, but you as the patient are unaware of it because it is not causing pain. These silent sublaxations are why it is so important to treat the whole spine and not just the parts that have pain. There are chiropractors that are pain-based, but I do not recommend that method.

An Interview with a Healthcare Professional: Chiropractor Dr. Bryan Johnson (Part 2)

Q: What is chiropractic exactly?
A (Dr. Bryan Johnson): Because of its importance, the spinal cord is the only organ in the entire body that is completely encompassed in bones as a protective measurement. When those bones misalign, it puts pressure on the nerves. This can cause pain, but it can also cause dysfunction in the body. A chiropractor’s main goal is to realign the spinal column to make sure that the nervous system functions at its highest efficiency. Despite the common belief, we do not just focus on back pain.

Q: What does chiropractic treatment normally entail?
A (Dr. Bryan Johnson): In my office, treatment starts with a thorough evaluation. Using a set of x-rays, I am able to do an analysis so that we know the exact problems and the extent of the spinal misalignment. Based on that analysis, I then perform the adjustments to the spine using my hands. This is known as a “manual adjustment”. I move the bones back into position using short, quick movements called “thrusts”. I can also perform extremity adjustments as well, so that can cover your shoulders, elbows, wrists, feet and hands.

Q: In what instances should I see a chiropractor instead of a doctor?
A (Dr. Bryan Johnson): There has been a campaign started known as “Chiropractic First”. This is because chiropractic should be something that everyone looks into, not only to combat daily aches and pains, but to boost their immune and nervous system function. It is not a “magic potion” or a “cure-all”, but it is a very simple way to make sure that your spine is in proper alignment and your nerves are working correctly. This can lead to a reduction in doctor’s visits over your lifetime.
When a patient first visits my office, I will conduct a full assessment. I want to be sure that their issue can be treated with chiropractic. Avoiding prescription drugs and surgery is in everyone’s best interest. Therefore, you should visit a chiropractor first to make sure your issue is not something that we could handle.

Q: I have heard horror stories about people seeing chiropractors and their problems worsening. How are you different and is chiropractic treatment safe?
A (Dr. Bryan Johnson): Chiropractic treatment is absolutely safe and effective. The fact of the matter is there is a certain amount of risk along with the benefits associated with any type of healthcare you decide to pursue. I have found in chiropractic that the risks are minimal compared to the benefits. There can be some stiffness that accompanies an adjustment, but this is due to muscle inflammation. I always make sure to prepare my clients so they know what to expect and discuss techniques, such as icing, to combat the stiffness.


Q: Do I need a referral from my doctor to see a chiropractor and is it covered by my health insurance?
A (Dr. Bryan Johnson): I have not yet encountered anyone who needs a referral from a doctor. However, a doctor can refer you to a chiropractor.
Most insurance plans will cover some chiropractic treatment. I can verify the insurance for my patients as well. The coverage will obviously differ from plan to plan as will the co-pay.

Q: What exactly is an adjustment and how do you do it? Is there any discomfort involved?
A (Dr. Bryan Johnson): The adjustments that I do are manual manipulations, so I use my hands to put the bones of the spine back in proper position. The motion used is called a “thrust” and it is a high velocity low amplitude motion. It should not feel like someone is punching you in the back. It’s a quick adjustment that gets the bone to move back into alignment.
I get the comfort question frequently. Typically, there should be no discomfort and most patients enjoy the adjustments. The exception to this rule are the people that come in and are already in a serious amount of pain. However, after doing a full assessment, I try to do the adjustment quickly and alleviate as much pain as possible for them.

Q: How long does an adjustment normally last?
A (Dr. Bryan Johnson): It is different depending upon the patient. If a new patient comes in at the age of 40 and has never had an adjustment before, it may only last a few hours. This is because their body is not used to the positioning that the adjustment did and it will tend to pull back out of position. This is known as “retracing”. Once a patient has had multiple adjustments, their body should start to accept the new spinal position. At this point, you should get some strength and stability built into your adjustment and it should last anywhere from a few weeks to a few months. This also depends on your activity level. Athletes put more stress and strain on their bodies, so they tend to need to be adjusted more often.

Q: How often do I need to see a chiropractor?
A (Dr. Bryan Johnson): Most people will come frequently when they have pain that they would like to alleviate. However, when that pain goes away, they are less likely to prioritize a chiropractic visit. This is a mistake. Regular visits help to keep you at optimum condition. I often use the analogy of going to the gym. If you go to the gym once a month, you are not going to see results. You have to go regularly to get the results that you want. The same applies to chiropractic treatments. Regular visits are very important. Once you know that your spine is in better alignment, which typically happens in a month, 12 visits a year is ideal for most people. It does vary from person to person. Normally, between 8 to 20 chiropractic visits are approved by insurance companies. Therefore, your maintenance adjustments should be covered.



An Interview with a Healthcare Professional: Chiropractor Dr. Bryan Johnson (Part 1)

Q: Why did you become a chiropractor?

A (Dr. Bryan Johnson): I personally started my chiropractic journey when I was seven.  I had chronic ear infections that were so bad, I was always on antibiotics and missing school.  In fact, I had tubes in my ears three times! I was sick a lot and had a weak immune system.  The doctors told my mom that I would grow out of it, but that did not seem to be happening.  We had a family friend that was a chiropractor. After listening to everything that I had been through, he convinced my mom bring me into his office for an appointment.  After receiving a comprehensive analysis and regular adjustments, my ear infections completely went away.  I went from missing school frequently to barely at all.

Because of the impact that chiropractic made on my life at such a young age, I felt that it was the perfect fit.  I can now do for the rest of the world what my chiropractor did for me.  I’m so happy to have a job that can actually affect a person’s health on a daily basis and give them a higher quality of life.


Q: What is your background and training?

A (Dr. Bryan Johnson): I received my undergraduate degree from Penn State Main in Biology.  I then attended the Palmer College of Chiropractic in Davenport, Iowa, founded in 1897.  After passing the national boards, I became licensed in Pennsylvania.  After working at a clinic in Eastern Pennsylvania for a few years, I returned to the Pittsburgh area and opened my own office.


Q: What is your overall approach to wellness and what is your health care philosophy?

A (Dr. Bryan Johnson): Wellness in life is all about balance and finding your way to optimal health.  So many things go into that balance, chiropractic being one of them.  This is to ensure that your nervous system is functioning correctly.  It should also include proper stretching, exercise, healthy diet and nutrition, stress relief and sleep management.

My chiropractic philosophy is that everybody with a spine should get adjusted on a regular basis.  The nervous system should be checked regularly by a chiropractor to be sure that you don’t have any nerve interference.  Again, it’s not just about relieving existing pain, but making sure that the body is functioning at its highest efficiency.


Q: What are the main reasons to see a chiropractor and what do your patients often come in for?

A (Dr. Bryan Johnson): The majority of my patients are ones that I see for common problems associated with chiropractic treatment, such as back pain, neck pain, sciatica and headaches.  However, in the spirit of chiropractic first, it is important for everyone with a spine to see a chiropractor regularly.  Because the nervous system controls everything in the body, you want to be sure that it is working at its optimum level.  You can have dysfunction in the body that has no symptoms.  This may result in decreased efficiency in digestion and metabolism, acid reflux, sleep apnea, vertigo, headaches and a myriad of other issues.  A chiropractor can help you find the misalignment in your spine and correct these issues.

In addition, I have actually had patients have better odds of conceiving children due to chiropractic care.  The nerves that control the reproductive organs were so compressed that they couldn’t get pregnant.  Getting adjusted helped them to become pregnant.  It’s about the function of the entire system, not just eliminating the pain.


Q: Should my children see a chiropractor?  What age would you recommend that they start?  What are some good examples where my child would benefit from a chiropractic adjustment?

A (Dr. Bryan Johnson): Absolutely, your children should be receiving adjustments from a chiropractor.  I have heard of babies being adjusted as soon as they are born, but I personally have never done that.  The soonest that I have adjusted a child is at two weeks of age.  The birth process itself is traumatic and could cause neck and shoulder issues, so a baby should be adjusted early.  These adjustments can also help with colic, latching when breast feeding, digestive issues, childhood asthma, acid reflux and ear infections as well as a plethora of other childhood issues.  As I mentioned previously, I benefited greatly from chiropractic treatment as a child.


Q: Have you worked with patients that have had surgery on their neck or back?

A (Dr. Bryan Johnson): Yes, I have worked with patients that have had back or neck surgery. Sometimes the surgery goes well and everything is fantastic.  However, occasionally they still have issues afterwards.  This is where regular chiropractic treatment comes in.  Surgeries can come with scar tissue though, which can cause some issues with the range of motion in the spine.  I like to monitor this and try to ensure that future surgery be avoided.


Q: What are the most common injuries that you see in your office?

A (Dr. Bryan Johnson): The most common injuries that I see in my office are the people that have hurt themselves doing day-to-day activities.  This is why visiting the chiropractor is so important, so that you can avoid injuring yourself performing daily tasks.


Q: Who should visit the chiropractor?

A (Dr. Bryan Johnson): Chiropractic care is for everybody.  Whether you have injured yourself or you are trying to prevent injury, everyone should see a chiropractor on a regular basis to maintain their spine.  However, not all spines were created equal, which is why I tailor every treatment to the individual patient.  I have had people tell me that their child is too young, or their parent is too frail. The youngest patient that I have had was 2 weeks old and the oldest patient was 97.  I can create a unique chiropractic plan based on an evaluation and medical history for anyone with a spine!