The Zen Corner

Science, Art, and Philosophy of Chiropractic


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Meditate in Ease

“Zazen, wabi/sabi and then Chiropractic,” the previous blog, was written about posture in Zazen and how crucial in proper meditation. Improper posture will make the meditation called Zazen more difficult or harder than normal. Improper posture can be caused by many things such as a condition called subluxation in Chiropractic. In this blog, there will be additional information about posture, breathing, and mental state and how it can influence the quality of your meditation experience. To have the best meditation in ease is to eliminate conditions of dysponesis.

Before we talk about dysponesis, here is one fact. The human nervous system is innately geared towards survival of the whole entire body. This ability to survive manifests itself by efficient use of energy for all the metabolic and physiological process. These processes of survival are all based upon the input from the environment that the body receives. Conserving energy or efficient use of energy to optimal function to express life.

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Our body has sensory nerve endings that will take in information and adapt to any environmental changes. Lack of proper integration of this information will lead to mis-information to the brain and leads to dysponesis. Dysponesis is described by Dr. Christopher Kent,

“Dysponesis is a reversible pathophysiologic state. It is composed of neurophysiologic reactions to various agents, and the repercussions of these reactions throughout the organism. The neurophysiologic reactions consist mainly of covert errors in energy expenditure. To the chiropractor, it is essential to develop clinical strategies which are effective in disclosing these covert errors in energy expenditure and correcting them.”

Dysponesis will lead to improper sensory integration, inefficient/imbalance in muscle coordination, disability, disease states, symptoms, and loss of optimal function to the human body.

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There are many measurements that are able to detect dysponesis. Being able to visualize the body provides tangible measurements, although there might be some information will be missed. Traditional techniques such as plum line or bilateral body weights were used to make observable postural changes and weight distributions. Our body has a reflex, called the righting reflex, utilized by our eyes to make sure our eyes are horizontal to the plane for the most efficient energy expenditure. The plum line analysis and bilateral body weight distributions can show the muscle that are being over-utilized or underperforming for an energy efficient structure. (Dynamic posture in walking and running will be considered in future blog posts.) This method will reach its limits due to the complex and abstract nature of our dynamic body structure.

Modern technology has found a way to measure complex and dynamic body structure. Modern surface EMG equipment are able to display real time action of muscle groups for excess energy expenditure. As we are sitting still, all of our muscles are contracting and relaxing to adapt to the sitting posture. Modern surface EMGs are very sensitive and able to read and measure every small contraction that is made by the muscle. With this measurement we are able to assess efficient energy expenditure and in turn measure dysponesis.

The next measurement that is a bit more difficult to understand is the reflex control of breathing. For the purpose of this blog, breathing reflex will be discussed in simpler terms and the physiology will not be discussed. It is important to not, however, that breathing reflex is a very complex set of several reflexes and when there are inefficient breathing patterns the nervous system to shift a negative state of conserving energy for oxygen. Due to the importance in oxygen for our brain and body, breathing reflex is a highly controlled mechanism and this reflex is a primary concern for all physiological processes.

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Breathing reflex is well known in many meditation techniques. Breathing from the belly instead of chest breathing. Chest breathing increases the speed of oxygen but less oxygen is taken in. In turn you expel less CO2 and create hyperventilation and increase the fight or flight responses. If belly breathing is done properly, oxygen intake is increased as is the expelling of CO2. This will stimulate the parasympathetic system which induces rest and digest and promote a relaxing state for a better meditative state.

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Further research has been conducted to analyze breathing patterns. There are many patterns that are induced from uncoordinated muscle control of the breathing muscles. Most belly breathing does not emphasize on which muscles to contract. There can be compartmentalized breathing that is observable in the spine that is concomitant with breathing. Normal breathing should not be compartmentalized, decreased, or incomplete in the breathing pattern. The pattern in breathing should start from the pelvis. A respiratory wave moves smoothly towards the neck and moves back down the spine to the pelvis. If in any way this pattern is obstructed, there creates a lack of coordination in the breathing reflex and this results in dysponesis.

Final measurement will be our mental state in dysponesis. Meditation should be an exercise to help distressed mental states, although there can be an underlying condition that will hinder towards performing meditation for individuals. According to Doreland’s Medical Dictionary, dysponesis is a misdirected neurophysiological reaction to various agents such as environmental events, bodily sensations, emotions, and thoughts. Individuals with PTSD, ADHD, anxiety or other mental conditions may have difficult a time performing meditation.

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To measure mental state, there are many ways to measure such as EEG or HRV. eeg-brain-imageElectroencephalogram or EEG measures electrical wave from the brain for the state of being which is mentioned in another blog “Stress.” EEG measures the state of the brain by stimulating the brain waves into a certain pattern, it will help the mental state into being more calm and meditative. It may help to see that meditative state but there are very specific requirements to fulfill the test and many things can cause inaccurate reading if the assessment is not prepared properly and professionally. Also EEG measurements are not readily available because it is very expensive and healthcare specialists are needed to perform the test.

Heart Rate Variability or HRV on the other hand is less expensive and measures the state of mental conditions like the EEG. HRV measures the real time measurement of the cardiac rhythm and provides quantitative assessment of variation in time interval between heartbeats. HRV is able to show how your body is responding to stressors, overall balance of the nervous system, and even fitness performance. Compared to EEGs, HRV tests shows more information of the overall function and energy expenditure which is dysponesis.HRV

After finding dysponesis, addressing them properly with chiropractic adjustments will be much more specific and scientific.  Does your chiropractor have all these assessments to address dysponesis?

 

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Stress

There are 65 trillion chemicals in the brain processed and produced every second of your life. The Pharmaceutical industry knows 11,000 that are on the market. Just from that ratio, we can definitely say that our body has very complex body chemistry. The process of chemicals or messages from the brain to the body can be influenced by many things such as stress! This blog is going to talk about how the body works with stress, and how we can maintain our healing in our body and help the healing process by simple things we can do at home.

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First of all, we need to talk about how doe the brain function with stress. When a specific command travels down the spinal cord from the brain to the body, or when sensory information is being transmitted back up the spinal cord to the brain, there is a “flash” of “electricity” that carries the messages. Quick body responses and sensory perceptions are the result.

At the same time though, there is also a low-grade “wave” of radio frequency traveling up and down your spinal cord that determines the “mood” or “tone” of your central nervous system. This affects your level of consciousness and awareness, your mood, and the slower metabolic and hormonal functions of your body.

Scientifically speaking, your spinal cord is a thick string of pizo-electric gel (electricity conducting jelly). The frequency it is working at is determined by the amount of tension and/or torsion being placed at either end of the “string”. Just like the guitar string, the tightness of the cord determines the tune that is being played.

Brain Waves

During the transmission of electrical signals from the brain down the spinal cord, there is certain measurements that can be made with relation to stress, relaxation, and rest.

The pattern of neuronal activity in the cerebral cortical section of the brain can be recorded electrically. This is done by measuring the electrical potential difference between two points on the scalp. The record is known as the electroencephalogram (EEG). Brain waves manifest themselves as oscillating voltage. They have two main dimensions: the frequency of oscillation and the amplitude.

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The EEG is considered to monitor “gross” neuronal activity. It does not monitor individual neuron, but large groupings. Whenever rhythms are seen in the EEG, it is the net result of many thousands of neurons “in unison.”

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The frequency predominately determines the amplitude of the brain wave, but there can be fluctuations of amplitude at a given frequency. Brain waves are broken up into four main categories, determined by the frequency of the wave. The borders of these categories are more or less arbitrary. The following table is approximately correct:

Beta: This is a conscious brain wave. It is characterized as a state of being awake, alert, and concentrating. If this stage is maintained for a prolonged period, it becomes associated with feelings of tension, worry, fear, or anxiety.

Alpha: This is also a conscious state, but identified with the mental experience where images are not identified. It has come to be associated with feelings of pleasure, pleasantness, tranquillity, serenity and relaxation. It can also imply a relaxed concentration.

Theta: Theta has come to be associated with such things as hypnogogic imagery, day dreaming, sleep, cognition of problem solving, future planning, remembering, switching thoughts, and creativity.

Delta: This state is predominately associated with no-dreaming sleep or deep sleep. There are some reports of individuals achieving this set of brain wave patterns and still retain consciousness.

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Sleep Cycle

The EEG pattern changes throughout the night. These changes can determine when dreaming occurs. The chart below is an average sleep cycle during those eight hours.

Stage one is the drowsy period of sleep, characterized by what is known as sleep spindles (spindle-alpha).

Stage two is a sleep where responses to external and/or internal stimulation can occur.

Stage three means you are on your way to Stage 4.

Stage four is deep sleep. It is also delta state and is not associated with dreaming. REM states (Rapid Eye Movement) is where most dreams occur.

Things which lower the EEG frequency are:

  • LSD, sedative drugs
  • Large doses of alcohol
  • Very low blood sugar
  • Lack of oxygen

Things which raise the EEG frequency are

  • Caffeine
  • Small doses of alcohol, barbiturates
  • Low blood sugar
  • Excess of carbon dioxide (CO2)

Hypnosis has little effect on the EEG. What is contained in the hypnotic suggestion is what change frequencies and make the difference. However, influencing your breathing patterns does change and affect the EEG frequency. The key is to change the pattern of electrical frequency from the brain and spinal cord. There are simple exercises that will help to control this which you saw above is to control your breathing!

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The deeper you breathe, the more oxygen you get into your lungs. More oxygen getting into your lungs means more oxygen getting into your blood; because of this, most systems in your body are going to work much more efficiently than they would if you breathed shallowly.

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Inhaling slowly and deeply sends more energy to heal your sympathetic nervous system, which is concerned with preparing your body to react to situations of stress or emergency by accelerating your heart rate, constricting your blood vessels, and raising your blood pressure.

Exhaling slowly and completely gives a signal to your parasympathetic nervous system to help it detoxify more deeply. This system serves to slow the rate and force of your heartbeat, decrease your blood pressure, and enhance your digestion.

The slower you inhale the more oxygen you take in, creating more energy and helping your body to detoxify and cleanse itself better. When you exhale slowly, more energy reaches your parasympathetic nervous system, which helps you relax and also helps to detoxify and cleanse your body.

A good way to control your breathing is through meditation. There are many forms of meditation but if you can find a local Zen Center that will teach you Zen Meditation, that will be a great way to start and they don’t charge you for learning Zen Meditation. Qigong, Tai Chi is another way to learning breathing exercises. There are many Qigong/Tai Chi schools in most cities since they are more popular. Look up a Qigong/Tai Chi school that will teach you the exercises or find some good reputable videos online or library that will teach you a good easy method for beginners. Sometimes these exercises will not be enough. Then we need to look at more deeper which can be a spinal problem.

Chiropractic and Nervous System

Subluxation (misalignment in the spine) affects the sympathetic nervous system is the most likely to create a vulnerable system in which psycho-physiologic disorders may develop. The imbalance between sympathetic and parasympathetic systems leads to dysfunction and pathology.The removal of subluxation may either relieve or diminish the symptomatic intensity of the psychological problem.

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Chronic muscle tension created by imbalances in the nervous system has been intimately associated with neurosis and psychosis. Re-education of proprioceptive feedback from muscles, ligaments and fascia to the spinal cord, reduces cortical excitation, which diminishes the barrage of impulses to the muscles and viscera. Organization and integration of cognitive and cognitive function is restored and a corrective emotional response takes place. Dr. Gonstead noticed that subluxation has caused hormonal imbalances and caused many mental conditions such as depression, nervousness, nervous breakdowns, emotional outbursts, loss of memory, alcoholism, and other miscellaneous mental illnesses.

The cause of subluxation can be complex and hard to pin point the event, but we know that subluxation can cause the inability to mentally adapt to stress. When breathing, Tai Chi/Qigong, Zen meditation, and other conventional therapy doesn’t work, then send them this blog because it might answer a lot of questions regarding stress.


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Pain

“Dr. Zen! My back is in pain!” “I have shoulder pain. Can you help me?” “Doc! That is painful!”  People often come into the office talking about their neck pain, back pain, shoulder pain, or pain anywhere on our bodies. Some people live with pain and suffering everyday, and often that pain has a strong connection emotionally, spiritually, and physically. Pain may originate with an initial traumatic/injury or infection, or there may be an ongoing cause of pain. Some people suffer chronic pain in the absence of any past injury or/any evidence of damage. The emotional toll of chronic pain can even make pain worse. Anxiety, stress, depression, anger, and fatigue interact in complex ways with chronic pain. So how do we deal with pain? By learning a different way to understand and embrace it.  With pain there is suffering, but suffering is necessary for our maturity and for living our lives to the fullest.

We cannot avoid pain during our lives because it is embedded in our brain. Pain is a feeling triggered in the nervous system. Pain may be sharp or dull. It may come and go, or it may be constant. You may feel pain in one area of your body, such as your backabdomen or chest or you may feel pain all over, such as when your muscles ache from the flu. Pain may also have an emotional connection with your past. It can trigger in your mind emotional scares, traumas, or tensions. B. J. Palmer D.C. Ph. C., author of Science of Chiropractic says,  “Pain is the mental interpretation of abnormal physical condition.” Pain can be very subjective, and the science of pain can be very difficult to understand. In chiropractic philosophy, we talk about pain in the following way:

“Pain is uncomfortable sensation resulting from the interpretation of impressions arising from an abnormal condition within the human body, or from an external stimulus, which has a detrimental effect upon the body. For example, take a sprained ankle in which the ligaments are stretched. There are sensory impressions constantly arising from this abnormal and sprained ankle. These impressions reach the brain, are interpreted, and efferent impulses sent out to the point from which the impression originated, transferring the sensation to the periphery as pain. The sensation of pain, however, occurs in the brain. This pain is adaptive, to prevent further use of the injured part until it can be properly and naturally repaired. Or if the skin should be pricked with a needle, an impression is immediately sent to the brain, where it is interpreted as pain, and motor impulses sent back to the muscles, which causes them to contract and withdraw from the injury. In this pain is also adaptive. “

Green Books: Chiropractic Symptomatology by James N. Firth, D.C., Ph. C

As pain is a mental interpretation and it occurs in the brain, it is often used as an alarm system. Your body has the capability to heal and to adapt to its environment,  but when that function is lost due to obstruction of communication of the nervous system it is called subluxation. When something goes wrong, your body uses pain to tell you, therefore, by the time you feel pain damage has already been done Pain is used as an alarm system to prevent the damage from getting worse. Whether it is emotional, physical, or spiritual pain, the pain is a warning that the body is experiencing  disharmony or loss of communication.  Even when feeling pain most people deny its existence.

Most people think pain is important and proportionally significant in the human brain, but scientifically, only ten percent of the nervous system consists of pain!! The rest of the nervous system consists of organ function and muscle control. Pain is very subjective and can be misunderstood in many health conditions. For example my knees can be hurting while there is a disc bulging in my lower back putting pressure on the nerve that gives sensation to my knees. People can get a headache from emotional stress such as verbal argument between husband and wife.  Pain can also be chronic and continue to be bothersome such as in the shoulders or lower neck.

Basically pain acts as an alarm system to warn you of something, but it is not the cause of your condition. Pain is a very poor measure of your health condition and very misleading for identifying what your health condition truly is. Absence of pain doesn’t mean you are completely healthy. When you are physically healthy, your body is interconnected structurally, and energetically you experience optimal adaptation to environmental stress, high resistance to disease, homeostasis, vitality, energy, fulfilling breath, fluid movement, relaxation, and ease.