The AFM Team talked to Dr. Daniel Gonzalez about what it means to have a healthy spine. Dr. Daniel has been a practicing chiropractor in Austin since 2007 and has since frequented AFM’s Best Of Chiropractors. His passion for wellness has helped his clinic, Family Health Chiropractic, grow and continues to work with his patients to find the best possible solutions to their ailments.
AFM: Is there a certain age when someone should get checked by a chiropractor?
Dr. Daniel: Everyone from infants to centenarians can get adjusted and should definitely get checked. In fact, I adjust a lot of babies with 30% of my practice being pediatrics — that’s why the name of my practice is Family Health Chiropractic. A lot of people don’t realize this, but the sheer act of birth is traumatic. There are estimations that between 30-40 pounds of pressure are placed on the baby’s neck as it is pushed out of the vaginal canal. Kinks can happen, and if they go unchecked, can develop into functional issues.
The same goes for anyone. If kinks or issues go unchecked and untreated, the long-term effects can end in serious dysfunctions. It’s like dental hygiene — you brush your teeth to keep up your oral health, but if the first time you see a dentist is when you’re in your 40s, then you’re likely to find some issues.
AFM: What is something the younger generation should watch out for?
Dr. Daniel: Something I’ve actually been seeing a lot in younger people recently is kyphosis, which is a reverse curve of the neck. I remember when I was in chiropractic school, the radiologist showed us an example of kyphosis but said that we would rarely see it in practice. Now, it seems like every week I have a new patient with it, and it’s clearly detectable from an X-ray.
I think I’ve been seeing this because now, kids are growing up in an environment of looking down and sitting in front of screens. The first 18 years of their lives are in front screens and sitting at desks. It makes sense to me that the neck would react this way since it’s growing in these awkward positions.
AFM: What do you wish everyone understood about caring for their spine?
Dr. Daniel: Pain is not a good indicator. Typically, people think that they should wait until something hurts before they go in to see a chiropractor. There are dysfunctions developing in individuals that don’t have pain now, but that development is not normal and should be detected and treated. This would be kind of akin to heart disease — it’s the number one killer in the United States. You could be feeling fine one day, but then have a heart attack the next. So, that’s where we really need to grasp this concept of prevention and detection. You should at least go in and get checked.
AFM: Is there anything that people often overlook when it comes to a healthy spine?
Dr. Daniel: Something a lot of people dismiss is water. As simple as it seems, hydration is such a big component to maintaining flexibility and keeping our joints healthy. The discs that are in our spine are 88 percent water, and as we age, they lose water. So, that combined with being dehydrated will make you stiffer. If the discs are properly hydrated, there’s more sponginess and buoyancy which makes you more flexible.
AFM: How else can someone work to improve their spine health?
Dr. Daniel: There’s something I like to teach my patients called the Hierarchy of Movement (see pyramid graphic). Posture and Biomechanics are the base of that. This means knowing how you carry yourself and understanding correct posture. Without correct posture, no matter how many times you come to me to get adjusted or how much workout, it won’t fix anything.
The same goes for the rest of the pyramid. Mobility can’t be improved without first improving Flexibility. Flexibility is how far you can purposefully stretch parts of your body, while Mobility is the range of motion — how far you can actively move parts of your body.
The final stage is Strength. Compared to everything we do for pain, including chiropractic care, strength training has the most clinical evidence of overcoming dysfunctions. But the catch is doing it correctly, starting with posture and working your way up. Otherwise, it’s stacking fitness over dysfunction, and it won’t get you the full benefits. That’s why it’s a hierarchy.