Wellness” has become a buzzword among the public, health care practitioners and legislators alike. But what exactly does it mean, and how can people benefit from it? The American Chiropractic Association (ACA) defines wellness as “an active process that promotes health and enhances quality of life.”
“With the enactment of health care reform legislation earlier this year, the public is going to hear more and more about the importance of wellness, staying healthy and ultimately reducing health care costs caused by chronic diseases such as heart disease and diabetes,” says ACA President Dr. Rick McMichael. “It’s time for people to understand that they have the power to take charge of their health and be well enough to do the activities they enjoy.”
Dr. Scott Bautch, a doctor of chiropractic from Wausau, Wis., explains wellness further. “We consider wellness the act of adding potential to people’s lives,” he says. “Whether that potential is the ability to avoid cholesterol problems, quit smoking, or exercise more – it’s all individual to each person. In other words, wellness is about giving people specific skills that will help them flourish in life.”
Finding a wellness coach
“If you’re interested in health and wellness, a good place to begin is by talking about it with a doctor of chiropractic,” notes Dr. McMichael. “Our doctors are well known for their expert care of back pain, neck pain and headaches, but they also offer patients a variety of conservative recommendations and counseling on general health and wellness.”
You may ask, “What can a doctor of chiropractic offer that is different from a medical doctor?” The answer lies in the way the two professions approach wellness. To achieve “wellness” in traditional terms, a medical doctor will simply screen you for diseases, explains Dr. Bautch. “You might be examined or have lab tests. For medical doctors, wellness is about staying ahead of diseases.”
A doctor of chiropractic (DC), on the other hand, will screen you for diseases, but he or she also will talk to you about your lifestyle and behaviors that may put you at risk for injury or illness. It’s important to note that chiropractic’s approach is drug-free; instead of writing a prescription, a DC offers spinal adjustments, rehabilitative exercises, nutritional counseling and lifestyle modifications to move patients toward optimum function and wellness.
Typically, when a new patient visits a DC, one of the first things the doctor will assess is functional capacity. The DC will focus on decreasing pain and returning the patient to normal daily activities, including exercise. In the intermediate stage, a chiropractor will continue therapeutic care, but also begin to address factors that may have led to the patient’s pain by recommending lifestyle modifications. An example of intermediate care might include managing the patient’s obesity with counseling on diet and exercise. In the final stage of wellness care, a DC will help the patient take responsibility for his or her own health through patient education, enabling the person to independently maintain and even advance the level of wellness achieved.
Adjust your attitude
“The first thing I work on with a patient who is interested in living well is life skills in terms of thinking and dealing with life’s ups and downs,” says Dr. Bautch. “Research shows that coping skills and the ways that people deal with stress can be huge factors in whether or not someone is well.”
You can boost your attitude in a variety of ways: enjoying nature, looking for humor in life’s mishaps, listening to relaxing music and creating a support system of people who you can turn to in times of trouble or stress.
Next, Dr. Bautch works with patients to increase their daily movements. “Americans today take significantly fewer steps than previous generations, and they spend a great deal more time in sedentary positions,” he says. “Adding more motion to your life can be a huge step toward living well.”
Simply taking a 30 minute walk each day is a great way to recoup the steps that are missing from your day. Experts generally agree that to be considered “active,” adults should take about 10,000 steps each day. Wearing a pedometer is an easy way to track your progress.
Food for fuel
Once the first two components of wellness are addressed, Dr. Bautch will address a patient’s diet. It’s surprising for some to learn that making even a few simple changes, such as eating more raw or organically grown foods, drinking more water and consuming 25 to 30 grams of fiber per day, can positively impact your health and help prevent a variety of adverse health issues in the future.