Most Neck, Back and Joint Stiffness and Pain are Caused by Unhealthy Lifestyles and Underlying Thyroid Dysfunction
I have found in my holistic practice that the number one most common cause of most neck, back and joint stiffness and pain, also including arm, elbow, hand, leg, knee and foot problems and also including exacerbation of chronic fibromyalgia pain, is slouching during waking hours and sleeping on the abdomen, sleeping with the arms and hands above the shoulders, sleeping on the same side or painful side most of the time, and sleeping in a twisted position that interferes with the blood and nerve circulation to the muscles and joints that cause stiffness and pain. The number two cause is diet and lifestyle related toxicity caused by unhealthy foods, milk, cheese, ice cream, chocolate, MSG, coffee, wine, beer, alcohol, cigarettes, street drugs, medications and anything that poisons the body that stresses, irritates and spasms skeletal muscles that pull the neck, back and joints out of alignment and fixate them causing joint stiffness and pain. Recent Finnish studies also directly link coffee and joint pain. The number three cause is low thyroid function indicated by a basal resting temperature below 98.2 F that does not allow the needed warming effect of muscles and connective tissue that leads to joint stiffness and pain.
The solution is to stand and sit up straight and sleep in an untwisted position on the back or sides or on the good pain free side with the arms and hands below the shoulders and not under the neck or body; eliminate all dairy, chocolate, MSG, coffee, alcohol, cigarettes, street drugs, medications and anything that poisons the body.
The easiest way to conceptualize this is that improper posture and sleeping position, unhealthy lifestyles and low body temperature causes toxicity, inflammation, water retention, edema and swelling that sensitizes and presses on your nerves and spasms your neck, back and joint muscles and is the root cause of most pain anywhere in the body. When the body is toxic, inflamed and swollen, it is more likely that stress, minimal physical exertion, exercise, massage and even chiropractic treatments can cause more inflammation, swelling, stiffness and neck and joint pain, because the underlying causes have not been corrected.
Massage, exercise, physical therapy and chiropractic treatments help spinal and joint stiffness and pain but the best results are obtained when combined with improving sleeping position, cleaning up lifestyle and correcting thyroid function to eliminate the inflammation and swelling in the tissues, spine and joints. In some cases, the person will need to correct sleeping position, improve lifestyle and treat underlying metabolic disorders first before receiving a program of massage, exercise and chiropractic that otherwise may cause too much irritation, inflammation, swelling and pain.
There is a strong human tendency to deny the role played by posture, sleeping position, lifestyle and thyroid dysfunction related toxicity, inflammation, swelling and neck, back and joint pain and to blame all of this on accidents, turning the wrong way, working too hard and sitting too long, because it is easier to blame your problems on something that happened to you instead of something you did to yourself, i.e., unhealthy foods, coffee joint pain, and bad habits that made you an accident waiting to happen. This means that your longstanding unhealthy posture, sleeping, and lifestyle habits and low body temperature problems made you toxic, inflamed, swollen and inflexible before the accident, etc., thereby causing a greater likelihood to be "injured" in the pre-existing weak places in your tissues and joints.
This tendency to deny your own role in contributing to injury, slow healing and chronic stiffness and pain can be seen in the too often expressed "fix me 'cause I won't or can't fix myself" attitude that you need a massage or chiropractic adjustment "fix," and when this does not work, as is often the case, you blame it on the massage therapist or the chiropractor instead rightfully on yourself. Or you demand a pain pill "fix," not seeming to care that popular NSAID pain pills (Advil, Motrin, Aleve, etc.) and stronger prescribed pain killers only cover-up symptoms of joint stiffness and pain and cause more leaky gut syndrome, toxicity, inflammation, swelling, stiffness, pain, chronic degeneration and arthritis in the long run.
In regards to thyroid dysfunction, the human tendency is to ignore low body temperature problems; say you don't want to or need to take Armour or Cytomel thyroid medication; "believe" your Establishment doctor who typically ignores the body temperature test, relies on the inadequate blood thyroid test only and says nothing is wrong with your thyroid (but something is terribly wrong -- your body temperature is too low); trust taking Synthroid that is not as good as Armour and Cytomel according to holistic medical doctors; and sloppy-thinking claims that you used to have a thyroid problem when in most cases, you still have a thyroid dysfunction problem that both yourself and your Establishment doctors ignore and mismanage.
Avoid Establishment massage therapists, chiropractors and medical doctors (and politicians) who arrogantly claim to fix you when you need to fix yourself and often make you worse by prescribing only quick fixes that do not improve your lifestyle and do not correct the underlying causes of neck, back, joint and other health problems. All too often, health care providers avoid confronting patients about their unhealthy lifestyles and attitudes out of a concern of offending them and ultimately losing them as patients. This deadly attraction is, unfortunately, mutual in that patients commonly choose the easy way out by consulting doctors that don't question bad habits and self-destructive attitudes. Over the past 20 years, I have seen many patients and friends go to Establishment medical doctors that are least likely to confront and challenge their unhealthy lifestyles and self-destructive attitudes. The easy way is not the best way in regards to your health, body, mind and spirit.
Unfortunately, the same mind set influences Establishment doctors and therapists to avoid identifying and correcting the underlying metabolic disorders routinely mismanaged by orthodoxy to keep patients sick and dependent and coming back for more bad medicine. Orthodox doctors have a realistic fear that the Establishment will remove the license of any health care provider who does not cover up symptoms with drugs, adjustments, exercise, massage and supplements. Seek out a holistic doctor or therapist to get to the root cause of neck, back and joint pain and other health problems. Take responsibility for being your own doctor, because no doctor can help you as much as you can help yourself by improving posture, sleeping position, diet, lifestyle and metabolic function.
Correcting your posture and sleeping position is easy to understand although it is difficult to give up a favorite way of carrying yourself and sleeping. If you set your mind to it, you will learn to carry yourself and sleep in the proper position, and you can ask your family and friends to help remind you.
It is another, more difficult, matter to give up favorite unhealthy foods and bad habits, but it helps, when you understand how dairy foods, for example, cause stiffness and pain. You may not be quite ready to let go of milk, cheese, yogurt, cream and ice cream, and it may take some real effort. Keep in mind that the rewards in feeling better are considerable.
Dairy foods, other allergy and unhealthy foods and bad habits poison, irritate and inflame the intestinal walls and break down the its immune system making it abnormally permeable or leaky to all the wrong things. This is called leaky gut syndrome that allows germs, candida, feces, cow and other animal antibodies, large fats and proteins to readily pass through the sick colon wall into general circulation. The blood and lymph carry these toxins and harmful elements throughout the body poisoning, inflaming and swelling all tissues and joints thereby causing painful muscle spasms, fibromyalgia, neck and joint pain plus back and neck stiffness.
The lungs and kidneys as eliminative organs attempt to clean up the toxins and destructive factors in the blood and lymph that in turn causes lung problems that leads to mid-back, neck, shoulder and arm, elbow and hand problems and also causes kidney problems that leads to low back, buttock, hip and leg, knee and foot problems as follows.
Dairy food toxins cause chronic allergy histamine reactions, mucus congestion, inflammation and infection in the sinus, ears, eyes, and cervical lymph glands. Dairy foods and chocolate, also poison the lungs causing thoracic vertebrae T2-4 spinous pain in the lung place. It poisons the liver causing pain between the spine and shoulder blades in the liver reflex place; it poisons the gall bladder causing stiffness and pain between the neck and shoulders. This combined irritation, inflammation and swelling in the head, neck and upper thoracic area causes neck, mid back, shoulder, arm and hand, and spinal and joint subluxation-fixation, stiffness and pain. Dairy also poisons the kidneys causing low back, sacroiliac, hip and knee problems; and it poisons the intestines causing constipation and low back problems.
To emphasize the process that causes most neck and back stiffness and pain, understand that toxins and harmful elements in the blood first poison and irritate the lungs, then irritates the nerves from the upper back spine to the lungs and also irritates nearby nerves to the paraspinal muscles in the upper back (thoracic vertebrae 2 to 4 lung place). Because the affected nerves are interconnected to other nerves in the area, irritation originally limited to the lung place in the spine spreads and causes muscle spasms and joint stiffness and pain in the shoulder blades, shoulders and neck that becomes chronic over time. Since this is a slow process during years of abuse caused by an unhealthy toxic, lifestyle and improper posture and sleeping position, the cervical vertebrae 4 to 6 in the neck become fixated and subluxated. As a result of constant irritation, inflammation, congestion and muscle spasms in the area, the vertebral bodies of the neck and disc material between them start to break down and degenerate over time eventually causing blood and nerve circulation problems and muscle spasms in the arms, elbows and hands, especially if the person sleeps on his stomach or with his arms above his shoulders. In short, toxic blood from dairy, chocolate, cigarettes, etc. eventually causes mid-back, neck, shoulder and arm muscle spasms and joint stiffness and pain.
In a similar manner, blood toxic from dairy, coffee, alcohol, cigarettes, etc. is cleaned up by the kidneys day-to-day over the years. The kidneys are constantly irritated, inflamed and congested, all of which increase the likelihood of kidney dysfunction and stones. The nerves to the kidneys from the spine are in turn irritated causing thoracic vertebrae 8 to 12 kidney place irritation, inflammation and congestion. Nearby nerves to the kidney muscles, i.e. iliopsoas muscles, go into spasm as a result of constant irritation. The iliopsoas muscles attach along the sides of the low back spine, pelvis and lesser trochanter of the femur (leg bone near the hip joint). When the iliopsoas muscle goes into chronic and sometime acute spasm, it literally pulls the low back, pelvis, sacro-iliac and hips out of alignment and the joints fixate causing stiffness and pain. Interference to the nerves and blood supply to the legs is caused over time by pressure on the nerves and blood vessels as a result of degenerative disease of the spine and discs caused by chronic irritation and inflammation caused by lifestyle related toxicity. In short, toxic blood from dairy, coffee, alcohol, not drinking enough water, etc. eventually causes low back, buttock, hip, leg, knee and foot stiffness and pain, especially when the person twists his low back when sleeping or sleeps on the same side too much.
Often after over-indulging in dairy, chocolate, coffee, alcohol, etc., the patient comes in for acute neck, back and joint stiffness and pain. Some patients appreciate learning that eliminating these toxic foods and habits can make them feel better. Some patients aren't interested in improving their lifesyle.
Allergy is involved in around 80% of all health problems, and in addition to dairy, allergy to chocolate, MSG, wheat, corn, soy, coffee, wine, alcohol, cigarettes and other high allergy and toxic substances are a common cause of fibromyalgia, neck and back stiffness and pain. In some ways, you can view allergy, especially food allergy, as just another toxic insult to the neck, back and joints.
About half the population has hypothyroidism, also called thyroid dysfunction, that is another common cause of fibromyalgia, neck and back stiffness and pain and also fatigue, depression and a wide range of other health problems. Orthodox medical blood tests for hypothyroidism often give a false negative reading, because you may have adequate T4 thyroid in your bloodstream, but this does not mean that you can convert T4 in the blood to T3 at the cell level.
Holistic medical doctors, chiropractors and naturopaths recommend the temperature test for low thyroid function. If your body can make the necessary conversion from T4 to T3, your temperature will be in normal range of 98.2 to 98.8 F. Take your oral temperature by the preferred method using a digital electronic thermometer or use a regular thermometer. Take your temperature four times a day immediately upon waking up, after resting about 3 hours after you wake up, in the afternoon and in the evening. If your average temperature is below 98.2 F, this is an indication of low thyroid function. Temperatures above 98.8 F can indicate temporary infection, chronic infection or hyperthyroidism. Consult a holistic medical doctor for diagnosis and treatment of low or high thyroid dysfunction, infection and disease.
In the past, desiccated Armour thyroid was recommended by holistic medical doctors, but it was discovered that many people have a special hypothyroid problem called Wilson's Syndrome that means the body can not convert T4 in the blood to T3 in the cells. And since Armour thyroid has both T4 and T3, the T4 portion may not be converted to T3 and may actually worsen hypothyroidism symptoms, including neck, back and joint problems. Your holistic medical doctor may put you on Cytomel T3 thyroid medication, and later at the right time take you off thyroid medication to allow your natural thyroid function to take over. Some medical doctors recommend Armour thyroid at first and continue with it and other medical doctors prefer Cytomel and some doctors recommend both Armour and Cytomel at the same time or consecutively under their direction.
As I understand it, the rule of thumb is to take adequate thyroid medication to raise your body temperature to the normal 98.6 F range. Consult a holistic medical doctor in this regard.
Taking thyroid medication, if necessary, increases and normalizes the body temperature and this warms the muscles, connective tissue and joints making them more flexible and healthy.
Most Establishment medical doctors discredit the basal resting temperature test, Armour, Cytomel and holistic medical doctors. Orthodox medical doctors does seem to mind that the blood temperature test alone is often inaccurate and that Synthroid thyroid medication, the most commonly prescribed medical drug, is not that effective in correcting thyroid dysfunction and raising the body temperature to normal. If you are taking Synthroid and your body temperature is below 98.2 F, consult a holistic medical doctor who may switch medications from Synthroid to Armour or Cytomel. Holistic medical doctors are also more likely to search for other causes of low body temperature as compared to Establishment medical doctors that may prescribe Synthroid without much concern for normal body temperature or other related health problems.
Dr. John Lowe, D.C. reported in The Journal of Myofascial Therapy, April, 1995, that many fibromyalgia patients with hypothyroidism who fail to benefit from T4 or Armour desiccated thyroid completely recovered when they switched to Cytomel T3 thyroid medication. In a telephone conversation, Dr. Lowe and I shared success stories of helping many patients with fibromyalgia, neck, back and joint problems simply by a program of detoxification, elimination of unhealthy foods and bad habits and adoption of a more healthy lifestyle.
Chiropractors can educate you about this process and also refer you to holistic medical doctors for treatment of thyroid dysfunction. Chiropractors are not licensed to practice medicine, diagnose thyroid dysfunction or prescribe or sell Armour or Cytomel thyroid medication.
Chronic candidiasis, also frequently ignored and mismanaged by orthodoxy, is also a very common cause of neck, back and joint stiffness and pain and fibromyalgia, because candidiasis poisons you and diminishes your immune system. When infected, massive amounts of debris from millions of candida organisms dying daily makes you toxic and your immune system gets completely worn out fighting off these invading toxic protein parts. Consequently, candidiasis induced intestinal toxicity and immune dysfunction causes worse leaky gut syndrome, more systemic toxicity, more infections and degenerative diseases, more fatigue and depression, more inflammation and swelling and more neck, back and joint stiffness and pain and fibromyalgia pain all over your body.
For candidiasis, your holistic medical doctor may prescribe Nystatin and in very difficult cases of candidiasis, he may prescribe Diflucan. You might consider taking silymarin concentrate capsules concurrently with candidiasis therapy to help protect the liver. Holistic doctors may recommend grapefruit extract capsules, acidolphilus, caprylic acid capsules, and garlic for candidiasis in between medical treatment with Nystatin or Diflucan. Taking only natural therapies like grapefruit extract capsules, etc. for candidiasis, especially difficult cases, is simply ineffective. Consult a holistic medical doctor for medical treatment with Nystatin or Diflucan.
Some holistic doctors report that klebsiella infection in the intestines may be a cause of neck, back and joint stiffness and pain.
Again, it bears repeating that anything that causes toxicity, leaky gut syndrome, inflammation and swelling, as does dairy, chocolate, MSG, allergy, hypothyroidism and candidiasis, also causes neck, back and joint stiffness and pain and fibromyalgia. Correct the underlying causes to get the best results.
Case Findings: A waitress advised to test for food allergy found that eliminating wheat in her diet solved her low back and female disorder problems. A contractor reported that the cinch in his side and the kidney area back pain, which had bothered him for over ten years, quickly disappeared when he gave up his Pepsi habit. Not sleeping on her bad side cleared up a troublesome hip, thigh and knee problem for a janitor who wasted over a thousand dollars on drugs and herbs. A construction worker on low back disability was able to return to work by not drinking beer and coffee. Eliminating dairy and chocolate helped a chiropractor with chronic sinus congestion and neck stiffness and pain. A Buddhist minister solved his kidney, low back and neck problems by drinking more water, by eliminating dairy and coffee and by treating hypothyroidism. After taking thyroid medication for a short time, a real estate broker reported relief of chronic low back and hip stiffness and pain and was able to exercise and run without any discomfort. A woman with mental illness, back pain and severe fibromyalgia pain all over her body recovered her health by eliminating dairy and other unhealthy foods from her diet and by taking thyroid medication. A friend with chronic neck stiffness and migraines found relief by not eating chocolate and foods containing hidden MSG. A diabetic with out of control blood sugar, staph infection on his legs, and neck stiffness and pain corrected all of these problems and reduced his insulin by taking thyroid medication, eliminating dairy and drinking more water. Wellness awaits you !
In his book, No Milk (1991), Daniel Twogood, D.C. writes that patients who complain of headaches and neck and back stiffness and pain will almost always respond after they have eliminated all chocolate, dairy and MSG from their diets. Dr. Twogood cites numerous case studies which outline how many offending foods and substances are hidden in processed foods. He points out that patients typically do not know that dairy foods and chocolate may be causing their neck and back problems.
Sami Bahna, M.D. and Douglas Heiner, M.D., authors of Allergies to Milk (1980) review the scientific literature documenting the gastrointestinal, respiratory, dermatological, hematological, cardiovascular, urinary, central nervous system and musculoskeletal symptoms caused by dairy foods, and note that most of these symptoms improve or disappear when dairy foods are eliminated from the diet. These studies support the idea that dairy foods are a cause of neck, back and joint problems.
The following books and doctors report that dairy foods, allergy, hypothyroidism and MSG cause musculoskeletal stiffness and pain: The Milk of Human Kindness is not Pasteurized (1985) by William Campbell Douglass, M.D.; The XO Factor (1983) by Kurt Oster, M.D. and Donald Ross, Ph.D.; The Food Allergy Plan (1986) by Keith Mumby, M.D.; the pioneer specialists in food allergy, Theron Randolph, M.D., Marshall Mandell, M.D. and Abram Hoffer, M.D.; Hypothyroidism: The Unsuspected Illness (1976) by Broda Barnes, M.D.; Solved: The Riddle of Illness (1984) by Stephen Langer, M.D.; In Bad Taste: The MSG Syndrome (1990) by George Schwartz, M.D.; Thyroid Power: 10 Steps to Total Health by Richard L. Shames, MD and Karilee H. Shames, RN, PhD.
About the author: Dr. Grady A. Deal, Ph.D., D.C. is a holistic, nutritional chiropractor with a Ph.D. in psychological counseling. Dr. Deal is founder-director of Hawaiian Wellness Holiday, a health vacation program on beautiful Kauai, Hawaii, and he is author of Dr. Deal's Delicious Detox Diet, Weight Loss, Wellness Lifestyle, Dr. Deal's Delicious Recipes and Dr. Deal's Holistic Chiropractic Examination Protocol books.