Keeping the spine in line

Every organ in the body is connected with and controlled by nerves from the spinal cord and brain, so it’s no wonder that keeping the spine in check can involve scores of preventative measures, including visits to a chiropractor.

Coastal Point • Ryan Saxton: Dr. Donald Hattier explains the nervous system.Coastal Point • Ryan Saxton
Dr. Donald Hattier explains the nervous system.

Dr. Donald Hattier of Beachview Chiropractic Center in Millville has spent decades studying the practice, which dates back more than 100 years, and as he explained, prevention and education may quite possibly be the two best solutions to living a longer, healthier life.

From automobile accidents and sports injuries to poor posture or physical positions maintained over prolonged periods, there are multitudes of contributing culprits that affect the way people’s spines, and, ultimately, the rest of their bodies, behave.

Continuous lifting at work and static seating a desk, typing on a keyboard, are some of the more subtle irritations that people face every day.

“One of the biggest things I can say about chiropractics,” said Hattier, “is that everybody at some point ends up with a degenerative spine in one way or the other.”

There are many tell-tale signs that indicate the spine may be suffering, Hattier said, including painful joints, headaches and migraines, muscle spasms, anxiety, nausea, rapid heartbeat and fatigue, just to name a few. Chiropractics does not only work to ease these symptoms through spinal alignment and adjustment, but also aims at avoiding them altogether, before it’s too late.

“Spinal degeneration is such an issue, because most people don’t see it,” Hattier explained, “and they don’t seek treatment for it until it gets to the point where it becomes a pain.

“That just makes it harder for everything else,” he emphasized. “It’s like waiting until you get a cavity before going to the dentist. You have to talk to a patient on a regular basis, and you have to advise them on how to live a better lifestyle to prevent the problem, rather than waiting to fix it after it happens. The saying ‘An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure’ is very true.”

Chiropractic care is responsible for restoring normal joint function, removing the pressure from the nerve inside the joints and correcting structural abnormalities. Conditions such as slouched posture cause limitations of proper function of other organs, like the lungs and heart, according to Hattier.

Even when the pain does get to be too much, many people fail at finding a true cure.

“If you rack yourself in one direction,” said Hattier, “you can take all the pills you want, but it’s not going to make you completely better. It’s just going to take away the pain. What we have to do, essentially, is rack you in the other direction.

“One really bad thing with spinal problems is that once you damage it one time, you end up with weakness in that area, and you’ll develop follow-up problems later in life. These are almost legendary. People don’t even remember they had a significant accident years ago,” he noted.

“If these problems are not corrected early,” Hattier added, “your body will lock into that bad position and eventually re-grow into that. That’s the degeneration. People don’t pay attention to that. There’s no pain, so they’re not going to do anything about it. Bad idea. You have to address these things early.”

With age comes a progression of one’s lifestyle. New habits form and old ones are lost. These changes play a vital role in your wellbeing.

“As you age,” he said, “a lot of people who were active when they were younger stop exercising and stretching like they used to. People know enough to take your car in to get an oil change, but when it comes to taking care of their spine, they never go in to the chiropractor. They just write it off.”

Hattier even offers his expertise through a local radio program, to encourage the early step to prevent health risks.

“I try to make the public aware of what these issues are,” he said, “and try to make them aware of why they want to do things earlier in life. We have a crisis in this country, and it’s over the state of our health. People have let things go in their life, assuming that the doctor can fix it, no matter what. That’s not the case.”

Detecting spinal problems at an early age is one of the best preventions against later problems seen in many adults, he said.

A particular concern these days is students and backpacks, according to Hattier. Wearing, lifting and packing a backpack the wrong way is a common mistake made by many children and teens.

“We’re starting to see a lot more scoliosis problems than we saw 20 and 30 years ago,” Hatter explained. “Growing up, we carried our books with a satchel. The weight bearing was low.

“Now, kids load up their backpacks entirely too heavy,” he said. “These kids are creating the problem for themselves. It’s important to inform the parents and to let them know that this is wrong.”

The contents of a student’s backpack shouldn’t weigh more than 15 percent of the child’s body weight. Hattier recommends messenger bookbags, which go across the shoulder, allowing children to stand naturally and distribute weight evenly across the body.

“You don’t have to tweak yourself off to one side, and you’re not off balance,” he said of this preferred style of bag.

Informing the public of the health risks is among Hattier’s top priority in his field, but it’s not always as simple as that.

“You can preach this stuff until you’re blue in the face,” he said, “but, ultimately, people are going to do what they want. But you take people the way they are, and you do the best they can. It’s an education issue. You have to make people aware, of most of these chronic conditions, most are avoidable, and most are a result of what people are doing to themselves.”

Over his 22 years in practice, Hattier said, he has seen a growing awareness in the eyes of the public when it comes to chiropractic care.

“When I first started out,” he said, “there were mostly adults who came in. Now, we’re seeing more and more of the younger generation. Those who I’ve worked with in the past have seen what chiropractics can do, and they bring in their children.”

Hattier has made spinal adjustments for everyone from his newborn son to patients who are 102 years old.

For more information about spinal adjustment and chiropractic care, visit Hattier’s office at 550 Atlantic Avenue in Millville or call at (302) 539-7063.