Balancing the 3T’s of Wellness

Balancing the 3 T’s of Wellness

I’ve briefly talked about what a subluxation is in a previous post (Motion is Life – Move It or Lose It) and I now want to tackle a question that I get asked pretty frequently… how do misalignments and maladaptive patterns happen in a body?  Where do subluxations come from?


How’s that for balancing different elements!

In one word, the answer is STRESS.  Stress of one kind of another is responsible for all deviations from health.  Any disturbance in health and vitality can result from the influence of three broad categories of stressors -or a unique combination of stressors from each of those categories… Physical, Chemical and/or Energetic – also called the 3T’s… Traumas, Toxins and/or Thoughts.  In my practice, I deal largely with the physical realm (although I do work with elements of both the chemical and energetic through lifestyle counseling involving food and supplement choices, breath coaching and yoga/meditation/mindfulness practices) and make referrals to other awesome people who do lots more focused work in the later two categories… so I’ll spend most of my time writing about that physical realm here.  Finding balance in these three categories in your life will go a long way in reducing the impact of stress and promoting your health.  Establishing a supportive wellness care team for yourself and your family and establishing nurturing self-care rituals are important steps that you can take to beat stress and balance those 3t’s!

Physical –aka Trauma

Physical stressors and trauma can come in two forms… macro – like slipping and falling on an icy sidewalk, and micro – such as the resulting wear/tear and pain resulting from a job where you work in a chronically stationary position (usually seated) or are performing repetitive motions.  Usually people quickly grasp how the macro traumas can cause pain and problems and why seeing a chiropractor after such an event “makes sense.”  It can be a little more challenging to notice the contribution of micro traumas as symptoms usually arise from cumulative and compounding occurrences that are more challenging to identify.  Micro traumas are so sneaky because they happen every day, and for a long time your body will adapt and cover for what’s happening… until it won’t anymore.

If we look at the physical side of subluxation from a human lifespan perspective, the first subluxations that are commonly found in really young babies are in the upper neck and are likely related to the birth process.  Whether a baby is delivered vaginally or by c-section, there usually is some amount of hands on (or vacuum, or forceps) assistance as the baby makes his or her way out into the wider world.  When babies begin learning to roll over (also through the diapering process and hanging out in car seats a lot) sometimes subluxations will occur in the mid back area and where the mid back transitions to the low back.   Low back and pelvic misalignments typically start showing up around the time that young children are learning how to stand, cruise the furniture in the home and walk.  Think about how much kids fall on their bum in the process of learning how to stand and walk… now imagine yourself falling onto your butt from a standing height and rep that out about a hundred times per day.  Are you starting to get the picture? 😉  After these developmental milestones, there are all of the playground spills, sports related incidents, bike accidents and the list or possible contributors to subluxation in a body goes on.   These occurrences happen frequently and unless there is a lot of blood or something broken, we often shrug off the trauma and mentally categorize our self or our child as being okay.

I encourage parents to bring newborns in for a well baby check and then at the developmental milestones mentioned above.  After that then at least 2x per year for check-ups (similar to the dentist… although you can get dentures if your teeth are in really bad shape… I haven’t found that equivalent for the spine yet).  Other recommended times to bring your child in to be checked would include during an illness (or after) as that is another sort of trauma, after any falls that seemed significant (the child does not get up and return to play right away, the child is difficult to console, the child continues to tell the parent that something hurts or feels weird) or if the parent notices changes in behavior, sleep, diet, bathroom habits or attitude (particularly in very young children and non-verbal children and/or adults).

On to the next one.

Chemical –aka Toxins

Chemical stressors include both things that we are exposed to that we shouldn’t be (alcohol, sugar, cigarettes, drugs, environmental pollutants, foods that we are sensitive to, too much stress hormones too often) as well as a lack of things that we should be getting (fresh fruits and vegetables, healthful fats, lots of water, fresh air/enough oxygen)

Energetic (psycho-social, emotional, spiritual component) –aka Thoughts

This category can include past emotional traumas that haven’t fully been integrated and are stored in tissue (the body remembers) as well as feelings of isolation, disconnection, being unworthy/unloveable, grief, fear and lack.  It also includes when we don’t get enough sleep and intentional rest and relaxation and are running entirely on stress hormones.  Issues involving feeling stifled creatively or spiritually fit neatly in the energetic category, too.

I hope this helps you to understand the importance of integrating all parts of our selves for our most robust expression of life and health!  If you would like my assistance in creating a more balanced state in your life, please contact me by checking out the options listed under the CONTACT menu bar.

Take Care,


Martha DeSante DC, CYT


Chiropractic FAQs

What is Chiropractic, and What do Chiropractors do?

Chiropractic is a system of healthcare concerned with the relationship between the structure (primarily the spine) and function (primarily coordinated by the nervous system) of your body and how that relationship affects your health.

Your entire body is under the control of your nervous system.  When your structure (spinal and extremity joints) is not working properly due to slight misalignments and areas of restriction (subluxation), you may experience less than optimal function (health).  Subluxation can impair the body’s ability to adapt to its environment and can lead to impaired patterns of movement and abnormal wear and tear on joint surfaces.  Subluxation can also cause alteration in the normal transmission of information through the nervous system from the brain to the body and back again.


Chiropractors – or Doctors of Chiropractic – utilize a drug-free, hands-on approach to health care that relies on the chiropractic adjustment as the main form of treatment rather than drugs or surgery.  The chiropractic adjustment is a specific force applied in a precise direction to a joint that is not moving properly through its normal range of motion.  That’s what we as chiropractors call subluxation.  Another way to think about this type of joint restriction is to think about a door.  In order to be a properly functioning door, the door must be able to open fully, swing through the full arc of movement, and close fully.  If the door is stuck in an open position, stuck in a closed position, or will only move about 15 degrees somewhere in the middle… it’s not a fully functioning door, is it?  Neither is a joint that can’t go through its full range of motion.

Subluxation and tissue injury can be caused by a single traumatic event, such as the improper lifting of a heavy object – or through repetitive chronic stresses, such as sitting in an awkward position for a long time or general poor postural habits.  If anyone has worked long hours in front of a computer without taking a break, you know what I mean.  In either case, the injured tissues undergo physical and chemical changes that can cause inflammation, pain, and diminished function.  Adjustment of the affected joint and tissues restores mobility, thereby alleviating pain and muscle tightness, and allowing the tissues to heal.

The body has the innate power to heal itself if properly cared for and allowed to function without interference. The ability of this innate healing power depends on your body being properly supplied with appropriate levels and types of exercise, nutrition and rest as well as the removal of subluxations and other irritations from your system (such as foods, beverages and personal care products that you don’t tolerate well).

The chiropractic adjustment is most commonly delivered using the hands of the chiropractor, but may occasionally be performed using the assistance of instruments. There are many techniques available to fit the needs of the individual patient, including low and no force techniques if indicated.


What kind of training and certifications do

chiropractors have?

Doctors of Chiropractic must meet rigorous educational standards to ensure that they are well trained to serve as primary care providers.  The degree a Doctor of Chiropractic earns is a DC degree, much like a Doctor of Osteopathy earns a DO degree or a Medical Doctor earns an MD degree.  To be granted admission at a chiropractic school, you must have completed the prerequisite undergraduate coursework including Anatomy and Physiology courses, General and Organic chemistry, Physics, Biomechanics and Kinesiology.  Often, there are other additional undergraduate requirements such as communications, writing and psychology.  Once admitted to chiropractic school the rigorous curriculum entails more than 4,300 hours of lecture, lab and clinic time.  If you are interested in more information regarding the specific educational requirements to become a chiropractor, please visit the curriculum overview and outline sections on the Northwestern Health Science University website.

In addition to meeting the educational requirements of the particular school a chiropractor attends, she must then pass five National Board examinations before being considered eligible for licensure.  Yearly continuing education requirements must be met by the Doctor of Chiropractic to maintain licensure for the remainder of her years in active practice.  There are additional areas of training for chiropractors to pursue that offer certification and diplomate status including (but not limited to) pediatrics, neurology, and nutrition.


Do I need a referral from a Medical Doctor to seek chiropractic treatment?

No.  In the state of Minnesota, chiropractors are classified as primary care providers and as such are portal of entry health care providers.  Doctors of Chiropractic have broad diagnostic skills and will refer you to other types of health care practitioners if your history and exam findings suggest you need additional care or co-management.


Does Getting Adjusted Hurt?

Chiropractic adjustment rarely causes discomfort. However, patients may sometimes experience mild soreness or aching following treatment (similar to some forms of exercise) that usually resolves within 12 to 48 hours.  Applying ice to the area of soreness can help minimize discomfort (using a barrier to protect the skin, of course).  Typically the more the patient can relax and receive the adjustment, the less likely that patient will experience soreness.  If you feel yourself beginning to tense up before being adjusted, your chiropractor may give you a breathing pattern to follow or have you wiggle your toes to help you relax.


How long is a typical office visit?

The length of time a chiropractic office visit takes can vary greatly from practitioner to practitioner.  At my practice, Back In Body at Spark Wellness, the first visit is typically about an hour in length. You will have a thorough history taken, an exam performed that includes orthopedic and neurological screening tests as well as ranges of motion and a hands on examination of your spine and any other areas of complaint.  If there is a need for imaging, x-rays will be referred out.  The findings of the exam will be discussed with you and baring any concerning exam results you will receive some muscle work and your first chiropractic adjustment at the clinic during that first visit.

Typical visits after the initial intake will vary based on your unique presentation and goals.  Visit increments are available in 15 minute intervals and include muscle work, adjustments, lifestyle recommendations and reassessments of exam findings occasionally to note progress.


Is Chiropractic Care Safe?

Chiropractic care has an excellent safety record.  One of the easiest ways to examine the relative risk of chiropractic treatment is to compare malpractice insurance rates of chiropractors to other health care professionals. Chiropractors’ malpractice premiums are a small fraction of most medical doctors’ premiums.  For more information on the safety and efficacy of chiropractic, check out the American Chiropractic Associations webpage.


Can I adjust myself?

No. Since a chiropractic adjustment is a specific force, applied in a specific direction to a specific joint, it is next to impossible to adjust yourself correctly and accurately. It is possible to turn, bend or twist in certain ways to create a “popping” sound that sometimes accompanies a chiropractic adjustment. Unfortunately, this type of joint manipulation is usually counterproductive, often making an already unstable section of the spine even more unstable.  Self adjusting and adjusting by untrained friends and relatives can also be dangerous. Adjusting the spine is best left to the professionals!  Even your Doctor of Chiropractic must seek out the care of a colleague to be adjusted because she cannot adjust herself.


I heard if you go to a chiropractor you have to keep

coming back forever… is that true?

You are the President and CEO of your health… no one else is.  You only have to utilize chiropractic care as long as you want to experience the benefit of it.  Your chiropractor may suggest a treatment plan for you based on your presentation that will give you the best results, but you are free to choose when and if you want to continue care.

Chiropractic care is like “orthodontics for the spine”. Clinically, repeated chiropractic adjustments re-train the vertebrae, muscles, and ligaments to their proper alignment and range of mobility. Just as the amount of time required for braces to achieve correction depends on the condition of your teeth and mouth structure, the time required for proper spinal alignment to occur depends on the condition of your spine, your job duties, hobbies, posture, and many other lifestyle factors.

You are free to choose to utilize care as often as you like, but it is unreasonable to expect that the issue that brings you in (and has been potentially years in the making) will be resolved by one visit.  This is like thinking that seeing the dentist once will provide you with good oral health for the rest of your life – or that working out once will provide you with the sustained level of fitness that you desire.

To quote Madonna, we live in a material world… and as such our bodies are subject to the same maintenance needs as all material things if we desire to function at our best for the longest amount of time possible.  You maintain your car to ensure its best function for as long as possible… and you can buy another car.  You can never buy another body.

In order to obtain the best long term results, it is important to follow the treatment plan that your chiropractor develops just for you.  This may involve “front loading” with more frequent visits at first, then tapering the frequency of care off.  Throughout your treatment plan your Doctor of Chiropractic will perform periodic re-evaluations and outcome assessments to measure your progress.


Is chiropractic care addictive?

It is possible to get used to feeling more balanced, less stressed, and more energetic as a result of regular chiropractic care.  Under chiropractic care, you may develop enhanced body awareness so that you may be able to feel when your alignment has been compromised before you begin to feel pain.  This makes it possible to avoid the pain – flare-up cycle that may require more frequent treatments at first to bring you back to your baseline.  You may find that while chiropractic is not addictive, good health is.

Is a good work-out the same as getting adjusted?

No. Exercise is an important part of good health, but without normal function of your spine and other joints, a physical workout merely puts additional wear and tear on the improperly functioning joints.



Can a person who has had back surgery see a


Yes. As with any patient, your history and exam will dictate the appropriate methods of treatment to be used or if there are any areas of your spine that perhaps should not be adjusted.  It’s an unfortunate fact that up to half of those who had spinal surgery discover a return of their original symptoms months or years later.  They then face the prospect of additional surgery.  Chiropractic may help prevent repeated back surgeries. If chiropractic care is initially utilized, back surgery can possibly be avoided in the first place.


Is it OK to see a chiropractor if I’m pregnant?

Not only is it “okay” to see a chiropractor if you are pregnant… it is a very important time to see a chiropractor.  There is no other time in your life that your body undergoes such dramatic biomechanical changes in so short of a time period.  These rapid changes as well as the presence of the hormones relaxin and elastin make pregnancy a very important time for you to be checked for subluxation.  You may find that chiropractic adjustments improve the way you feel during pregnancy and may make your birthing time shorter and easier for you and your baby due to maintaining optimal pelvic position and function.  As always, adjusting methods are adapted to your specific presentation.  For more information on chiropractic care during pregnancy, as well as chiropractic care for children, check out the International Chiropractic Pediatric Association website.


Does chiropractic “work” for all types of health


Of course not!  No one type of therapeutic intervention has it all… however, chiropractic care is very helpful when dealing with a wide variety of health problems from the more typical neuromusculoskeletal complaints to other issues not necessarily considered “back” problems.  With a normal nerve supply the body’s natural healing capacity can function at its best and provide help for a variety of health problems.

Chiropractors will readily refer you to the appropriate health care provider if chiropractic care is not suitable for your particular condition, or more commonly when your condition warrants co-management with other members of your health care team.  It is up to you to discover what combination of therapies and activities keep you feeling your best!

Take Care,


Martha DeSante DC, CYT

Motion is Life! Move It or Lose It! – or – One of the many reasons chiropractic is so important!

Motion is Life! Move It or Lose It! – or – One of the many reasons chiropractic is so important!

If you are reading this blog, chances are you already know the importance of movement in your own life.  That is one of the reasons why we all do what we do, right?  Yoga, Pilates, Running, CrossFit, Biking, Dancing, you name it… it’s all good!SAM_1028

When we’re talking about spinal movement, it’s important to talk about whether we mean movement of the whole spine in total (global motion) or the motion taking place at each spinal joint (segmental motion).  Both global and segmental spinal motions can include flexion (folding forward), extension (bending backward), lateral flexion (bending to the side) and rotation (turning) or a combination of these four motions, like extension + lateral flexion.

Often times, and in ideal conditions, global and segmental motions are one and the same (you flex your neck, dropping your chin to your chest and each of the vertebrae in your neck moves in flexion in the amount that it is supposed to… different segmental levels of the spine have different degrees of each range that are appropriate depending on their job, but that’s a discussion for another day).

Unfortunately, there are times when our joints become subluxated – or lose their ability to move through their full range of motion.  How a joint becomes subluxated is definitely enough information to discuss in its own post, so I will save that for another time as well.  For now, one way to think about a subluxation is to picture the specific joint in question as a door.  In order to be a fully functioning door, a door needs to be able to completely open, completely close, and to gently glide through the entire range between open and closed.  A “subluxated door” could look like a door that is closed, but won’t open… a door that is fully open and won’t close… or a door that is stuck in any range in between.  Now we can talk about what happens when you have a joint that won’t move through its complete ranges of motion on a segmental level and what the consequences for that loss of motion can be.

Blog chiro

Intervertebral Discs (IVDs) are the gel-like shock absorbing pads between the bodies of most of our vertebrae (I say “most” rather than “all” because as with all things in life, there are some exceptions and some segments don’t have discs between them).  IVDs require movement during waking (upright) hours to maintain proper hydration.  As we move, fluid is drawn into our discs in a process called imbibition, helping the discs to remain the squishy little shock absorbers that they are born to be.  If we don’t move (especially for long periods of time… think sitting at a desk 8 hours/day), as we age our discs can become dry, inflexible and brittle, losing their lovely (and important) shock absorbing capacity.  The overall takeaway message here is that decreased motion and decreased axial loading result in disc degeneration, and sadly, IVD degeneration begins as early as the second decade of life.  This has huge implications for the amount of inactivity faced daily by kids, with their physical structure still developing.1

When a joint is not moving through its full range of motion, we still move our bodies through the same global ranges (golf swing, forward fold, swan dive, kettle bell swing, etc).  So where, then, is the body compensating for this segmental loss of motion?  At the joints above and below the fixed joint!  When one motion segment (set of joints at a particular spinal level) is not able to move to its fullest capacity we don’t stop moving and we expect to be able to reach the same ranges… so the joints above and below the level of subluxation/fixation become “sloppy” or hypermobile to compensate for the stuck spot.  These joints above and below become less stable and more prone to injury and the accompanying sensations of pain and discomfort as a result of having to pick up the slack again and again for their subluxated neighbor.2,3  It’s easy to see why professional athletes and people who really value the long term function of their bodies utilize chiropractic care to keep all their joints moving (people like Tiger Woods, Jerry Rice, Mary Lou Retton, Michael Jordan and Wayne Gretzky to name a few…  even Kim Kardashian gets it – although we’ll get to talking about the “believe in” portion of her comment at some point on the blog).

The big take away message here is that fixation/subluxation at one motion segment can lead to degeneration of the IVD at that joint and hypermobility/destabilization at the joints above and below the fixed motion segment.  This is why getting a good workout is not the same as getting adjusted… it is also why nothing is really the same as getting adjusted.  SO, this is why the wonderful work I do is important… not just for back/neck pain or after a car accident or for “old people” (whatever that means… older than who?)… but for everyone and anyone with a spine, who wants to age well and maintain function in their joints.

Chiropractors like me are uniquely trained to assess, detect and restore motion to individual joint segments in a controlled and specific way.  There are many different techniques available and your preference in how you receive your chiropractic adjustment is unique and valid.  From very light and gentle to more dynamic approaches, there is a style and a chiropractor for every person who would like to find one.  I am committed to working with you to find your preference and to help get you moving again – both segmentally and globally.  If you think I might be the right chiropractor for you, feel free to schedule an appointment with me online by clicking here, contact me via email at, or call me at 612.321.6913.

Be Well and Take Care!


Martha DeSante DC, CYT


1Twomey L & Taylor JR. (1990).  Structural and mechanical disc changes with age.  J Manual Med, 5, 58-61.

2Kotani, Yoshihisa MD; Cunningham, Bryan W. MS; Cappuccino, Andrew MD; Kaneda, Kiyoshi MD; McAfee, Paul C MD (15 March 1998).  The Effects of Spinal Fixation and Destabilization on the Biomechanical and Histologic Properties of Spinal Ligaments: An In Vivo Study.  Spine, 23, 6, 672-682.

3Chou, Wen-Ying; Hsu, Chien-Jen; Chang, Wei-Ning; Wong, Chi-Yin.  Adjacent segment degeneration after lumbar spinal posterolateral fusion with instrumentation in elderly patients.  Archives of Orthopaedic and Trauma Surgery, 122, 1, 39-43.

As the Twig is Bent, So Grows the Tree

As the Twig is Bent, So Grows the Tree

The idiomatic phrase “as the twig is bent, so grows the tree…” fits beautifully in the context of understanding why chiropractic care is important for children.  Children experience physical, chemical and emotional stressors (just as adults do) and this can contribute to the development of the vertebral subluxation complex (possible combination of altered joint and nerve function, pain may be present).  From the birth process to learning how to walk and falling on their bottom many times per day to falls from trees and off of bikes, an active child’s life is full of opportunities for physical trauma.  If you have even seen an episode of America’s Funniest Home Videos, you have a great visual list of potential reasons children could benefit from chiropractic care.  While children are very resilient and can often “walk it off” when mild bumps and falls happen, if the underlying structural component is not addressed their body is merely compensating and developing a maladaptive pattern that the body will only cover for so long before symptoms begin to develop.  Injuries sustained as children often present as symptomatic areas of degeneration or “wear and tear” in a person’s twenties, which is commonly when a person chooses to seek chiropractic care for the first time.

A common misconception is that chiropractic care for children looks the same as chiropractic care for adults.  All of the techniques used are modified for the child’s specific stage of development and comfort.  I am so happy to provide gentle, specific chiropractic care to little ones to help prevent their bodies from getting used to these poorly functioning joint segments and maladaptive compensatory patterns so that they have the best chance of not keeping these imbalances and misalignments as they age.  While it would be silly to bring your child in to the chiropractor after every minor bump or fall (you might as well just move into the chiro office while they learn to walk), some key times to have your child’s spine checked by a chiropractor match up well with some major developmental milestones.  Important times to be checked would be shortly after birth (stress to bones of skull, neck and possibly pelvis), after learning to hold his/her head up (stress to neck), after learning how to roll over (stress to transitional area between mid and low back), after learning how to sit independently (stress to low back and pelvis), after learning how to walk (stress to low back and pelvis), or after any falls or injuries where your child acts like it might have been significant (things to watch for include not resuming play immediately, reacting differently than normal, continuing to mention discomfort).  At a minimum, it is prudent to have your child’s spine checked by a chiropractor at about 6 month to 1 year intervals (similarly to how you would take them in for a dental check-up).  The longer a child lives with (and adapts to) the vertebral subluxation complex, the harder it will be to release that pattern… this is why periodic checks are important despite the fact that your three year old will most likely not hobble over to you and say “Mommy, my back just went out”.

Every person (including a child) experiences the richness of his/her life experiences through his/her nervous system, which is housed by the protective structures of the skull and spinal cord.  There is an intimate relationship between structure and function in the human organism and the relationship between the skull and spinal cord with the nervous system components it protects is no exception.  The changes to the nervous system cannot be predicted based on how the structure is altered (enough research does not presently exist to say “this issue will produce more activity here or less here), however any change from a neutral/typical form can be expected to produce a change in function.  The changes that occur at the site of vertebral subluxation complex are many and the effect cannot be described simply as “a bone out of place puts pressure on a nerve”, because more often the situation is more subtle and complex than all that.  The most compelling reason to provide chiropractic care for children is due to this relationship between form and function.  The goal of a chiropractor working with kids it to allow them to grow and develop to their fullest capabilities without any interference to their nervous systems and how they perceive and interact with their world!

Besides being well versed in the detection and correction of vertebral subluxation complex, a chiropractor trained by the International Chiropractic Pediatric Association in working with the pediatric population can be a great resource for identifying the best options for baby carrying/wearing devices that support baby throughout development, general family health and wellness lifestyle information and other structural concerns such as appropriate backpack fit and style.   For more information about chiropractic for kids, please check out the International Chiropractic Pediatric Association webpage.

Chiro Baby


If you would like to talk with me about if chiropractic care might be helpful for a little one in your life, please contact me by checking out the options listed under the CONTACT menu bar.

Take Care,


Martha DeSante DC, CYT