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Acute or chronic pain leaves most people on the couch or in bed. Discomfort in the back, neck, hips, shoulders, and extremity joints can make even moderate activity difficult and strenuous activity (such as jogging, biking, or hiking) nearly impossible. If not addressed quickly, this inactivity can begin a vicious cycle that leads to obesity, ill health, and even death.

The Vicious Cycle of Injury, Inactivity, and Weight Gain

Recent research on obesity shows that inactivity plays a significant role in a person’s likelihood of being obese. Analysis of National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys from 1988 through 2010 found that 52% of women reported a sedentary lifestyle in 2010 compared to 19% in 1988. There is a similar jump in men: in 2010, 43% reported no physical activity compared to 11% in 1988. These findings coincide with an obesity rate that doubled between 1980 and 2010.

There are many reasons for the recent decline in physical activity. Families are more likely to have two cars, which reduces the need for walking. Entertainment and shopping are easily accessible by computer. Appliances and power tools reduce physical work in the kitchen and home. Even obesity itself is a factor: a study published in the journal Mayo Clinic Proceedings shows that obese people engage in less than one minute of vigorous activity per day.

Injury complicates this picture. Chronic or acute pain makes physical activity difficult, leading patients to choose the couch over the treadmill. This inactivity can easily lead to weight gain. Now there are two obstacles to getting enough activity: the injury makes movement difficult, while excess weight forces the patient to work harder for every step he or she takes. Activity becomes even more difficult, leading the patient to remain sedentary, which leads to greater weight gain. Unless changes are made, it is unlikely that this pattern will resolve itself.

Breaking the Cycle

If chronic discomfort or injury is preventing you from engaging in the activity your body needs, a chiropractor can help you break free from the cycle of inactivity and weight gain. Your chiropractor will work with you to find the root cause of your discomfort. He can then perform chiropractic adjustments to correct misalignments and reduce or relieve your pain, putting you in a better position to comfortably begin exercising.

As a result of their training, most chiropractors take a holistic view of their patients’ health. This is why conversations about healthy lifestyle habits (not just about symptoms and treatment options) feature so prominently in our relationships with patients. Put simply, it is impossible to maintain or improve your health over the long run if your own day-to-day behaviors are working against you. Office visits just won’t be enough. Good communication is a key part of any effective treatment plan. Talking candidly about your diet, exercise, sleep, work and stress management patterns helps us understand you as person—not just your symptoms. In return, you’ll receive advice that can help you better manage your overall health, including your weight. Between pain relief, rehabilitation and positive lifestyle changes, you will have the tools you need to exit the vicious cycle of injury, inactivity, and weight gain.

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