Headaches and back pain can lead to taking over-the-counter pain meds. Prolonged use of these drugs can have a detrimental impact on your health. Join Dr. Jack Wolfson as he talks about chronic pain with Certified Chiropractic Sports Physician and Certified Chiropractic BioPhysics® physician, Dr. Ryan Wohlfert. Dr. Ryan has helped thousands correct their mind & spine to break free from chronic pain. Discover how your posture affects and moderates every physiologic function in your body. Get adjusted today to eliminate chronic pain and enjoy life again.
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How Eliminating Chronic Pain Impacts Your Overall Health With Dr. Ryan Wohlfert
In this episode, I have a fantastic guest to be able to share some information for you. Dr. Ryan Wohlfert and I are going to be talking about some different topics pertaining to a lot of his specialties. Remember, everything that we are talking about may not directly link it back to the heart but understand that it is linking back to the heart.
Dr. Ryan Wohlfert, welcome to the show.
Thanks, doc. I love being here and I love your 100-year heart moniker. That’s beautiful.
For most people that I see and that are involved with us, they were told that their longevity is going to be limited. They are going to be on pharmaceuticals, having procedures, decreased life expectation or life expectancy, somebody with Atrial fibrillation, high blood pressure, or heart attack. They are told that their life expectancy is shortened. We want to do better than that. I know you offer better than that in your chiropractic offices in the State of Michigan. You have done some fantastic things. Let me dive right into a little bit of your bio here.
Ryan Wohlfert is a Certified Chiropractic Sports Physician and Certified Chiropractic Biophysics Physician using a specific spinal and postural correction protocol to break free from chronic pain, disease, and organ dysfunction. He is also a Certified Mindset Specialist helping people retrain the mind-body connection for optimal health and performance. With decades of education and clinical experience, Dr. Ryan has helped thousands correct their mind and spine to them to break free from chronic pain, eliminate dependence on a very broken medical system and make simple pain-free living possible.
Ryan, let me ask you this. As it pertains to pain, I know that the literature says that people with chronic pain have higher blood pressure, double the risks of hypertension, undoubtedly, have a higher heart attack risk, stroke risk, and everything cardiac-related. Talk about this whole chronic pain thing.
You said at the beginning of this that it might not relate A to B but how our body responds to the different stresses that we put on it, chronic pain, especially you mentioned there with the research, increased high blood pressure, and overall feelings of malaise and disease. With chronic pain, why is that such a big deal?
Just in America, it is the number one leading cause of long-term disability, meaning you can’t do anything, you can’t work and enjoy your life. In the world, there are 1.5 billion people. About 20% of the world’s population is living with chronic pain. You mentioned how it affects the heart, circulation, and circulatory system. Let me explain to people who do not understand what chronic pain is.
Let’s break down exactly what that means. When we talk about pain, what does that mean? How do we determine whether or not it’s chronic or acute?
If you are in chronic pain, you know what I’m talking about, but if you are not, you are like, “What does that mean?” It could be headaches or migraines. Those are the things that I suffered from when I was thirteen years old. Back pain is the most common one, fibromyalgia, arthritis, and post-surgical pain that you had surgery for to try to fix the source of the pain, and yet you still have it. You have it for months and months on end. Typically if you go by the definition, it is at least 3 months, but even 6, 9, or 12 months. At least six months that we are talking about.
On the spectrum, there are different ranges on a pain scale. In our office, we ask, “On a scale from 0 to 10, how would you rate the pain?” Ten is debilitating. Anywhere from 8, 9, or 10, those are severely debilitating. For chronic pain, 4, 5, and 6 is moderate, but it is bothersome. You are affecting your life. You are taking medications for it. You are taking either over the counter or prescription medication. The sad part is that the main method that people use is medications to try to deal with these things. You and I both know that is definitely more short-term and long-term, especially for the organs and your heart. It causes them to break down faster.
People often use medications to deal with chronic pain. That is more short-term than long-term and is damaging to the heart.
If we are talking about NSAIDs in musculoskeletal health, that has been shown to break down the joints if you keep taking those over and over again. It will break down the joints on top of what is going to happen to the gut messing that up. Also, there have been studies showing how that can lead to Atrial fibrillation and increase the risk of A-fibrillation. That is why it is such a big problem and how it can be related to your overall health.
You said it initially in the beginning about the tens of millions or hundreds of millions in the US and billions around the world who suffer, and they swallow ibuprofen and Tylenol like it is candy or they are swallowing M&Ms and the detrimental effect on that, what it does to liver, kidneys, the gastrointestinal tract, an increased risk of ulcerations, blood pressure, and A-Fib. You know me, I’m an extremely anti-pharmaceutical guy and I know you are as well. There is a time and a place for acute pain management where we should not let people suffer in pain.
Please, you are out there. We need to do what we can to get you through the acute pain. We can talk about natural remedies. We can talk about pharmaceuticals, but again, for chronic pain, this is where we need experts like you, Dr. Ryan, to be able to get people through this because pharmaceuticals are absolutely deadly. The stress of the pain, all the Catecholamines and cortisol, what that does to the rest of the body is a problem.
It is for the acute, the medications, or over the counter, NSAIDs, Tylenol, or ibuprofen. My whole point of it is we depend too much on that and/or we think it is going to actually fix the problem. It is masking the pain symptom, whether it is a headache, back pain, neck pain, knee pain, hip pain, or whether we take it too much before or after surgery. According to the Journal of Pain Research, 75% of low back surgeries to alleviate back pain fail. On top of that, what is even more alarming is even though they were taking these opioid medications before the surgery, thinking, “I’m going to get the surgery. Now, I won’t have to take those drugs.” They are on them after the surgery as well.
We want to help get you through the rough time, but not depend on that for the rest of your life. I know your wife is a chiropractor and I’m a chiropractor. We have heard this all of our careers, “Once you go to the chiropractor, you are going to have to keep going back,” which is unbelievably great marketing by whoever started marketing that from the traditional medical system because how often is somebody on a heart medication that they say, “You only have to take it for a short period of time. You will eventually get off of it.” It is hypocritical, which is one of my least favorite traits to say, “That is what you will have to do. If you go to get adjusted once, you are going to have to keep going.”
I know your life is a big proponent of getting adjusted. My thing is once you see what it does for you, we are talking about that in general, this could be for eating healthy, keto, losing weight, or moving. Once you feel how good that is and what you can do because you are doing that, you are going to want to keep doing that. Chronic pain and pain is one of those things where the pain is a good motivator for people to change something in their lifestyle. I do not like people being in pain, but if it spurs them to make a change, it is not the worst thing in the world.
In fact, my entire family goes to the chiropractor. We go on Wednesday afternoons to our local chiropractor and the whole family gets adjusted from myself, Heather, everybody on the list, and even all the way down to the baby. It is the best day for our family because we walk out of there feeling so good, refreshed, and vitalized. I will make an appointment with you, Dr. Ryan. I come into the office and you take a history from me, but I’m there, let’s say it is for back pain or headache. Walk me through how working with you and some of your certifications of what you do help me with my pain.
I’m Certified as a Chiropractic Sports Physician but even more and as important, as a Chiropractic Biophysics. CBP is what it is called for short. That is a specific corrective technique of the spine. What we do in our office and even help people virtually is we do a full history and consult, not just of the pain, but how are your organs functioning? How are you breathing? Are you short of breath? I can have them fill out the long health history log, but for a complete health history, we do a postural, physical, biomechanical, and neurological exam to find out where your posture might be off because your posture is a window to the spine and nervous system.
With the CBP technique, we also take full spine standing X-rays because of how we know the spine is directly correlated to everything in your body because what it protects is the spinal cord, which is an extension of the brain. Through different types of stresses, whether physical, chemical, mental, or emotional, our posture or spine can get out of alignment. It can get distorted. The posture is a window to the spine, so anywhere that your posture is distorted, off, and imbalanced means that somewhere, the nervous system is getting shut down. It is also a window to the nervous system because it shows what the spine is.
One of the things that we do that is unique is on top of taking these standing spinal postural X-rays because your spine should have a specific shape to it, like there is average and normal ideal for blood pressure, A1C, and hormone levels. It is the same thing for the spine. With the spinal alignment, this is what the X-rays are showing. Posture is not always definitive.
That is why we want to see what the spine looks like on the inside. From the front, we want it straight up and down. Like a building, we do not want anything shifted to the side, side-to-side, bent down, one way or the other. From the side view, we want three equal counterbalanced curves of the spine, one in the neck, one in the mid-back, and one in the low back. We will stay away from the sacrum and pelvis. These are balanced and typically, 35 to 40 degrees is what we want each of those to be.
Pain can be a great motivator for people who want to change their bad lifestyle.
When those get hyperkyphotic, for example, if your thoracic spine gets too much kyphosis, too much of that slouched posture, that can cause the head and neck to go forward. This can be irrespective of that because one of the most common things we see is forward head posture. Where is that coming from? You could come in with low back pain.
If we do not look at the entire body, entire spine, from feet all the way up to head, and we just focus on that symptom of low back pain, we could be missing what is causing it, which could be 60% of your mass. My mass is up here in the rib cage. It houses the organs, heart, and lungs. If we are in this position, it is going to put a chronic strain on the low back and put a chronic strain on the upper back and neck.
We have to look at all portions of that. We have seen this before. Our kids were on all the time about it, patients, looking out in the community, people walking, and holding their cell phones down in their lap and creating this dysfunction. I see kids with them. It is disheartening for me and it is sad. Our job is to find out and assess what your spine looks like and what your average and ideal is because there’s a range.
Depending on the shape of different things, I don’t want to get too specific into that. We take these X-rays, we do the exam, we bring you back and show you exactly what your posture and your spine look like and how it is related to the symptoms that you are having, whether it’s biomechanics or neurologically causing irritation on the nerve roots or nerves or spinal cord.
We are talking about chronic pain and how it creates that chronic stress and strain on different areas of your body, whether that’s knee pain or foot pain. All these things are related. That first visit when people come in up into that second visit where we show people and explain why they have the symptoms that they do, whether that is the pain or even the heart not working functionally.
We all know about Christopher Reeves. I love this example of how the spine and nervous system are directly related to organ health because he broke C1, which hurt. It did not sever the spinal cord up there, but it dented the spinal cord right up here. His heart did not function fully. He had a defibrillator and a pacemaker. His lungs did not work and function optimally.
He had to have a ventilator. His gut and his intestines did not work. They had to push on his stomach or his gut area for him to go to the bathroom, and I say that for this reason. It gives you a picture of a very powerful example of how the spine and nervous system are directly related to organ health. He did not fall and injure the organs, but he injured the upper part of the neck and the brainstem area.
As you are talking, I think about the typical patient experience when they go to their medical doctor, which is they go on with low back pain. You described that you had got this extensive intake to get to the root cause of the problem, how you do the physical examination, including specific neurologic examination, and how you get into X-rays and things that you use in this whole assessment as opposed to when they go to their standard medical doctor.
The medical doctor, at least when I was doing this in my internal medicine training, would have been like, “I have got a short time with this person to be able to come up with a diagnosis and come up with my therapy, so we can say, ‘Acute back pain and here is my treatment.’” It is ibuprofen, a Medrol dose pack of steroids, or Tylenol. We have not answered this or talked about this in previous podcasts. Many medical doctors do refer to chiropractors, but their go-to maybe, “I’m going to refer out to physical therapy.” Tell me about the patient journey in your office versus a physical therapist, if you will.
It is very similar. What I will say about medical doctors referring to chiropractors is we got to do a better job of reaching out to medical doctors for those referrals, for that interaction, or engagement because it has been years, but still, they do not understand what we do. If we do get a referral, I’m talking to everybody out there.
If chiropractors are reading, make sure that you ask to send them a report to their doctor to create that relationship. How is it a little bit different? It is ironic. We will actually be adding physical therapy into our office shortly, and it will be amazing because it will be a perfect mesh of spinal care and these principles of chiropractic biophysics.
Your posture is the window to your spine.
What we do that is unique and different is we do specific postural exercises and mirror image exercises. I do love general physical therapy exercises, but I also like specificity, especially for somebody’s posture. For example, in physical therapy, a lot of times, what can happen is they might do it the same on both sides.
If they are doing posterior flies or rear flies, shoulder exercises, you might do it the same on each side of the body in the same direction, but if you look at your head and neck and your nose is on the opposite side, we do not want to be doing exercises in that direction. We want to do specific exercises. That is what we show people how to do. Going in the other direction to strengthen and mold the ligaments and muscles to help straighten that out. That is exercise-wise.
Another unique part of what we do is called postural and spinal traction. You might be seeing this before, where it is straight axial tractions, pulling it straight up. That’s great for symptomatic care, but to reform these curves in your spine that I spoke about. If the kyphosis is too excessive, an adjustment by itself or standard physical therapy exercises of pulling your shoulders back, taking your head back, it might not get that into the correct curve position. By that, we have to do specific forms of traction similar to an orthodontist has to put on crooked teeth to straighten those out.
You can’t just push on crooked teeth or do exercises until you are blue in the face for your teeth. You have to put braces on them. That is similar to the traction that we do for the spine. I always tell patients, “The good news is, unlike how you have to wear braces 24 hours, 7 days a week, you have to do these specific exercises and traction about 15 to 20 minutes a day and then go into a retainer phase for the teeth. Similarly, doing these exercises proactively even after your spine and your pain has been corrected.” That is a little bit about the difference there. Otherwise, I love exercise both general and specific exercises that physical therapists do.
You are also a Certified Mindset Specialist. Tell me exactly what that certification is like? Mindset is something that we never learned about in medical school, residency, or fellowship. We never talked about mindsets. Mindset is the emotional wellness side of things and knowing that people with anger, anxiety, stress, depression, and social isolation, which, of course, is at an all-time high right now, are linked to cardiovascular disease. Chapter five of my book is called One Nation Under Prozac. The answer is not Prozac, but we have to identify that people have these issues. Tell me about the mindset certification and how that plays into the whole pain model.
I do want to go back and hit on one thing because you reminded me of the 100-year heart. How do this posture and the physical part of your body affect your heart? I love this one quote from Renee Kelly, one of the pioneering MDs in physical medicine and rehab. He said to live a long, active, energetic life, and few things matter more than good posture.
This next one, which relates to the heart even more, he did not say this one, but this is from the American Journal of Preventative Medicine. “Posture affects and moderates every physiologic function from breathing to hormone production, spinal pain, headache, mood, blood pressure, pulse, and lung capacity are all among the functions most easily influenced by your posture.”
Logically, I like taking people through this. If you are in this most common hunched-over posture, your head is forward. You try to take a deep breath in and out and it is not as fluid. It is not as easy as you sitting up straight and doing it. You guys can try that at home. On top of that, in this position, remember what we talked about, what is inside the chest at that thoracic spine level? That is the lungs and heart.
Now you are causing the heart to work harder just trying to function and your lungs as well. I wanted to go back and set that in for the readers to understand, “That is a pretty much a direct correlation right there of how our body is responding to the posture that we are in.” We want to watch out for how long we are in that posture.
With the mindset and the brain, mindset is the emotional and mental part of the game. The definition of it is essentially how you see the world and how you see yourself. It is getting to know yourself and the mindset you take into things. There is a spectrum there as well. A fixed mindset where you think nothing is going to get better. You are going to be in pain for the rest of your life. “My dad had arthritis. My dad had high blood pressure. He had a heart attack; therefore, I will.” Those weed of thought that gets in your brain or are reinforced over and over again has a huge part in what we are doing physically for our body as well.
If we go into it in our unconscious mind thinking, “It does not matter what I do. I’m still going to have this, not going to be healthy and be sick. My heart is going to give out. I’m not going to be able to live to 100 years old.” If we go into a situation like that, that affects and has been shown in different surveys what people do action-wise. We can take all the action we want, which is great. I encourage that. I have seen this many times before. I’m sure you have too, people lose weight, but then they gain it right back. That is not who they identify themselves as because of these weeds that have been growing inside their mind.
To retrain somebody’s brain, their mind and body help lead them towards health and performance. There are two things that I will hit on right here. We have to learn what we are saying to ourselves. In this EYL Certification, called Eliminate Your Limits, there are four pillars, learn your language, count your wins, review your direction, and imagine your outcome. I want to talk about the first two, learn your language and count your wins.
Chiropractors need to do a better job of reaching out to medical doctors for referrals. Most of them still don’t really know what chiropractors do.
Learn your language is what you are saying to yourself. What are the thoughts that are holding you back? What you are thinking on a day-to-day basis, whether it is about your health, your relationships, or your career, because all those things can create stress, and if untended, they will continue to grow. When weeds start to grow, they are more weeds there instead of the flowers blooming instead of the green grass growing.
A great way to identify what you are saying to yourself is throughout the day or even at the beginning of the day is to ask yourself, “What am I thinking? What are the thoughts that are running through my head?” Identifying them to start off with, “What am I saying about my health? How am I behaving?” Even that can be a stress to our brain and our body that is filling up our stress bucket or our threat bucket.
Our brain can only take so much of that before it creates a symptom like chronic pain and high blood pressure because that is how our brain gets the body’s attention to do something about it. Symptoms are not a bad thing. It gives us information. Learning your language is merely becoming more aware of what your thoughts are, how you are feeling physically, how you are feeling emotionally, and even how you are behaving.
Those are the big four. “What am I thinking? What am I feeling? How am I feeling emotionally? What am I doing?” Take inventory and write down what those are instead of them swimming around in your head. I like to counteract that because that is deconstructing our mindset. That is finding out how do we perceive ourselves and how that can lead to disease.
How can it lead to unserving nature and behaviors? I like to count your wins or another way I put it is to find the evidence. Count your wins as not just gratitude. Counting your wins is finding the evidence day after day consistently of not the big a-ha moments, not these big breakthroughs that you have had, but the little things you are doing to lead you towards that 100-year heart.
“Did I have a nice green salad today?” That is a win. “Did I try a new vegetable today?” It does not matter if you ate it or if you liked it. You tried it. “Did I go for a walk instead of sitting down after dinner?” Those are all these little things that we take for granted. I say it is not an affirmation or gratitude because it happened and you did it. There is evidence right there where if we don’t have that evidence, sometimes we question we really did it. We are trying to convince ourselves of something. Maybe our unconscious mind or unconscious brain does not actually believe.
If you have always been overweight or struggled with your weight, and you say, “I am healthy. I am at my ideal weight,” like an affirmation does, there is this cognitive dissonance in the brain where it is you can say it all want, but your brain is not going to believe it. You are not going to take that action towards actually getting there. I’m a big fan of gratitude. Gratitude requires more emotion. It needs that emotional connection for it to sink in. For me, I’m grateful for a nice cup of coffee, but it does not bring me to emotion.
That is why counting your wins is so powerful because we do not have to put all this weight on like, “Am I doing it right? I’m not feeling the gratitude.” I did it. I’m a big fan of writing them down because that seals it in with the brain, too, because your brain is not only thinking it. It is writing it down and then you see it. You get three repetitions of it. That is two good action steps for people to take, especially if you are down in the dumps and are stressed out is, counting the wins no matter how small they are.
We are doing this Happy Heart Month Program. The assignment that we ask people to do every day is to come up with three things you are grateful for. These tasks that we have throughout the month are those wins. If you have done this right, those are the wins. If you have gone to the chiropractor at least once during the month or if you are eating seafood two times a week, those are a win, and all of these different things that we target for heart health to make sure that people are getting those wins.
There are so much fantastic information and stuff that you are doing to be able to help people. It makes me so excited about the fact that I married a chiropractor. Most of my friends are chiropractors. I’m going to the chiropractor with the family, as we said. Your website TotalHealthSpine.com encompasses your local offices in Michigan and how to work with you guys virtually in some of the programs you guys have. Tell us more about how people can find and work with you guys.
I’m actually holding and hosting a Chronic Pain Masterclass at ChronicPainMasterclass.com. It is going to be a live three-day event where I’m going to meld with six other experts, the science and application. It is a literal how-to, like what to do to get out of chronic pain. It is the first time I have seen it put together.
I know we have been part of a lot of summits, masterclasses, and docuseries. This is the first one I can remember where I’m showing people how to do it, like, “This is what I want you to do.” You are going to walk away from it with an actual guide and roadmap with your mindset in how to do that with your sleep, nutrition, and detoxification.
A good friend of ours, Dr. Elena, is going to be our expert on that. We are going to do mindset journaling. We are going to in the spinal aspect of it too and movement. These six experts were putting together this roadmap of how to do this. I encourage you to go to ChronicPainMasterclass.com because that is where you can get all the information from it. You can get 50% off the live portion of it.
Another cool part is that you can participate in the different exercises that we will be doing, both physically and mentally. There is going to be a Q&A right then with the experts. You can ask them specific questions about you and what they presented. I would love for people to check that out because I’m excited about the more I’m learning what our experts are going to present.
For those of you who are out there, there are a lot of people reading, a lot of people suffering from pain, a lot of people with pain and cardiovascular disease, and they are intimately linked, unfortunately. We got to fix one to support the other. We got to take care of the pain. Dr. Ryan Wohlfert, I sincerely appreciate you being on this episode. I applaud you, your wife, and your team over there in Michigan for everything that you guys are doing.
Thanks, doc. Thanks for having me.
We will see you next time with another fantastic guest. Our goal here is your 100-year heart. Stay with us and we are all going to get there. Be well.
- Dr. Ryan Wohlfert
- American Journal of Preventative Medicine
About Dr. Ryan Wohlfert
Dr. Ryan Wohlfert is a Certified Chiropractic Sports Physician and Certified Chiropractic BioPhysics® physician, using a specific protocol for spinal & postural correction to break free from chronic pain, disease, & organ dysfunction. He’s also a Certified Mindset Specialist helping people retrain the mind-body connection for optimal health and performance.
With 20+ years of education and clinical experience, Dr. Ryan has helped thousands correct their mind & spine to break free from chronic pain, eliminate dependence on a very broken medical system, and make simple pain-free living possible.