There are several types of anemia, some of which I have written about in the past. This post will focus on the importance of correcting anemia as it relates to pain and musculoskeletal dysfunction, in addition to health in general.
As you can probably guess, oxygen is the most important “nutrient” for your body. The way I point this out to patients is by saying: “you can probably live about a month without food, you can probably live only three or so days without water, but you can’t live much longer than three minutes without oxygen (unless you’re David Blaine)”. That said, it’s critically important to correct anemia if that is a health issue of yours.
When a person is anemic, it means their red blood cells aren’t optimally formed. As a result, they will not be able to function very efficiently. The main job of red blood cells is to carry and delivery oxygen to the different parts of the body. Therefore, if you’re anemic, your body will be oxygen-deprived to some degree.
Now, obviously the oxygen-deprivation of an anemic is not to such a degree that the person will be completely void of oxygen and not live longer than three minutes. However, you can be sure that there will be consequences from the depleted levels of oxygen that will result from anemia. We’re all familiar with anemia causing fatigue, as that’s the most commonly talked about symptom. The reason fatigue occurs is because you need iron to literally produce energy molecules. Well, I should say that your body is most efficient when it produces energy in the presence of oxygen during everyday activities, though it’s not always necessary. And keep in mind that this “energy” is used in all processes carried out in your body, whether it’s the production of hormones, rebuilding of tissues, digestive processes, proper muscle function and so forth. As previously mentioned, you can produce energy even if there is an inadequate supply of oxygen. The difference is the way the body makes this necessary energy molecule, called ATP.
There are two ways to make energy: simply put, one is with oxygen and one is without. The problems with anemia arise when you aren’t making enough energy through the use of oxygen for everyday metabolic processes. [During intense exercise, it’s normal and necessary to be making energy without oxygen.]
When you make energy using oxygen, you are using fat as the source. Whereas when you make energy without it, you are using glucose. Therefore, if you are anemic, you are generally going to be more dependent on glucose for energy. This results in many signs and symptoms, not the least of which can be pain and muscle dysfunction. This is how it relates to “the chiropractic patient”. Oxygen deprivation will cause muscles to fatigue at a much more rapid pace than if it were present. This can easily be seen through the use of manual muscle testing in Applied Kinesiology. Essentially, in this scenario, testing the same muscle repeatedly will show that it neurologically inhibits (or “weakens” in lay terms) after contracting for as little as five times. Normally, a muscle should be able to withstand about ten to twenty contractions, if not more!
Muscle inhibition in turn can lead to joint dysfunction and compensation of other muscles that then causes a vicious cycle of further muscle and joint dysfunction. “At the end of the day”, this can all lead to pain and structural imbalances. Additionally, if the oxygenation deprivation results in pain, this too will lead to muscle imbalances and then joint dysfunction. As you can see, undiagnosed anemia can lead to the “three times a week, for fifty-two weeks chiropractic treatment plan”, and/or “addiction” to chiropractic treatment. A prudent chiropractor, well-versed in nutrition with the ability to accurately diagnose the cause(s) of your pain is extremely important if you want to see (lasting) results.
As mentioned previously, if you are oxygen-deprived because of anemia, your body will rely more heavily on glucose to create energy. When this happens, blood sugar dysregulation can be the result. And if you’ve read even a handful of my other articles, you know that this can lead to just about every chronic health issue in existence.
In conclusion, simply correcting your anemia probably won’t be enough to reverse the pain, muscle and joint dysfunction, and structural imbalances that have already set in. However, when you correct your anemia, the structural corrections made will be much more likely to “hold” and not recur.
A simple blood test can determine red blood cell health and if you’re anemic or not. Keep in mind though, many lab reference ranges are way too wide in determining if a particular marker is really optimal for you. I prefer to use narrower ranges that often detect “functional” imbalances that exist, even when your doctor says “everything is normal” but you still don’t feel well.
Dr. Rob D’Aquila – NYC Chiropractor – Diplomate and Board-certified teacher of the International College of Applied Kinesiology