When I was first diagnosed with valley fever in 2015, the radiologist noted mild scoliosis of the thoracic spine along with the fungal and bacterial infections filling my lungs. After eight years on the back burner, yesterday I finally saw someone about it. The practitioner is a chiropractor, though he doesn’t adhere to the “snap, crackle, pop” methodology. Rather, his focus is on relaxing the muscles and releasing tension in the fascia.

Our bones are locked into place, he explained, and it’s the imbalance in muscle tension between left and right that create the appearance of uneven hips, a protruding scapula, or spinal curvature.

When we sit at a computer, lift heavy barbells or hunch over our cell phones, our bad postures becomes physiologically familiar. The body cannot recognize good posture from bad, so we fall back into the same physical habits. Bad habits are perpetuated. Any unbalances are perpetually exacerbated.

The chiropractor spent two hours pressing into different myofascial trigger points up my spine. He would press on two points, one inch to the left and right of my spine. Some areas were tender and, with some, there was a clear imbalance. The left side would give, whereas the right side was taut. However, following several minutes of gentle pressures, the muscles and fascia would ease into a state of relaxation.

My psoas, which connects the hips to the lumbar spine, was also tight. Sitting in a desk chair all day will do it. Any imbalance in the hips–the body’s foundation–leads the muscle to tug on the spine to compensate. This, in turn, leads to all kinds of problems, from pain to subtle shifts in spinal alignment.

Before leaving, I asked what could do to prevent my condition from worsening. His answer: The same things that will worsen the curvature can reverse it. It’s all about our small, daily habits.

If you’re hunched over your phone, over time you may develop a hunch. If you lift heavy barbells, you may develop arthritis. If your body tends to shift in one direction, it will continue to do so.

The antidote is to look up from our phones, perform workouts that don’t put too much strain on our bodies, and focus on leaning into a new direction. With a few simple at-home exercises, I can reverse scoliosis. The secret is counterbalance.

And I can’t help but think of all the areas of life in which opposition is a source of value and beauty. The light of a candle is illuminating when contrasted against the dark night sky. In a lit room? Not so much. Without experiencing sorrow, we can’t fully appreciate those brilliant moments of joy. To watch a child struggle to squeak out “cap-pa-pirwar” before figuring out the correct pronunciation is a cherished experience among all the parents I know.

On the other hand, the less desirable imperfections that life may lay before us become a motivator for change. When the scales tip too heavily in one direction, we can apply a counterbalance. One grain of rice at a time–one tiny action per day–added up, can change the course of a life.

The bones–the inherent structure of our lives, where we came from–may be set in stone, but the muscles–our daily actions–tug and alter our present, our future, and even our perception of the past.

16 thoughts on “Counterbalance

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    1. My chiropractor used to be personal trainer (and likely gym bro) and now has arthritis in his 40s, so I’m guessing he overdid. I understand what you’re saying about barbells–it forces to you recognize and maintain balance, and that carries into everyday life.

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  1. Oh…I love this. The symbolism of counter-balancing…borne out of awareness…a pathway to restorative resets – or at least trends in the right direction. Such wisdom in the reminders you’ve shared — that it’s the small, daily, – throughout the day – postures, troublesome in the moment, but also damaging and destructive over time.
    I’m thinking about the stretching I just did even though I didn’t want to take the time with a pilates routine…but I did it anyhow. And…thanks for the giggle about the ‘snap, crackle, pop’. Gives me the shivers just thinking about it. 😉

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    1. Thanks, Vicki! Yes, I think it’s easy to forget how much of an impact–positive or negative–those small, recurring habits can have over time. The chiropractor shared that ‘snap, crackle, pop’ bit when criticizing other practitioners… funny, but also yikes! 🤪

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  2. Another great post, Erin, and I appreciate the reminder about the importance of small changes, habits, and counter-balancing. The message you share is so good, and you’ve earned the right to share it, which makes it all the more credible. 🤍

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  3. Years ago I had a chiropractor readjust my spine to correct more than 2″ height difference between my shoulders, resulting in less discomfort. It’s a gradual, multi visit process, because our muscles and bones are only able to make incremental changes at one time. In order to keep the good work he did going, I had to forfeit wearing cute but heavy purses on one shoulder and switch instead to backpacks. Luckily there are some cute ones, so I don’t feel stuck with student styles.

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      1. Yes, it is. When he first told me the process, I honestly thought it was a way to rake in money, but since insurance paid, I decided to just go along with it. I found out that thus was exactly the process my body took to heal. When we fully cooperate in our healing, we reap the full benefits.

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  4. Lovely post. It’s taken me a long time, but I’ve come to actually appreciate the struggles and sorrows that I’ve faced. My wife and I were just talking about this. We had some tough health struggles early in our marriage. Now I look back on them with gratitude for making us stronger. The counter-balance gave us the skills we needed to flourish. Wonderful post, thanks for sharing!

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    1. Thank you for the kind and thoughtful comment, Brian! It’s beautiful that you’re able to look back on the challenges with appreciation. When faced with difficulties, we can either choose to overcome them or succumb to them–that decision changes everything. My boyfriend and I are coming up on ten years together and most of that time we have both been ill (due to a recently discovered environmental toxin), and I can relate. It’s not been fun, but I’ve grown for it and learned many valuable lessons from it, and feel immense gratitude for the journey.

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