Dr. Chad Sato
Hawai‘i Herald Columnist
To launch my column for The Hawai‘i Herald, I would like to share some background about myself and how my chiropractic practice has evolved. Typically, the goal of a chiropractor is to assist people with connecting with their innate body intelligence to improve their health and wellness. There are various techniques used to achieve this goal, which include the well-known “cracking” of the bone and spine, spinal alignment, nutrition and my specialty, which is delivering a series of light gentle contacts on a person’s spine.
My intention is to empower my clients by teaching them to increase their awareness of their breath, tension in their bodies and their effectiveness in dealing with stress.
Connecting the Dots
When I first started my practice, I thought my goal was to cure pain, health maladies and other unwell conditions. However, I began to notice how our bodies’ tensions, pains and symptoms could serve as messages — as if our bodies were saying, “Excuse me, are you listening? I’m trying to tell you something.”
It became obvious to me that any challenging or traumatic experiences were often the stimuli for these pains and symptoms.
One example that illustrated this point was a man who came into my office with sciatica, also known as “a pain in the rear.” At that point, he had been suffering for three weeks after incorrectly lifting a heavy box, and the pain just wouldn’t go away. He tried getting massages, acupuncture treatments and adjustments by another chiropractor. He took ibuprofen like it was going out of fashion.
When I asked him what was going on in his life, he looked at me quizzically, and then shared how work had been extremely challenging ever since he was laterally transferred to a department where he had no expertise. He took the job that two other employees in that unit had wanted. Instead of helping him, they would give him snarky remarks like, “You are the boss, you should know,” “It must be nice to have that big office” and “You don’t deserve it.” His pain was so intense that he couldn’t sit long enough to drive to work and had been out for three weeks. Could it be that the extreme pain he was feeling removed him from a very hostile and toxic environment?
Coincidentally over the next few weeks, I encountered more clients who suffered from sciatic pain, and I started to see a commonality in their histories. I noticed that when a client was being challenged and/or some person or situation was causing problems for that client, the body would literally experience a pain in the rear! From that point forward, I started to keep notes on different recurring health conditions and pains in the body to identify any trends.
Over the next five to 10 years of my practice, I built up a huge stack of notes identifying what stressors caused pains in different parts of the body and certain health crises. I learned to listen to my clients, which helped me to understand that they searched for a place of ease, whether in their life, health, business or environment. If you are out of ease over extended periods of time, you can potentially create a health situation or crisis, a “dis-ease”: pain, cancer, emotional distress, anxiety and depression. I discovered that a mental/emotional state can affect the body. This affiliation is called “mind-body connection.”
The simplest example of a mind-body connection is to think about a lemon or ling hing mui. Are you noticing anything happening in the inside of your mouth? Is it starting to salivate? As another example, think of a loved one who genuinely cares for and loves you. How are you feeling? Are you starting to smile and feel warmth in your heart? These two situations, of how your body automatically responds to thoughts or ideas, illustrate mind-body connection. This might seem oversimplified, but understanding the messages of your body will grant you the ability to identify any stressors that are happening in your life. Once you become aware, you can make choices and take action.
We tend to override our bodies all the time. We started to do it from the time we were very young. When we used to fidget at the dinner table, what would our parents say? Sit still, don’t move. We would stop and sit still for a little while and then go back to moving again. This is because as children, we are constantly connected to our bodies and crave movement and stimulation, which is how we learn about and experience the environment that surrounds us. However, as we continued to grow up and matured, we learned to override our bodies’ messages.
I had a client with a high-stress job who consistently overrode the messages of his body. The messages would become louder, resulting in ulcers, high-blood pressure, extreme lower-back pain, chronic headaches, tightness in the shoulders and restless sleep. He landed in the hospital due to an unexplainable heart palpitation or condition.
He has two choices: take more medications to control his condition or quit his job. Initially, he chose the first option due to financial obligations such as his mortgage, children, automobile payments and great benefits. However, after a couple more visits to the hospital emergency room, he realized the urgency of either addressing the pressure he was feeling or facing more suffering, and ultimately, an untimely death. A light bulb turned on in his head, and he decided to value his life and his family. He had to make some difficult life decisions.
He communicated with his employer, and they compromised so he could keep his job which resulted in a drop in his salary. He and his family modified their lifestyle which brought them closer, a connection he had not expected.
The gentleman made a choice to enjoy life versus only living with gaman, persevering with dignity. Sometimes making a change in your life may seem impossible at first, but if you listen to the messages of your body, it will never steer you wrong. Your body will send subtle signals in the beginning: muscle tightness and restricted breathing. If not addressed, they can ramp up into intense pain and labored movements, forcing you to make a change. So listen to your body sooner rather than later to help prevent unnecessary suffering. You always have a choice.
Start Reconnecting With Your Body
The first step in connecting with your body is to take a deep breath. Too simple? Try and take a full, deep breath and see what you feel. Was it difficult to take a full breath, or was it easy? Did you notice any tension or restriction in your chest or body, as you breathed in and out?
As simple as it may sound, just taking a breath brings you right into the present and allows you to feel your body once more. It is hard to think of anything else while focusing on taking a deep breath of air. Try again. Take a deep breath and try to think of something else. Hard to do, right? So why not make it a habit? Every time you find yourself taking a breath, check in with your body. Does it feel comfortable, or is there any tension in your neck, mid back, or lower back? If you feel any tension or tightness, you can either address it with movement, or relax and do nothing else.
In upcoming columns, I plan to share more insights on mind-body connection and suggestions to enhance your wellness. Recognize that the definition of wellness varies and is unique to each individual. Start to connect with your body, and identify what brings more ease into your life. The choices that you make today can impact the life you live and desire in the future.
Dr. Chad Sato graduated from UCLA in 1995 with a bachelor’s degree in biology and earned the Doctor of Chiropractic degree with honors from Life Chiropractic College West in 1998. Sato founded his practice, Aloha Chiropractic, in Mänoa Valley on O‘ahu on Oct. 1, 1999 (see alohachiro.biz/dr__chad_sato). He is a sought-after educator, speaker, author and mind-body specialist who helps people reach new levels of empowerment when it comes to their health and wellness by staying present with their body signs, making appropriate life choices and utilizing stress instead of managing it.