The Other Three T’s… Tolerance, Threshold & Thrills

In chiropractic, the classic T’s are Thoughts, Traumas and Toxins.  These are the 3 main categories of stressors that can compromise the nervous system’s ability to function properly.  Examples of negative thoughts that can impair your nerves include constant criticism, obsessive thoughts and ongoing anxiety.  Physical traumas that can affect the spine and nervous system include car accidents, sports injuries and repetitive stress of poor posture.  Toxins can also attack the nervous system, like chemicals (MSG, BPA), microorganisms, and radiation (wifi, microwaves), viruses, allergens.

“But, we’re all exposed to these stressors!  If they’re such a big deal, shouldn’t we all be dead, already?”

This is not a doomsday essay.  Negative thoughts, traumas and toxins are not death sentences for everyone… just some.  How can two people be in the same car accident and one person gets a concussion and need to be carried away on a stretcher, while another passenger is left seemingly unscathed?  Why does one child have many allergies while his sibling has none?  How do you explain how one person revels in working 18-hour days while her co-worker is stressed out by lunchtime?  These different phenomena can be explained by the next 3 T’s… tolerance, threshold and thrills.

Tolerance is how much of each stressor you can handle without it turning your life upside down.  Tolerance to pain can be measured by how long a person can keep their hand in an ice water bath.  In a test done by Myth Busters (a TV show), women do, in fact, have higher tolerance for pain.  Your tolerance to pain isn’t static, either.  In the same episode, participants who cursed could tolerate pain significantly longer than before.  What you consider intolerable is highly subjective as well.  “Nice dress” can be taken as a compliment or sarcastic insult depending on who said it, the tone of voice, look on the face, or emotional state of the recipient.

Tolerance, then, is a state of mind.  If someone is treating you badly and you say, “I can take it”, it doesn’t change the fact that someone is treating you badly.  If someone is hitting your face and giving you minor whiplash time and time again, even if you say, “I’m okay”, you’re still getting whiplash.  If you eat a bucket of Kentucky Fried Chicken by yourself every other day, you may say, “I have a high metabolism”, but the junk in the food will still build up in your body.

Threshold is the point at which your mind, body, and/or spirit says, “NO MORE!”  You’ve already tolerated whatever you can and now something’s got to give.  This can be a big event to tolerate or too many stressors all at once.  The something that “gives” can be physical or emotional pain, mental stress or spiritual collapse.  There’s only so many times you can bend a stick, or only so far you can bend it before it breaks.  When watching the Olympic mogul skiers, or ski cross, you can imagine the amount of force the skiers’ knees take in the 3-minute race.  Then multiply it by the hours a day of training over years of training and competition.  It’s got to hurt.  And even though these skiers have impeccable technique and top physiques, pretty much all of them hit the threshold for pain and injury at some point in time, often many times.

Pain is so common that society tells us to expect it and “suck it up”.  How many times have you heard, “no pain, no gain”, “love hurts” or “I’m my own worst critic”.  Little boys are taught from an early age to deny their pains.  “Don’t cry like a little baby.”  As if denying their expression of pain changes their feeling of pain.

Society is very uncomfortable with people expressing pain in general.  A woman grieving the untimely death of her 20-year old son is told, “you deserve a whole bottle of whiskey to help you through this.”  Young medical students in the hospital working 36-hour shifts are expected to work in spite of exhaustion, plowing through with the aid of chemical stimulants, alternating with sleep aides when they have time for rest.  With athletes, it’s commonplace to use medications to mask the pain while they go out and injure themselves more.  Children are also being programmed by the media that happy is the only feeling to have.  You can see this with Sesame Street downplaying the contrarian Oscar the Grouch and sometimes sarcastic Bert and replacing them with the ever-cheery Elmo.  The Muppet Show also had a whole range of emotions and personalities on display.  You don’t see this with Paw Patrol and the newer TV shows for kids.  The good guys are always cheerful now, and the bad guys are grumpy.

Part of society’s fear of pain and real feelings is spurred on by pharmaceutical companies. In 2013, it has been reported that in the US, 227,000 babies under 1-year old are on anti-anxiety pills. (Source: IMS Health Vector One National Database)  In the same study, 8.4 million American kids (0-17 years of age) are on psychiatric medications and the number isn’t decreasing over time.  It’s not okay to have fears or worries, feel pain or even stay in bed when you’re sick with the flu these days.

Whether you accept it or not, your body, mind and soul will try to tell you when it needs help. When you don’t correct a problem and deal with it properly, it will leave a footprint, an invisible layer of injury. If you sprain your right ankle, you will consciously or unconsciously put more weight on the left ankle, changing the way you stand, walk, run, jump and kick. This altered biomechanics can stay with you, even when the right ankle no longer hurts. If you had been bullied as a child, you may associate any new person with the bully in the past if they have anything in common with the bully. This can be something as obscure as the same shape of nose, a particular t-shirt or the same body odor. You may find yourself oddly repelled or attracted to people who are like your old abuser.

Thrills are the final “T” that play a role in how we view traumatic or injurious events, situations or conditions.  Like tolerance, thrills exist in your mind and skew your perception of life.  When you find something thrilling, the excitement and adrenaline mask any pain you might be experiencing.  This can include bungee jumping, bumper cars, roller coasters, drag racing, skateboard jumps, illicit drugs or dating an abusive “bad boy”.  I’ve met someone at a motorcycle show who was proud of the fact he had more broken bones in his body than not, and had no intentions of stopping his motorcycling.  When something is thrilling or fills an emotional void, however temporary, a person can become addicted to harmful behaviours or substances in spite of knowing better.

When you reach threshold, your body doesn’t necessarily speak out in the same language as the original source of pain.  If you have neck pain from a birth injury, but don’t have the ability to discern it or communicate it (because you’re a baby or grew up with it and so don’t know anything different) you may express the pain in other ways.  This can be fussiness, inability to nurse, poor sleep, or excess gas.  Over time, the agitation can lead to troubles with concentration, lowered immunity, prone to angry outbursts and generalized anxiety.

Children in particular, are more likely to express pain in non-physical ways.  We can see the footprints of pain and injury with altered behaviours, emotions, ability to learn, organ dysfunction, difficulties with sensory processing, in addition to physical pain or dysfunction.  Too often, when these behaviours and deficiencies appear early on, it becomes that child’s label.  “Oh, that’s the way she is…” as in, “it will never change”.

Children, in fact, have the greatest ability to change.  If we change the conditions behind the pain or change the conditions that prevent healing from happening, then a child can develop and grow along a more productive and satisfying path.  Our bodies and minds are connected by the nervous system and childhood is a time of massive growth, development and learning.  A secret in health is that a finely-tuned nervous system is the key to resilience.  This is the ability to bounce back, recover, and heal from a hurt, whether it’s physical, mental, emotional or chemical.  This is the point of corrective chiropractic care – to free the nervous system from distress so that it can go on to heal the body, mind and spirit, like nature intended.

Our Baseline Health Questionnaire is a tool to identify signs of possible nerve compromise, and footprints or clues to invisible layers of injuries.  Dr. Sabrina is happy to discuss your concerns over a free consultation.  Should you want further investigation on the extent of your (or your child’s) nervous system compromise and recommendations for care, ask about our full Baseline Heath Assessments.  Regularly $325, our office provides them free of charge to kids 18 and under as a community service.