Your Body, a User’s Manual: Dr. Laurie Meinholz

Today’s interview will definitely make you sit up straighter. Chiropractor Dr. Laurie Meinholz helps her hard laboring clients overcome pain and injury, and even helps some of them maintain sobriety, all with just a few adjustments. In her new book, Your Body, a User’s Manual: How Real Men Work without Pain, Booze, or Drugs, she demystifies pain and our body’s response to it and helps readers understand the importance of alignment and spinal health.

On Author Hour today, Meinholz also discusses how to avoid reinjuries, the effects of physical and psychological stress on the spine, and why we should all be treating our bodies a little bit more like our cars.

Jane Borden: Hi Author Hour listeners, I’m Jane Borden and I’m here today with Dr. Laurie Meinholz, author of Your Body, a User’s Manual: How Real Men Work Without Pain, Booze, or Drugs. Laurie, thank you so much for being with us today.

Dr. Laurie Meinholz: Thanks for having me.

Jane Borden: Okay. So, you’re a chiropractor, tell me about this title. What does that mean?

Dr. Laurie Meinholz: Well, what I find as a chiropractor is that a lot of us don’t know how to actually take care of our bodies. We’re taught how to take care of cars. We’re taught how to maintain our houses. All of those things come with a user’s manual, but our bodies do not. So, I’ve tried to create a user’s manual for the body that people can apply and get some knowledge and some idea of how to care for themselves.

Jane Borden:  You use throughout the metaphor of a car, of being a mechanic or knowing how you might work a car, which I find so helpful. Tell us a little bit about that choice and what it means to you.

Dr. Laurie Meinholz: Most people understand a car and for me, it’s easier terms to break down. I tell people all the time that they’ll go get their oil changed in the car every 3,000 miles, but they don’t think about what 3,000 miles is in your body and when is that checked, and how do you know when that check needs to occur, because we don’t have an odometer like a car does to chart those miles for us. I often find that car analogies are something simple, they’re something easy that everybody can relate to, especially in the US, we’re all car-driven, right? It just makes it easier for everyone to understand.

Jane Borden: I’m guessing, part of your purpose in writing this book is to help people understand that they do need to have regular checkups.

Dr. Laurie Meinholz: Yes. Yeah, absolutely. In this book, I really geared it towards the men, the males. Mainly because I feel like sometimes, they’re forgotten or the men in our society are told, “You know what, just suck it up and deal. Get over it.” They don’t want to be seen complaining, especially in construction workers, physical labor jobs, farmers. That’s a sign of weakness and a sign of vulnerability.

I am trying to talk to them because a lot of those guys are car buffs, and speak their language and say, “Hey! You maintain your car, your collector car, your tractors, your trucks, your snowmobiles, and yet you neglect your body. What is going on here? Let’s break this down a bit.”

Jane Borden: A lot of your patients when they come to you, have been using Band-Aids such as booze and drugs. Is that right?

Dr. Laurie Meinholz: Yeah, absolutely. I think it’s part of the culture, especially here in the Midwest. Our men are told, “Suck it up and deal,” and not to talk about it or not to complain when they’re in pain. I think almost anyone, you’re going to learn to self-medicate within that.

A lot of times they turn to drugs, to booze, to pain medication, anything to help dull their pain down so they can work in their daily life, continue on with their job, spend time with their family. But what I actually find ends up happening is that, when they’re doing these things as self-medication and just to cover up the pain, they’re actually losing what they’re trying to gain.

Let’s say they’ve got horrible low back pain with pain going down into one of their legs, and they’re trying to cover that up through alcohol and drugs and then they’re actually losing more time with their family because they’re at the bar drinking, or they’re at home drinking and they don’t want their kids to disturb them.

Whatever the case may be, it’s not actually helping their problem, and it leads to more problems in the future, and nothing’s really getting fixed. But I finally don’t know where to turn, they haven’t been told and it’s not something they talk about. We see lady’s night out or get your wife a spa day, all of these types of things. When oftentimes men are working through their pain, and abusing their bodies, and having to come home and be Mr. Everything’s okay, we’ve got everything under control. I’ll just have a few shots of whiskey or whatever it is, and my low back pain will be gone, and they’re just looked over. Also, “Treat your wife nicely, would you?” Nobody can treat anyone nicely when they’re hurting really bad. It’s just, everyone gets crabby. So, I am trying to address them and trying to find another solution.

A Simple Solution

Jane Borden: It sounds like the solution is, all things considered, relatively easy. I mean, you talk about how spinal health affects everything else in the body, and when you’re able to help someone, and then of course with follow-up appointments as well keep their spine in order, the effects are profound.

Dr. Laurie Meinholz: Yeah, absolutely. A lot of times what seems like a really large issue or a really large problem can actually have a fairly simple solution. A lot of times, I have found with people that bigger problems that we don’t know how to solve, it’s just because we don’t know where to turn. But if we can get the body functioning properly and we can get a checkup once a month–it takes about 15 minutes to check over your spine and adjust you, sometimes even less time than that and that keeps you on the right track. I feel like that’s such an easy solution for people to do.

Now, granted, accidents can happen and other things can get thrown off track, but the healthier you are, the better your spine works, the easier everything else is going to be. If you get the flu, but you’re already in good health, you’re going to get over it faster. Same with a new injury, if you’re already in good shape and you get injured, it becomes really simple to get rid of it. But if you’re already in bad shape, and then you get injured, then it’s that much harder to get over it.

I’m really trying to get to people early when it’s a simple solution, which doesn’t always happen. Sometimes we need a little bit more work up front because people have been dealing with something for 10, or 20, or 30 years. But once we can get that spine corrected, that will clear right out.

Jane Borden: You spoke about this just a second ago, that there are other issues, for example, accidents. You also write about the effects of stress, which can potentially be somewhat harder to manage than a 15-minute a month checkup, but equally as important. Can you talk to us about how stress affects spinal health and pain?

Dr. Laurie Meinholz: Oh, yeah, absolutely. I think we oftentimes forget or we don’t realize how much stress can affect us, because it’s not something we can see. If you have an accident, you fall on the ice, you know that it happened to you. There’s a trauma attached to that, right? But when somebody has stress from either their job, or their marriage, or maybe somebody they know recently passed away, all of that, even money stress we could say. The body has to somehow deal with that and has to process that stress somehow.

One thing that can help people process that stress is getting adjusted. Other things that can help process that stress–one thing I utilize a lot is exercise. That helps me process those stresses and move through them. But if we don’t do anything with that stress, it just sits in our body and it can erode at us, and it can build up, and eventually, we get to the point where your lower back just goes out and you don’t know why. It’s like, well, maybe that’s because you just lost your job, you’re having financial issues and there’s one other big stress like, let’s say, your car broke down. Well, no wonder you don’t feel well, right?

Sometimes we just don’t tie the stress into the actual physical feeling of things. The more people can keep their stress in check, to keep their stress down at a lower level, the better they’re going to do, the better they’re going to feel. Then it’s finding those hacks of what works for that person. Adjustments, exercise, meditation, all of that stuff can help out.

Jane Borden: That is literally what happened to me, a lower back injury as a result of stress, which brings me to the next idea in your book that I want to ask you about. Because personally, I found it a little bit terrifying. You write that, if an injury persists for long enough, the body won’t be able to heal it. How do you know if you’ve been injured for too long?

Dr. Laurie Meinholz: That is a great question. Sometimes we know and sometimes we don’t know, and that honestly is the hardest part of my job. If you’re injured right now or you just got injured, the body can heal that. But we don’t know what that threshold is or what the line is that we cross when we go from, “Okay. The body can heal this injury,” to “You know what, you’re past the point of no return.”

That’s always the trick and there is no magic number, no magic answer. It really just depends on that person, and the health and the conditions within that person’s body. Obviously, like I always tell people, if you eat at McDonald’s three times a day your entire life, your body’s not going to be as healthy as somebody that eats all their fruits and their veggies from an organic diet. It really depends on the conditions your body has if it has the ability to continue to heal that injury.

I look forward to the day maybe a hundred years from now when we can hook somebody up to a computer and it will say, “Oh yeah, this injury will take one year to heal,” or “It’s past the point of no return,” or “One day to heal.” Where we’ll know when the exact date of healing, but we don’t have that technology yet.

Get the Care You Need

Jane Borden: I guess, either way, the takeaway is to see a healthcare professional now.

Dr. Laurie Meinholz: Well, yeah, absolutely. I don’t think people give the body enough credit. I’ve had very few people where the body is beyond that point of no return, where it can’t heal.

Actually, one of the stories in the book that I have is actually of, and this is not an uncommon thing that happens in my office either, where I had a gentleman come into my office and he had had a headache every single day, all day long for 25 years. There was no relief. He went to bed with a headache, and he woke up with a headache for 25 years. The same headache, the same spot, the same intensity.

We got him adjusted a couple of times and the headache went away. I thought, “Wow! If that guy could have a headache for 25 years and his body can recover, chances are, a lot of people can recover from a lot of stuff. They aren’t giving their body the right stuff to be able to heal from it. You can’t expect a car to run without gas in it, right? It’s the same with the body. You can’t expect the body to run if it doesn’t have the right conditions.

Jane Borden: Speaking of your clients and the work you did, let’s back up just a second. A lot of our listeners I’m sure are familiar with chiropractic work but tell us quickly if you will what exactly happens when someone comes into your office.

Dr. Laurie Meinholz: Yeah. I’m a little bit different actually than a lot of chiropractors out there. When a client comes into my office, obviously, we go through their whole health history of what they have going on, any concerns, any surgeries they’ve had. All of that gets covered.

What we do from there, the first thing I do is actually run a heat meter down their back, and that heat meter lets me know where in the spine has any heat inflammation or swelling. Basically, where the injury is. That way, I can localize it to a certain spot in the spine. From there, I do some motion of the spine, so I’m trying to figure out, are the spinal bones moving the right amount, too much or too little? Then I really have a good picture of what’s happening in the spine.

From there, I take x-rays of the spine to get an idea of what history do we have that stuck around. Let’s say they’re 45 years old and they had a couple of bad car accidents when they were 16, are those still showing up on the x-ray? And showing up on the x-ray meaning, can I still see signs and evidence of whiplash? Is there damage to their spine from it? Are the curves in their spine in the right spot? Do they have scoliosis? So, I can get a good idea of, “Okay. The spine looks really good. I have good stuff to work with” or like, “Oh boy! This spine has been abused and it shows, there is damage on this x-ray, so we’re going to need a little bit more attention.”

I do all that, get my assessment, figure out what to adjust and then we go ahead and make the adjustment from there. Usually, it’s just one or two bones in the spine that really need attention. We get that adjusted and then we just follow up, and do a comparison, and make sure those bones that were out of line and were giving that person trouble and causing pain, that they stay put and they stay in their normal healthy position.

The first day, all of that takes about an hour. It’s not like you’re in and out in five minutes. Then after that, the follow-ups, are only about 10, 15 minutes long.

Jane Borden: You write in the book about how you came to this work, how you fell in love with it. Can you tell our listeners a little bit about that?

Dr. Laurie Meinholz: Yeah, absolutely. I would love to. My dad was a construction worker, actually, so I’ve heard every story in the book from him about coming home from work with a minor injury. My dad has also broken his back on the job, I think two or three times. I don’t even remember exactly how many. I have seen him get hurt, and then also as a kid going with him to the chiropractor at different times, or to the doctors, or to physical therapy to get him help, and growing up and then actually not knowing I was going to become a chiropractor.

I worked at a chiropractic office and I started seeing people come in and out of the office and see the change and actually could see their eyes light up after the adjustment. They’d walk in just like dismal and seem very sad, and I’d send them back in the room with a chiropractor and they’d come back up to pay, and they actually had a light or a spark in their eye. I thought, “What is she doing back there?”

Even though I knew she was adjusting, I knew exactly what she was doing. I had been adjusted myself. But to see the change in that person, person after person after person, day after day, I thought, “You know, I think I’m going to go be a chiropractor.”

It’s so great to be able to help people, especially to help men who I see a little piece of my dad in each and every one of them. When they’re working their butt off on a construction job, or trying to lay concrete, or they’re carrying something heavy with their partner, and their partner drops it, and they hang onto it, and that hurts their lower back. I remember my dad telling me the same story when I was 15 or 13, and it just feels full circle to be able to help out those same people. That’s just a little bit of how I got into it, and it’s nice to make that change and to make that full-circle.

Jane Borden: Yeah. Some of the case studies you write about, the effects on these people’s lives–it’s transformational work.

Dr. Laurie Meinholz: A lot of the cases I work with too, like we were talking about earlier in the interview here that they’re so injured, and they don’t turn anywhere, and they don’t take care of themselves. So, when they do self-medicate, a lot of times it does lead to addiction. A large number of my patients unfortunately are alcoholics or prior drug addicts that are now in recovery.

They got led down that road because of these injuries. Now, for them to stay off of alcohol and drugs, they know they have to stay pain-free. It’s an easy thing for them to turn to when they’re hurting because they have that past history of the addiction already. Once they get past that addiction, they’re very serious about their adjustments and also keeping the rest of their lifestyle in good check so they don’t slide back down into that.

The Pain Cycle

Jane Borden: Reinjuries, it sounds like are pretty common or at least more common than we want them to be. Can you explain the pain cycle?

Dr. Laurie Meinholz: With the pain cycle, what typically happens is that people get injured. They’re in that injury state, and when they’re injured, they are more than willing to get help to get out of it. They start coming in, they start getting adjusted and they start to feel really good. As they feel good, they start at the bottom of the circle with the pain, and they start to work their way up to the top of the circle, and they’re feeling really great.

Typically, what happens is, they will call my office and they’ll say, “You know what, I feel great. I’ll call you when I need you.” It’s like, “Okay. Good. I’m glad you’re feeling good, but you should know that a lot of the healing is still taking place.” Because when they start to feel good at the top of the cycle, that usually only sets in within four to seven days when they’re feeling 100%. So, they typically have six to eight weeks of healing that needs to take place before all of the ligaments and tendons around that injured area can even start to heal. They’re like on top of the world going, “But I feel great!” And I say, “Yeah. But now is the time to actually be careful, and to watch it, and to guard that injury so everything heals up really well.”

Because that’s the easy point when you say, “Oh, yeah. I feel great. Of course, no problem.” Then you go do something which might not seem too crazy, and you don’t lay on the couch either. But a lot of times people will say, “Oh, yeah. We went skiing all day. We went downhill skiing and I felt great. But then lifting the skis in the back of the car at the end of the day, I felt it again.” I say, “Well, yeah. All day you challenged your back. Could you have maybe skied for half a day?” Not taking those things away, or those activities away, but how can we limit them down for just a little while so that everything can heal well? Then also to keep checking on them with the adjustments to make sure that those spinal bones are still in line and are still allowing those ligaments and tendons to heal.

A lot of times that’s where we get that reinjury, and then we’re in this bad loop where we’re injured, we feel good, then we’re injured, then we feel good, and then we’re injured. People ask, “Why am I always injured?” Well, maybe it never fully healed.

Jane Borden: Laurie, tell me about it. I mean, this is just the story of my life. It so hard to take advice because you feel that when the pain goes away, you feel invincible, and you’ve missed that feeling for so long.

Dr. Laurie Meinholz: Absolutely. You know what, I’ve done it too. I’ve had it multiple times before I was a chiropractor, or even when I was in chiropractic school and I didn’t understand this cycle, my lower back would go out and I would be good to go, and then it would go back out. Then I’d be fine, and it would go back out and I would wonder, “Oh my gosh! I’m 25. What’s wrong with me?”

Yeah, we miss that part, because you’re right, we do start to feel invincible, we do start to feel like we can conquer the world, and we want to make up for the time we missed when we were injured. I think that’s the thing that gets people, “But I’ve already been laid up for a week.”

Jane Borden: Well, I want to cover one other warning before we finish. You tell people, “Don’t adjust yourself.” Tell us why.

Dr. Laurie Meinholz: Well, I’ll give two explanations. The simple one is, I’m a chiropractor and I can’t even adjust myself. Therefore, if you don’t have my training, there’s no way you can. But the main thing I tell people if we want to get into details of that is when you’re at the chiropractor, they’re actually adjusting you.

If we just look at the adjustment part of it, they’re addressing you from behind. None of us have arms actually long enough to be able to reach the proper direction from behind to push on us. The other thing I’ll tell you, then people will say to me, “Well, I can just have my buddy push on my back.” It’s like, “Well, you could but if it’s not done properly, just like anything, it can hurt people.”

People understand if you take a medication that’s not the right medication for you, it could hurt you. It’s the same thing. The biggest thing that really hurts people when they try to self-adjust is when they will either twist their lower back or their neck and then they’ll apply a force into it. You’ll see them twist their neck around and then push on their chin, or sit in a chair and twist and pull their lower back around. Anything like that with a twist in it is actually going to do damage to the disc or the space between the bones in your spine.

Talking about it for me actually makes my heart rate go up and makes me cringe a little bit. Because if you do it once, probably you’ll recover fine, you’ll be okay. But the people I see doing it actually get addicted to the feel of it, and the release of endorphins that it gives them. So, then they’re doing it every hour, or every half hour throughout the day and I just think, “Oh my gosh! You’re not going to have any disc left.” Then in 20 years, they are going to come to me and want help, which I can help them, but I’m not going to have as much to work with if they would have just come in and let me do the work properly so the work they’re doing isn’t also tearing up their spine at the same time.

Jane Borden: I’ll just end with a quote, just to this idea that you do need something to work with and it is all about keeping it in check as we go. You write, “The key to becoming pain-free is getting the spine functioning normally under chiropractic care, so it can better adapt to the stress you put it under.” I like that, that the goal is not to avoid stress but to keep ourselves healthy enough to handle it.

Dr. Laurie Meinholz: Absolutely. Nobody can avoid stress. Nobody can have perfect posture or perfect lifting all the time. I know I don’t, and I don’t expect others to. But if we can get the spine good enough, like you said, to strengthen up and handle it, then they’ll be okay.

Jane Borden: Well, Laurie, thank you for helping us all stay on the path to wellness.

Dr. Laurie Meinholz: You’re welcome. I’m happy to be able to share the message.

Jane Borden: It’s been a pleasure speaking with you and congratulations on putting the message into book form, what an accomplishment. Again, listeners, the book is Your Body, a User’s Manual: How Real Men Work Without Pain, Booze, or Drugs. Laurie, in addition to reading the book where can people go to learn more about you and your work?

Dr. Laurie Meinholz: My website is Make sure you do have two Cs in the middle, nordic, then start with chiropractic. I’m also on Facebook, so they can look me up there under Nordic Chiropractic as well.

Jane Borden: Great. Thanks so much.

Dr. Laurie Meinholz: Yeah. Thank you.