I threatened it, and here it is, just in time for a late in the day Meals Monday.
As the title says, first, I started with the whole chicken breasts that I grilled a couple days ago:
Preserved in a ‘Food Saver’ vacuum bag, so still perfectly fresh. 😉
Then we add fresh pasta, and cheeses for the sauce:
The cheese in the ziploc bag is Parmigiano-Reggiano. The recipe for the Alfredo sauce is in my post on my vaguely Italian, redneck nachos, LOL. By the way, if you’ve never had fresh pasta like the Buitoni above… Well, once you do, you’ll never go back to the dry stuff again. Soooooooooo much better.
After cutting up the chicken, cooking the pasta and the sauce, then mixing it all together, we have a couple of delicious plates of pasta:
The other half wanted mushrooms also, so there you are. 😊
Time for something vaguely resembling social commentary, since I promised Laura V that I was going to do this post a week ago. It echoes something that’s been on my mind lately, particularly as my pain level drops and I gain fresh perspective on life.
Laura did a post a week or so ago about the need to just set all the political and social drama aside and look for the good, for one’s own mental health. I have to say I completely agreed with it too.
For the longest time, I had the mindset that liberty required eternal vigilance. Turn your back, and corruption and evil will run amok. I scoffed at the new agers who just advocated completely shutting out any sort of news because it’s all so toxic. Stick your head in the sand, and let other clean up the mess.
Anymore, I’m starting to think there’s some wisdom there though.
Why? Look at the messages we get from every source nowadays. “They” are out to get us. We need to oppose THEM, by any means necessary if it gets much worse, etc… And that’s just mainstream pundits on both sides. God help you if you’re spending all your time on Twitter and Facebook, you’ll hear even worse.
Everything anymore is gloom and doom, designed to promote utter hatred, contempt and mental anguish. Very little out there is designed to bring people together. It poisons the soul and erodes mental well being.
I’m beginning to think civilized society is losing the bigger war by focusing on these fights also.
I’ve done a few posts on “being the light” and “being an example“… MAYBE those are the bigger keys to a real victory for humanity. Be the kind of people we want others to be. Let the example we set inspire that change in others.
Yes, it’s work trying to emulate Dr King, Ghandi, Jesus, etc… Hate is easy also, but it’s also destructive to it’s wielder and everyone around them.
I’d say the answer isn’t to turn a blind eye like empty headed new agers only concerned with “good vibes”. None of the three people above turned a blind eye. But they did work for peaceful solutions, understanding others and elevating humanity.
Keep news to a sane level. You can doom surf yourself into a nervous breakdown. Stay detached from stories and remember they’re trying to manipulate you. Work towards good without getting consumed by injustice. Hate can’t be fought with hate, it only grows it.
Remember the other side of any issue are human beings also.
I made these the day before yesterday. Slow posting, but I’m trying to make up for it now. 🙂
We bought some chicken breasts from the grocery store, and when we finally got a clear weather day, I brined them for eight hours, then I smoked them on the Rec-Tec.
There were actually five total, but one I cooked about 80% of the way to done, cut it up and then sautéed it in a store bought chipotle sauce. That finished the cooking and still left it tender.
After that, it was just a matter of assembling the nachos. I’m not going to do a recipe here. Nachos are easy; it’s just tortilla chips topped with meat, cheese and whatever else excites you. 🙂 If you can get them though, I would recommend Santitas brand tortilla chips:
They’re more affordable than the big name brands, and have great flavor. Less artificial ingredients too.
And the end result here:
M nachos had four Mexican cheese blend, tomatillo salsa (my fave!), sour cream and green onions along with the smoked and seasoned chicken. If only i had guacamole…
As an added note, since I’m tossing out recommendations… The chipotle sauce I used for the chicken was Wicked Tasty Taco brand. It came as a paste I had to add water too. This was one of those rare instances where I had good luck with a pre-made food item from the grocery store. Be warned though, if you like bland food, this does have a moderate amount of heat. It’s authentic chipotle flavor.
As always, no endorsements here either. I’m recommending brands here strictly because I used and like them. 🙂
Or perhaps just another internet rumor gone viral?
I’m actually willing to give this one a tiny bit of credibility as possible because there ARE other signs out there that Disney and it’s Star Wars franchisees are seeing the light (side of the Force? lol).
In “Jedi: Fallen Order” there was a line where Cal was told “We (Jedi) don’t seek out violence, but we don’t shy away from it either”. That’s getting away from the pacifism at all costs mentality that’s existed since the prequels.
Probably the biggest tell was the change in Luke’s character from “Last Jedi” to “Rise of Skywalker”. When Rey tried to toss her (well Luke’s) lightsaber over the cliff, just like Luke had done in Last Jedi, Luke’s force ghost caught the saber and said “that’s no way to treat the weapon of a Jedi”.
When Rey said she was staying there and hiding like he did, Luke said he was wrong before and that evil did need to be confronted. THAT is a complete 180 from the crap that “Last Jedi” was pushing about no good or evil and standing up to evil only causing suffering.
I see other, more subtle and indirect signs also, such as Electronic Arts’ change in how they’re handling the franchise and their business model in general.
So yes, I feel a disturbance in the Force, as if millions of voices crying out in joy, and suddenly filled with hope. LOL.
One of the bad things about getting married on a holiday is that there’s nothing open to celebrate. Well, I’m as good a cook as most restaurants anyway, and my food handling practices are certainly far better than most. Ergo, the first anniversary dinner was grilled steaks, potatoes, corn and a salad:
I put some fresh grated parm on the corn to make (Italian?) street corn, lol. There were two salads also. Somebody just started eating theirs before I got this picture. 👀🐱👤
Yes one steak smothered with portabella mushrooms sauteed in butter and garlic also. 👍 Mine was the plain one. Having Texas ancestry, I know good meat doesn’t need fancy toppings, and these were Prime grade Ribeyes. 😁
The color *might* look a little odd to some folks because I slow cooked them on the smoker and got a nice red smoke coloring all through them. Since we’re not allowed to have open fire grills at the apartments, I got the char marks via use of a HOT pan on the stove top. Here’s the steak cut open:
Tender and moist all the way through with great flavor.
Afterwards, we had a 1 year anniversary cake made to offset the wedding cake being screwed up. Why not? How often is our anniversary going to fall on the Fourth of July after all? 🤡😁🎂
Pink Champaign cake with buttercream icing and raspberry filling… How our wedding cake was SUPPOSED TO be. Cake courtesy of Nashville Sweets. I didn’t have the time or ability to whip up a cake with all the therapy stuff going on. Even if I did, I can’t decorate on that level by any means. 😊
For you vegetarians, here’s a closer look at the salad.
Beyond that, it was a quiet day. We did get to watch people shooting off fireworks in our honor from the comfort of our back porch though, LOL.
At the request of a follower, I’m doing a more in-depth post about the cervical (neck) traction unit made by Pronex:
THE THEORY BEHIND IT:
If you’re having trouble visualizing how the unit works, this picture will help:
The dense foam rubber cradle is contoured to fit your neck in the proper (healthy posture) position. You inflate the rubber air bag in the center using the ball pump, and the device expands. It pushes against your shoulders and the base of your skull to decompress the vertebrae. This lets the spinal discs return to a normal shape and frees pinched nerves, etc… Kind of how the picture in picture is showing with the arrows.
The expensive spinal decompression treatment I’m currently undergoing with a “professional” is actually very similar in operational theory.
BUT DOES IT WORK???
Yes, it does… HOWEVER, it’s absolutely critical that it’s used properly. Failure to do so can cause some pretty severe neck pain. I learned this the hard and painful way when I first got my unit.
The bad part is, I was actually following the manufacturer’s instructions.
WHERE YOU CAN GO WRONG:
This is one of those areas where I should put out a disclaimer that I’m not a medical professional. I’m a moderately well read layperson who has learn from trial and error as well.
If a neck injury is old, and/or re-aggravated via whatever means (sports, car accidents, etc…) there’s likely to be scar tissue formed below the skin, on the connective tissue and supporting muscles. Scar tissue is NOT very elastic and it tends to enflame any nerves it comes into contact with. You stretch it too much, too soon, it hurts.
There’s also the chance that a person’s neck or back may have other issues going on (deformities, bone chips, etc…) that would make traction a poor treatment option. That is something to discuss with a medical professional.
WHAT’S WORKED FOR ME:
In my own case, I had several herniated discs, one previously ruptured and torn disc, bone spurs, pinched nerves and a good deal of deep scar tissue. The standard “pump it up for ten to fifteen minutes, and just let it do it’s thing” caused me an insane amount of pain. My educated guess as to what happened is that the scar tissue was tearing. That based on the type of pain, and having experienced it previously when the scar tissue on my knee cap tore and broke up. It’s a fairly distinct type of pain.
What worked for me, tested out over the last few days, has been using the Pronex to duplicate the traction patterns of the DT Hill machine that I’m being treated with at the chiropractor’s.
First, get comfortable on a firm surface. DO NOT use a bed or couch. Too soft and the device won’t move and will inflate only at the top. Use a floor, a yoga mat, etc…
Once you’re settled in, pump the Pronex up until you feel a light to moderate pull in your neck. Ignore the feeling of it pushing against your shoulders and skull, and focus on the feeling in your neck. That’s how to gauge how much inflation. When you get that feel of a light to moderate pull in your neck, stop and count to 20.
When you hit 20, deflate the traction unit, let your neck rest and count to 20 again. At the end of 20 seconds, pump it back up again until you get that same light to moderate pull feeling in your neck. Count 20 again, then deflate.
It’s a pretty simple pattern. It gives your neck muscles a chance to rest and adjust between stretches though. That significantly lessens the chances of a muscle pull or a drastic tear in any scar tissue that MAY be there.
Keep up the pattern for 15 minutes, then go put a cold pack on your neck. It may not hurt immediately after you do treatment, but it could shortly after. The cold pack will counter any swelling and inflammation. The best option is to have one in the refrigerator and put it directly on the skin. You get more cold to the muscles than if you used a frozen one wrapped up in towels.
My neck has been such a mess that I live with a cold pack on my neck the day I get treatments. The next day I feel great though.
If you didn’t guess, this is NOT a quick fix. There’s no such thing anyway. This is something you’ll have to do once or twice a day, every other day for an extended period of time. The longer your neck has been bad, the longer it’ll take to fix it. Even when you think you’re feeling better, keep it up. The reason physical therapy most often fails is that people quit too early. I’d say keep at it for a month to fully heal your neck. It may take even longer if your neck is in really bad shape.
Keep at it though. What’s the alternative? Continuing with pain? Destroying your liver and stomach with OTC pain killers? Opioid addiction? Surgery that costs more than a house and will only result in other problems later? A month will pass before you know it anyway.
The obvious, common sense exception here is that if you feel any increase in pain, (esp sharp pain) even if it’s at the first pump of a traction unit, STOP!
Traction, if done right and there aren’t hidden complications, should feel comfortable. Your neck MAY be sore afterwards, but that’s what the ice is for; reducing the inflammation in the stretched muscles.
Breaking up any scar tissue or adhesions will take time, but little by little, they will break up and you’ll regain movement and reduce pain.
Using this method, I’ve even been able to undo the pain caused by testing the piece of crap home traction unit my chiropractor gave me. Again, the big key is to take it slow and keep the neck stretch moderate. Overdo it and you’ll have pain on a level you won’t believe was possible.
HOW TO BUY:
The Pronex is a pricey piece of foam rubber at $300. IF you buy one, I’d recommend Amazon since they will let you return it for 30 days whereas the manufacturer will not take a return for ANY reason. If you’ve got a neck over 18 inches, make sure you get the large model also.
I’d further recommend Amazon because, per the bad reviews there, occasionally some do get out the factory door with dry rotted air bladders. This way you still have a return option in the event of a factory defect.
With a price tag like that, I’m sure some of you are asking if anything else similar would work. Here’s some other options and what my research and talking to a few different chiropractors has led me to believe.
Overhead Neck Traction Units:
There’s quite a few variations on these. Some you pull a cord, some use water for resistance / counter weight, etc… My Sacramento chiropractor was adamantly against the use of these contraptions. Most aren’t designed to maintain good head posture while using them, and he said he’s seen too many injuries from pulling too hard, using too much water, etc… They just look like a booby trap for the “Here’s yer sign” crowd, don’t they?
Inflatable Neck Pillows Traction Units:
First, if you notice, her head is photoshopped on. Either that or she’s part giraffe, LOL.
These look like a good idea on the surface. They MIGHT work OK for minor neck issues and headaches too. The main reason my chiropractors don’t like them is that again there’s not enough in the design to assure proper neck posture / alignment before stretching.
Neck Hammocks and Foam Pillows:
These are both supposed to work fairly well, and only use gravity and your own body weight to help restore correct posture. Restoring the correct shape to your neck will naturally spread the vertebrae out a little and give some decompression.
My best educated guess is that these would work fine for milder neck issues or ongoing therapy after more major treatment like spinal decompression or a Pronex. Stage 2 spinal degeneration is more iffy and I wouldn’t hold my breath if you’re dealing with stage 3 degeneration.
Similar Traction Units:
Would probably work just as well as the Pronex. This one, by Comfortrac and sold on Amazon, is $80 more than the Pronex, but looks more solidly built. Coincidentally, the neck rest is adjustable, looks similar to the one on the chiropractor’s machine, and cradles the neck with proper support. The upward tilt via the ramp is also duplicated by the professional therapy machine.
All I can say is study the design to see if a machine looks well made and comfortable, and compare prices.
I’m actually a believer in these, and currently own one by Innova:
You strap your ankles in, recline partly back anywhere from just beyond horizontal to completely upside down. From there, gravity stretches out your spine.
Me, I go completely inverted because my back doesn’t get a good stretch otherwise.
Here’s the thing though… In my experience, inversion tables are far more beneficial for lower back problems than they are neck issues. You’ve got the entire weight of your upper body pulling on your lower back after all (not that you want to overdo it). This is a Your Mileage May Vary kind of thing, since I had alot of scar tissue holding my neck tight.
Inversion tables have a few caveats also. If you have high blood pressure or glaucoma, you shouldn’t use them. The extra blood going to your head will get REALLY uncomfortable if you do have them. Likewise, if you are prone to acid reflux and have a weak stomach valve, being inverted can be problematic.
On and added personal experience note. Many tables are now coming with lumbar supports or massage units like the one strapped to the machine above. They’re useless. They’ll actually hold your back in place and work against the table. If you get an inversion table, get a no frills model that looks comfortable. That massage thing is off of ours and now is used for separate therapy.
Other Lumbar Traction Options:
I’m really not familiar with, so I’ll have to pass on offering any input. My inversion table has worked fine for helping my lower back pain so that’s all I’ve used.
DISHONORABLE MENTION: Posture Pump 1100-SX
I decided to be fair and not just run on the assumption that it did put the adjustment pressure in too limited an area. Sure as hell, I was right. After a very conservative use, my neck was killing me. I had to use the Pronex to help alleviate the pain. I want to pummel the chiropractor with this turd.
The concept isn’t bad, and is similar to the shaped foam pillows above, but if you want to get one, for the love of humanity, GET THE 1400-D MODEL!
As you can see, this one offers much better, more even support. You’re far more likely to get an even stretch with this version.
When using anything inflatable like the Posture Pump, my advice would be to follow the same pattern and level of stretch that I recommended with the Pronex. That helps your neck get a good stretch with less risk of pulls or tears.
And that’s about all there is to tell. You now know almost everything I do about home treatment of neck and back issues after years of studying, questioning chiropractors, and just plain old trial and error.
Don’t forget other additional options like yoga, stretching, maintaining good posture and nutrition, drinking enough water, etc… They really do make a difference, particularly in avoiding future flair ups.
Remember, treatment will be an ongoing thing too. There are NO shortcuts to good health.
Time for a treatment update. Monday / Yesterday was treatment number 7. I’m now 25% through my battery of 24 treatments.
Overall, I’m progressing nicely. My neck is feeling better, I have more energy, my mood has improved, and my body is actually wanting healthier food too.
On a related note, the machine that I linked the YouTube video to in my earlier post:
IS indeed the exact model of table I’m being treated with.
My only real complaint at this point is the doctor and his business practices.
My Annoying Chiropractor:
My first annoyance is that he’s still all but completely absent from my treatments. It’s his office assistants setting up and running the machine. Only one quick “how are you doing today?” from the ‘doctor’ in the last few treatments.
Second was that I was supposed to get some physical therapy exercises to do at home to help my progress. That was put off multiple times until I called the staff out regarding it, in front of multiple other clients. What do they give me? Four basic exercises pushing my head against my hand in order to build neck strength. 🙄😒
IF he had listened to me or even examined me closely, a weak neck is NOT an issue with me. My pinched nerves had my neck and traps clinched up tight as a rock literally for years. The first chiropractor I went to in Sacramento had a massage therapist on staff, and the therapist couldn’t even work my shoulders at all they were so tight. I’m not a mutant weight lifter, nor do I look like one, but trust me, I have a damned strong neck for a 51 year old.
Luckily, I still know some flexibility stretches from my martial arts training and my last chiropractor.
Third, I was supposed to be getting some sort of home traction unit, again to supplement my treatment while at home. I got a big song and dance about how it was soooo much better than the Pronex unit I told them hurt me before:
Well, I got billed $169 dollars for THIS:
Ok, so the theory is sound with the thing. Push your neck out (up) back into a proper S curve, correcting posture issues and spreading the vertebrae, allowing the discs to return to normal.
TWO problems though. The first anyone with a basic understanding of anatomy will spot: It’s putting the pressure on too narrow an area of the cervical spine. The pressure needs to be more evenly distributed to get the result they’re claiming. The manufacturer knows this too, because they came out with a newer model with two inflatable areas that distribute pressure along the entire neck. I got an older model that could potentially cause more harm than it fixes.
The second problem is the price. $169. I found it on Amazon for as low as $57.99, although many suppliers were over $100 (barely). I’m still not sure if I’m a much better shopper than he is, or he’s just marking junk up almost 300%
My last issue ties back to number one above: You try to ask this guy a question and despite having a love me wall to put most chiropractors to shame, he either can’t or won’t answer questions.
Most recently I caught him behind the front desk and asked about the treatment plan’s restrictions on carbonated soft drinks… Was there a reason that other sugary stuff like lemonade and sweet tea were not listed? He avoided a direct answer and gave me some line about just recommending what’s best and that an occasional soft drink wouldn’t kill me, it just wasn’t optimal for healing.
Here’s the proper answer:
ALL sugary drinks are highly acidic. Sugar itself is an acid. Drinking them causes inflammation, and keeps existing inflammation from healing. The acid level is also bad for your spine, and skeleton in general, because your body will leech calcium and magnesium from your bones to correct the PH level in your body.
Already knowing that answer, I asked him the question to see if he knew anything further about carbonation potentially causing other issues, etc… Instead I got BS’ed because he didn’t know the answer, or thought I was too dumb to appreciate it. 😡
The Actual Treatment Thus Far:
Progress continues to be good here. My pain level is higher after treatment, but after I’ve put cold packs on my neck and rested a little, my pain is now down to a consistent 2 or 3. The treatments are now up to 30 minutes long also. Yesterday, I timed the machine to see it’s pattern. It started at 15 seconds of tension and 15 seconds of relaxing the pull, and slowly worked up to about 30 seconds of tension followed by 20 to 25 seconds of release.
Overall, I’m pretty optimistic about this working. Any remaining doubts and fears center around it working long term. Time, what I’ve learned the last week, and my extra work will combine to tell the tale there.
So What Have I Learned About My Neck and Treatment?
Primarily that my neck does still have quite a bit of internal scar tissue. 27 years of popping and grinding, and tension induced compression will do that. How do I know? The type of pain and the sensation when I feel the area.
Years ago, I used to have scar tissue on my knee. If you’ve ever had a similar patch (vs a thin line of it), you know the feeling. It’s like poking a gel ice pack in terms of resistance, and there’s a burning, pulsating pain when you bump it too hard (or it starts to tear).
The left side of my neck in particular has that feel from my ear all the way down to my shoulder. So if I want to get my life back, I have to break that scar tissue down.
I’ve also learned that Magnesium is a good deal more important a nutrient for muscle and nerve health than I previously gave it credit for. It’s part of my supplement routine from the chiropractor. Once a day, and it really helps with muscle tension.
The Battle Plan:
The scar tissue realization and the timing of the machine were important insights. They helped me realize that the reason the Pronex was causing pain is that I was using it the wrong way; too long with tension, not frequent nor long enough enough relaxation between tensions. I was tearing up the scar tissue too quickly, and maybe pulling some actual muscles with scar tissue adhesions also. I need a slower, less rigorous use of the device to get proper results.
That’s my theory anyway, and I’m going to be testing it out later. If I follow the machine’s pattern and still get excessive pain, then I’ll just discard the thing. If it works, I’ll keep it up.
I’ll also make use of my inversion table, particularly in an effort to work on my lower back issues. I’ve gotten hold of a few yoga programs specifically for neck and back issue treatment, and will be making use of those as well. Those along with stretching, taking the supplements I got and lots of water. I’ll probably throw in some meditation and Tai Chi as well.
All in all, I believe this is going to work, but it will take doing ALL 24 treatments, (maybe a few more), and doing all the homework and more thanks to having an apathetic chiropractor.
I have a few other half formed posts floating around in my head, BUT I needed to take a few moments to acknowledge an event almost a week old now. I was too wrapped up in self-reflection to post at the time though.
First, I’d like to thank all my followers. Those of you who actually READ the posts are especially appreciated. 🙌 Regardless of the advice to blog primarily for one’s self, it’s always nice to have others care about what I think (even if they might disagree).
With my life at a major changing point right now, I’m not sure exactly what direction the blog will take from here. A part of me wants to go all “You can do it!” posts, but I’m worried I’d end up sounding like Shia LeBeouf
Seriously, I doubt things will change too much, beyond my resolve to look for positives and solutions instead of dwelling on negatives and drama.
So, I disappeared for a week. A few of you probably wondered what happened, LOL. I’ll try to recap as concisely as possible. My spinal decompression treatments have had one unexpected “side effect”, for want of a better word. It’s working, and for the first time in 27 years, I’m faced with the almost unreal possibility of being pain free and healthy.
How’s that a problem? 🤷♂️ Because I’m so used to starting to succeed and then getting knocked on my butt yet again, that I’ve been struggling to wrap my head around not having that pain there as a roadblock. It’s gone so far as even wondering how much of it was the pain and how much was just ME being a failure. The joys of having completely unsupportive, hyper-demanding parents. It’s a shame parents like that don’t realize the long term damage they do.
I didn’t understand “fear of success” for a long time, until I read that the fear is the success will lead to a bigger failure. It made sense after that. It makes even more sense now. When I failed before, it was the pain. It’s been insidious also because it was up and down. It would drop to about a 3 on a 1 to 10 scale at times, and stay there just long enough for me to think “I can do this”, whatever “this” was at the time. Real Estate to writing, it always boomeranged back severely and derailed my efforts.
The answer slowly formed over the last week. It started with feeling better, and focusing on how tired I was of living as a hermit, not being able to provide for myself or contribute meaningfully to the household, etc…
It further crystallized when I got even further proof that my chiropractor was just going through the motions, running a patient mill and depending upon the traction machine to do all… well 95% of the work. I got pissy about it since we dished out $4000 for treatment. After I refocused, I realized I have two choices: I could stay angry, give up and resolve that I was getting sub-par treatment that had a fair chance of not having lasting benefit, OR I can put everything I’ve learned over the years to use, go the extra mile, and take responsibility for my own recovery. With the progress I’ve made, I feel like I’m in a position to make that difference too.
The final breakthrough came when I went to Dave Ramsey’s recent livestream: “What Now: Your Money and COVID-19” on Thursday. Yep, I was in the audience. Separate post coming on that. Spoiler Alert on that livestream though: The takeaway was “treat it as a NEVER AGAIN moment”. The message was so on point I could easily see it applying to my back and neck therapy and life in general.
So, yes! I’m fired up now. I’m going to fight my way through this. You know the occasional movie where a character gets hit by a car or something and is never supposed to be able to do anything again, but spends hours a day beyond what the therapists work with them, and makes a full recovery. THAT is going to be me!
And I’m going to work my ass off just as hard at writing and whatever real work job I may have to take to pay the bills too. Chances are, you’re going to see more Cristian Mihai type posts here too. Maybe I can inspire a few of you along with myself.
I Lang hae thought, my youthfu' friend, A something to have sent you, Tho' it should serve nae ither end Than just a kind memento: But how the subject-theme may gang, Let time and chance determine; Perhaps it may turn out a sang: Perhaps turn out a sermon. - Robert Burns