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The Symptoms Of Hypochondria© 

 When I discussed the possibility that poor posture could compress the organs of the chest and abdomen and impair the flow of blood and digestive material through them to produce symptoms and diseases, a doctor replied that the human body could easily adjust to such changes and that all the person had to do to cure such ailments was to sit up straight again and the internal organs would naturally spring back to their previous position without any ongoing ill-effect whatsoever. To my great surprise I later found that to be the general consensus of medical opinion, and that their ideas about modern disease are pursued in complete disregard for that possibility.

I find it impossible to believe that poor posture can have no effect on peoples health, and, in fact, I believe that there is overwhelming evidence that it has one of the most important influences, if not the most important in the modern sedentary world. M.B.

The spinal deformity of an adult caused by rickets during childhood.

(Do you believe that such a physique would not cause neck ache, back ache, hip, knee, and ankle pain, or that it would not compress the diaphragm and lungs to cause breathing problems, and the stomach to cause indigestion, or the kidneys to cause renal stones, and if this man complained to you about multiple symptoms would you happily tell him that he was imagining things??????)

On this webpage I will show how postural factors cause the symptoms of hypochondria by presenting an illustration of the shape of the skeleton of a man who developed a spinal deformity which resulted from having rickets during childhood, and by giving a brief account of the health problems of the hunchback poet Alexander Pope, followed by an explanation of the cause and nature of the symptoms of hypochondria.

The symptoms of hypochondria  Why some people with good posture have the symptoms of hypochondria  A 1910 description of hypochondria
 The hunchback poet Alexander Pope  Hypochondria in Time Magazine and Flaws in the hypochondria tests  The spinal deformity of a man who had rickets during childhood

 The Medical Consumer's Dictionary  Blind X-ray - An x-ray or other diagnostic test which fails to provide evidence of the existence or cause of a patient's real pain or illness. Also called blind diagnosis or blind science.

 The spinal deformity of a man who had rickets during childhood

The webpage title illustration above gives an example of how an illness during childhood, such as rickets, can weaken the childs bones so that they bend under the childs own body weight, and can remain deformed throughout life. Notice that the upper spine is tilted forward, yet the neck remains upright, and the chest, particularly the breastbone, has inclined backwards, and the upper spine and the breastbone are tilted to one side, whereas the lower spine and the lower tip of the breastbone are tilted in the opposite direction. The arms and the legs are also bowed. Most spinal deformities are not so severe but even when they are quite extreme they are hidden by the layers of skin and clothing and are not noticed by either the patient or the doctor, and doctors generally do not recognise the fact that such deformities cause symptoms, and rarely tell patients of such problems even if they are noticed, and even if the patient is complaining about a catalogue of symptoms.

 The hunchback poet Alexander Pope

I first became interested in Alexander Pope when I read that he was described as being a hypochondriac who had health problems which were attributed to psychosomatic factors related to psychological problems in his childhood. However, I also found that he was described as "the hunchback poet", and when I read a biography about him he was described as having good parents, and friendly relationships with his schoolmates despite the deformity which might be expected to attract some social problems. His deformity was probably caused by spinal tuberculosis which he contracted from being trampled by an infected wild cow at the age of three. His deformity involved a stoop in the upper spine (hunchback - kyphosis), and a forward arch in the lower spine (lordosis), and he also had sideways curvature of the spine (scoliosis), and he was so thin and weak that he needed to wear a corset to hold his torso upright. Both his postural deformity and the tight waisted corset would have compressed his chest and abdomen making him much more likely than usual to experience the compression of the chest and abdomen which produces many health problems. In fact he described himself as having headaches, indigestion, and a thousand other aches and pains, and he described his life as one long disease, and he eventually died in his early fifties of a combination of a respiratory illness, and Bright's disease which involves a kidney disorder and high blood pressure.

 The symptoms of hypochondria

Although there are a vast number of symptoms in hypochondria there are a few main ones which include persistent ready fatigueability, upper abdominal pain, occasional stabbing and sometimes cramping pains in either or both the lower left and right sides of the chest, and palpitations. There is usually also a form of breathlessness which involves an occasional difficulty getting a full breath, which leaves a sense that not enough air was inhaled, and prompts the person to forcefully inhale several times in sequence to relieve the problem. Other symptoms include neck pain and headaches, lower back pain, kidney pains, and many more. These symptoms occur with great frequency, but vary and change in number and severity from day to day, or week to week, or year to year, and have been causing confusion for patients and doctors alike for thousands of years.
These symptoms do not generally occur in people who have normally shaped spines, or if they do they occur less frequently, and are less in number, variety, and severity. This is because the normal spine is relatively straight, with only a very slight curve, so that all the body weight is directed vertically down it, and with the slight curve having a shock absorbing benefit. However, when the upper spine is stooped there tends to be a corresponding forward arch in the lower spine, and there is usually also a sideways curve in the upper spine, with a sideways curve in the opposite direction in the lower spine, so that the spine has a pronounced S-shape when viewed from the front and the side.This has the combined effect of throwing the weight of the upper body forward and sideways and placing great strain on the spinal muscles, ligaments, bones, and discs, and abnormal pressure on all structures within the chest and abdomen, including the heart, lungs, stomach, and the sternum and the ribs, and the chest and abdominal muscles etc. The stoop strains the neck muscles and can cause neckache, and places pressure on the spinal nerve which produces headache, and the sideways curvature can produce pain in one shoulder or the other. If the stooped person tries to view anything directly in front of them they tend to always lift their eyes and this produces a constant and opposite forward arch in the neck which adds to these problems. If they try to throw their shoulders back to straighten their upper spine the lower spine usually moves forward without the person noticing it, and within a few weeks or months or years their neckache and headache may be relieved prompting them to continue with their apparent cure of those problems, but then they start getting lower back pain. Similarly if they are getting upper abdominal pain when they lean forward they may decide to lift their chest, but this straightens the upper back and throws the lower spine forward again and may produce hemorrhoidal pain. When the patient reports this ongoing catalogue of cures which are soon replaced by new symptoms they become very confused and their doctors add to this problem by dismissing their symptoms as the trivial or entirely imaginary or invented complaints of a sympathy seeking hypochondriac.
After a few years or decades these problems sometimes get worse, particularly if the person is engaged in activities which involve a constant posture, such as constantly laying back (producing neckache) sitting at a desk (producing upper abdominal pain) or constantly standing (producing lower back pain). This is because the constant abnormal mechanical pressures caused by their spinal deformity places persistent strains on particular areas which leads eventually to the weakening and malfunctioning of more structures, and ultimately to actual changes in the shape of the stomach or liver etc., and to degenerative changes and damage to the spine, but doctors usually dismiss these as being coincidences which are irrelevant to the history of symptoms.
Eventually the person may find that if they strain themselves in any way they get fatigue which accrues abnormally and excessively and seriously interferes with their lifestyle, and impairs their capacity for exercise, and they may find that if they lean forward they may get symptoms such as chest pain, or stomach pain, or kidney pain, or breathlessness, which vary in the same activity over a period of months or years. They may get abdominal pains if they lean forward to tie their shoe laces one month but not the next, or they may feel faint or get palpitations if they lean toward the kitchen sink to wash the dishes, or if they lean toward the washing machine to load it with clothes. They may also feel faint and dizzy if they squat down to lift something, and then they may feel faint if they suddenly stand up, or they may feel as if they are going to black out if they bend their neck to look up to the top of a cupboard or shelf. Similarly if they start getting pain in one hip, they may lean to one side to effectively relieve it, but then, within a few months they start getting pain in the opposite knee.
This catalogue of multiple, varied, and inconsistent symptoms can be very clearly attributed to changes in postural mechanics, and can be very easily understood. Ultimately the best thing to do is to prevent the problems by ensuring that good postural development is achieved in childhood, but if a deformity exists and is producing symptoms the problems can be best managed by attempting to improve posture insofar as it is possible despite the presence of deformed ligaments and bones. Other management methods involve avoiding constant postures which compound the effect, and include the interspersion of any activity with frequent periods of rest, and engaging in various activities which require frequent changes of posture so that the constant postural strain on any one area of the body is avoided. Notably all previous attempts to treat the condition with a pill, or with a singular treatment regime have failed, because it needs to be managed with more comprehensive and flexible methods.

Another interpretation of the symptoms of hypochondria

Hypochondria is . . . "Abnormal worry about health or a physical defect which may be minor or imaginary . . . The hypochondriac is in a constant state of depression about his imagined poor health, and all his thoughts centre on it. He takes a small symptom and exaggerates it in his mind until he thinks it is a warning of a fatal disease. And when that symptom is explained away, he has two or three others ready to take its place."

Reference: Reader's Digest Family Health Guide 2nd. edition (1977) Reader's Digest Services Pty. Limited, Surry Hills, N.S.W., Australia p.369-370.

Why some people with good posture have the symptoms of hypochondria

One of the main reasons that poor posture causes a multitude of symptoms is because the postural pressure tends to push many of the internal organs out of shape and position, which gives them a tendency to malfunction. This problem, called visceroptosis, can also be caused by the enlarging womb of pregnancy, and by wearing tight waisted garments such as corsets which also displace internal anatomy.

Why some people with a stooped physique do not have the symptoms of hypochondria

If a person has a stooped physique and has a deep chest and a forward angled breast bone their internal anatomy is protected from the pressure of leaning forward whereas the person with a shallow chest and a vertical breastbone would more readily compress their internal anatomy when they lean forward.


A 1910 description of hypochondria

The hypochondriac usually thinks that he has "all the ills that flesh is heir to" and he "always has something the matter with him". The condition rarely occurs "in those who lead an active healthy life in the open air" and is best treated by exercise which should not be too little or too violent, but should be moderate and regular and should be of a kind which "may in great measure be left to each individual." However this is not sufficient for severe cases of hypochondria where "the only one satisfactory remedy" is a "total change of scene and pursuits". "Often we have seen a new lease of life gained by a short rest and change of scene."

Reference: The Doctor At Home (1910) p.303-304.


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