Apr 13, 2016 by spinalcare
When people hear “chiropractor” they often think of “cracking” of the neck and back. While in some cases that might be true, at Spinal Care we think there are 2 main flaws with that idea. While that “cracking or popping” (known as an adjustment) is one tool we have at our disposal, it is just a small portion of the tools we use to eliminate pain and restore motion. Secondly, neck pain and back pain account for about 40-50% of our patient visits. That leaves the remaining 50-60% of our cases involving shoulders, knees, ankles, wrists and other joints. If it’s a joint that moves, we can likely help fix it. Once we fix a joint problem, our goal is to keep you out of our office as much as possible. In order to do that, you have to understand the key feature of keeping your joints healthy. All joint health comes down to a balance of 2 factors: stability and mobility.
All joints consist of 2 or more bones that articulate or meet, in conjunction with the muscles, tendons and ligaments (collectively known as soft tissue) that act on those bones to get them moving. Since bones can’t move themselves and muscles generally need a firm lever to contract and pull against, you cannot treat a joint by addressing just one feature without the other.
Stability of any joint involves the strength of the bone (which in most cases outside of trauma and disease is generally good) and the strength of the soft tissue (this is where most of us start to fall short). Some of us generally lack strength due to inactivity – which is an easy fix. Move more and move properly. Some of us are very strong and highly active, but our muscles tend to shut down or get inhibited from poor mechanics and repetitive use. This is concept is often a little tougher for some of us to comprehend. How can it be that the big Cross Fitters and power lifters have muscles that shut down? When you over-train certain muscles and ignore others, you create an imbalance that leads to an unstable joint. When marathoners and triathletes train only by running, biking and swimming (all in a forward motion), the lateral stabilizers (gluteus medius and minimus) shut down because they aren’t used to move sideways. All the while the quads and hamstrings get overused from all the forward motion. This is one example of the instability we see in our patients.
The second feature of any healthy joint is mobility. While all joints need to be stable, we are not barnacles and we are designed to move. Some joints are designed to move in only one plane, others are designed to move throughout many planes. Einstein’s laws apply to human joints as well as any other motion – bodies in motion stay in motion. The more you move a joint, the more you train the muscles to stay pliable and the joints to stay lubricated. Once a joint is “trained” to work in a limited range of motion, it will tend to stay there – which is why stretching and mobility work are so important. But there’s a catch. People often say to us that they stretch for hours, daily, for months on end and they see little change in their mobility (think hamstring stretching – this is the most common thorn in the back side of those of us committed to stretching). My answer to that is to look more in depth at the soft tissue. The muscle is a series of overlapping protein rods that contract and relax. When you stretch you help pull those rods apart making the muscle longer – at least in theory anyway. But what about the connective tissue surrounding that muscle – the fascia? Most people have not heard of the term fascia and we will look into that more in the next post, but think of it as a sleeve of thin filmy cling wrap that allows the muscles to glide easily past one another and other structures in the body. Fascia surrounds the muscles much like a stocking surrounds a foot. If that stocking is bound or “caught” on other structures, you can stretch until the cows come home, but you aren’t getting anywhere. In this case, you need to break down the adhesions that are keeping the fascia bound and stuck. We do that through a process of hands on therapy that frees the fascia and allows the muscle to return to its natural length and movement pattern. While it’s not the most fun you can have in an hour, it certainly will make an immediate difference in mobility.
Once we can free the tissues and help you to regain your mobility, then we can work with you to improve your overall stability and keep you healthy and out of our office.