Health Courses->Stress Management->Chiropractic
Chiropractic Care and Massage to Relieve Stress
Pain, injury and illness are very stressful. Any effective means for reducing pain, preventing injury, or naturally correcting an il lness will help us manage our stress better. Chiropractic manipulation and therapeutic massage have a long history of being highly effective pain management and rehabilitation techniques. Refer to the Health Research items at this website.
Manual manipulation of the body for healing purposes has been documented for thousands of years. Clear descriptions and illustrations of manipulative techniques have been found in hieroglyphics on Egyptian pyramids and in papyrus scrolls of ancient China. Today, with the vast amounts of new research on the subject, we are beginning to discover the importance of manipulative techniques to all aspects of our overall well-being. It is no longer a field relegated to just the relief of minor pains. For over three decades the medical description of manipulation has been the following:
“Manipulative therapy involves the application of accurately determined and specifically directed manual forces to the body. Its objective is to improve mobility in areas that are restricted, whether the restrictions are within joints, in connective tissues or in skeletal muscles. The consequences may be the improvement of posture and locomotion, the relief of pain and discomfort, the improvement of function elsewhere in the body and enhancement of the sense of well-being.”
For the purposes here we will divide manipulative techniques into two categories: spinal and extremity joint manipulation, soft tissue manipulation.
There are few low-level procedures for determining one’s need for these techniques. Most depend upon a health professional performing examinations and probing the tissues of the body in certain ways to gain information. Except for symptomatic hints, an individual has few accurate means to determine his need for manipulative therapy. There are also some guidelines for when to seek preventive care in these areas or when to undertake early detection measures. We will also note ways to seek out wise counsel and referral to the best therapists.
Spinal and Extremity Joint Manipulation
The bodies which we are entrusted to take care of for a lifetime were meant to move fully and freely. A healthy, fully functioning musculoskeletal system enhances our well being. When restrictions on the proper movement of the bones, muscles, joints, tendons, and ligaments occur, abnormal nerve signals begin to emanate from these tissues. This abnormal neurological signaling not only perpetuates, complicates, and intensifies other musculoskeletal dysfunctions (somato-somato reflexes), it also abnormally signals internal organs to dysfunction (somato-visceral reflexes).
It is a frequent occurrence for a person to seek joint manipulation for a nerve, muscle or joint discomfort and to find, upon correction of the abnormality, that some other complaint resolves itself. A chiropractic manipulation is used to correct a “catch in the ribs” and the patient’s peptic ulcer complaints disappear. An osteopathic manipulation is used to correct a patient’s low back pain and with the relief from back discomfort comes a resolution of a 15 year history of painful menstrual periods.
“After being blind for three months following a head injury a patient received 11 chiropractic manipulations of the cervical spine over a three month time span experiencing progressive improvement to normal vision.”
As more research is done in all the fields related to this subject we are discovering that nerve insults and joint movement abnormalities have a far greater impact on total health than we ever imagined before. If we do not address these potential stressors in our lives our health will suffer.
The Cause of Joint Motion Abnormalities and the Resultant Nerve Interference
There are a number of causes for the most prevalent types of joint motion abnormalities. The most obvious is a trauma to the musculoskeletal structures—a fall, sprain, strain, broken bone, or joint dislocation. Upon such an occurrence an altered motion is imposed on the joints. The surrounding soft tissues are injured and unable to respond normally. Protective muscle guarding then follows. As time heals the tissue damage, the body strives to restore normal motion to the joints. Unfortunately, tissues do not always heal normally. Frequently scar tissue forms and tendons and ligaments shorten. Many times the musculature does not recover its full strength. Often the length of time in recovery conditions the nervous system to drive the muscles in uncoordinated patterns rather than directing them to move the body normally. These situations then ingrain movement abnormalities into the joints. This occurs most frequently when insufficient rehabilitation is instituted following injury. All too often people just “let things heal by themselves,” with not even the slightest program for strength or flexibility retraining. This will always result in less than full recovery. What is worse is when an unskilled physician casts a broken bone or prescribes pain medication and an orthopedic support, then he recommends no follow-up rehabilitation program. This falsely implies to the patient that nothing else is needed. It reinforces the use of a quick fix for symptom alleviation without concern about the level of functional recovery afterwards.
Micro-trauma also results in the same pathological processes as those detailed above in the illustration of an obviously noticeable injury. The difference is that micro-trauma injuries occur from unnoticed, or barely acknowledged, cumulative tissue stress. Since there are minimal warning signals indicating functional or pathological disturbances in the involved tissues until major damage occurs, no corrections are made until the problem is full blown. Repetitive motion stresses are frequently causes of micro-trauma injuries. Examples include: running too many miles, resulting in heel spurs, shin splints, knee inflammations; excessive typing resulting in carpal tunnel syndrome; and too much bending over while picking produce in farm work leads to degenerative, proliferative arthritis of the lumbar spine. Most people have early signs that these conditions are present and continuing but tend to ignore the slight early warning discomforts as “normal aches and pains”. Regular use of over-the-counter pain medication to mask these early warning signals is prevalent. It keeps many conditions from being treated effectively in their early stages.
These repetitive stress syndromes occur more frequently when a learned pattern of “abnormal” movement affect the tissues. A typical example is repetitive stress injury to a pitcher’s shoulder accentuated by a faulty throwing motion. The motion unduly strains and abrades delicate tendons. Poor posture also falls into this category.
Genetic or developmental structural abnormalities also cause poor joint motion. Then one has to deal with the wide range of ramifications stemming from the adapted neurological signaling. A frequent example is unequal leg length, where one leg is shorter than the other by an amount sufficient to cause distorted walking. An imbalanced neurological response occurs with each step, in addition to stresses on other structures that are trying to adapt. Scoliosis of the spine frequently results.
There are many ways to prevent joint motion abnormalities in the spine and extremities, beginning with good prenatal care. Good prenatal nutrition and low stress prevents many skeletal and neurological defects in the newborn. Natural childbirth programs also help provide a less traumatic birth process.
In a study of infantile colic 94% of 316 infants “showed improvement with chiropractic manipulation.” This is far better than any other known treatment. Remember also that no placebo effect can occur with infants.
Reducing the incidence and severity of injuries is another way to prevent many joint problems from total health. Remember that there are approximately 9,000,000 accidental, disabling injuries every year in the U.S. Mindfulness while at home, work, play, or driving is a key. Look at all the safety precautions that can make enormous differences in one’s life while driving: defensive driving techniques, seat belts, shoulder harnesses, head rests, child safety seats, airbags, anti-lock brakes, quality tires, good visibility. We can look at play also and see where we can assure more safety. Participation in non-collision sports helps enormously. Taking a step further—playing for fun rather than competition protects us from letting our egos override our body’s caveats for moderation. Our minds often push our body tissues to their limits of failure trying to gain some psychological reward when the body is unable to comply.
Keeping aerobically fit, muscularly strong, and flexible are essential for preventing, not only joint injuries, but soft tissue injuries also. Being well nourished in order to support those healthy tissues is not to be forgotten either. Proper ergonomics, or body movements and posture, are very helpful. Efficient, non-stressful ways of moving through the world of work, play and daily activities can have enormous impact on structural health because of the strong forces that wrong movements can impose on tissues, even if they occur in small amounts over an extended period of time.
When prevention fails, having good ways to detect joint abnormalities early assures that problems can be dealt with while they are still simple. Detecting early joint motion aberrations oneself is difficult. A skilled professional, well trained at detecting small “arthro-kinematic” faults by examination will almost always find these early joint problems before they are noticed by the individual and long before physicians doing merely “range of motion” orthopedic testing.
There are some things everybody can do. One, don’t ignore joint pain. Be suspicious of muscles that are frequently tight, achy, and sore. They are signs of either joint abnormalities or muscle tightness that eventually may cause joint motion problems. Beware of the chronic use of pain medication for constant or reoccurring discomforts. Be careful to observe limitations in flexibility when doing exercises, and find the cause of those limitations. Look for short legs and/or irregular curvatures in the spine, particularly in children. Often mothers notice a need to hem one pant leg more than another. Or family photos always show a child with one shoulder higher than the other.
Early detection by skilled professionals is the best bet. When should check-ups be scheduled to assess early signs of problems before they cause more severe difficulties? No dependable statistics are available, and individual susceptibility to these problems varies greatly. Those individuals who take more preventive care of all aspects of their health are more likely to avoid accelerating problems. People who have a history of physical injury, whether from birth trauma or an incident later on in life, are more likely to develop a reoccurrence of some past biomechanical fault. This is particularly so when insufficient rehabilitation was used in the correction of these past injuries. Lifestyles and work which unduly stress the musculoskeletal system also increase the need for early detection programs.
When chiropractic pre-employment screening was instituted in a manufacturing setting there was an 80% reduced incidence of back problems.
Some conditions which respond well to spinal and/or extremity joint manipulation are: whiplash injuries, torticollis (wry neck), low back strains and sprains, sacroiliac problems, shoulder-arm-hand syndromes, numbness or tingling in the arms and legs, carpal tunnel syndromes, tennis and golfer’s elbow, knee and hip pain, headaches, failed back surgery syndrome, infantile colic, asthma, and childhood behavioral problems.
Karel Lewit, M.D. documents in his book, Manipulative Therapy in the Rehabilitation of the Locomotor System of the successful use of chiropractic manipulation in conditions like respiratory problems, digestive disorders, migraine, vertigo, heart disease, tonsillitis, and menstrual disorders.
Most of us have some biomechanical faults which if corrected could contribute to our overall health and reduce stress in our life. Determining the degree of impairment and making cost-benefit evaluations for its correction would best be made by consulting a trustworthy therapist skilled in manipulation.
Choosing a Manipulative Therapist for Spine or Extremity Joint Motion Problems
In a thirty year literature review during a time that saw billions of chiropractic manipulations given, there was one reported death by chiropractic adjustment and nine involving medical manipulation. When back surgery is considered it is important to remember that death rates due to anaesthesia hover around 1 in 1000.
Here at Thomas M. Collins Chiropractic, Inc. Health Care Center I have accumulated a broad and deep repertoire of safe, cost-effective manipulative techniques to deal with many different conditions and situations to fit people of all ages. We complement these with the most updated rehabilitative exercises, physio-therapies, and nutritional supports for the best results.
Soft Tissue Manipulation
For purposes of organization we have separated soft tissue manipulation from joint manipulation, but there are many times when it is difficult to make distinctions between the two. Whenever we are mobilizing the joints we are moving and treating the surrounding soft tissues. When we use various techniques on the muscles, tendons, fascia, ligaments of the body, we are improving joint motion. Sometimes joint techniques cannot even be attempted before soft tissue methods are first used in preparation. Often soft tissue problems don’t respond to direct techniques until regional joint manipulation is done to eliminate abnormal neurological signaling to those soft tissues. Joint manipulation, soft tissue techniques, and exercise rehabilitation procedures should be considered and integrated in almost every situation for the best results.
Causes, Prevention, and Early Detection
The causes and prevention of soft tissue injuries are similar to those of joint problems. Some early detection measures can be taken without professional assistance. Weak muscles, excessively contracted muscles, tender trigger points, can be perceived by the average person in early stages of dysfunction. Even the help of an unskilled friend to probe painful trigger points in unreachable locales adds to some early warning capabilities. Muscles should not be tender to deep pressure.
Professional assessment provides added detail and locates many problems unrecognized by simple self examination. The technology can get quite complex—computerized muscle strength and power curves calculated at every angle of movement in a joint, electromyographic evaluation of muscle electrical activity during rest and various activities, thermographic images of blood flow to soft tissues, and even biopsies to look inside the tissue structure and cellular components.
One of the better ways to begin using early self detection and self-correction methods is to consult these books:
The Trigger Point Therapy Workbook by Clair Davies
Myotherapy by Bonnie Prudden
They will help you identify certain soft tissue functional faults and the residue of old injuries. They also offer instruction on how to correct some of the problems you may find. Some soft tissue problems include muscular weaknesses which need to be identified and corrected. Strength imbalances between agonist and antagonist muscles or between right and left sides of a pair can cause significant tissue injury. The risk increases with the stress tissues might encounter, whether from large isolated incidents or small, cumulative, repetitive stress syndromes.
HealThySelfNow.com has developed a system of self massage tools and instruction to make the task of doing therapeutic massage on oneself very easy. These self massage aids and instructions are available at the Health Care Center.
Of course you may find yourself faced with problems that call for professional help. You should then consult with someone skilled at specific hands-on therapy, someone who is also able to integrate it with other procedures. Ideal functioning comes from such a comprehensive approach that is provided at Thomas M. Collins Chiropractic, Inc.
Use the information in this lesson to insure that your musculoskeletal system is helping you deal with the stress of life rather than be a stress unto itself. If this means reading some books, partnering with a friend to give each other a massage periodically, or setting an appointment with a chiropractor for an evaluation, DO IT.