We hear this question fairly regularly in our day to day interactions. Though Chiropractic is a very powerful treatment for injury, it is a preventative medicine as well. Oftentimes, before someone develops a repetitive overuse injury, arthritis, even acute injury, there are typically warning signs. For instance, with low back injuries, a person may be struggling with chronic low back tightness, achiness in the upper back, stiffness with bending forward or back, stiffness that is worse in the morning or evening for several months, headache, etc. Then suddenly one morning they bend over to tie their shoe and their low back seizes!
Another common injury is repetitive ankle sprain. These patients have some instability in their ankle from repeated injury, which leads to some form of instability in the knee and hip. These two issues can perpetuate one another, making them easier to re-injure.
How can Chiropractic help avoid these scenarios? For lack of a better analogy, I am going to use a car (your body is much more complex than a car, of course). When the alignment is off in your car, this can cause premature wear and tear on very important, expensive parts. So what do you do? You get the alignment fixed! When you have a restricted joint in your body, whether from joint fixation, muscle tightness, instability, scar tissue, nerve impingement, etc, this leads to wear and tear to other joints and tissues in the body. Even more so, this can lead to things like chronic pain, lack of flexibility, arthritis and the eventual need for surgical joint replacements. So what and how can you do about this?
I am a Chiropractor, so I will do my best not to be biased, but you can see a Chiropractor, a Physical Therapist, a Massage therapist, an acupuncturist, a really talented personal trainer or movement therapist like Feldenkrais, or even better, a combination of practitioners if needed. The point is: do something to improve your body’s ability to move well, and do it often.
With the low back scenario: We get many patients in our office that have desk jobs. No matter how hard you try, it is fairly impossible to sit with good posture for 8-9 hours a day. In an ideal world you would be changing positions and moving frequently. That said, people develop chronically shortened, tight hamstrings and hip flexors and inhibited gluteal muscles. This chronic imbalance causes restrictions in hip motion and changes in core activation, that lead to more strain on the low back, oftentimes creating fixations in the joints. With Chiropractic, we can help restore joint motion, relieve muscular and fascial strain and help guide you to an appropriate strengthening regimen to improve overall function and prevent acute flares.
In the case of the repeated ankle injury example: The most common form of ankle sprain is an inversion sprain. This means the foot rolls in towards midline. When this happens the muscles, ligaments and nerves on the outside of the calf are predominantly the injured tissue. This leads to swelling and inflammation that stimulates the repair process. During this process your body lays down scar tissue to try to stabilize the injury, and over time as you continue to heal and use your ankle, these tissues are remodelled based on the types of stresses applied to the joint. This new scar tissue is incredibly strong, but can also create restrictions in joint motion. Through the healing process, your body will also compensate, i.e., other muscles take over for the job of the injured muscles to allow healing. This can become the new pattern you walk around with; a compensatory pattern, creating instability and setting you up for future ankle sprains or even unexplained knee problems. This is where we can help. The joints in the foot can become restricted, scar tissue and fascial restrictions develop and muscles become imbalanced. We use a number of therapies, Chiropractic manipulations and mobilizations to reset the joints, dry needling to stimulate tissue healing and remove restrictions, IASTM (instrument assisted soft tissue manipulation) to help with scar tissue remodelling and fascial restrictions, and corrective exercises to help strengthen and stabilize the area. By balancing the structural restrictions, muscle imbalances and strengthening and reprogramming movement patterns, we help to prevent further injury.
Chiropractic is one of the safest, non-invasive treatments for musculoskeletal injuries. However, as you can see from our website, we do much more that treat musculoskeletal conditions at our office! We also practice Functional Medicine. As Chiropractors, we see many patients with chronic aches and pains that do not get resolved with Chiropractic and adjunct therapies alone. Many times there is much more to the story. Many people with chronic aches and pains have systemic inflammation, thyroid disorders, digestive dysfunction, chronic infections, allergies, food sensitivities, the list goes on. When these issues are not addressed these patients often get short-term symptomatic relief, but seldom get full resolution. When we start treating the whole person, our patients tend to get even better results.