Are Adjustments Beneficial?
Yes. Joints are designed to move. Joints that move properly don’t wear out (degenerative arthritis). Manipulation mobilizes fixated joints.
Are adjustments effective for long-lasting pain relief by actually healing the involvement?
Not alone. Not if a critical component of the problem is muscular imbalance, weakness, scar-tissue and adhesions. Adjustments without treating the involved muscles may provide temporary relief, but the contracted muscles & scar-tissue adhesions will continue to relentlessly pull on the joints.
It’s like having bungee cords pulling on a young sapling tree. You can straighten the tree every day, and the bungee cords will still pull it over ~~ FOREVER.
Joints are controlled by the muscles?
You can’t ignore the muscles and expect (any) lasting results. They have to be treated. If the joints are also involved, you can’t ignore them and expect (any) lasting results. They have to be treated. With any long-standing problem, BOTH the muscles and the joints become involved, creating a complex that must be treated together. You can’t ignore one major component and expect (any) good or lasting results.
And if because of the long-standing nature of the problem, the muscles have become weak, you can’t ignore that and expect (any) good or lasting results. They HAVE to be strengthened. Without rehabilitation, relief-only treatment is like having a nail in your tire, and continually putting in air instead of pulling the nail out. It’ll get you a little further down the road… but it’ll cause more problems later. It’s like constantly mowing weeds while the roots continue to grow and spread… unseen.
Pain hurts. To avoid more pain we use the parts that hurt even less. Even more weakness is the result of less demand. The muscles lose endurance (we can walk for 15 minutes, but not for 3 hours). The muscles are more easily over-taxed than they were before the injury. When muscles are overtaxed, they contract, they get (involuntarily) tight. They get tighter and tighter. They hurt. The body responds by shortening the muscles with more of the same scar tissue. Adhesions form between the muscle layers because they’re not being used throughout their full length. Adhesions hurt. The limb is used less to avoid pain. The decreased use results in more weakness, & less endurance. More pain. Less use. The muscles tighten even more. The contraction hurts. We do less to avoid the pain. The less we do, the weaker the area becomes. The weaker the muscles become, the more they contract. The more they contract, the more they hurt… the less we do… the weaker they become… the more they contract, the more they hurt. And on and on....
Our Bodies (and Minds) Take Shape According To The Things We Do Routinely!
The only fix is to first eliminate the contraction, the spasm within the involved muscles, and then increase the strength and endurance so the capacity of the muscles is greater than any demand. This will restore the functional capacity to the involved area so that it is no longer the weak link that always fails first.
The body is NOT intelligent. It’s stimulus/response, only. It responds to stimuli. Period. If the stimulus is less function, it will respond accordingly and get weaker and stiffer. If the stimulus is for greater function, it will respond accordingly and get stronger, and more flexible. If there is scar tissue and adhesions, if there are altered joint mechanics, the body will respond to that and the result will be ever increasing disability, increasing loss of function and wear and tear deterioration.
Muscle work, “Trigger Point” work breaks up adhesions and scar tissue. Stretches restore length and flexibility. Exercises against progressive resistance restore strength and endurance. Adjustments improve motion in fixated, restricted joints. Where’s the stimulus to restore integrity? To restore strength? To restore length and flexibility? To restore endurance? Only by stimulating the body to restore those qualities will the area regain its pre-injury integrity.
If you ignore the pain, it will get worse… not always, but all too often; more often than not.
If you just work to where there is no pain, without restoring the area to its pre-involved condition, restoring its integrity… it’ll catch up to you. Sooner or later… it’ll catch up to you. And… generally… the longer the involvement has been there, the more secondary soft-tissue changes, the more mal-adaptation, the longer and less complete the recovery; the poorer the prognosis. It’s just easier to restore integrity to a less involved area than to a more involved area.
With pain, weakness and decreased function there are only two choices. Give in to the pain, decrease your activity, hoping that the decreased demand will reduce the pain. This may work temporarily (and is sometimes appropriate, TEMPORARILY). The second is to reverse the damage, gradually increasing the strength, endurance and flexibility of the involved muscles and joints; reverse the downhill slide.
When an athlete is injured, rehabilitation is begun as soon as possible. Why? Because without rehabilitating the injury it’s not reasonable to expect the injured area to perform at the pre-injury level. If after the injury, you were to just go about your daily routine without rehabilitating the involved area, without bringing the injured area back up to par with the rest of your body, it’s just not reasonable to expect the same level of performance. Your performance would suffer… and you would be prone to re-injury.
It’s the same for the non-athletes among us. Following an injury, doing whatever is necessary to return the injured area to its pre-injured condition is vital. Otherwise, the area will continue to be more easily injured each time it is overtaxed. Without rehabilitating the injury it is just not reasonable to expect the injured area to perform at the pre-injury level.
It’s not just what must be done ~ success or failure is determined by the sequence in which things are done. If the major component is excessive muscle contraction, it’s counter-productive to begin exercising those excessively contracted muscles before length and flexibility is restored by breaking up the scar tissue and adhesions. Exercise would be the right thing in the wrong sequence. It would be like having a “Charley Horse” in both calf muscles & skipping rope. Not a good idea.
When muscles are strong, they do the work during activity. When muscles are weak, the workload is transferred to the underlying architecture – the spine, the discs, the hip joints, the knees, etc. This is why weakness predisposes one to injury, degenerative, wear-and-tear arthritis and disc deterioration.
It’s the “Trigger Points” within the injured and weak muscles that “fire”, bringing the entire muscle group into spasm and precipitating painful, recurring episodes of headaches, back, shoulder, neck pain. It’s the “Trigger Points” of the muscles that cause a person’s back to “go out” when they bend over to pick up a piece of firewood, or bend over to brush their teeth.
When muscle injury and resultant “Trigger Points” are involved in the problem, the muscle must be treated directly, by applying gentle pressure to specific points within the muscles. I’ve treated scores of people over the years who had had “Trigger Point” injections and physical therapy… with little (temporary, if any) or absolutely no relief from the pain. Only when the “Trigger Points” were treated physically, directly, the scar tissue and adhesions gently broken up, did they get any lasting relief from the pain.
Therefore, if there is a spinal (shoulder, wrist, knee or any other joint) problem being caused by an imbalance in the muscles, (as is most often the case), only adjusting the joint will not fix the problem. Only when the muscles are also treated, the “Trigger Points” are cleared out, the strength, endurance and flexibility restored to the muscles, and the proper motion restored to the joints, will the problem resolve.
The Importance of Prompt Treatment
“Five years after automobile accidents which caused soft tissue injuries in 146 patients who had no pre-existing cervical degenerative changes, examination revealed significant positive findings including a sharp reversal of the cervical curve.” – Soft Tissue Injuries of the Neck in Automobile Accidents: Factors Influencing Prognosis. J Bone and Joint Surgery 1974
“In a 10 year follow-up, Katsuura et al. found that (loss of the normal cervical curve) is one of the factors causing degenerative changes (decay) in the (spinal) discs.” – Katsuura A. European Spine Journal 2001; 10:320-324
Why? What is too often overlooked, is that since ligaments and bones are living tissue, they will undergo remodeling if the mechanical forces are not corrected following an injury. Both the ligaments and the bones will change shape over time (it’s called Wolf’s Law) according to the mechanical (muscular) and postural (weight-bearing) forces applied to them.