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A focus on Form and function

What is the number one reason that people go to any doctor? If you guessed pain, give yourself a pat on the back because you are exactly right. Chiropractic care is no exception. In fact, we might see an even higher number of people presenting with pain. Imagine, if you will, a person that slipped and fell down and hurt their back. Let’s imagine further still that they called a chiropractor and got an appointment right away. When that person left the chiropractic office after their treatment, imagine that they felt no pain at all in their back. You would agree that this is a common thing that happens with chiropractic care, right?

So, what happens the next day when that person wakes up and feels pain in their low back again? The second day’s pain isn’t due to another fall, is it? Does this person hurt because the chiropractic treatment didn’t work? Absolutely not! So why is this person hurting the next morning?

This person is hurting because the chiropractic treatment on day one worked on the tissue that had been damaged in the fall. The treatment was effective in relieving the person’s pain. The problem wasn’t that the tissue hadn’t been treated or that a new accident occurred. The problem was that there had been no sequence of treatments for the function that would have been lost or altered with the tissue damage from the fall.

What that means is that when there is tissue damage to muscles, tendons, and/or ligaments, there will be altered movement of those body parts as well as others above and below them. Think of it like spraining your ankle. After you sprain your ankle you limp for a few days. When there is altered movement you have altered function. In the case of the person with the low back injury from a fall, they may have to get in and out of a seated position a little differently. They have to because the muscles that were injured have been physically and chemically changed as a result of that fall.

The physical and chemical change are all part of the same thing. There will be swelling from blood that is rushed into the injury site to start the repair process. Because of the swelling there will be increased pressure on other muscle fibers that will impact their ability to move. The swelling will also block some of the body’s ability to bring in fresh blood and move waste product filled blood out of the area. You know this as bruising. The swelling, bruising, and reduced blood flow will cause the muscle to work differently.

When we have abnormal movement patterns of muscles or joints, the nerves signal the brain to let it know what is going on. This whole process causes a change in the movement patterns and that causes an alteration of your movement form. This movement form change can cause different muscles to overwork. The overwork of the muscles causes changes in strength which can lead to altered function.

This altered function will cause pain also. In the case of our fall victim, the altered function may be something as simple as difficulty getting into or out of a chair. It may be impossible for this person to bend over to tie their shoes. Here’s the rub. If the function remains untreated long enough, the condition will continue to progress to bigger and more serious conditions.

For the sake of explanation, these more serious conditions can be loss of balance, clumsiness, degenerative changes, aches, and pains that can be far away from the original injury site, and even internal organ dysfunction. I currently have patients in my office that have weak muscles in their buttock and hip areas that have been with them for so long that these patients have knee problems, foot and ankle problems, as well as continuous low back pain. This is all directly related to the fact that they did not, for whatever reason, have their form and function treated to be returned to normal after some minor injury.

I understand that patients do not want to come to the chiropractor for multiple visits. There is an opinion that one chiropractic treatment is all that is needed that exists because chiropractors used an explanation years ago to explain what how their treatments work. They told patients that a vertebra out of place will put pressure on a nerve and cause pain. The spinal manipulation moves the vertebra off the nerve and the pain stops. I cannot argue with the explanation. This is a simple and easy to understand explanation of chiropractic. The problem is that this explanation only covered the beginning of the situation.

Pain is big business. Pharmaceutical companies and over the counter drug companies make billions of dollars selling pain relievers. There are hundreds of devices, braces, and equipment that can be purchased for pain relief. Some of them work and some….well not so much.

This is where I need you to really grasp my point. Pain relief is easy. Pain is the last symptom to show up and the first to go away. Pain is merely an indicator that you have a health issue. Pain relief is NOT the end of the problem. You are not recovered from your injury just because your pain is gone.

And now we come to the reason that the chiropractor needs to treat you more than one time. The idea that we put the vertebra back in place and you are good to go is not reality. The pain may stop quickly with chiropractic care. We still need to repair the damaged tissue, rehabilitate it back to full strength, rebalance the muscles that have been compensating for the damaged and weak tissue, and restore your normal form and function before you are well.

The acceptable standard of care for chiropractic treatment to full recovery is two to three visits per week for a period of six weeks. These numbers can increase depending on the severity of the injury as well as how soon after the injury the treatment starts.

You may be a bit depressed to read this, but I have good news for you. In my office, my recovery rate (including functional recovery) is far less than the promoted standard of care. You can make this time even shorter and have fewer visits by making the commitment to keeping your scheduled appointments and faithfully doing all your prescribed exercises. If you are interested in complete recovery care, or if you know someone that should be interested, please contact my office for an appointment today. I would really appreciate it if you would share this blog, as well as my social media platforms with someone you love. For more information, please scan the QR code below, if you haven’t already, and get more great health care news.

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