Muscles really are dumb, useful but dumb. There are over 600 muscles in your body and they can’t do anything unless they are told to do so, which means they are limited to doing only two things:
Contracting (shortening in length)
Relaxing (getting longer in length)
The supervisor of your skeletal muscles is your nervous system comprised of your brain, spinal cord and your peripheral nervous system. Your muscles don’t do anything unless they are told to do so. Sometimes these movements are under conscious control: running, swimming, walking, biking, etc. And sometimes, they are under subconscious control: posture, balance or reflexes (pitcher dodging a line drive, your knee reflex during your physical exam).
Muscle tone, specifically, is an example of unconscious control of your skeletal muscles. Muscle tone is especially important in the maintenance of your posture and balance. Without continuous coordination and control of your muscles by your brain and nervous system, you wouldn’t be able to stand, much less walk, run, swim, bike or even say “good morning” to your office mates.
And let’s not forget your skeleton, the framework that provides support and form for our muscles and helps us move. By working together, our muscles and skeleton (axial and appendicular) create both stability and movement. The reason our practice focuses on both muscles and joints (the union of bones in your skeleton) is because musculoskeletal problems are just that muscular and skeletal. Failure to address both sides of the equation means you’re only getting half of the solution.
Your skeleton is also composed of two distinct areas:
Your Axial Skeleton – the spine
Your Appendicular Skeleton –attaches to your spine
If muscles are attached to a skeletal system that is imbalanced or stuck in an abnormal position, the action of those muscles will be abnormal. It’s not a question of IF there’s going to be a problem; it’s only a question of WHEN. Most people can feel better by simply doing exercises and/or stretching. The real challenge is tricking the body into adapting into a more normal position so the effect of those exercises and stretching will give a LONG-TERM solution. The goal of your treatment plan is not just pain relief; you can get rid of your pain by taking Advil, Tylenol or painkillers. The real goal of your treatment program is getting rid of the pain AND your underlying problem, causing your pain. Research has shown that treating musculoskeletal pain with medications is not an effective long-term intervention and will either allow your underlying problem to worsen and subject you to serious side effects from medication. Even ibuprofen, which is considered relatively benign, can cause internal bleeding in your stomach. Painkillers are even more dangerous and addictive. Using a conservative approach of physical therapy coupled with spinal remodeling (when needed), not only gets rid of pain but also allows your body to heal and function better than ever.
A quick story on pain versus problem, recently, a triathlete was referred to your clinic by a massage therapist who recognized his knee pain was not responding to massage. After a physical and necessary x-rays, it was found he had both muscular imbalances and a skeletal imbalance; his left leg was actually 11 mm shorter than his right. As his training volume increased, his body was no longer to compensate and his right knee began to hurt because the muscles on that side were getting overloaded trying to balance his mechanics. Through a comprehensive program including a spinal remodeling component to balance the legs with a lift and lengthen shortened ligaments with specific traction protocols, he was returned to training in just under 8 weeks. The total time he was off training was 2 ½ months because he didn’t come directly to us as soon as the pain started. His first day back running, which was a Saturday, he ran a 10k … when we told him to ONLY RUN a 5K. Disaster right? Too much, too soon? Nope, he PRd his 10K time on his first training run back and followed the second day with a 13 mile run which he described as “easy and effortless.” His experience isn’t the first time our patients have exited their prescription-based spinal remodeling program to achieve higher levels of performance than they were able to achieve before treatment. Function follows form and if your form is imbalanced, your function is going to suffer. Once his form was corrected, his function skyrocketed.
Very often, physical therapy and chiropractic treatment programs are limited by their failure to address both sides of the problem, addressing only the muscles or the spine and skeleton. Half the solution will only solve half the problem. Getting rid of pain is easy, keeping it away, is the hard part. As a former college athlete and successful age group triathlete. I understand it’s not just about getting back to your daily activities and workout or training program, it’s about raising the bar. And solving your problem has to address BOTH components of the musculoskeletal system, muscles and skeleton.
If your spine, or any of the bones connected to your spine, are out of normal neutral alignment, you will experience a problem … it’s not IF, it’s WHEN. Using our spinal remodeling analysis protocol, your musculoskeletal system will be thoroughly evaluated, not just identifying the areas causing symptoms and affecting your performance but the ones, which will interrupt your performance in the future. Muscles, tendons and ligaments adapt to the neutral position of your spine and skeleton, even if your body isn’t in a normal position. The reason you have all those knots in your shoulders and your back pain always seems to come back in the same place. Over time, your brain and nervous system develop programs to control your posture and some of your movement. These programs, especially the ones controlling your posture, adapt over time.
Did you have a little fender bender on Lake Shore Drive? Do you spend a lot of time hunched over a laptop at work or looking down at your phone while on social media? Do you live in Chicago and experienced one of our endless winters and slipped and fell on a sheet of ice? Is your bed too soft and not provide enough support with too many pillows under your head? Are you taller than everyone and spending most of your time trying to meet everyone at his or her level? Does your family have a history of poor posture, neck or back pain?
These questions and thousands more can point to little and BIG things which can affect your neutral postural position over time; your muscles will always adapt and compensate to these distortions, big or small. When the level of compensation becomes too much, your muscles will start to break down, leading to adhesions from overuse and even scar tissue in many cases. The presence of scar tissues causes two major problems: loss of flexibility and loss of strength. When your body is trying to heal after too much overuse, it knits itself together as quickly as possible in a disorderly fashion, losing the ability to move normally. Damaged soft tissue also loses strength; it will never be as strong as it was originally. Your body, after losing flexibility and strength, is even more likely to be injured with training or even daily activities.
Identifying the compromised areas in your body’s musculoskeletal system is the first step in a full, long-term correction, as opposed to a short-term patch fix. A multi-part evaluation process including a physical exam, kinetic chain evaluation and digital x-rays are performed for every patient to create an individualized prescription for correction. Every point of your physical exam is correlated with your digitized x-rays to connect the dots, set a baseline for your structure and function and provide clues to which treatment protocols will give you the results you need to get back on track. Intermediate evaluations are performed during your treatment plan to evaluate your progress and set new baselines. The end of your program includes a full evaluation which mirrors your initial evaluation so all test results from your initial baseline can be compared to your final baseline. By comparing pre and post-tests, your progress can be assessed and a home exercise prescription can be formulated to continue the progress you’ve made as you progressed through your treatment program.
A large part of your success and other patients’ successes at our office is not just you treatment program alone. We know returning to the same patterns which you had prior to treatment will lead you right back to the problem. So, you are armed with tools to keep your body moving in the right direction: stretches, exercises, orthotics, and anything else necessary to stress your body to change in the right direction. Our treatment program, because of the dramatic changes it causes in neutral posture and positioning, has been called “braces for the spine” because your body actually changes how it holds itself. It’s not uncommon for patients to tell us they have had to change the position of the seat in their car, their rearview mirror or even get refitted for their bicycles because their posture has improved so much.
Medications, massage, standard physical therapy or chiropractic can absolutely help you with any symptoms you may be experiencing and if you just want to get out of pain, that’s probably a good route for you to investigate. You can probably guess, these solutions are temporary at best and life threatening at worst (especially when you consider the dangerous side effects of medication).
Our ideal patient is someone who is tired of yo-yoing between feeling good and then feeling bad, seeing good improvements from exercise and then having to dial back the exertion level because the aches and pains are starting to increase, and ready to get back to being pain-free and enjoying a higher level of function, whether it’s a relaxing walk around a park or crushing an Iron Man in their age group.
Your treatment prescription will get rid of your aches and pains improve your posture and balance and lead to improvements we can’t always even predict. My favorite part of treatment is the day my patients have “their moment” and tell us … “I can’t remember the last time I …
Had trouble falling and staying asleep
Experienced back pain when I woke up
Had neck pain after being at my desk all day
Noticed my knee pain during my walk, ride or run
What will you tell us and when will your moment be?
The only barrier between you and the new and improved you is a phone call or email. We are ready to help you get the results you want and need. It’s not a question of IF we can help you, only WHEN. Make your WHEN today!
BY: Aalyiah Heath
Chiropractor / General
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