By Dr. Harlan Sparer, Chiropractor
What are relapses and why do they occur after a chiropractic adjustment?
A relapse is when an external or internal stress factor causes a return of a previous condition. It can take months for a ligamentous injury to heal properly. Many never heal completely, having a predisposition to re-injury, or weakness in the previously injured area.
Increased awareness of movement is important for preventing a relapse. I have also outlined below other situations that commonly cause relapses.
Situations that may cause a relapse
A visit to the massage therapist or “bodyworker”: While Massage and bodywork can be therapeutic in nature, without proper consideration it can be problematic despite the best of intentions. A common cause of relapses is deep tissue massage or “bodywork” on the spine. Some examples of this is are a massage that rotates the neck or having someone walk on your back. Many times, well-meaning practitioners inadvertently or intentionally press directly on the spine. This action can overwhelm the spine’s ability to maintain alignment, creating subluxation. This can be avoided by communicating with the practitioner about your back. In my practice, I always make myself available to speak with any practitioner about what is appropriate technically for my patients.
A visit to the hairdresser: If your hair must be placed in a bowl to be washed, the pressure on your neck by the bowl lip often subluxates the neck. This can be avoided by washing your hair before you go or by having your hair washed with your face down and a towel covering your eyes.
A visit to the dentist: Prolonged sitting with your mouth wide open and your head slightly rotated can cause subluxation of the neck. This can be mitigated by frequent breaks to rotate your head and stretch your neck. It also helps to schedule shorter appointments.
Telephone Cradling: It’s not good for your neck and back to cradle the phone between the ear and shoulder when talking. Use headsets or speakerphones to avoid awkward tilting of the neck and shoulders.
Self-cracking: Some people have the nervous habit of jerking their spine in an attempt to align themselves. This creates overstretching of the ligaments that can lead to further subluxations, creating the sensation of the need to self-crack more often.
Proper lifting and bending: Always stand square to what you life. Lift with the back straight, bending at the knees and using the legs, not the back, for strength.
Working when exhausted: When a person is tired, ligament tone suffers. This increases the likelihood of ligamentous tearing and subluxation.
Picking up a child or giving shoulder rides: Lifting children that weigh over 20 pounds is often beyond your capacity to lift, carry, or give shoulder rides.
Repetitive motion and unilateral repetitive motion: When doing repetitive actions such as sewing, using a computer, factory work, weeding, or hoeing, it is important to balance the action with an equal and opposite movement. Taking frequent breaks every 15 to 30 minutes is the best preventative plan.
The Weekend Warrior injury: Performing physically challenging acts that you are not accustomed to can create problems physically because the ligaments and discs are usually the first body parts to give out.
Falling asleep sitting up (on the plane or recliner): The human body isn’t designed for prolonged contortion, which usually happens when you fall asleep on the sofa, sleep with an animal or with too many or too few pillows. Prolonged contortion leads to subluxation.
Generally speaking, your body gives you adequate feedback when activities are creating a subluxation. It’s simple to follow the Henny Youngman school of alignment maintenance.
Patient: Doc, it hurts when I move like this.
Doctor: So don’t move like that.