No, You're NOT Out Of Alignment - MythBusting
Your spine is way more resilient than you may have been told!
It happens almost every week; we have new patients come to our office telling us that their back is out of line and they need to be aligned. The truth is, being out of alignment just isn't a thing. These are highly educated patients, but they have unfortunately been misled at some point in their healthcare journey. As a result, our patients think their neck, shoulder, pelvic pain, low back pain is happening because they are out of alignment.
For that reason, we should talk about it.
The idea of being misaligned somehow is one of the longest-standing myths among traditional chiropractic patients. After all, it is the very idea that the profession was first conceived and built around. Which isn't any more flawed than the medical field performing procedures like bloodletting, leeching, and lobotomies. Things have their start and then the research and knowledge base continually, over the course of years, brings that 'thing' to a more advanced and more effective place.
Still, the idea of being misaligned is so entrenched and pervasive, that it's probably not going anywhere anytime soon. It's common for our patients to report to us that other chiropractors, physical therapists, and even some general practice osteopathic doctors have suggested to them that their pain is from a misalignment. This isn't a chiropractic-profession-specific thing,
The actual truth about being misaligned is that research debunks it fully and those papers in support of the idea are few and typically of lesser impact. Our spines are far too strong and robust for us to be able to push and pull it into and out of alignment at every step of the way through our lives. If that were a fact, MMA fighters, professional athletes, golfers, and heavy metal musicians......they would all be basically paralyzed by now.
“No supportive evidence is found for the chiropractic subluxation being associated with any disease process or of creating suboptimal health conditions requiring intervention. Regardless of popular appeal, this leaves the subluxation construct in the realm of unsupported speculation. This lack of supportive evidence suggests the subluxation construct has no valid clinical applicability.” (1)
No person on the Earth is symmetrical and exactly the same from one side to the other. We just aren't. It is incredibly simple to pull up an x-ray of someone and show differences from one side to the other. Asymmetries in our bones are normal and can happen in all areas of the spine. Research has shown there are no differences in x-rays before and after treatments. You may feel better because the dysfunctional movement was addressed, but structurally there is no change and any change is most likely due to asymmetries or simple positioning of the patient during x-rays. You'll never be able to position someone in the precisely exact position the 'before' x-ray was taken in.
The body, and your spine specifically, are much stronger and much more resilient than that. Besides that, pain is now known to not simply be a purely mechanical issue. Especially the longer pain persists. What kind of picture does that set up in a patient's mind when they are afraid to move, be active, and live their lives because they are afraid of becoming misaligned and having to go to the chiropractor all of the time?
It's just simply not a healthy visual for patients to have.
It is not healthy physically because they run the risk of backing away from activities out of fear of becoming misaligned. This can lead to deconditioning and a more sedentary lifestyle. That leads to weight gain, chronic pain, depression, anxiety, and sleep disorders. Of course, this isn't every single person that gets told they're out of alignment but it's a good number of them. Throw in a particularly nasty provider with doomsday information attempting to get more visits out of a patient and you have a recipe for disaster for the patient's future health.
For mostly the same reasons, this misalignment theory and visual is unhealthy mentally as well. When patients come to believe they're fragile and they start to doubt their abilities and physical attributes, they fall into more chronic pain and sink into the cycle I just described.
All of this is avoided by providers and patients understanding that, for the most part, we are strong, we are healthy, movement is healing, and motion is the lotion for our joints.
We are tasked by the American College of Physicians to NEVER create a sense of dependency in our patients. Meaning, that we should never lead patients to believe they somehow rely solely on a clinic or a provider for their continued health. We should be showing them how to self-manage at home and only see us when problems arise that self-management is unable to address.
When we convince patients they are constantly and consistently out of alignment, we are setting up a dependency on the provider. While that is good for a provider's pocketbook and boat payment, it is detrimental to patients. Again, physically as well as mentally.
Pain is made up of more than just mechanical issues. If you have read some of our other articles, it is the biopsychosocial construct that makes up our pain experiences and cannot solely be treated by spinal manipulation alone. To try to explain back pain as a simple misalignment is not only debunked, it fully attempts to erase and devalue all of the research showing pain to be a much larger issue than a simple glitch in the mechanical gears.
Not only is it incorrect, but it is also really a lazy way to try to explain back or neck pain.
With the realization that research shows our bones don't really go out of place unless you actually dislocate a joint traumatically, then what does a chiropractor do for you? Joint manipulation, the service most identified with chiropractors, provides short-term improvements in pain, range of motion, and proprioception. A course of manipulation can be an effective tool as part of a care plan for musculoskeletal conditions.
Chiropractors are incredibly talented at promoting and inducing functional movement on the joint level as well as on the macro level through exercise, guidance on proper biomechanics, disc herniations and radiculopathy, headaches, chronic pain, and basically anything that is a non-complicated neuromusculoskeletal condition.
Chiropractors can handle it!
They're just not taking a bone from one position and shoving it into another position to correct a 'misalignment'. That's all. The best news of all? It's that you do not have to go to the chiropractor every week of your life to make sure you're not out of alignment.
It makes sense, and research supports, going to the chiropractor periodically for maintenance or preventative reasons to keep things moving well but you don't need to depend on a chiropractor, PT, or osteopath to keep you in line your whole life. And, of course, you should be going to an evidence-based, patient-centered chiropractor ANY time you are having an issue that self-management just isn't resolving at home.
(1) THE EPIDEMIOLOGY OF LOW BACK PAIN. (HOY D1, BROOKS P, BLYTH F, BUCHBINDER R.)
Dr. Jeff Williams, DC, FIANM, DABFP is double Board Certified as a Fellow in Neuromusculoskeletal Medicine and Orthopedics as well as a Diplomate of the American Board of Forensic Professionals, and chiropractor in Amarillo, TX. As an Amarillo chiropractor, Dr. Williams treats chronic pain, disc pain, low back pain, neck pain, whiplash injuries, and more. Dr. Williams is also the host of The Chiropractic Forward Podcast (https://www.chiropracticforward.com). Through the podcast, Dr. Williams teaches fellow chiropractors and advocates weekly for evidence-based, patient-centered practice through current and relevant research. If you have any questions for Dr. Williams, feel free to email at [email protected] Learn more about Dr. Williams and his practice at https://www.amarillochiropractor.com.
Dr. Williams was voted Best Chiropractor In Amarillo in the Best of Amarillo 2020 & 2021. Dr. Williams's full-time Amarillo chiropractic practice is Creek Stone Integrated Medical at 3501 SW 45th St., Ste. T, Amarillo, TX 79109. If you are searching for a chiropractor near me, Dr. Williams is your Amarillo Chiropractor.
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