LaPush, Washington, Loraine Lovejoy-Evans
SPine Pain? Change Alignment
Driving down the road and briefly letting go of the wheel can tell you a lot about your car’s alignment. If the car pulls strongly to one side it is an indication that the alignment is not normal. Continued driving without changing this will eventually cause early tire wear.
As a physical therapist, it is amazing to me how well people take care of their cars but expect their physical body to continue to work normally without adequate maintenance. A normal alignment in the human body will keep the joints functioning optimally without damage. Like a car, the body sends signals through the nervous system to the brain to indicate there are problems in the alignment. The earlier these signals are attended to, the less attention they will need and the less wear will occur at the joints. When we ignore these signals and make the task in front of us more important than our alignment, we set our system up for eventual failure.
Symptoms that a car is out of alignment: uneven or rapid tire wear; pulling or drifting away from a straight line while driving on a straight and level road. Signs or symptoms that a spine and human frame is out of alignment can include: One knee can be bent while the other one is straight or one shoulder may be significantly higher than the other.
Poor alignment can lead to breaking down of the joint structures (soft squishy bits on the ends of bones = cartilage, tendons, ligaments) and break down of the muscles with weakness and decreased ranges of movement. Eventually, this will lead to breaking down of the bony structures or arthritis (osteoarthritis). This can ultimately lead to so much pain and disability that a surgery may be required to correct the bony failure. But there are no guarantees that it will help.
Tools to improve alignment
In a car, wheel alignment is done through adjusting angles of the tires to make certain they are squared: perpendicular to the ground and parallel to each other. This truing will extend tire life to maximal and help the car track straight. Humans, on the other hand, can improve alignment by making simple adjustments to reduce the tension on muscles that are pulling the bones out of alignment.
My favorite way to improve poor alignment is to use Strain and Counter Strain (SCS) a technique developed by Lawrence Jones, D.O., doctor of osteopathy. A D.O. is like a combination M.D., medical doctor, and chiropractor.
I like to call SCS "Releasing Joint Restrictions" (RJR). RJR is an osteopathic technique that gently relaxes the nerves to decrease a muscle spasm and allow the bone to slide back to its normal position and restore alignment to neutral.
By restoring normal alignment as soon as it changes, more joints can be prevented from going out of alignment so treatment is less intense and a shorter course is needed. If you walk around the car every day before getting in, you should notice a tire getting low and if you get air in it quickly you can prevent uneven wear from occurring. If you missed that it is running low, more damage can occur. Self- checking your body’s alignment regularly is good preventative maintenance.
With Releasing Joint Restrictions (RJR) technique there is a way to check the alignment. If it is in neutral then you do not have to do anything else. The way to check it is to look for sore spots in specific places on the body. If it is sore when you push on those spots then it is an indication that the alignment is not neutral. Using the RJR technique, the sore spot is a diagnostic point to tell which joint is out of place. Then the sore spot which I call the Restriction Indicator (RI) is used to find the perfect position for the joint to relax and restore the alignment to neutral after 90 seconds.
I want to introduce this ability to check for alignment and use the tool of the Restriction Indicator to help you determine if your alignment is in neutral or needs attention. I will explain how the RJR technique is done and how it works.