People are as unique as snowflakes and as I’m fond of saying, some of us are more “special” than others. I love my job. There’s never any danger of being bored.
One of the problems with all of us being so unique is that it can be hard to reduce us to predictable mathematical equations. Case in point is the difficulty researchers have had linking malalignment with pain.
It would seem to be self-evident that a crooked spine is a painful spine. Not necessarily so. There are more variables than you can count. Pain threshold. General state of health. Degree of demand on the nervous system. Endocrine system function. Connective tissue composition. Attitude towards pain. Person’s history of painful experience. The current emotional state. Simply accounting for the myriad of malalignment variations within the spine, to say nothing of alignment variables in the other parts of the body make this math virtually impossible to keep track of. Is it any wonder that we’ve had difficulty boiling this down to “bigger curve equals bigger pain.”
In the next few years I believe that we will make meaningful progress on this front. It is only a matter of time before technology will allow us to bridge the gap that currently exists between theoretical biomechanics and the science of pain. Technologies such as surface topography scanning allow us to quickly, easily and accurately measure the impact that different therapeutic interventions have on the body. As the amount of such data increases, research will gradually expose what characteristics are most important and most closely correlated in the relationship between malalignment and pain.
Today I want to show you two scan comparisons from the same person. This pair of scan comparisons is a classic example of “before and after” times two. Take a look:
The first scan is from the middle of January of this year (2017). This gentleman has been under care with various therapists, chiropractors, etc… for many years in the care of chronic back and neck problems. Approximately a month after the first scan he ran face first into a wall while playing squash. We scanned him a few days after his injury. You can see that his spine adopted an exaggerated version of the same postural pattern that he displayed in the first scan. In this case, not only was his skeleton much more bent and twisted when compared to the previous scan, but he reported having much more pain and difficulty moving his body after the injury.
I reassessed this patient’s situation and reviewed his corrective exercise routine. After making some modifications to his routine I asked him to practice it once daily and return a week later for reassessment. Here is what happened next.
The patient returned 8 days later. What do you notice first from the images, other than the spine in the second image is much straighter than the spine in the first? What I see is that the right side of the pelvis is considerably higher than the left in the first image. In the second image the left side of the pelvis is higher, not the right.
When we look at the two sides of the pelvis in the first image, we see that the right ilium was at 12.7 degrees of inclination and the left side of the pelvis was at 21.6 degrees. The normal range of pelvic inclination for a man is supposed to be between 0-5 degrees! Not only are both sides of the pelvis rotated too far forward, but the difference between the two sides is almost 9 degrees! Enormous. After 8 days of working on his Alignment First Protocol © prescription, his right ilium was at 19.2 degrees and his left ilium was at 16.1 degrees of inclination. Not between 0 and 5 degrees but the difference was now barely above 3 degrees. A big improvement. Unsurprisingly, the patient reported feeling much better than he did the previous week.
After measuring this kind of malalignment manually for decades and now using the Diers 4D Formetric scanner, I can tell you with tremendous confidence that this degree of positional change is not typical. Apparently, this gentleman has a little more elastin in his connective tissues than average. While that helps him when he goes to yoga classes, it didn’t do him any favors when he smashed his face against the wall. The bright side to this story is that he quickly and easily recovered from his exercise-induced scoliosis. The moral of the story? Whether you have a high or low percentage of elastin in your connective tissues, it’s always better to avoid smashing your face into the wall. Always.
If you tried to follow this advice, but still smashed your face into the wall, give us a call (or send us an email if it hurts to talk) and we’ll get you straightened out!
Yours in health,
Geoff Dakin BPE RMT
Calgary Registered Massage Therapist