CF 305: Over Manipulation Syndrome
Today we’re going to talk about Over Manipulation Syndrome
But first, here’s that sweet sweet bumper music
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You have found yourself smack dab in the middle of Episode #305
Now if you missed last week’s episode , we talked about Interesting Thoughts On Low Back & Degenerative Cervical Myelopathy. Make sure you don’t miss that info. Keep up with the class. On the personal end of things…..
I skipped last week because I was at the MCM Mastermind. Dr. Kevin Chritstie’s group that I’m a part of. We met in Orlando. What a great trip. The kids went with us and I did the Mastermind meeting and then had a day and a half to hit Disney and hit it we did.
We killed ourselves trying to see everything. While that’s impossible, we did see a lot and had a great time. The Harry Potter stuff at Universal is legit folks. Crazy. The Star Wars stuff at Hollywood Studios is incredible. And the Avatar stuff at Animal Kingdom is cool as hell. I’m just saying.
I’ll add that we went about 10 years ago and I hated it. I hated all of it. This time, for whatever reason, was better. I didn’t absolutely hate it. I actually enjoyed most of it. Maybe because the kids are older and don’t have to be watched. Maybe I just knew more about what to expect. I’m not sure. But it was a good time had.
On the Mastermind…..I got some good tidbits and nuggets out of it and had a great time reconnecting with my tribe. These are my people and I can’t tell you how much we enjoy each other. We learn as much from each other at the bar or eating together than we learn from our speakers.
Our Mastermind is full but Dr. Christie started another Mastermind that has openings. If you are at all interested, I cna’t encouurage you enough to email Dr. Christie at firstname.lastname@example.org
and see if you can sneak into his new group. Next year they’ll be meeting in San Diego, Denver, Phoenix, and Jackson Hole, Wyoming. All great places to hang out, learn, and network.
Alright, Happy Thanksgiving. Let’s hop into the research. Item #1
This isn’t really a research paper we’re going to cover here. This is more a conglomeration to demonstrate something I’ve gotten a lot of push back on in private conversations with other chiropractors over the years. Let me start by saying that I Donn’t want to take money out of Chiros’ pockets. The evidence based folks should be mostly fine with what I’m going to talk about today because they’re not doing crazy stuff.
The more non-evidence based folks aren’t going to like this discussion at all. All I can say is that when someone making the right decision affects their financial status, well, you just never know what you’re going to get.
First thing….I’m not about to advocate not adjusting your patients. The adjustment is the cornerstone of my practice for more than 25 years. What we’re going to talk about, over manipulation syndrome or spinal instability, was never for any reason in any shape, form, or fashion on my radar screen before getting the Neuromusculoskeletal medicine diplomate and diving into ChiroUp.
Let’s start with a personal story. I went to the chiropractor first when I was hurt as a freshman in high school. I was hurt badly and nobody else helped me. After months of pain, my mom took me to the local chiro and in two weeks you’d never know I was hurt.
That’s why I ended up becoming a chiropractor in the first place. While that experience was life changing, it also led to my buddy and I being all cool and popping our own necks all of the time. It was hard to do at first. I really had to use both hands and really crank on it to get that pop noise we all covet so much.
But then, after some time of constantly self-adjusting my neck, it got easier. And easier, and easier. To the point that I could just turn my neck and it would pop incidentally for no reason at all. And if I didn’t pop it, it would get irritated and feel like it needed to pop all of the time.
I had created instability by self-adjusting all of the time.
Our spine wants to be stiff and solid without that extra movement. But I had created extra movement consistently enough that I had loosened all of those tiny muscles and connective tissues. As a compensation, because our spine wants stiffness and stability, the larger postural muscles stiffened up to try to make up for all of those tiny ones that went lax and lazy.
So, that sets up a neck that is stiff but hypermobile. You can share this with all of your self-adjustors if you like.
Anyway, that brings up two thoughts:
- When you have an older person, discs degenerate, connective tissue gets loosened through manual labor, people have had injuries, or something issues like Elhers Danlos have started to aggravate…..hypermobility starts to take hold
- When you have patients that have been going to chiropractors repeatedly over the years, you can create hypermobility where there was none. Like my time self-adjusting. I’m not talking about responsible and appropriate adjusting like you do with a limited, condition focused treatment plan. I’m talking about, “I need to see you once a week for the rest of your life to treat your immune system and help you avoid cancer.” Or, I need to see you 76 times and 10 sets of x-rays this year to make sure you have the right, perfect degree curvature in your neck. As common sense would dictate, this is probably going to be more common with more aggressive adjusters.
I’ll tell you that I’m out on the cliff a bit on this topic if I’m being honest. When you go searching, you’ll find Over Manipulation Syndrome. But, it’s not a huge topic with 100’s of articles.
One of them is at hur911injurycenters.com
, probably not a chiro friendly page if I’m just guessing. They say, “Over-manipulation syndrome can be caused through self-manipulation as well as through high-velocity adjustments from a chiropractor. If you or a chiropractor have over-manipulated a joint through high-velocity treatments, you might experience damage to the ligament structures. This damage can lead to joint instability and worsening of hypermobility.”
One I found is by Dr. Mark Saracino, a Board Certified Chiropractic Neurologist from Pennsylvania. I will put the link to his thoughts in the show notes for you.
Dr. Saracino starts out with a funny/not so funny joke, ““How many Chiropractors does it take to change a light bulb?” Answer: “Just one, but it takes 56 visits!” https://drsaracino.com/PDFs/INFO/TooManyChiropracticVisits.pdf
He says, “To my knowledge, no studies have shown that manipulations, once a month or more, are harmful. Just as dependencies on unnecessary drugs and surgeries should be avoided, patients should not become dependent on frequent manipulations- no more than 6 per year to the same spinal bone. Spinal manipulation is an important, but small part of a chiropractic neurologist’s treatment capabilities. It should be employed as infrequently as possible.”
I want to go on record here and disagree with him on that point. If he thinks that 6 adjustments with exercises are going to get some of the veterans I see from the VA out of pain after suffering for 40 years…..well, trust me…..6 adjustments Ain’t gettin it done. He’s got a bias. He’s being a proponent of all of the magic outside of an adjustment that a chiropractic neurologist can perform. So I just disagree on that one point.
But I do agree with the point of avoiding unnecessary consistent and frequent adjustments.
To further clarify, there are some suffering from high impact chronic pain, which is chronic pain with an associated disability. They will never be free of pain and seem to only do well seeing a chiropractor every other week or so on a pain management basis.
Then, there is a group called Caring Medical in Florida. They also have a bias. They specialize in prolotherapy to tighten lax ligaments. So, it makes sense they’re going to highlight Over Manipulation Syndrome. That doesn’t make them wrong. But I’m being honest as I can be on this. They have a bias and it should be noted.
I’ll put the link in the show notes as well.
https://www.caringmedical.com/prolotherapy-news/manipulation-syndrome-oms/#:~:text=Over-manipulation syndrome is a,or manipulation by a practitioner.
Ross Hauser, MD says from the top of the article, “Over-manipulation syndrome is a condition characterized by chronic pain of the joints or vertebrae from instability due to ligament laxity that is caused by excessive self-manipulation or manipulation by a practitioner.”
To keep from pissing everyone off, he says, “In our opinion, a good chiropractic or osteopathic physician is an invaluable asset to a person’s health and care. Many cases of chronic pain, headaches and health ailments can be resolved with manipulation. Yes, overly aggressive spinal manipulation can be the cause of spinal instability, but when done correctly it can cause immediate (or quick) relief of symptoms.”
And more to the point I’m making, “We see a large number of hypermobility cases where the patients present with a history of excessive chiropractic manipulations. A short course of manipulation to relieve pain or tension is understandable. However, patients who sign up for long-term chiropractic packages that include thrusting manipulations often find themselves even more unstable after the treatment course. Good chiropractors treat each patient individually and conservatively.”
I agree. Reminder – I’m not advocating not adjusting your patients. The adjustment is the cornerstone of my practice for more than 25 years. I’m not advocating only adjusting your patients 6 times per year.
What I am advocating AGAINST….is long, extended, ongoing, maybe never ending treatment protocols to try to treat pain. When what you may be actually doing is causing a greater problem called instability and hypermobility by over manipulating and loosening the structures that hold the spine tight.
How much is too much? Who the hell knows? Certainly not me. Everyone is different, different ages, different work loads, different injuries throughout the years, different chiropractors over the years, etc.
But if all you’re doing is identifying ‘subluxations’ and knocking down the high spots without also considering instability or hypermobility, then you’re at risk of doing your patients and injustice and potentially making them actually worse.
If they already have hypermobility, what good are more adjustments and mobility really going to do for that particular area of their spine? Not much in my opinion. Why not think outside of the box a little and try stabilizing and strengthening the spot instead of mobilizing it?
For neck instability, try a contraption called The Iron Neck. It’s great at strengthening the neck in a 360 degree way. It’s outstanding and I’m not sure there is a better strategy out there for neck stability.
For low back instability, we use McGill’s Big Three and add Dead Bug which is also ChiroUp’s protocol for L-sp instability.
If you don’t know how to look for and test for spinal instability, one of the clues for the low back is that it hurts to roll over in bed. Also, sometimes these people bend over to grab something and get a ‘catch’ or a ‘locked up’ back when trying to stand up from that position. They kind of have to work out of it to finally stand up.
With the low back, you can have a patient prone on their stomach. If it hurts when you palpate the l-sp facets, have them do a ‘superman’ position with their legs straight and lifted backward off of the table. If you palpate again while they’re in that position and it feel better, then you are likely looking at a instability patient. When you stabilize that region and palpate it and it feels better, the back is telling you it has too much mobilization and needs stabilization instead.
Simple sudden movements can hurt as well. The Space Mountain ride fired up the instability in my neck last week. It jerked me around on the roller coaster when it was dark and I couldn’t brace or see what was in front of me.
So there you have it. I’ve had some of the smartest chiros in the evidence-based realm tell me I’m crazy. That chiropractors absolutely cannot create spinal instability. I know that for so many, it’s a completely new thought process but I ask that you seriously give it consideration.
How is it that self-adjustors, like I once was, can create instability from adjusting too much but a chiropractor somehow cannot? I’ll also share that I have no bias on this deal. In fact, advocating against constant, frequent, adjusting does me no good whatsoever considering the adjustment is the literal cornerstone of my clinic. I have zero bias. I just follow research, I read, I observe, I talk to others, and I have personal experience and I’m telling you flat out – some patients will do better with strengthening and stabilization because they’re already got too much mobilization and the wrong chiropractor can potentially be the cause of that hypermobilization.
Convince me I’m wrong at email@example.com. I’d love to hear your thoughts on this topic. I think it’s important.
Alright, that’s it. Keep on keepin’ on. Keep changing our profession from your corner of the world. The world needs evidence-based, patient-centered practitioners driving the bus. The profession needs us in the ACA and involved in leadership of state associations. So quit griping about the profession if you’re doing nothing to make it better. Get active, get involved, and make it happen.
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I want you to know with absolute certainty that when Chiropractic is at its best, you can’t beat the risk vs reward ratio because spinal pain is primarily a movement-related pain and typically responds better to movement-related treatment rather than chemical treatments like pills and shots.
When compared to the traditional medical model, research and clinical experience show us patients can get good to excellent results for headaches, neck pain, back pain, and joint pain to name just a few.
It’s safe and cost-effective can decrease surgeries & disability and we do it through conservative, non-surgical means with minimal hassle to the patient.
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Dr. Jeff Williams – Fellow of the International Academy of Neuromusculoskeletal Medicine (FIANM) and Board Certified Diplomate of the American Board of Forensic Professionals (DABFP) – Chiropractor in Amarillo, TX, Chiropractic Advocate, Author, Entrepreneur, Educator, Businessman, Marketer, and Healthcare Blogger & Vlogger