Self-Manipulation Warning

A few words on self-manipulation...

We have all seen the abhorrent display of gross manipulation, or at least experienced this on a personal level. It makes me cringe when I see someone grab their neck and twist and yank from side to side. Although well meaning, you could be causing your problem to get worse in the long run. Manipulation is a double-edged sword, and in untrained hands can lead to complications, if improperly utilized or overutilized.

The art of joint manipulation has been practiced for thousands of years, and most notably in this century, by chiropractic physicians, who perform the majority of joint manipulation (94%) in the U.S. A certain small percentage of osteopathic physicians still practice manipulation, although as of this writing, joint manipulation is only taught as an elective class in most osteopathic schools today. Joint manipulation is very safe, especially when you consider the side effects of other procedures such as medications (over-the-counter and prescription) and surgery, that are commonly used to treat the same conditions that manipulation is used for, such as spinal pain.

When a patient enters the office, I usually ask them if have a history of self-manipulation. (i.e., pulling their neck, twisting their pelvis/low back, leaning back into a chair, etc.) Of those who do, most tell me that they started out only doing it once in a great while for pain relief. Then it progressed to once a month, once a week, once a day, then every half hour for pain relief. That's why they are currently in my office now.

People who chronically self-manipulate themselves create instability in the spine by overstretching spinal joints. Initially when you self-manipulate yourself, you get pain relief, but over time you find that your temporary gains in pain reduction, are less and less the more you do it. Eventually you find that you self-manipulate yourself on an hourly basis for pain relief. This self-manipulation, when done on a constant and chronic basis, stretches out the joint capsules (a connection between two bones) and creates unstable joints that are moving too much (hypermobile). Here is a helpful analogy. You have basically three types of joints in your body: Hypomobile joints (joints that don't move very well), Hypermobile joints (joints that move too much) and normal joints. Hypermobile joints should never be adjusted (manipulated) because the joint is abnormal and moving too much. Any further manipulation would only lead to more hypermobility. Normal joints have no mechanical loss of motion and should not be adjusted. Hypomobile joints are a mechanical problem and it takes a specific mechanical form of treatment, hence the chiropractic adjustment/manipulation.