Archived Issue - PRAKTIKOS Autumn Equinox, 2008

Live your life in balance
    – Our philosophy

A Life Back in Balance

The smiling woman holding trekking poles in the photograph is standing on a high saddle in Rocky Mountain Park. She has just topped out after a long, steep, and brutal climb. The remarkable thing is that only three months earlier she could barely walk around her neighborhood.

Back in July when Marlyne (pronounced Marlene) came to our office, her life was out of balance. She had so much pain in her right hip that not only could she not take her customary daily walk, she also found it impossible to get a full night’s sleep.

Marlyne’s problem had been coming on for a long time. Fifteen years ago she was diagnosed with a hip bursitis. In the last two years, the pain had spread into her entire hip and down her right leg.

It had become so bad that her daily walk actually caused more pain instead of reducing it as it had before. Her favorite sleeping position was on her right side, but her hip was now so tender it was impossible to lie in that position for any length of time.

Of course, hiking and her ski pass at Vail were out of the question. Biking was the only exercise that let her keep her fitness level up.

Her pain had persisted, but it wasn’t for lack of trying. She had been to a chiropractor, tried physical therapy, exercised more, rested more, taken anti-inflammatory drugs, and received cortisone injections in both her hip and her spine.

She was given state-of-the-art MRIs looking for a spinal problem that might be fixed with surgery. She even got an experimental spinal injection, all to no avail.

Marlyne became resigned to just living with the pain. If she took a sleeping pill, she could sleep fitfully for five or six hours each night. Advil each day took the edge off the pain and allowed her to get chores done.

But her pain had taken much of the joy out of her life. Ironically, now that Mel, her husband, was retired and their lives should have been freed up, she felt more restricted than ever.

It was one of her long-time biking friends who suggested that maybe she should call our office and see if there was anything to be done.

After taking her history, we did a thorough examination looking for things that were out of balance. First we placed her face down on the table and then used a very gentle finger walking examination to survey the affected muscles and create a blueprint of her problem.

Only when the body is comfortable, warm, and fully supported is it possible to determine which muscles can no longer relax. These unhealthy muscles are easy to identify because they feel like ropes or cables or even cast iron, instead of pliable human flesh.

In order to remain healthy, strong, and functional, every muscle must be able to relax when it is not working. During relaxation, each muscle repairs and restocks itself in preparation for the next work cycle.

No wonder Marlyne was in so much pain. The muscles in her right hip and the right side of her lower back were unable to relax and enter their healing phase. This left these muscles weakened and exhausted.

The last question was why these muscles were unable to relax and heal themselves. When we compared her leg lengths, we discovered another important area of imbalance.

It was immediately obvious that her right leg was more than one-half inch shorter than her left. This unevenness of leg length had created an unhealthy curvature in her low back.

By far the most common cause of such a discrepancy in leg length is an uncorrected sacroiliac (SI) joint sprain. These critical joints are located at the base of the spine on each side of the tailbone. They act to transfer support of the legs up into the spine.

Sure enough, examination of the SI joints revealed a large, tender, and swollen area surrounding them. There was also an asymmetrical displacement of the right side SI joint, indicating that it was “rocked and locked” out of its normal position.

This locking of the SI joint in an uneven and unbalanced position had created a “functional” shortening of her right leg. Now we had a plan.

By using padded triangular wedges, we could create a gentle, sustained pressure under her pelvis that slowly stretched the SI joints to their normal healthy positions. This would even out the leg lengths and allow healing to begin.

To speed her healing process we used ultrasound. This gentle and soothing treatment helps tight muscles to relax more quickly and completely. Thus, ultrasound eases the correction and helps the adjustment hold its new position.

As soon as we had moved the SI joints and pelvis to the new position, we strapped a cold gel pack over the joints. This reduced swelling and helped the new position hold better.

We then instructed Marlyne in how to avoid positions that would act to re-injure the area. The simple act of keeping her left knee higher than her right knee while sitting and sleeping would avoid re-spraining the vulnerable joints.

The last thing we did that first day was to send Marlyne out to walk on her new leg lengths. This is a critical part of the process of healing. Walking allows the muscles to begin healing and the nervous system to begin learning the new position.

Almost immediately, she was walking with much less pain. Within two weeks she started to sleep better. In only two months she was taking short, easy hikes. It all culminated on the day in the picture with that brutal climb and that great smile.

Now we are looking forward to skiing with Mel this winter. So remember…

If you have pain that won’t go away, there is hope. If your muscles won’t relax at night when you try to go to sleep, it can be healed. If the pain has been a problem for a long time, there are answers. Even if you have already tried other chiropractic or physical therapy or injections, we have a new gentle and effective approach.

Give us a call. It is never too late to begin your new balanced life.