Chiropractic Care of Short Leg Syndrome, Low Back and Neck Pain
This article reviews several common spine conditions that chiropractors treat.
Low Back Pain: Functional and Structural Short Leg
A patient presents with low back pain. Usually pain is right- or left-sided in the sacroiliac joint. The sacroiliac joint is found by two dimples on the low back. Most of the time, the right leg is functionally short. This means the leg is apparently short because of postural or environmental stress; such as tighter muscles on one side of the body or a fallen arch in the foot.
Functional short leg is different from structural short leg. A structural short leg is anatomically short because of a hip disorder, less knee joint space, or fracture history. This type of short leg length is managed simply by using a heel lift.
Functional short leg length is managed using a chiropractic side posture lumbar adjustment. The patient stands on, and is weighed on two separate scales simultaneously. The patient will be heavier on the short leg side because they must lean into the right side to maintain balance. The author has seen the weight distribution between right and left to average 5-10 pounds; usually heavier on the right side. In some extreme cases, the difference has been up to 60 pounds!
The patient is then placed onto their side with the short leg side facing up; a lumbar roll is performed to rotate the pelvis. The adjustment should not be painful. The patient is then placed face down and leg length is re-measured. Leg length discrepancy will usually be corrected. When the patient is re-weighed, the prior difference usually balances out between right and left.
Neck (Cervical) Pain
Whiplash is a term that is used to describe what happens to the cervical spine during a vehicular rear-end collision. More appropriately, today whiplash is called a CAD - Cervical Acceleration Deceleration injury. The head and neck are forced (accelerated) forward, slows down (decelerates), and then forced backward. A similar condition can occur in the low back.
Symptoms include severe pain and muscle spasm that can actually alter the normal curvature (lordosis) of the cervical spine. Some patients report numbness, tingling sensations, and even weakness in their shoulders and arms, which may be associated with disc herniation and nerve compression or damage. Chiropractic treatment, including traction, reverses abnormal lordosis and helps to relieve pain and other symptoms associated with CAD.
Cervicogenic neck pain is a leading cause of headache in about 85% of patients who seek professional care. Unlike vascular headaches, cervicogenic neck pain is caused by tension and nerve irritation. Chiropractic care, including manipulation is proven to help eliminate symptoms associated with this type of headache in most patients.
In the United States there are more than 50,000 licensed Doctors of Chiropractic. Today, chiropractic medicine is the third largest area of medicine - next only to dentistry and is the largest Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) health profession. The success of chiropractic is attributed to its ability to treat back and neck problems, recent research, and changing attitudes.
Chiropractic is considered by many to be part of mainstream Western medicine and primary care. Similar to other medical professions, many chiropractors have extensive postgraduate training and become board certified in certain areas such as diagnostic radiology, neurology, nutrition, orthopaedics, physical rehabilitation, and sports medicine.
With the technological advances in medicine, some chiropractors are broadening their scope of practice to include: (1) prescription privileges for non-narcotic pharmaceuticals (drugs) such as penicillin (2) procedures including minor surgery and injectable nutrients and (3) co-admitting hospital privileges. Chiropractic medicine recently was added to the Veterans' Administration (VA) plan in VA hospitals across the United States.