Spinal instability is a painful condition in which the muscle strength, ligament and intervertebral disc are not balanced. A stable spine allows flexibility, pain free movement and rigidity to control necessary movements of the body and up-right posture. Spinal instability compromises the size of the spinal canal and nerves within the spinal canal, resulting in pain and irritation. The condition generally presents with one vertebra exceeding 3 mm of motion upon its adjacent vertebra.
Causes of spinal instability
The most common cause of spinal instability is degeneration of the intervertebral disc. As the disc degenerates, it loses its elastic properties and produces excessive motion of the disc on one vertebra to the adjacent disc, placing more compressive stress on the joints. The excessive compressive stress on the joints causes arthritis in the joints and results in pain because of an alter in the flexibility and stability of the joint. Instability can also be because of an injury to the spine, spondylisthesis (forward slipping of one vertebra), retrolisthesis (backward slipping of one vertebra) or congenital birth issues.
Chiropractic management of spinal instability
Chiropractic care is a conservative treatment option for pain caused by spinal instability. In most cases, back pain is mechanical and not because of spinal instability. Chiropractic care may help reduce back pain and treat it quite effectively. The chiropractor will design a treatment plan depending on your symptoms, using one of the different types of spinal manipulation or adjustment. The hands-on technique will help restore spinal balance to improve motion of the joint. The different types of techniques the chiropractor may use for spinal adjustment include:
Specific spinal adjustment
In this technique, the chiropractor will first identify the joints that restricted and show abnormal motion. The technique involves stretching of the soft tissues and stimulating the nervous system with a gentle thrusting technique that helps return motion to the joint.
Flexion distraction technique
The flexion distraction technique is a non-thrusting, gentle adjustment which is commonly used for facet strain and degenerative disk caused because of spinal instability. The hands-on treatment method uses a specialized table to assist the chiropractor for a slow pumping action.
Instrument assisted adjustment
In instrument-assisted adjustment, the chiropractor applies force without thrusting into the spine using a hand-held instrument.
In addition to spinal manipulation, the chiropractor may also use manual therapies to treat the injured soft tissues, including trigger point therapy, manual joint stretching and instrument-assisted soft tissue therapy.
– In trigger point therapy, the chiropractor will identify the tight painful points on the muscle and put pressure on the points using his or her finger to reduce tension.
– Manual joint stretching involves the use of muscle energy therapy.
– Whereas, instrument-assisted soft therapy can help in treating the injured soft tissue of the spine.
Although chiropractors use various techniques to help improve daily activities, chiropractors
cannot reverse spinal instability. However, they can help address any underlying mechanical
causes of your symptoms.
In most cases of spinal instability, the spinal musculature is asymmetrical or the muscles are not strong enough to support the spine. Due to this, it is always important that active corrective exercises are prescribed to the patient to perform daily in conjunction with the chiropractic treatment. If the patient needs more supervised or guided exercises, then physical therapy should be recommended.
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