Most people assume that chiropractors just treat backs. Others are aware that we also treat extremities such as knees, shoulders and ankles. Those that have experienced chiropractic care understand that what I actually do is improve my patients’ quality of life.
Joan came into the office complaining about pain in both of her shoulders. Eight months prior to this visit, her MRI demonstrated a full thickness rotator cuff tear on the left and a partial thickness tear on the right. She underwent surgery to repair the left, which involved resurrecting a portion of her clavicle, and injections were placed into the right to help avoid a surgery there. The surgeon sent her home without any instructions and told her to wait a few weeks before beginning physical therapy. During that time, the local inflammation in her shoulder caused adhesions to develop in her joint capsule, known as adhesive capsulitis, or frozen shoulder. When she returned to the surgeon’s office, the surgeon began crying and apologizing for not performing the surgery correctly. A post-surgery MRI revealed that there was still an osteophyte remaining that had not been removed and swelling inside the glenohumeral joint. The surgeon even offered to do another surgery at no cost, but Joan insisted on another doctor’s opinion. The other surgeon agreed that another surgery was necessary, but Joan was too preoccupied to have another surgery at that time. She started doing some stretches and swimming on her own, showing vast improvement before beginning treatment with me.
During her first exam, nearly every motion was limited. In order to lift her arm to the side, she would have to use her entire body to do it, and the motion itself was extremely painful. With each treatment, Active Release Technique was performed to the muscles of the rotator cuff, as well as the joint capsule. Gentle mobilizations were performed to her scapula, upper back, and neck to ensure proper movement. To supplement her treatments, rehabilitation exercises were given to help strengthen the area and her core.
At her eighth visit, her range of motion was 90% improved and she was beginning to get strength back. On her tenth visit, muscle definition was becoming obvious and she was extremely strong and pain free. Joan confided in me that the reason she had short hair was because she had difficulty washing it herself, due to the limited motion in her shoulders. Due to our sessions in the office, she was also swimming better and more consistently, had less pain at night while sleeping and was able to play with her grandkids. I improved the quality of her life.
The intention of this story isn’t to condemn the medical field or the work that surgeons do. After running the Chicago marathon, I developed knee pain that eventually led to an extremely successful surgery. However, being the stubborn sports chiropractor that I am, I spent over a year and a half trying to fix the pain myself first.
I want to bring awareness to the fact that there are alternative methods to conservatively treat injuries that should be tried before surgery. Chiropractic adjustments enable proper movement and biomechanics; ART allows proper muscle movement; rehabilitation helps strengthen the muscle imbalances. Together, there are very few injuries that can’t be treated this way. From my experience, before electing surgery, conservative care should always be attempted first. Even if you need to go in for the surgery, you will recover quicker from the strengthening done beforehand.