Getting rid of pain is only part of the job of a chiropractor. We use adjusting, in a wide variety of styles, as our primary tool to alleviate spinal malpositions and restrictions. Additionally, many chiropractors incorporate soft tissue therapies to provide a comprehensive treatment plan to deal with everything from simple low back pain to sprained ankles.
But its important to get to the true cause of the pain, not just what feels painful. This is where functional assessment comes in. Simply put, it is a discipline where the doctor looks for a series of indicators that point to places where joints and tissues may be overworked by poor function or improper muscle substitution.
Here’s an example of how functional assessment works. A patient presents with tingling and pain into their left buttock (casually known as “sciatica”) that she’s noticed since she started increasing her exercise regimen. After doing a thorough exam, it’s determined that what’s causing her pain is actually her piriformis. This is a muscle that attaches to the sacrum and the femur and helps us externally rotate our leg. Hers is tight and tender, pressing onto her sciatic nerve. She is diagnosed with piriformis syndrome. We could easily treat the pain generator by performing ART (active release technique) on the muscle, assigning stretches, and adjusting her hip and low back.
But functional assessment takes it a step beyond treatment. After assessing movement patterns for our patient, we can see that her piriformis is doing the work for another muscle in her hip…work that it’s not meant to do. So in addition to her treatment protocol, she is assigned active rehabilitation exercises to activate the hip muscles that haven’t been doing their job and take the pressure of her aching piriformis. By doing this we are treating the true cause of her pain and breaking the patterns that would most likely cause it to occur again. Here at Live Well Chiropractic, we focus not just on symptoms but diagnosing and alleviating the true cause of pain.