This has been like, a month of epiphanies for me.
As you may have seen on Sunlight in Winter, I’ve realized recently that I probably do have fibromyalgia, after all these years of going without a diagnosis.
And now, on the subject of the lumbar spine, I’ve had another epiphany, thanks to a reader who sent me an article she’d found helpful. It actually explained a lot of the things I’ve been wondering about, and shed some light on why I thought only a chiropractor could help me (turns out, that isn’t true). So, a big thank you to B. in Iceland!
The article B. sent me was about a concept called segmental spinal hypermobility. What this means, essentially, is that certain joints within the spine (between individual vertebrae) are moving more than they are supposed to.
It was from the magazine Dynamic Chiropractic, which I’ve quoted articles from before.
Now, let me back up.
As many of you may know, I have found a lot of relief in chiropractic adjustments over the years. When I first developed SI joint issues in 2011, a chiropractor was the first and only person I found who could even explain what was happening when my joint locked up– let alone “unlock” it.
So I have a lot of respect for (some) of the chiropractors who are out there. I think they have a lot of technical knowledge and expertise in more subtle aspects of joint mechanics than most doctors or PT’s tend to be aware of.
I also came to discover, after years of routine treatments, that chiropractic adjustments were actually de-stabilizing my SI joint ligaments. Although they were technically putting my joints into the right place, moving the joint itself in that way was actually too forceful on my ligaments. I finally healed once I had learned to adjust the joint myself, using the Muscle Energy Technique, and stopped receiving chiropractic adjustments.
However, I actually have still gone back to my chiropractor at times, for pain in other parts of my back, which he had described as rotation of the vertebrae (mainly, rotation in the lumbar vertebrae).
Why am I writing about the lumbar spine on an SI joint blog?
The reason I’m writing about this issue here is lumbar rotation can be a side effect of SI joint dysfunction– it’s one of the ways the body compensates for the fact that our pelvis is out of alignment. Our pelvis is rotated, so our body rotates back in the opposite direction, at the level of our spine. (This is all in the interest of keeping our head and eyes level, so we aren’t walking around off-balance).
I’m also writing about it here because, in my experience, the pain that can come from this rotation at the level of the lumbar spine can sometimes be almost identical to the pain of SI joint dysfunction. There have been many, many times when I went to my chiropractor thinking the problem was one of these issues, only to find out it was the other.
So… I really wanted to make sure I brought you all along for the ride, in terms of the breakthrough I’ve just had.
Why does lumbar rotation occur?
My understanding, based on what my chiropractor said, is that similar to SI joint dysfunction, this rotation of the vertebrae also occurs when the ligaments around it become a little bit “stretched out.” Another factor is when the muscles immediately around the spine are weak and go into spasm, which then pulls the vertebrae out of their optimal alignment.
And, like SI joint dysfunction, this is also a condition where things aren’t necessarily going to look damaged or “out of place” in an x-ray or an MRI. It’s more of a “functional” issue– your structures can look normal in an image, but when it’s time for your body to actually function in daily life, something goes wrong.
I thought chiropractors were the only ones who could treat it.
Until now, chiropractors were the only medical professionals I’d talked to who ever seemed to understand this problem.
I’d asked various physical therapists, including my physical therapist Paula who saved my SI joints, what they knew about rotation of the lumbar vertebrae. Basically, they weren’t sure what I was talking about; it wasn’t something they’d studied in school.
This is why I kept going back to chiropractors for this problem, despite the fact that I was already a little bit skeptical of them. I thought they were the only ones who could fix this problem.
Then… my emergency room visit.
As many of you also know, a few months ago I ended up in the emergency room after a visit to the chiropractor I’ve been seeing the longest (the same one who first diagnosed my SI joint dysfunction).
This chiropractor performed the same type of adjustment he always did for lumbar rotation, but something went really wrong during the adjustment. I ended up with temporary symptoms of nerve damage, which (THANK GOD!) went away after about a week.
Since then, I’ve been trying to find alternatives to chiropractic adjustments.
I feel that this was my wake–up call– I don’t want to be adjusted by another chiropractor again.
However, here I’ve had this issue which I’ve thought only chiropractors understood, and I haven’t quite known where to turn next.
Now I know there are physical therapists who treat the same thing… it just goes by a different name.
I’ll be explaining more in my next post! I want to share a lot of information with you that’s a bit technical, so I want to make sure I don’t lose you by trying to share it all in one post.
For now, you can check out the posts I’ve written addressing the relationship between the SI joint and spinal rotation:
- Lumbar Rotation vs. SI Joint Dysfunction
- How SI Joint Dysfunction can affect the rest of your body
- Tight Muscles Can Mimic SI Joint Dysfunction
- Frequently asked question: Can SI Joint Dysfunction be caused by lumbar fusion surgery?
I hope what I’ve said so far made sense! Stay tuned for Part 2!