Why I switched from chiropractor visits to the Muscle Energy Technique (and finally got better!).

Hello hello everyone!  In this post I wanted to clarify another concept readers often ask me about.

If you’ve read through my story, you probably know that a big turning point in my healing came in the summer of 2016.

I had been struggling with SI joint dysfunction for five years at that point, and it was seriously starting to look like I wasn’t going to get any better.

That is actually the moment when I began this blog, just for myself.  I was hitting rock bottom, emotionally, and knew I had to do something drastic to turn my life around.

So I started taking notes on everything I could– every single article, every single blog post on someone else’s blog– everything.  I was even starting to research SI joint surgery, as just about all the conservative treatment methods had failed me.

Coincidentally, around the same time, my friend Mirja was getting married in California, up in beautiful Napa Valley.   I was terrified to be away from my chiropractor for a week, but I knew I couldn’t let something like this hold me back.  I had to go.

So I got on the plane, with my friend Amanda kindly managing both of our luggage, dreading the kind of shape my SI joints would be in by the time we flew back.

However, something totally unexpected happened.

Over the course of that week, my SI joints actually stayed way more stable than I’d been expecting them to be.

I still used the Muscle Energy Technique, as shown to me by my physical therapist, anytime I started to feel like things might be starting to get out of whack.  And I was, of course, still careful about how I moved, deliberately avoiding any pronounced bending or twisting movements.

However… the disaster that I was waiting for never came.  I couldn’t believe it.  By the end of the week, my SI joints pretty much felt just as good as when I left Boston.  I actually ended up extending my trip for a few more days, to stay with my friend Karen in San Francisco.

And still, I was doing ok.  Better, even, than I’d done in pretty much my entire time having SI joint dysfunction.

That’s when I remembered something I’d read once– just one page on someone else’s blog.  It was from a woman whose physical therapist had specifically warned her against going to a chiropractor for SI joint dysfunction, because it could actually make the joint less stable.  (Unfortunately her blog is no longer available, or I’d link to it here).

That’s when it dawned on me– maybe the same exact thing had been happening to me.  

I’d been going to the chiropractor several times a week for literally years (let’s NOT talk about how much that cost!).  He always helped me temporarily, but the adjustments never stayed in place.  In fact, I’d come to notice that in the few hours following an adjustment, it actually seemed to be even easier to make my joints move out of place.   I had actually adopted a routine of trying to lay low after an adjustment, coming straight home and just resting for the rest of the evening.

But maybe that hadn’t been enough.  Maybe that feeling of instability I had after my adjustments was actually carrying over for much longer after my adjustments– maybe even for days.

Of course, I wanted to get someone’s opinion on whether or not my joints were aligned, so I went back to my chiropractor when I got home.

Looking back, I don’t really know why I did this, but I just had to see what he said.

And he said that, in fact, my joints were mostly in alignment.  He offered to just adjust one thing, ever so slightly, to just try to make my alignment as optimal as possible.

Well, that was a mistake.  As soon as I left his office, that feeling of being unstable was back.  I noticed that, although I drove home the exact same way I’d driven to his office, all of the bumps in the road felt super uncomfortable when I drove over them, even though I really hadn’t noticed them on the way there.

I got home, got out of the car, and had that same feeling like things were “moving around” in my pelvis.

So that decided it for me: yes, the chiropractic adjustments had been part of the problem.

Luckily after about 2 or 3 days, my joints went back to the way they’d been in California, and things settled back down.  I definitely had not lost all my progress.   And I never let a chiropractor adjust my SI joints again.

Now, to be clear, if your joints are moving out of place, particularly if they’re getting “stuck,” you do need to have some kind of way to adjust them. 

I remember well the agony of feeling one of my SI joints get stuck— it would hurt so much in the joint, and I’d barely be able to move the leg on that side.

I don’t believe it’s possible to heal, and build muscle strength, without having some way of realigning the joint when it gets stuck in a bad position. The ligaments can’t heal if the joint is jammed out of place, and you can’t really build muscle strength when you can barely walk.

The problem is that, even though chiropractic adjustments are technically putting your joints into the correct position (which is why they provide such great symptom relief in the short term), I have come to believe that they are simply too rough for the joint itself– specifically, the SI joint ligaments.

The Muscle Energy Technique, by contrast, is much more gentle.  You are controlling the level of force, yourself, through your own muscle contractions (and your nervous system has its own built-in reflexes that will prevent you from contracting a muscle hard enough to cause an injury).  In my experience, it is way more gentle than even the gentlest chiropractic adjustment technique.

So that was really the missing piece for me, after everything else I’d been through.

Now, it wasn’t just this one discovery.  I’d already had to figure out so much– stretches, exercises, changing my movement patterns, etc.  But I had only improved so much, and now I know it’s because the chiropractic adjustments had actually been backfiring the entire time.

Once I stopped receiving chiropractic adjustments and switched over to only using the Muscle Energy Technique, that was what finally allowed everything else to fall into place, and then I finally got better.

Over the rest of that summer, my joints continued to stabilize.  I continued to do my pool workouts, as well as my strengthening exercises using my stretching table, and soon months had gone by without my SI joints moving out of place.

That is how it happened for me.  

Again, every piece of it was important– you can read about all the steps I took in the My Recovery section of my blog.

However, it was this epiphany that provided the final, key step that finally allowed all of the pieces to fall into place for me.  That is why I  whole-heartedly recommend that people try to find a good physical therapist with experience in treating the SI joint to work with them– I truly believe it’s the best thing you can do for yourself.

Okay… that’s all for this post.  Please feel free to leave a comment or question below– that way others can learn from what you have to say.

For more info:

A chiropractor explains why he doesn’t think adjustments can heal SI joint dysfunction

Ligaments of the SI joint

Ways to stabilize your ligaments: strengthening, SI joint belts, and taping techniques

My views on chiropractors

Hope this helps!

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