Patients who are under upper cervical chiropractic care understand the concept of maintaining the positive benefits of adjustments over time. We call this “holding” in the chiropractic lexicon. Patients who experience relief with upper cervical chiropractic care are motivated to practice self-care routines that fortify the spine for holding. This brief review will identify some of the key strategies that Dr. John Stenberg of Zenith Upper Cervical Chiropractic in Colorado Springs teaches to patients in order to hold their adjustments.
What does “holding your adjustment” mean?
Simply stated, the term holding describes a situation in which and upper cervical adjustment produced a sustained mechanical and neurological effect in the patient. This means that the adjustment performed resulted in persistent improvement in movement, even if the alignment of the spine is not fully corrected. More importantly, the “stress reaction” that occurs in the body when the upper cervical spine is dysfunctional is reduced for an extended period.
How do you know if you are holding your upper cervical adjustment?
Over time, many patients can identify a repeatable pattern of symptoms that emerge when they need to be readjusted. These symptoms may include:
· Neck pain/stiffness
· Shoulder knots/pain
· Clicking, popping, or crunching with spinal movement
· General back pain/tension
· Brain fog/fatigue
Among others. It is important to mention that symptoms do not accurately diagnose how long an adjustment as held, and when the next adjustment is required. Although symptoms are a relevant and informative part of the diagnostic criteria, they do not represent the full picture.
Objective testing is performed by the upper cervical chiropractor on each visit to accurately assess the condition of the spine and what adjustment may be required. Some of the tests used by Colorado Springs upper cervical chiropractor Dr. John Stenberg include:
· Paraspinal infrared thermography
· Postural reflex testing
· Static and dynamic spinal palpation
· Leg length inequality testing
Like most diagnostic tests available, each of these procedures has an established “normal range” that is referenced in relation to the patient presentation. In the same way that 120/80 is considered “normal blood pressure”, the departure from the normal range is the key to accurately diagnosing the level of dysfunction present in that moment.
If the objective testing shows a trend returning to normal, no adjustment is needed. If the testing shows all normal ranges, no adjustment is needed. These conditions would be considered “holding” your adjustment. If the testing shows a trend returning to dysfunction, an adjustment is needed, and the patient has gone out of adjustment.
What signs or symptoms show me that I’m not holding my adjustment?
For many patients, there are tell-tale indicators that you may need a re-adjustment. Each patient situation presents unique indicators related to their symptoms, injury history, and overall health. However, here are a few common indicators that patients report:
· Return of pain and/or stiffness in the neck
· More frequent or intense headaches
· Clicking, popping, and crunching noises when moving the neck
· Poor sleep
· Brain fog
Ultimately, these symptoms need to be correlated with objective testing to determine if an adjustment is required. Over time, a pattern will emerge that includes both objective and subjective indicators that a re-adjustment is needed.
What exercises or stretches should I do to hold my adjustment?
Each patient situation is unique, and a blanket recommendation about what exercises or stretches to perform would be inappropriate. However, a few key concepts come into play on this topic.
1. Reestablishing a healthy range of motion is essential – this is mainly produced through adjustments, but can also involve trigger point therapy to reduce muscle tension in the upper back and shoulders
2. Reduce postural compensations before strengthening – this is done through adjustments and targeted therapeutic rehabilitation practices
3. Create endurance in the musculature supporting the head/neck – strength is not often the problem, but the lack of ability to express strength over time (endurance). Isometric supine neck strengthening is often step one to this process. Scapular stability exercises are also important
The key to success with upper cervical chiropractic care is simple: maintain the positive benefits of the adjustment over time. Colorado Springs chiropractor Dr. John Stenberg is focused in upper cervical care, and can help provide more information about how this might apply to your situation