Chiropractic: Scar Tissue, Stiffness and Growing Old

As a chiropractor I have seen so many benefits to patients receiving care in our office, many times in ways I would not expect. Our bodies have a tremendous healing capacity. The work of chiropractic care is to create motion in the spine and other joints which lack normal movement, remove any interference to neurological function and restore life and vitality to our body. Chiropractic and its adjunct therapies work on many different levels to restore health. I believe some of the most profound and longest lasting effects are its impact on movement, scar tissue and degeneration.

When you think about an older person, say someone in their late 70’s or early 80’s, what picture do you see? Most of us would think of someone who is a bit unsteady on their feet, they move slowly, talk and think slowly. They may not be out right sick, but they are weak and somewhat fragile.

However there are others, I have seen a lot of them, who are in their mid to late 80s, and are strong, vibrant and active. Their brains are sharp and they are still fully alive.

So, what is the difference between the two? Our current culture would say genetics and maybe they are just lucky that they’ve never gotten any serious illnesses or been in any accidents. I have another opinion. Many of these healthy seniors have been active their whole lives, they have had their share of injuries, but have recovered and continued on.

From a chiropractic view, I have x-rayed both ends of this spectrum many times and I can tell you, without a doubt, that the people who are unsteady, stiff, and slow (both in movement and in thought), will almost always have a substantial amount of degeneration, arthritis and fusion in the joints of their spine, most specifically, their neck, while the others will have what would be considered normal wear and tear.

So the question is, how does this happen, and why? It all starts with injury, inflammation and scar tissue. It is something that researchers call the “fibrosis of repair”.

As I stated earlier, our bodies have this amazing ability to heal and repair. Part of that system is inflammation. Whenever our body is attacked by a foreign invader (like a virus or bacteria) that enters our tissues, an immediate alarm is sent off and our body’s immune system sends a cascade of immune cells to the site of the attack. The job of some of these cells, called fibroblasts, is to lay down tissue to wall off the foreign invader and contain it so it doesn’t spread to other tissues. Once the mission is accomplished the fibroblasts disperse.

The body uses these same cells and inflammatory response when there is injury or tissue damage. The fibroblasts move in and start to lay down new tissue to repair any damaged tissue. We call this new tissue scar tissue, or adhesions. This is known as the fibrosis of repair.

The best way to visualize scar tissue is to think of it as glue. This glue is laid down haphazardly and spreads over surrounding tissues including tendons, muscles, joints and nerves.

Once these adhesions get into tissues that are designed for movement it is a recipe for degeneration. Scar tissue and adhesions in joints and muscle create friction in tissues that are normally smooth and slippery. Friction creates stiffness in movement.

If these adhesions and the resulting stiffness are left untreated the “glue” will turn to concrete and joint degeneration including arthritis, and lipping and spurring will occur creating a permanent loss or alteration in function. This is the danger of scar tissue.

Scar tissue left untreated creates stiffness and restricted movement. Stiffness, over time, creates degeneration and that, my friends, makes us feel old and age faster. It steals from us our ability to do the activities that we enjoy and define our life. It affects our brain, our balance and even our emotions. It makes us old.

There are three things that we can do to correct this problem, and yes, the sooner the better. They are chiropractic care, massage and exercise.

How can you find out you have scar tissue? In the early stages, those of us trained well in chiropractic can feel it. When we touch it, you will know it’s there too, because scar tissue is always harder than the surrounding tissue and is tender to the touch. The later stages of degeneration can be visualized on x-ray.

If you are concerned about scar tissue and stiffness, contact our office and make an appointment to be evaluated by one of our doctors. (916) 781-2600

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