Physical medicine encompasses any therapy that addresses disease by treating the structure of the body. When it comes to the physical body, there are many things that need to work together. Sufficient movement of the bones in every joint needs to be able to happen, so that the brain knows where the body is in space. Ligament and tendon strength and integrity are necessary for holding bones together, for holding muscles to bones, and for holding internal organs in place. Then there is the cranio-sacral system which pumps cerebrospinal fluid up and down the spine. Scars and injuries can profoundly change the way that the physical body moves, and can affect the flow of energy through acupuncture meridians.
Movement is important to the body in a lot of different ways. Firstly, it enhances the function of the lymphatic system, which moves metabolic wastes and fats through the body. It also gives more frequent feedback to the brain about where the body is in space, a process called proprioception. If a couple of bones are stuck together, or fixated, this can cause bunching up of the fascia (causing pain), neurologic inhibition of muscles (loss of strength or tone), and can even affect internal organ function.
Naturopathic Physicians are trained to diagnose and treat structural issues and we do adjust fixations to improve joint mobility and proprioception.
Have you ever seen somebody pull their thumb back to their forearm or contort themselves in some other way? These people have some degree of ligament laxity, and it can happen for a number of different reasons. For some, it is genetic. Ehlers Danlos Syndrome is one such example, and it can affect the connective tissue in the blood vessels, skin, and the joints, causing different symptoms. For some, the issue is because of an injury. The ligament or tendon was overstretched and torn and it hasn’t regained its normal structure and function. And for others, the problem can be caused by chronic stress. The breakdown products of stress hormones can physically damage ligaments. No matter how it happens, this change in ligament integrity is not always for the better. Hypermobility caused by ligament laxity of the joints can set people up for dislocations, osteoarthritis (wear and tear), and strain/sprain types of injuries.
By physically fixing the injured structure manually or using regenerative injection therapy, we can ensure that the ligaments are holding the joints in the right place.
The Craniosacral System
The cranial and sacral bones move with breath. And this movement generates flow of the cerebrospinal fluid up (CSF) and down the spine. This is significant because just as blood supplies nutrients to other tissues and carries away wastes, CSF does the same for the brain and spinal cord. So if the cranium or sacrum is injured in an accident, or stops moving normally for some other reason. This causes a change in the flow of CSF, and it can also cause torque in the covering around the spinal cord, the dura mater. Just like twisting a towel, this dural torque pulls vertebrae in the spine out of place, causing issues like those mentioned above.
By re-establishing the normal motion of the skull bones and the sacrum, we can take the torque out of the dura, ensure proper CSF flow, and change the way the nervous system interacts with the other systems of the body. It is also a great way to re-establish normal autonomic nervous system function, the part responsible for the fight/flight and rest/digest modes of function in the body.