At-Home Treatment for Back Problems

Steps to relieve minor back problems without accruing major medical bills.

| March/April 1984

One of the handiest techniques for putting subluxated vertebrae back into line (or "putting your back in") is called spontaneous release by positioning. The technique was developed by Dr. Lawrence Hugh Jones, a Canadian doctor of osteopathy (D.O.). Dr. Jones published his technique in The D.O., January 1964, pp. 118-125. It is a very effective first aid procedure that anyone can learn and put to use as a treatment for back problems.

"Spontaneous release" is another phrase for "nature cured it," when applied to your back. Occasionally a subluxated vertebra will slip back into place on its own. An unusual sleeping position or a chance movement can return a vertebra to its place not quite as easily as it can be put "out." This spontaneous realignment of the spine is not to be confused with "learning to live with it" or any other mere toleration of the misplaced bone. It is one thing for the body to compensate for a problem, and another thing for the body to correct the problem.

So why is a technique needed at all if the body corrects itself? First of all, spontaneous release rarely occurs. It would be nice if it did, but the legions of chiropractic patients prove otherwise. It seems easier for a bone to go out than to go in, in the same manner that it's easier to break a watch than fix it, or easier to scramble an egg than to put it back together again. When a bone goes out, the surrounding muscles also are affected. Dr. Jones explains this well in his paper. It seems that once the bone is out, the tendency of the muscles is to hold its new position. It's only through a unique position, coupled with muscle relaxation, that the bone can slip back into place almost unnoticed. This is precisely what "spontaneous release by positioning" seeks to accomplish: This technique re-creates the circumstances in which the bone went out, to encourage it to replace itself of its own accord. You are re-creating the body's posture or position that put the vertebra out in the first place. It's like retracing your steps.

By carefully positioning a person's arms or legs up or down, back turned this way or that, hips or neck pivoted right or left, a patient with even severe back pain is found to all at once find a comfortable position, a position where there is no pain or almost no pain. It may be quite an odd position, but the discomfort is eased or completely gone. This is the posture that encouraged the bone to go out in the first place; now we'll use the same position to encourage the bone to return.

You can always tell when you've discovered the correct position because the patient will be comfortable. The person may be barely able to sit, walk, or stand up, but when you have the correct position the person will be at ease. The very posture that put the initial strain on the back is now taking the strain off the back. Says Dr. Jones: Even the severest lesions will readily tolerate being returned to the position in which lesion formation originally occurred, and only to this position. When the joint is returned to this position, the muscles promptly and gratefully relax. These joints do not cause distress because they are crooked; they are paining because they are being forced to be too straight. This is the mechanism of strain.

In other words, the muscles are "used" to the strain, and contract to hold the bone out of place. When the person tries to straighten up, the bones won't, because the muscles won't let them. And the muscles won't relax because the bones are out of alignment. That is why heating pads, rubs, medicines, and "learn to live with it" do not solve the problem. Because those approaches do not reposition the bone, the muscle cannot relax to normal. That's why there is pain.

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