Adhesions, also known as scar tissue, are bands of sticky, fibrous tissue that can grow anywhere inside the body. Healthy tissue, organs, muscles, and tendons are slippery. They were designed to slide around one another without causing pain or discomfort. Adhesions are deposited and put down to repair damaged tissue. For Instance, if you have experienced trauma (fall, motor vehicle accident, muscle strain), or stress (both acute and chronic), or come into contact with toxins (cleaning supplies, pollution, fluoride, etc) adhesions will be deposited to repair the damage.

Adhesions lead to decreased range of motion which causes degeneration. Adhesions are far less stable than healthy tissue and are loaded with excess nerves so the body is not as stable and has an increased sense of pain. 

Neck pain, for example, is likely caused by adhesions. With prolonged wear and tear, the head moves farther forward over time. For every inch forward, an extra 10lbs of pressure is placed on the neck and upper back. The six tiny muscles at the base of the skull become overworked, building adhesions. These muscles are called suboccipital muscles. The suboccipital muscles house the suboccipital nerve, arguably one of the most crucial nerves in the body. The suboccipital nerve, when compressed from adhesions, leads to headaches, increased anxiety, poor posture, and traveling numbness or tingling down the arm. 

Logan Scharf, chiropractor, and owner of Thrive Spine and Sport, also states, “Adhesions act like glue on the muscles. It is the most common cause of restricted motion and pain in the body. Unfortunately, it is one of the most misdiagnosed conditions.”

Treatment for adhesions vary. Surgery is often performed on patients with adhesions but there are safer alternatives. The first step with adhesion build-up is to ice. Icing the area for 15 minutes daily will decrease inflammation in the affected region. This allows the tissue to heal faster. The next, and in my opinion, best treatment for adhesions is Active Release Technique (ART). ART is performed by a chiropractor trained in this area, using the physician’s thumb or finger, while the area of adhesion build-up is shortened. The physician places their finger on the shortened area while the patient lengthens the muscle by moving away from the area that is pinned. This breaks up the scar tissue. What I often hear from patients after receiving ART is, “I cannot believe how well I feel after just one session.”

 Over time, the adhesions that were causing debilitating pain become less and less. If you feel like you may be experiencing pain due to adhesion build-up, ask your chiropractor about Active Release Technique.

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