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Viscoelasticity: The Hidden Ingredient

viscoelasticity
Regular Chiropractic Care and Spinal Health
Spinal health depends on many factors. Positive benefits are obtained with regular physical activity and exercise. Negative predictors of spinal health include high levels of psychosocial stress as well as a sedentary lifestyle. The majority of these externals are under our control, to a greater or lesser extent. We may choose to make a shift in a sedentary way of living by committing to a program of regular physical activity. We may choose to help manage our stress by beginning a series of yoga classes or starting a meditation practice. Regular chiropractic care can help us significantly in all these activities by addressing internal factors that impact spinal health.

Physiologically, spinal health depends on the ability of spinal vertebras to move freely throughout a full range of motion. Spinal misalignments negatively impact this ability, restricting spinal motion and causing nerve interference. Nerve interference irritates spinal muscles, further restricting mobility. Regular chiropractic care detects and corrects these spinal misalignments, helping restore optimal nerve system function and optimal spinal health. By helping return your spine to good health, regular chiropractic care helps you achieve long-term overall good health and wellness.

Most of us have experienced a painful bout of low back pain brought on by a seemingly innocuous movement such as bending over to pick up a pencil or a dropped set of keys. These painful episodes may last a couple of days or be more severe and last more than a week. We're left wondering, "What exactly happened?" After all, we weren't trying to pick up a 100-pound crate. When our chiropractor asks what caused the problem we say, "I don't know. I didn't do anything." For the patient, the mystery often remains unsolved. But it's important to know there is an answer. The deep background to these unexpected, troublesome back problems is loss of viscoelasticity.

Viscoelasticity is a physical property of both materials and soft tissues. When these structures undergo deformation, they exhibit properties of viscosity and elasticity. Materials and soft tissues that demonstrate viscoelasticity resist shearing forces when a stress is applied (viscosity) and strain when stretched or compressed and quickly return to their initial state after removal of a transient load (elasticity). For viscoelastic structures, the relationship between strain and stress depends on the factor of time.

In terms of spinal biomechanics, viscoelastic structures include joint cartilage (for example, intervertebral discs), ligaments, and tendons.1 If a substantial load is placed on the low back when viscoelastic properties of intervertebral discs and spinal ligaments have not returned to optimum, injury to low back muscles and ligaments may result.2 For example, if you've been sitting for more than 15 minutes the soft tissue structures of your low back have been compressed for that length of time. Standing up and bending over to retrieve something causes your low back to attempt to support all the weight of your torso and head. If you haven't prepared your low back to receive this substantial burden, that is, restored viscoelasticity, you will likely suffer an injury that may be not only very painful but also inconvenient in terms of time and resources spent on recovery.

Injury prevention in these circumstances largely depends upon understanding.3 Being aware of the requirements for maintaining viscoelasticity will help you remember to "wake up" the soft tissues of your low back prior to any load-bearing activities such as bending over or twisting and turning. A simple way to restore viscoelasticity is to pause before suddenly changing a position you've been in for a while, such as getting out of a chair after working at your desk for 30 minutes, and gently rotating your torso from side to side eight or ten times. These rotational movements immediately restore viscoelastic properties to baseline and increase circulation to intervertebral discs, muscles, and ligaments. The result is a spine that is ready for action and prepared for the demands of new physical work. As always, proper preparation and attention help prevent injury.


1Troyer KL, Puttlitz CM: Nonlinear viscoelasticity plays an essential role in the functional behavior of spinal ligaments. J Biomech 45(4):684-691, 2012
2Freddolini M, et al: Stiffness properties of the trunk in people with low back pain. Hum Mov Sci 36:70-79, 2014
3Mörl F, Bradl I: Lumbar posture and muscular activity while sitting during office work. J Electromyogr Kinesiol 23(2):362-368, 2013

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Testimonial

I was referred to Heartwood Holistic by some friends. Their exact words were, "Dr. Drew is amazing! And Debbie at the front desk is wonderful!" They were right! At most doctor's offices you go in for the initial visit and fill out pages of paper work only to be asked those questions again once you get seen by the physician. Not so here. Dr. Drew zeroed in on what was ailing me and presented a plan of action by the end of my first visit. I've been a regular and don't plan on changing up anytime soon. I look forward to my visits there 1.) for the relief 2.) the staff. Everyone is so friendly and they actually care about your wellness. Alexis is a special treat! She is very committed to her craft and just a wonderful person. Ask her for the Moxa and just relax on her amethyst heating pad. Dreamy!! You can't go wrong here. Looking forward to my Rolfing session with Aaron. Thank you, HHH family!

Ashley D,  August 2017


I am so thrilled to have come across this little gem of a place! I had the pleasure of meeting this beautiful couple this past week and was able to get in to the clinic for a chiropractic adjustment. I currently live about an hour away from the wellness center, but I'll be making the drive just to see them for my health needs. Dr. Drew was so attentive and thorough. He really listened to me and we discussed what I was accustomed to as far as treatment goes. He takes careful time with each client and truly cares about your health. After 15 years of visiting many different chiropractic doctors, I can quickly get a read on the type of care I'll receive. I immediately felt at ease and confident with him. I was able to chat with his lovely wife, Alexis, as well and am anxious to set up an appointment with her. This is no ordinary wellness center. They offer so many options for treating a vast amount of health challenges. They see and treat the body as a whole, which is the only way to find true health.

Kari P, February 2017

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