Your spine sits on top of your pelvis, which acts as the foundation of your body. When the foundation tilts, there will be problems in the spine above. One of the most common problems we see in our patients is a short leg that affects the spine by tilting the pelvic foundation. The short leg can be anatomic, caused by a severe fracture or polio, but this type is uncommon. Most "short" legs are actually caused by a problem in the sacro-iliac (SI) joints.
The SI joints connect the sacrum (tailbone) with the two iliac bones (pelvic bones).
The SI joints couple the downward pressure of the spine with the upward pressure of the spine when the legs are lifted upward. To overcome the forces involved in this job, these joints are not constructed like other joints in the body. Their inner surfaces are not smooth and designed for sliding, like a knee. Instead, the joints are rough with interlocking nubbins and partially covered by a tacky, felt-like fibrous cartilage.
SI Joint Injuries:
When an SI joint is injured, the supporting ligaments are overstretched, allowing the iliac bones to rock out of position in relation to the sacrum. The nubbins within the SI joint then lock it into an abnormal position.
We call this "rocking and locking" of a joint out of its normal position a subluxation. Subluxation of an SI joint lifts the hip socket and leg upwards on the side of the injured SI joint. This creates what some call a "functional" short leg. This means the pelvis is no longer level because it tilts downward on the short leg side.
How the Spine Compensates:
Our bodies do not respond to a tilted pelvis the same way the Tower of Pisa responds to its tilted foundation. Spines are not rigid like the tower. Instead of tilting to one side, our spines slowly build a series of curvatures to compensate for the pelvic foundation's tilt.
These curvatures, called scoliosis with significant compensation, require a constant contraction of the muscles along the outside of each curve to prevent its collapse. This long-term constant contraction of the supporting muscles causes them to become unhealthy.
Normal muscle health demands both contraction and relaxation to provide a constant flow of blood. The blood delivers oxygen and sugar and then carries away lactic acid and other wastes. Constant contraction chokes off this healthy blood flow and leaves the muscles poisoned with lactic acid. Eventually, they become tired, weak, and subject to spasm.
When we examine a new patient, we check the leg lengths to see if the pelvis is level. We then go on to check for constant muscular contraction near the spine. When a patient is lying down, healthy muscles relax almost immediately. Unhealthy muscles do not relax and therefore feel like ropes, or even cables, to our fingers.
Because we often ignore many of these SI joint problems, 25% of Americans now suffer debilitating back pain. If you have continuing problems (weakness, pain, spasm) anywhere in your spine, it is likely that your pelvic foundation is the cause.
How Can I Know?
Thatcher Chiropractic is located at 3535 American Drive in Colorado Springs, Colorado 80917 near the intersection at Austin Bluffs Parkway and Academy Boulevard. For more information you can visit our website at thatcherchiropractic.com. If you have additional questions or wish to schedule an appointment, please feel free to contact us by phone. You can reach us at (719) 574-3700.