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  • Writer's pictureBenjamin Lou

CH7 : Stuck drawer

Here's a quick summary on injuries. You can get hurt from being hit (contusion), cut (laceration) or pulled (sprain, strain, tear). In all these cases, the pain is caused by an external force (accident, trauma), sometimes violent enough to damage your cells (injury). Your body then initiates a process of regeneration aimed at replacing injured cells with healthy cells (regeneration). Ultimately, the injured cells are all replaced and you proclaim yourself cured (healing).

In short, you receive a blow, you get hurt, you have pain, then after a while, you have no pain and hence you are healed. This is the reasoning behind the pain that disappears over time.

Yet, there are many people who wait years and are still in pain. There are also several of them who have no idea how they got hurt. Pain upon waking up one morning. Pain while watching TV. Pain while bending down to pick up a pencil.

Pain from doing nothing at all. No accident. How is it possible?

Today, I will explain about joint hypomobility, one of those conditions that can appear out of nowhere and can remain painful as long as you do not take concrete action to make it disappear.

Physical therapists call it joint hypomobility, which literally means a joint that moves less well. In Layman's terms, we call it a stuck joint. Doctors use the term osteoarthritis when they also see wear in the joint on the X-ray, but the joint can be stuck even without osteoarthritis/wear and even when nothing abnormal is shown on X-ray.

I like to call joint hypomobility the stuck drawer syndrome.

A joint is what connects two bones together. In fact, our body from head to toe, is a chain of bones connected by joints. This is what allows us to "articulate", that is to move each small part of the body, similar to drawers that can be opened and closed thanks to drawer slide systems.

These drawer slide systems are not infallible however. Occasionally, a drawer does not open properly or does not open anymore because there is a lack of oil in the slide, or because the drawer is too full, gravity exerting excessive stress on the slide. It is also possible that the slide has become slightly misaligned after someone hit the drawer or because a screw has become loose over time.

One way to see if a slide is slightly out of alignment is to do like Mani in the comics. In drawings #1 and #2, we see that the drawer is crooked and points towards the floor. To put the drawer back in its axis, Mani lifts the drawer up (drawing #3, yellow arrow). Then while keeping the drawer raised, Mani is able to easily close the drawer (drawing #4, green arrow), simultaneously proving that the drawer was not closing because it was off axis and that it is now closing because it is back on its axis .

Alternatively, if the drawer was pointing towards the ceiling, Mani must push the drawer towards the floor to put it back in the axis.

In all these cases, it is futile to do like Elbro trying to close the drawer without fixing the alignment problem first (drawing #1).

In drawings #2-3-4, Mani refers to the vertebrae of the back on which he applies the same maneuvers.

In physiotherapy, we call this realignment technique the Mulligan approach. It is a gentle way to unblock shoulders, knees, elbows, hips, necks or backs blocked by pain. It's also a second chance for people who believe their joints are forever blocked by osteoarthritis/wear and tear. Osteoarthritis is certainly irreversible, but we must not fall too quickly into the conclusion that the blockage is solely due to osteoarthritis.

So, if one day you think you are dealing with a stuck drawer syndrome, consider seeing a physiotherapist who practices the Mulligan approach!


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