You’re getting a new body – How long will healing take?
Common Misconceptions, Part 3:
The body unwinds in one go
In this series we are discussing common misconceptions that we come across in our offices on a daily basis. Click here to find the introductory post to the series, and here to find Part 1, and Part 2.
In Part 3 of this series, we will take another look at the Unwinding process, and why it can’t happen in one go but takes time.
Most of our patients come to see us because they experience pain somewhere in their bodies: their back or neck, their head, or their lower back and legs. Others come to see us with postural concerns. At their first visit, we take their medical history and carry out a detailed exam to see what’s going on. At their second visit, we explain what we found. Medical research is showing that many common pain syndromes have an underlying structural and mechanical origin. Once the structure becomes faulty, function changes and the result of these changes is pain or what doctors call “wear and tear”. Bad posture is also linked to structural and mechanical problems.
Life gradually winds up the body
The way we live our lives can have a huge effect on how our bodies functions. Structural insults such as falls, accidents, and other physical trauma all play a role in changing body mechanics. Lifestyle habits related to sitting, standing, and sleeping also play a part. All of this counts as trauma on the body and leaves its mark over the course of a lifetime! The details vary from person to person; the effect on mechanics is the same. Cumulatively, all of this can lead to bony misalignments which the body cannot correct by itself. Check here to learn how all of this can affect body structure and function. In particular, spinal bones can get moved out of position forward – a direction from which the body can’t re-align them by itself because it doesn’t have muscles with leverage in the right direction. Bodies that are stuck forward develop mechanical problems and bad posture (stooped or slouched posture is simply the result of a body that’s stuck forward). If the body can’t fix a problem, it compensates for it by twisting up elsewhere. Pain occurs at this “elsewhere” location; it rarely happens where the original structural problem is! Over the course of a lifetime, more and more misalignments and compensations get layered on top of each other, and the body “winds up” like a giant spring. The results are more twists in the spine, bigger changes to posture, ever tighter muscles, and irritated nerve tissue. At some point, the body just can’t handle it anymore and symptoms show up at those points where the body overcompensates.
The main point to understand is that pain occurs at the site of compensation, not at the site of the original problem. Thoracic or mid-back pain, for example, may be the result of the body compensating for a problem in the low back or even the feet!
The particular twists in a person’s body are a direct reflection of their life journey, with all the trauma that has happened to their spines over time. The patterns are based on many factors: the number of structural insults (one incident vs. many incidents), the nature of the incident (a car accident vs. a fall vs. playing rugby), the duration of each event (a one-off fall vs. a lifetime spent sitting on a soft couch), the timing, amount of force exhibited on the body, and the exact angle at which bones got moved out of place. This is why each person’s spine, the twist patterns, and the resulting symptoms are unique to them. Some people are twisted-up more tightly and their spines are more stuck. Others are so twisted-up that their spines are way too straight. Yet others become hypermobile in some areas of their spine. And yet others have twist patterns which cause a humpback or a hollow back. Each person’s spinal twists are unique.
ABC™ gradually unwinds the body
Advanced Biostructural Correction™ localises and corrects the unique mechanical faults in a person’s body. The correction happens through a process called Unwinding. We explain what’s involved in this process at a patient’s second visit with us, before they receive their first full treatment.
Along the line, we have found that there seem to be a few common misconceptions about how Unwinding works. In this blog post we will address one of the main misunderstandings: that any one old injury unwinds in one go, or even that all injuries simultaneously unwind in one go.
Unwinding – a quick recap of what happens
Like the mechanics of winding up, the mechanics of unwinding are easily explained. The mechanical process follows a common and predictable pattern. The unique expression of the journey, however, looks different for each patient – depending on their unique path of winding up and their unique twist patterns.
Unwinding is an alignment-changing and a symptom-changing process. Remember, structural alignment dictates mechanics which dictates function. Correct the structural alignment, and the mechanics and function will change and improve. ABC™ corrects the structural alignment. Spines always twist up in 3D, so the unwinding process twists bodies out of these misalignments in 3D as well. As a demonstration, take a towel and twist it up tight. This represents a wound-up body with stuck-forward posture. Then slowly untwist it, and you can see how it moves and untwists through various positions in 3D as the various layers of twist are removed. The body, too, has to move through various positions in 3D as it unwinds through different layers of old injuries.
As it moves through different positions in 3D, the body will cycle through two main phases which have to get repeated over and over. In one phase, the bones in the spine move more towards the back. We call this a backwards unwind. In another phase, the bones move more towards the front (i.e. more forward). We call this a forward unwind.
The healing journey consists of a series of forward and backward unwinds.
- During a backward unwind, the body is relatively upright in posture against gravity. Pressure comes off old injury sites. This feels good.
- When the body is ready, it unlocks an old structural-mechanical injury. This causes it to lean forward relative to gravity. Temporarily, this puts pressure onto old injury sites again. This phase is usually more symptomatic – the body re-lives symptoms of an old injury as it unlocks its various layers. A forward unwind typically lasts from 2 days to 2 weeks.
- Typically, the patient comes in for an extra visit or two to get through the forward unwind a little more comfortably.
- When this layer of old injury is unlocked, the body pops into the next backward unwind for roughly around 3 weeks, until it is healthy and strong enough to tackle the next old injury. At this point, it has to go forward again.
About 85% of patients start out with the less symptomatic backward unwind. The remaining 15% start the journey with a forward unwind – their bodies are keen on blasting through an old injury right away. Unfortunately, this sometimes means that they experience symptom flare-ups right at the start of their care – a normal part of the journey, but they don’t have enough experience with it yet to fully understand this. Communication from our end is therefore key, and we do our best to explain the unwinding process before we start care with any of our patients.
The unwinding process is unique to Advanced Biostructural Correction™. The journey has different milestones along the way. Usually, it takes only a small amount of unwinding to take the pressure away from current injury sites, and often patients feel better quickly. ABC™, however, has the ability to unwind all the structural-mechanical changes caused to a person’s body – unless the changes were made by cancer, fractures (acute or improperly healed), or infection. Replaced body parts also pose a limitation on what ABC™ can achieve. Have a look here, we have discussed this already in much more detail here.
Unwinding happens gradually
To understand more of the mechanics of how bodies wind up and unwind, and why we can’t move a bone back all the way in one go, look at Part 2 of our current series on misconceptions. There, we used the graphic below to explain more about how the body gradually winds up over time.
Look at how forward bone #3 is in this graphic. The green image is what people think is happening. The purple image is what happens in reality. Let’s think back to our example in the previous post:
- Bone #3 is the original bone that goes out forward and the body can’t correct it.
- Everything around that point has to respond and compensate. Some bones tilt, others twist. The pattern can happen up or down in the spine, or both ways.
- Eventually, bone #3 moves forward a bit more again.
- Other bones respond again by tilting and twisting in order to compensate some more
- Eventually, bone #3 again moves forward a bit more.
So the body is constantly adapting and dealing with new structural-mechanical insults by adding layer upon layer of compensation patterns. Similarly, the unwinding process can only peel back problems layer by layer as well, rather than in one go. To unwind the body, we basically play the sequence in reverse.
- At today’s visit, bone #3 needs to be moved backward.
- As a result, the body can let go of some of the compensation layers based on this: it has muscle leverage to un-twist and un-tilt some other bones. Some of this happens instantly; some of it happens as you walk out of the office and move your body in between today’s visit and your next treatment.
- We move the next forward bone that shows up. Your body again instantly responds.
- At some point in the sequence, bone #3 is the most forward bone again and needs to be moved again. This may happen at today’s visit, at your next visit, or only in a few weeks’ time. Again: each person’s twist patterns are unique. We can’t predict when bone #3 is ready to be moved again. But we can’t move it “all the way back” in one go, because other things have happened as a result of it going forward. And these things need to get addressed before bone #3 is ready to be moved again.
This does not only apply to individual bones but to entire sections of the spine. Sometimes the entire thoracic section is “the most forward” section; other times, the lumbar area is “the most forward” section. Forward always means mechanically unstable, and the body doesn’t like this.
The body always works on the main mechanical problem at any given time
In other words, the body works on whatever mechanical problem bothers it the most at any given moment. It is bothered most by the section that is the most forward and therefore the most mechanically unstable.
As it unwinds, there are numerous times when the same section is the most mechanically unstable. This is because the untwisting happens in 3D, and sometimes the current layer of twisting looks similar to previous layers of twist. The overall twisting pattern improves greatly, yet some of the deeper twist patterns may look similar to the more surface ones that have already finished unwinding.
Let’s say the body had an old structural insult in the thoracic spine. At various points, it unwinds different layers of this insult. The bones end up in configurations and twist patterns which might look similar, but ever deeper layers get peeled back. As the body revisits these ever deeper layers of injuries, it can unlock and heal out of them. While this happens, old symptoms can show up again (you are in a forward unwind). Sometimes it only takes a couple of manoeuvres to take the pressure away from the site. More commonly, it takes between 2 days and 2 weeks for your body to unwind through this layer.
Now the pressure is away from this section again, and the body moves on to unwinding something else somewhere else.
A more concrete example
Again, the body unwinds whatever is bothering it the most at any given time. For example, you initially come to see us for low-back pain. But remember: where it hurts is where the body compensates. We start treating you, head to toe, because we cannot simply work on one area in isolation. That’s not how body mechanics work. See Part 1 of this series, where we address some of this in more detail.
A few visits in we have shifted your body mechanics enough for your body to have worked through a few layers of mechanical problems. Your low back starts to feel a little better. Then the main mechanical pressure moves to a new area – suddenly your thoracic or mid-back area is the most forward. This means that right now your body is working on an old injury in that area. You are in a forward unwind. It’s uncomfortable. Your mid-back hurts, and the pain is reminiscent of symptoms you had after you had a fall. You come in for an extra couple visits and get through this phase a little more comfortably. A couple weeks later, as we move the next bone that’s ready to be moved, your body snaps out of the forward unwind. The thoracic area is no longer the area carrying the main mechanical pressure. You enter a backward unwind. Symptoms get better. Your mid-back stops hurting, your low back isn’t bothering you either. You feel pretty good overall. Your body untwists some other things it can untwist by itself, and we help it along by moving things it cannot move by itself. Backward unwinds typically take around 3 weeks.
Then your body goes to a new place and works on unwinding a different old problem – where the main mechanical strain is at this time. Enter another forward unwind. More untwisting, different old symptoms show up. Now your low back bothers you for a week or two. You may feel like you are back at Square One with the low back pain, but you also notice that you have more stamina, can breathe better, and have better posture. You come in for an extra couple visits and we get you through the forward unwind a little more comfortably. Then your body moves on to a new area yet again – for example the feet or the neck.
With each visit, the bones go into completely new configuration patterns. With each visit, deeper layers of old mechanical injuries get addressed. Each visit thus builds on the previous one. Structure and function improve through the entire process, regardless of current symptoms. Your posture keeps improving, and you can see this in the pictures we take.
At some point, the main mechanical pressure comes back onto the thoracic area again. You go into another forward unwind, and symptoms show up again in this area. Again they might be reminiscent of that fall you had back then. The intensity of the pain is usually less though.
In other words, the body cannot unwind an old injury 100% in one go. It may unwind 20% of that old thoracic injury – until that section no longer carries the main mechanical strain. Then it moves to the next section which is bothering it the most mechanically. It may unwind 15% of a problem in the low back before moving on to unwinding 20% of an old ankle injury, then 10% of an old neck problem. Then it comes back to the thoracic area and unwinds another 15% there. As long as symptoms keep changing and the overall indicators of progress are good, you are on the right path.
So how long does it take to unwind?
The very simple answer to this question is “however long you would like the journey to be”. What do we mean by this? First of all, we have to consider the different stages of a person’s unwinding journey, then their individual goals.
Stage 1: symptom relief, initial intensive phase of care
- You come in with specific symptoms (e.g. pain in the low back)
- We start care
- Your body starts unwinding. Like 85% of patients, your body unwinds in a backward direction first
- Over the next few weeks, pain gets reduced in your low back. You feel good.
This means the pressure has come away from your lower back enough for things to stop hurting. Your body has healed out of a few structural insults which had painful compensation patterns in the low back. This particular stage of unwinding is finished.
If a patient’s goal is simply localised pain relief, we are done. You are happy with the result and end care.
If your goal is to heal all layers of the underlying structural problem which has led to the initial low-back pain, the journey is a little longer.
Big milestone: The Stabilisation point
Stuck-forward bodies are by definition unstable in terms of mechanics. Leaning forward makes you unstable against gravity, after all. There is a point, however, at which a body becomes much more stable and much more centred against gravity. Most patients reach this point after their body goes through two forward unwinds and unlocks a couple of old injuries. Typically, this takes a couple months or so of care.
Once you hit the Stabilisation point, you have several options: you may be happy with where your body is and end care. You may want to continue on a Wellness or Maintenance schedule to clear out whatever life throws at you in terms of structural insults (and yes, that plane ride to your holiday destination counts as a structural insult due to the shape of the aircraft seat. Sleeping on the super soft foam mattress at the hotel counts as structural insult too). Maintenance schedules are customised to each person – we see anything from once a week to once every couple months. Again, it depends on your goals.
Or you decide to continue with the journey. This means a more regular schedule with a continued repetition of forward and backward unwinds. ABC™ has the potential to unwind all the structural insults and their various compensation layers which your body has sustained throughout its life – provided the structural changes haven’t been caused by cancer, fracture, or infection. Typically, the journey to fully unwinding a person takes around 2-3 years – longer if there was significant trauma.
Again, the length of the journey depends on your goals. We will advise you on what’s best for your body, and we will give you the best possible care in our time together.
If you would like to find out more about how to heal out of painful layers of old injuries or how to improve your posture, why not schedule a 20mins consult with one of our practitioners. We are always happy to hear your story and to discuss what ABC™ can do for you.