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The Curse of Creep: What It Does to Your Body and How to Combat It

spinal creep!


Spinal Creep...

Dr. Roland K. Brim 

Normal vs Abnormal Vetebral Disc Anatomy
Poor computer posture and back support vs proper computer posture and back support
Ergonomic elements for proper sitting
End result of poor nutriton and poor posture

March 22, 2014/ Michael Salvatore

The word “creep” already has a negative connotation in various settings, and the anatomical definition of creep can be just as ugly. Creep refers to the progressive deformation of bodily structures which occurs when the structures are under a constant load they were not designed to handle.¹

It might be helpful to think of creep in terms of something like a piece of rubber. If you repeatedly or consistently pull, stretch or hold the piece of rubber tight in ways it was not designed to be held for prolonged periods, the rubber is not happy. It may eventually stretch, become deformed and no longer be able to bounce back into shape. The same thing can happen to structures throughout your body, especially the muscles and tissues in your back.

Creep in Action

Folks who sit stooped over a computer all day are prime examples of creep in action, thanks to the unnatural load consistently placed on the soft tissues surrounding their spine. When you sit stooped forward or otherwise subject your spine to a forward bending motion, you’re engaging in what is known as spinal flexion. Subjecting your body to prolonged or repetitive periods of spinal flexion can eventually result in a host of negative effects.

One of these effects is the impairment of your sensorimotor control mechanisms.² Your sensorimotor control mechanisms are responsible for reflex control of your spinal movements, based on input they receive from sensory neurons in your spinal tissues.² These include the muscles, ligaments, fascia and joint capsules surrounding your spine as well as the spinal discs between your vertebrae.²⁻⁷

In a perfect world with equally perfect posture, the sensorimotor control mechanisms work in conjunction with muscle and tendon reflexes to coordinate the activation of muscles in your trunk area. They activate muscles as needed to limit the spine’s movement and prevent excessive loading.²

When that thing called creep kicks in due to prolonged or repetitive spinal flexion, however, your spine no longer enjoys its built-in system of protection.² Your back muscles are no longer able to properly protect your spine while your trunk becomes less rigid and less stable.⁸

This can happen from constant stooping, constantly bending forward to garden or lift heavy objects, or holding any other unnatural posture or position for extended periods.⁸ Creep is not limited to the forward bending of your spine, either. The same effect can happen if you position your spine in prolonged periods of twisting.⁹ All this creep can add up to back pain, an increased risk of injury and even back deformities.¹⁰

What You Can Do

Being aware of creep and its effect on your body can be the first step in helping to halt or correct it. If you know constant stooping, twisting or repetitive lifting can result in creep, you can try to reduce those specific behaviors. Allowing your body to rest and recover from creep-inducing activities throughout the day can also help, provided the rest periods are long enough to have an effect. One study showed that 20 minutes of recovery is not enough to help, although longer recovery periods may be.¹¹

Another option may be to perform exercises or activities that increase the muscle activation of the trunk muscles to make up for the accumulated effects of creep.⁸ ¹² ¹³ Exercises that help stabilize and strengthen your trunk muscles, such as Pilates or Foundation Training, may help keep the ill effects of creep at bay.

How Chiropractic Addresses Spinal Creep

We as Chiropractors treat Neck and Back pain. The sources of the pain is to numerous to cover here but; Pain is caused by what we call a VSC-Vertebral Subluxation Complex. 

The Five Components

Basic to this integrative review of the components of the Vertebral Subluxation Complex is the component nomenclature involved in the model:

  1. Component #1 – Spinal Kinesiopathology – spinal pathomechanics, including alignment
    and motion irregularities

  2. Component #2 – Neuropathophysiology/Neuropathology – compressed or facilitated nerve tissue

  3. Component #3 – Myopathology – muscle spasm, muscle weakness/ atrophy

  4. Component #4 – Histopathology – inflammation, edema and swelling of tissue,
    usually local to the traumatized area

  5. Component #5 – Pathophysiology/Pathology – pathophysiologic and pathoanatomical changes
    due to the previous four components usually seen locally as degeneration, fibrous tissue and/or
    erosion local and peripherally as a loss of global homeostasis.

Normal Spine vs Subluxated Spine
Mucle Scar Tissue

Let us consider the first episode of the Vertebral Subluxation Complex. Simultaneously, the first four components of the Vertebral Subluxation Complex become active:


Component #1 Spinal Kinesiopathology occurs; the joint is sprained.


Component #4 Histopathology occurs; inflammation, swelling and edema appears around the sprained joint. Metaphorically, consider an inflamed tooth with the local swelling (it looks like a swollen area on the side of the jaw).


An area of swelling and malfunction occur at the site of the Vertebral Subluxation Complex. Uncorrected, a cascade of events usually occurs:


Injury and degeneration have similar end results...fibrosis of the tissue involved. Here is a scenario: 

  1. The sprained joint is initially hypermobile.

  2. Without care, this heals with fixation (hypomobility).

  3. This is accompanied by fibrosis and, in time, degeneration and remodeling, local to the Vertebral Subluxation Complex site.

  4. Compensation and adaptation occur and the original site of involvement extends to the joint above and occasionally the joint below, to which the entire biomechanics of the spine must adapt forcing a less than optimum spinal biomechanical profile. Once again consider the long term local swelling, translating to fibrotic/calcific enlargement visible initially on MRI studies and later on X-ray imaging.

  5. With repeated episodes of the Vertebral Subluxation Complex, the spine accumulates an increasing number of pathoanatomical sites. MRI studies visualize the soft tissue and calcific/ fibrosed enlarged areas up to one inch thick. From the orthopedic standpoint the repeatedly traumatized spine results in deteriorating spinal function or "abnormal orthopedic functional programs" mediated by gravitational stress (adaptation) and by the adaptational needs of the nervous system.



In my opinion, exercise and good nutrition is the only was to combat injury and pain. I will cover that information in another part of this website...

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