Answers to Questions about Chiropractic:
Can Neck Adjustments Cure
Compartment Syndrome in My Legs?

Samuel Homola, D.C.

Question

My chiropractor says that x-rays reveal that I have a straight neck. He has suggested that this may be contributing to other problems in my back and legs (compartment syndrome).

I have been tested for compartment syndrome by a physician who performed a pressure test on each of the compartments in my legs. The test was conclusive, with the pressure in my muscle compartments being 36, 35, 33, and 32. (Normal is 15.)

I have been to physical therapy three times, but that did not work. I now have only one option left: surgery to cut the fascia of the muscles. Someone gave me the name of a chiropractor who said that he could cure me without surgery. The chiropractor said that I have nerve problems in my neck and back that are causing the compartment syndrome. At first, he said he could cure me in three visits. I have been seeing him for four months now. Although my back and neck feel better, the treatment has not helped my compartment syndrome. My chiropractor tells me to be patient.

Can my neck be corrected so that I will eventually have a normal curve in my cervical spine? Will correcting my neck problem cure compartment syndrome?

Answer

Many people have a straight cervical spine that is structural in nature, which is harmless and cannot be changed. If your neck is not bothering you, leave it alone.

I do not know of any way that a neck or back problem could cause compartment syndrome, which is a tightening of fascia around the muscles. Circulatory impairment caused by compartment syndrome can cause swelling and destruction of muscle tissue as a result of oxygen deficiency. Hyperbaric oxygen therapy can be used to increase the supply of oxygen to the affected muscles, but the only cure in severe cases is surgery to cut the tight fascia.

You should not waste your time and money going to a chiropractor who says that he can cure compartment syndrome by working on your neck. Talk with your physician about seeing an appropriate specialist who can monitor you for signs of tissue damage.

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Dr. Homola is a second-generation chiropractor who has dedicated himself to defining the proper limits on chiropractic and to educating consumers and professionals about the field. His 1963 book Bonesetting, Chiropractic, and Cultism supported the appropriate use of spinal manipulation but renounced chiropractic dogma. His 1999 book Inside Chiropractic: A Patient's Guide provides an incisive look at chiropractic's history, benefits, and shortcomings. Now retired after 43 years of practice, he lives in Panama City, Florida.

This article was posted on February 13, 2003.