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What is Sedative Stretching and Can it Help Chronic Knee, Back, and Hip Pain?

Updated on December 30, 2013

Anyone who has suffered from persistent pain that prevents them from comfortably participating in everyday life activities like work, exercise, and recreation will often look to all sorts of therapies to reduce pain. Acupuncture, chiropractor visits, yoga and even surgery are commonly turned tried. Lower back pain is the leading cause of disability for those under 45 in the United States, and knee pain inhibits millions. I suffer from chronic knee pain brought on by a high school trampoline accident and exacerbated by being a Division I collegiate athlete. During my latest research I came across a fairly new therapy called Sedative Stretching or Manipulation Under Anesthesia. (MUA) Here is what I learned.

Dr. Jeffery P. Johnson of Venice, FL who specializes in Sedative Stretching says those with unresolved back and neck pain stemming from herniated discs, spinal stenosis, or sciatica are all good candidates for treatment. Also those suffering from frozen shoulder, muscle spasms, chronic headaches or failed back syndrome are prime candidates for MUA.

Many suffer from pain and destabilized joints due to adhesions and scar tissues. Scaring and adhesions form through the body’s natural healing process of inflammation. When our bodies sustain an injury the inflammation process brings in large quantities of oxygen and nutrients necessary for the repair process. Healing, clotting, proteins form a gel fibrin mesh that isolates the injured area and prevents the spread of harmful agents into adjacent tissues; it also forms a scaffolding for permanent repair. When excessive amounts of mesh forms, due to repeated injuries or chronic conditions, layer upon layer of the mesh forms in the muscles, tendons and ligaments around the joints. Over time this new tissue limits range of motion and causes pain.

Sedative stretching allows a doctor to take the affected areas through their normal full range of motion freeing the adhesions that have formed. First an anesthesiologist uses an IV to place the patient into a “light sedation”. Light sedation is very different from general anesthesia, which is used during surgical procedures, and causes a patient to be unconscious and unresponsive even in the face of significant stimuli. During light sedation a patient may be able to respond to stimuli such as verbal questioning and breathe normally, no breathing tube needed.

Once sedated a team of at least two doctors and up to five will work together to manually take the affected joints through range of motion exercises and manipulations. Without sedation doctors would have to fight against tense, guarded muscles and most likely cause the patient discomfort and even pain.

Watch NFL Tampa Bay Buccaneer, Adam Hayward Undergo MUA Treatment

Once the affected joints have gone through a full range of motion and scar tissue is broken up, this usually lasts no longer than a half hour, the patient is brought out of their light sedation. They wake up within a few minutes and are typically able to go home within 15 minutes. Treatment protocol can consist of three treatment over three days. But some doctors claim one treatment will provide astounding results and be all the treatment needed.

Treatment should be followed up with a physical training plan lasting 3 to 15 treatments which cement the gains garnered by the MUA.

The Pros and Cons of Sedative Stretching

Pros of Sedative Stretching
Cons of Sedative Stretching
One treatment is commonly enough!
Most medical insurance providers consider Sedative Stretching an investigational procedure and thus will not cover the cost of the treatment.
The noninvasive nature of the procedure means no cutting and no recovery time.
Light sedation mean you can resume your day within 15 minutes of waking up.


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