Manipulation under Anesthesia: What to Expect

Manipulation under anesthesia, or MUA, is getting a lot of attention from patients and doctors alike to help those who are suffering from chronic pain. This particular form of chiropractic manipulation was developed in the 1930’s, and is usually prescribed when more traditional forms of care (such as medication, physical therapy and/or surgery) aren’t working as effectively as they could be. But what, exactly, IS manipulation under anesthesia – and what should patients expect if they agree to this procedure?

In the case of manipulation under anesthesia, “manipulation” refers to the types of movements a chiropractor may perform. It could include stretching techniques, passive movements, forced movements or mobilization. The most common type of MUA is spinal manipulation, though the treatment can be used for joint pain in the shoulder or knee, too. The procedure, which can take up to three days depending on the level of chronic pain management needed, works like this: under the care of an anesthesiologist, the patient is consciously sedated. (This is sometimes referred to as “twilight sedation,” because the patient is asleep but his/her reflexes are still working.) This makes it easier (and safer) for the chiropractor to perform the necessary spinal manipulations, because it eliminates the possibility of muscle spasms and contractions.

Once the chiropractic manipulation is finished, patients “wake up” relatively quickly. Most patients notice an immediate change in mobility or reduction of pain. There is usually some soreness in the muscles, like the kind associated with a strenuous workout, but the chronic, nagging pain should be all but eliminated (depending on how many sessions an individual patient is supposed to have). The patient is usually scheduled for additional therapy for a number of weeks after the procedure, so that s/he can learn strength-building exercises and mobility-gaining stretches.

Chiropractic Manipulation Can Help

So why should you choose MUA for your chronic pain management? First and foremost, MUA is non-invasive: it’s not a surgical procedure, so the risks associated with it are far fewer. Secondly, this form of chiropractic manipulation has a recorded success rate of about 80-90%, so its track record is impressive. But most important of all, MUA works as a form of chronic pain management for a number of problems, which means that it’s a viable option for most chiropractic patients. Some of the conditions that can be treated by manipulation under anesthesia include:

  • Lowers and upper back pain
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Disc bulges, herniation and protrusions
  • Nerve entrapment
  • Acute and/or chronic muscle spasms
  • “Frozen” joints
  • Limited hip mobility
  • Tension headaches
  • Chronic whiplash

Spinal manipulation is especially effective for those who have had surgery on their lower back without any real change or benefit. This is because it allows the doctor to perform the necessary chiropractic manipulation treatment on your back without the risks associated with repeated surgeries. And because patients are sedated, there’s no risk of muscle “guarding” – a protective response by the muscles when a patient is afraid of pain or movement.

However, there are some forms of chronic pain that manipulation under anesthesia won’t correct. Patients with protracted pain caused by arthritis, acute fractures, gout or prior strokes won’t be able to get relief through MUA. That’s because joint and spinal manipulations only work on dysfunctional joints and spines – and since none of these conditions are a result of joint/spinal dysfunction, the technique would be useless. The best way to determine whether or not manipulation under anesthesia is an appropriate treatment for you is to set up an appointment with your chiropractor. Together, you can see if MUA might put an end to your pain once and for all.

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