Have you ever experienced a severe band of pain across your lower back or neck? Have you ever hurt your back, knee, ankle, elbow, etc. badly for no apparent reason? If so, you may have been a victim of “success syndrome”.

Success Syndrome is a term used in Applied Kinesiology to describe a situation of ligament weakness caused by prolonged or excessive stress. Ligaments are tough bands of tissue that hold joints together. They are sometimes confused with tendons which connect muscle to bone. Tendons are supposed to be stretchy and elastic, ligaments are supposed to have almost no stretch. During prolonged periods of stress or short periods of extreme stress, an imbalance in adrenal hormone production may occur. This imbalance, especially the increase in cortisol production, has the effect ofbreaking down and weakening the ligaments. This weakening of the ligaments sets the stage for overstretching and tearing. The person with success syndrome literally becomes a “sprain waiting to happen”!

Patients have come to me with massive back sprain which they acquired by simply bending over or leaning across a desk. Ligaments in the low back and base of the skull are especially susceptible to success syndrome. A typical pain pattern with success syndrome seems to be a band of intense pain across the top of the hips in back, intense neck pain, or a headache at the base of the skull. Although the above areas are more common targets for this syndrome, any joint may be affected. Injuries of the knee, elbow, shoulder, ankle, etc. may be a result of success syndrome especially if the injury seemed to occur too easily.

Initial treatment for success syndrome is directed toward getting the primary culprits, the adrenal glands, functioning properly. This is accomplished using the “Hypothalamic Set Point Technique to help the adrenals reset to a more normal level of activity. Specific nutrition to improve adrenal function is usually needed in addition. Any bones which are out of position are also adjusted back into position. Treatment to improve the tone of any weak muscles in the affected area is also important. Treatment for success syndrome takes from 2 days to 2 weeks depending on the length and severity of the problem. Most patients experience significant reduction in pain within a few hours of beginning the nutritional therapy.

Once adrenal function is more normal and ligaments are not longer being weakened, nutritional support for the ligaments may be indicated. It is also very important to identify the source of stress in the persons life. Stress may be emotional: such as pressure at work, chemical; resulting from improper diet, structural; due to posture imbalance, or even thermal; weather related. During last summers’ heat wave, I treated two cases of success syndrome caused entirely by the 95_100 degree temperatures! Once the source of stress is identified, I work with the patient to try to eliminate areas of stress where possible or teach techniques for effectively dealing with stress that they’re stuck with.

To avoid success syndrome in your own life, first try to identify sources of stress in your life. Decide which types of stress you can really do without_such as the chemical stress of caffeine and sugar. Work on techniques for dealing with the stress that you can’t avoid. Developing the correct attitude, employing relaxation techniques such as Yoga, meditation and Tai Chi as well as getting proper aerobic exercise will help you handle unavoidable stress. And by all means, if you think that you are developing a case of success syndrome, get into the office for care, so that your desire to be successful doesn’t end up as a pain in the back!