A compaction injury is a condition that often flies under the radar in many chiropractic/physical therapy offices, which is problematic because it is so common.
In a compaction injury, two bones are driven together by some type of high load impact, be it a car crash, a slip on the ice, or a fall down the stairs. As a result, our nervous system will down-regulate all muscles that cross that joint, causing them to be weak. In addition, all muscles that cross that joint will be excessively tight as well. This pattern of weakness and tightness will continue indefinitely (for years, even decades!) until it is corrected.
Compaction can be somewhat tricky for the patient to recognize since the patient may not remember the initial trauma, as it may be far more subtle than a crash or a fall, or may have occurred decades prior!! Also, compaction injury symptoms often wax and wane, and can feel vastly different from day to day. You may get some type of physical therapy, and for a while it feels better, but unless properly treated, it will return a short time later.
Proper course of treatment is typically very short, 1-2 visits to clear up the nervous system issues, and just a short time after that to resolve muscle tightness due to compensation patterns that may have developed.