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How Does Chiropractic Work?

How Does Chiropractic Work?

Detailed Explanation of Chiropractic Adjustments

How Does Chiropractic Work?

How does chiropractic work? If you are the type of person who wants to know EXACTLY how chiropractic works, this is the page for you. The following information will dive into extreme detail laying out exactly how the human body works and reacts to a chiropractic adjustment. It should not be surprising that there is more to chiropractic than simply moving bones to relieve pressure they place on nerves.

How the body is aware of itself

How does chiropractic work?

In order to understand how the adjustment helps people feel better, it is important to understand how the body is able to feel itself or be aware of itself. First thing to discuss is the awareness of where “you” are without being able to see. This sense is called proprioception. Your body contains many tiny structures in your muscles that tell you where “you” are. These include muscle spindles, golgi tendon organs and nociceptive (pain) nerves. These sensors are constantly sending signals through your sensory nervous system without you even feeling it or thinking about it.

It is this system that controls our posture. You don’t have to think about your posture, you just have it. These structures monitor your muscles for increases in tension. When your posture starts getting improper, it puts tension on the muscle. The spindles and GTOs activate and send pain signals through the nociceptive nerves telling you to correct your posture.

What happens when we are in a constant state of bad posture… such as hunched over a computer desk for 8 hours per day? The spine will reposition it’s normal posture to that position. What happens when the structure of our spine starts molding to this position and you are unable to correct your posture? Constant pain signals.

 

So why does the structure of the spine change to a position that causes tension?

How To Demonstrate Proprioception

TRY THIS: Close your eyes and touch your nose with your index finger. Pretty easy right? How did you know where your arm was, where your nose was, and where to move your arm to place it on your nose without seeing them? It is these receptors that are constantly sending signals informing you of where “you” are 24/7. It seams like such a simple thing but its actually a complicated network of signals and structures that control this.

TRY THIS: Set a bottle on a desk in front of you. Close your eyes, back up and spin in 3 circles. While keeping your eyes closed try to touch the bottle on the desk. Little bit harder right? This is because unlike your nose you don’t have any neurological connection to that bottle, thus you have no awareness of where it is in space. It may seem trivial but it shows there is an active system monitoring your body 24/7 without you even knowing or thinking about it.

WHY THE SPINE CHANGES TO POOR POSTURE POSITIONS?

Ever notice the older people get the more hunched over they look? This is because the spine will structure itself based on the position you are in most often. Most people, especially now with cell phones and computers, spend a majority of there time with their head flexed forward over their bodies. The spine, just like everything in the body, will adapt to what we put it through. If we do a bunch of pushups, we get bigger pecs and arms. Stretch often, we get more flexible. If we are hunched over often, our spine stabilizes in that position regardless of the tension associated. As stated before, your subconscious controls your posture. Nobody ever feels their posture changing.

How does chiropractic work?

Our sense of touch

This is the meat and potatoes of how chiropractic works. Our body can feel 4 specific senses: Light pressure, Deep pressure, Temperature, and Pain.  Through these 4 stimuli we interact with the entire world through touch. We feel these signals sent through the sensory portion of the nervous system. The nervous system consists of motor nerves which control our actions and movements, autonomic system which controls everything in our body we don’t have to think about (organ function, heart beat, immune response, ect) and sensory system which monitors our body. The structures of the nervous system include the brain, spinal cord and peripheral nerves. These structures control everything in our entire body. For sake of simplicity we will only focus on the sensory portion. Though keep in mind, chiropractic adjustments can have an effect on all functions of our nervous system!

The Nervous System

How does chiropractic work?

How do we feel pressure?

As stated in the column to the left, our sense of pressure is divided up into 2 categories: light and deep pressure. Light pressure sense comes from superficial sensors in the skin attached to the hairs on our body. Deep pressure sense comes from microscopic, fluid filled pillows embedded in the deep layers of our skin. We feel pressure by the movement of fluid within these sensors. When pressure is applied to our body, the fluid in these sensors are displaced and our sensory nerves send signals that something is applying pressure. Once the fluid in the sensors stops moving because the pressure has been stable for a period of time, we are unable to feel the area with pressure applied.

Try This:

place a light weight on your hand. Something 5 pounds or so. What you feel is a very obvious initial sense of weight on the hand. The longer you leave the weight on your hand, the less aware you become of the pressure placed. This is because the initial pressure displaces the fluid in our pressure sensors. The movement of fluid is what our body reads as pressure. Once the fluid settles and stops moving, our body is then unable to sense the weight.

Once you go partially numb to the pressure, quickly take the weight off your hand and what do you feel? A rush of senses to the area. This is because the fluids in our pressure sensors are moving to return to their normal state.

Movement is what allows us to feel and perceive things. Without movement, we are numb to anything that may be causing a problem

How does chiropractic work?

How do we feel pain?

To most people, pain is something that is bad and to be avoided. Pain is actually an essential function to life. Without it, we could not survive. Pain is our bodies way of telling us something is wrong. You should not ignore it or things will only get worse. Especially if it is pain that presents without any known cause.

Pain nerves are much smaller than pressure nerves. Small nerve = slower transmission time and easier to be overwritten by larger nerves. This is why when we are experiencing pain, our natural instinct is to apply pressure. Our body will sense pressure over pain thus it will override pain signals and the affected area feels better.

Try This:

Lightly tap a corner of a desk with the back of your hand just hard enough for it to be slightly uncomfortable. Do this 2 times. The first time, don’t apply any pressure to your hand and time how long it take for the pain to go away. The second time, apply pressure and rub the part of the hand you hit. Time how long it takes for the pain to go away again. Which one felt better faster? The “injury” was the same but your perception of the severity of the injury was altered simply with pressure.

 

PRESSURE + MOTION = PAIN

A joint in your body that has constant pressure built up in it will feel pain whenever there is motion in that joint.

Pressure builds up in joints in high tension positions. How does this happen? Two ways. First is the fast way such as a sprained ankle. Increased tension on the ankle joint from rolling it injures the joint and it swells. Second is chronically through prolonged improper posture. This is a slow process and often times we don’t even feel it happening.

Tension on a joint causes pain. Your body then instinctively and subconsciously creates pressure within the associated joint via swelling. This does 2 things. 1: pressure signals will override pain signals and 2: more pressure stabilizes the joint and prevents you from moving it. By increasing the pressure in the joint, the body will only feel pressure sensations, not pain so long as you don’t move the joint.

Try This:

Apply pressure with your finger nail to another one of your finger joints. Notice how it feels when you keep that finger still. Maybe mild pain but not too bad right? Now, keep the same pressure on the joint and wiggle it up and down. What do you feel? More pain with motion right?

The only way to permanently relieve pain in a joint is to relieve the pressure. Guess what a chiropractic adjustment does? The pressure is a build up of gas within the joint. The chiropractic adjustment relieves that pressure. The audible crack you hear with adjustments is the release of gas from the joint. The same way a balloon makes a loud bang when you pop it.

PRESSURE + NO MOTION = IGNORED PAIN

This is how you can have a spinal condition and not even be aware of it.  Go back to what we discussed above in “how we feel pressure.” When tension is constantly placed on joints in the spine from prolonged improper posture, pressure builds up within the joint complex. The function of added pressure is to restrict motion in the joint so your body doesn’t feel pain. When joints are not allowed to move, your body will not sense any pain coming from those joints and you are then able to sustain that poor posture position for longer periods of time. Though you cannot feel the pain, the problem is continuing to get worse and worse.

The relationship between poor posture, tension and pressure then becomes a positive feedback loop. Each one keeps contributing to an increase in the others. As body position and posture continues to worsen, tension continues to increase within the affected joints causing increased pressure within the joints to stabilize them. That increased pressure allows you to continue maintaining your poor posture without pain.  This than puts your body in worse posture and the cycle continues. Eventually your body is unable to manage the situation and you experience a sharp, sudden and severe pain with a small movement. This is how the majority of people present to chiropractor offices.

NO MOTION + TIME = DEGENERATION AND ARTHRITIS

Ever heard of the phrase “if you don’t use it, you lose it?” That phrase cannot be more true when it comes to the function of your body. When a joint  is constantly under pressure as your body instinctively restricts the motion to reduce the pain, you begin losing proper function of the joint. If left untreated, over time the joint will literally start fusing together. This is what arthritis is. The joint slowly degenerating and collapsing until there is no space between 2 bones and you get the “bone on bone” look on imaging.

Contrary to common belief, arthritis and degeneration is a condition of under use rather than over use when it comes to spinal joints. When we compare spinal X-rays of 2 people of virtually same demographics, the more active person almost always has a healthier spine. That just makes sense right? Motion is what keeps us young. Fortunately, whats the easiest way to introduce motion into a joint? A chiropractic adjustment.

There is 2 ways to maintain proper structure, motion and health of your spine. First is to be regularly active by following the recommended 30 min of vigorous activity 3X per week. We’ve noticed farmers typically have great looking spines so long as there’s no severe injuries. The Second and often easier and quicker way? A chiropractic adjustment.

NO PRESSURE + MOTION = OPTIMAL FUNCTION

Many people are surprised at how good their body feels when it relieved of chronic tension and pressure. Range of motion increases. Recovery time after workouts decreases. Immune function is optimized. Cognitive function is sharpened. Sleeping habits are regulated and improved. Fatigue is reduced. Bowel function becomes more regular. Most importantly, pain and discomfort are significantly reduced.

Conclusion

How does chiropractic work?

So how does chiropractic work? Simply put, chiropractic adjustments work by relieving pressure within joint capsules that have been placed in a prolonged state of tension. Tension on joints occur via 2 processes. 1: a fast traumatic event causing rapid swelling and more severe pain. Example being a sprained ankle. 2: slowly and progressively over time as your body remodles into a high tension posture example being hunched over a desk for 8+ hours per day. In this case you cant feel the problem developing until it progresses past a threshold that your body can manage. Increased tension on a joint causes swelling in the joint capsule which increases the pressure within the joint. The body does this to stabilize the affected area and prevent motion. When motion is applied to an injured joint or a joint with a lot of tension on it, it hurts. The pressure ensures motion is restricted and pain signals are blocked. Unfortunately, if you cannot perceive a problem, the problem will get worse until it reaches a threshold that the body cannot manage.

This is why a vast majority of people who present to chiropractic offices are there not for acute injuries but for simple things such as bending over. When joint problems reach that threshold, a simple thing such as bending over to pick something up can cause a serious issue. We are now seeing that threshold reached by people as young as 25 because of today’s lifestyles.

To resolve the problem, we administer quick, realignment adjustments to release the internal joint pressure, relieve the high tension posture and restore proper joint range of motion. 

The true value of chiropractic care is regular maintenance adjustments to ensure your joints remain mobile and tension free. Think of your adjustment like brushing your teeth. A small investment now can save you a significant investment later both physically and financially.

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