We eat right, exercise daily, and try to manage our stress. We get our teeth checked, our skin checked, our heart checked, our eyes checked, our blood checked. Well, what about your spine and neuromusculoskeletal system? Many people think chiropractors are only useful in pain management situations. I will explain how chiropractic care can be part of your wellness and prevention routine.
Our spine is made up of 24 segments (called vertebrae plural or vertebra singular) that protect the spinal cord. Each segment is supposed to move, otherwise our spine would be made stiff and immobile like our skull. The sedentary American lifestyle makes people prone to have poor segmental motion in the upper back and tight hip flexors causing strain on the neck and pain in the low back. By having a chiropractor evaluate the motion of the segments in our spine and instill proper motion through adjustments, you can prevent injury, prevent arthritis, and have the nervous system function at its maximum potential.
If all the joints in the body are not moving properly, other joints and muscles have to compensate. To give a simple example, if the upper back is stiff from sitting in front of a computer all day, every time you reach up to get a cup in your kitchen, grab paper off the printer, or lift your kid up over your head, the low back has to compensate and over extend. This can cause irritation of the low back joints called the facets and strain in the back muscles.
Another example is with chronic knee pain. Knees are actually “dumb” joints meaning they just follow the direction of the ankle, hip, and sacroiliac joints. Without proper motion in the other joints of the body, the knee is put in a dangerous position for chronic pain that cannot be addressed by stretching and strengthening the knee alone.
There are several different kinds of arthritis that people can get. The kind of arthritis that is preventable by proper joint motion is called osteoarthritis or degenerative joint disease. There is a cartilaginous disc between each vertebra that gets nutrients by movement pumping them in called imbibition. Without motion feeding the discs, they shrink causing less room for the nerves to go from the spinal cord to the rest of the body. After years of not moving, the bones grow fatter starting to look like a melting candle trying to unnecessarily stabilize the spine. These extra bone growths are called osteophytes and can pinch the cord or the nerves coming out of the cord. This can take years to develop, but starts after 28 days without motion and is preventable with monthly chiropractic care.
Lastly, regular chiropractic adjustments can help the nervous system work at its optimum. Many people come in originally for pain management and realize other issues like migraines, blood pressure, constipation, and even infertility are no longer a problem. There are entire books written on this subject so I will just give one scientific example. Segmental motion releases a chemical called mechanoreceptors. The job of mechanoreceptors is to decide which information from the whole body is important enough to tell the brain. When we stand on our feet with the full weight of our body, mechanoreceptors are what decide that our brain does not need to know how it feels with every step. Without segmental movement, mechanoreceptors are not released and the brain can get overloaded with pain sensors. Chiropractic adjustments can help stop the pain cycle and reduce chronic pain.