Chiropractic is a natural non-invasive therapy that has been helping people improve their health for over 110 years. Scientific studies have shown that chiropractic can be an effective treatment for a variety of health issues including back pain, sciatica, neck pain, dizziness, and even high blood pressure.
Millions of people have benefited from the natural approach of chiropractic. And, in this presentation, we'll look at how your back can be injured and how chiropractic can help restore your body to healthy functioning.
The human spine is an amazingly versatile and complex structure that provides support to the body, protects the internal organs and nervous system, and allows incredible flexibility and movement. The spine can also be exposed to very high forces, especially during lifting, where certain parts of the spine can experience over 300 pounds of force.
This combination of flexibility and complexity makes the spine vulnerable to injury. In fact, over one-third of adults report some kind of frequent back pain.
Let's look at the parts that make up the spine so we can better understand how injury can occur and how chiropractic can help.
The building blocks of the spine are the bony vertebrae. The vertebrae are very strong and they support the weight of the body and protect the spinal cord, blood vessels, and nerves of the torso.
The vertebral discs are made of fibrous tissue and act as shock absorbers between the individual vertebrae, protecting the bones from damage and allowing the bones to bend and rotate.
The spinal cord passes through each of the vertebrae and the spinal nerves branch out between each vertebral segment. These spinal nerves travel throughout the body, innervating our muscles and internal organs, allowing us to sense our surroundings and move our bodies.
The bones of the vertebrae are held together by ligaments, which are tough bands that act as straps. Excessive movement would be dangerous to the spinal cord and spinal nerves and the ligaments limit this motion.
Movement and stability of the spine are made possible by hundreds of muscles that attach to the vertebrae. The small muscles that attach to the spine work without our conscious control and are constantly stabilizing the spine and maintaining our upright posture.
Many different pieces have to work together to maintain a healthy spine. When all of these pieces are working together in harmony, we're not even aware of them. When one piece fails to work properly, all of the other parts are affected as well. The role of chiropractic is to make sure that all of the pieces work together the way they're supposed to.
Injury to the spine can involve many different structures. We're going to look at ligament injury, which is very common in back pain and can be caused by improper lifting.
When a ligament is injured a number of things happen. The body's first reaction is to prevent further injury.
It's a simple reflex where the injured ligaments send a signal to the spinal cord, which in turn, sends a signal to the muscles of the surrounding area to contract or tighten. The contracting muscles protect the spine from further injury by limiting motion. This is why after a back injury you feel that the surrounding muscles are tense and sore.
Next, the injured tissues become inflamed when the body sends white blood cells and chemicals to the area to start the healing process. Inflammation causes pain and further restricted movement of the joint.
Finally, the body has to repair the damaged ligament and it does that by creating scar tissue which is like a quick patch to the injured tissues. The problem with scar tissue, though, is that it is not nearly as flexible as normal healthy tissue. This results in the joint losing much of its mobility, further restricting motion.
The result of all this guarding, inflammation, and scar tissue is reduced mobility and range of motion. This impaired flexibility puts a tremendous strain on the joints of the spine resulting in increased wear and tear on the discs between the vertebrae. This immobility in the injured area also affects how your entire body functions.
Pain and restriction here can alter how the rest of your body moves. Left untreated, this pattern between the muscles, the spinal cord, and the brain can result in permanent dysfunction of the injured area and result in pain in other parts of the body as well.
As we've seen, a flexible spine is a healthy spine, and that's what chiropractic does. It helps your spine regain its mobility. To do that, your chiropractor finds those joints that are not moving well, then, those vertebrae are adjusted or rapidly moved. This stretches the joint, stimulating the nerves in the joint that detect motion. While chiropractic focuses on individual vertebrae, the effects of the treatment are much more widespread.
Recent medical research shows that chiropractic has dramatic effects on the central nervous system. Chiropractic helps your spine regain its healthy functioning in three ways.
First, chiropractic works by creating movement in the ligaments of the spine. Research suggests that when the ligaments are stretched during a chiropractic adjustment, the scar tissue is broken down allowing the ligament to grow new healthy tissue.
Second, the adjusted vertebrae sends nerve signals to the spinal cord into the brain stem. Immediately, the pain signals are interrupted in the spinal cord, breaking the pattern of tension that causes fixation of the joint.
And third, research has found that chiropractic also has direct effects on the brain itself. According to recent studies from both the U.S. and New Zealand, chiropractic adjustments send nerve impulses to the lower portions of the brain. These impulses affect how the brain processes pain and seem to reduce the sensitization or over-stimulation that occurs in chronic pain.
So, chiropractic really works on at least three different levels. It works by mobilizing the ligaments of the spine, which can help the ligaments heal. It creates nerve impulses that break up the pain patterns in the back. And, it stimulates brain functions that help reduce pain patterns.
If you have pain or limited function from an injury, chiropractic might be able to help. The first step is to perform a thorough exam and history of your symptoms. Once we've done that, we can put together a treatment plan that will help you get back on the road to good health. If you have any questions about how chiropractic can help you or a loved one, please feel free to contact our office.