This article with discuss the basics of what you need to understand about chiropractic and how the treatment yields results.
So, the human spine consists of 24 movable bony segments called vertebra.
Each vertebra has a set of joints, two on the top and two on the bottom which join to the vertebra above and below. It is these joints which provide the ability to move in various directions.
Between all but 1 of these vertebra there are cushions know as intervertebral disks. These disks are composed of a jelly-like substance which is inside a tough coat.
The disks act as shock absorbers between the vertebra and maintain a distance between the vertebra, which in turn supports the vertebral joint structures at an optimum level with each other for best mechanical functioning of our backs. The closer these joints come to each other, the less mechanical range of motion there can be. So these disks are very important for the ability to move.
The disks do NOT have a direct blood supply of their own and therefore depend on another method to receive nourishment. That method is MOVEMENT. It is the motion which the spine goes through that maintains a pressure gradient that helps to draw in nutrients and water to maintain the pressure inside the disk and to nourish the cells, and to provide for healing.
As we move, bend and twist, these disks flex because of the jelly like nature of the inside and help to distribute the weight load evenly up and down the spine, and maintain the relationship of the vertebral joints. It is these structures which are involved when you hear the term, "slipped disc," although the disc can't possibly "slip" anywhere.
Slipped discs are in reality, discs whose outer, tough coat has been injured, usually over a course of years through the micro-trauma of minute degenerative changes mentioned earlier, or from accumulated trauma of improper work habits or repetitive work stress. This tearing of the outer coat allows the inner "gel" to ooze out and place pressure on the nerve which is in the vicinity
The Chiropractic approach is to prevent the rupture from happening in the first place and/or by working with the joints and discs to take the abnormal pressure off of the outer coat, thereby relieving the inner pressure.
The spinal cord carries information from the brain, down through the vertebra and out little holes called foramen which are formed by the coming together of two vertebra. From here the nerves travel throughout the entire body and either directly or indirectly influence every aspect of our physiology by way of the information which the brain sends through them.
If you have ever hit a nerve in your own body, such as your "funny bone," you will readily agree that something happened which you felt along the entire course of the nerve. When a nerve is under pressure/or irritated, the nerve is extremely sensitive and will become swollen, often leading to further limitations of the motion which places more pressure on the nerve. After prolonged pressure, atrophy (shrinking) of the nerve will take place, and thus the communication which the brain sends through the nerve to various tissues such as the heart, stomach, muscles, etc., can be interfered with.
One important issue to remember is that, in most cases of back pain and discomfort, the pain is due to muscle involvement and not a "pinched nerve." The concept of, "My backs out," though, is at best inaccurate, and at worst, a hazardous approach concept to base your health upon.
THE "BONE OUT OF PLACE" MYTH
Let's forget the common phrase, "my back or neck is out" and focus on the reality of what is going on. The human body was designed for use. Any aspect of the body NOT used on a regular basis will soon undergo what is called disuse atrophy or disuse degeneration. It is a natural result of improper use or inadequate use of any given part. As with any changes the body undergoes, disuse degeneration occurs over time, as we've already discussed. It isn't something we can feel or notice outwardly such as pain. Only until the tissues involved reach "the limitations of matter" do symptoms usually present themselves. By then years have gone by. Let's go over some more physiology and how this relates to Chiropractic, and for that matter, most of our everyday activities.
Spinal mechanics and joint action are hinged on one primary element. MOTION. Why is movement so important? Take what we know of motion. Motion affects circulation by the contraction and relaxation of the muscles responsible for the movement. In fact, contrary to what many may believe, the circulation is greatly enhanced by muscular activity and motion. It forces blood, which carries oxygen and nutrients, throughout the tissues and augments the removal of metabolic and degenerative waste products. The implication here is that to the degree that movement is limited, there will be a corresponding decrease in the health of the tissue environment.
Mechanically speaking, improper motion affects not only local joint and tissue physiology, but also the mechanics of more distant joints and thus, that area's physiology, and ultimately, the functional integrity of the whole system is compromised.
The death/injury of tissue within the body leads to scar tissue formation, the same as when you cut yourself on the outside. This scar tissue isn't elastic, just as a cut heals with scar tissue on the outside, so too do the injuries on the inside heal with scar tissue. In spinal injuries, the tearing of tissue causes bleeding. This bleeding, if unchecked or untreated, leads to a pool of blood in which cells grow and scar tissue develops in order to close up and secure the injury. If this occurs around any area of normal motion, then the scar tissue can interfere with this motion.
As this scar tissue reaches full maturity, it creates a restriction in the area it involves.
As motion is impaired, the above scenario of circulation and nutrition comes into play. The degree of scar tissue development corresponds to the amount of tissue damage. A bigger factor and much more serious factor in these kinds of injuries is to what degree there has been intervention on the injuries. If any injury is allowed to progress on its own, without some degree of treatment, it almost unfailingly leads to premature degenerative changes, and often permanent injury. Even WITH proper treatment, areas of injury often are the first area we notice problems with as we get older.
WHAT DOES CHIROPRACTIC DO?
Rather than "putting backs into place," the Chiropractic adjustment is restoring proper joint and spinal mechanics.
That is, MOVEMENT is being restored to a spinal segment or segments which, for whatever reason, has become fixated, (stuck) in its ability to freely move
The adjustment places specific motion into a specific joint. Depending on the degree of immobility, and remembering that it can take years for such conditions to reach the symptomatic threshold, it will logically take some time and work to restore proper mechanics to the spine.
Trying to decrease scar tissue build-up and stretch out what remains is not as simple as "putting a bone back in place." As the spine becomes more and more involved, affecting more and more joints, there can be spinal deviation as a whole unit. The forces of gravity, stress and the work we do all act to "shape" the weakened and mechanically dysfunctional spine. This shaping occurs over time, such as with spinal scoliosis--the sideways bending of the spine, or postural deformities. It is impossible to simple move bones and restore mechanical functioning by "popping a back."
Correcting such problems, which usually develop over the course of years, takes its own time. That is the reason for the series of treatments which include adjusting the joints, as well as, and just as important, therapy with dry needling, ultrasound and other helps.
When an adjustment is given, this pressure is released and some degree of motion is restored to the particular area, thereby, in some cases, relieving the symptoms entirely. It is easy to understand how this relief could be taken to mean "cure." However, it is far from that. It is merely the first few steps in a process which takes time and consistent effort to repair. Once correction has reached its limitations, which is generally the same for most people, then it is important to view your relationship with your spine as a Preventive AND MAINTENANCE relationship. As we have mentioned before, in order for nature to function optimally for our benefit, it requires some degree of action or INTERACTION to bring about the positive results.
Just as we change the oil in our cars, tune them up, maintain other equipment or even our pets. Without regular maintenance, there will be an increase in the physiological degeneration or in the case of cars, an increase in the wear and tear and a decrease in the life expectancy. We are no different. It takes constant work to maintain our bodies
Health, good or bad, is the result of an accumulation of either positive or negative physiological support. WE and only WE can set up and make as a part of our daily life the right support system for these machines we are. Unless we take this responsibility upon OURSELVES, we can expect less chance for a much more rewarding and healthy lifestyle.
Report written by Dr. Jeffrey T. Maehr, D.C. (Ret.) and summarised by Dr Paul A. Palmer, MTech- Chiropractic