As a chiropractor I adjust the spine and other joints. I use my hands or specialized instruments and tables to do this. I adjust people because they are in pain, their muscles are tight, they have limited range of motion and cannot enjoy their daily lives the way they want. They get better, quickly, safely and without drugs. My goal is for patients to leave feeling that way and be armed with knowledge to prevent it from happening again. Our understanding of what is happening with adjustments has changed a great deal since the first adjustments in the late 1800s. That is why it irks me that even today there are chiropractors and chiropractic patients that think adjustments are putting their bones back in place. This is not the case!
Any medical professional that has done cadaver studies can attest that the bones in your spine are held together incredibly well. They are surrounded by layers of connective tissue (your ligaments and tendons), fat, small stabilizing muscles and cartilage. They move but they don’t get out of place without severe forces, like those experienced in bad car accidents. As a chiropractor I can use the hard surfaces of bone to “adjust”, but the chiropractic profession has known for years that the action is happening at the brain level. To understand how an adjustment works, we must take a short detour into anatomy to understand the structures that are being affected.
The small muscles along your spine are the main targets for adjustments and you have a lot of them. Biomechanically these muscles are not placed well to move your spine, as anatomists originally thought they did. They are packed in close to the bones where they can’t easily move the bones. This is like having one person sitting very near the center of a see-saw, while the other person sits way out on the other end; the see-saw will not work correctly.
If they are not there to move the bones, then what is their purpose? It was discovered recently that these incredibly important muscles are packed full of muscle spindles, the bodies stretch receptors. They have so many more of these spindles than other larger muscles like the biceps or quadriceps. When the spine moves, these spindles send information to the brain letting it know where your body is in space and how it is moving. In a very real sense, these small muscles are the “eyes” of the brain within the body. When you are experiencing back pain, the painful area is “blind” in a sense. It has learned a poor pattern and the brain is sending signals that no longer make sense. This “blinding” occurs when we are inactive too long, have poor posture, or get injured and it is this process that the chiropractic adjustment targets.
When I adjust a part of the spine, I do so quickly and the information bundle from that adjustment is sent directly into the brain. That blast of information acts as a reset for the brain and the area of the body that has been targeted, much like turning your computer off and on again when it is not functioning. Erroneous muscle firing patterns change quickly, and the spine can move more freely. Pain is often decreased and my patients feel better. This also explains why a chiropractor may need to see a patient many times to correct an issue. Much like going to the gym, correcting muscle firing patterns, or healing chronic pain is a learning process for the body and brain. You wouldn’t go to the gym once and expect a beach bod and you shouldn’t expect your brain to understand the changes from chiropractic treatments after one go either.
A shrewd patient might have noticed that I mentioned chiropractic subluxations (what chiropractors call areas of the spine that need correcting) can be caused by inactivity, which is true. Which also means that to prevent pain and spinal issues exercise is key! During exercise your brain and body reset all sorts of patterns “learned” during hours at a desk or behind the wheel of a car. Motion is lotion. Get out and use your body, or stay in, but use your body! If you must binge watch your favorite show then stretch or do a no equipment workout with Darebee.com while you do it.