What truly differentiates doctors of chiropractic from any other healthcare professionals is the fact that chiropractors are the only professionals who are trained to diagnose and treat what are called spinal subluxations. The word subluxation comes from the Latin words meaning somewhat or slight” (sub) and to dislocate (luxate). So the term vertebral subluxation literally means a slight dislocation or misalignment of the bones in the spine.
When a subluxation occurs, a chiropractor can correct the misaligned bone and allow it to return to its proper position. This procedure is appropriately called an adjustment, and the adjustment enables the body to heal. The chiropractic adjustment is a quick thrust applied to a vertebra for the purpose of correcting its position, movement or both. Adjustments are often accompanied by an audible release of gas that sounds like a crack. The sound sometimes shocks people a little bit the first couple times they get adjusted, but the sensation is usually relieving. Occasionally, minor discomfort is experienced, especially if the surrounding muscles are in spasm or the patient tenses up during the chiropractic procedure. There are times when the audible cracking does not occur. This is often due to either significant muscle tightness or that the patient may be having a hard time relaxing during their adjustments. However, the chiropractic adjustment is still important. The leak is fixed. The wiring is fixed. Information is flowing again. To keep the wiring fixed, several adjustments over a course of time may be necessary, in addition to massage, physical therapy, stretching exercises, or strengthening exercises. In the chiropractic world, keeping the problem fixed and preventing its reoccurrence is just as important as the initial remedy.
There are actually five components that contribute to the vertebral subluxation complex (VSC).
Bone Component-where the vertebra is either out of position, not moving properly, or are undergoing degeneration. This frequently leads to a narrowing of the spaces between the bones through which the nerves pass; often resulting in irritation or impingement of the nerve itself.
Nervous Component-is the disruption of the normal flow of energy along the nerve fibers, causing the messages traveling along the nerves to become distorted. The result is that all of the tissues that are fed by those nerves receive distorted signals from the brain and, consequently, are not able to function normally. Over time, this can lead to a whole host of conditions, such as peptic ulcers, constipation and other organ system dysfunction.
Muscular Component-since nerves control the muscles that help hold the vertebrae in place, muscles have to be considered to be an integral part of the vertebral subluxation complex. In fact, muscles both affect, and are affected by the VSC. A subluxation can irritate a nerve, the irritated nerve can cause a muscle to spasm, the spasmed muscle pulls the attached vertebrae further out of place, which then further irritates the nerve and you have a vicious cycle. It is no wonder that very few subluxations just go away by themselves.
Soft Tissue Component-the VSC will also affect the surrounding tendons, ligaments, blood supply, and other tissues as the misaligned vertebrae tug and squeeze the connective tissue with tremendous force. Over time, the soft tissues can become stretched out or scarred, leaving the spine with either a permanent instability or restriction.
Chemical Component-is the change in the chemistry of the body due to the VSC. Most often, the chemical changes, such as the release of a pro-inflammatory; meaning that they increase inflammation in the affected area.
These changes get progressively worse over time if they are not treated correctly, leading to chronic pain, inflammation, arthritis, muscle trigger points, the formation of bone spurs, loss of movement, as well as muscle weakness and spasm. Chiropractors have known the dangers of the vertebral subluxation complex ever since the birth of the profession. More and more scientific research is demonstrating the tremendous detrimental impact that subluxation have on the tissue of the body. In order to be truly healthy, it is vital that your nervous system be functioning free of interference from subluxations. Chiropractors are the only health professionals trained in the detection, location, and correction of the vertebral subluxation complex through chiropractic care.
What Does Chiropractic Manipulation Do?
This is a common question to chiropractors. Most chiropractors don’t explain it very well for many different reasons. I usually don’t have time. If you’re reading this however you are already interested, and I have time at the moment. So, here goes.
Chiropractic manipulation is not just joint popping. In fact, the audible pop doesn’t even need to occur for a successful manipulation, though it often does, and some patients and doctors like to hear it. Research has found that popular or not, the same benefits are experienced.
The mechanism of why manipulation works is not completely understood thing that is understood is that it does work. Most of the simple explanations are incomplete or just plain wrong. The most recent research points to a more complex reason for the therapeutic effects of chiropractic manipulation. It is suggested that many things are occurring at the same time that provides the benefits. There are three known things that can begin to explain why manipulation works. Here they are presented in no particular order.
1.Proprioceptive stimulation triggers the release of endorphins. These endorphins cause a near instant and temporary relief similar to pain medication making you less aware of the problem. This is a trick of the body can cause a secondary benefit, that of relaxing local tissues such as trigger points or tight musculature that may be pinching of the nerves.
2.Improved nutrient supply is provided through the adjustment. The cartilage and other structures inside of a joint have a very limited blood supply. These structures get their nutrients through motion. The blood supply goes to the outside of the joint and nutrients move into the synovial fluid of the joint. Joint motion moves this fluid around thus providing fresh nutrients to all parts of the joint. If a joint becomes locked down by muscle spasm, scar tissue, a cast, or any other means for a prolonged period of time the joint begins to feel stiff. You know the feeling of needing to stretch after sitting in the car for a long time.
The facet joints in your spine are particularly vulnerable to this problem because they work in tandem and because of the body’s amazing ability to compensate. Your facet joints all work together, if one is injured it can become locked down to prevent further injury. When this happens you may get the desire to stretch or move your back. This usually works, but if all of the other joints compensate for the problem joint and take that added stress of movement on themselves then the problem joint stays locked down. Specific manipulation induces a full range of motion and synovial fluid movement.
3. Motion is like nutrients to the Brain. The brain also records these proprioceptive signals (movement) from the joints motion. Especially for chronic conditions, the brain is in need of retraining regarding the motion of that joint. Manipulation takes a joint through its full range of motion. This new input is then stored and replayed in the brain, similar to muscle retraining that physical therapists will do, or physical training of athletes, when the body has done the motion enough times it remembers it. This retraining provides a functional correction that may provide pain relief.
Many other benefits have been observed, and still others suspected. Research is still going on and much more is needed.