by Tracey Roizman, DC, DACBN
In the early days of the chiropractic profession chiropractors were widely regarded as general practitioners and people sought the help of chiropractors for a wide variety of ailments. Relieving neck and back pain was incidental to the primary aim of promoting optimal health on all levels by affecting the central nervous system through spinal manipulation. In fact, as the story goes the first chiropractic spinal adjustment had the effect of restoring one individual’s ability to hear. From this fortuitous experience a modern profession was born. Since then the chiropractic profession and its supporters; the many patients who have been restored to vibrant health, have enthusiastically expounded upon the important connection between the health of the spinal column and one’s overall health. If you are one of many chiropractic patients who have experienced improvements in digestive disorders, asthma, allergies, high blood pressure, immune function or other health conditions through chiropractic care then you know from firsthand experience how powerful and effective a natural cure can be.
As science catches up with what we have empirically observed we continuously form a more complete picture of how the nervous system works. New knowledge often serves to confirm what we know from experience to be true. So, if you are a chiropractic patient who has wondered just what it is that makes those adjustments work so well, or if you have never been a chiropractic patient but are curious about the possibilities it holds for you then here is some of the most current information on how chiropractic works.
Pain Relief: First Things First
Pain of some sort is what motivates most of us to seek help we’ll start there. In many instances chiropractic has its most immediate effect at the level of pain relief. Spinal adjustments relieve pain by activating a nerve reflex within the spinal cord that inhibits pain messages from reaching the brain. Adjustments have also been shown to cause the release of endorphins. This is a natural healthy method of pain relief which uses your body’s inborn mechanisms of self correction and self healing. There are no adverse side effects and it is not habit forming. A distinct advantage over pain medications, to be sure.
Restoring Balance to the Nervous System
Beyond pain relief your chiropractic adjustments go into the deeper levels of your nervous system. Here, the effect is of calming the overworked adrenal system, relieving stress and promoting the function of the parasympathetic division of your nervous system. This is the part that controls digestion, blood pressure and heart rate, promotes the immune system and initiates the internal housekeeping processes of detoxification. The seemingly simple chiropractic procedure of relieving stress and tension held in your muscles and joints goes a long way toward balancing the divisions of your nervous system for a healthier you. Think of the accelerator and brake in a car. Your adrenal system is the accelerator and your parasympathetic system is the brake. Although you may try, it is not advisable to talk on the phone, eat, or read a map while operating your car. Similarly, your body cannot digest food or fight an infection while tension and stress predominate because they signal the adrenal system, your body’s accelerator, to be on alert and suppress the parasympathetic system, your body’s brake.
Achieving balance within the nervous system insures these divisions ample opportunity to fully carry out their functions. For this reason, chiropractic patients often experience relief from conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome, asthma, recurring infections, elevated blood pressure and other chronic ailments.
Restoring Balance to Muscles and Joints
The long term benefits of chiropractic care include retraining your muscles out of their habit of storing stress and tension. Your muscles will form themselves to the shape of your predominant activities, such as sitting. Over time they will lose their pliability and become unable to move out of their tight contracted positions. An exercise program is essential to reverse the effects of prolonged sitting or standing, or of repetitive bending and reaching. In addition, chiropractic care helps bridge the gap by restoring range of motion that stubborn muscles retract through force of habit.
Chiropractic care reorients your body to a neutral position, enabling it to better withstand the effects of gravity. By relieving tension on tight contracted muscles and restoring full healthy range of motion to the joints chiropractic care helps your back and body find its ideal posture. This is where gravity is most effectively neutralized and your muscles are able to function from their strongest positions. Less stress and compression on the joints results, along with less pain, less arthritis and fewer injuries. The less we allow gravity affect us the better we look and feel.
Putting it All Together: The 90:10 Rule
Your brain controls everything your body does, down to each heart beat and eye blink. In order to make these decisions your brain requires input from your body in the form of sensory nerve messages that report on the status and condition of every part of you. Like the CEO of a corporation your brain cannot make decisions in a vacuum, it needs to hear from the work force. All of this input activate the brain and keeps it busy doing what it loves to do; processing incoming information and making the best possible decisions for the good of the whole.
The vast majority of information that reaches your brain comes from your muscles and joints. Known as proprioception, this information comprises fully 90% of the messages that keep your brain humming along. That leaves 10% for everything else, including your busy mind and the thoughts it thinks. So, where are the majority of the brain’s outgoing messages going? Not back to the muscles and joints as you might imagine. 90% of your brain’s output goes to your internal organs; heart, lungs digestive system, etc.. These are the vital behind-the-scenes functions that we don’t normally think about while typing, driving, reading, walking or talking.
Chiropractic adjustments have a unique ability to activate muscle and joint receptors that have become dormant due to lack of use. In so doing, parts of your brain become activated that have similarly become dormant. By virtue of the 90:10 rule, greater input to the brain results in greater output to the body. Or, in other words, a happy brain leads to a happy and healthy body. This can also help explain how a man’s hearing was restored by an adjustment to his neck.
Regular chiropractic care confers all of these benefits. Your chiropractor is one of your best resources in your ongoing quest for better health.