Pain is either the result of damage within the body, inflammation, or is part of the healing process to warn, restrict, and guide you. While pain is uncomfortable and sometimes even disabling, it is not the actual problem. It is a response. Ignoring pain, or masking it with medication, does not address its cause and will never result in improved spinal function or wellness.
What is actually happening?
Spinal pain nearly always begins with some type of stress. There are 3 types:
1. Physical – trauma (car accidents, falls, sports injuries), hard labor, incorrect exercise, sitting/standing for long periods, or too much time in awkward positions (mechanics, hair stylists, dental hygienists, chiropractors).
2. Mental/Emotional – death, work demands, money problems, unhealthy relationships.
3. Chemical – alcohol, tobacco, drugs, too much caffeine, too much sugar, processed food.
These stressors cause inflammation of spinal joints and tissues, muscular tension throughout the body, and increased demands on the nervous system to adapt.
The result is abnormal or restricted movement of spinal bones (fixation) which results in a decrease of healthy nerve signals to the brain (proprioception), and an increase of distress signals to the brain (nociception). Chiropractors call this a vertebral subluxation.
These changes in nerve function not only stop the brain from being able to coordinate good posture, muscle tone, muscle strength, and balance, but they also trigger the stress response which turns the hormonal system upside down and puts the body into a state of protection rather than growth/repair. Protection = more inflammation, muscle tension, and pain.
This is not a chiropractic theory. Every orthopedist and neurologist in the world is aware of the effects on the nervous system from improper or restricted spinal movement.
What does an adjustment do?
The most common misconception people have about chiropractic is, “My spine is out. The chiropractor puts it back in, my pain goes away in a few hours or a few days, and then all is right with the world until it goes out again.”
This is 100% false!
The purpose of the adjustment is to improve or restore proper motion to spinal joints. This improves healthy nerve signals (proprioception) to the brain and decreases distress signals (nociception) to the brain.
With proper nerve signals restored, the brain is able to coordinate healing, restore balance, and stop the stress response and protective changes.
As you can see, chiropractic is entirely about restoring healthy nerve function, not about “cracking backs” to relieve pain. If you only get adjusted when you’re in pain, nerve and spinal function will never be improved, and spinal decay (degeneration, arthritis, scar tissue) will worsen over time. This is how people end up being old, stiff, and in constant discomfort.
Why does your pain keep returning?
In a word? Stress. When the body/spine is overwhelmed by any of the 3 types of stress and cannot adapt, the protective response is triggered again and inflammation, muscle tension, and pain reappear as spinal bones return to their restricted positions.
To overcome these issues, one of two things must occur. Either the stress has to be removed or the patient’s lifestyle must be upgraded to handle the stress by incorporating chiropractic, proper exercise, movement therapy, healthy nutrition, proper amounts of rest, etc.
How often should you be adjusted?
There are 3 phases of restoring spinal health and overall physical wellness.
1. Relief – the goal is to get the patient out of pain as quickly as possible. Adjustments should be frequent until relief is achieved. Every day or every other day is optimal.
2. Correction – adjustments are less frequent but should continue until muscles, ligaments, and other spinal tissues are healed enough to maintain their position and freedom of spinal movement. Home care is prescribed to assist the process of healing and strengthening.
3. Maintenance – consider this as you would regular dental cleanings. The purpose is to maintain optimal spinal health, nerve system health, and to prevent future problems. Frequency of care is determined by many factors. I will discuss this with you when the time comes.
I want people to think of chiropractic and spinal health as they would dental care. It is unwise to ignore your teeth and skip dental cleanings until you have a mouth full of cavities. The process of restoring oral health is much longer and much more expensive if regular maintenance and prevention isn’t practiced. The same principle applies to your spine which protects the spinal cord and nerve roots (Grand Central Station between the body and brain).
Note: If any of this is confusing, please ask questions. It is important that you understand what is happening in your body and how I am trying to correct it. But I can’t do it without you!
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