THE LOW DOWN ON CHIROPRACTIC
All of us experience and express life through our nervous system and for this reason the nervous system is referred to as the ‘’master system’’.
To appreciate the benefits of chiropractic care a basic understanding of how your nervous system functions is essential. Nothing registers in your nervous system until receptors are stimulated. Receptors are located throughout our bodies and are responsible for getting information from the world around us to our central nervous system for response and action. Take our sense of vision for example. If you close your eyes no light stimulates the receptors in the retina and the result is your brain is unable to form a visual image. Simply expressed, no receptor activation results in no life experience.
Chiropractic care primarily targets two types of receptors : mechanoreceptors and nociceptors.
Mechanoreceptors are located in joints, tendons, ligaments and the discs between vertebrae. Because we spend a lot of time upright working against gravity, mechanoreceptors are very abundant in the spinal joints and discs, particularly in the neck. Mechanoreceptors, as the name would suggest, are stimulated through movement and there are different types that get stimulated at different ranges of motion and at different levels of force and speed. If a part of the body is not moving correctly it would be expected to have less than optimal input from those receptors. It is this last point that is critically important to our understanding. Joints (particularly spinal and discs) that are not moving correctly result in decreased mechanoreceptor activation. Decreased mechanoreceptor input impairs higher brain function and subsequently the regulation of the involuntary nervous system (autonomic nervous system), which may lead to a variety of symptoms including pain.
Nociceptors are located in the skin, fascia, ligaments, tendon sheaths, joint capsules, bone and muscles. For our purpose nociceptors are activated by tissue injury, inflammation and decreased joint motion. Potential outcomes of nociceptor activation include pain, swelling, muscle guarding/spasm, headache, temperature changes and if left unchecked may result in maladaptive functioning of other parts of the body.
The goal of chiropractic care is to restore someone back to optimal performance through increasing mechanoreceptor activation and decreasing nociceptor activation.
The primary way this is accomplished is by improving the movement of the joints of your body, particularly the spinal joints. Chiropractic adjustments restore proper range of motion in dysfunctional vertebrae allowing for better nervous system function. To compliment this, home advice in the way of therapeutic exercises and nutritional counselling/supplementation may also be given as part of a chiropractic management plan.
Looking to the future, pain is sometimes said to be the last symptom to appear and the first to go away. Current scientific research shows us that muscle imbalance and joint dysfunction often remain even after pain or symptoms diminish. Therefore our assessment, treatment and management plan recommendations are generally focussed on function in conjunction with symptoms.