Each joint in your body, from your ankle to the bones in your neck, are designed to have a particular range of motion, specific to the joint. Your elbow for example: it can flex, extend, and rotate. Your low back can flex from side to side as you bend. When the joints are working properly, we have what we call “full range of motion.”
Sometimes, these joints become stuck or lose their full range of motion. Like a door that becomes stuck on a piece of bunched carpet, the joint can’t move pass a certain point. Chiropractors call this a Subluxation or Joint Dysfunction. Typically, the bones of the joint have become stuck on a piece of cartilage or part of the joint capsule. A joint capsule is like a balloon of tissue that surrounds a joint.
When this happens, the joint tissues start to release chemicals that send PAIN signals to your brain. Some of these chemicals cause swelling and inflammation inside the joint.
The joints of your spine are different than most of the other joints in your body. The joints on the back of each vertebra surround the nerves that come from your brain and control everything in your body. So when a vertebra becomes stuck it can either physically, or because of the local swelling, cause pressure or irritation on that nerve.
This condition can potentially cause dysfunction of that nerve and even more discomfort for you, the patient.
A chiropractic manipulation is a force applied into the joint to restore its lost motion. Let’s imagine the joint again like a door stuck on a piece of bunched up carpet. In order to get the door moving again, you maybe push a little harder or use your shoulder to free the underside of the door from what is catching it.
A manipulation releases the joint from what is causing it to have lost its full range of motion, allowing the joint to move freely again.
When this happens, there is an immediate impact upon the nerves of your spinal cord. This impact raises your pain threshold so your pain levels drop immediately at the specific site of treatment and in the general area. It does this by affecting the central nervous system, the brain and spinal cord, and the local nerves around the joint. It can also raise your pain thresholds in completely different areas of your body.
The pain and motion alteration due to these joint dysfunctions cause something called muscle impairment syndromes. In other words, the subluxations cause your muscles not to work properly. Most notably, they can cause postural distortions, or bad posture. The bad posture unfortunately, does not go away immediately upon the decrease in pain after treatment. This is why chiropractic care is necessary for the short and long term.
The results of subluxation related pain and bad posture is cyclical. The joint dysfunction causes pain, which causes muscle impairment, which causes bad posture, which causes more pain. And on and on. So unless you fix the posture, the pain can come back.
The chiropractic manipulation not only relieves the pain, it influences the muscle function in both pain and pain-free individuals. It actually helps to restore the proper posture of your body and helps your muscles perform at their most optimal level. Thus, preventing the pain from re-emerging.
When comparing patients who maintain their care and those who stop after their pain is gone, only patients who maintain their chiropractic treatments report decreased pain levels months after their pain originally disappeared. For those who stopped care, unfortunately, the pain re-emerged back to pre-treatment levels within months.