Chiropractic takes so many shapes and forms and yet all of it works (more or less) or else it would have disappeared years ago. There are over 50 recognized, distinct techniques all with vastly different theories of why they work and the mechanisms behind their success. How can this be? What are the common factors that link all of these techniques together, that really explain what is going on that has helped so many people?
One of the difficulties is that chiropractors can’t agree amongst themselves at to why one technique works over another.Some techniques state that most problems are caused by a sprain/strain of the ligaments that hold the pelvis together and this causes the whole body to become unstable. Another technique holds that there are primary subluxations that are causing a pinching of the nerves, like stepping on a hose, so that the nervous impulses are restricted. A different technique claims that health issues arise out of a disc problem and that using specialized movements, a chiropractor can suck a disc back into place.
The practice of chiropractic can take so many different forms as well. One technique uses orthopedic blocks to move the pelvis. Others have the patient sitting upright in a special chair and still others use a special drop table to perform the maneuver.Why do all of these techniques work (in most cases quite well)?
To answer that question, we will look to what is actually happening at the cellular level when a patient gets adjusted by a doctor of chiropractic.Most chiropractors would say that they treat something called a “subluxation”. The definition of a subluxation is also an area of debate among chiropractors. For purposes of this discussion, let’s just say that it’s where a joint gets stuck and doesn’t move as well as it could.All chiropractors can agree that their treatment focuses in on the nervous system. They treat the patient so that the nervous system is affected in a positive manner. The question is now – how does this happen?
All techniques have some sort of impulse, some sort of effect on the body of the patient. There is usually something that is done to the patient that effects a positive change.All over the body there are things called receptors. What receptors do is sense different types of stimulus into the body. There are receptors that sense heat, light, sound, smell, touch, and taste…all senses of the body. The receptors that sense touch and movement is what chiropractors use to help people.Anytime a receptor senses something, there is a signal sent to the brain to let the person know something is there. It’s this signal that is so important.
Signals from the receptor are like exercises for the brain. The more signals, the more the brain gets a work-out and the stronger the brain gets, the less signals, the weaker it gets.There are more receptors in joints and more receptors the closer you get to the brain. In other words, there are lots of receptors in the spine, the greatest number in the upper neck.
People start to have problems when they have subluxations when their joints get stuck and don’t move as well as they could. What this does is that it causes the receptors in the joint to not send the proper signal to the brain, which in turn can cause a decrease in the brain’s function.
What an adjustment does is 2 things: 1. It frees up the joint so that it can move properly, thus sending the brain the proper signal; and 2. It strongly fires the receptors that have not been firing very well, giving that part of the brain an extra jolt.So by making sure the brain gets the proper signaling, the brain is kept healthy. It’s like exercise for the brain.
This is a very simple explanation. The human nervous system is exceptionally complex and even though there has been more brain research in the last 10 years than in the whole rest of history, there is still much that is not known about how the brain works.
Then why not get adjusted every day, all the time, to insure that everything moves the way it’s supposed to move?
The problem with this train of thought is an adjustment is very much like exercise. The proper amounts have the best results. Usually if something is done too much, the system becomes weaker not stronger.
How do you know if something is too much or not enough? Is pain a good indicator of health?
Unfortunately, no. Pain is usually the last thing to show up when there is a problem and one of the first things to go away.
Health is not the absence of pain.
There have been cases where the pain goes away, but the patient is actually worse. The nervous system has been weakened and is unable to perceive/feel the pain.
It is also a very common experience that the pain gets worse while the patient is getting better. The nervous system comes back online, things start working better, so the patient perceives/feels more pain. At the same time the patient notices he or she can do more and function better. This is how you can tell that you are getting better, by what you can do not necessarily how you feel.
The best ways to know how much is enough and not too much is to do a complete physical and neurological examination, receive treatment, and recheck the findings to see if there is improvement.