How does Chiropractic ‘balance’ your body?
It’s Spinal Awareness Week 2019 in May and because an adjustment does FAR MORE than just relieve pain, I thought I’d write a “little” piece about how much of an impact the adjustment has on your body.
Before we talk about the adjustment though, first we need to understand how the complex nervous system works.
The nervous system is the body’s major control system and supplies absolutely everything within the body. It acts like an electrical circuit with signals going up and down – from the body to the brain and back to the body again. A part of your nervous system is responsible for your voluntary muscular control (kicking a football or reaching for something), but it is primarily governed on a subconscious level by the autonomic nervous system (ANS) with most of its function being involuntary.
Information received in or by the body cause nerve signals to be sent up the spinal cord to the brain and the brain then sends signals down the spine to the body, to act on the information.
The ANS is programmed to be “ON”, causing things to turn on and changes to happen in the body, like an accelerator. The way to manage this and keep us in BALANCE, is via a loop which causes a “SWITCHING OFF” of this process, like a brake. When we put stress on our bodies (be it physically, nutritionally or emotionally), we start to “accelerate” our bodies (for example muscles become tighter or blood pressure is raised – to name but a few). The ANS will regulate this “acceleration” via the loop to slow the system down by “braking”, and inhibiting these changes (making muscle tension decrease and blood pressure lower).
The whole system and is influenced by external sources, namely; Trauma (physical stress), Toxins (chemical stress) and Thoughts (emotional stress). All of these sources cause changes to the circuit and increase the “acceleration” in the body. Some of these stressors are temporary and cause a small amount of change before the body then automatically returns to its normal state (e.g. a loud, scary bang). Some of these stressors are more long term and cause a prolonged state of stress, leading to decreased health or structural changes within the body:
• Trauma to the body causes a decrease in movement and a gradual increase in pain signals sent to the brain. The longest term trauma to our bodies in our lifetime is posture due to its repetitive and habitual nature.
• Toxins cause the body to release chemicals, which regulate inflammation within the body. High sugar levels or low levels of essential fatty acids increase the release of these chemicals, and potentially cause global inflammation conditions throughout the body.
• Thoughts (bad ones) cause the release of adrenaline within the body accelerating the body and the nervous system causing an increase in muscle tension or blood pressure.
If occurring frequently, all of these factors and changes can eventually lead to; disease, decreased quality of life, increased pain and decreased immunity. So why does it happen?
Sympathetic nerves are the nerves that stimulate the “acceleration” or turning “on” in our bodies. They are part of the ANS and are responsible for the stress (or “fight or flight response”). These nerves connect with other nerves that control or influence many structures such as immune organs (spleen, appendix, tonsils etc), blood vessels, big organs (heart, kidneys, lungs, liver etc), the outside of the vertebral discs and muscle fibres.
Trauma, Toxins or bad Thoughts cause an increase in this “acceleration” creating negative changes to occur in these structures, resulting in poorer health (lower immunity, less blood flow, poor organ function, increased muscle tension).
For the body to remain in balance, the “acceleration” must be “switched off”. One way of doing this is by increasing spinal mobility.
Every joint, spinal disc, ligament and muscle tendon have motion sensors embedded within them. Every time a movement or stretch occurs at these structures, the sensors send signals through the spinal cord. Here, they connect to 2 different pathways – a bit like a fork in the road.
1) When the movement sensors are stimulated, they cause an inhibition of this “acceleration” in the spinal cord, and the circuit is broken. This creates a positive change in these organs (increased immunity, more blood flow, better organ function, less muscle tension), creating more balance and better health/function.
2) Long nerves that communicate with your brain get stimulated and relay information to different control centres. These signals impact on things like behaviour, decision making, memory and attention, intelligence, processing of pain and emotional responses, hormone release, movement control, language and more.
When you get adjusted, the quick movement of your joints causes these motion sensors to fire off incredible amounts of signals to your organs and your brain via these 2 pathways. This explains many of the previous findings of Chiropractic’s effect such as improvements in sensorimotor function relevant to falls-prevention, better joint-position sense in both the upper limb and the lower limb, improved muscle strength, better pelvic floor control, and better ability to carry out mental rotation of objects. Chiropractic care doesn’t just alter brain function a little, it increases the prefrontal cortex activity by 20%! This means every time you receive a Chiropractic adjustment, the part of the brain that is responsible for ‘higher level functions’ is being stimulated, increasing body awareness and allowing your body to function at a much higher level.
This is why when you get adjusted, much much much more is happening than just the pain relief you feel. On a cellular level things are changing to improve the function of your nervous system, and therefore bodily processes.
Simplified: A Chiropractic adjustment = increased information to the brain and body = better brain function = better adaptability to stresses = increased health.
So are you speeding towards disease? Or are you “braking” the circuit and “switching on” your happy road to health and wellness?
M Chiro, Doctor of Chiropractic