Your nervous system and the chiropractic effect

What’s wrong? Can it be resolved? How long will it take? These are the key questions that your chiropractor will seek to answer for you. To answer this, your chiropractor will to find out where the underlying issue is and why there is an issue in the first place. Pain, numbness, burning, tingling, balance, dizziness, and muscle power are all mediated via the nervous system. The brain and body communicate via the nervous system and the key connection is at the spine. This is why chiropractors will check the condition of your spine, as well as other structures directly or indirectly involved.

Injuries and conditions can appear to just ‘come out of the blue’. Problems can gradually and inexplicably build up. Or sometimes a small movement or twist or bend can suddenly cause sharp pain and loss of movement. Either way it often the case that problems, imbalances and pressures build up over time. So is the culprit the musculoskeletal system? Usually not. Muscles, bones and joints will not ‘fail’ for no reason. The control mechanism – the nerves from the spine – can have issues that remain undetected until problem becomes big enough to cause symptoms (usually pain), or until it is detected, and indeed corrected by your chiropractor.

In recent years a lot of research has been done into the influence of spinal restriction on the way that the body and brain communicate. It is now believed that the network of muscles at the uppermost part of the neck (pictured) are more important as ‘motion sensors’ than as ‘joint movers’. Within those muscles are stretch receptive nerve endings which can accurately communicate the position and movement of the spine, neck and head (a ‘sensorimotor’ function). A study in 2006 found that older people with neck pain have greater sensorimotor disturbances than those without neck pain. This is believed to be due to altered incoming information from the neck to the brain. It affects precise muscle control and is understood to be an important component of falls prevention in older adults. It also explains why whiplash injuries to the neck can have such long lasting and profound effects on, for example, neck pain, head pain, balance, dizziness and vertigo. (Uthaikhup et al. 2006)

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The nerve cells of the brain and spine are able to adapt and change throughout our lives. This enables learning. However, incorrect sensory input and resulting incorrect movement patterns also become learned with time. This is mediated by the nervous system but is widely known as ‘muscle memory’. For this reason regular chiropractic corrections, or adjustments, are initially needed to improve a condition – to allow the body and brain to ‘re-learn’ correct function. It is also why maintenance of your spine in a healthy condition can be part of a strategy for long-term prevention of recurrent neuro-musculoskeletal problems.

Chiropractic improves the functional health of the spine, clears communication between the brain, body and environment, so the brain can accurately perceive what is going on and respond appropriately. (Ongoing research by Dr Heidi Haarvik, picture courtesy of Dr Heidi Haarvik)