How Does It Work?
Chiropractic manipulation is not just joint popping. In fact the audible
pop doesnít even need to occur for a successful manipulation, though it
often does, and some patients and doctors like to hear it. Research has
found that pop or not, the same benefits are experienced and that
trying repeatedly to get a pop can actually cause damage.
Here are some of the known things that can begin to explain why manipulation works.
1. Proprioceptive stimulation triggers the release of endorphins. These
endorphins cause a near instant and temporary relief similar to pain
medication making you less aware of the problem. This trick of the body
can cause a secondary benefit, that of relaxing local tissues such as
trigger points or tight musculature that may be pinching nerves.
2. Manipulation provides improved nutrient supply.
The cartilage and other structures inside of a joint have no blood
supply. These structures get their nutrients through motion. The blood
supply goes to the outside of the joint and nutrients move into the
synovial fluid of the joint. Joint motion moves this fluid around thus
providing fresh nutrients to all parts of the joint, as well as removing
waste. If a joint becomes locked down by muscle spasm, scar tissue, a
cast, or any other means, for a prolonged period of time the joint
begins to feel stiff. You know the feeling of needing to stretch after
sitting in the car for a long time.
The facet joints in your
spine are particularly vulnerable to this problembecause they work in
tandem and because of the bodyís amazing ability to compensate. Your
facet joints all work together, if one is injured it can become locked
down to prevent further injury. When this happens you may get the desire
to stretch or move your back. This usually works, but if all of the
other joints compensate for the problem joint and take that added stress
of movement on themselves then the problem joint stays locked down.
Specific manipulation induces full range of motion and synovial fluid
3. Manipulation can reduce pressure on the nerves.
Your nervous system is the control center of your body, and it is not
without weaknesses. Nerves and nerve bundles are soft tissue. They
donít function well under physical pressure. In fact it has been shown
that inflammation, a bulging disc, or fragment floating around can
interfere with proper nerve conduction. The stuck joint as discussed
previously can also physically be stuck pressing on a nerve, or could be
causing inflammation that is pressing on the nerve, or could just be
moving in a way that rubs the nerve. In any case. The adjustment can
cause a relief of this pressure. through movement of the joint to the
correct position, or motion.
4. Proprioceptive retraining allows for improved function. The
brain also records these proprioceptive signals from the joints motion.
Especially for chronic conditions the brain is in need of retraining
regarding the motion of that joint. Manipulation takes a joint through
its full range of motion. This new input is then stored and replayed in
the brain, similar to muscle retraining that physical therapists will
do, or physical training of athletes, when the body has done the motion
enough times it remembers it. This retraining provides a functional
correction that may provide pain relief.