What truly differentiates doctors of chiropractic from any other healthcare professionals is the fact that chiropractors are trained to diagnose and treat joint fixations – most typically within the spine, while medical doctors tend to treat ailments using medication.
When a misalignment or joint fixations occurs, a chiropractor can correct the fixated joint and restore more normal movement. This procedure is appropriately called an adjustment, and the adjustment enables the body to heal. The chiropractic adjustment is a quick thrust applied to a vertebra for the purpose of correcting its position, movement, or both. Adjustments are often accompanied by an audible release of gas that sounds like a “crack”.
The sound sometimes shocks people a little bit the first couple times they get adjusted, but the sensation is usually relieving. Occasionally, minor discomfort is experienced, especially if the surrounding muscles are in spasm or the patient tenses up during the chiropractic procedure. There are times when the audible “cracking” does not occur. This is often due to either significant muscle tightness or that the patient may be having a hard time relaxing during their adjustments. However, the chiropractic adjustment is still crucial to fixing the problem.
There are actually five components that contribute to the joint fixation:
- Bone Component – This happens when the joint is restricted due to degeneration. This frequently leads to a narrowing of the spaces between the bones through which the nerves pass; often resulting in irritation or impingement of the nerve itself.
- Nervous Component – Sometimes, disruption of the normal electrical flow along the nerve fibers can occur, causing the messages traveling along the nerves to become diminished. The result is that all of the muscles that are fed by those nerves receive decreased signals from the brain and, consequently, are not able to function normally. To compensate, other muscles which are controlled by other nerves can end up doing more of the work, which can cause soft tissue damage and pain.
- Muscular Component – Muscles can often times have knotted up bundles of muscle fibers called “trigger points.” Trigger points can either cause dysfunctional movement of joints, pain, or both. If muscles are in dysfunction, and muscles control joints, then joints can end up moving in ways that are less than optimal.
- Soft Tissue Component – Abnormal joint movement will also affect the surrounding tendons, ligaments, blood supply, and other tissues as joints, particularly vertebrae, tug and squeeze the connective tissue with tremendous force. Over time, the soft tissues can become stretched out or scarred, leaving the spine with either a permanent instability or restriction.
- Chemical Component – The change in the chemistry of the body can sometimes be due to a restricted joint. Most often, the chemical changes, such as the release of a class of chemicals called “kinins,” are pro-inflammatory; meaning that they increase inflammation (pain, redness, swelling, and/or heat) in the affected area. Inflammation is the body’s way of healing threats within the body or damage.
These changes get progressively worse over time if they are not treated correctly, leading to chronic pain, inflammation, arthritis, muscle trigger points, the formation of bone spurs, loss of movement, as well as muscle weakness and spasm.
At Integrated Sport, Spine & Rehab, in order to have the best possible outcome of each adjustment, recommendations will be given. Some of these services and recommendations might include massage, physical therapy, dietary changes, supplementation, stretching exercises, strengthening exercises, or medical consultation. At our office, we believe that prevention of a potential problem is more important and less expensive than treating the problem when it arises.