You might be thinking, how could chiropractic care possibly help me when there’s increased stress in my life? To answer this, we have to look at what can cause your spine to go out of alignment.
Most people think that some degree of physical trauma is the main cause of spinal problems. Subluxation, or slight misalignments in the bones of the spine which put pressure on the nervous system, can result from physical, chemical, or mental stress. Physical stresses can arise from situations such as a fall or car accident, or prolonged poor posture or sleeping patterns. Chemical stress can come in the form of toxins that we inhale or poor dietary choices we make. Additionally, emotional and mental stresses can take a toll on your spine and your overall health.
When we experience a stressful situation, one of the common ways our bodies respond is tensing the muscles, especially those in our necks and shoulders. These muscular spasms and knots can then in turn pull your vertebrae out of alignment. This is why it’s important to get your atlas checked in times of increased daily stress!
There is a particular kind of headache that is caused in part by a tightening of muscles in the neck and shoulders, called Cervicogenic Headaches (it’s a technical name for headaches that start from the cervical spine, or neck). There is usually limited range of motion in the neck associated with this type of pain. Pain that originates from the neck can often lead to uncomfortable muscle irritation, which can then contribute to headaches. These are sometimes coined “Stress (or Tension) Headaches” and certainly stress is a contributing factor to these irritating pains in the neck (literally). Pain that’s localized in the neck or base of the skull can also travel up to the eye area, or behind the eyes, and moving the neck a certain way often increases the intensity of the headache.
If you or a loved one is under increased amounts of stress and/or is suffering from tension-type headaches, it’s a good idea to get the spine checked. Sometimes an adjustment of the atlas is all it takes to alleviate the pain.
What happens when you break a bone? You probably go to the doctor, get a cast put on, and then do a lot of waiting. And what eventually happens? It gets back to normal again. Now how does this happen? Does the cast magically heal the fracture, and cause the broken pieces to grow back together? Well, no. The cast is there as a support, but YOUR BODY is the real healer. That broken bone repairs itself, because the human body has an amazing capacity to heal things that it detects aren’t right. The point is, a cast (or a band-aid, or a pill for that matter) doesn’t bring health and healing to your body when something goes wrong. Healing comes from within, and the only way for that to happen is to have a body wherein all parts communicate with each other the way they were meant to do. The body's master communicator is the same as its master control system. And the system that controls every single function in your body – be it to repair a broken bone, digest the turkey sandwich you had at lunch, or tell you where in space your left pinky toe is at this very moment – is the nervous system.
Often times I’m asked what conditions I can help, as a chiropractor. The real question should be what can’t a chiropractor help? Most people assume I crack spines and fix things like low back pain. It’s true that studies abound with evidence that chiropractic is the best route to treat back pain, but that’s not really the point, in the end. (And as for the cracking part, well, that’s actually not what I do at all.) What I do is look at the structure of your body – primarily the skull and backbone – and determine what’s out of alignment and then realign it, both to help your body move better and without pain, but also to help it heal, and ultimately function, better. What results is better health through natural, non-invasive means. Chiropractors are more doctors of the nervous system than they are doctors of the back. How’s that, you might ask?
The picture to the left may help demonstrate how every single organ, tissue, and cell of your entire body relies on the nervous system to function properly. In order for the nervous system to carry messages to and from all of these vastly different cells and tissues, the nerves that bring those messages back and forth between brain and body must be able to get where they’re going, without interference. When a misalignment exists somewhere along the way, disrupting the path of that nerve, you can guarantee that 100% of that message is not getting to its intended destination. Reparative functions in the body, just like everything else, rely on the nerve system. Let’s say a spinal misalignment at T7 (see chart) results in mild pressure on a nerve carrying messages to the stomach, and as a result, only 85% of those messages are delivered between the brain and body and can actually get to the stomach. Is it likely, then, for the stomach to function at 100%? Of course not. At its best, with the nerve pressure that’s present, that organ will only function at 85%. This might mean it produces too much acid, or maybe not enough, resulting in some form of indigestion. Or perhaps normal peristalsis – the contractions that occur each time we eat a meal and need to digest it – is affected, and the food sits there too long, causing nausea. A lot can go awry when your body's normal communication pathways have interference. When this obstruction in communication exists, optimum health cannot be achieved.
A good way to think about the connection between the brain and body is through a model called the safety pin cycle. When your spine is aligned, and all the messages between the brain and body are successfully getting to where they need to go, your body is connected, in a state of optimal health, and your capacity for healing, performing, and living at your best is maximized. When a spinal misalignment occurs (referred to as a subluxation), there is an interference in normal nerve flow, thus a disconnect between the brain and body, and something is going to go wrong. Sometimes this means back pain. Sometimes, it just means you're not functioning the way you should be.
Your brain controls literally everything in your body through the rest of your nervous system. Chiropractic adjustments help relieve pressure on the nervous system, allowing your brain to communicate correctly – at 100% – with the rest of your body. If you want better health naturally, chiropractic care is a key component in allowing your body to function at its optimum capacity.