I have this discussion a lot with patients, especially new patients, and I enjoy the conversation because it helps to bring Chiropractic treatments down to its basic level.
Patients sometimes have the understanding that their spine is “out of alignment”. I don’t like to use the “alignment” word. I explain to patients that it is very common for the joints of the spine to become “restricted” in their movement. The restriction can come from many different reasons. For example, injury, overuse, and simply tight muscles, and tight muscles can come from many reasons, such as sitting for many hours at our computer and work station, working around the yard, shoveling snow, and simply picking up or playing with your children. When the muscles that surround a spinal joint become tight, that joint then begins to become restricted in the amount of movement that is should have, and that creates that achy pain that we all get now and again. When spinal joints are restricted, they tend to rub, and this "rubbing" causes inflammation within the joint, which causes the pain. And the spinal joints will rub as often as we move, which is all day long. Pain from the inflammation causes muscles to tighten, and that will increase the restriction, therefore causing more achy pain and therefore more muscle tightness, and therefore more restriction, and there fore more achy pain, and therefore more muscle tightness…….do you see the circle??
Chiropractic adjustments relieve the restriction within the joints and break the circle, therefore allowing achy pain and muscle tightness to reduce. And because the adjustment does not relieve the inflammation immediately, it does remove the restriction which is the cause for the inflammation. So, I usually recommend some stretching and ice to help along with the treatment, because the stretching helps keep the range of motion that the adjustment just introduced and the ice helps reduce the inflammation that is there, and patients tend to have a noticeable decrease in symptoms. I think it’s neat to understand the physiology behind the treatment and important for patients to understand what they are accomplishing with at home therapy.
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