Perhaps the best known form of maual therapy is chiropractic. There are many techniques and professions that address the musculoskeletal system, using it to have a profound effect on health.
Posture and Muscle Balance
To simply say that poor posture stresses the spine doesn’t really convey how much of a burden poor posture is on your health. The most obvious problem caused by poor posture is muscle tension. Muscle tension is merely the tip of the iceberg. Poor ergonomics (which is Latin for “rules of work”) causes stress and strain. Habits like reading in bed and cradling the phone between your ear and shoulder can create problems.
Your body doesn’t know the difference between a muscle that is doing work and one that is in spasm. The body has to supply nutrients and oxygen to a muscle that is in spasm, and that muscle produces waste products. Muscle tension requires energy and is a major cause of chronic fatigue.
Poor posture creates tension in the small muscles in the spine, called multifidi. These muscles are an inch or two long and connect individual vertebrae. Chronically poor posture creates spasms in these muscles, which in turn cause distortions in the alignment of individual vertebra These misalignments are called subluxations. Other areas of the spine may not be subluxed but do experience a lack of normal motion; these are called fixations.
Have You Ever Had Your Arm in a Cast?
Have you have ever had a cast on your arm, leg or other broken bone, and that cast kept a joint from moving? Remember how hard it was to move the joint when the cast was removed? The spine is dozens of joints and is meant to be highly mobile. Chronic subluxations and fixations create stiffness and lack of mobility similar to that of a joint that has been placed in a cast.
The Whole Nervous System is Affected
Virtually every nerve in the body passes through the spine. When the spine contains subluxations, fixations, and muscle spasm the nervous system is affected. The obvious manifestation of this is pain and discomfort. Pain and discomfort is caused by stimulation (or irritation) of the nerves that emerge from the spine.
Sometimes the pain is severe, sometimes it is merely annoying. Pain is what brings most people to chiropractors. Chiropractors adjust (manipulate) subluxations and fixations to relieve pain and discomfort. It works very well. Chiropractic, as we know it, has been around for a hundred years. Spinal manipulation, however, has been practiced since the time of the ancient Egyptians and has a pretty good track record of improving health and relieving pain.
The Spinal Nerves
The spinal nerves are responsible for feeling pain (and other sensations) and for the movement of muscles. They emerge from the spinal column and are responsible for feeling and movement throughout the body.
Pain, weakness and other symptoms caused by irritation of spinal nerves are what usually bring people to chiropractors. To most people, the value of chiropractic is its ability to relieve neck, back and other musculoskeletal pain. Even chronic distortions of the spine, while taking a little more time, can be relieved through chiropractic care.
The Autonomic Nervous System
While it is clear to many people that chiropractic is effective in treating neck, back and musculoskeletal pain, they may not fully realize that chiropractic helps the function of another part of the nervous system, the autonomic nervous system.
In the autonomic nervous system there are clusters of nerves, called ganglia along side of the spine. The ganglia handle automatic functions (they work autonomously). When you eat, you don’t have to tell your stomach to produce acid for digestion. When you run, you don’t have to tell your heart to beat faster to supply blood and oxygen to your legs. These functions happen automatically. Think of the brain as the president of the company. The president isn’t involved with every detail of the running of that company. There are heads of various departments, marketing, accounting, sales etc. These department heads are like the ganglia of the autonomic nervous system.
Chiropractic Care Can Improve Every Function of The Body
People often think of chiropractors as treating bones, but in reality they treat the nervous system. If you take a rubber band and put it around your arm, your hand will become numb, tingle and then ache. You have interfered with the nerve and blood supply. Similarly, subluxations and fixations affect your body. Spinal nerves are affected, causing pain and weakness and the autonomic nervous system is affected causing dysfunction in various organs. When you place a rubber band around your arm, the effects are felt in a few minutes. Pressure from subluxations and fixations, when chronic, are usually more subtle and their effects are felt over time.
Relieving subluxations and fixations create a sense of well-being and improves health. Ask any person who has been going to a chiropractor for a long time. Chiropractic is effective for relieving pain, but its real strength lies in its ability to improve the health of the nervous system and the rest of the body. Chiropractic is a holistic profession which helps to ensure a lifetime of good health.