One of the most important things I can do as a chiropractor is educate people as to how the structure and function of the spine affects whole body health and performance. The human spine and associated joints and soft tissues house and protect the spinal cord and numerous nerve pathways that are critical for proper body function. When the spine is misaligned or loses it’s ability to move normally, nerve communication is interfered with. This is known as vertebral subluxation complex, or VSC.
VSC by interfering with nerve function causes loss of normal body function, including muscle weakness and loss of co-ordination. A very common situation is to have VSC in the lower neck interfering with the nerves supplying the shoulder, arm and hand muscles resulting in lack of normal strength in these muscles. Studies have shown that chiropractic neck adjustments to correct VSC increase arm and hand strength. When I am examining a new patient they are often suprised when or both arms or legs are found to be weak to resisted strength testing. It is equally shocking when a patient receives their first adjustment and upon re-testing the arm/leg is immediately stronger. In this case the adjustment has improved nerve function and restored proper brain-muscle communication allowing for greater strength, co-ordination, endurance as well as improved resistance to injury. It is important to note that the damaging effects of VSC usually occur in the absence of any pain or symptoms, especially in the early stages. This is why it is important to be checked regularly by your chiropractor for VSC.
VSC also causes increased muscle tightness especially over the areas of the spine where it is present. It is very common for me to examine a patient for the first time and find tight and tender neck, mid-back and low-back muscles related to VSC. It is also very common for a person to have tight low back or leg muscles being caused by VSC in the neck. When the neck is misaligned this affects the nerve communication to the rest of the body, a fact which is overlooked by almost all in health care except chiropractors! Studies have shown that adjustment of VSC at C1 (the top bone in the neck) improves hip and leg flexibility presumably by decreasing whole body muscle tension. Often those patients who have pain want to know from me if it is a “muscle problem” or a “bone problem” as they think this will determine whether a chiropractor, massage therapist or physiotherapist can help them. The reality is there is no such thing as a “muscle problem” or “bone problem” in isolation. Let’s consider that bones are held in place by joints and muscle, and a muscle doesn’t do anything unless a NERVE tells it to! So when we look at what is going on in someone’s body we have to look at the connections between the nerves and the systems of the body to discover how the body is functioning as a whole. Medicine has trained us to be very narrow and look only at the part that hurts but the human body is a complex system and everything going on is in relationship to the body as a whole, or as my patient’s like to say “everything is connected”. That’s also why I make sure that my recommendations focus on things that affect whole body health including but not limited to exercise, meditation, dietary change, positive thinking and chiropractic adjustments of course!
So if you’ve been experiencing muscle tightness or weakness anywhere in your body, or if want to prevent these from happening see your chiropractor for a check-up today!