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What is an Adjustment?
We are glad you asked! In a recent study published in The Spine Journal, researchers set out to determine the effects of the chiropractic adjustment on the nervous system of the human body. Joel G. Pickar, D.C., PhD drew peer-reviewed literature and examined their reliability for this given topic. His conclusions are outlined below.
This study examined the effects of the adjustment on the nervous system as well as the effects of the adjustment on different muscle groups which stabilize and mobilize the spine.
How does a chiropractic adjustment affect my nervous system?
The chiropractic adjustment is most appropriately applied in a clinical setting to a joint or area that is not moving or functioning properly. By immediately increasing the range of motion after an adjustment and normalizing spinal function, nerves called mechanical stimulators actually decrease our experience of pain in the nervous system.
The adjustment has also been shown to actually interrupt the pain signal to the brain, causing an increase in joint function without pain. Researchers attribute this to the influx of positive neurological signals after receiving an adjustment.
The study also demonstrated that the chiropractic adjustment stimulates the production of molecules known as endorphins. Endorphins are small, protein molecules that are produced by cells in your nervous system and other parts of your body. Because they are naturally produced by the body, endorphins are possibly the best (and most legal way) to achieve a "natural high." Chemically speaking, endorphins are polypeptides, which are able to bind to the neuro-receptors in the brain to give relief from pain. Most researchers agree that these endorphins are most likely the reason many patients experience feelings of intense relaxation following an adjustment. They also account for the so called runner's high, or the feeling of elation during dangerous activities like car racing, sky diving and bungee jumping. These molecules are most concentrated in your brain, spinal cord, and other nerve endings. Endorphins are not a single molecule, but actually come in several forms, and can be anywhere from eighteen to five hundred times as powerful as any man-made analgesic (or pain reliever). And, they are non-addictive. Simply put, this is why getting adjusted "feels good."
How does a chiropractic adjustment affect my joints and muscles?
Small lower back muscles help position the pelvis and low back. Healthy individuals can accurately reposition their spine; however, repositioning is impaired in individuals with a history of low back pain or dysfunction. Spinal manipulation has been shown to aid in restoring the repositioning mechanism.
In one group studied, the results showed that when the dysfunctional regions of the spine received an adjustment it resulted in an increase in both large and small spinal muscle activity allowing for optimum spinal stabilization and strength. Many world class athletes including Tiger Woods, Jerry Rice, Maurice Jones-Drew, and many Olympic athletes receive adjustments prior to and following competitions for this very reason.
In another group studied, they found that a spinal column stabilizer known as the erector spinae muscle was immediately stronger after an adjustment when tested using electromyography. Additionally, the adjustment has been shown to stimulate specific relaxing nerve portions of the muscle, immediately helping to relax muscles that are overactive or in a state of "spasm."
The exit points of the nerves in our spines have less protection around them, which leaves them unusually vulnerable to sensory information. These areas of nerves are much more sensitive to inflammation or chemical reactions than other parts of the nervous system. This is the location where many disc bulges/herniations are present, which irritate the vulnerable parts of the nerves, resulting in pain. This study also suggested that the chiropractic adjustment may decrease the irritation on these nerve roots by increasing range of motion.
Here are a few videos of professional athelets talking about the benefits of chiropractic care: