What Chiropractors Do!
Chiropractors are hands on practitioners that help people get better by identifying and correcting imbalances in the nervous system. The purpose of the brain and nervous system is to act as a relay between the community of cells that is you, and your environment. Its function and survival is tied to its purpose; It can only survive if it is being stimulated – Use it or lose it.
These are some big words and big concepts so let’s take a closer look.
There has been a lot of confusion about what chiropractors actually do, even among chiropractors. When chiropractic was developed in the late 1800’s early 1900’s the founders knew that they were affecting the nervous system at a very fundamental level, but since neuroscience was only in its infancy, there was no adequate explanation for the mechanism.
Chiropractors saw people getting better from all sorts of conditions seemingly unrelated to locations on the body that were being adjusted, and since humans always want answers, all sorts of “pseudo” explanations have emerged over time. None of which, of course, make chiropractic any less scientific or valid, chiropractic was simply about a 100 years ahead of its time.
Over time people got better by such numbers that chiropractors gained enough respect to be included in virtually all insurance plans. Unfortunately there was a high cost for this. The cost was for chiropractors to be labeled as back doctors and musculo-skeletal “technicians”, and to be required to start labeling health problems in medical terms with diagnostic codes, all the while getting further from the source of the problem and the art and philosophy that chiropractic stands for.
Chiropractors are not back doctors, or spine doctors, or physical therapists that “pop” backs. Chiropractors are functional neurologists.
The following mechanisms and principles are the result of advances in neuroscience only in the last 10-20 years. It represents a different way of viewing the body than what most people are familiar with. If we compare the body to a computer, which depends on both hardware and software to function, the physical body would be the hard ware and the information channeled through the brain and nervous system with its neural networks and trillions of synapses represents the software. The metaphor is almost perfect in its likeness except that in the case of the body the soft ware not only runs the hardware – it also rebuilds and maintains the hardware.
Every function in the body is regulated by the brain and nervous system. If that is true, and it is, it means that the only way something can get better is if we have improved some aspect of nervous system function. This holds true for all alternative health care practitioners, whether they are chiropractors, acupuncturists, massage therapists or anything else.
If you get better it is because something is working better and that something is in the nervous system.
There is of course an exception to the rule. If we take drug and feel better because we can’t feel the pain, we haven’t made anything function better; we’re just oblivious to the problem, allowing it to continue.
The difference between different holistic practitioners lies primarily in the specificity and the magnitude of impact they have on the nervous system; and secondarily in how they understand and evaluate what they are doing.
In order to understand better what we’re talking about it may be helpful to look at the body in terms of its three functional systems; the passive, the active and the regulating system.
The passive system consists of bones, cartilage, fat, connective tissue etc. It can be evaluated with x-ray and MRI, palpation and visualization.
The active system is the muscular system; a muscle being anything that moves something. This includes the muscles for voluntary movement as well as muscles for excretion, circulation and respiration. This system can be evaluated by muscle strength testing, sEMG, and thermography.
The Control system is the brain and nervous system. It regulates every aspect of function in the body. Movement, balance, muscle tension, posture, regeneration, reproduction, digestion, immune system etc…We can evaluate this system by EEG, heart rate, heart rate variability, skin conductance, variable sEMG, extremity temperature, and functional muscle testing.
So nervous system function is primary, muscle action is secondary and joint position and condition of passive tissue is tertiary in the body. So when we take an x-ray or MRI we are imaging something that is three levels removed from the regulation of health.
If we truly want to assess and improve health we must measure and monitor the primary level of function. That is why chiropractors who practice neurologically based chiropractic measure EEG, heart rate variability, skin conductance etc, because we know we affect the brain and nervous system.
One of the most fundamental principles in the body is use it or lose it. Most people are intuitively familiar with this law when it comes to muscles or skills, but few people realize that it applies to the brain as well. Actually, the skill is maintained because the brain cells and pathways that execute the skill are activated by the use and practice.
The whole purpose of having a brain is so that it can help your cells interact with each other and with your environment. The way they do this is by receiving, processing and responding to signals. Those signals reach the brain as electrical impulses and are responded to in turn with electrical and/or chemical impulses. Those incoming impulses are the very things that keep the brain alive and alert.
A receptor is something that receives one type of stimuli and converts it into an electrical signal that can be transmitted to the brain. Think of it like a key on a computer key board. When you press a key on the key board or click the mouse you create an electrical impulse that stimulates the computer to change its behavior. It’s not that the keyboard is misaligned and needs an adjustment to affect the computer; it is simply a receptor. The body works the same way. If you can stimulate receptors and create specific signals to the brain, you can change its behavior.
It so just happens that the spine contains the most receptors of any area of the body, so that is where we get “the most bang for the buck”;, especially in the neck, but obviously you can get results by adjusting other body parts as well, which most chiropractors do.
You cannot improve health by removing symptoms anymore than you can light a room by removing the darkness.
When the brain works better, symptom relief is a bonus.
This is what chiropractors do.
This is the mechanism by which chiropractic works.
This is how chiropractors are able to improve the quality of life for millions of people every day.