If you were to ask the average person what a chiropractor does, the answer would probably be ‘crack your back’ or ‘fix your joints’. So what does that have to do with muscles?
Something we have heard a bit recently is “It’s just a tight muscle, why would I see a chiro?”. While it’s true a chiropractor will look at your joint’s function, the ‘cracking’ is only a small part of what chiropractors are trained to do in their 5 years at university.
What is the cracking noise with a chiropractic adjustment?
The noise you hear with an adjustment is simply joint fluid changing pressure as the joint capsule is stretched to create a small gas bubble in the joint. This gas is then reabsorbed into the joint fluid over about 20 minutes.
The sound you hear is only a small part of the effects of an adjustment. As the joint capsule is stretched, it increases movement of that joint. This sends a feedback signal to the brain saying that the joint has more movement, it is time to relax the muscles in the area to allow the joint to move better. This affects the small, interspinal muscles, as well as the bigger muscles in the area. Often these muscles have tightened in response to the restricted movement of the joint, that our brain may interpret as ‘injury’ and tighten the muscles to protect the area from any potential harm.
Our brain and body are constantly communicating, back and forth, to allow us to adapt to our environment. If we didn’t lean forward at the ankles while walking uphill, we would fall over. How do we know we are going uphill? Feedback from our feet, ankle joint position, stretch in calf muscles, visual feedback, position sense from our ear canals and much more. Then our brain can make the necessary accommodations so we can get up the hill safely. But what happens if the communication between brain and body is impeded because the joints aren’t moving properly? You are not able to adapt to your environment as well.
So what happens when you have joints and muscles that are not functioning to their full potential, and your brain is unable to properly adapt to changes in your environment? This may cause injury and pain. This could be the repetitive strain of repeated movements of joints that are restricted, or a sudden sprain or strain of muscles or ligaments that couldn’t adapt quick enough. Often this will feel like sore and tight muscles, limited movement of peripheral joints like shoulders, hips, ankles and wrists, limited movement of neck, mid back or low back, sometimes with muscle spasm and grabbing. Muscles are the pain sensitive structure that we notice is dysfunctioning. Rather than notice the restriction in several spinal segments, we notice the tight muscles in the area.
But it’s just a muscle, why would I see a chiro?
Because it is not just a muscle, it is your brain and nervous system reacting to joint restriction and interrupted feedback. The pain and tightness you feel is your brain trying to protect you from injury by sending pain signals when it cannot clearly interpret the movement from the restricted joints. The chiropractic adjustment has an effect on these tight and sore muscles, often helping them to relax and exert proper forces on the joints to allow them to move correctly. This is true of any part of your body, not just your spinal column, which is why here at Ballarat and District Chiropractic Centre we check from head to toe and anything along the way.
This is us.
At Ballarat and District Chiropractic Center, we want you to be empowered when it comes your health. We want to help you by sharing all our knowledge about Chiropractic.