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.
If you have never seen a chiropractor before, it can be hard to know what to expect from a chiropractic treatment, or as we call them, chiropractic adjustments. The short answer is a chiropractor can help your nervous system function better, which may result in less pain, increased function, decreased muscle tightness and better joint movement all through your body. As the body is a very complex organism all linked by your nervous system, dysfunction in one area can have a knock on effect and cause dysfunction in other areas as well, which is why chiropractors will look at your entire body’s function from your feet to your skull, not just the area you are having problems with.
When could I see a chiropractor? Why would I see a chiropractor?
You might choose to consult with a chiropractor when you are experiencing any of the following conditions:
Low back pain
Headaches or migraines
Mid back pain
Stress related conditions
Overuse injuries (including in the hands/wrists and feet)
Trouble sleeping due to pain
Nerve related problems (numbness, tingling sensations)
After a fall
After a car accident (once cleared for fractures etc)
After sporting injuries
Sport injury prevention
Hip, knee or foot issues
Pain after activity
Waking with pain/tightness/discomfort
Chiropractors work with any and every age group, from newborn to elderly, with age and condition appropriate techniques. You do not need a referral to see a chiropractor, we are primary health care practitioners, so you can simply book an appointment at any time.
While all our chiros can assess any condition, each Chiropractor is a little bit different, with slight differences in technique and interests. We currently have 3 chiropractors here at Ballarat and District Chiropractic Centre.
Dr Kristian loves it when people come in and say 'I carry my stress in my shoulders, can you help me?' and showing how chiropractic care can help significantly reduce the effect stress has on the body and how BETTER life is when your body isn't continually in fight or flight!
Dr Rhiannon has a special interest in helping people correct their posture, improve the way their body moves and providing advice on ergonomic changes in order to reduce pain, prevent injury and see people achieve their health and exercise goals.
Dr Bridget likes to work with people experiencing headache and migraine, shoulder issues, posture and stress related conditions and babies with tongue tie/latching problems.
What will they do to help my condition?
At Ballarat and District Chiropractic, at your initial appointment, we will take your history to begin with. This is your chance to give us as much detail about your issue as you can, things like when did it start, how long have you had it for, any previous diagnoses, where the problem is, does it travel or contribute to any other conditions you have? Then we will assess the issues you have presented with and state of your nervous system through various ‘assessments’ like range of movement, neurological testing, muscle tests, palpation (touching the area to see what the tissues and joints feel like) and more. Once we have assessed your condition, we explain what will be appropriate treatment for you. Each person and condition is different, but common treatments include joint manipulation (also known as an adjustment), trigger point therapy, cranial work, etc etc etc. We will also take any of your preferences into account if you would prefer a certain type of adjustment or have tried various therapies in the past and know what does or does not work for you, you know your body best!
Here at Ballarat and District Chiropractic, we use a wide range of chiropractic techniques for adjustments, these include, but are not limited to: Manual (cavitating/cracking) adjustments, low force adjustment (often using an adjusting tool called an activator), biomechanical blocks, drop piece, SOT, AK, SD protocol just to name a few. We will often mix techniques to find the best combination for your body and condition. If you don’t know what any of these mean, that’s OK! We will explain what we are doing and how we will do it so you will be completely informed every step of the way.
After your adjustment, it does not stop there! There is often some work for you to do yourself at home, including stretches, postural and ergonomic changes and neuro rehab exercises. These are to help your body keep moving in an optimal way, and not let it slip back into the tight and restricted state that often causes pain. It is always a good idea to go for a short walk after your adjustment and drink plenty of water that day.
We will always recommend an initial phase of care, which often includes a few adjustments fairly close together (e.g once a week for 4-5 weeks) to allow your body to make as much change as possible. Just like you wouldn’t go to the gym once and say ‘ok, I’m fit now’, chiropractic adjustments take more than one adjustment to give you the best results. Often your symptoms will reduce after the first 2-3 visits, then it is about consolidating the changes we have made to allow your body and nervous system to function well in the longer term.
Chiropractic is for everyone, young or old, whatever stage of life you are in. We tailor our adjustments just for you and your conditions to help your body work the best it can.
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.