What is Chiropractic?
Chiropractic can at times be very difficult to define. Indeed for the layperson to understand Chiropractic they must first understand some basic anatomy and physiology. This is not difficult, I will provide some basics, and for those who care enough about their health there are many resources and other Chiropractic pages available. Keep watching, I will have a Chiropractic Links page up soon.
How many of you out there have a computer? The analogy I am about to present is a gross oversimplification of human physiology, yet it will hopefully serve as a simple tool to help educate, and as a starting point as we delve into progressively more difficult and accurate material.
How many of you have brains? I bet that 10 out of 10 would answer yes! The brain could be likened to a computers CPU or Central Processing Unit (that's the main chip inside referred to as "486" or "Pentium") Our brains control our most basic movements such as breathing, temperature, thinking, emotions, etc. In addition our brains have evolved past that of other lifeforms to allow us rational thought, logic, and empathy (although sometimes it doesn't seem this way). Basically the brain controls every function of the human body directly or indirectly, but how does it accomplish this?
Nerves. This is how the brain communicates with the rest of the body, and also how it communicates with the world at large. Think of nerves as a bunch of wires, they both carry electrical impulses through long stretches of conducting material to cause or impede an action at its terminal. Where do these nerves reside; well, all over your body. In fact your brain is made up of billions of nerves. Your spinal cord is the main conduit for these nerves, kind of like taking a bunch of wires and strapping them together. From out of the spinal cord individual nerves branch out to connect to their individual area of innervation, this could be a muscle, gland, or organ such as the heart or lungs. Now of course things are infinitely more complicated than that, but I think you get the picture.
Of course there are many more places nerves go to than pictured, but it is a good way of understanding the direct connection between the brain and systems which are necessary for the continuance of life. In essence, the central nervous system (which consists of the brain and spinal cord) govern all areas of the body.
Now the Spinal Cord is an extension of the brain, but it is also autonomous in some regards. For example, reflexes are entirely modulated by the spinal cord. More on this, and its importance to you later.
The spinal cord is protected by 24 bones called vertebrae. These vertebrae serve to protect the spinal cord from injury, to stabilize the spinal cord, and to allow the spinal cord a full range of motion (for example the spinal cord "stretches" when we bend forward and "compresses" when we lean back.
One vertebrae forms a joint with the vertebrae above it, and the vertebrae below it. More specifically not just one joint, but three joints. The first joint is that between bodies, and the other two joints are the ones between the superior and inferior facets of two adjoining vertebrae. In this fashion the spine forms a bony, moveable column. Where we get into trouble is in the vulnerability of these joints.
These joints are made up of bone, cartilage, connective tissue, lubricating fluid, and an array of nerves which serve different functions. The mechanics of joints are beyond the scope of this web page, although if I get enough E-mail requests to explain them then I will. The joints sometimes misalign or have a decreased function due to many factors. These factors may include, but are not limited to; injury, disease, posture, or neurological imbalance. Any imbalance in the movement of the spinal column or the function of the joint receptors can disturb the nervous system, which we already know affects every area of the body including, but not limited to, breathing, heart beating, blood flow in vessels, digestion, and the immune system. In addition, improperly aligned joints are subject to increased wear and tear leading to conditions like osteoarthritis.
OK, here's where we get to the good part. Chiropractors are specially trained to remove those fixations or misalignments from the spinal cord, thus maintaining a healthy spinal cord and a healthy nervous system. Chiropractors accomplish this through the use of "adjusting", a system of spinal manipulation which directly addresses these fixations or misalignments. The concept of a "fixated joint" is a gross oversimplification, but necessary at this point. What constitutes a joint fixation includes spasmed muscles, neurological imbalance, undue wear and tear of articulating cartilage, and could even involve underlying disease.
Now if you have gotten this far you may want to go the next step. This link provides information on how the Chiropractic adjustment helps maintain the spinal cord. Most of the information is from peer-reveiwed journals, both from Chiropractic and Medicine. Check it out: