After all, all it does is crack your back. Right? Seems pretty weird and not really that useful. Couldn’t a lot of other things – massage, physical therapy, yoga, strength training – do a better job anyway?
First, about that popping. It’s actually caused by a vacuum created in the capsule surrounding a joint when the joint is suddenly stretched. It’s not caused by bone, so it has nothing to do with a bone “cracking” or popping.
Joints that have limited range of motion tend to hurt. Even more importantly, joints that have limited and/or abnormal ranges of motion degenerate and develop arthritis. The discs between the spinal vertebrae, essentially bushings between the bones of the spine break down.
Chiropractic treatment, called adjusting, does increase and normalize the joint range of motion. This can easily be seen and felt by moving a joint through motion before and then after a chiropractic adjustment. In, this way chiropractic care decreases pain, improves joint motion and mechanics, and improves joint health.
But, the most important benefit of chiropractic care is improved function and organization of your nervous system.
When joints move too little or move too much, they over-stimulate or under-stimuli nerves and trigger degenerative processes in the nervous system, including the brain! Abnormal input to the spinal cord and brain from the body (dysafferentation) triggers overstimulation, inflammation, and degeneration of nerves (transneuronal degeneration). Most commonly this inflammatory response is most focused in the cerebellum and limbic system of the brain.
These brains areas are essentially switching stations for everything that goes into and everything that comes back out of the brain. When there is joint dysfunction of spinal vertebrae or other joints in the body the information coming into the brain from the rest of the body doesn’t make sense to the brain and it gets overstimulated/runs too hot, develops inflammation, and breaks down. Think of a laptop computer when it’s processing, gets really hot, and the fan starts whirring!
The circuits get fried and things don’t work right. This can show up as muscle dysfunction with muscle tone turned up too high, too low, or not working at the right time and it feels like pain. This problem can mess up how muscles work by themselves or together with other muscles and cause joint stress and pain, often under specific conditions – sitting, standing, or walking or after very specific activities.
Often the autonomic nervous system gets drawn into the picture and shows up as feeling stressed out, systemic inflammation, blood sugar, heart and lung, and digestive problems, and even problems with the immune system and hormones.
The neurological effects of chiropractic are the most important in chiropractic and chiropractic adjusting focused on neurological outcomes is both profoundly useful and measurable.