Before you can understand how Chiropractic helps you need to understand the very basics of your body’s nervous system. The nervous system consists of the brain, spinal column, retina, neurons, ganglia and nerves. This system works together to send information between cells or body parts. The brain uses a variety of means to send signals through the nerves and out into the body. The nerves are bundled together through the spinal column and branch out to service the different parts of the body. (The nervous system is a complex subject and the study of it takes up volumes of books. If you are interested in the full function of the nervous system we encourage you to research more on your own). The nervous system is so vital to our survival that it is the first thing to develop in a fetus.
Interference of the nervous system can lead to pain, illness or even death. Interference comes in many forms. Humans quickly learned that the removal of the head from the body meant instant death. Less gory lessons included the knowledge that severe damage or trauma to the neck and spine can lead to paralysis of the limbs. It was not until 1895, the advent of Chiropractic, that it was understood that less traumatic interference of the spinal column could lead to dysfunction of the body. The misalignment of one vertebrae in relation to another is called a subluxation. Subluxations can place pressure on nerves and cause interference in the nervous system. When this happens the body ceases to function properly.
A good way to understand this is to imagine that nerves are like garden hoses watering different parts of a garden. All of the hoses are connected to one water source (the way nerves are connected to one brain). They are supplied with water and travel out to garden. But what happens if someone interferes with one of the hoses? Maybe they lightly kink it, slightly reducing the flow of water. Water still reaches the garden but maybe not enough to grow healthy plants. Or perhaps they step on the hose, allowing only a trickle of water to reach the plants. Now only sickly plants are produced. And what happens if that hose is cut, removing the possibility of any water reaching that part of the garden. The plants will shrivel up and die. This same process can be applied to the nervous system. Vertebrae that are out of position will place pressure on nerves, similar to the idea of kinking a hose. Those nerves can no longer function at their optimum. Without properly functioning nerves the body can weaken, become sick, or parts can completely cease to function.
Chiropractors work with different tools, including x-rays and manual (hands-on) palpation of the spine to find these interferences. Once a subluxation is located, the Chiropractor will use a variety of techniques to move the vertebrae back into place and restore nerve function. This is call an adjustment. Because subluxations may be the result of trauma or repetitive stressors, the vertebrae may not stay in place after an adjustment. Chiropractors will use repeated adjustments to help the spine heal and keep the vertebrae aligned. They may also utilize stretches, at-home exercises, massage, ice therapy or types of traction to facilitate in healing. The goal of Chiropractic is to restore the body to its naturally functioning state. By removing the interference of a subluxation, Chiropractic allows the body to resume its innate ability to communicate and heal.