In science, there are 7 key characteristics which define something as “alive”. These are Nutrition, Respiration, Excretion, Growth, Reproduction, Sensitivity and Movement. It then stands to reason that without movement, one cannot be alive, even though some people's Netflix binging habits would try to prove otherwise. This is especially important within us as humans, as we have a sensory system which works solely to help us understand how our body is positioned. This sense is called Proprioception, and it allows us to do both our everyday actions without thinking and more fine skilled tasks without consciously having to use vision to guide us. Without it, we would not be able to do many simple tasks like walking or eating without a mirror guiding us.
Proprioception originates from sensory fibres within the muscles of the body. These sense contraction of the small muscle fibres within the muscle itself and send information on the force and direction of the movement to the brain through the spinal cord. However, not all muscles were created equal, and the smaller the muscle, the more sensory fibres exist within it and the more sensory information can be collected for the brain to process. This makes sense, as smaller muscles usually guide movement more than larger ones which tend to do the heavy lifting, literally.
One thing to consider then is how receptive to motion the spine is, with a majority of the musculature being stabilisation based, and only connecting the short distances between vertebrae (usually from 2-10mm maximum). And it has to be, since the spine protects the most important nervous structure in the body (apart from the brain), the spinal cord. Without very precise information on the position of the spine, it could create major pain and sensory changes if it happened to start moving in a way that would compress those nervous structures. It only takes the weight of a 10c coin to cause irritation to the nerves, and they run through gaps between vertebrae less than 7mm wide (Sangari, Dossous, Heineman & Mtui, 2015).
Since these sensory receptors only respond to motion, restriction and immobility of spinal segments can cause decrease or loss of proprioceptive function of the area. This means the brain loses signal, and takes guesses as to what it should do without the constant updated feed of info. This can cause injury by either over-compensation or under-compensation, but in all cases, it results in decreased function in the area.
When chiropractors adjust restricted joints, it is not just the release of pressure located within the joint but the rapid stretch of the muscles supporting the area and the reactivation of the sensory fibres and proprioception within the brain. And once the brain understands how the spine is functioning with the new information from the adjustment, it can start to work on improving the motion and further decreasing risk of injury to the area in the future.
If you are experiencing restriction or pain within your neck, back or any other joints, feel free to book a consultation with our Chiropractors at Anderson Family Chiropractic Mackay to examine and discuss possible changes to your spinal function on 4942 6930.
Sangari, S., Dossous, P., Heineman, T., & Mtui, E. (2015). Dimensions and Anatomical Variants of the Foramen Transversarium of Typical Cervical Vertebrae. Anatomy Research International, 2015, 1-5. doi: 10.1155/2015/391823