Are you Superman?

You’ve done it again.  You bent over to put your socks on, then all of a sudden…OWW!  Pain in your lower back hits you like a lightning bolt and you can’t straighten up to stand again.  This has likely happened before in the past and maybe even then the pain eventually went away without you doing anything more than waiting for it to…even if it took three weeks.  This time however, as you hobble over to your bed for a crash landing, you start assessing your current situation, wondering why this happened to you yet again.

You recall the last suit you bought a few years ago, and the tailor noting that he’d have to hem one pant leg longer than the other because your hips must be uneven and one leg is appearing shorter.  You also remember the men’s shop employee recommending you get a new pair of dress shoes to go with your new suit, as the ones you’ve been wearing look “quite worn, actually unevenly worn, on the bottoms”.  Could those have been signs of a problem?  Is this pain the result of years of ignoring your spine’s health, perhaps neglecting or abusing your body with all the stress of your job, kids, etc, etc?  The answer to these questions is YES.

We all have a nervous system, and it does have a purpose.  Otherwise, what would we have it for?  What makes the nervous system so important?  Remember Christopher Reeve, famous for playing Superman, then later famous for becoming paralyzed from falling off a horse?  How can spinal injuries be so devastating, causing loss of feeling, function and even movement for some sufferers?  Our nervous system is so important, it’s the only system of our body fully encased and protected by bone.  Our skull and our spine protect our brain and spinal cord, allowing them full and undisturbed communication and control over the rest of our body. When Christopher Reeve fell and landed on his head, he suffered a cervical spine injury, smashing the first two vertebrae of his spine, disrupting the functions controlled by the nerves passing through this region, including control of muscles for movement of his body and control of his lungs for breathing.  Not only was his spine no longer protecting these nerves responsible for such critical bodily functions, his spine had now become a hindrance to the ability of these nerves to keep him breathing and keep him alive.  Surgeons reconstructed the vertebrae and fused them to his skull in an attempt to allow for uninterrupted nerve function, but the damage to these nerves was too severe for his body to fully heal and recover from.

The Christopher Reeve story is, short of immediate death, an example of a worst case scenario.  Despite all the treatment and rehabilitation resources his fame and wealth afforded him, Superman never walked again and his life was ultimately cut short due to compromised nervous system function.  Why am I bringing this up?  In a way, every person with even a small amount of spinal misalignment can be experiencing a small amount of disrupted nerve function in their body as a result.  Each of these people is having their very own miniature version of Superman playing out in their spine too.  The effect may seem small, miniscule or not even noticeable right now, but that’s my point.  Most of the problems we see started further back in time than most of us realize, and the problem has grown over time.  Eventually there will be more damage, more pain and more effect on your body.  Here’s why:

Every time something happens inside or outside our body, our nervous system knows about it, and if it needs to, reacts.  Each experience will either be positive or negative, with the same type of effect on our body and health.  The positive experiences, such as eating healthy foods, thinking good thoughts, feeling good emotions, and exercising, all help to make our body healthier.  The negative experiences must be dealt with too: eating unhealthy food, having a bad day, being a potato on the couch.  Our nervous system registers these experiences as bad, and without enough good, health-building experiences to cancel them out, those bad experiences can overwhelm our nervous system and the stress can accumulate over time.  What’s more, that accumulation of bad stress can set in like a stain on a white shirt, and it rarely affects all parts of the nervous system equally.  Stress builds up in certain areas, especially those that are stressed or challenged the most.

In the case of a painful lower back injury, the uneven build-up of stress could have caused an uneven control by the nerves over the muscles in the lower back.  Muscles on one side have become stronger and tighter than the other side, and one hip bone will be pulled and held higher than the other.  The pelvis becomes an uneven foundation for the spine to sit atop and the vertebrae will tilt and turn to compensate and straighten the spine above them. The discs get uneven pressure on each side, as if they are being pushed into a wedge shape.  One side of one or more of your lumbar discs will begin getting too much pressure for it to handle. The nervous system does its best to change its firing and control of the musculoskeletal system there to compensate but as external stress builds and is not dissipated, it builds up and clouds the nervous system’s ability to see and sense the physical body structure and make enough compensation. More stress leads to more cloudy vision, and unless the stress can be dissipated, the structure — the physical body — fails. This is why and how getting chiropractic adjustments work to help lower back injuries and other musculoskeletal problems: the chiropractic adjustment helps clear the nervous system so it can correct its control of the body, and to heal its damage, and then adjustments can help keep the nervous system clear to keep doing its job of managing stress as it more easily and efficiently recognizes stress and reacts as needed to it.

So now you have a basic introduction to the how and the why chiropractic adjustments help the body function as well as it can, so it can heal as much as it can and you can be as healthy as you can.  And you thought this article was going to be about back pain.