So last week we mentioned what we are looking for when we decide to do an adjustment: a joint that doesn’t move as much as it should. Now we will discuss why this matters. When a joint isn’t moving properly a whole cascade of events happen. Depending on what happens in that series of events determines how bad it can be. To start, the tissues around the joint become malnourished and tighter when the joint isn’t moving well. Without the movement, the tissues are unable to get adequate blood supply. This is what causes it to feel like a bone is “out of place.” The hardened tissue around the joint makes it seem larger and closer to the surface.
Around that joint is a bunch of little sensors that send input to the brain. The input from the joint to the brain becomes diminished or cranked up to hyperdrive (depending on if the tissue is immobilized or simply irritated. Once that joint becomes restricted it does a poor job of letting the brain know what it is doing and where it is in space (this is known as proprioception). The downfall here is the brain is unable to send to proper directions about which muscles to turn on or off during a movement leading to aberrant movements. These aberrant movements then put a strain on surrounding muscles or nerves.
In the short term, the body is quite good at compensating. If a joint is restricted in a movement, the body will still find a way to do the movement. The catch though, is that the surrounding joints are now picking up the slack and moving more than they would like to in order to compensate for the restricted joint. This causes strain on the surrounding joints leading to further downfalls.
Since restricted joints cause issues with so many surrounding tissues and joints, the pain that is felt often is not the same location as the true cause. When we are palpating, we look at the area of pain, but then also look above and below the complaint. We find the joints that are not moving well and figure out what direction they are lacking. Once we do that, we adjust that joint in the direction it needs. This restores motion to that segment. The restored movement increases blood flow to the area.
The adjustment also sends a huge proprioceptive input to the brain. The restored movement continues that increased input, allowing the brain to properly move and stabilize the area. Depending on how long and how severely it was restricted partially determines the length of care. Sometimes an adjustment or two takes care of it. Other times it can take 8-12 visits. But, if it is the right treatment, it should hit a point where it resolves.