THE SPINAL COLUMN
ALPHA CHIROPRACTIC NEWSLETTER
When you alter structure, you alter the function. That is a simple rule of physics. Why do Indy 500 racecars all look alike (except for the painted advertisements)? It is because they have found that a particular shape (structure) gives them maximum aerodynamics (function).
If this is true for racecars it is also true for the human body. If you affect your structure, you affect your ability to function. A person with a broken arm cannot function as effectively as he or she did before the break. Missing an organ or part of the body affects the function of the entire body, at least to some degree.
The area that concerns us as chiropractors relates to the structure of the spinal column and the function of the nerve system. The body was designed perfectly. The spine was intended to be in a particular position and move within a specific range of motion. It houses and protects the all-important, life-carrying, nerve system. Any alteration in the position of a vertebra will alter the function of the nerve system, which in turn alters the function of the organ or part of the body that the nerve supplies. This results in an ultimate decrease in the function of the organism, for every organ and part contributes to the function of the whole.
The problem with vertebral subluxation is that it takes a certain amount of altered function for a certain length of time in addition to other factors before that altered function manifests itself in a discernable problem. For example, altered neural function, and hence, chemical function may decrease the body's ability to adapt to ragweed pollen but it is not until the spring when the pollen is in the air that the allergic symptoms appear. The body is not functioning properly 12 months of the year; the person just does not know it until the irritant is in the air.
So how much alteration in function is necessary to cause a problem? Well, we really do not know. It could be a little, so little that it is not even noticeable. There are Eskimos whose bodies do not produce the chemical necessary to adapt to ragweed pollen, but since they never come in contact with the pollen, they never know it. Thousands of people die every year from a malfunctioning heart and do not even know they have a problem until the first symptom, which is a fatal one.
The other question to be considered is how much function do you want and how long do you want to walk around with a body not functioning as it should? It seems to me that to get the most out of life, you would want to function at your maximum and if there was a structural interference to proper function, you would want it corrected as soon as possible.
That's what chiropractic is about, checking the spine regularly to correct vertebral subluxations so the nerve system functions at its maximum. In so doing, the body can function at its best and people can get more out of life.
"If you have a strong, healthy spine, the world is yours. My guru used to say: "The spine is the source of all energy in human life." It's not just people from the East who know this. Listen to the great American writer Herman Melvile said in Moby-Dick:
"I believe that much of a man's character will be found betokened in his Backbone. A thin joist of a spine never upheld a full and noble soul. I rejoice in my spine, as in the firm, audacious staff of that flag which I fling half out to the world."
But if you damage or ruin your spine, your life is over. At best you live in chronic pain; at worst you are a head on a pillow. Then spinal column is the most complicated structure in the human body; except for the brain and the brain stem, the whole central nervous system passes through it and is protected by its bony structure. In the center of the spine is a passageway for all those nerves; it's filled with spinal fluid, pumped in from the brain. The spinal fluid acts as a shock absorber for the nerves, protecting them from damage. It also provides some nutrition to the nerves and keeps the covering of the nerves soft and pliable. In yogic terms, nerves run to all glands and organs in the center of the body: the heart, lungs, kidneys, stomach, intestines, and so forth.
In sciatica, one of the most common spinal problems, a vertebrae at the sacro-lumbar junction of the spine is putting pressure on those nerves. This causes you to feel pain in your hips, legs, feet, or other areas, but in fact the pressure is what causes the problem. Since those nerves are meant to serve other important parts of the body, those areas and functions can be compromised as well. And this pain can be excruciating enough to disable an otherwise healthy person.
In this snakelike length there's cartilage, hard but pliant. Between every two vertebrae is a disc, a sac of fluid that acts as a shock absorber and provides a cushion to each vertebra. Just like a car's suspension system. Over time, especially if you do some kind of high-impact sports, the repeated shocks from your heel hitting the ground causes narrowing between the vertebrae. After getting hit over and over with a sledgehammer this way, the springs in your suspension lose some of the strength, and now the two vertebrae hit each other when the spin is impacted, and the cartilage becomes thinner and thinner. As this pressure increases, it compresses the gelatinous material of the disc on one side, causing it to bulge out on the other side, like egg salad getting squeezed out from between the bread in an overstuffed sandwich. This is called a slipped, or herniated, disc.
That bulge can put pressure on the nerves in the spinal cavity, resulting in irritation and swelling. It also decreases the nerve's function, and this condition can worsen until the membrane of the disc ruptures and the gelatinous material in the disc flows into the spinal cavity, changing the delicate chemistry of the spinal fluid.
You can still have back trouble even if you don't hurt yourself through exercise. Being sedentary can be just as harmful as being overactive. When they're not used, the muscles of the back become weak and they sag; that, plus the weight of your upper body, causes the spinal column to collapse very slowly. That's one reason old people shrink in height. (end of excerpt)
Chiropractors aren't the only ones who recognize how vitally important the spine is. However, they do care for the spine like no one else can -- not medical doctors, not physical therapists, not yogis, not your spouse, and not your friends at work. Chiropractor check for vertebral subluxations, misalignments of the spinal bones that put pressure on the nerves and keep the body from functioning as well as it should. With the hundreds of things that you do every week that could cause vertebral subluxations, everyone should see their chiropractor regularly.