Chiropractic is defined as a form of complementary and alternative medicine which is most typically focused on the diagnosis and treatment of mechanical disorders of the musculoskeletal system. The most common area of focus for chiropractors is the spine, which includes everything from bottom of the lower back to the top of the neck.
When someone feels pain or restrictions in joints, a chiropractor can relieve those areas and restore more normal movement. This procedure is called an adjustment within the chiropractic field, but is also commonly referred to as a joint manipulation.
The "pop" sounds sometimes made during these joint manipulations somtimes shocks people a little bit at first, but the sensation is usually relieving and not painful at all. The pop sound isn't due to any joints being dislocated or "put back into place," but simply a gas bubble formation within the joint as a result of stretching the joint. It's much like cracking your knuckles (and, no, it doesn't lead to arthritis).
There are five primary components that contribute to the joint or muscle area pain or stiffness:
This happens when the joint is restricted due to degeneration. This frequently leads to a narrowing of the spaces between the bones through which the nerves pass; often resulting in irritation or impingement of the nerve itself.
Sometimes, disruption of the normal signal along the nerve fibers can occur, causing the messages traveling along the nerves to become diminished. Often times, the result is that all of the muscles that are fed by those nerves receive decreased signals from the brain and, consequently, are not able to function normally. To compensate, other muscles which are controlled by other nerves can end up doing more of the work, which can cause soft tissue damage and pain.
Muscles can often times have contracted bundles of muscle fibers within a relaxed muscle. Those bundles of contracted fibers are called “trigger points.” Trigger points can either cause dysfunctional movement of joints, referred pain, or both. If muscles are in dysfunction, and muscles control joints, then joints can end up moving in ways that are less than optimal.
Soft Tissue Component
Abnormal joint movement will also affect the surrounding tendons, ligaments, blood supply, and other tissues as joints tug and squeeze the connective tissue with tremendous force. Over time, the soft tissues can become stretched out or scarred, leaving the spine with either a permanent instability or restriction.
The change in the chemistry in an area is due to tissue changes at a cellular level and the release of a class of chemicals called “kinins,” are pro-inflammatory; meaning that they increase inflammation (pain, redness, swelling, and/or heat) in the affected area. Inflammation is the body’s way of healing threats within the body or damage.