Do Your Joints Function Properly?
All of the joints in the body exhibit motion of some kind. In order for muscles, tendons, ligaments and other soft tissue structures to be healthy it is important that joint function be optimal. The joints in your body are richly invested with sensors tied into the nervous system, constantly giving information to your brain on joint position, location, speed and acceleration. This information is processed by your brain and allows for smooth coordinated muscular contraction and motion throughout your body from your head to your toes. Recent trauma, old injuries, bad posture, occupational, emotional and repetitive stresses can interfere with this relationship. When your joints do not move properly, the brain receives abnormal information from these dysfunctional joints. Joints are designed for motion and when they do not move correctly, they can cause a cascade of effects from muscle spasm to pain.
The neck is the most mobile part of the spine. Nerve receptors are even more abundant here than anywhere else in the spine due to its great mobility and ranges of motion. Joint dysfunction here can cause neck, shoulder, arm and hand pain, muscle tightness, muscle spasm, headaches, head pain and even refer pain into the T.M.J. (jaw joint.) When joints experience a loss of motion they are referred to as hypomobile joints (decreased motion). Which is no to be confused with another common joint dysfunction, hypermobility (too much motion). An example of hypermobility would be if your back always "pops" when you bend over. Clinically, a long-standing hypomobile/fixed joint will have hypermobile joints associated with it because the surrounding joints will bear more stress due to the hypomobile/fixed joint.
Joints that are dysfunctional can lie dormant for months to years without symptoms. Your body is an amazing system that can adapt to almost anything that challenges it. When your body can no longer adapt itself, tissue damage occurs and is usually expressed as pain. Pain is usually the last symptom to show up and is when most people seek care. Unfortunately, pain is usually the first thing to disappear when care is sought. Although your body has adapted up to this point, joint dysfunction still exists. The problem did not happen overnight and won't go away overnight. It has just taken months to years for your signs to become expressive.
Chiropractic is best utilized as a preventative measure to assure proper joint and neurological function before your body can no longer adapt itself. But most people elect to enter the office in acute pain rather than no pain at all. Our culture has entrenched into our minds that we should only seek "Health care" when we're sick. A more accurate term for today's health care would be "Disease care." Health is more than the absence of disease.
That is why I recommend to my patients once they have graduated through an acute care program that they maintain their current level of spinal function by continuing their stretching and exercise programs on a regular basis and most importantly, follow up with regular spinal checkups. I usually recommend quarterly checkups for most people. After all, you get your teeth cleaned twice a year, shouldn't you get your spine, something that affects how your whole body functions, checked up more often? I am not aware of any current or pending research investigations into the effects of preventative spinal checkups, but speaking from clinical experience, patients seem to have fewer exacerbations and flair-ups with regular chiropractic wellness care.