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Gently restoring healthy joint function

healthy joint function

Gently restoring healthy joint function

By Dr. Melanie Brown | Originally posted at The Mountain Times on 03/31/23

Our professor in chiropractic school would say, “We do not crack backs; we restore healthy joint function!”

Unfortunately, some people shy away from chiropractic therapy because they don’t like the idea of their joints being “cracked.” Thus, most chiropractors don’t use that terminology to describe chiropractic joint manipulation. In fact, some cringe at the term, but some of my patients use it fondly and ask me to “crack” their backs.

Our professor was trying to stress the end goal in chiropractic manipulative therapy — to restore function. And there are many ways to accomplish that goal. Sometimes, there is no “crack” needed.

Traditional adjustments can restore healthy joint function

Traditional or “diversified” chiropractic spinal and extremity adjustments consist of a high velocity low amplitude (HVLA) correction. This technique involves the chiropractor positioning the patient in a specific way to adjust and restore the normal range of motion in a particular joint using their hands. During the treatment, as the joint resets, an audible sound often accompanies the joint’s realignment.

Each joint should have a specific amount of movement in each direction. A restricted vertebral joint can be limited in flexion, extension, rotation, or lateral flexion, affecting the patient’s overall active range of motion.

If not corrected, vertebral and extremity “subluxations” can cause problems with joints, muscles, nerves, and organs. This can lead to pain and loss of function in the body. Over time, if not corrected, the spine starts to change shape, and we can become hunched over, lose the ability to move freely, turn our necks, or even stand up straight! We can have pain and loss of function that worsens over the rest of our lives.

How chiropractors identify areas of dysfunction

Chiropractors learn to identify these areas of dysfunction through neurologic and orthopedic examination of a patient’s posture, range of motion, joints, and muscles. Chiropractic subluxations should not be confused with the traditional medical term for subluxation, which is a partial joint dislocation. Chiropractic subluxations are more subtle but can affect the body in profound ways.

When a joint does not function as it should, it affects the area’s nerves, muscles, ligaments, and blood flow. It can also affect organs and other tissues as the nerves that exit the spine branch out to the body.

The wide range of impact that vertebral subluxations can have on the body is called the vertebral subluxation complex. Since the nervous system — which includes the brain, spinal cord, and nerves — controls the whole body, regular chiropractic care can positively impact your overall health!

Gentle chiropractic methods to restore healthy joint function

With spinal health and maintenance so important, what if you don’t like the “popping and cracking” of diversified adjusting?

Many are unaware of gentle methods to restore joint movement. In addition, most chiropractors have other “tools in the toolbox” that will help restore a dysfunctional joint. Finally, some patients that don’t like diversified adjusting do much better with the gentler methods.

There are many gentle adjusting techniques. For instance, chiropractors can use an activator adjusting tool to adjust the spine in a neutral position. Also, pelvic blocks will passively restore pelvic and low back alignment utilizing the weight of the patient’s body.

Chiropractors use unique tables with “drops” that allow comfortable adjustments in a more neutral position or that stretch the spine. Joint mobilization uses the same setup as a diversified adjustment. However, instead of a quick, shallow movement, you slowly stretch the joint with varying pressure to restore function.

Other therapies such as cupping, instrument-assisted massage, kinesiotaping, heat treatment, and exercise prescription can address tissues and joints.

We sometimes say tongue-in-cheek, “Spine in line, feel fine!” So, want to enjoy the benefits of a functional and pain-free body? Have you hesitated to try diversified adjusting? Consider some gentle adjusting methods to restore healthy joint function and maintain your overall health!

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