I think as chiropractors we tend to make chiropractic more complicated than it has to be.
I am often asked why it works, and perhaps why sometimes treatment doesn’t work…heaven for bid.
What is an adjustment and what does it really do?
An adjustment is a force delivered by a chiropractor to a bone or other soft tissue. The goal is to improve the tissue by creating a mechanical change. Obviously, when bones slide way out of alignment, like with dislocation, the joint cannot work very well. But many problems in the the spine and other joints are only dislocated a little bit. Even the smallest misalignment can cause big symptoms to develop.
Most subtle misalignments have to do with the bones getting too close to one another in the joint. This can be seen most commonly by disc height loss but also in other joints and so aptly described as joint space narrowing on x-ray. Degeneration in the spine and degenerated joints are classic examples of joints that get narrowed.
So what does this mean to you? Well, if you are one that suffers with back or joint pain, the likely culprit is joint space narrowing. And when chiropractors deliver treatment, their goal is to improve the joint space and reduce the irritation of the underlying nerves below and around the cartilage.
Above you can see a live MRI image of my knuckle joint in a recent study conducted at the University of Alberta.
The knuckle joint is the most commonly studied joint to explain what chiropractic treatment does to spinal joints. As you can see, the joint space increases. That is, the two articulating surfaces spread apart from one another. It is pure geometry. Nothing too complicated.
So, I think one of the big reasons why chiropractic treatment works soften so well is because it creates more space within joints. And I think it can be that simple.