Joints are where one bone connects with another. They are the space between that allow for proper movement and function. Our body has many different types of joints, from those that barely move at all (like the sutures in your skull) to synovial joints that move in many different directions (like your shoulder joints, ankle joint, hip joint, spinal facet joints, etc.). We know that when the joints move properly, your muscles and ligaments function at an optimal level. This affords you proper function and no pain. However, when joints do not work properly, this leads to a whole host of problems. Primarily, when the joints do not work properly, the muscles and ligaments cannot function properly either. They will tend to either shorten or elongate, depending on the joint problem. When this occurs, they leak toxins that irritate local tissues and nerves. This leads to further pain and dysfunction that compounds until the underlying issue is resolved.
What causes joints not to work properly?
There are basically three factors:
- Mechanical. Macro trauma (big trauma) such as a car crash or bad fall and micro trauma (repetitive use injury) certainly lead to joint damage.
- Chemical. If your diet is inflammatory, you will be more likely to swell easily and be susceptible to more injury.
- Mental. This is apparent when people are under stress. Many times they will get headaches, back pain, neck pain, stomach pain, etc. Stress affects the hormones and chemicals in your body and can create an environment where healthy joint function is hard to maintain.
Many joint injuries can be fixed naturally, without surgery.
Chiropractors correct the underlying cause of joint dysfunction so that the body can restore normal ranges of motion in the region that allows for the compensatory soft tissue reactions to heal. It is through this manner that chiropractors are best suited to deal with joint pain and dysfunction.
Sometimes a referral is necessary if the patient has needs that are outside the scope of chiropractic.
Muscle Pain (muscle tightness & stiffness)
Muscle tightness is that tense feeling in specific muscles that can be very uncomfortable. Everyone has experienced some muscle tightness or stiffness. Psychological and physical stress can cause muscles to tense and spasm causing an achy feeling. There are many things your chiropractor can recommend to alleviate the pain associated with muscle stiffness. Stretching, exercises, relaxation and massage therapies usually work in this instance.
Try this. Flex your upper arm muscle (bicep). You’ll notice that when you do that your arm bends at the elbow and your forearm moves upward towards the chest or shoulder. This is what your muscles do and how they work. When you have a tightened muscle, it is like always flexing your bicep, on a somewhat lesser extent. Imagine you have tense muscles in your back (if you don’t already). These are connected to the spine from the neck to the pelvis. The tense muscles will pull at and contort the vertebrae of the spine resulting in pinching nerves throughout the spinal column. Since all nerves run through the spinal column any that may be pinched can cause pain or illness.
Spasms are usually the result of two muscles fighting against one another. One tense or tight muscle pulls at a weak or loose muscle. It can result in very uncomfortable twitching and pain. You can alleviate the pain by strengthening the weaker muscle; however, if proper stretching is not done this can weaken the tightened muscle. Can you see the dilemma?
Your chiropractor will examine all aspects of your life besides your back. He will ask questions about your family history and your daily routine as well as performing palpation and neurological tests to determine what is causing your ailment. With that information, he can prescribe a treatment program that will help alleviate the muscle tightness that bothers you.