What is neuroplasticity, and why is it important? Whether you realise it or not, your body and brain are constantly “re-wiring” and adapting to the environment around it. If the environmental stimulus is strong enough and consistent enough, the brain will make more permanent changes to cope with these ongoing stimuli.
It’s exactly what happens when you’re learning a new skill, such as playing the piano. When you start, the ability to position your fingers in the right place on the keys is usually slow and inaccurate, but as you keep practicing and stimulating those motor circuits, they become more set in, or “locked into place”.
So what does this have to do with chiropractic? Well, the function of individual parts of your spine (the individual vertebrae) are purely controlled by reflexive neurological circuits between the small muscles around the spine, and the brain. As the vertebrae move to adapt to postural change and gravitational forces, a whole stack of receptors called proprioceptors fire off to the brain, and the brain reflexively switches on muscles to control and stabilise that movement.
If, however, these proprioceptors don’t fire off accurately, then the reflexive muscle response will also be inaccurate and will lead to an inappropriate positioning of that vertebra (leading to injury). When we apply chiropractic adjustments, the main thing we’re doing is firing off large populations of these proprioceptors in a bid to enhance that reflexive control mechanism. As we repeat these adjustments over the coming days and weeks, we’re aiming to encourage plasticity of these neurological pathways (ie. setting these pathways in stone, so to speak).
Neuroplasticity, then, can be described as turning a neurological dirt track into a neurological 4 lane highway. As the weakened proprioceptive pathways (the ‘dirt tracks’) get more set in (like a ‘4 lane highway’), the brain regains control over those segments of the spine and it can respond to more subtle variations of position and movement – a much safer and healthier spine overall!
Neuroplasticity is the reason that it’s almost impossible to be “fixed” after one or two appointments, unless you have a ridiculously fast-adapting nervous system (which some people do, but not many.) It takes time to retrain these neurological circuits and get them to “set in”, so that they keep working properly long term. Often you’ll feel better after a couple of visits, but chances are no neuroplasticity has really taken place so the problem may just come straight back again….
Have you had good relief from chiropractic treatment in the past, only to have the problem come back again down the track? Perhaps we can help get it under control once and for all by harnessing the power of the body and the brain to create long lasting neuroplastic changes. Ask us today how we might be able to help your condition.