Your spine consists of four main components; the bony vertebra, the intervertebral disc in between two adjacent vertebrae, connective tissues that provide support and the small intersegmental muscles spanning from one vertebrae to another throughout the spine. The spine provides attachment points for muscles, supports and provides shock absorption to the rest of the skeletal system, protects the spinal cord and acts as an important sensory organ (together with your eyes and inner ear) so that you can orientate yourself appropriately in relation to gravity (i.e. stay upright, know where is up and down). This sensory function is provided by the small nerve bundles in the small intersegmental muscles that accurately detect and react to even the smallest of movements of one vertebra in relation to another (movement activates the small muscles and nerve bundles) and communicate these positional changes to your brain.
In order for your musculoskeletal system to work smoothly your nervous system has to be able to receive and deliver information to and from these small muscles efficiently and accurately. If the nerve cells in these small muscles can’t accurately detect the movement (i.e. they get lazy or “degenerate”) that is occurring when a vertebra moves in a certain direction, your brain cannot provide precise and appropriate control response needed to smoothly stabilise the segment leading to a possible injury to the supporting structures (e.g. the disc).
“Then why aren’t the nerves doing what they’re supposed to?” you might ask. The answer is that to survive the nerves need fuel (quality food and nutrients), oxygen and activation. Much like muscle cells, the nerves that are not being activated (e.g. due to sedentary lifestyle or an injury) undergo degeneration and cannot function to their optimum (e.g. a healthy nerve cell that can send 1000 impulses/second vs. a degenerated nerve cell that can only send 500/second. The more impulses, the more information.) This, by the way, can occur in any nerve cells in your body including the brain! That’s why it’s important to keep challenging your brain with new demanding tasks and learning new skills to keep it healthy.
A specific high velocity chiropractic adjustment can provide the much needed activation and help to “rehabilitate” the nerve cell function in a same way as muscles get bigger and stronger with regular exercise. Keeping your spine and your body moving throughout the day will keep activating these nerve circuits to some degree, but nothing compares to the amount of activation that takes place when we adjust (or “crack”) the spine.
There’s a common misconception that when we “crack” the spine we’re putting bones back into place that have somehow “come out”. This is untrue! Small alignment changes do take place, but the biggest effect of spinal adjustments is the neurological activation and resultant changes in the brain that occur, leading to healthier spine function and greater ability to adapt to postural changes and mechanical loading of the spine.
When’s the last time you had an adjustment? You could be missing out on the necessary activation required to keep your spine healthy and safe.