The Spine Must Move!
Updated: Oct 22, 2020
Every chiropractor will tell you about your spine and how spinal motion is important, but why? In the end, why is spinal motion important to overall health?
Why Spinal Motion is Important!
The primary reason spinal motion is important is due to what Dr. Roger Sperry, a Nobel Prize recipient, stated when he said "90% of the stimulation and nutrition to the brain is generated by the movement of the spine." If 90% of brain stimulation and nutrition is generated by spinal movement, then it is a VERY important necessity. Now think of the spine being locked up from injury, spasms, surgery, etc. How do you feel? Foggy? Lightheaded? Tired? Sluggish? Not a great way to be living life is it?
Other reasons why spinal motion is important is so the discs between the spinal bones stay hydrated and healthy. The discs are not just spacers and shock absorbers, they also act like sponges, pulling in fluid to stay healthy and pushing out waste. Connective tissue (i.e. cartilage, tendon, ligament) has very poor blood supply, hence slower healing. These tissues uses synovial fluid to get their nutrients. If spinal motion is lost, then no synovial fluid movement, which leads to wear-and-tear.
Over time (several years to decades), the discs can wear thin. On MRI reports that I have read, I will see conclusions that say "disc dehydration", "disc dessication", and "disc degeneration." It happens in that order. First the disc dehydrates, or has a less-than-optimal fluid level centrally, which starts the process of wear-and-tear. Next is disc dessication, where the disc thins out, fibers can fray, and the disc can begin to bulge or herniate. Finally is disc degeneration, where the disc is worn out, torn, bulged or herniated due to extensive wear-and-tear. Once the disc reaches the end of dessication and enters into degeneration, the chances of correction are slim.
When degeneration is present, spinal motion is not only compromised, but becomes aberrant, or irregular. The spinal segments shift and sway out of their normal positioning, causing further aggravation as well as wear and tear. This can lead to localized spinal pain, or even sharp and radiating pain if the nerve root becomes involved. These are times when chiropractic adjustments may not even be tolerable.
If further progression occurs, the disc will become inactive, the tissue almost non-functioning. The spinal segments will settle into a position of some stability, but no significant motion will occur. This is when the spine will begin to stabilize the area via bone spurring, which if left alone, will naturally fuse the area of instability. The question is... will these bone spurs cause other issues, like placing pressure on the nerve root, or grow in the canal where the spinal cord is located?
These are just some of the reasons why chiropractors will discuss "maintenance care" or "wellness care" with their patients after the initial treatment phase is over. After settling a patient's primary pain concerns, the chiropractor then looks to helping the patient maintain their spine to not only prevent re-aggravation of their primary complaint, but also to keep their spine moving properly to prevent the events that can unfold in the future.
So when your chiropractor discusses the option of maintenance or wellness care, consider it highly. It can prevent more future issues than you realize, and is a wonderful investment for future health and happiness.