Function vs. Dysfunction
When your body is functioning well, your brain and body are busy sending very clear messages to one another. While behind the scenes, your innate intelligence adapts your body to your surroundings, seeking a balance.
But when your body is dysfunctional, imbalance remains persistent, adding extra stress. Over time, the increased load on your body systems limits adaptation and can contribute to any number of problems.
A unique and critical form of dysfunction can occur at the very top of the spine. Relay of many vital nerve signals happen here where the head and neck connect at the brainstem. The atlas and axis vertebrae are the first two bones in your spine. They join your head and neck while surrounding and protecting your delicate brainstem. The brainstem controls many basic functions such as breathing, blood pressure, consciousness and equilibrium. In fact, all nerve messages sent to or from any part of the body must pass through the atlas and brainstem. Stress here can lead to a “bottleneck” of disrupted signals. As such, problems anywhere else in your body can be made worse by stress in this area.
Brainstem stress is evidenced by disturbed reflexes and misalignment of the head and neck. This imbalance at the top is reflected through postural compensation below, showing up as imbalance in the shoulders, hips and spine. This physical imbalance can further strain the spinal cord, altering central nervous system function while shifting you away from postural balance to overload weight-bearing joints. Now, with diminished general nerve function, new stress is compounded by further dysfunction and accelerates the decline into poor health.
A vicious cycle persists and is the hallmark, downward spiral of an uncorrected imbalance.
Balance equals health. Physiologists call this homeostasis. Bankers might call it “living within your means”. No matter where you see it, balance is a sign of “rightness” whereas imbalance usually indicates a problem. Balance feels peaceful, imbalance is chaotic. Basic physiology tells us the body is organized into right and left sides and then unified by the central nervous system. Your brain, spinal cord and nervous system coordinate right and left sides and carry the millions of nerve signals that maintain the balance of homeostasis. Quite simply, this is what keeps you alive. In fact, all body systems have a part to play in meeting the demands of the day. Adaptation is life. We adapt to gravity with physical balance, digestion with chemical balance and mental health with emotional balance. Throughout your entire life it has been, and will be, your body’s inborn desire to correct imbalance in all ways. Imbalance equals stress.
Posture is body language. Stress is readily reflected in posture and can often be felt as tension or anxiety. Think of any emotion; depression, joy, threat, concern. All have easily recognized physical postures and it is well known that emotional stress can disrupt the balance of body chemistry. Therefore, postural imbalance is both a sign and a source of stress.
We were never meant to run from danger, or fight a bear, while eating a sandwich. Prolonged stress down-regulates processes like digestion. Perhaps nerve signals are diminished to the stomach and a chemical reaction is slow to respond in digestion and so you now have heartburn when you eat certain foods. Or muscles may be forced to compensate for overuse or bad habits and so develop a muscle memory reinforcing body imbalance. This imbalance can then start to prematurely wear on joints and ligaments causing pain in areas like shoulders, knees, or feet. Knowing that all of your bodily functions are being monitored and managed by your brain and nervous system, any system could become dysfunctional because of spinal misalignment.
Chiropractors coined the term “vertebral subluxation” to uniquely describe the target of our mission in one single term. What we call subluxation occurs when the normal structure of the spine is compromised causing interference to neurological function and diminished adaptation within the body. Subluxation disrupts nerve signals, interfering with the messages being transmitted. Triggered by any stress, muscles can tighten and compensations will form in an attempt to bring you back into balance or to reduce discomfort. Your body will attempt to “right the ship” in the storm but when “stuck” becomes the new normal a corrective intervention is required to break the vicious cycle.
A chiropractic adjustment is corrective. Correcting the misalignment of the head and neck surrounding the brainstem “resets” one of the main circuit breakers in the central nervous system and improves nerve communication from there out. With communication restored, the messages between your brain and body will transmit more clearly. Your muscles will respond in turn to pull your body back into balance with gravity and relax into proper alignment. By focusing on the brainstem and the “master control center” for posture, your body works with you to correct its own misalignment and is often able to hold that alignment longer over time.
Most importantly, with the brainstem as the focus of correction, your entire body has a better chance to function more efficiently.