Thursday, September 28, 2023

Spinal super highway

Living in Williamsburg, you are aware of how amazing it feels when you get onto I-64 and traffic is moving.

You have no trouble getting to work on time, racing to the beach for some much-needed rest and relaxation, or getting your family to your favorite Williamsburg attraction.

You also know how frustrating it can be when there is an accident or construction along your route. The resulting delays can make getting to your destination seem impossible.

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In the same way that your car moves along the highway, information moves along the “superhighway” of the nerves in your nervous system. Your brain sends and receives information through your nerves to control the things that happen to keep you alive and healthy.

The system begins with your brain and continues down through your spinal column as a bundle of nerves called the spinal cord. Nerves exit the spinal column between the individual bones of the spine and travel to every part of your body.

When the joints between the bones of your spine are healthy and working like they should, information moves freely along the nerves to tell the brain what is going on and to allow it to control your muscles and organs.

However, just like when there is a traffic jam on the highway, when your spinal joints are stuck or irritated, they can set up roadblocks and messages get delayed.

Let’s look a bit closer at that traffic jam. Most often the delay is due to funneling of traffic into fewer lanes than normal. The impact on your travel can be a backup that lasts for miles.

In your spine, inflammation at any point along the spine where nerves exit the spinal column can contribute to a similar funneling and slowdown. A wide range of issues can contribute to this inflammation, but the outcome is irritation of nerves and less communication throughout the body.

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There is often no sign of inflammation or decreased communication until the situation has progressed to something that may be difficult or impossible to reverse. The signs of more advanced conditions can be muscle spasms, tightness or weakness, pain, numbness, stiffness, dizziness, or balance problems, among many others.

You can see that the function of your spine directly impacts the brain’s ability to communicate with the muscles and organs in your body through your nervous system. In addition, the spine provides your central support. It allows you to hold your body upright and still be able to twist and bend. Your entire skeleton attaches either directly or indirectly to your spine, so issues in one area are often related to issues in another. The spine as that central support is almost always involved.

We put our bodies through an incredible amount of abuse. We tend to either live hard and play hard or fall into patterns of muscle weakness and imbalance due to inactivity. These conditions both put us at risk for spinal joint problems. If you have fallen, been in an accident, or sustained another type of injury, your risk is even greater.

With damage to your body that is a result of overuse, changes in body movement patterns or poor posture, pain may be the last symptom of dysfunction you notice. If messages to the brain are not running efficiently along the spinal superhighway, your brain may not make you aware of the problem. The absence of pain does not mean that your body is completely healthy or running smoothly. Just like heart disease is often not felt until a heart attack or cancer isn’t noticed until it is too late, damage to muscles, ligaments, or joints as a result of long-term dysfunction or past injuries can go unnoticed for a long time. By the time you feel pain, you likely have more damage than you realize.

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The best way to keep things running smoothly and avoid traffic jams along your body’s informational superhighway is to keep your body moving like it should – strong and healthy.

Waiting for pain to indicate that you need to see a doctor can be a costly mistake. Since it is much easier to stay healthy than it is to fight to get healthy, being proactive will save you pain, suffering and money in the long run.

If you are already in pain, help is available without drugs or surgery. The team at Pinto Chiropractic & Rehabilitation is ready to give you a complete assessment of your spinal health and get you rolling to a better place. Let’s work together to keep that traffic moving!

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