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If my pain is right here, why are you adjusting me somewhere else?

“Doctor, my pain is in my neck. Why are you adjusting my low back?” –We get questions like this often in our office, and the patient’s concerns are extremely valid.  There are several things that go into deciding what bone needs to be adjusted and surprisingly, the location of the adjustment is not dependent on the location or even the presence of pain.

For starters, the need for an adjustment is not reliant on whether or not you have pain.  Your nerves have several different functions- motor function (movement), autonomic control (organ function), and sensory function (including the feeling of pain).  The sensory aspect of the nervous system is a just small part of your nervous system, so there could be tension on your spinal cord without the feeling of pain.  This is why you sometimes need an adjustment even though you are asymptomatic.

Another thing to keep in mind is that the spinal cord attaches at the very top and the very bottom of the spine.  When one or more of those spinal regions are misaligned, it increases the amount of tone or tension throughout the entire spinal cord and can create discomfort in other spinal regions.  For example- when a spinal bone in your neck is misaligned, it changes the tone of the spinal cord; since the spinal cord is also attached at the bottom of your spine, you may feel symptoms in your lower back from the increase in tension caused by the misalignment in your neck.  You can see in this instance how the area of pain isn’t always the area that needs to be adjusted.

When dealing with spinal structure, it’s important to remember that all of your bones, muscles, ligaments, organs, etc. work together to keep you alive in a somewhat “normal state”.  With that being said, if there is a tonal shift within the spine and a spinal bone is misaligned, the body’s natural response may be to compensate for that misalignment.  This could mean a change in posture or a spinal misalignment in another region of the spine.  If this is the case, you may experience pain as a result of the compensation and again, this is not the primary area that needs to be adjusted.

With so many things to consider, how do we know where to adjust?  This is one of the many reasons we use the technique we do.  The analysis we use is very specific at locating the areas where the primary misalignments are (meaning it doesn’t look for compensations).  Once the adjustment is made, the tone or tension of the spinal cord is able to return to a more acceptable state.  When this happens, there can be a decrease in the amount of discomfort caused by that misalignment, whether that discomfort was in the same area as the adjustment or in a completely different region of the body.  In the example of the lower back pain caused by a neck misalignment, once the neck is adjusted and the added tension on the spinal cord is released, the symptoms in the lower back can decrease.  In a similar fashion, if a spinal bone is misaligned and the body responds via compensation, once that misaligned bone is adjusted, the compensation can often times self-correct.

While it is important to note the presence of pain, pain does not dictate the adjustment.  Because your body can respond to spinal misalignments in many different ways, we would rather use a very specific analysis to determine what needs to be adjusted rather than relying solely on pain or other symptoms.  Adjusting the primary misalignments will help you achieve the greatest results in the shortest amount of time!