For the spine to function correctly two things are vital:
1. The spine must be supple throughout its length. If through poor posture or injury, areas of the spine stiffen up this leads to overstrain in the areas above and below the stiff segments.
2. The spine must be properly aligned. If some of the vertebra become rotated or tilted relative to the rest of the spine then those segments will become a focus for increased stress.
The spine operates as a single unit and therefore needs to remain supple and malleable throughout its length in order to to avoid areas of overstrain developing. The spine is an error free system that uses the stretch reflex arc (the involuntary muscle contraction provoked when a tendon is hit with a rubber hammer) to maintain each vertebra in correct alignment.
This system allows controlled fluid movement because when the muscles on one side of the spine contract to produce movement the muscles on the other side automatically pay out and therefore the correct relative position of each vertebra is maintained. We are able to adjust the level of tension in the muscles so that if we are going to lift a heavy weight for example we automatically tense up the muscles.
If this mechanism fails the result is a rotation (most common in the neck) or a tilt (most common in the lumber spine) of a spinal segment relative to the rest of the spine. In young people this usually requires some form of forceful twisting injury such as a fall water skiing or a car accident.
As people get older and as described earlier some areas of the spine stiffen up causing overstrain typically in the low back and neck the forces required get progressively less as these segments become increasingly unstable. At a result the rotation/tilt normally occurs with a minor movement such as reaching to pick something up off the floor. This is what is happening when someone feels something “go” in their back or neck.
One of the major reasons that spinal pain is such a problem is that there no natural way for the spine to realign itself. Manipulation of the spinal level can correct it and is often hailed as a miracle, but once you understand that the cause of the instability, which is the stiffened segments has not been addressed its easy to understand why the problem often returns.
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