What are “extremity adjustments”?
Extremity adjustments is the practice of manipulating the joint of an extremity to instill motion within that joint. If you’ve ever had your shoulder or wrist freeze up on you, you can imagine just how important these types of adjustments can be.
When joints lose motion, they begin to break down over time. Any sort of joint can benefit from an adjustment, from wrists to shoulders, elbows, hips, knees, ankles, and even your jaw.
Here are 5 benefits of extremity adjustments:
First, it helps your body mechanics as a whole. When one part of your body isn’t functioning properly, other parts of the body have to compensate. For example, when you hurt your ankle, you unconsciously shift your weight to the other foot when you walk, to alleviate the pressure on that joint. While it seems to help in the short term, it is important to fix the problem so that the various parts of your body can go back to carrying their normal load. If your ankle remains out of place and the joints don’t have healthy motion, it can cause nerve pressure in your extremities which could minimize range of motion among other things. So if your ankle is out of proper alignment then having it adjusted will help get you back on the right foot and keep from over compensating and experiencing global shifts and misalignments.
In a case study of a 23 year old female medically diagnosed with plantar fasciitis, she was advised by her medical doctor to treat it with a combination of orthotics, daily stretching of the feet, and daily ibuprofen. Unfortunately, none of these treatments were successful,so she sought an alternative option and went to a chiropractor. After 10 chiropractic treatments over a course of four months, improvements were seen in her activities of daily living and lower extremity function.
Improve Your Body Mechanics
Body mechanics also ties into the second benefit of extremity adjustments: understanding the importance of how your body is connected. In the above example, we talked about shifting your weight when you walk to take the pressure off your injured ankle. What you may not be thinking about is the strain you are putting on your other joints by doing that. You will be walking in a different manner, causing your hips to adjust. More weight will be put on your “good” foot. Whether you realize it or not, by adjusting your walk, you’re shifting your spine, which can affect your upper body, as well. Your balance is compromised, so you shift your shoulders and tilt your head slightly to adjust without even being consciously aware. This can lead to other problems if you do not have the original problem adjusted, so it’s important to understand how our bodies work as a system and it’s all connected.
Decrease Your Referred Pain
Next, we have something called “referred pain”. That’s when you feel pain in a part of the body other than its actual source. One of the best known examples of referred pain is “brain freeze”. That’s when the nerves in the throat and the palate, transmit pain signals, because of the rapid cooling and rewarming of the blood vessels in the sinuses. However, this phenomenon can happen anywhere in the body, and it can make treating the source difficult.
Chiropractors are trained to know the paths nerves take, and how best to relieve the pressure on the nerve. So while you might feel the pain in your elbow, a misalignment in your shoulder might be the true culprit. By adjusting the source, it will help promote nerve flow to alleviate the pain, referred or otherwise. A great example of this is a case study of a 45 year old female who complained of numbness in her little finger. Doctors performed tests of her cervical and thoracic spine because the nerves that branch out of these areas of your spine supply your arms all the way down to your fingers. The tests performed were negative. After just four chiropractic office visits and adjustment techniques of the wrist, improvements were observed in the exam findings. Her numbness was being referred to her little finger, but the true culprit was in her wrist!
Whole Body Vitalistic Treatments
This brings us to benefit number four: Extremity adjustments are part of whole body vitalistic treatments. Again, with our above example of the injured ankle, it shows how one malfunction of the body system can throw everything out of whack. Everything ties together, and it is important to keep everything maintained to the best of our abilities to avoid putting stress on other areas of the body. Your TMJ, or Temporomandibular joint, is a joint that gets put under a lot of stress, whether through just chewing your food or grinding your teeth at night. A lot of people don’t even think about it until it bothers them. It’s that little joint where your jaw meets your temple just next to your ear. You can feel it when you open and close your jaw. Because of its close proximity to the ear just a tiny shift in it can cause headaches, ear aches, and ringing in the ears. Letting your chiropractor adjust it can not only bring relief, but let your body begin to return to normal function. Much how the ankle being out of place can simply travel all the way up and begin to affect your hips and spine.
Stay Healthy While Being More Active
This brings us to benefit number five: how extremity adjustments affect athletes and helps us all stay healthy while being active. I’m sure you’re already thinking about that ankle out of place again, and how it affects the whole system. For athletes this is a pretty dangerous situation. If a place like their ankle is weaker than other areas of the body, then putting strain on that spot can lead to some nasty injuries. Keeping the spine and all the extremities well aligned helps the athletes work at peak performance. A lot of times they are put in situations where they have to make quick movements, and if those nerves are blocked by some misalignment, that movement is going to be drastically altered. This is why a lot of pro athlete teams are beginning to have their own personal chiropractors.
Most people think of a chiropractor just adjusting the spine and not your shoulder or wrist, but some chiropractors are trained to not only help align your spine, but help your body, as a whole, function better. If you are having discomfort in your extremities make sure you contact a chiropractor, so they can check that your joints are aligned properly!
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