The saying “The straw that broke the camel’s back” originates from ancient Egypt when camels were used to transport straw over long distances and is an example I as a chiropractor Little Falls MN use a lot. It was well known that a camel could carry a certain amount of weight without any problems, but at a certain point, the camel’s spine couldn’t sustain any more weight. If that point was crossed, even by a single straw, the camel’s back would break.
Get this from your favorite chiropractor Little Falls MN. In the Dysfunctional Phase, this is exactly what your back and neck have been going through. Your nerves, muscles, and joints have had an increasing amount of stress put on them making it only a matter of time before they hit the Breaking Point—when Dysfunction turns into Destruction.
During this next phase, the slope of the Vicious Cycle gets much steeper. Your back and neck begin breaking down, which moves you away from being pain-free and healthy and closer to pain and sickness.
Destruction: The Nerves—Nociceptors
If you remember, nerves have a natural resistance that serves as a barrier against them firing too easily. During the Dysfunctional Phase that barrier remained untouched, but during the phase of Destruction, that wall comes tumbling down. Here’s how as a chiropractor Little Falls MN I have seen it happen.
Prolonged, involuntary joint dysfunction forces nociceptors to fire over and over again, wearing down their resistance and lowering their threshold.
This means that it takes less stimulus to cause them to fire. In fact, the Nociceptors become so “on edge” and “wound up” that they overreact at the slightest provocation. It can even get to the point where normal and healthy movements cause them to fire. This nerve-disease process has a name, and it’s the one you’ve seen before: sensitization (mentioned in the first pain myth).
If pain sets in while sensitization is present, it can make for a real mess. Ask any chronic pain sufferer which most people who come to this chiropractor Little Falls MN are or have been. Activities that used to be done without thinking—like getting dressed in the morning—now cause the pain sufferer to move more warily.
Sensitization not only makes it easier for Nociceptors to fire, but it is also a vehicle in which the Vicious Cycle spreads to other areas by corrupting adjacent nerves. Unless stopped, sensitization will infect the nerve down to its root: the spinal cord. This is disastrous because all nerves connect to the spinal cord, so once there, sensitization spreads like wildfire. Nerves that were functioning normally, three, four, or five segments away from the initial Dysfunctional Joint, now turn into sensitized, Nociceptive zombies.
And, of course, where Nociception goes, dysfunction follows, and where dysfunction goes, destruction is soon to come.
Note here that more Nociception does not necessarily mean more pain. It certainly can, but it doesn’t have too. In fact, believe it or not, everything described so far can still occur without any symptoms or pain. We only consciously comprehend a tiny fraction of what is happening with our bodies. When I say tiny, I mean.00000000000016 percent. Don’t let yourself be fooled into thinking you would know if this was happening to your back and neck. I’ve heard dozens of patients over my career as a chiropractor Little Falls MN, hunched over in pain, say things like, “This just came out of nowhere.” The truth is that back problems never come from out of nowhere. They always come from somewhere, and that somewhere is usually Nociception and the Vicious Cycle.
Destruction: The Nerves—Mechanoreceptors
While Nociceptors are being sensitized, the exact opposite is happening to the Mechanoreceptors. Their threshold increases, building resistance, making it more difficult for them to fire.
This forces the Mechanoreceptors to be less active, and in the end this lack of use causes their pathways to deteriorate like an old, under-used, and under-cared-for road. It becomes difficult for them to do their job of feeding the brain information about what the joints are doing. Since the brain depends on Mechanoreceptors to “see” the joints and control them, this lack of signaling causes the brain to become essentially “blind” to those joints. This allows for more severe muscle and joint dysfunction.
This “blindness” can get so bad that without help, you won’t be able to move your body the way you’re supposed to. I see people in this stage nearly every day in my chiropractor Little Falls MN clinic. I’ll ask a patient to perform a very simple move with his neck or lower back, one that most six-year-olds can perform easily, but the man won’t be able to do it. I’ll explain it again, walking him through the steps. He’ll try again and fail. At this point, I’ll have to demonstrate the move so he can see how to do it. I’ll have him try it again, and he may fail again.
When it gets to this point, I’ll have to grasp him and move his neck or back for him so he can feel it. It may take a few sessions of this type of one-on-one attention, but after a while he’ll start to do it right. You see, it’s because his brain lacks Mechanoreception that he lost the ability to move his neck or back the way he’s supposed to, and the only way to change this is to turn the Mechanoreceptors back on. That’s exactly what The Solution does when you see a chiropractor Little Falls MN.
Destruction: The Muscles—The Stabilizers
First, the Stabilizers begin to atrophy (a medical word for “to waste away”). The reflex that made it more difficult for the Stabilizers to contract worsens and causes them to “shut off” like a light switch. Eventually, they weaken and start withering away like an unwatered lawn in the heat of summer.
This has profound implications making it much harder for the chiropractor Little Falls MN to engage in the healing process. In the Dysfunctional Phase, the Stabilizers simply need to be re-awakened in order to restore their normal function and eliminate pain, but in the Destruction Phase, they have to be completely rebuilt—a much more involved process.
Destruction: The Muscles—The Movers
While this is happening to the Stabilizers, the Movers begin to go through their own type of destruction. During the Dysfunctional Phase, the Nociceptors forced the Movers to become overactive. When they should be resting, they’re working, and when they’re supposed to be working, they overdo it. At first the Movers can handle this extra activity and stress, but it’s not long before they hit their Breaking Point and begin to micro-tear.
Unless you’re well versed in the world of physical medicine like a chiropractor Little Falls MN, you’ve probably never heard of a micro-tear. Let me explain. A muscle is made of millions of tiny, individual muscle fibers—much like how a rope is made of smaller fibers.
If that rope is suddenly put under a lot of tension, it will completely tear.
If that happens to a muscle, it’s called a rupture, which can occur, for instance, by falling on an out-stretched arm. If a rope has stress or tension that’s quite small at the beginning, but slowly increases, it won’t suddenly fail, but rather its individual fibers will start to break one-by-one on its way to giving out. That’s micro-tearing.
With atrophying Stabilizers and micro-tearing Movers making the muscle imbalance and incoordination more profound, destruction to the joints is soon to follow.
Destruction: The Joints
At this point, because of erratic movement and overall lack of joint mobility, the flushing of nutrients into the joint has basically stopped. Firstly, this causes a buildup of inflammatory metabolic “waste” that begins to eat away at the joint from the inside out like acid. Secondly, lack of pumping severely starves the cartilage and bone, literally killing the cells. This combination results in destruction. Here’s how:
* Synovial fluid (the oil in between the joints): It gets used up faster than it can be replaced, resulting in a liquid that’s too watery to protect and lubricate. This leaves the cartilage exposed to too much friction. This is like what would happen to your car’s engine if you were to put in the wrong kind of motor oil.
* Articular cartilage (the thin layer of cartilage that cover the ends of bones): The loss of synovial fluid, and increase in friction, causes this cartilage to wear thin. The resulting lack-of-cushion puts increased stress on the underlying bone.
* Bone (i.e., vertebrae): After the protective cartilage has worn away, the bone begins to feel the burn of friction, ultimately causing damage and bone death.
* Intervertebral discs: As the cells that form its cartilage begin to die off, the layers of the disc begin to separate, tear, and collapse like an old, run-down building. This structural damage robs the disc’s ability to handle stress and the body’s weight. Result: much faster degradation. It’s during this phase that the disc is likely to herniate, “slip,” or bulge.
As all of this is going on, what do you think is happening to the joint’s alignment and mobility?
Often times as a chiropractor Little Falls MN, I see it gets much worse. Sooner rather than later, the dysfunction and destruction of one joint begins to spread, affecting entire regions of the spine. No longer is it only one spot in the neck that is problematic, now it’s the whole neck. This brings about even more Nociception and more destruction in the nerves, muscles, and joints
Allowing the Vicious Cycle to build more momentum until one defining moment occurs—The Point of No Return.