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Scott C. Woodruff D.C., DACNB
Chiropractic Physician
Board Certified Chiropractic Neurologist
815-744-5066

WOODRUFF CHIROPRACTIC MEDICINE (815) 744-5066

Chiropractic Manipulative Therapy

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Chiropractic manipulation is a therapy utilized frequently in our office; unfortunately, it remains one of the most misunderstood therapies by patients and clinicians alike. It is a very safe and effective intervention for many types of symptoms; it is however somewhat difficult to explain how and why it works. In order to appreciate the various mechanisms by which manipulation helps people, it is necessary to have a basic understanding of what condition it treats.

Chiropractic manipulation treats a condition called joint complex dysfunction.

Joint complex is a term that collectively describes specific joint structures along with tissues that are intimately associated with joint function, namely: muscles, tendons, ligaments, discs, as well as the blood and nerve supply to these tissues. Joint complex dysfunction describes a state of reduced mobility that promotes functional and pathological changes within the structures that make up the joint complex. There are several common manifestations of joint complex dysfunction; including, pain, inflammation, stiffness, muscle tightening and shortening, and the development of myofascial trigger points.

Joint complex structures receive their nerve supply from two main types of sensory nerve receptors: nociceptors and mechanoreceptors. Nociceptors are stimulated by potential or actual tissue damage. Nociceptor stimulation is interpreted by the brain as pain. Mechanoreceptors are stimulated by normal movement and the stretch of tissues that make up the joint complex.

Joint complex dysfunction causes dysafferentation. Dysafferentation is an imbalance in sensation such that there is an increase in nociceptor, and a decrease in mechanoreceptor stimulation.

Chiropractic manipulative therapy restores movement, thereby reducing joint complex dysfunction. This reduction in joint complex dysfunction induces local, segmental, and suprasegmental effects.

Local Effects

Manipulation improves mobility and biomechanics of the joint complex: joint and muscle function is improved, irritation and inflammation of joint complex tissues is reduced, mechanoreceptors are stimulated, tight and short muscles are stretched, weak and atrophied muscles are facilitated, nutrition to discs and joint cartilage is improved.
Chiropractic manipulation restores motion, sensation, function, and nutrition to the joint complex. Restoration of joint complex function results in reduction of mechanically induced inflammation and pain.

Segmental Effects

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Mechanoreceptor stimulation continues to be increased after the manipulation, so long as the improved mobility is maintained. This lasting increase in mechanoreceptor stimulation causes inhibition of the nociceptor (pain) pathway at the level of the spinal cord. Nerves going to muscles, blood vessels, and glands are modulated.
Chiropractic manipulation inhibits pain and regulates nerves going to muscles, blood vessels, and glands.

Suprasegmental Effects


Normalization of mechanoreceptor input as a consequence of chiropractic manipulation causes excitation of nerve cells within the brain. Mechanoreceptor input ultimately causes neurons in the cerebellum, brain stem, thalamus, and the cerebral cortex to be stimulated. Consequently, a reduction in mechanoreceptor input due to joint complex dysfunction, has the potential to cause physiological deviations from optimal function in any of these brain areas. This can lead to a confounding array of symptoms that will likely vary from individual to individual due to the complexity, and uniqueness in “neural wiring.”
Chiropractic manipulation increases mechanoreceptor stimulation to various brain structures.