Chiropractors are often called "back doctors." Actually, they have nothing to do with the back itself! They work on the spinal column -- one of the most important and complex components of the human nervous system.
The Nervous System
The human body is a remarkable thing. At any given moment, it performs hundreds of thousands of individual functions -- circulating and purifying blood, turning fuel into energy, maintaining proper internal temperature, taking in oxygen, and all the other operations which keep us alive and healthy.
Guided by the knowledge our bodies are born with -- our Innate Intelligence -- every cell and organ sends and receives messages to and from the brain.
In fact, the brain acts like a central communication depot, processing millions of messages every second. These messages, relayed as electrical impulses, are sent out over nerves the way phone calls travel along telephone wires.
A thick braid formed by billions of these nerves is attached to the brain and extends down from the base of the skull. This is the spinal cord. Smaller braids branch off from the cord. These braids divide again and again into tiny nerve fibers and fill the entire body, going to each cell, organ and tissue. Every human being has an estimated 15 billion nerve cells. All send and receive messages as nerve impulses through the spinal cord.
Protecting the Spinal Cord
It's clear that the brain and spinal cord are critical to the survival and health of the individual. Protecting them is absolutely vital. That's why the brain is encased in a "shell" of solid bone -- the skull.
But what about the spinal cord? How does the body protect it? Obviously, a solid shell wouldn't work. We wouldn't be able to bend, and the individual nerves wouldn't be able to branch out to other parts of the body. The answer is the spinal column.
The spinal column is an elaborate "tunnel" of small, interlocking bones slightly curved in the shape of the letter "S." It's flexible enough to allow the body to twist and bend, but sturdy enough to protect the spinal cord.
The Vertebral Column
The spinal column is made up of three sections of vertebrae: the cervical, thoracic, and lumbar.
The cervical spine is what most people call their neck. There are seven vertebrae here, labeled C1 through C7. The first, C-1, is also known as the Atlas. The second, C-2, is sometimes called the Axis.
The thoracic spine is located in the middle of the back, and is made up of 12 vertebrae. Just below is the lumbar spine with its 5 vertebrae.
At the end of the spinal column are two sets of fused vertebrae, called the sacrum and the coccyx, or tailbone.
The vertebrae are separated and cushioned by thin pads of tough, resilient fiber known as inter-vertebral discs. There is a small opening between each vertebra. Through this opening, nerves branch off and travel to different parts of the body.
When the vertebrae are in their proper positions, the nerves pass through without a problem. Impulses race along the nerve fibers to and from the brain relaying information and instructions without interference. When a vertebra is jarred out of its proper alignment, however, the messages are distorted. The body can no longer function at 100% of its capacity. That's where chiropractic comes in.