Decades ago, the prescription when you were injured, or recovering from surgery was “bed rest”. For days, or sometimes even weeks, you would be told by your doctor to lie in bed and do next to nothing, as this would help the healing process. There are still times when pregnant moms are put on bed rest for certain conditions. The trouble is, there is no evidence that lying in bed, and essentially not moving, actually improves outcomes in any of these scenarios. The idea was sort of good in theory, but did not help people actually get better.
“Therapeutic” bed rest continues to be used widely, despite evidence of no beneﬁt and known harms.
Of course there are situations where getting extra rest is helpful, but that doesn’t mean the amount of movement someone gets should decrease. Scientists have shown that when joints are immobilized, loss of mobility and decrease in blood ﬂow begin immediately, and irreversible damage occurs within 11-13 days. This includes breakdown of the joint cartilage, scar tissue formation, bone spurs and abnormal hardening of bone. This is one of the main reasons those who have had knee or hip replacements are up and walking, usually within hours of their surgery.
Enough with the bad, here’s the good. Movement has a massive impact on brain function. Not only does it increase blood ﬂow, and oxygen distribution, but it directly impacts the nerve activity within our brain. When spinal joints don’t move properly, spinal nerves don’t “ﬁre”, and the brain doesn’t get the correct signals about what the body is doing. This isn’t just information going to the brain about the spine, but information about what organs and tissues are doing as well.
The most recent studies show that chiropractic adjustments directly affect the function of the prefrontal cortex in our brain. This means that when there is adequate movement, our brain works better! The purpose of this area of the brain (behind our forehead), is to “plan, develop, and integrate resources to achieve a goal”. The prefrontal cortex is an important coordinator of behavioural, neuroendocrine (homeostasis, regulating reproduction, metabolism, eating and drinking behaviour, energy utilization and blood pressure), and autonomic responses particularly to anticipatory stressors.
When we move properly, muscles and ligaments stretch and relax. This sends nerve signals up to the brain. Nobel prize winning neuroscientist Roger Sperry found that 90% of stimulation and nutrition to the brain comes from the movement of the spine. This activation, combined with the proper chemical environment, keeps the brain running efﬁciently so it can do its important job.