Chiropractic, Gait and Brain Power
by Dr. Judy Soborowicz
Unquestionably, one of the most precious gifts we have been entrusted to preserve as we age is our quality of life. Our ability to maintain balance, coordination, strength, stability, memory and cognition are essential. Researchers show proper movement slows mental decline: “Changes in walking may predate actually observable cognitive changes in people who are on their way to developing dementia,” states Molly Wagster, chief of the National Institute on Aging Neuroscience Branch. Chiropractic care specifically addresses joint movement, the specific way we walk (gait), balance, and coordination — the primary factors which insure a life fully lived.
Alzheimer’s and Gait In July of this year, five studies presented at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference in Vancouver concluded that the more trouble we have walking, the more trouble we have thinking. Studies show slower, altered gait is a predictor of cognitive decline. Alzheimer’s and other cognitive losses can be predicted with observation of changes in gait.
The key to how chiropractic can positively affect gait is revealed by how adjustments to our spine and joints can enhance the efficiency of communication between our brain and our body. Essentially, better coordinated movement patterns between brain, joint and muscle create a more even distribution of our weight which prevents muscle strain and joint stress. When our brain is not receiving the proper input due to loss of motion in our joints, the output of messages are lost, therefore decreasing the maintenance of brain tone. With proper joint movement essential feedback and relay of information between brain and body is automatic and constant while we stand, walk, balance, and run anytime we move. With twenty-six movable bones in each foot alone, our brain relies on the movement at each of our joints to signal real time feedback about just how to keep us upright. Joints that have been injured or lack movement often cause obvious changes in our walking patterns, or altered gait. But even subtle changes in gait cause breakdown between the input and output of messages to and from our brain. Movement in our joints is essential to our brain-body communication system when joints are injured or become less mobile, and stimulation to our brain is reduced. Thinking skills like memory, planning activities or processing information decline almost in parallel with the loss of ability to walk well balanced and coordinated. Maintaining joint movement maintains brain function.
Restore Movement, Restore Brain Power One of the most common reasons for loss of joint movement leading to gait changes is Osteoarthritis (OA). Arthritis occurs when the “cushion” in injured or stuck joints wear down over time, arthritis affects joints in hands, hips, knees and spine. Perhaps because OA develops over time, many “aging complaints” are associated with the term.
The truth is OA is a damaging condition that develops usually due to an old injury, or loss of movement inside the joint. Stiff or stuck joints can occur at any age, and may indicate joint injury or incorrect alignment. Chiropractic adjustments restore proper alignment and movement to injured or “stuck” joints, allowing powerful healing to occur at any age.
When joints are not able to move properly, they wear badly. Our spine, hip, knee, ankle, shoulder, elbow and wrist joints receive nutrition and eliminate wastes through joint movement. Sufficient movement prevents adhesions and scar tissue from forming in joints. With proper joint movement, communication to and from our brain is promoted, enhancing balance, coordination and proper gait. Joints which are unable to move properly weaken muscles and limit range of motion, making it harder to move with confidence, thus slowing gait and altering brain tone.
It is wise to have our gait and movement ability appraised; changes can occur so gradually we may not be consciously aware. Joint pain, stiffness and loss of strength are successfully reversed with chiropractic adjustments. By restoring movement to injured, stuck or arthritic joints, joint nutrition is increased and this alone leads to healing pain reliefand ease of movement and gait. The full depth of the importance of communication between our brain and body to maintaining cognition and memory continues to be revealed. Chiropractic adjustments are key to strengthening proper movement and gait, and preserving the powerful potential of our brain performance throughout our lifetime.
Judy Soborowicz practices chiropractic and nutrition at Active Health along with her husband John. She enjoys writing, researching and lecturing on topics concerning chiropractic, healthcare and experience gained along the way.