Why You Dance When You Stub Your Toe

Did you ever hit your thumb with a hammer? You probably immediately started shaking your hand vigorously without even thinking about it. Stubbing your toe causes a similar automatic response. You start hopping around on the other foot. You also rub it. Why? It has to do with the way we are wired.

Everybody has heard of the “Five Senses“: sight, hearing, taste, touch, and smell. Actually there are more than 20 senses. Most of the senses apprise your brain of what’s going on inside rather than outside your body. One important sense is called proprioception or “joint sense”. That is how you know exactly where your feet are, for example, without looking down. Think about it! It’s pretty amazing. There are millions of nerve endings sending signals back to the brain so that it knows what is going on in all of your joints.

You can test it on yourself right now. close your eyes and make a fist. Now quickly bring your fist within an inch of your nose. Open your eyes. Give or take a half inch, your fist is probably just where you aimed it. How did you do that?! (By the way, if you punched yourself in the nose, you need to see a neurologist.)

The joint sense nerve endings send their signals to the brain via “myelinated” nerves. Myelin is a fatty layer that surrounds these nerves. It has many indentations that are called “nodes”. The nerve signal jumps from node to node, allowing it to reach the brain in a small fraction of a second. The signal that the brain interprets as pain generally travels up slower, non-myelinated nerves. There are many more joint-sense nerve endings than pain nerve endings activated when you hit your thumb and shake your hand or stub your toe and jump up and down. The signals travel over faster nerves. Therefore, the signals bombard your brain in great number and get there before the pain signals. It’s like turning up the sound on the TV so you don’t have to hear you neighbors arguing.

That is why a chiropractic adjustment works so well with painful joints. Chiropractors find the joint that isn’t moving properly and “adjust” it. The adjustment is a quick, low force motion that remobilizes the stuck or “subluxated” joint. Once proper motion is restored, the joint-sense nerve endings that surround the joint, are activated, drowning out the pain signals. Unlike “pain killers” which chemically block the pain signal, a chiropractic adjustment corrects the cause of the problem. This not only eliminates the pain, but also permits the joint to function normally, thus preventing the damage which would otherwise occur. Killing pain without restoring normal function is like shutting off the fire alarm without putting out the fire.

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