Have you ever wondered why you can pinpoint a pain in your finger, but when you have low back pain you tend to use your whole hand and swirl around and say, “it hurts kind of around here”? As a chiropractor I hear that quite a lot. There is a reason for that kind of pain sensation distribution and that it can be explained through a
No that is not a creepy demon from the new Sam Raimi movie or a distorted goblin from a Peter Jackson movie. The picture from this article is a somatic representation of where we feel in the brain. What does it all mean? First off, this is called the somatosensory cortex located in the postcentral gyrus of the parietal lobe. This is located right above the ear on each side. This shows how much of the brain is dedicated to feeling specific parts of our body.
If you notice there are areas that have large representation:
These are areas that we can really pinpoint where the pain really is. This is because we have so much dedication in this cortical area. We have a really good idea of where things are. There is also not a lot of surface area with these spots. That concentrates this effect.
You may notice that the back has a very small portion dedicated to this representation. This is compounded by the fact that the back has a very large surface area. This makes the feeling of pain very diffuse or spread out. That is why people tend to point to the pain if it is on a finger or on your face, but the whole hand to describe back pain.
This also gives us a clue as to why chiropractic is so successful with treating back pain. The adjustment not only gives the patient greater range of motion through moving the segments of the spine that are not moving properly , but it also sends a burst of neurological signals to this section of the brain to help give a better representation of this area in the brain. This signal then gets relayed to the motor cortex (the part that allows us to consciously move our muscles) giving our back muscles a better representation of how to move more accurately. This means that there will be less strain on the muscles causing less inflammation or pain.
This is an accurate but over simplified version of what goes on with an adjustment. There are many other benefits that are not covered in this section. If you would like to know more about health and wellness please check out our blog.