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Energy Medicine Part 2: Joints, Proprioception and Pain

By Dr. Michael Cerami

Last month we introduced the term Energy Medicine and gave a few examples of what functions your internal “hardware and software” perform. This month, we’ll take it a little deeper and talk about proprioception, nerve impulses, joint alignment and your brain’s perception of pain. Warning: This topic is pretty cool but a little technical. Try and wade your way through the first section and I think you’ll be rewarded for the effort.

Proprioception is defined in Wikipedia as the sense of relative position of neighboring parts of the body. It is the awareness in our brain that indicates whether the body is moving with required effort, as well as where the various parts of the body are located in relation to each other (UHP determines whether a driver is DUI by testing their proprioception) .  The initiators of proprioception that we are concerned about in this article are located in the joints of the body. All joints in the body provide continuous feedback to the brain about where that part is located in space. These joint sensors are called Mechanoreceptors (4 types) and register not only position but motion, vibration, pressure, temperature and chemistry. The curious #4 type of Mechanoreceptor is called a Nociceptor and is like a chicken wire matrix and located throughout the body. Nociceptors are very important because they are initiators of pain and reflexively activate the sympathetic nervous system. All Mechanoreceptors (and Nociceptors) send impulses to the final interpretation area- the sensory cortex of the brain.

OK, let’s review:

  • Proprioception:  The sense of where your body parts are in space.
  • Mechanoreceptors:  In our example, 4 types of sensors located in all of the joints of the body that send messages to the brain.
  • Nociceptors: A special kind of mechanoreceptor that initiates pain and activates the fight or flight part of the nervous system.
  • Sensory cortex of brain: Where all of the above messages are assembled.

Now that we’re done with the anatomy, let’s get to the good stuff. Nociceptors begin excessively firing when a joint has restricted motion or is out of position. Mechanoreceptors fire when joints are in neutral position or have normal motion and SUPRESS Nociceptor firing. So, the more of your joints that are in good alignment, the less pain your body actually feels! On top of that, proper alignment in the spine, knees, hips, ankles, and other joints desensitize your body’s flight or flight reaction to stress.  How cool is that?! 

Since the sensory cortex of your brain receives 3 trillion impulses every second and only 50 (yes 50) of those are conscious impulses, it’s clear that many of the Nociceptor messages that are getting through are registering “sub threshold” and not being felt. (I.e. you can have misalignments throughout the body without knowing it). Studies have shown that the accumulation of this noxious input can cause symptoms related to a “hyper excitable central state” and put you on edge and contribute to feeling “stressed out”.

What does this mean for you? Keeping yours joints aligned actually acts as a natural pain suppressant and can reap huge, unexpected benefits. As science finds out more about how the central nervous system regulates and controls our internal and external “reality”, we’ll know where to put our efforts and energy in order to stay health and active well into our senior years.  As a physician, using information from the new energy medicine paradigm not only allows me to find the source of the problem faster but fix it immediately. This means the athlete is back in action much faster than ever.

Dr. Michael Cerami is an avid runner, cyclist and triathlete. He is available for a consultation one Saturday per month at Salt Lake Running Company (700 East store) by appointment. His next visit to the store will be January 22 from 10 a.m.-2 p.m.  To schedule a free consultation, please call the Salt Lake Running Co. at 801-484-9144. Dr. Cerami can also be reached at 801-486-1818 or online at www.utahsportsandwellness.com.

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