How Joints Work
A joint’s function is to act as a pivot between two bones, allowing them to move under muscular action. The muscle movement occurs as soon as they receive impulses generated in the spinal cord, which have passed on through nerves.
The vertebral joints, within this definition, are the same as any other joint and operates within the same limits controlled by the impulses from the spinal cord, passed on through the nerves.
How Joints Become Damaged
Many factors, including postural strains and injury, are a cause of irritation for sensitive join capsules that hold on to lubricants for the joint. Such factors trigger a protective mechanism that causes nerve impulses to force joint muscles to contract. This mechanism is aimed at limiting movements that might result in more pain and damage. This trigger might also be activated by strain or injury on other parts of the vertebral joint, such as bone, nerve, disc, ligaments, or even the muscles.
Thus, any strain or injury on any associated structure of the joint will cause muscles to contract, which will ultimately lock partially or wholly, the joints. This mechanism of locking joint might occur when the joint is in its “aligned” neutral position, or it might also happen when the joints are out of their neutral position if the muscle selectively contracts. This causes the muscle to look out of alignment.
The Joint Protective Mechanism
The purpose of this protective mechanism is to act as a joint splint. This allows the injured tissue to heal. However, unlike when you cut your finger and the process of healing and returning to full function is not nearly as quick. Additionally, the mechanism of spinal splinting often goes wrong and extend its healing period far beyond the actual time required for repair to the damaged tissue.
Often, the muscle contracting mechanism is over effective and blocks the blood supply to the muscle. This causes acid to be released, which activates the nerve endings that sense pain, which also act as a way to protect the area further. This creates a vicious cycle.
Additionally, the affected areas in this protective mechanism might have contradictory ligaments, i.e. while one might be held stretched, other on the opposite side will remain slack. These ligaments might respond by shortening and lengthening respectively to attain force balance, continuing the appearance of misaligned look.
The Protective Mechanism Can Cause Other Problems
As joint sets start to lock in a specific region, neighbouring joints within the area will automatically increase their movements as a compensation mechanism. The increased range of motion in nearby joints make them less stable and can result in an increased risk of osteoarthritis or strain.
This entire mechanism combined can cause an entire region to get stiff and bending the joint or back slowly. This can become a much larger issue than the one you started with. This process can continue without being noticed for an extended period until the injury is very painful.