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What is a Spinal Subluxation?

In simplest terms, a subluxation is when one or more of the bones of your spine move out of position and create pressure on, or irritate spinal nerves. Spinal nerves are the nerves that come out from between each of the bones in your spine. This pressure or irritation on the nerves then causes those nerves to malfunction and interfere with the signals traveling over those nerves.

How do Spinal Subluxations affect you?

Your nervous system controls and coordinates all the functions of your body. If you interfere with the signals traveling over nerves, parts of your body will not get the proper nerve messages and will not be able to function at 100% of their innate abilities. In other words, some part of your body will not be working properly.

You probably already know that Chiropractors treat low back pain but what you may not know is that we feel the cause of the pain is a injury called spinal subluxations. Spinal subluxations means a vertebral joint of the spine is out of its normal position. Itís the same as a sprain because the ligaments are stretched when this occurs. But how does a joint get out of its normal position? Usually, the culprit is some sort of trauma but not necessarily at the level of a high fall or a major car accident.

Many times spinal subluxations causing low back pain are caused by injury and the spine can be injured because it is more vulnerable in awkward positions, such as when we bend forward and add a little twist to a lift. Perhaps itís putting a baby seat into the back seat, or pulling weeds in the garden.

The important thing is to get spinal subluxations reduced or corrected. The adjustments we perform at the clinic are meant to align the spine and make the movements of spine symmetrical from side to side. This tends to reduce the tensions on ligaments and muscles, and most importantly, makes you feel better.

When your spine moves normally, you may have less pain when you exercise or move the spine in a stressful way. We canít make the ligaments perfect, there will always be scar tissue, but we can optimize your life and improve its quality. For many, just working without constant pain can be a real lifesaver. Many patients find their moods improve and they cannot wait to return to the sports or hobbies they once did. This is true wellness, healing not just the body but also the mind. Being in chronic pain is not much fun. While drugs can help many people and get them out of excruciating pain, they do have their limitations. Chiropractic can be a drug-free and natural alternative for health.

It is the responsibility of the Doctor of Chiropractic to locate spinal subluxations, and reduce or correct them. This is done through a series of chiropractic adjustments specifically designed to correct the vertebral subluxations in your spine. Chiropractors are the only professionals who undergo years of training to be the experts at correcting spinal subluxations.

Spinal subluxations are interferences or disturbances in our nervous system that interrupt the normal communication pathways in our body. There are two types of spinal subluxations. The first type is called the structural type. When a vertebrae misaligns, the distortion can either compress (pinch) a nerve or stretch and pull the nerve. Studies show that the weight of a dime is all the pressure it takes to decrease the function of a nerve by 60%. Studies also reveal that a 6% stretch of the nerve decreases its function by 70%. We learn it doesnít take much pressure or pulling on the nerve to severely interfere with its function. These Subluxations are usually caused by physical stress or trauma.

The second type of subluxation occurs when the nervous system is interfered with by emotional stress or chemical toxins. When the nervous system becomes overwhelmed by these factors it creates an imbalance in how our nerves perform. When the motor nerve controlling the muscles is imbalanced it causes the muscle on one side of the spine to contract harder than the other, misaligning the vertebrae. The misalignment further interferes with the nerve creating a repeating neurologic pattern. These types of Subluxations can exist for years and go unnoticed.

Studies tell us that both types of Subluxations can exist without pain yet still interfere and disturb nerve function!

Chiropractors are remarkably unique in the health care field as they are the only health care professionals trained to detect and treat a condition referred to as spinal subluxations, also known as the "Vertebral Subluxation Complex". Chiropractors have found vertebral subluxations to be responsible for and contribute to a number of spinal and extra-spinal disorders.

Emotional causes refer to stress. Excessive stress or inadequate stress management skills can deplete the body of the ability to sustain normal functions. The impact of emotional stress on physical health is well documented in the medical research and can have devastating effects on the immune system, making the body susceptible to injury and disease.

What Is The Vertebral Subluxation?

The vertebral subluxation is the term applied to a vertebra which has lost its normal position and/or motion in relation to neighboring vertebrae. Vertebrae which do not function properly within the spinal framework generate mechanical stress. This accelerates the wear and tear on the surrounding spinal muscles, ligaments, discs, joint and other spinal tissues. Pain, palpatory tenderness, inflammation, decreased spinal mobility, and muscle spasm and hypertonicity will eventually follow.

Additionally, because of the direct mechanical and physiological relationship between the spinal column and the spinal nerve roots, vertebral subluxations as well as other spinal abnormalities have the potential to impair proper nerve functioning. Once nerve functioning is compromised, communication within the body becomes less effective jeopardizing the overall health and wellness of the individual.

What Is The Subluxation Complex?

Through extensive research and study chiropractors have identified 5 components of the vertebral subluxation. Collectively, these elements are known as the "subluxation complex".

Kinesiopathology - the loss of normal vertebral positioning and motion in relation to neighboring vertebrae
Myopathology - pathological changes occurring in the spinal musculature which includes hypertonicity, spasming, fibrosis, weakness and improper or inappropriate functioning
Neuropathology - irritation or injury to spinal nerve roots through compression, stretch or more commonly chemical irritation from nearby spinal structures
Histopathology - pathological changes which occur to the spinal tissues such as abnormal bony growths off the vertebral bodies and joints, fibrosis and adhesions of spinal muscles and ligaments, as well as dehydration and degeneration of spinal discs
Pathophysiology - the biochemical changes taking place in the spinal region which include inflammatory biochemicals from injured tissues and biochemical waste products

Each component of the spinal subluxations must be eliminated for proper healing to occur and for the rehabilitation process to be successful. While full understanding of all components is not necessary, you should be aware of the complexity involved. Patients should also be aware that pain is but a small element of most diseases and disorders. Pain is a very poor indicator of your need for further treatment as pain generally subsides well before tissue healing and mechanical normalization has completed.

What Causes Subluxations?

Vertebral subluxations have a great number of different causes all of which the average individual is exposed to daily. These causes can be described in terms of physical, chemical, and emotional causes.

Physical causes include acute trauma to the body, repetitive motions affecting the spine, bad postural habits, improper workstation habits and design, and weak or imbalanced spinal musculature.

Chemical causes include poor dietary and nutritional practices, drug and alcohol use and abuse, and the ingestion of chemical toxins in the foods we eat, air we breath, and water we drink. Chemicals which are harmful to the body decrease the body's ability to function optimally and reduce the ability to successfully adapt to and withstand internal and external stresses - making us more susceptible to spinal subluxations and the consequences of these spinal subluxations.

How Are Spinal Subluxations Corrected?

Doctors of chiropractic learn a number of different chiropractic techniques and procedures to correct vertebral subluxations. Most of the procedures involve the application of a chiropractic spinal adjustment to the affected vertebrae.

Chiropractic adjustments involve the application of a quick but gentle corrective force into the "subluxated" spinal vertebrae. The adjustment can be delivered manually through the hands or can be applied through the use of a specialized tool. Subluxations generally require multiple treatments or adjustments for complete normalization to occur. Similar to straightening teeth, correcting malfunctioning and malaligned vertebrae requires time for the tissues to accept this new position as "normal".

How Can I Tell If I Have A Vertebral Subluxation?

The only accurate way to determine if you suffer from subluxations is to receive a chiropractic evaluation. However, a number of signs and symptoms are commonly associated with the vertebral subluxation and include:

neck pain, tenderness, soreness and stiffness
back pain, tenderness, soreness and stiffness
dizziness or balance problems
spinal muscle spasm, tightness or weakness
reduced spinal mobility
pain, numbness or tingling in the extremities
joint pain and stiffness
low energy
poor overall state of health
poor tissue healing

Individuals who are not currently experiencing pain or other discomforts are not necessarily "subluxation free". As previously described, pain is a very poor indicator of disease processes, including the presence of spinal subluxations. spinal subluxations are similar to cavities in that many times a significant amount of damage is present before symptoms such as pain are felt.

This is why Chiropractors recommend, like your dentist, that individuals seek periodic spinal evaluations to check for the presence of spinal subluxations and other spinal abnormalities, even in the absence of pain.