Vertebral Subluxations

Subluxations diagnosis and treatment in Santa Fe

Subluxation is a medical diagnosis (recognized by insurance companies) used to identify abnormal biomechanics and articular dysfunction in the joint space and can happen in any joint in the body. The word subluxation is derived from the Latin words meaning somewhat or slightly (sub) and to dislocate (luxate). When this happens in the spine, the misaligned vertebrae creates pressure and irritation on the spinal nerves which will eventually lead to pain. Subluxations also impact ligaments, surrounding musculature and spinal discs.  As time goes on and the uncorrected subluxation settles, the damage to the nerve and degenerative changes in the disc get progressively worse and different stages of subluxation degeneration set in.

Subluxations can occur in a number of ways. A car accident, athletic injuries, birth trauma, pregnancy, a fall, sudden jar, or other traumas are all examples of unique instances that may cause a subluxation. The other occurrence of subluxation comes from regular actions as improper sleeping position, poor posture, or incorrect lifting processes. Subluxations can often be mistakenly diagnosed as some form of “itis” such as tendonitis, bursitis, neuritis, myositis, capsulitis or arthritis.

You can have subluxations and not even know it. Like tooth decay, heart disease or cancer, subluxations can be present long before any warning signs appear. Ten percent of nerve fibers in the human body are designed to produce pain when a spinal nerve root is being impinged, the remaining ninety percent are not.

The first subluxation can occur from the birth process, especially as a result of difficult deliveries. Poor appetite, unexplained crying and sleeplessness can be signs of subluxations affecting newborns, infants, babies, and toddlers. If left uncorrected, these subluxations can remain present an entire lifetime.


When experiencing subluxations, patients commonly report a variety of symptoms that can affect their daily lives significantly. The primary indicator often is a sharp, acute pain near the involved joint, which might be apparent immediately after the injury. This is usually accompanied by a noticeable popping sound. Following the initial pain, other equally troubling symptoms are likely to occur, which include:

If these symptoms are overlooked, the continued movement and friction might lead to longer-term joint deterioration and chronic conditions, suggesting the importance of addressing subluxations promptly.

Vertebral Subluxation Complex

Subluxation Complex Component #1 – Kinesiopathology

The bones of the spine are designed to move, while protecting the spinal cord and nerve roots. But stress can cause one or more vertebra to become “stuck” or “fixated.” This can produce compensation reactions in which other joints become hypermobile, moving too much. These problems can compromise the essential spinal curves and interfere with your ability to turn and bend. Chiropractors detect this aspect of the Vertebral Subluxation Complex by evaluating your posture, using X-rays, assessing your gait, and by using other orthopedic tests.

Subluxation Complex Component #2 – Neuropathophysiology

When the bones protecting your spine don’t move properly, delicate nerve tissue can be affected. Nerves can become pinched or irritated. The pinched nerve, which is commonly associated with the spine, is actually quite rare. Some assert that only 10% to 15% of spinal-related problems are caused by direct pressure of bone on nerve tissue. Nervous system impairment can affect communications between the brain and the body, increasing the susceptibility of disease and ill health and impairing one’s ability to self heal.

Subluxation Complex Component #3 – Myopathology

Since bones are static structures that only move when acted upon by muscles, the supporting muscles of the spine are involved in the subluxation complex.

When nerve impulses are constrained, muscles supporting the spine can weaken and atrophy. The reverse can occur from over stimulation and muscles can become tight and go into spasm.

In either case, fibrotic scar tissue can change the elasticity of affected muscles. This is often why repeated adjustments are necessary to make lasting spinal changes. It also explains why long-standing spinal problems take longer to rehabilitate than relatively newer injuries.

Subluxation Complex Component #4 – Histopathology

Discs, ligaments and other connective tissues can be affected, too. And while the intervertebral disc can’t technically “slip,” it can tear, bulge, herniate and degenerate. Ligaments and other connective tissues are often involved. Inflammation, edema and swelling are often accompanied by an accumulation of blood and lymph, rise in temperature and tenderness to the touch. Discs and ligaments are known to have a poor blood supply. This can make the healing of soft tissues a time-consuming process.

Subluxation Complex Component #5 – Pathophysiology

One of the ways the body responds to malfunction or trauma to a joint is by stabilizing the area by slowly depositing calcium, much like the process of mending a broken bone. With time, calcium builds up, eventually causing bone spurs and other abnormal bony growths. This arthritic “splinting” of adjacent bones can turn a once mobile joint into a solid block of calcium in a series of stages or “phases.”

Phase One: Loss of spinal curve and reduced range of motion
Phase Two: Disc narrowing, lipping and bone spur formation
Phase Three: Joint immobilization and, eventually, bone fusion

The Vertebral Subluxation Complex – Simplified

The vertebral subluxation and its complex associated pathologies, are the unique domain of chiropractors. The subluxation complex and its far-reaching effects continue to interest researchers who want to better understand its role in immune system response, aging, hormonal involvement and gene expression.

Causes of Subluxation

There are many factors that can cause the Vertebral Subluxation Complex. Trauma from car accidents, improper lifting, falls, jolts, or strains are common causes. Sustained postures (sitting all day), repeated motions common to the workplace, inadequate sleep, improper exercise, poor diet, drug side effects and emotional stress are all factors that can gradually wear down parts of the spine and lead to subluxation (see also brochure titled Disc). Subluxations can occur as early as childbirth. The infant’s spine (particularly the neck) undergoes an incredible amount of stress during the birthing process. Many neurological and health problems have been traced to spinal trauma at birth (see also brochure on Infants).

Correcting Subluxations

A doctor of chiropractic is the only health care provider trained and experienced at detecting, reducing, correcting and preventing the Vertebral Subluxation Complex. The longer a subluxation has to degenerate, the worse it affects your body’s functions and the more difficult it is to correct. For these reasons, it is important to have periodic spinal checkups.

“Get knowledge of the spine, for this is the requisite for many diseases.”

Hippocrates “The Father of Medicine”

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