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.
The nervous system is the controlling center of the body. The brain and spinal cord are so important that they are the only organs protected by being totally encased in bone (the skull and vertebral column). Billions of nerve fibers supply every cell, tissue, organ and system of the body. Messages or impulses are relayed through these fibers from the brain to the body and from the body to the brain.
With a few exceptions, nerves travel from the brain down the spinal
cord. Thirty-one pairs of spinal nerves emerge from the spinal cord and
exit through holes located between the spinal bones. Each spinal nerve
has millions of nerve fibers tightly bundled together, which branch off
to supply the systems of the body. The body regulates its functions
through these nerves.
A Break in Communication
The nervous system can be negatively affected if proper spinal
alignment is altered even slightly between one spinal bone (or vertebra)
and another. The area where the spinal nerves exit the spine (the
intervertebral foramen) can become narrowed causing pressure,
irritation, or stretching of the nerve. Research has shown that very
slight pressure can alter the function of a nerve.
In addition, when a vertebra loses its normal position it also loses its ability to move properly. An improperly moving vertebra (or fixed vertebra) has been shown to alter spinal reflexes. Spinal reflexes are a means for the body to relay messages from the body to the spinal cord and vice versa. A fixed vertebra causes these nerve impulses to become scrambled. When a spinal bone loses its proper position and motion this is called a subluxation.
Vertebral Subluxation Complex
A properly functioning nervous system allows the entire body to
function at its optimum level. Interference to the nervous system
interferes with the function of the body. For example, irritating the
nerves going to the stomach or intestines will affect the transmission
of nerve impulses from the brain to these organs. This situation may
cause a person to suffer from ulcers, indigestion, constipation,
diarrhea, or other gastro-intestinal conditions. Many individuals do not
realize that the underlying cause of their disease condition may
actually be a subluxation. A subluxation and the widespread affects it
has on the body are collectively called the Vertebral Subluxation
Complex. The Vertebral Subluxation Complex is identified by:
1) A loss of normal position and movement of a spinal vertebra
2) Irritation to delicate nerve tissue
3) Muscles that are either tight and spasmed, or weak and atrophied, resulting from structural imbalance and nerve irritation
4) Localized inflammation and heat
5) Degeneration occurring over time causing other organs and systems of the body to lose their proper function.
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).
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.