What is a Vertebral Subluxation?

A possible mechanism of a vertebral subluxation can be due to dysafferentation, which is described as a neuropathophysiological effect that can cause an imbalance of the somatosensory input to the central nervous system, and any alterations can cause many unrelated symptoms. What happens is that the subluxation causes decreased firing in afferent mechanoreceptors, which are classified as A-delta and C-fibers, and an increase firing in the afferent nociceptors AKA pain receptors, and are classified as A-beta fibers. These abnormal impulses can cause a reduction in mechanoreception, and an increase in nociception. This is normally located within the anatomical structures of the joints and causing restricted range of motion, pain, and local inflammation (Seaman et al, 1998). Chiropractic adjustments can affect the body mechanically and neurologically.

A chiropractic adjustment can mechanically increase the range of motion and decrease stiffness by breaking down the fibrous adhesions that causes the gapping that occurs in the zygapophyseal joints (Cramer et al, 2002). Neurologically, the chiropractic adjustment can decrease the nerve compression and correct any aberrant biomechanical relationships in the spine. This can stimulate sensory receptors and allow the activation of reflex pathways to have proper adaptive responses of the autonomic and somatic nervous systems (Haldeman, 2000). Another theory stated by Kent is known as the neurodystrophic model, which suggests that the neural dysfunction is stressful to the tissues of the body, causing lowered tissue resistance, and could modulate specific or nonspecific immune responses (1996).

Chiropractors have been practicing the method of finding subluxations and correcting them for hundreds of years. And although it isn’t fully appreciated or approved by the medical community due to the stigma and discourse they have against the profession, and a history of incrimination that they had brought on, chiropractors have seen great results from the technique that they practice and from the patients that the medical profession could not treat, with the result of preventing the patient from having any drugs and surgery for their condition. When you have a subluxation, symptoms may not arise until much later on in life, and it is the chiropractors job to correct these subluxations by means of adjusting the vertebrae in order to allow your body to heal and thrive.

These subluxations can result to discomfort and can later lead to dis-ease. These subluxations can be due to your mental thoughts, physical trauma, and/or even environmental toxins, which is also known as ‘The 3 T’s.’ According to Barham-Floreani, mental stress from work or relationships can cause ligaments and muscles to tighten, which can undergo significant physiological changes, such as high blood pressure and heart rate, and many more. Physical trauma could vary from either micro- or macrotrauma. Microtrauma can be any repetitive motions brought on by daily tasks, and macrotrauma can be severe blows to the body or in this day and age, motor vehicle accidents. These traumatic events can sustain certain postures throughout your body, and can last a lifetime if they are not corrected. Environmental toxins can be anything from preservatives in the diet, your daily habits, or even the pollutants that you breathe in the air. These toxins can disrupt your body chemistry and affect the tone of your muscles and ligaments (2009).

The entire nervous system is encased with bone, which means that it is the body’s way to say that there is something very valuable inside, and that it is the most important body system that we have. Encased in the spinal column is the spinal cord, which has nerves that come out of the spine and innervating muscles and organs, mainly responsible for movement and our bodily functions. The body is a magnificent product because everything is interlinked and connected coming down to the molecular level. The symptoms patients may experience may not be the root cause of their problem. A person with low back pain could have a subluxation down where it originates. However, the root cause of their condition can be either a foot subluxation due to the flat surfaces that our body is not evolved to walk on, or even an upper neck subluxation that can significantly reduce the fluid that bathes around the central nervous system. The profession is taught to not chase symptoms, and evaluate the person as a whole through objective measures because of the understanding of how everything is related.

So a few questions should come to mind: Could these vertebral subluxations be the root cause of many diseases that occur throughout the world? In science, it is a popular saying that structure equals function. This can certainly be applied to the chiropractors philosophy. If you are not structurally balanced, how can your body function the way that it is suppose to? If you have aberrant posture and certain muscles are engaging that aren’t suppose to fire, or if you have stiffness along your spine on a daily basis, or your diet isn’t the best, how do you think your own body is affected? Health is our most valuable asset, and the nervous system is responsible for everything that we do on a daily basis. However, majority of the time we just take it for granted because we live in a symptom-based culture. Some of our perceptions are that if we are feeling symptoms means we are not healthy. However, vertebral subluxations can occur without symptoms, so how can we thrive to gain our fullest potential to be healthy?

  • Barham-Floreani JB. Well Adjusted Babies. South Melbourne, VIC: NEU Global; 2009.
  • Cramer GD, Gregerson DM, Knudsen JT, Hubbard BB, Ustas LM, Cantu JA. The effects of side-posture positioning and spinal adjusting on the lumbar z joints: a randomized controlled trial with sixty-four subjects. Spine. 2002;27(22):2459-66
  • Haldeman S. Neurologic effects of the adjustment. JMPT. 2000 Feb;23(2):112-pp4.
  • Kent C. Models of vertebral subluxation: a review. J Vert Sublux Res. 1996 Aug;1(1):1-7.
  • Seaman DR, Winterstein JF. Dysafferentation: a novel term to describe the neuropathophysiological effects of joint complex dysfunction. A look at the likely mechanisms of symptom generation. JMPT 1998: 21:267- 280
  • Stephenson RW. Chiropractic Textbook. Davenport: Palmer School of Chiropractic; 1927.

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