Virtually anytime you go to see your chiropractor, chances are you will hear them say “you have a vertebral (or several) subluxation.” What does this mean exactly and why does it continue to happen?
When your chiropractor speaks of subluxation, they are usually referring to a misalignment in your spine, especially in the lower back and near the top of your spine in the neck, but they actually occur in any joint.
Many chiropractors believe that these misalignments are actually a stress response, but there are other causes for subluxations as well.
What are Subluxations?
Subluxations of the spine are a slight misalignment or even a partial dislocation, of the vertebra of the spine or other joint(s). These misalignments are the root cause of many health problems, such as headaches and back pain.
Misalignments in the spine impact physiological processes due to poor nerve communications between the brain and the body.
This is easy to understand if you think in terms of your own garden hose. If the hose has a kink in it or is misaligned in some way, such as being pulled tight around a corner, it doesn’t matter how much pressure is coming from the faucet (brain) you will get little or no output at the end of the hose until you fix the kink.
Your spine works in a similar manner. Signals from the brain to the nervous system are interrupted when there is a subluxation of the spine.
What Are the Signs and Symptoms of Subluxation?
Is there a way to tell if you have a subluxation? Or more than one? Not always. Sometimes they can cause you pain, but you could actually have several subluxations and not even be aware of it.
If a subluxation shifts to the point where it touches or puts pressure on a nerve, you will certainly feel that pain. Many people who regularly experience headaches often have a subluxation in their neck.
Signs and symptoms of subluxations include:
- Lower back pain
- Neck pain
- Pain in the legs or feet
- Digestive problems
- Numbness in the extremities
- Tingling feelings in the hand or feet
- Low energy levels
- Lowered immune function
- Sleep disorders
This list is not all inclusive but is intended to show how subluxations can affect many areas of the body, some of which aren’t painful, so many people are completely unaware they have a problem.
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What Causes Subluxation of the Spine?
There are a great many causes for spinal subluxations. A few causes would be:
- Congestion of toxins around the nerves
- An obstruction of normal blood flow (Hyperemia)
- Adhesions in the joints, tendons, or ligaments
- A lack of blood flow to the muscles
- Atrophy of the muscles
In addition to the above, some common health issues or other occurrences can lead to subluxations, such as:
- Chronic inflammation
- Poor posture
- Improper exercise positioning
- Accidents, such as slip and fall or car accidents
- Injuries from impact or physical force (a heavy object falling on you)
- Wear and tear from aging
- Bulging and/or herniated discs
- Birthing complications
- Degenerative joint or bone diseases
- Repetitive movements
- Leg pain
- Sports injuries
When subluxations occur, they can irritate or compress nerve endings, causing pain.
There are 5 simple steps you can take to help correct repeated subluxations and prevent them from happening again in many cases.
Step #1-Chiropractic Care
Chiropractors don’t just treat the symptoms, they look for the underlying causes and address them, usually through adjustments. How do chiropractic adjustments work? By applying force to a targeted area of the spine, they can remove the subluxation and restore the natural alignment.
There are other subluxation treatments and modalities that chiropractors employ that can allow the body to heal itself naturally, such as heat or ice therapy, ultrasound, traction, and rehabilitative strengthening and stretching exercises.
Your local chiropractor is an expert in all things to do with the muscles, bones, connective tissue and nerves of the body. There is nothing better for removing subluxations and returning the body to a normal state of operation than seeking out chiropractic care.
How many chiropractic adjustments are necessary? This will depend on the problem you are experiencing and your overall health. As you can imagine, someone who has been in a serious car accident will require more adjustments than someone who is experiencing neck pain due to poor posture.
Chiropractic adjustment frequency will be determined by your chiropractor after performing a full physical exam, ordering tests if necessary, taking your medical history, and listening to any physical problems you might have or trauma you might have sustained.
We would like to clear up any misconception that chiropractic care is a cure-all that will stop or prevent every disease or disorder known to man. This isn’t true, however, for many people, chiropractic care is a valuable tool for monitoring their health, no different than annual dental checkups, vaccinations, and yearly physical exams.
It’s also important to note that not everyone is a good candidate for chiropractic care. Individuals who are suffering from osteoporosis, if you have previously broken the vertebra or had spinal fusion or if you have had back surgery, you should not use chiropractic care. Tell your doctor if you have experienced any of the above or if you think you have other issues that could be a problem.
You can prevent a reoccurrence of subluxations in many cases by following the advice of your chiropractor and/or by seeking regular checkups at certain intervals.
It’s important to note that you might experience a few minor side effects after your first chiropractic adjustment. This is completely normal, although the symptoms vary from person to person. For a complete explanation about this phenomenon, you should read this article.
Step #2-Diet and Lifestyle Changes
Some repeat subluxations occur due to poor lifestyle habits and the consumption of the typical SAD (Standard American Diet).
Your chiropractor can suggest anti-inflammatory supplements if he feels they are appropriate for your situation and he will likely suggest that you consume an anti-inflammatory diet that includes:
- Fresh vegetables and fruit
- Free range, organic meats
- Fish high in Omega-3 fatty acids
- Healthy fats, such as avocados and coconut oil
- Probiotic foods such as yogurt and kefir
Healthy lifestyle changes might include:
- Regular exercise
- Stretching programs such as yoga
- Stress reduction
- Lower consumption of alcohol
- Quitting smoking
- Meditation to improve sleeping habits
Some of these recommendations will not apply to everyone. Speak to your chiropractor about improving your diet and lifestyle.
Step #3-Keeping It Positive
Studies have found that those who have a positive mindset about their health and health related treatments heal faster and have less pain than those who think negatively.
The power that our minds have on our bodies is not completely understood, but it is a well-known fact that people who look on the bright side feel better and lead healthier lives than negative persons.
Step #4-Consider Your Posture
Your mother always told you to sit up straight, and she was right of course, but our modern day lives include a great deal of time in a slouched position, hunched over keyboards and looking down at phones or tablets.
By practicing improved posture when sitting, exercising, walking, driving, or running, you can prevent a subluxation from occurring in many cases. Of course, people who have health problems, such as spinal stenosis or osteoarthritis, will get limited benefits from improved posture, but for most people, neck pain and back pain will be greatly reduced by improving your posture.
If you aren’t sure what proper posture should be, speak to your chiropractor.
Step #5-Chiropractic Massage
A massage is always a delight, but many people are unaware that a chiropractic massage, which is performed under the guidance of the chiropractor, can help stop subluxations before they occur.
Your chiropractor will discuss with the massage therapist the best type of massage for your situation, areas that should receive extra attention and areas that might need to be avoided or only receive the lightest touch.
Massage therapy has long been known to have multiple benefits and by improving circulation and stimulating lymphatic flow, the body is allowed to do as it was designed to; heal itself naturally.
We hope that you found the information here helpful. If you did, please feel free to share this article with others via email or your favorite social media site.
If you are experiencing pain or have other health problems that might be due to subluxations, the doctors at Better Health Chiropractic and Rehab encourage you to call one of our clinics for an appointment. You can also make an online appointment here. We offer same day appointments, a 10-minute wait promise, and evening appointments for your convenience.
Our friendly staff will be happy to check your insurance for you to determine coverage and copay amounts. If you have no insurance, you must read this article.
Better Health Chiropractic and Rehab is the exclusive home of the Alaska Back Pain Protocol procedure, which has helped stopped low back pain for thousands of Alaskan residents and visitors.
Don’t live your life in pain, call our clinic today and put yourself on the road to healing today!
About the Author
Dr. Brent Wells, D.C. founded Better Health Chiropractic & Physical Rehab and has been a chiropractor for over 20 years. His practice has treated thousands of patients from different health problems using services designed to help give long-lasting relief. Dr. Wells is also the author of over 700 online health articles that have been featured on sites such as Dr. Axe, Organic Facts, and Thrive Global. He is a proud member of the American Chiropractic Association and the American Academy of Spine Physicians. And he continues his education to remain active and updated in all studies related to neurology, physical rehab, biomechanics, spine conditions, brain injury trauma, and more.