What is the vertebral subluxation complex?
The vertebral subluxation complex happens when the joints in your spine don’t move properly. This occurs when the spinal bones (called the vertebrae) move out of their normal position. This is known as subluxation.

The spinal cord is the communication pathway for nerve impulses to and from the brain. Messages passing back and forth through the spinal cord control the health and function of virtually every cell, tissue, organ, and system of the body. Because vertebrae protect this primary nerve, even a small change in the position of the spinal bones can profoundly affect delicate nerve tissue. The resulting impairment to the nervous system can cause tissues and organs throughout the body to work poorly. This degenerative chain reaction–vertebral subluxation complex–is the cause of many health problems.

The goal of chiropractic is to treat the underlying cause of your problem, not just its symptoms. Your chiropractor will focus on detecting, reducing, and to restore your good health.

The Five Components of the Subluxation Complex
Spinal Kinesiopathology: Injury, strain, poor posture, or other damaging stresses to the spine cause the bones of the spine to lose their normal motion and position. Your ability to turn and bend may be limited. This condition leads to the other four components of subluxation:

Neuropathology: Sensitive nerve tissues are squeezed, rubbed, stretched, or twisted by misaligned spinal joints. The resulting irritation interrupts normal nerve pathways, causing nerves to “misfire.” Symptoms of numbness, burning, or tingling may be felt in various parts of the body.

Myopathology: Problems with nerve impulses impair the muscles supporting the spine. Muscles then weaken, atrophy (become smaller), or tighten and go into spasm. This causes scar tissue that permanently affects the muscles elasticity.

Histopathology: Soft tissues near the spine are affected. Pressure from vertebrae cause discs (cushions between the vertebrae) to herniate (bulge), tear, or break down (degenerate). Ligaments and other connective tissues stretch or tear. Other soft tissues swell and become inflamed, and may be permanently damaged.

Pathophysiology: Responding to the malfunctioning spinal joints, the body grows new bone in an attempt to stabilize the joints. Over time, these bony spurs and other abnormal bony growths can completely immobilize the joint. The resulting spinal degeneration, scar tissue, and long-term nerve dysfunction can cause other systems of the body to malfunction. Many health conditions seemingly unrelated to “back problems” can often be traced back to nervous system impairment involving the spine.

What Causes Spinal Subluxations?
Subluxations can be caused by falls, car accidents, improper lifting, poor posture, sports injuries, sitting too long, repetitive work, sudden or violent movement, chemical or emotional stress, lack of exercise, or even hereditary factors. Subluxations are found at all ages; however early stages of subluxations can be found even in very young children.

Diagnosing the Subluxation Complex
Your Doctor of Chiropractic has years of education, training, and experience focused on conditions of the spine. Your doctor can:

Review your health history and examine yourself
Perform a series of orthopedic, neurologic, and chiropractic tests to determine the extent of your problem. These may include testing range of motion, and checking for tenderness, pain, and swelling.

Order lab tests or x-rays of your spine when needed
Once the condition is diagnosed, your chiropractor will prescribe a course of treatment to reduce spinal subluxation and prevent further damage.

Treatment Leads to Recovery
Your chiropractor’s primary tool in treating spinal subluxations is the use of adjustments (spinal manipulation). Applying precisely directed force to the joint that is out of position or not moving properly gradually restores it to a more normal position and function. Depending on what your individual condition requires, the doctor’s hands or a special instrument may be used to deliver quick, therapeutic thrust to the affected joint. Other adjustments may use slow, constant pressure.
Your chiropractor may also recommend a program to complement your adjustments. This may include strengthening and flexibility exercises, hot and cold compresses, message, traction, and even diet changes, relaxation techniques, and other behavior modifications.

What You Can Do
Make a commitment to your recovery by following your doctor’s prescribed treatment program. Most importantly of all, keep all of your scheduled appointments. Even after your symptoms ease, regular treatment is needed for complete healing. Stopping treatment prematurely not only delays your full recovery, but can also cause a return of the subluxations.