“In conventional medicine, subluxation refers to a misalignment of any bone, but in chiropractic, a subluxation is anything within the area of the spine that breaks the cycle of nerve communication between the brain and the body. It’s like a short circuit in the body’s nervous system. It used to be that chiropractors, like conventional medical doctors, believed that misalignment of vertebrae put direct pressure on the nerves and the spinal cord, and this pressure caused the symptoms associated with subluxation— pain, loss of range of motion, and many other effects on nerves and organs throughout the body. However, with advances in molecular research and the ability to study the biochemical processes of the body, we now understand much more about the mechanism of subluxation. We also understand why so many different types of chiropractic treatments can be helpful regardless of the particular method used.
A subluxation is usually caused by a trauma to the spine— either an incident such as a fall or accident, or a repeated abnormal biomechanical movement over time. When the trauma occurs, there may or may not be a visible shift in the alignment of the vertebrae, but there is almost always a change or reduction of the range of motion in that particular vertebra. Think of it as beads on a string. They move around on the string and slide freely up and down. If for some reason, however, you get a kink in the string, the beads can no longer move freely. They bump into one another; they get stuck in a particular position. They don’t have the same range of motion as they did before the kink.
That’s what can happen with the bones of your spine. Vertebrae don’t have fixed positions; instead, they have a range of positions that they are designed to be able to take comfortably. (Otherwise, you wouldn’t be able to bend, turn your head, or lean side to side.) If one of your vertebrae gets out of alignment due to trauma or repetitive abnormal motion, the kink usually affects the normal movement capacity of the bone. Then, like Marcia, you might experience stiffness, a reduced ability to turn your head to one side or the other, soreness in your back, and so on. You may or may not experience pain, but there will definitely be some kind of effect on the health of the body.
But the effect of a subluxation doesn’t end there. When a subluxation occurs, the trauma or injury not only can cause misalignment of bone, but it also creates damage to the soft tissue surrounding the vertebra— ligaments, tendons, cartilage, and muscles. These are called the connective tissues, and most vertebrae have six different “joints” or groups of connective tissue connecting them to the bones above and below them. Damage to connective tissue usually takes the form of microscopic rips and tears in the localized area and produces a range of uncomfortable symptoms including muscle spasm, swelling, and inflammation. The symptoms can be either acute (happening for a short time and then disappearing after treatment) or chronic (recurring over a longer period of time). If the damage is not corrected, the connective tissue between the vertebrae can wear away, allowing the soft cushion between the vertebrae to bulge outward (a herniated or ruptured disk). When this occurs, the vertebrae press upon the spinal nerves and create tremendous pain. In truth, it is the damage to the soft tissue and not to the vertebrae themselves that most often interferes with the proper functioning of the nerves and the spinal cord.”