What is Subluxation?
Subluxation, in general, refers to areas of misalignment in the spine and how these misalignments impact the spinal nerves. There is a difference between the medical model of subluxation and the chiropractic one. The medical term refers strictly to the structural displacement in the vertebrae.
Chiropractors expand the official medical definition to include general dysfunctionality in the segments of the spine, regardless of their being a symptom of displacement or not. Therefore, the chiropractic term of the “vertebral subluxation complex” is that there is a biomechanical spinal segment which is dysfunctional because it is fixated. And this impacts neurological processes and could lead to cases of both neuromusculoskeletal and visceral disorders.1 When nerve signals are affected by interference due to interference from vertebrae that are out of place, this irritation can cause medical issues. Because the body is controlled by the nervous system, and because it requires unimpeded messages and signals to function optimally and properly, the body becomes unable to work properly if there is dysfunction in the nerves. Chiropractors are trained to safely perform spinal adjustments. This can help correct the subluxations.2
Origins of Subluxation
B.J. Palmer, in 1909, wrote that the effects of the chiropractic subluxation could explain the origins of any disease, even contagious ones. He stated, “we will find a subluxation that corresponds to every type of disease”. D.D. Palmer, in 1910, said that impingement on the nerve fibers can result in dysfunction. Over time, the expression of this belief became referred to as “subluxation, vertebral subluxation (VS), vertebral subluxation complex (VSC), “killer subluxations”, and the “silent killer””. Sometimes, chiropractors and medical doctors used the phrase “bone out of place” (BOOP).
While there has been much controversy in the matter, even within the straight vs. mixer chiropractic community, over the extent of subluxation theory, there has been some research to indicate that spinal health and general health are interconnected. The extent of this connection may not, however, necessarily extend as far as the thought that subluxations are the cause of every ailment to befall patients.3 There are five categories of the VSC: bones being out of place or unable to move (kinesiopathology), nerves that have pressure on them (neuropathology), muscle function (myopathology), soft tissues, tendons, ligaments, and blood supply changes (histopathology), and chemical abnormalities in the body (biochemical).4
How Subluxation Impacts the Body
Components of Subluxation
Kinesiopathology includes problems with alignment and motion. In it, the body may be fixated or unable to move properly, or it can have abnormal joint motions. When there are mobility issues, the patient may overcompensate for these problems. This can lead to further misalignment issues in the areas of the body that were used for compensation. This is why patients who have kinesiopathology are better off seeking treatment sooner rather than later.
In neuropathology, nerves can be pinched or hyperactive. There may be pain or numbness. Commonly, the tingling sensation or numbness occurs first in the extremities but there is the potential for the condition to worsen and spread. In the case of myopathology, there may be muscle weakness, spasms, neuropathy, fibrosis, or atrophy. When there is edema, swelling, and inflammation, histopathology is involved. Biochemical changes can lead to degeneration. There is recent suggestion that the vertebral subluxation complex has actually not five but instead nine components, which include the following four additions: angiology, inflammatory response, anatomy, and physiology.5
Symptoms and Effects
There are many symptoms and effects associated with the continuously changing nature of the subluxation. Patients could experience such symptoms as hyperemia, or an excess of blood that develops due to an obstruction that blocks normal flow, congestion, where muscles develop toxins which irritate nerve endings and produce pain, minute hemorrhages, which refers to abnormality in blood flow or bleeding, fibrosis, when normal tissue is replaced with scar tissue, and local ischemia, which is a type of muscular pain that specifically occurs due to lack of blood flow in the muscle and is often caused by muscle spasm.
Even more seriously, muscle atrophy could begin as a result of inactivity. Pain is not a good method of motivation, which is why patients with painful conditions struggle to maintain regular exercise or avoid moving certain areas of the body for fear of more pain. Also, the previously mentioned rigid adhesions could begin to form in the ligaments, tendons, and muscles.6
Current Views of Subluxation
The American Chiropractic Association (in 2000) stated that they reaffirm the concept of subluxation at its core principle. Chiropractic care is, at its very base function, meant to provide manual manipulation and adjustment of the articulations to reduce the patient’s subluxations and its symptoms. This misalignment of the spine is described as being a complex of either separately or a combined series of functional, structural, and pathological articular changes that may negatively influence general health and wellbeing. The ACA has even referred to this spine misalignment in federal legislation.7
1, 3 Wikipedia.org
2, 4 echiropractic.net