Understanding the Subluxation
With the potential for subluxations to cause various problems, many want to understand how it works. A straightforward way to try and understand this is to think about the nerve as a hose going to a garden. To keep the garden green and grow, it needs a reliable water source running to it. If someone steps on the hose and cuts off the water, the garden quickly withers and starts to die. If that foot is removed, the water can flow, and the park returns to its lush and green state. The body reacts similarly to this. If a subluxation has existed for a period, you will start to see symptoms or signs of this. The symptoms can vary significantly since nerves come from the spine to many body areas. A person may experience pain, numbness, and tingling in some areas. They may be more susceptible to colds, tire quickly, or have issues with one of their organs. We have a chart with some of these effects in our office and which spinal level they may come from.
Quite often, some of the first subluxations begin at birth. Just think of those small and fragile joints being twisted as the infant goes through the birth canal and the traumas associated with it. Additionally, think of your child learning to walk and all the falls they endure. Then think of sports and injuries at work or even auto accidents in a person’s life. There are plenty of stresses that can lead to subluxations.
You might think that one of the previously mentioned stresses is needed to cause a subluxation. A subluxation often exists for some time before the pains are felt. Think of the saying “the hair that broke the camel’s back.” The problem was present and slowly increased in severity until something simple broke the back, and you now have pains. With this time, the ligaments and muscles around the area have adapted to holding that joint in the wrong position. That is why a series of adjustments is often recommended.
Quite often, a Subluxation may exist for some time before symptoms or pain are felt. The trauma may be the “hair that broke the camel’s back,” but the problem started some time ago. The muscles, ligaments, and other soft tissue in the spine have adapted to the incorrect position of the vertebrae. This soft tissue must be retrained until it becomes accustomed to holding the vertebrae in the proper position. That is why a series of adjustments are recommended. Five components are well documented in medical textbooks that talk about this process.
- Spinal Biomechanical Fixation Component (loss of mobility) – this is the abnormal joint movements
- Neurological Component – this is the nerve damage people often report as a stretching, pinching, or irritated nerve
- Muscular and Soft Tissue Component – changes in muscle functions due to the abnormal movement and associated nerve changes
- Inflammation & Pathology Component – these are the changes coming from alterations in the blood and lymphatic system
- Degenerative Component – this is the cumulative damage over time to the region due to the first four components
For example, here is a way to think of these in low back pain. An individual is a running back playing in a game. As he runs, he takes a hit to his right hip and gets knocked to the ground. He has a subluxation that has formed in the spine in his low back as a result. He feels slight muscle soreness but otherwise does not realize there is a subluxation. This altered joint motion slowly leads to nerve irritation and damage-causing periodic aches and pains but nothing major, so he does not realize there is a problem. Then one day, he bends over to pick up some dropped soap in the shower, and the last straw breaks the camel’s back, and he drops to the ground with severe back pain that makes it difficult to walk. He visits his doctor that feels his lower back muscles spasming. There is also some heat and mild swelling present.
So how might the chiropractic physician help? He may apply some electrical stimulation to decrease the pain and combine it with ice to reduce the inflammation. He provides a chiropractic adjustment to correct the joint motion and then works soft tissue to relax the muscles. Do you see the variety of treatments aimed at each Component? Had this athlete not taken care of their spine for ten years, you might end up taking an x-ray to notice that the discs, cushions between the vertebrae have worn away. That’s why it is important to be seen right away and to have wellness care.