A vertebral subluxation is a partial dislocation of one or more vertebral bones in the spine from their correct position. This condition is considered a less severe form of vertebral displacements of the spine such as Anterolisthesis and Retrolisthesis. Anterolisthesis is the forwards displacement of the vertebra out of its correct position and Retrolisthesis is the vertebra's backwards displacement. The human spine depends on the correct placement of each of its vertebra, since all of the individual units of the spine are interconnected, and move and function as a whole. While significant displacements of the spinal bones may be easily discovered through palpation of the spine and on medical images, vertebral subluxations are much more subtle, and may only be notices by skilled spine experts that are trained how to feel for them through hands on examination. Chiropractors and osteopaths (D.O.s) are the two spine experts that are trained on discovering and treating them - through hands on evaluation and hands on manipulation.
The diagnosis and treatment of vertebral subluxations are the bread and butter of chiropractic medicine, and the number one reason why chiropractors do chiropractic adjustments. The chiropractic theory is that the majority of patients experience back pain because of muscular imbalances, muscular tension, and misalignments of the spine, not because of intervertebral disc problems. By the restoration of the alignment of the spine, through chiropractic adjustments, the patient will be able to experience significant back pain relief.
the spinal cord travels through vertebral arch of each vertebral bone. The nerve root and nerve branches exit the spinal cord through the intervertebral foramina, between each pair of adjacent vertebral bones. Any displacement of these individual segments could impair the functioning of the nerves of the central or peripheral nervous system. These misalignments of the spine are thought to be the cause of back pain, as well as pain that radiates down the arm or leg. Chiropractors also believe that vertebral subluxations are the cause of a variety of other medical ailments, such as reproductive problems, ear infections, seizures, arthritis, sciatica, asthma, allergies, colds, and headaches. While the concept of vertebral subluxations being the cause of medical problems such as colds and stomach trouble seems like a far out concept at first, most health systems outside of western medicine also believe in the importance of the balance of the components of the musculoskeletal system, and how overall health may be affected when certain body systems are thrown out of balance. Osteopathy is another health system that believes in how slight misalignments of the spine may effect the entire body, including sensory organs such as the ears, reproductive organs, and smooth muscle cells that drive the autonomic nervous system, such as the muscles of the Gastrointestinal(GI) Tract. And let's not forget that the spinal nerves send and receive information to operate the sensory, motor, and autonomic nervous systems. If there is an event such as a major spinal cord injury, all three of these systems may lose their functioning. In the event of a vertebral subluxation, pressure on the spinal nerves may reduce the functioning of all three of these systems, accounting for the numbness and weakness in our legs related to nerve root compression syndromes such as sciatica, and conditions such as colds and stomach problems which may occur when the immune systems and other body systems are negatively affected.
The vertebral subluxation complex may result in five individual types of pathologies:
- Spinal Kinesiopathology: This occurs when the motion segments of the spine become unmoving or locked in one area of the spine, causing hypermobility in another section of the spine.
- Neuropathophysiology: (abnormal nervous system function)
- Myopathology: (abnormal muscle function): Due to diminished input from damaged or constricted nerves, the muscles do not receive enough stimulation and information from the nerves, resulting in weakness and possible muscular deconditioning.
- Histiopathology: (abnormal soft tissue function)