This is Dr. Zak, and today I want to spend some time expanding our understanding of the term,subluxation, that I introduced in my last blog post.
On a daily basis in our chiropractic centers, we see people battling with many types of health problems. From them, we learn that the most common challenge that initially motivates people to come into one of our centres is pain of some kind: neck pain, shoulder pain, headaches and lower back pain.
Maybe you too have come across this space, because you are experiencing a limitation in your life; maybe you are in pain and you’re looking for answers.
Is Chiropractic Effective?
While it is true that we help a lot of people with a wide variety of problems, at the same time, chiropractic is much more than a treatment for pain or a specific symptom.
Yes, we want you to feel better and overcome the limitations in your life that may be resulting from your pain. But there really is only one way to make lasting improvements in your life and health: you have to correct the cause.
Simply managing symptoms, temporarily relieving the pain, and numbing or covering up body signals may get you through a crisis in the short-term, but often these types of allopathic(medical practice using drugs or surgery to treat pain) strategies make the underlying cause of your health challenges much worse.
The profession of Chiropractic exists for one simple reason: to correct vertebral subluxations.
We touched upon the word subluxation in my last blog post and defined it as a misalignment in your spine. We will get into more details shortly!
So, why is correcting vertebral subluxation important to you? Because spinal problems are present at near epidemic levels in modern society, and spinal subluxation is the most widespread problem people face.
My goal with this discussion is to expand your understanding of this widespread condition.
I feel very strongly that in order for you to really benefit from chiropractic care, you need to understand it. Because of this, I rarely speak or write in technical jargon. My goal is to help you understand the unique position that chiropractic occupies in the world of health care.
I want you to understand how we can help. And we are committed to helping you.
Subluxations are More Than Just Bone Problems
To recap very briefly, a subluxation is a condition, primarily of the spine, where the spinal bones have lost their normal alignment and movement. This misalignment problem will cause stress and irritation to the nerves associated with that area.
We use the following image in a chart form at our chiropractic centres to introduce the concept of subluxation. This is a very simplified picture of the actual problem, but you can see how the misaligned bone is causing direct pressure onto the nerve, which is represented in red. This will, in turn, affect the nerve flow from your brain to the parts of your body reached by the nerve and all the nerves that branch out from it.
A subluxation at its most basic level, is misaligned bone(s) damaging a nerve.
The term, subluxation, may still sound a bit funny. Let’s break it down.
SUBLUXATION is comprised of two parts: Sub and luxation.
S-U-B means less than or below. A sub-marine is a ship that can travel below the water.
L-U-X-A-T-I-O-N, or to luxate, is a fancy word meaning dislocation. So, a subluxation is a subtle distortion or misalignment, less than a dislocation, of your spinal bones.
But, again, a subluxation is more than just a bone problem.
The current scientific research on spinal biomechanics, subluxation, and chiropractic has coined the following term:
Vertebral Subluxation Complex (VSC)
Again, I’m not too concerned with using the correct scientific terminology here in this space. If I were writing a research article for a scientific journal then yes, my language would be a lot different.
This blog is for YOU.
Why is the term Vertebral Subluxation Complex important for you? The keyword here is complex.
In some ways, the simplified picture above does a disservice to the true nature of this significant health problem.
Here’s an all too familiar scene that I encounter in our practice:
I’m in the middle of a consultation or report with someone, and I am working hard to convey to them the nature of their spine problem. Regardless, they say, “I don’t think I have a bone problem, it’s a muscle problem.”
This is particularly frustrating because clearly, I missed something. Because subluxation isn’t a word we would commonly use, unlike a word like ‘headache,’ let’s say, people, tend to blindly believe in the strength and health of their spine. And it takes more from us to fully communicate the importance of the health of your spine.
Yes, you cannot separate your spinal bones from your muscles. You cannot separate your spinal bones from the ligaments, or the disc. And most certainly, you cannot isolate out your spinal bones from the nerve in that area or your nerve system as a whole. It is all connected and interrelated.
Let’s look at each component of this complex.
A Muscle Problem
There are a variety of spinal muscles that attach to your spinal bones. These muscles allow you to bend, flex, and move your head, torso and lower body. Spinal muscles also stabilize your spine. I’m sure you have heard of core stability. Core stabilizer muscles primarily act on your spinal column and pelvis, and act as the foundation of your musculo-skeletal system.
When you first have a subluxation, in many cases, one of the first things you feel is muscle tightness or stiffness. Often, one side of your spine will be tight and restricted and the other may be stretched and too loose. Maybe you feel a “knot” in your shoulder area or your lower back. Maybe you cannot bend your head to one side, or rotate your neck to look over your shoulder.
Spinal muscles act as a series of interrelated guide wires and support structures for your spine.
Muscles can also get inflamed, swollen and painful due to being stretched and irritated by spinal misalignments.
If a person is inactive and sedentary (like sitting at a computer for many hours per day) in life, it is likely that their spine is not healthy.
Chronic immobility will erode spinal bones, stiffen spinal movement, and cause spinal muscles to wear down, get smaller, and become weaker—this is known as muscle atrophy.
Simply put, subluxations damage muscles. Often, the muscle aspect of the subluxation is the first thing a person feels. So, when people say they have a ‘muscle problem,’ it is right in a way. There is very likely a muscle problem due to subluxation.
A subluxation is a muscle problem.
A Ligament Problem
I’m sure you have heard of a sprain. Have you ever twisted your ankle? Well, that is a sprain. A sprain is an injury to ligaments and the soft tissue that surround a joint. Ligaments are the structures, kind of like rigid rubber bands, that connect two bones to one another to support and stabilize the movements between the two bones.
When spinal bones subluxate or misalign, the ligaments around the joint will certainly get stretched and damaged. Ligament damage is the main reason that in some cases subluxations take significant time to heal.
I’m not saying that a subuxation is the only kind of problem that can cause ligament injury, but unless a ligament injury (subluxation) is cared for properly, by fixing its cause, then re-injury is a major risk. Needless to say, the cause is very likely, subluxation.
A subluxation is a ligament problem.
A Bone Problem
It’s easy to envision how the bone is affected by joint dysfunction (subluxation) and misalignment. When a spinal bone is locked out of place and/or immobile for a significant period of time then arthritis or spinal degeneration can set in.
There are a lot of names for spinal degeneration: arthritis, spinal decay, osteoarthritis, spondylosis, wear and tear. Our bodies were designed to move. Movement actually keeps joints lubricated and healthy.
It’s very common for Medical Doctors in Singapore to see spinal degeneration on an x-ray or an MRI and say that degeneration is a “normal” part of aging. While spinal degenerative arthritis may be common, it is by no means normal. Your spine should NOT wear down as you age.
What causes spinal degeneration? Immobility. When your spine is misaligned and restricted, then your innate intelligence will respond to the injury over time by laying more bone at the site of the injury. You will actually grow more bone to stabilize the injury. This is what a bone spur is—your body’s response to long-term spine dysfunction and repetitive injury.
Another way of saying this is: subluxations cause spine degeneration and arthritis.
A subluxation is a bone problem.
What is a “slipped disc”?
Many people in Singapore, that have lower back pain, are aware of spinal discs. In fact, disc injury (the so-called “slipped disc”) is the most wide-spread, misdiagnosed condition we see.
It’s almost automatic: a person will have low back pain, they go see their medical doctor, and the doctor will tell them they have a “slipped disc”. In many cases, this label is offered without a physical examination or without advanced imaging like an x-ray or an MRI. It’s rarely the case that the medical doctor tells the person what caused the disc problem.
If you have been diagnosed with a “slipped disc,” ask your doctor WHAT has caused the injury. If he or she simply says it’s normal wear and tear, you should be highly suspicious.
How do spinal misalignments, subluxations, affect your spinal discs?
Spinal discs are like pads in between spinal bones that guide movement and absorb shock.
I’m sure you can imagine that if the front end of your car is out of alignment or out of balance, your car’s tires, will wear down faster. In time, and clearly before the average life cycle of the tires, you’ll have to replace them.
The tires are wearing down faster, not because there is an inherent problem with the tires; the tires are being damaged by the abnormal and asymmetrical stress placed on them by the distortion in your car’s alignment.
This is a good analogy for your spinal discs. Your spinal discs have a very specific structure, they are strongest and most resilient when your spine is in a particular shape and position. When your spinal bones misalign, the distorted alignment will cause stress and pressure to your discs in an unnatural manner.
Over time, this adverse stress will cause your discs to weaken, potentially becoming injured. There are many types of spinal disc injuries loosely classified as slipped disc (I am not a fan of this word, mainly because disc don’t slip): bulge, inflammation, herniation, and prolapse, to name a few.
It’s important to note that in the vast majority of cases, long-term subluxation is the cause of disc injury.
A subluxation is a disc problem.
A Nerve Problem
Spinal nerves extend from your spinal cord through a space created by two properly aligned spinal bones. Nerves are extremely delicate structures; a very small amount of stress or pressure can significant hinder the function of nerves—in time, leading to permanent damage.
Imagine a garden hose going to a bed flowers with water flowing through the hose. If you step on the garden hose, you’ll have decreased water flowing through the hose and in time those flowers will wilt and die.
Misaligned spinal bones will damage nerves, interfering with the flow of life through our nerves, weakening our health from the inside out.
A subluxation is a nerve problem.
A Chemical Problem
Think of subluxations (spinal dysfunction or simply, spinal misalignments) as physical irritants. Subluxations inflame and irritate the structures and tissues that surround and connect to your spinal bones. Inflammation is a critical process in understanding how your actions and habits affect your health.
We will discuss inflammation in detail in this blog, but for the purpose of our topic today, think of the type of inflammation associated with subluxations as being similar to what happens to a person with a sprained ankle. It is a localized phenomenon where the associated tissues (muscles, ligaments, tendons, joint capsules, and discs) are physically being damages by the dysfunctional movement and alignment of the subluxated spinal region.
Like a sprained ankle, spinal misalignments, can lead to swelling, pain, tenderness and reduced movement. The inflammatory process caused by spinal subluxations is the main reason that pain may be present when your spine is injured, and often inflammation is the cause of severe and acute pain flare-ups.
A subluxation is a biochemical inflammatory problem.
A Brain Problem
Probably the most profound way that subluxations damage your health is through the negative effects that adverse spinal alignment and movement has on the health of your brain.
This is such an important point, I wrote an entire blog post on this critical topic. Have a look at it.
The main point is that when your spine is misaligned and moving in an imbalanced way, it can lead to an imbalance in the “charge” of your brain. If your brain is not balanced, coordinated, and synchronized from side to side—between the two hemispheres of your brain—this will lead to distorted and weakened output to your body parts (cells, tissues, organs, glands, etc).
Garbage in; garbage out. If your brain cannot communicate with your body efficiently and effectively, then significant health challenges can result.
Subluxations damage your brain.
A spinal subluxation is a serious problem. This condition is the fundamental reason that the profession of Chiropractic exists. Chiropractors are specialists in the correction and prevention of subluxation.
I hope that it is clear to you now that a subluxation is more than just a bone problem.
A subluxation is a:
- muscle problem
- ligament problem
- bone problem
- disc problem
- nerve problem
- biochemical problem
- brain problem
It is ALL of those things. Most importantly, a subluxation is a life problem: you cannot live to your full potential if you are subluxated.
Are you worried that your health is being compromised by spine problems?
Always, the first step in understanding if you can benefit from chiropractic is scheduling a no-obligation spinal checkup.
Learn more about the comprehensive checkup here.
Align your spine, and maximize your life!