Let us consider the following analogy: when driving along the road, you notice a wobble in the front right tire. A possible assumption is that there is a problem with the balance of the tire. If the symptom is not examined and the true underlying problem is not addressed in a timely fashion, the problem will naturally and gradually get worse. The tendency is that the problem begins to affect other areas of the car’s mechanical structure as well (perhaps throwing off the alignment, etc.), and influencing the car’s overall performance, which in turn has the potential of resulting in even more problems. In the scenario of the human body, such misalignments are called Subluxation (pronounced sŭb’ lŭk-sā’ shŭn).
What is Subluxation?
Subluxation as defined by the 28th edition of Stedman’s Medical Dictionary is: “An incomplete luxation or dislocation; although a relationship is altered, contact between joint surfaces remains.” Subluxation is the term that is used by chiropractors to describe an abnormal or aberrant position of bones and the joint space between the corresponding bones, whether in the spine or in any other area of the body (shoulders, elbows, wrists and hands, hips, knees, ankles and feet).
The Difference Between Normal, Dislocation, and Subluxation
In order to understand the actuality of Subluxation more accurately, let us consider the two ends of the spectrum: 1) normal, where the joint and bone are in their ideal position, functioning and operating well; 2) complete joint separation (commonly referred to as ‘dislocation’), where one bone is 100% displaced from its normal position in relation to the other bone, and the otherwise adjacent joint space is completely interrupted. Subluxation, therefore, is the word used to describe any degree of abnormal bone position or abnormal joint space between a normal position and a complete separation. Practically speaking, there are 100 degrees of variance between a joint that is normal and one that is in complete dislocation.
How do Bones and Joints Become Subluxated?
Subluxation typically happens through some source of direct trauma. The possibilities are endless, but a few common examples would include sporting / exercise injuries, car accidents, slips and falls or other traumatic events, even the completely natural event of giving birth. The way that the body typically responds to an injury such as this is to tighten the surrounding soft tissues (muscles, ligaments, and tendons) to prevent further injury to the joint and its surrounding area.
What Do Subluxations Cause?
Subluxations are a direct cause of Degenerative Disc Disease (DDD) as well as Degenerative Joint Disease (DJD), whether in the spine or in any other part of the body. Degeneration, in turn causes swelling and inflammation which causes abnormal pressure and irritation to the nerves that are near that joint.
The role of the Brain and Nervous System in Health and Disease
Ultimately, everything in the body is controlled either directly or indirectly by the brain and nervous system. Scientific studies have shown us that it takes as little as the weight of a dime to alter the messaging of the brain and the nervous system. Because the nervous system is protected by the spine, spinal dysfunction can cause the body to function improperly through interrupted or impaired nerve messaging. The result of interrupted messaging may range from muscular weakness to tingling and numbness to improper function of any of the organs controlled by the irritated nerves. Common issues seen in a clinical setting range from headaches to back or joint pain, asthma to digestive issues, irregular cycles to other gender related issues for both men and women, and even issues such as insomnia or colicky babies. In end effect, everything in the body that is controlled by the brain and the nervous system may potentially be affected by subluxation.
Degeneration is Progressive in Nature
Degeneration is a progressive disease, meaning that it will not correct itself as the body does when you experience a cut or a bruise on your body. Without some kind of planned intervention, whether chancing proper repositioning through exercise and stretching, or through professional correction such as through rehabilitative chiropractic care, degeneration is known to progress, even to the point where symptoms may develop so severely that the only possible relief is orthopedic surgery and possible fusion of the bones, eliminating the joint entirely. The most reasonable solution for subluxations, then, is to find them and repair them as soon as possible, while the problem is in its early form… just like in the example of the wobbly tire.
How does one know whether they have any Subluxations?
There are 5 common characteristics of subluxation: redness, increased heat, joint and surrounding soft tissue swelling, localized pain and tenderness, and joint impairment or loss of function. The best clinical way to find subluxation is through having plain film x-rays taken. The role of radiology in the diagnosis of subluxation is key, so as to help the doctor find the best approach to direct rehabilitation and non-surgical correction to the extent possible.
What can be done about Subluxation?
The best known method of treatment for subluxation is through rehabilitative chiropractic care, which when done properly, involves a very specific and custom tailored treatment plan, including a series of “adjustments” (and additional therapies such as the Graston Technique – www.grastontechnique.com – when necessary) to return the soft tissues to their normal state and reposition the underlying bone structure. The goal of treatment is to return the bones and the joints to their normal state, alleviating the direct stress of the subluxation to the body, especially the brain and the nervous system.
What Happens When Subluxation goes Untreated?
Untreated subluxation can effect ones daily life directly, from things as simple as being able to walk and keep active, from being able to work and make a living to taking care of children, from performing household chores to performing in other areas of one’s life, or even being able to enjoy favorite past-time activities such as playing with children, hunting and fishing, shopping, exercising or playing sports, or simply enjoying the outdoors… to name just a few.
Who Treats Subluxation? Chiropractors are the only expert health care professionals trained and licensed specifically in the detection, location, and correction of subluxations.
~ Dr. Kurt Kramer, STM, DC
Dr. Kramer welcomes comments, questions, or further discussion on the topic.
Please feel free to contact him via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.