What is Spinal Subluxation?
You may have heard doctors and chiropractors take about spinal subluxation, but do you know what it really is? If not, we’re going to cover what it is, the different broad categories that chiropractors use to describe it, symptoms, causes, diagnosis, and treatments below.
Defining Spinal Subluxation
When people talk about subluxation, they’re talking about the vertebra in your spine being in abnormal positions or misaligned. In turn, you experience loss of function due to the different pressure points on your spinal column. This can come from a traumatic event or certain aspects of your lifestyle. For example, if you have bad posture, it can slowly start to shift your spine out of the natural alignment, particularly in the soft tissue areas between your vertebra.
This condition can steadily get worse over time. If you get into some type of accident that directly impacts your neck or back, like a fall, car accident, or another traumatic event that jolts your spine, it can kickstart the process. It can interfere with the natural healing process of the surrounding muscles, tendons, and other soft tissues as well.
This is why so many people have lifelong issues with their back or neck once they injure it. Common tasks can aggravate the surrounding tissues as well, and this can cause inflammation that pushes on the spinal column.
Four Spinal Subluxation Categories
To make it slightly more complicated, there are four broad categories that encompass different types of spinal subluxation. Each category has several subcategories, and this is why it can take a while to get a concrete diagnosis.
Category One – Static Intersegmental Subluxation
This category refers to spinal subluxation that a chiropractor can detect by feeling along your spine to determine your spine’s mobility. It includes:
Altered Interosseous Spacing (either decreased or increased)
Lateral flexion abnormalities
Osseous Foraminal encroachment
Category Two – Kinetic Intersegmental Subluxation
If you have this type of spinal subluxation, your chiropractor is able to detect movement between the normal sections of your spinal column. There are three possible subcategories, and they include:
Aberrant motion (contradicting movement)
Hypermobility (joints move far beyond their normal range)
Hypomobility (joints are rigid and unmoving)
Category Three – Sectional Subluxation
This category of spinal subluxation refers to subluxation that takes place in one specific area of your spine. It could involve a portion of your spine curving or listing to one side. This might include:
Abnormalities of motion (sections of your spine move in odd ways)
Decompensation of adaptational curves (spine starts to deteriorate at any curved areas)
Scoliosis and/or curve alteration secondary to a muscle imbalance
Scoliosis and/or curve alteration secondary to any structural asymmetries
Category Four – Paravertebral Subluxation
This type of spinal subluxation directly impacts the spinal muscles that run the length of the spine. It can also impact any of the soft tissues along the spine, like ligaments and tendons. For example:
Costovertebral or costotransverse separation (joints that connect your ribs to the spine)
Sacroiliac subluxation (deterioration of a joint in your pelvis)
Causes of Spinal Subluxation
If your spine comes under a force that is strong enough to overcome the natural amount of resistance of your body’s tendons, ligaments, and muscles, the spine could get out of alignment. There are dozens of possible causes of spinal subluxation, but you can define them under three broad categories. They include:
1. Chemical Causes
It is widely studied and accepted that chemicals can have a negative impact on your muscle and muscle tone. Since your spine depends on strong muscles to keep it in place, losing muscle tone can allow it to shift. For example, people who don’t get enough calcium in their systems can experience muscle spasms.
Additionally, prescription drugs can negatively impact a person’s natural body chemistry. You also get chemicals in the food you eat if you eat ultra-processed foods. All of these things can cause your system to get overwhelmed and not function as well as it could. In turn, you experience weakening muscles.
2. Emotional Causes
Your emotions can play a huge role in your overall health, and being exposed to constant stress can have a negative impact on your physical health. Stress causes your muscles to constantly tighten up, and this increases your risk of having muscle spasms or fatigue.
If your muscles get fatigued, they can lose some of their ability to keep your spine in alignment. Subluxation occurs when your tendon and muscles can’t keep your spine straight. They’ll slowly start to allow your vertebra to shift one way or the other.
3. Physical Causes
Although a sudden onset of spinal subluxation is rare, it can happen. It’s usually the result of some form of traumatic event that jolted your spine or caused injuries to the muscles or tendons in your back. For example, a car accident can cause whiplash. This results in muscle spasms, tightness and back pain that can cause misalignment.
Constant and repeated trauma could also play a part in spinal subluxation. For example, if you carry a heavy bag on one shoulder every day, or if you sit at a desk a certain way. This could cause a slow and gradual shift in your spine’s natural alignment.
Changes That Can Come With Spinal Subluxation
In general, most chiropractors believe that spinal subluxation is a process that negatively impacts an individual as their tissues undergo constant and steady changes, rather than being from a sudden jolt or traumatic injury. However, several things that chiropractors widely believe can come with spinal subluxation include but are not limited to:
Atrophy of the Muscles
Muscle atrophy is common in people who have suffered a traumatic injury and aren’t able to move. It’s also common in elderly people who aren’t as active, or people who have certain diseases, and certain conditions. The muscles around and in the spine shrink or waste away, and this can cause the spine to misalign.
When you have joint dysfunction, it can spread out to other areas around the impacted joint. Some muscles around your spine can develop pockets of congestion where toxins build up and irritate the nerve endings. As a result, you get pain.
Your body has millions of tiny blood vessels all over. When they are pressured or damaged, it can allow fluid to leak from them into the surrounding tissues. When this happens, you end up with swelling and fluid retention called edema. This swelling can further shift your spine’s alignment.
People who have recurrent back problems often develop thicker scar tissue on their muscles and between the vertebra. This process, where scar tissue slowly starts to replace your normal muscle tissue, is a condition called fibrosis.
If your spinal subluxation causes an interruption of the normal blood flow around your body, you can develop hyperemia. This condition means that there is an excess amount of blood pooling in one area of your body due to a blockage.
This condition refers to an extremely specific type of muscle pain. There is a lack of blood flow to the muscle due to increasing spasms, and this leaves your muscles very tender and painful to the touch.
A minute hemorrhage is a condition where you have small amounts of abnormal blood flow or bleeding inside your body’s blood vessels. Underlying conditions like spinal subluxation and certain triggers can cause it.
As your spinal subluxation starts to get worse, you can experience tissue rigidity. This can impact your joint capsules, tendons, ligaments, and the muscles themselves around your spine.
Symptoms of Spinal Subluxation
No matter which type of spinal subluxation you have, the symptoms are typically the same. You may experience some of these symptoms, and they can vary in severity from person to person depending on the person’s health and how advanced the subluxation is.
Abnormal Blood Pressure
Dizziness, loss of balance, lack of coordination
Impaired immune function
Impaired lung function, including asthma
Lower back pain
Menstrual and fertility problems
Pain in the legs and feet, including sciatic nerve pain
Swelling and fluid retention
Tingling and numbness in the hands and feet.
Diagnosing Spinal Subluxation
The diagnosis process can be slightly longer and more drawn out than other types of back or spine issues. However, it all usually starts with a person detailing their symptoms and noting if they get worse or better over time.
You typically go into your chiropractor with a list of your symptoms and explain what you’ve experienced over the past few weeks or months. they’ll ask whether or not you’ve had any changes in your lifestyle or accidents and physical injuries. Once they go through your history, they’ll typically perform a physical exam.
This physical exam usually involves feeling the areas along your spine for any noticeable abnormalities or swelling. If they find them, they’ll usually request that you have an x-ray or two of your spine taken. This x-ray will be able to show any curvatures or abnormalities in your spine and in the surrounding bones or joints.
They’ll take note of any tenderness or pain you may have, abnormalities in your range of motion, tissue or muscle tone changes, and any obvious misalignment or asymmetry. Based on their findings, they may choose to monitor these symptoms for a few months to see if they get more pronounced before they decide on a treatment plan.
Treating Spinal Subluxation
Your treatment plan for your spinal subluxation will depend on your health and lifestyle factors as well as how severe your case is. Common treatment plans include but are not limited to:
Chiropractors focus on the underlying cause of your symptoms and work to treat it. They can perform a variety of chiropractic adjustments to help restore your spine’s natural alignment. They apply force to specific parts of the spine to help slide it back into place. They may also recommend that you take part in rehabilitation to help strengthen your back muscles, and heat or cold therapy can also help to alleviate any pain or tenderness you may experience.
You may get assigned homework once you leave your chiropractor’s office in order to help you strengthen your muscles and improve your posture. Rolfing, massage therapy, and active release techniques can help you remove some of the tension from your back and neck. It helps to address things you may be dong to make your subluxation worse, like poor posture or stress.
Eating a healthier diet can help to reduce the inflammation levels you have throughout your body, and this can help your body function better as a whole. You want to concentrate on staying hydrated because this can help prevent muscle cramping, fatigue, and spasms. You should also work on cutting out ultra-refined foods that have a lot of carbohydrates and sugars.
Starting an exercise routine can help you strengthen your muscles and tendons to help keep your spine in proper alignment. You want to focus on a mix of strength training and cardio to help you improve your flexibility, build muscle, tone muscle, and improve your posture. It’s best to start out slow and build your way up. Enlisting the help of a personal trainer can help motivate you.
Along with improving your physical health, you really want to focus on your mental health as well. You can try to reduce the stress levels that are present in your life or learn how to cope with it better. You can take up some stress-relieving activities like going for a walk, journaling, meditating, yoga, acupuncture, or low-impact exercise. Additionally, you may want to set up an appointment with a counselor to help you improve your mental health.
Contact True Spine Today!
Are you having symptoms that may point to spinal subluxation? Maybe you’ve had a traumatic event that is causing a variety of issues, and all of these issues tie back to your spine or back. If so, contact us! Our staff are ready and willing to answer any questions, address any concerns, and set up a consultation for you today!