Imagine a patient walks in to the chiropractor’s office and says to the doctor, “I threw my back out. I don’t know if it’s a bone out of place, a pinched nerve or a muscle strain.”
In the past, I worked as a trash collector in Cherry Hill for nine months and I have seen a lot of things thrown out in the trash. I’ve never seen a backbone thrown out in the trash! People really don’t throw their backs out; their backs tend to grow out of place.
When a chiropractor does an examination and finds that you are in a state of subluxation, he means that there is dysfunction in the bone, the nerves, and the muscle. So let’s discuss a few different definitions of subluxation.
We’ll start with the medical definition, which is the most limited. In Western medical terminology, subluxation means a partial dislocation of the joint; it’s not totally popped off track, but it’s a little bit out of place. Although Western medicine recognizes that there is a misalignment, it doesn’t seem to address all the consequences of that misalignment.
In chiropractic, historically, we’ve defined subluxation mechanically and physically as a vertebra’s loss of juxtaposition with its neighbor above or below. This loss of alignment means that the hole the spinal nerve comes through is closed off a little bit, so that the nerve is either choked or chafed to the point where it’s not functioning properly and the body starts to break apart.
An updated version of the subluxation model is the vertebral subluxation complex, which is a 5 component model based on science that’s been around for a long time. Over 500 scientific papers are devoted to defining this complex. The five components are:
1. Spinal Kinesiopathology: First, the spine isn’t moving right; it’s either stuck and can’t move the way it’s supposed to or it’s hypermobile and it moves too much.
2. Neuropathology: Second, when the spine isn’t moving properly, it means that the spinal nerve is impinged upon to the point where the brain and body are not communicating properly. In other words, there is a partial disconnect between brain and body.
3. Myopathology: Third, obstructed nerves cause abnormal function in the spinal muscles, so that they are either working too much and are in a state of spasm or hypertonicity or they are working too little and are partially paralyzed. Since their physiology is affected, some permanent scar tissue will appear within the muscle and we have a sick muscle.
4. Histopathology: Sick muscles lead to sick joints because, like the muscles, they are either not moving enough or they are moving too much. Over time, the bones actually start to remodel themselves to fit the misalignment of the spine. What we have now is the body trying to heal itself, but because the bones, nerves and muscles are off-kilter, it goes about it in a destructive way.
5. Pathology: When nerves stop functioning properly and the nerve energy can’t reach organs such as the heart, lung or stomach, then those organs get sick too and we start to see the symptoms of disease. So when a chiropractor adjusts you, the problems in the bones, nerves, muscles and organs will begin to resolve simultaneously.
A more evolved way of looking at subluxation includes the concept of the life energy field. From this perspective, you are more than just your physical body; there is also the energy field that makes your body go. So technically, subluxation (literally “less light”) is a diminished expression of life energy.
What causes a diminished expression of life energy? When you encounter stress, which is anything that causes your body to change, you are essentially encountering physical, chemical and emotional energy and information. If your body is overwhelmed and not capable of immediately processing this information and energy, it stores it, first in the nerve tissue and then in the muscles, bones and organs for later retrieval. It’s the body’s way of saying, “I can’t read all this mail right now, but I’m going to hold on to it and I’ll read and process it later.”
Holding on to this unexpressed information over the long term amounts to a biological hazard! What a chiropractic adjustment does, then, is release the energy and information so that the brain can process it and the body can learn from it and heal and grow.
To wrap it up, subluxation is the thing that people go to chiropractors for. Whether they realize it or not, it’s the one thing that chiropractors are trained and licensed to address. It’s something that no other profession is dedicated to addressing, even though everybody has some degree of it and we would all be better off without it.