What is Spinal Subluxation?

by Mar 25, 2021

What is a Subluxation?

The simple definition is a partial dislocation of a bone in a joint.  Though the bones forming the joint are partially intact, a subluxation can be just as painful as a full dislocation.  Subluxations can occur in any joint of the body, and one of the most commonly affected areas is the spine; the protector of the spinal cord.

Your nervous system is a very important, yet very delicate, network of nerve cells and fibers.  By sending nerve impulses between different parts of the body via the spinal cord, it coordinates every bodily function.  Protecting this system is crucial for your optimum functioning, and it’s for this reason that keeping the spine in line is so vital.

Yet spinal disorders are, unfortunately, quite common.  Fortunately however, prompt intervention can correct some spinal abnormalities, and subluxation falls under the treatable category.

So with a partial dislocation of the vertebra, what exactly are we dealing with?  What causes it?  And how is it treated?


What to Expect with Spinal Subluxation

Let’s start with some background of the spine and nerves.

Your spine is composed of twenty four vertebrae; unless you’ve just been born, and in that case you have thirty three vertebrae that have yet to undergo some fusing.  In a healthy spine, each vertebral bone works with the bone just above and just below it.  Between each vertebra, you have shock absorbing discs which protect the nerves.  When nerve tissue in the spine is in proper alignment, it can move freely without compromising the nerves.

Now let’s talk about what happens to all that when a spinal subluxation is present.

If spinal mobility has decreased, it’s possible that two or more vertebrae have shifted from their normal position and a subluxation has taken place.  The subluxation, having left the nerves exposed to injury, interrupts communication between the brain and body and therefore disrupts spinal movement.

Subluxation, considering it is literally defined as dislocation, must be pretty painful, right?  (I said that it was earlier, so I guess that’s a given.)  With that said, subluxations aren’t always accompanied by pain in the early stages.  Silent subluxations, as they are called, can go undetected for months or even years.  Since subluxations can cause deterioration and scar tissue buildup in as little as two weeks, silent subluxations are referred to as silent killers.


Symptoms of Spinal Subluxation

Other than pain and impacted spinal mobility, what are symptoms of spinal subluxation?  There are lots of them.  It’s easiest to list them down by region.


Cervical Spine Subluxation

  • Migraines and Headaches
  • Lowered Immunity
  • Sinus Discomfort
  • Poor Sleep Quality
  • Hay Fever
  • Tonsillitis
  • Chronic Cough
  • Eczema
  • Hearing Loss
  • Tingling in Arms and Hands


Thoracic Spine Subluxation

  • Asthma
  • Heartburn
  • Irregular Heart Rate
  • Chest Pain
  • Bronchitis
  • Flu
  • Liver Problems
  • Gallbladder Problems
  • Indigestion
  • Gastritis
  • Lowered Immunity
  • Chronic Fatigue
  • Kidney Troubles

Lumbar Spine Subluxation

  • Sciatica
  • Menstrual Abnormalities
  • Constipation
  • Nocturia
  • Knee Pain
  • Poor Circulation
  • Edema in Ankles
  • Weakness and Cramping in Legs

And I guarantee there are many, many more that the ones mentioned above.  As was previously stated, the nervous system controls everything.


Causes of Spinal Subluxation

  • Injury – Car accidents, sports injuries, falls, etc.
  • Improper body mechanics – Chronic hyperextension of the spine is a common mistake made in everyday life.  It’s especially harmful when lifting heavy objects.
  • Prolonged sitting – This time, the hyperextension occurs while slouching.
  • Poor posture – If the body is chronically in any position that isn’t straightly aligned, the vertebrae can over time move out of place.  Standing, walking, sitting, sleeping… they can all be to blame if not done right.
  • Emotional Stress – Stress tends to cause pain and muscular tightness in the neck and back.  Stress also raises your cortisol levels, throwing your hormones off balance.  Both of these factors can impact the alignment of the spine.
  • Diet – Food additives, when eaten in excess, can throw our bodily chemicals off balance as well.  When hormones fluctuate, our muscles tense up.  Tight muscles, when left untreated, can pull the spine out of alignment.
  • Drugs and alcohol – Just like food additives, drugs and alcohol alter the body’s chemical balance.  (We’re seeing a lot of repetition here!)
  • Pregnancy – The carrying of excess weight, the impacted posture, as well as the hormone fluctuations can cause the vertebrae to shift.
  • Difficult birth – Children can be born with spinal subluxations.  This is most likely to happen if excessive force was used to assist the birth, either by means of suction or forceps.


How to Treat Subluxation

Pain medicine can ease the discomfort, but should only be used in addition to other forms of treatment.  Anti-inflammatories will only mask the pain and ignore the root of the issue.  Using medications alone will lead to the same problem caused by silent subluxation: further deterioration of the spine.

The symptoms of subluxation are both treatable and preventable if a more in depth approach is taken.  Here are the most common types of treatment:

Chiropractic Care

  • A chiropractor locates and corrects disruptions in the spine.  Chiropractic care can shift the spine into its proper position, which will return the nerve flow to its optimum functioning.  With the brain and spinal cord communicating properly, mobility will increase and pain will subside.
  • If the subluxation is addressed early, the body is more likely to reverse the degenerative process.

Massage Therapy

  • Seeing a chiropractor should be the first step, and a chiropractor is likely to recommend massage therapy after a consultation.
  • In addition to relieving pain and stress, massage has been shown to improve posture.  Its ability to loosen muscles means it can both treat and prevent subluxation.

Dietary changes

  • Read the ingredients before you put it in your cart.  If you can’t pronounce the words, there’s a chance it shouldn’t enter your body.  Remember the talk about chemical imbalances being a risk factor.

Stress Relieving Activities

  • Anything that relieves stress can help prevent subluxation, as well as aid the treatment for subluxation.  Take care of your nervous system by seeking calmness.  If you’ve undergone something particularly stressful, consider counseling.  If you haven’t taken time for self care lately, do just that.  Something as simple as putting on headphones and searching a playlist titled music therapy may do the trick.


Take Good Care of Your Spine

Take care of your physical and emotional health.  Everything your spine protects will thank you.

Katrina Jenkins

Katrina Jenkins

Author, Licensed Massage Therapist

Katrina Jenkins graduated from Towson University in 2013 with a Bachelor’s Degree in Health Science and worked as a nurse’s aide briefly before pursuing her true passion. She graduated from the Massage Therapy Institute of Colorado in April 2016 with honors and completed the Touch of Healers Scholarship Program the following summer. She has been a part of the Moyer Total Wellness Team since the summer of 2017.


Caird, Michelle S., et al. “Cervical Spine Fracture-Dislocation Birth Injury: Prevention, Recognition, and Implications for the Orthopaedic Surgeon.” Journal of Pediatric Orthopedics, vol. 25, no. 4, 1 July 2005, pp. 484–486, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/15958900/, 10.1097/01.bpo.0000158006.61294.ff. Accessed 1 Mar. 2021.

Cluett, MD, Jonathan. “How the Sublux of a Joint Is Treated.” Verywell Health, 2020, www.verywellhealth.com/what-is-a-joint-subluxation-2549343.

“Preventing Recurring Subluxations with Nutrition.” The American Chiropractor, 27 Apr. 2006, theamericanchiropractor.com/preventing-recurring-subluxations-with-nutrition/. Accessed 1 Mar. 2021.

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