A vertebral subluxation can be broadly defined as a complex of functional, structural, or pathological joint changes that compromise neural integrity and may influence organ system function and general health.
The word subluxation is derived from sub = less than, and luxation = dislocation. The original simplistic concept of a bone out of place pressing on a nerve has been significantly developed and refined with increasing knowledge of spinal function and nerve physiology.
The subluxation concept has a colourful history and has been the subject of much debate from both within and outside the chiropractic profession. However, it has stood the test of time and now scientific research from various fields is helping to confirm its existence and document many of its features (see references section).
A comprehensive (but by no means complete) description of the subluxation is the 5 component model known as the Vertebral Subluxation Complex (VSC) which details the key features of this important clinical entity under the categories of spinal kinesiopathology (abnormal motion or position of spinal bones), neuropathophysiology (abnormal nervous system function), myopathology (abnormal muscle function), histopathology (abnormal soft-tissue function), and pathophysiology (abnormal function of the spine and body as a whole).
New research and contemporary thinking is focusing on the afferent aspect of nerve communication, specifically on how altered input from spinal joints can affect central nervous system processing (a phenomenon often termed dysafferentation or more simply ‘garbage in – garbage out’).
Essentially, a vertebral subluxation occurs when the joints of the spine fail to move properly and/or the spinal bones become misaligned causing interference with the nerve messages from the brain to the body and/or from the body to the brain. This can affect movement patterns, muscle balance, and even the function of organs and the chemicals and hormones they produce. Most subluxations do not cause pain (as the majority of nerves are not nociceptive or pain-sensing).
In a nutshell, a vertebral subluxation is the impairment of optimal expression of your nervous system caused by physical, biochemical, or psychological dis-stress see what are the causes?
The terms vertebral subluxation, vertebral subluxation complex (VSC), or simply subluxation are at the core of chiropractic care. Many other terms have been used to describe aspects of this condition such as spinal misalignment or dysfunction, fixation, facet syndrome, or manipulable lesion, however these synonyms are overly mechanical and fall short of describing the true nature, complexity, and global health implications of the vertebral subluxation.
Studies continue to elucidate and characterise the numerous and varied devastating effects that subluxations can have on overall health and function. The World Health Organisation (WHO) now accepts it as a listing in the latest international classification of disease and related health problems, referred to as M 99.1 Subluxation complex (vertebral).
Chiropractors are highly trained health care professionals specialising in the analysis and correction of vertebral subluxations. Other manual care providers may use similar techniques to chiropractors to also help assist the body in functioning better but do not generally receive training in the specifics of the subluxation complex.