Vertebral Subluxation Complex

Illuminated spine

When a vertebrae becomes misaligned or moves out of its normal position, this is referred to in the chiropractic profession as a subluxation, or more precisely, the Vertebral Subluxation Complex (VSC). VSC can be caused by a wide range of issues ranging from a minor slip or bump to a car accident or any sudden trauma. When a vertebrae is subluxated, it begins to put pressure on nerves, blood vessels and other surrounding structures.

The subluxation interrupts the natural nerve pathways that carry messages to and from the brain. In addition, as time goes by and the subluxation remains untreated, the spine and surrounding features such as discs can begin to degenerate.

This degeneration becomes more difficult to reverse as time goes by and the surrounding muscles, nerves and bones begin to adjust to the new shape. Because the body is a remarkable machine, it will start to accommodate these changes by compensating in other areas. The longer the subluxation is untreated, the longer it will take for treatment to return the vertebrae to its normal position.

A vertebral subluxation can be identified by its five components:

  • Spinal Kinesiopathology (movement of the bones)
  • Neuropathophysiology (nerve dysfunction)
  • Myopathology (muscle changes)
  • Histopathology (tissue damage)
  • Pathophysiology (abnormal growth)

Chiropractors are experts in the manipulation of soft and hard tissue. Small, quick movements to the spine can reposition the vertebrae into its natural position. Through treatment, a vertebral subluxation can be corrected back to healthy functionality.

Although, pain is the reason most people seek out a Chiropractor, the pain itself is usually a result of spinal dysfunction. The bottom line is that spinal function is dependent upon the quality of its ligamentous, capsular, and disc mechanoreception, and that impairment of this mechanoreception system reduces the functional efficiency of the spine, leading to degenerative disease, pain syndromes, and reduced brain afferentation (brain control). This spinal dysfunction is known as a SUBLUXATION, and this is where two opposing vertebrae or joints have a reduction in normal motion. This abnormal motion caused by trauma, infection, inflammation, poor nutrition, and poor posture is a result of the activation of the Mechanoreceptor (pressure gauges) in the Ligaments, Muscles, Facet Capsules, and Disc that as a result of injury will send thru the slow C-type nociceptors (pain nerves) and delta mechanoreceptors afferent (pressure nerves) nerve signals to the spine and brain that will cause a return efferent nerve signal (reflex response) to cause muscle spasms, subluxations, pain, and sympathetic efferent vasoconstriction, nausea, digestive issue and more.

These disruptions in spinal function SUBLUXATION (altered motion) that are immobilized require a greater contraction of the surrounding muscles (force) to stabilize the spine to protect your body from injury. This increased force become inefficient to maintain and results in a breakdown of the spinal tissue and an increased susceptibility to injury during a given normal event.

To summarize the above paragraphs, if your joints in your body, especially in your spine do not move properly due to trauma or poor posture, it will send nerve signals through your spine to your brain that will interpret the information and send in a reflex type response, a return nerve signal to the spine and surrounding muscle to form muscle spasms to protect the spine against further damage. These spasms lock down the spinal vertebrae reducing their movement to form Subluxations. These Subluxations must be removed by a Chiropractor to prevent the formation of a chronic syndrome that ends in a cycle of pain, degeneration, disc damage, and poor health, (The ligamento-Muscular Stabilizing System of the Spine, Spine: Dec 1, 1998; 23:2552-2562, Moshe Solomonow PhD, MD).

This is why the Chiropractic Adjustment, which uses a control force or thrust into the spines zygapophysial joints (vertebrae) to decrease any spinal immobility can activate a stretch reflex in the joint capsule of your spine to restore the normal movement of the damage spinal joint that will cause an inhibitory signal to be sent to break muscle spasms, and, thereby relieve ones pain.

These Subluxations, if left untreated for long periods of time will cause the joints to wear out or degeneration to the point that it will impact ones quality of life, the immune system, and ones ability to live without pain. A condition, that as it progresses will take less stimulation to activate the pain fibers that normally have a high mechanical threshold, which means it take a lot more stimulation to cause these pain fibers (nerves) to send pain signals to the brain. But, when these immobile joints are not treated or under treated, the nerves or pain fibers are activated at lower levels of loading sensitizing the nerve of the spinal cord to fire off pain. What this means is that when you bend, a normal reflex would not send information to the brain that you are hurting. But, when the joints have been damaged, the protective nerves are activated at lower thresholds while bending that registers as pain within the brain that produces more spasms and joint restrictions that ultimately leads to more degeneration in the joints. The outcome is an abnormal repetitive cycle of pain, muscle spasms, and degeneration that if left unchecked or untreated will lead to synaptogenesis, neuroplasticity, and wind-up that can become permanent and debilitating to ones health. This means that your nervous system is so sensitive to changes in movement, weather, and stress that even minor daily activity bring on severe pain (wind-up).

Although the above explanation is a somewhat simplistic explanation of a very complex system, here is what use should remember,

  1. Subluxations in the spine are the primary sources of spinal (back) pain,
  2. Subluxations left untreated turn into a degenerative process that transmit unfavorable loading patterns to other spinal structures like ligaments, tendons, and supporting muscles to create pain,
  3. Subluxations left untreated cause the spinal muscles to tense up reducing flexibility that promote spinal pain,
  4. Subluxations left untreated interfere with the nervous systems ability to coordinate muscle contractions to control balance, muscle coordination and movement,
  5. Subluxations left untreated cause nerves to expand and grow into areas of the disc to form chronic pain syndromes,
  6. Subluxations left untreated cause interference in the nervous system to weaken your immunity and over all health,

  7. To stop pain and regain your health,

  8. Subluxations treated stimulate the descending pain inhibitory system by activating the periaqueductal grey area to stop pain (endorphins),
  9. Subluxations treated improve spinal function, balance, and coordination to stop your pain,
  10. Subluxations treated improve spinal mobility and stop the degenerative process and pain,
  11. Subluxations treated prevents reinjury and hasten recovery to your full fitness or potential,
  12. Subluxations treated is significantly superior to all other therapies to break up fibrous adhesions in the spine to reestablish a normal range of motion to stop the pain cycle,
  13. Chiropractic adjusting uses the bones of the spine as levers to break adhesions and remodel fibrosis in an effort to re-establish normal motion, improving local biomechanics, local neurology, and benefiting their systemic neuro-mechanical influence to restore your health and stop pain.

For the more avid reader, the Subluxation is a non-voluntary contraction that locks the motor unit into a certain parameter of position and reduced movement.

This reduction of movement:

  • Opens the pain gait,
  • Impairs the disc pump which accelerates disc degeneration making the disc more acidic which increases the firing of disc nociceptors (pain nerve endings),
  • Alters the quality of the synovial fluid, which reduces its nutrient value, which accelerates posterior joint arthrosis (degeneration) and pain.

To increase joint movement through the Chiropractic Adjustment we can:

  • Segmentally fire high threshold mechanoreceptors that di-synaptically inhibit tone in the segmental movers, which improves segmental spinal motion and position,
  • This controlled movement allows the injured tissue to heal better and quicker,
  • This controlled movement improves the fluid exchanges of the disc and synovial fluid, which reduces pain and joint degeneration,
  • This controlled movement initiates a neurological sequence of events that causes pain inhibition (closes the pain gate)

In the end, Chiropractic offers the only proven treatment to repair and restore normal spinal movement to balance the nervous system in order to stop pain, renew the immune system, and regain ones overall health.

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