Some might be asking themselves- so what is this crazy word “subluxation” all about? What does it mean? Throughout the years this word has caused a lot of confusion to not only patients, but also among Chiropractors. Let’s try and start from the beginning...
The word originates from its use in medicine. From a medical standpoint, the term is used to mean “less than a dislocation”- originating from sub meaning “less than” and luxation coming from the Latin word luxare meaning “to dislocate.” In the early days of Chiropractic, DD Palmer- the Discoverer of Chiropractic- used this term because it best defined the meaning of what was understood of a subluxation- both medically and chiropractically. The delineation began when DD Palmer focused his attention to the spine- the vertebral column. Even though DD Palmer used the same word as the medical profession, his application and understanding of the word had a lot more meaning than just a bone “slightly out of place.” DD Palmer understood that this bone out of place could affect the tissues around it, specifically nerve tissue, alter their function and effect the tissues they innervate. The “eureka” moment of this understanding occurred in 1895 when DD Palmer adjusted the second cervical vertebra of Harvey Lillard, a janitor in his office building, and restored his hearing after years of deafness.
The Developer of Chiropractic, BJ Palmer (son of DD Palmer), spent over 60 years researching and honing this term to its chiropractic foundational core. Four basic statements must be answered in their entirety to be deemed a vertebral subluxation: 1) a vertebra must lose its proper juxtaposition with the one above, below or both to an extent less than a dislocation 2) occlude a opening 3) put pressure upon nerves and 4) interfere with the transmission of a mental impulse. I think if we work backwards, we can understand the definition a little better.
A mental impulse occurs in the brainstem region of the spinal cord. This area of spinal cord tissue takes in all the raw stored data and electricity generated from the brain and organizes it into an efficient and workable form. A mental impulse is a transmission of functional information for a specific action, a specific reason and a specific time. This mental impulse is happening every second of every day at a lightning speed, accuracy, frequency, etc. This mental impulse makes sure every organ, gland and tissue of your body is working properly: transfusing blood and nutrients throughout the vessels, exchanging gases in the lungs, producing insulin, etc.- all without our knowledge and comprehension. This connection area between the brain above and body below is incredibly crucial for a properly functioning life since every organ, gland and tissue has a connecting nerve tract to this area. If you interfere with the brainstem, you can ultimately interfere with anything: the heart, lungs, pancreas, etc.
How a mental impulse is interfered with occurs when added pressure is placed on or around the brainstem. Nerve tissue is similar to other tissues of the body in that when added pressure is placed on it, it effects its ability to work. Think of the circulatory system and how added plaque in the blood vessels effects its ability to function. Or the respiratory system of a person with asthma and how the added pressure in the lungs effects their ability to function properly. The brainstem opening starts at the foramen magnum, found on the base of the skull, and passes between the first and second cervical vertebral foramen. The added pressure on the brainstem occurs when this foraminal unit, or opening, is occluded or closed of slightly.
This occlusion occurs when the two top bones of the neck slip out of their normal juxtaposition, or relationship, with each other. The upper cervical spine region has the greatest mobility of the entire skeletal system- this is because it has no interlocking joints that give other areas of the spine stability. This area of the spine is held together pretty much by ligaments, tendons and muscles. Normally, the other areas of the spine can move only within their proper interlocking joints. The rest of the spine can lose their normal position with each other- but this is now deemed a dislocation or fracture and is outside the realm of the subluxation definition and chiropractic scope of practice. The upper cervical spine region is the only region of the spine that can slip out from its normal range of motion less than a dislocation or fracture.
A vertebral subluxation occurs when outside stresses or traumas overcome the body’s ability to adapt to them. At OHIO Specific Chiropractic, I have focused training and analysis in locating and correcting a vertebral subluxation. Check out www.ohiospecific.com to find out more.