What Do Chiropractors Treat?

by drcase on April 13, 2010

When a new patient comes into my office, I explain to them that as a chiropractor I treat what is called a subluxation.  The first time I say that word, the look on their face is “you treat a what?”.  After I explain to them that it’s a vertebrae that is out of alignment and is irritating a nerve, they usually understand.  The word “subluxation” comes from the Latin words meaning “somewhat or slight” (sub) and “to dislocate” (luxate).  So the term vertebral subluxation means a slight dislocation or misalignment of the bones in the spine. 

In reality, the subluxation is one of the main causes of pain and disease, and chiropractors are the only health professional that is trained to diagnose and treat them.  Chiropractors can correct the misaligned vertebrae and return it to its proper position.  This is what is called a chiropractic adjustment.  The chiropractic adjustment is a quick thrust that is applied to a vertebra, either by the chiropractor’s hands or an instrument, which corrects the bone’s position or movement.  The adjustments are able to relieve pressure and irritation on the nerves and restore joint mobility.

Now there are 5 components of a vertebral subluxation:

  1. Bone - The vertebra is either out of alignment, not moving correctly, or degenerating.  This can lead to a narrowing of the spaces where the nerves pass through, resulting in irritation or impingement of the nerve itself.  Chiropractors can determine this through things like x-rays or other tests.
  2. Nerve – There is a disruption in the normal flow of energy along the nerve fibers, causing the information traveling down the nerves to be distorted.  This results in the tissues that are fed by those nerves to not function correctly because the messages they are receiving from the brain are distorted.  Over time, this can lead to conditions, such as indigestion, asthma, headaches, bowel problems, and difficulties with other organ systems.  Some chiropractors use special instruments called nervoscopes that can detect signs of nerve irritation.
  3. Muscle – Muscles both affect and are affected by the subluxation.  Muscles hold the vertebrae in place, and they are innervated by the nerves that come out of the spaces between the vertebrae.  So a subluxation irritates a nerve, the irritated nerve causes its muscles to spasm, the spasming muscles can pull the vertebrae further out of alignment which causes the nerves to be more irritated…you end up with a vicious cycle.  Some chiropractors use surface EMG’s or other diagnostic tests to find such problems with muscles.
  4. Soft Tissue – The vertebral subluxations affect the surrounding tendons, ligaments, blood supply, and other tissues as the misaligned vertebrae pull on and compress the soft tissues.  Over time, the soft tissues can become stretched out or scarred, leaving the spine with either a permanent instability or restriction.
  5. Chemical – The vertebral subluxation can cause chemicals to be released, called kinins, which produce inflammation or swelling in the area.

As a result of these 5 components of the subluxation, there are ways that you can tell if you have one of these subluxations:

  1. You can have pain or tenderness in the area.
  2. You can have muscle spasms or muscle tightness.
  3. You can have a joint that does not move as well as it should, i.e. you can’t move your back/neck as well as you used to or as well one way compared to another.
  4. You can have swelling or puffiness around that area.
  5. You can feel warmth around the area, i.e. that part of your spine feels warmer than another part.

If you feel like you may be suffering from a vertebral subluxation, you are welcome to contact me for further information.  If you are not in my area, I would be more than willing to see if I could recommend someone who is.

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