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Subluxation

What is a subluxation?
A subluxation is any joint misalignment that is short of a dislocation. Medical doctors us this word but only for joints that are misaligned enough to show up on xray. Chiropractors have techniques to identify these misalignments even before they show up on xray. We also use this term to describe any joint that is not moving, moving too much, or moving improperly.

Affects of Subluxations
Jaskoviac and Schafer in their book "Applied Physiotherapy: Practical Clinical Applications with Emphasis on the Management of Pain and Related Syndromes" describe the short term affects of subluxation as being any of the following:

  • Hyperemia: Hyperemia refers to an excess of blood in a specific area of the body due to an obstruction (often from a muscle spasm) preventing the blood from flowing normally, leading to pain, swelling, and inhibiting tissue healing.
  • Local ischemia: Ischemia refers to a lack of blood flow in the muscle (often from a muscle spasm), leaving the muscle very painful to touch.
  • Edema: When the body’s tiny blood vessels (capillaries) are damaged or pressurized, excess fluid may leak from them and build up in the tissues, leading to a swelling known as edema.
  • Minute hemorrhages: Referring to a small amount of bleeding or an abnormal flow of blood, minute hemorrhages may develop within the body’s blood vessels.
  • Congestion: Some muscles develop trigger points, or areas of congestion where toxins deposit, irritate the nerve endings within the muscle, and produce pain.
  • Fibrosis: Fibrosis is the replacement of normal tissue with scar tissue. This inhibits joint range of motion and causes pain when touched or stretched.
  • Atrophy: Due to fibrosis, congestion, edema, ischemia, and hyperemia, the muscle shrinks and starts to waste away as a result of inactivity.
  • Tissue rigidity All of the above, cause the tissues to become very rigid and painful.
In addition, the abnormal joint motion leads to degenerative joint disease - a painful condition in which the affected joint starts to fuse together. You can read more about joint degeneration on our Degeneration Page.

How do you get subluxations?
There are three basic causes of subluxations. Physical causes include slips and falls, accidents, repetitive movements, and improper lifting. Emotional causes could include anger, fear, grief, stress, etc. Chemical causes could include poor diet, pollution, drugs, alcohol, etc.

How do I know if I have a subluxation
Often there is pain, swelling, muscle spasms, or decreased motion. Like the early stages of tooth decay or cancer, subluxations can be present before any warning signs. We will do a thorough examination to find the severity and location of the subluxations you may have.

Can subluxations clear up on their own?
Sometimes. Our bodies have the ability to correct a lot of problems. As we stretch and bend many subluxations are fixed. Often our body will tighten a muscle that will fix a subluxation. When our body can't fix on its own, we need to see a doctor of chiropractic.



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