What Is a Vertebral Subluxation?

A vertebral subluxation, or a subluxated vertebra, is a vertebra which has lost its normal position and/or motion in relation to neighboring vertebrae. The improper function between vertebrae generates mechanical stress within the spine. This stress results in accelerated wear and tear on the surrounding tissues. The process is similar to the premature breakdown of the tires on your car when the alignment is off.

More importantly, because of the relationship between the spinal column, the spinal cord and the spinal nerves, vertebral subluxations have the potential to impair proper nerve function. Once proper nerve function is compromised, communication within the body becomes less effective and can result in impaired health and decreased overall wellness of the individual.


What Causes Subluxations?

Simply put, vertebral subluxations are caused by physical, chemical and emotional stress.

Physical causes include acute trauma to the body, repetitive motions affecting the spine, bad postural habits, improper workstation habits and design, and weak or imbalanced spinal musculature. Sustained poor posture can often be more damaging to the spine and nervous system than a motor vehicle accident.

Chemicals which are harmful to the body decrease the body’s ability to function optimally and reduce the ability to successfully adapt to and withstand internal and external stresses—making us more susceptible to spinal subluxations and the consequences of these subluxations. Chemical causes include poor dietary and nutritional practices, drug and alcohol use and abuse, and the ingestion of chemical toxins in the foods we eat, air we breath and water we drink.

Emotional stress, or inadequate stress management skills, can deplete the body of the ability to sustain normal functions. The impact of emotional stress on physical health is well documented in the medical research and can have devastating effects on the immune system, making the body susceptible to injury and disease.

How Are Subluxations Corrected?

Doctors of chiropractic learn a variety of techniques that can be utilized to correct a subluxation. Most of these techniques will involve a chiropractic adjustment, which will be performed either by hand or instrument. The technique utilized is determined by the patient’s needs. For example, an infant with very elastic joints will receive a very different adjustment than a grown man. In either case, the chiropractic adjustment is very safe and comfortable.

Subluxations generally require multiple adjustments for full correction to occur. Similar to straightening teeth, correcting malfunctioning and malaligned vertebrae requires time for the tissues to accept this new position as normal.

How Will I Know If I Have a Subluxation?

Vertebral subluxations are often asymptomatic, therefore symptoms are often a poor indicator of the presence of subluxations. In order to determine if a patient suffers from a vertebral subluxation, a doctor of chiropractic will use high-tech diagnostics that allow them to evaluate the health of the spine and nervous system. Chiropractors are unique in the health care field, as they are the only professionals trained to detect and treat subluxations.

The following symptoms suggest that a subluxation may be present and warrant a thorough chiropractic evaluation:

  • neck pain, tenderness, soreness and stiffness
  • back pain, tenderness, soreness and stiffness
  • headache
  • dizziness or balance problems
  • spinal muscle spasm, tightness or weakness
  • reduced spinal mobility
  • pain, numbness or tingling in the extremities
  • joint pain and stiffness
  • low energy
  • poor overall state of health
  • poor tissue healing

Subluxations are similar to cavities in that many times a significant amount of damage is present before symptoms such as pain are felt. This is why we recommend, like your dentist, that individuals seek periodic spinal evaluations to check for the presence of subluxations and other spinal abnormalities, even in the absence of pain.

City Chiropractic Location


806 SW Broadway #350,
Portland, OR 97205

Office Hours


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