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Subluxation - definitions and effects


Chiropractors adjust your spine. We pride ourselves on ‘Locating, analyzing, and correcting vertebral subluxations’. So you’ve probably heard your chiropractor say ‘you are subluxated’ or ‘you have subluxations here and here’. Well it’s true you do most likely have subluxations but how many people actually understand the term subluxation and how it can impact the body? But before you carry on reading this, I would kindly ask you to please check out the blog ‘Chiropractic and the nervous system’. Reading this blog would give you a much bigger understanding of this current blog.

The term “subluxation”…

The definition of subluxation has changed throughout chiropractic history. This is because of research and knowledge updates over time. This can happen in any profession, some surgeries performed in the past are no longer done today due to updated findings. But anyhow, the first definition of a subluxation written by B.J Palmer (Developer of chiropractic) is this: “A condition of a vertebra that has lost its proper juxtaposition with the one above or the one below or both, to an extent less than a luxation, which occludes an opening, impinges nerves and interferes with the transmission of mental impulses from the brain.” To summarise this definition and to make it easier to understand, we can simplify it to 4 components that interfere with nerve flow. These 4 components are misalignment, occlusion, pressure, and interference.

However, research has shown that the idea was generally correct, some parts of the definition are no longer valid. For instance, we now know that the spine doesn’t misalign to the way that it actually ‘occludes an opening, impinges nerves and interferes’ with nerve transmission. Although it would physically make sense and it’s easier to visualize, it is just no longer true. So as a result, as time went on, many definitions of subluxations were developed to accurately describe what a subluxation is.

The “go-to” definition of subluxation

My personal favorite and the one I find most accurately describes subluxation is the one written by the Rubicon group. The Rubicon group currently defines subluxation as “a self-perpetuating, central segmental motor control problem that involves a joint, such as a vertebral motion segment, that is not moving appropriately thereby yielding ongoing maladaptive neural plastic changes that interfere with the central nervous system’s ability to self-regulate, self-organize, adapt, repair and heal.” That definition is surely a mouthful. Again I will simplify it to make it easier to comprehend.

In order to understand the definition, we must know that research has now proved that the stimulus to our brain comes from joint movement. The more appropriate or ‘normal’ the joint movement is, the more accurate the information to and from our brain will be. The Rubicon definition is just saying that when a joint is not moving the way it should, it causes deficiencies in the function of the central nervous system. This can lead to inaccurate and altered information traveling to and from the brain.

How do subluxations impact the body?

If you think subluxation is a matter of life and death, you are wrong. I’m sure not many people think that but I wanted to make that clear. Although, subluxation does play a major part in your nervous system. You would probably know that by now if you have read the definitions above.

The nervous system is the sole system that governs everything in our bodies. From basic and visible functions like typing and reading to more discrete things like keeping our heart beating and healing wounds. This is because the nervous system is the first system to notice any errors in the body. It then immediately corrects or heal the error by commanding different parts of the body to do its job. Did you know that the first system that develops in an embryo is the nervous system? This just goes to tell the importance of the nervous system.

So if we want to be functioning at our optimal best all our joints must be functioning appropriately. This can only be achieved through chiropractors as we are the only profession that can accurately ‘locate, analyze, and correct vertebral subluxations’. This gives our nervous system the best chance to accurately process and deliver messages. As a result, this allows us, humans, to adapt and change at its best for each individual.


Hopefully, I have brought some clarity over what is a subluxation now. To summarise, a subluxation to me is a joint that is not moving appropriately. As a result, our nervous system is compromised and we won’t be able to function at our best state. Of course, there are other factors that cause subluxations too such as emotional and chemical stresses to the body. But we are going to save that for another time. The best people who do remove subluxations are chiropractors. And we, chiropractors, pride ourselves on facilitating a higher functioning community through enhancing the nervous system.