What is a subluxation?
The word "subluxation" comes from the Latin words "sub", meaning "somewhat or under" and "luxa", meaning "to dislocate". Thus, a subluxation is a slight misalignment or biomechanical malfunctioning of the vertebrae (the bones of the spine). Simply put, it is a lack of motion or "fixation". The term subluxation also refers to any fixated joint in the body, whether in the shoulder, elbow, wrist, hand, hip, knee, or foot.
Can I tell if I have a subluxation?
Although it may be possible to know that you have a subluxation, it is impossible to be sure that you don't have one. Subluxations do not necessarily cause pain. A subluxation is like a dental cavity—it may cause immediate pain, or you may have it for a long time before symptoms appear. In some cases subluxations never create pain, but nevertheless are causing nerve interference and affecting one's health and ability to function optimally. Regular spinal checkups are important because they can help find and correct these spinal problems before they become more serious.
What are some warning signs of subluxations?
Symptoms such as headaches, back pain, neck stiffness, pain in your shoulders, arms or legs, numbness in your hands or feet, fatigue, or nervousness are the most common signs of subluxations. But like a tooth cavity, most people will have a subluxation long before they notice any symptoms. This is why we recommend checkups even when you don't hurt or have symptoms.
What problems do subluxations lead to?
Your body functions optimally when all of the joints move properly through their natural range of motion. When the vertebra move improperly, a number of problems may occur, including arthritis, pain, and even organ problems.
Disturbances in spinal movement may irritate nerve roots and the blood vessels which branch off from the spinal cord between each of the vertebrae. This irritation may cause pain and dysfunction in the muscles, affect the organs, and cause neurological imbalances overall in the body. This means that there may be an interruption in the communication between the nervous system and the body. If left untreated it may lead to a progressive decline in your health because it diminishes the ability of the nerves to deliver vital signals to the organs in your body.
Subluxations also lead to osteoarthritis. When joints become fixated, fibrous scar tissue (also called adhesions) builds up in and around the joint. This perpetuates the improper movement of the joint, and causes pressure to build up on the bones which actually stimulates the bone cells to create more calcium deposits (called "lipping and spurring"). This can be seen on x-ray and is the hallmark of arthritis, also known as joint degeneration, or DJD (degenerative joint disease). The imbalances of the subluxated joint becomes a viscious cycle. Only chiropractic can stop or slow down this process. This is why wellness care and regularly scheduled adjustments are so vital to your health. Please read Immobilization Degeneration and the Fixation Hypothesis of Chiropractic Subluxation for an in-depth explanation of this phenomenon.
What causes a subluxation?
Subluxations are caused by the body's inability to adapt to certain stresses, whether physical, biochemical, or even emotional. A fall, injury, sudden jar, or trauma can cause a vertebra to become subluxated. Other causes include but are not limited to improper posture while sleeping, poor posture while working or reading, incorrect lifting techniques.
Does an adjustment have to make a noise to be effective?
No. Your chiropractor is only concerned with the proper movement of your vertebrae, not with noises that may occur during an adjustment. This is why techniques such as drop table or Activator that do not make noises are still effective. Although you do not need to hear a sound for the adjustment to be effective, the sound that people hear is a confirmation that the adjustment moved the joint completely through its range of motion. When this occurs, the joint opens up and creates a partial vacuum. Liquids in the joint capsule quickly become gaseous and move through the membranes, making a noise as they do so. This is the sound made when you crack your knuckles, and is similar to making a sucking/popping noise with your mouth. In conclusion, while a popping sound does confirm movement it is not necessary for therapeutic changes to occur, and a lack of sound does not mean that the desired therapy was missed.
Is chiropractic care addictive?
No. This terminology is very misleading as it implies that the very nature of receiving a chiropractic adjustment could somehow change one's joints in such a way that the same joint would require future adjustments in order to function properly thereafter. An adjustment restores the motion of the joint which was previously not moving through its full range of motion. The adjustment does NOT harm the tendons, ligaments, or joint capsule. The idea that chiropractic care becomes addictive is false in the same way that getting massages, exercising regularly and eating nutritious meals is not "addictive".
It is true that people have chronic problems. This is because there are underlying factors that interfere with proper function. Whether it's structural (like forward head posture or ligament laxity), biochemical or emotional stress, the joints may return to their previous state of dysfunction. If the underlying factors that lead to the joint problems are not addressed, the problem will return. This may give the impression that the care is somehow "addictive".
Dr. Rehl's approach using muscle testing and Applied Kinesiology deals with these underlying factors to speed healing and to resolve or minimize the chronicity of the problem. Please read the description of Applied Kinesiology.
Are all patients adjusted the same way?
No. Dr. Rehl carefully evaluates each patient at each visit, and determines the exact needs of the patient at that time. Each patient's care is unique. Some patients report other chiropractors adjusting them the same way each visit and that they are in and out in minutes. Other patients report being given a "subluxation card" where their subluxations are adjusted the same way each time. Dr. Rehl uses muscle testing and palpation each visit, and finds that problems change over time, and therefore his treatments vary from visit to visit according to the patient's current needs.
Do you use any non-force techniques?
Yes. I use a number of effective techniques that do not require the so-called "cracking" (clinically called a "cavitation") often associated with traditional adjusting techniques.
One method called "respiratory adjusting" uses a very gentle yet specific motion into the problematic joint during a phase of respiration to restore normal biomechanical motion.
I also use a spring-loaded instrument (called an "Activator") that delivers a force into the joint to restore normal motion that does not require the bending of the spine or the sound of the joint cavitating.
I also use wedge-shaped blocks for the pelvis with an effective technique called Sacro-Occipital technique (S.O.T.). Using gravity to gently restore proper motion in the pelvis, this technique removes tension on the spinal cord.
Can subluxations clear up on their own?
Sometimes this is possible as we bend and stretch, or when we sleep at night, however most times subluxations persist. I can’t overstate the importance of regular maintenance care (check-ups). One isn’t always aware of these joint fixations, therefore it is important to correct them before they spiral into an acute situation. Why wait?
Can I adjust myself?
Since a chiropractic adjustment is a specific force, applied in a specific direction to a specific joint, it is virtually impossible to adjust oneself correctly and accurately. It is possible to turn or bend or twist in certain ways that release ("pop" or "crack") joints. However, it is much more likely that one is moving joints that are above or below the truly fixated joint. This random “popping” will release endorphins that feel good and give one the feeling of having done something “good for oneself”. However, generally speaking, the truly subluxated joint will be left uncorrected, the stiffness and achiness will return, and the person will find him or herself chronically cracking themselves over and over.
This type of self-manipulation is usually counterproductive. This self-adjusting can lead to ligament laxity in certain joints and never resolve the actual problem. This laxity can increase the instability in the spine.
If you are trying to adjust yourself, stop and call us today to address the problem professionally and effectively.
Will adjustments make my spine too loose?
No. Only the spinal joints that are "locked up" or subluxated receive adjustments. This corrects the problem, and allows weakened muscles and ligaments to stabilize and heal.
Does chiropractic hurt?
Under normal circumstances, adjustments don't hurt. With manual (osseus) adjustments, a patient may occasionally experience a minor amount of discomfort that lasts a split second. Dr. Rehl also uses non-force and low-force techniques that do not cause any discomfort. If you are nervous about being “cracked” Dr. Rehl can use alternate methods.
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I now have greater freedom in movement around my neck. Walking is no longer so stressful. I feel much more at ease with my posture both in standing and walking.
- Ernest / Walnut Creek, CA