Ideal Family Chiropractic

What is Subluxation?

What is Subluxation?

Ideal Family Chiropractic, Back Pain

Where did this funny word come from?

Subluxation is a word commonly used in chiropractic, though the word actually has a couple meanings.  The medical definition takes a literal breakdown of the word – “sub” means “less than” and “luxation” means “dislocation”.  So medically, subluxation simply refers to a joint that is not quite dislocated but is not seated correctly where it should be.  

Chiropractic Definition of Subluxation

The chiropractic definition is more interesting, far-reaching, and impactful.  The Association of Chiropractic Colleges defines it this way: “A subluxation is a complex of functional and/or structural and/or pathological articular changes that compromise neural integrity, and may influence organ system function and general health.”

That is quite a mouthful.  What it means is that a subluxation is a change in how joints articulate with one another which could cause problems with the nervous system.  If you are wondering how something like joint function can affect the nervous system, check this out.

Let’s break it down

I’ll use the example of low back pain.  If there is a joint restriction, meaning a joint is stuck, fixated, or even slightly out of place, the joint is not moving properly for optimal function.  This causes joints above and below that area to compensate, so they will have to move more than they are supposed to.  Imagine in your low back if one of the joints is stuck.  You need to bend down to pick something up off the floor.  You need to bend forward so far to pick it up, but one of the joints isn’t pulling its own weight.  Instead, the other joints above and below need to move extra so you can still reach whatever is on the floor.  This compensation causes extra stress on the ligaments of the other joints, stretches and strains the surrounding muscles, but most importantly it alters proper neurological function. 

This information may raise some questions in your mind.  How do you find subluxation?  How do you get rid of subluxation?  What are signs of subluxation? And what happens if you have subluxation for a long time?

How do we find it?

There are several ways chiropractors can locate subluxation.  The oldest method is feeling the joints by hand to find any asymmetries, irregularities, or restrictions.  Range of motion is simply taking the joints through their full movement patterns to see if something is lacking, such as not being able to turn the head as far to one side.  Being deficient in a basic movement tells us there is a subluxation, but it doesn’t tell us exactly where.  X-ray can also be a useful tool.  This allows us to see a snapshot of the position of all the bones of the spine to determine if there are any postural abnormalities and malposition of bones.  

The most accurate and reliable method is using INSIGHT Subluxation Scanning Technology.  Using Thermal, surface EMG scans and Heart Rate Variability, we get a more complete picture of the patient’s neurological condition and where subluxations are located.

Is subluxation permanent?

We get rid of subluxation by adjusting.  The typical snap-crackle-pop that people think of with chiropractic adjusting is the most common way to adjust.  There are many other methods and techniques in chiropractic, and each may be useful for different patients or for different circumstances.  The underlying purpose of all of these techniques is to do one thing, slay subluxation.

Do kids have subluxation?

In addition to the typical low back pain or other musculoskeletal concerns you might see a chiropractor for, there are some other things to be aware of which could be helped by a pediatric chiropractor.  All of the below conditions may be from subluxation, so it’s best to get checked by a pediatric chiropractor.  A few concerns you may notice in children with subluxation include:

  • Ear infections
  • Constipation & diarrhea
  • Reflux/spitting up
  • Breathing problems
  • Attention issues
  • Hyperactivity
  • Sleep difficulties
  • Behavioral and emotional regulation issues
  • Pain, tension, and movement abnormalities
  • Many, many more

Is there a way to tell if I have subluxation?

Subluxation may be present with or without symptoms.  People who have heart attacks had plaque buildup in their arteries for years but didn’t know it because they had no symptoms.  People are diagnosed with stage 4 cancer all the time.  They didn’t know they had it earlier on because there were no symptoms.  People with diabetes had blood sugar issues well before the diagnosis.  Subluxation is no different.  Nerves from the spinal cord go everywhere the body such as the heart, lungs, stomach, etc.  In fact, nerves from the spinal cord go to every square inch of the body inside and out.  The motor nerves going to your bicep are the reason you can bring an apple to your mouth.  The nerves that go to your heart and lungs are what make your heart beat and allow you to breathe.  The nerves that go to your colon are what let you…well, you get the point.  Short answer is, you may be able to tell, but you may not.


If you have a problem with any organ or tissue in your body, wouldn’t it make sense that those things could be – at least in part – due to neuro-interference, or stress on the nervous system?  For some reason, the medical community still does not want to acknowledge that the nervous system controls literally everything that happens in your body.  Every muscle, organ, tissue, your metabolism, even your attitude and ability to think and process information is all due to the workings of the central nervous system.  As chiropractors, we have a major role to play in ensuring the nervous system is running on all cylinders.

You can probably take a few guesses at what may happen when subluxation sticks around for a while.  One thing is for sure: Subluxation does not lead to your best health or your best self.

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