The brain stem and spinal cord are the primary pathways for nerve impulses to and from the brain. Messages back and forth through these nerves control the health and function of virtually every other cell, tissue, organ, and system of the body.
Nerve tissue is so important, it is protected by bone. The brain is encased by the skull, and the spinal cord is covered by 24 moving bones of the spinal column.
Many everyday things can cause these bones to lose their normal motion or position. This sets off a chain reaction affecting the spinal bones, nerves, muscles, soft tissues, and results in degenerative changes throughout the body. Doctors of Chiropractic refer to this as the Vertebral Subluxation Complex.
Besides describing how the spine can affect your overall health, the Vertebral Subluxation Complex explains why it takes time to restore optimum health. The Vertebral Subluxation Complex is the underlying cause of many health problems and is recognized by its five component parts:
Spinal Kinesiopathology – abnormal motion of the spinal bones.
The bones of the spine are designed to move and protect the delicate spinal cord and nerve roots. But, sometimes their movement is altered, they either become stuck or start moving too much.
Abnormal spinal movement can be caused by physical trauma (repetitive motion, car accidents, slips, falls, improper lifting, poor sleeping habits), emotional stress (worry, negative thoughts, fear), or chemical imbalances (alcohol, drugs, toxins, pollutions.)
When spinal joints are fixated (‘stuck’), other joints must compensate and move too much. This results in distorted normal spinal curves and compromises proper function, causes problems in other areas of the spine.
Doctors of Chiropractic can detect this aspect of the Vertebral Subluxation Complex by analyzing your posture, taking diagnostic X-rays, measuring your ability to turn and bend, plus other tests.
The primarily effect of the spinal adjustment is to restore proper spinal motion.
Neuropathophysiology – abnormal nerve system function
Because of the way your spine is designed, abnormal spinal function can rub, pinch, or irritate the delicate tissues of the spinal cord and nerve roots. While commonly associated with spinal problems, an actual pinched nerve is quite rare. It is estimated that only 10-15% of spinal-related problems are caused by direct pressure of bone on nerve tissue.
Nerve tissue irritation can result in numbness, burning, or a ‘pins and needles’ feeling. This nerve system impairment can affect the tissues, organs, and other systems of the body, increasing the susceptibility of disease and ill health.
When the communication lines from the brain to the rest of the body
are not functioning properly, you can suffer from hypertension, indigestion, pain, and numbness.
Myopathology – abnormal muscle function
When spinal joints stop moving properly, muscles have to work much harder to control your spine’s movements. As a result some muscles will atrophy (waste away) while others are forced to work harder and go into spasms.
In chronic or long standing cases scar tissue can form in these muscles, changing their ability to work. This damage to the supporting muscles of the spine is why repeated adjustments are often necessary and adjustments don’t seem to ‘hold.’ It also explains why long-standing spinal problems are so difficult and time-consuming to correct. Without proper rehabilitation, many patients experience a relapse of their original health complaint.
The spinal muscles are the guide wires that support the spine. If they can’t
work properly, the result will be chronic pain, muscle fatigue and swelling.
Histopathology – abnormal soft tissue function
When there is spinal joint malfunction, the discs, ligaments, and other connective tissue are also affected.
While technically you can’t have a ‘slipped’ disc, the soft pulpy discs that separate each spinal vertebrae can tear, bulge, herniate, and degenerate. Ligaments and other connective tissues in the area of the malfunctioning spinal joint are often involved. Inflammation and swelling accompany the accumulation of blood and lymph, causing a ris