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Vertebra: IS IT OUT?

One of the biggest misunderstandings about Chiropractic treatment is that the vertebra are "out of place" and that spinal manipulation (an adjustment) puts the vertebra "back in place."  Allow me to clarify.

Chiropractors often try to simplify the explanation of spinal dysfunction (subluxation) and miscommunicate the idea that the "vertebra are out of place."  This is quite frankly, not what is happening.  Now it may be true that on x-ray or or examination your spine may appear to be misaligned, more often this a normal variation. 

The notion that a chiropractic manipulation or adjustment realigns or "puts the vertebra back in" is not what actually happens and is certainly not consistent with scientific scrutiny.  To better understand what actually happens with chiropractic manipulation/adjustment, I would offer the following:

First the anatomy: As you can see spinal joints are stabilized with very strong joint capsules and ligaments that connect one vertebra to the next.  Additionally, there are 4 layers of muscle with multiple muscles of each layer that cross the joints and connect one vertebra to the next.  The combined effect of the ligaments, muscles, tendons and connective tissue bring tremendous stability to the normal spine.

Spinal biomechanics is the study of spinal function (movement) both normal and abnormal.  Each vertebra in the spine has a role to play.  The chiropractic examination analyzes each vertebra  and its ability to bend forward and backwards, tilt both to the left and right and rotate (turn) to the left and right.  Spinal dysfunction (subluxation) occurs when there is loss of function or range of motion when tested.  On occasion vertebra are found to have too much motion (are considered unstable) and tend to cause more pain when manipulated.

With injury there is a tearing of tissue (usually both muscle and ligament) releasing irritating chemicals which cause protective muscle spasm that ultimately restricts normal spinal motion.

So what DOES spinal manipulation or adjustment do?  Spinal manipulation improves or returns normal spinal motion, allowing relaxation of protective muscle spasm, breaks up adhesions and scar tissue contained in the ligaments.

So the goal of spinal manipulation or adjustments is to unlock the restricted vertebra, reestablishing normal range of motion thereby reducing pain and disability.

In conclusion, chiropractors are not pushing vertebra back into place but rather doing manipulation or spinal adjustments to improve or when possible return normal function (joint range of motion).

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