Subluxated vertebrae is a common chiropractic diagnosis. In fact, this condition is the very bread and butter of the entire chiropractic profession. Chiropractors use this traditional medical terminology to describe a condition that is not even acknowledged by medical science. There is considerable debate among medical doctors whether or not chiropractic subluxations even exist. That being said, chiropractic is the third largest health profession in the world with countless millions of patients claiming valuable benefits being gained from treatment.
In order to better understand this type of back and neck pain treatment, let’s explore one of the fundamental concepts of care; subluxations.
My first chiropractor diagnosed me as suffering from multiple vertebral subluxations at the age of 16. I was also told that I had scoliosis and muscle imbalances, as well as degenerative disc disease.
I remember vividly how the doctor described what this all meant using a model of the spine. He explained that my vertebrae were “out of place” being that they had “shifted from their normal position”. This sounded horrible. He then took the model showing a normal spine and violently twisted 2 or 3 of the vertebrae to one side. He said this represented my spine.
I almost fainted.
The thought that my spine was all twisted up made me whince and the fear came on fast and furious. I immediately thought the worst and envisioned a future filled with pain and disability.
He never mentioned that chiropractors consider vertebral subluxations a completely normal part of life. Instead he made me suffer from the first of many diagnostic nocebo effects I would receive in my life. Thanks, doc, much appreciated.
I continued treating with chiropractors for 18 years while I battled my dire back pain condition. During that time, I learned that these subluxations were much more subtle than that first chiropractor led me to believe. In fact, they were never even visible on any of the dozens of imaging studies I had performed throughout the many years of my treatment.
It never surprised me that every chiropractor seemed to find them in my spine. One time, just as an experiment, I received an adjustment from one doctor who corrected several vertebral subluxations. I hung around his office for some time, since he was a friend. 15 minutes later, I asked his colleague to check me and he too found several subluxations. I really started to wonder what good any of this manipulation did if it only lasted 15 minutes. It was not till much later that I doubted whether a chiropractic vertebral subluxation really did exist at all.
I researched spinal subluxations and found an incredible diversity of medical opinions on the subject. Most doctors dismissed both the existence of subluxations, as well as the theory that manual spinal adjustments corrected them. This has been a fundamental point of contention between the chiropractic world and most other accepted healthcare professions since the various providers began to compete for clients… oops, I mean patients.
Don’t let the name scare you. According to chiropractors, subluxated vertebrae are a normal condition found in the spines of almost everybody. Before going to the chiropractor, you didn’t even know they were there. After going, you are now worried about them. This is the start of chronic pain. You might have been better off if you never learned about subluxations at all.
In order to better understand the concept of vertebral subluxations, I suggest talking openly with a chiropractor and a medical doctor. Ask lots of questions and pay close attention to the answers. Afterwards, take the knowledge you have gained and research the subject further to learn even more. Once you are well versed on the topic, then you can make up your own mind.
Fact or fiction?
Do subluxations exist and if so, do they require treatment?
These are certainly subjective questions to be sure.