What is a Vertebral Subluxation?

Good day everyone, today I would like to talk about the vertebral subluxation complex and its relevance and relation to chiropractic.

The Meaning

Before I get into exactly what a subluxation is I’d first like to break the word down and give a little history about the term. The word subluxation can be broken down into sub- meaning less than, and luxation-meaning complete dislocation of a joint. At its most basic sense subluxation means a partial dislocation. However, the vertebral subluxation complex is a complex theory that has grown throughout the years and is not just limited to meaning a partial dislocation.

History of Subluxation

The vertebral subluxation complex was first dreamt up by the father of chiropractic D.D. Palmer. He believed that, when a vertebra, one of the small bones that together form the spinal column which then houses and protects the nervous system, is out of place it can put pressure on the nerves and interfere with nerve impulse. Over the many years since DD Palmer adjusted his first patient Harvey Lillard in 1895 this idea has grown and changed. Nowadays, there is a 5 component model that has been widely adopted and used by the chiropractors of today.

The 5 component model of Vertebral Subluxation Complex:

  1. Kinesiopathology – abnormal movement (fixation of joint)
  2. Myopathology – abnormal muscle function (tightness of muscles pulling on bone)
  3. Histopathology – inflammation (swelling) and soft tissue alterations
  4. Neuropathology – abnormal nervous system function (decrease nerve conduction)
  5. Pathophysiology – changed homeostasis of the spine (vascular changes, fibrous changes for stabilization)

I know this can be a lot, but in essence the vertebral subluxation complex theory states that if a joint is not moving correctly or in proper alignment,  it can have detrimental effects to the nervous system which may then cause dis-ease in the body. Subluxation hinders the nervous system, which is important in every process in your body. Thereby, diminishing optimal function in the body.

What causes Subluxation?

Now that we know what a vertebral subluxation is let’s dive into what causes these subluxations. The 3 causes of subluxations are trauma, thoughts, and toxins.


A lot of people understand how trauma  may lead to subluxations, so lets start there. A great example of a trauma which chiropractors treat often are motor vehicle accidents. During a motor vehicle accident there can be a large amount of force generated into your body all at once this trauma can cause your small vertebrae to misalign or even break. In a trauma  such as a motor vehicle accident it is easy to see how it could lead to subluxations. But it is also important to understand that many repetitive micro traumas can also lead to subluxations. In today’s society since COVID-19 many people have been working at home sitting in terrible chairs for long periods of time. This can cause micro traumas/ in the spine which could cause subluxations. 

Power of the Mind – Thoughts

Thoughts can also lead to subluxations. One of the biggest issues under this category that I talk to patients about is stress. If you are in a state of chronic stress this can affect the physiological processes of your body leading to tight muscles and decreased healing which can cause subluxations.


Finally, toxins can cause subluxations. I think the easiest example to understand here is diet. If you have a diet that is highly inflammatory it can increase inflammation throughout the body which can then affect your joints and cause subluxations as well as a whole slew of other systemic issues.

Treatment of Subluxation

Chiropractic adjustments are the main tool used in combating subluxations. We use adjustments to restore proper movement throughout the vertebral column. This increases joint health and allows for decreased inflammation and proper removal of waste from the area. All of which improves the health of the nervous system and its conduction. Furthermore, we provide our patients with exercises, physiotherapies, and lifestyle recommendations to help prevent any future subluxations.

In close, subluxations impede proper function within the body, as chiropractors we find and remove these subluxations allowing the body to function at its most optimal level.