The spine is made up of 24 bones stacked vertically with a soft “disc” between each segment to allow for flexibility. Normally, each joint in the spine should move freely and independently. When one or more of your spinal vertebra is slightly misaligned and restricted, the condition is called “spinal segmental joint restriction” or more simply a “subluxation.” The term “subluxation” literally translates to “less than a dislocation.”

Imagine a normal spine functioning like a big spring, moving freely in every direction. A spine with a joint restriction is like having a section of that spring welded together. The spring may still move, but a portion of it is no longer functioning.


Subluxations can develop in many ways. Sometimes they are brought on by an accident or an injury; other times, they develop from repetitive strains or poor posture. Being overweight, smoking, strenuous work, and emotional stress can make the spine more susceptible to problems.

Subluxations give rise to a self-perpetuating cycle of discomfort. Joint restriction causes swelling and inflammation, which triggers muscular guarding, leading to more restriction. Since the spine functions as a unit and not as isolated segments, a subluxation in one area of the spine often causes “compensatory” problems in another area. Think of it as a school group project – if one classmate does not complete their portion, they place the others under additional stress and become overworked (and probably angry, too!)

Subluxations most commonly cause local tenderness and discomfort and often the range of motion is limited. Movement may increase discomfort. Pain from a restricted joint often radiates around your rib cage or up and down your spine. Be sure to tell your chiropractor if symptoms include any chest pain, shortness of breath, unusual cough, indigestion, or flu-like complaints.

Long-standing restrictions are suspected to result in arthritis – much like the way a slightly misaligned wheel on your car will cause premature wear on the tire.

Back pain is common and generally treatable. Chiropractic care has been shown to be the safest and most effective treatment for joint restrictions. Our office offers several tools to help ease your pain, including chiropractic, acupuncture, and customized stretches and exercises for home care.

Credit: Information on this page provided by ChiroUp.

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