What overall effect does a subluxation, the term chiropractors use for a misalignment of a joint, have on the body? Is it pain, dramatic muscle spasm, immobility? Or is there other indicators of misalignment long before these symptoms occur?
Posture, NOT PAIN, is one of the first indicators of a misaligned/immobile vertebrae. This is why one of the first components of a chiropractic exam is evaluation of a person's posture!
So what exactly happens physiologically when a subluxation, the chiropractic term used for a misaligned/immobile vertebrae, occurs and why don't people always feel pain immediately?
More and more activities (or inactivities!) in our daily life lead to postural behaviors that put stress on the spine.
90% of the nerve input when a subluxation occurs is bad/improper proprioceptive signals to the brain. Every action, function, sensation, etc goes back to the brain and THE BRAIN CONTROLS EVERY FUNCTION IN YOUR BODY. It needs to receive healthy information from your spinal cord in order to send out healthy information to the rest of the body!
The bad proprioceptive information does three things to the body:
1) Affects Posture: the FIRST thing the brain does when it gets bad proprioceptive information is to flex the postural muscles.
What do you instinctively do when someone is about to punch you? Some curl in to protect vital organs, curl up and cry, go fetal, etc...
Either way, Flexion is a primitive form of protection!
If your posture is flexed that tells me your brain is getting bad information that is telling your body to go into protective mode.
2) Local Inflammation Release: this reaction is also a sign of the body trying to protect itself (inflammation is an immune response to injury!)
It makes the area more sensitive to let you know to back off the area AND pay attention to it.
3) Stress Hormone Release: in a contracted state (flexion is protection). Your body is preparing you for “battle”/handling a stressor. The body then sets up to adapt to the stressor (if you don't adapt, you don't "survive") which means the nervous system is in fight/flight mode. It is when you've been in fight or flight mode for too long without reprieve that you hit the exhaustion phase. This phase is usually where a person starts exhibiting symptoms of "pain".
These three effects affect your global health! Lack of “pain/symptoms” does not mean you are expressing your full health potential!
Proprioception and the Subluxation
What is proprioception? It is how the brain knows where your body is in relation to your environment!
3 areas of the body are involved with this sense:
1) Fluid in the inner ears (this area is the least involved in this sense)- where you sense whether you’re standing vs sitting and if you’re on a stable surface
2) Vision (very involved!): tells you where you are, also if you’re standing symmetrically as in if you up evenly with the horizon.
3) Receptors in your body- HUGE INVOLVEMENT (tells you where you are when eyes are closed/if vision is taken out of the picture).
These nerve fibers relay info to a part of your brain called the cerebellum to determine what is ACTUALLY happening with your posture at a specific moment in time. The cerebellum will then relay info to another part of your brain called the cortex which has the info of what SHOULD be happening with the muscles (optimal posture that is determined during neurological development).
If this information is identical, you have normal movement. If the information is different, the brain will send signals to make a correction to the abnormality.
With improper proprioceptive information created by a subluxation, your brain will send a signal to contract to protect and will always target postural muscles.